By Carly Peters
The food people choose to put in their body has the power to hurt or heal. Countless studies have shown that high fat, processed, and sugary foods increase risk for certain diseases, while eating a diet rich in whole grains and vegetables can safeguard against disease, and in some cases, reverse certain conditions. This is the basis of culinary medicine, the concept of high-quality food as a primary care technique. It’s also the thrust behind the Food Created by Doctors & Chefs certification program, an insignia that helps customers make more informed decisions at the shelf that will positively impact their overall health.
Dr. Anthony Marotta, Ph.D., part of the scientific team that designed the program, started to develop an interest in culinary medicine early in his scientific career when he was looking at harnessing the power of plants and nature to develop cancer drugs. His research over the course of his almost two-decade career has afforded Dr. Marotta the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of human biology, how it is affected by diseases, and how food directly impacts a person’s overall well-being.
As such, in 2012, Dr. Marotta co-founded Peqish, a company which combines evidence-based medical science with the art of cooking.
“I was hopeful that we could develop quality food products that could help resolve or moderate growing health concerns,” he states, pointing to the brand’s on-the-go line of sandwiches, breakfast wraps, salads, bowls, and bakery items which are nutritionally dense, minimally processed, lower in sugar, free from preservatives, and are ideal portion sizes.
Now, with the Food Created by the Doctors and Chefs label, those benchmarks of nutritional standards that Peqish foods boast, can help other food producers meet the same level of transparency and quality.
The certification leverages a proprietary AI-based algorithm, the Nutritional Index Algorithm (NAOHI™), which evaluates food products by examining the tangible or intended health benefits of the product, its nutritional value beyond the regular scope of what is listed on a nutritional panel, and how the product is manufactured for human consumption. The results are validated by the program’s data scientists and translated into a Foodaceutical Score. Products that achieve a B- and higher receive certification. All products, regardless of score, are provided with recommendations from the program’s team of health and science experts to strive towards creating the healthiest offering possible.
“The ultimate goal is to pair big data with ethical practices in a way that is accessible and affordable for companies to participate in. Giving food manufacturers access to this tool will give them the opportunity to rate and/or to improve the quality of their offerings,” he explains.
One of the most recent brands to become certified is B.C.-based BABz, plant-rich burger mixes. Both family and personal health issues prompted owner Myrna Selzler to look at adopting a plant-based diet. However, she was shocked to find so many meat alternatives were ultra-processed, containing large amounts of additives and preservatives. Selzler’s vision for BABz was to allow customers to add water to the dry mixes and within 30 minutes be eating nutritious, high-protein, high-fibre food with no additives or preservatives.
“The packages have labels you can read and contain ingredients you understand. While the Foodaceutical Score under the Food Created by Doctors and Chefs label further adds to the value that these products are healthier for you,” states Dr. Marotta, adding that BABz is the second product of Selzler’s to gain certification.
Dr. Marotta notes they work closely with retail partners who carry Food Created by Doctors and Chefs products to explain the certification and its intended benefit to help customers make informed decisions.
“Today’s consumer is looking for so much more from their retail partner. The more information shared with consumers translates into trust in your banner and local store. Our certification program helps to strengthen that conversation and build trust.”