A source of current nutritional science topics to help us understand how nature can provide better health and wellness.
A Better Choice: Functional Foods & Beverages
Scientists around the world continue to discover natural compounds like Resveratrol, a ‘phytoalexin’ molecule made by plants to help protect themselves during times of stress. Clinical Studies continue to reveal how natural molecules interact and metabolize in our bodies to affect inflammation, cancer, brain health, aging, & more.
Using the latest nutritional science, Daktari joins other scientists striving to discover and understand nature’s clues to long-term health and wellness.
We create and evaluate potent extracts from natural ingredients, like fruits, tea plants, and botanicals, to design better functional foods & drinks, therapeutics, and nutraceuticals with the potential to nourish and heal.
Links to Our Articles:
On a Journey to Healthier Tea – Nandi Hills, Kenya-- May, 2019
Catechins: Your Body's Source for Clean Energy --February, 2019
What are Antioxidants? -- January, 2019
Functional foods: Why they’re needed in an everyday diet -- August, 2018
On a Journey to Healthier Tea – Nandi Hills, Kenya
By John Osler and Kristen Osler (May 2019)
After arriving in Kenya, a traveler will immediately notice the hustle and bustle of the country’s dense capital city of Nairobi. With nearly 3 million residents, traffic in the city can be brutal. And on a hot day, with the city located just south of the equator, sitting in traffic can be a true test of endurance. Luckily tea is not grown near the city center, so the visit is temporary and more moderate temps await.
Heading northwest on Uhuru highway A104 takes us through Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. Before descending into the valley, it’s worth stopping at the Great Rift Valley Escarpment, a sheer cliff sitting about 8,000 feet above sea level (at least that’s what the sign declares), offering a spectacular view of the Serengeti Plain to the south.
The valley and surrounding mountains and lakes have been shaped by a continental rift formation, spanning about 3,000 miles from southwest Asia through east Africa. The Great Rift is home to a varied landscape and dormant volcanoes, including Mount Kenya, standing at an elevation of nearly 17,000 feet.
After passing Lake Nakuru, we leave the valley and dust devils for cooler temps and begin the ascent into the Nandi Hills area in search of premium tea. Rich volcanic soil offers some of the best growing medium in the world, and this can be clearly seen in the plentiful greenery surrounding Nandi Hills.
The town of Nandi Hills lies about 200 miles to the west of Mount Kenya and feels like a lush oasis after passing through the arid valley. Nature has provided Nandi Hills with a moderate climate, high elevation, and fertile volcanic soil, all situated along the equator that affords two rainy seasons for consistent young tea growth. This locale is a uniquely perfect place to grow high quality tea leaves, and the local tea farms work to take full advantage.
Growing tea leaves is a lengthy process, to say the least. Newly planted tea seedlings or cuttings may not be ready to harvest for seven (7) years. Tea plants grow their best at higher elevations where acidic soil is naturally irrigated and drained - the best flavored tea leaves come from slow growing plants at high elevation.
As expected, the export of tea is a major part of the town’s economy. Nandi Hills sits at an elevation of about 6700 feet, an average annual rainfall of about 58 inches, and a low temperature that bottoms out at about 50°F; these characteristics provide a perfect scene for growing tea. Despite the quality tea grown in the region, the volume of leaves sourced from Nandi Hills is significantly less than in both China and India. It’s been difficult for the region to showcase their tea, and because of these factors, the town is not as economically well off as it could be.
Daktari Nutritionals realizes the potential of Nandi Hills to produce tea with a unique flavor and nutritional profile. As a result of these growing conditions (i.e. volcanic soil, high elevation, equatorial rainfall), tea plants have adapted their growing habits, producing many natural, biological protectants to cope with the stressors of its environment. For example, at higher elevations the tea plant needs more natural ‘sun screen’ to protect themselves from harmful UV rays.
Many of these natural compounds are currently being evaluated by researchers for their potential to nourish our bodies and heal our ailments; e.g. think higher levels of antioxidants for cancer prevention, etc. So plants with a higher concentration of these natural protectants should be healthier for us to consume. As part of Daktari’s mission to deliver ‘the healthiest tea on the planet’®, the company is working with local Nandi Hills producers to optimize the level of tea nutrients in processed tea.
Sourcing tea from Nandi Hills is not just about finding the healthiest tea possible, however. Fair trade with Nandi Hills tea farmers will help to stimulate the local economy, and provide an opportunity for small growers to introduce their premium tea to a larger international audience.
Daktari Nutritionals is excited to make a real, sustainable difference both in the communities it serves and with its rural suppliers.
Catechins; Your Body's Source for Clean Energy
By Kristen Osler (February 2019)
In a previous article, I wrote about antioxidants and what they can do to help keep us healthy. Now I'm going to go a bit more in depth about a specific group of powerful antioxidants called “catechins” (pronounced cat-ih-kins). What's so special about these natural goodies? They’re tremendous at scavenging oxygen in our bodies, and are naturally available. Want antioxidants? Try catechin-rich foods like berries, cocoa and tea.
Catechins are members of the flavonoid family, and are created naturally in plants by linking multiple natural chemicals, called phenols. Catechins are secondary metabolites in plants, meaning they’re made on demand to positively impact a plant's health in the long term. Unlike primary metabolites, the absence of secondary metabolites will not immediately kill a plant. Instead, over time, the plants resistance and resilience to physical damage, fertility, and physical appearance may be negatively impacted. Many plants use secondary metabolites, like flavonoids and other natural phenols, to absorb more nutrients, protect themselves from too much sun, or protect themselves from plant-eating insects.
While we may not care so much about avoiding plant-eating critters, humans can experience the other benefits of secondary plant metabolites. Absorbing more nutrients and positive long-term health effects are thought to result from human consumption of compounds like catechins. One of the most beneficial catechins is called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, due to its high antioxidant properties. Dried green and white tea leaves are the best sources of EGCG, followed by other types of tea leaves. This compound, and its 20+ sister compounds, are thought to have many benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties which may help improve health. Daktari Nutritionals hopes to harness these benefits in the most accessible way possible.
So to sum it all up, catechins are compounds that can have many long-term health benefits when consumed regularly. Whether in teas, berries, cocoa, or other foods that are easily accessible to us, catechins are definitely something that we should be incorporating into our diets whenever we can.
What are Antioxidants?
By Kristen Osler (January 2019)
The word “antioxidant” has gained a lot of attention in recent years. Most people know that antioxidants are good for us, and that it's a good idea to incorporate them into our diets (think Vitamin C). What many people don't know is what makes them “good,” and what exactly they are.
According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary , an antioxidant is “a substance...that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen, peroxides, or free radicals.” The reputable Linus Pauling Institute describes an Antioxidant as “any substance that prevents or reduces damage caused by “reactive oxygen species”. Simply, antioxidants help prevent the cells in our body from reacting with oxygen. The presence of reactive oxygen compounds (a.k.a. free radicals) make our cells less efficient and less stable.
Free radicals do serve a purpose in our bodies: they are used by our immune systems to attack bacteria. However when they outnumber the amount of antioxidants, the body experiences “oxidative stress” which, experts say, can make us more susceptible to conditions like pulmonary disease, rheumatoid arthritis, some neurological diseases, and even cancer. (https://nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants)
Antioxidants are found in many common foods: vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants, and many nuts and berries are rich in these vitamins as well having other beneficial substances (like fiber and omega 3's). Beans, artichokes, russet potatoes, kale, berries, oranges and grapes are some more examples of foods that are high in antioxidants.
Another, lesser-known source of antioxidants is tea. Tea leaves contain a group of natural compounds called ‘flavonoids’, which is what helps make tea an antioxidant powerhouse. Flavonoids are present in many different types of tea, especially green tea. Start-up companies, including Daktari Nutritionals, continue to unlock the potential of tea flavonoids to improve long term health and wellness.
It’s clear, antioxidants are a vital part of a healthy diet, and incorporating them naturally into your daily life through the foods and drinks you consume can have many positive short- and long-term effects.
Functional foods: Why they’re needed in an everyday diet
By Rachel Michelson (August 2018)
Incorporating functional foods into an everyday diet can be difficult when managing a busy lifestyle. Most adults work long days and the last thing they want to do is go home and make a healthy dinner when fast food is a quick and easy option.
The State of Obesity, a collaborative project of the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reported that obesity is a one of the major health concerns countrywide and poor nutrition is one of the prominent factors that lead to it. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics defines functional foods as “Whole foods along with fortified, enriched or enhanced foods that have a potentially beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on regular basis at effective levels based on significant standards of evidence.” These foods include fruits, vegetables, fermented foods, fish, and chocolate. They are vital in disease prevention and should be present in an everyday diet.
As a college student, eating healthy is difficult when there’s far more unhealthy options in the dining halls and cafes on campus. Why have a salad when you can have a fatty cheeseburger with fries on the side? Most college meal plans also allow students to have the option of eating whenever and however much they want to with a meal plan that allows them plenty of meal swipes or meal points per semester.
A couple months ago, I finished my freshman year of college at Indiana University. Raised in a family of all business majors, I decided I wanted to branch out and do something different, particularly health related. My senior year of high school I took a health class which was centered around wellness and eating healthy. I spoke to my health teacher at the time about potential career paths and once she mentioned the job of a dietician, I knew it was what I wanted to do. A year later, I still am very glad with the career path I’m taking and in only my first year, I’ve learned so many beneficial things from my major specific classes that are useful in my everyday life.
Today, we live in a health-forward country where many restaurants, specifically fast food, are more conscious of the nutritional value of their food. Many restaurants now are listing the calorie content of food on the menu. This allows customers to be aware of how many calories they’re consuming. Although this is a step in the right direction, there are still changes restaurants can make to inform people of the nutritional content of their food. For example, rather than just listing the calorie content, restaurants should include the entire nutrition label of each item on the menu. All of the nutrition facts have an important value in a person’s diet. Food companies should consider including the term “functional food” on the label of their food products to make customers aware and want to buy it. The more people start consuming functional foods, the less people to struggle with health problems.
Some functional foods I would like to include more in my diet are magnesium enriched foods such as spinach, whole grain bread, almonds, and beans. These foods aid in normal muscle and nerve function maintenance and immune health. A new functional drink is in development at Daktari Nutritionals. Daktari is making a functional tea using a new variety of tea leaves rich in flavonoids. This tea’s natural extract may help our bodies fight disease, ultimately helping us to live healthier lives.