Posts tagged yummy
5 Reasons Why Organic Food Could Save You! (Part 1)
I love food. I always have. Ever since I was tiny, I could always be counted on to have a healthy appetite and maybe that's why I grew to have my 6-foot-1-inch frame! I grew up eating a fair bit of organic food thanks to my parents having at least some awareness of its importance, but I never really knew why eating "organic" food really mattered. I tried my best to eat well but didn't think twice about chowing down on fast food now and then - especially when I had to regain the 30 pounds I lost in the hospital while I was bedridden and fed through a feeding tube! It's only in recent years that I've learned why organic food and organic farming is so critically important if we want to stay healthy.

Produce, meats (except fish) and processed (packaged) foods can be labeled as organic but for this post, I'm focusing on produce (plants) alone because organic meat is a whole other subject that I'll tackle in another post and processed food just isn't real food, organic or not. Organic candy is not healthy!

Modern agriculture's technology has allowed us to grow food in volumes that were impossible in the days of small family farms, but bigger is not necessarily better. We've distanced ourselves from where our food comes from and convenience foods have trumped knowing how to cook. There is a push happening to take us back to knowing where our food comes from but it's not an easy change to make when our food system works very hard to keep us in the dark, and we're constantly bombarded with messaging that junky convenience foods are better, easier and preferable.

They're not!

Fresh organic produce from my local grocery store. 

Fresh organic produce from my local grocery store. 

"Organic" is a term regulated in the United States by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and in Canada by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In order for food to bear the organic label, it must meet specific criteria. According to the USDA, , "Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used."

Sound good? Here are 5 reasons why you can love it even more!

• Buying organic can save you money!
An organic strawberry

An organic strawberry

Seriously! I know people think "organic food is so expensive!" but if you buy fresh or frozen whole fruits and veggies and you buy fresh produce in season, it packs a nutritional punch so you don't need to eat as much. Junk food offers almost no nutritional value so we eat tons of it and are often still hungry when it's all gone. We feel like crap and we just spent a bunch of money of seemingly "cheap" food, and for what? Buying in bulk saves cash and if you can't eat or use it all before it spoils, did you know you can blanch (plunge it in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then ice water to stop it from cooking) and freeze your own veggies? I haven't tried freezing my own fruit yet. We freeze our vegetables when we have more peas and beans than we can eat from our garden! If you have a local farmers market, food direct from the farmer can be a lot cheaper than the grocery store and many farmers now offer CSA programs where you get a bulk box of produce or meats fresh every week or month.
Don't you feel better knowing it doesn't have anything toxic sprayed on it?

Don't you feel better knowing it doesn't have anything toxic sprayed on it?

Buying organic food can save you from exposure to toxic pesticides that could harm your health!

A recent study confirmed that if you eat organic food, you will reduce your exposure to pesticides! A pesticide called 1,3-D used on conventionally grown strawberries, for example, is believed to cause cancer.
Most pesticides are not selective and can be toxic to nontarget species including humans, and many of these cause neurotoxicity. Major pesticides (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) are actually more toxic to human cells than the declared active principle (AP). For example:
"Ethoxylated adjuvants found in glyphosate-based herbicides were up to 10.000 times more toxic than the so-called active AP glyphosate and are better candidates for secondary side effects. This may explain in vivo long-term toxicity from 0.1ppb of the formulation and other toxicities that were not explained by a consideration of glyphosate alone. These adjuvants also have serious consequences to the health of humans and rats in acute exposures"
Not every produce item NEEDS to be organic though and you can see the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" on the EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
• Organic foods can provide more nutrition than their conventionally grown counterparts, saving your health and your wallet
Studies showed that organic tomatoes have higher levels of polyphenols and flavonoids (both antioxidants), and not only tomatoes - a study by Newcastle University shows higher antioxidants in organic food across the board. Organic milk has been shown to have higher levels of Omega-3s, a beneficial fatty acid, because cows producing organic milk must be grazed on pasture for at least 4 months out of the year, whereas cows on conventional dairy farms typically eat grains like corn year-round which does not raise Omega-3 levels in the milk. More nutrition equals more bang for your buck!
• Organic foods can save the health of your kids
Developing children are far more sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides than adults. Infants' still-developing kidneys and liver cannot remove pesticides from the body as well as an adult, and babies and children may be exposed to higher levels of pesticides because they breathe faster, are closer to the ground and tend to frequently stick their hands in their mouth.
• Organic farming supports wildlife habitats for the bees, birds and butterflies we love to see, saving the pollinators of our food
Organic food matters.

Organic food matters.

Since it's been in the news a lot lately, you're probably aware of bee colony collapse and the decline of birds and butterflies. Monarch butterflies have been hit hard by increasing herbicide use wiping out the milkweed they need to breed. Milkweed is the ONLY plant a Monarch's larvae will eat. Bees' numbers are declining rapidly and although the bee deaths' cause hasn't been definitively named, many signs point to pesticides for having "sub-lethal effects" on bee colonies. Birds are being affected, too, with a certain class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (that has also taken a lot of blame for killing bees), being blamed for the decline of 14 species of birds.
Organic farming, on the other hand, supports the habitats of these little fliers, and other wildlife. Scientists from Oxford University say organic farms support 34% more plant, insect and animal species than conventional farms! 

For my fellow Canadians, Canada's organic regulations are not clearly stated for consumers like those in the US, and it required some digging. Thankfully, the CBC did a bit of that in 2011but instead of clearly stating what organic means in Canada, the regulations are buried in this document. The procedure of organic certification states, "A certification body shall certify an agricultural product as organic if it determines, after verification, that...the substances used in the production and processing of the agricultural product are those set out in, and used in the manner described in, CAN/CGSB 32.311"

CAN/CGSB 32.311 is a list of permitted substances in organic food production. Reading quickly through the list, it doesn't look like Canada permits anything crazy or much different from what's allowed in the US but man, talk about creating some major legalese that is not immediately clear to consumers! Basically what they're saying is, certified organic in Canada means that the food has been produced using ONLY the substances on their "permitted" list. So to know what that really means, you'd have to go read the whole thing, and then check it periodically to see if it has changed.

So way to go, Canada. Way to make the law dense and impossible for consumers to quickly understand.

Real food is so pretty.

Real food is so pretty.

In the US, the use of the term "natural" on food only means something on meat and poultry packaging. The USDA states that "natural" meat and poultry means, "A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”)."

But for other foods, the term is not regulated by the USDA or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the FDA says only, "FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances."

The term is equally ambiguous in Canada.

Do you have questions about organic food? Natural versus organic? Do you think organic is worth it or a waste of money? I'd love to know what you think! Leave your comments and questions below! 

And if you like the photos, I added some to my photography site.

xoxo Maggie


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Make The Best Smoothie Ever!

I love green smoothies. Real, raw, whole food, organic glasses full of delicious, healthy, green goodness. Not fast-food cups full of sugar and artificial ingredients, or even smoothie bar, "all natural" (not organic), smoothies that are overpriced and way too sweet. My husband still teases me about drinking "swamp water" but I love how they make me feel and I think their vibrant green color is gorgeous! Making them at home is definitely the way to go and I'll show you how.

I love the green smoothies I make myself because they give me the nutritional punch my body needs, I can control exactly what goes into them, they're easy to make, and they taste like happiness! By using fresh (and fresh-frozen) ingredients, I swear I can feel the smoothie boost my energy right away and it feels like my cells are celebrating when I drink it. 

I started out by juicing and even though I compost, I hated seeing all that leftover pulp get thrown out, along with the fiber and nutrients it contains. Fresh juice IS delicious and packed with nutrients but by eliminating all the fiber, juice's high levels of natural sugars get absorbed by our bodies very quickly, and that can have a just-as-bad effect on the body as eating refined sugars. Unless you juice all green vegetables, things like beets, carrots and any fruit you add are very high in the natural fruit sugar, fructose. You can read more about the trouble with sugars here.

I love smoothies because they keep all the fiber, along with the nutrients, and actually fill me up! Plus, I can pack way more veggies into a smoothie than I could ever sit down and eat in one sitting, so they help me get the nutrition I need. To digest the smoothie well, it's good to hold the smoothie in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing so the enzymes in your saliva have a chance to work! It's food, not just a drink to chug down. Remember amylase from high school biology? It starts the breakdown of carbohydrates and that all starts in the mouth. 

Some people think you need a bunch of specific or fancy ingredients to make a smoothie, like cashew milk or greek yogurt, but I never do that. All you need is water, fruit and fresh greens like spinach, collard greens, kale, etc. If you're brave and want a noticeably earthy flavor, beet greens and chard are amazingly healthy leafy greens, too!  Try different kinds and see what you like.

The only thing I'd highly recommend investing in is a high-power blender like the VItamix or the Ninja. Those babies really make the difference because they're powerful enough to pulverize your fruit and veggies and make a deliciously creamy smoothie. Who wants texture and chunks in their smoothie, right?

These blenders can be pricey but the smaller, less professional versions cost less and if you don't need to do any hardcore blending, and are willing to chop your fruit and veg into smaller pieces before you blend it, they work just fine. My mum has a small Ninja that's perfect for making single serving smoothies.

I made this smoothie with about of cup water, big handfuls of organic baby kale and baby spinach, a granny smith apple, a frozen banana saved from when it started to turn brown and I didn't want to throw it away. This is a great way to save bananas you don't get around to eating! Then I added half a bag of frozen tropical blend fruit (sliced banana, pineapple chunks and strawberries). That's it. Water, greens and fruit. And it was an AWESOME 30+ ounces of healthy, delicious lunch, no loss of fiber or nutrients, in a giant mason jar mug.

VegIngred600px.jpg

I like adding a stalk or two of celery, a whole cucumber, and even an avocado instead of a banana for creaminess if I want a more veggie-focused smoothie with less sugar sometimes, and different fruit like blueberries, blackberries, mango, peaches, oranges, a little lemon, or whatever suits my mood at the time.

I also try to rotate my greens, using different kinds week to week so I, number one,  get flavor variety, and number two, avoid overloading my body with a plant's naturally occurring oxalic acid and alkaloids, etc. These are the plants natural defenses against the bugs that eat them, and in  very concentrated amounts, they can be harmful to us. It's why we don't eat rhubarb leaves (they contain these things in very high concentration and they ARE poisonous ). I've never heard of anyone getting sick from using only spinach or kale week after week, but I just want you to know that the possibility exists so you can get the most out of your smoothies. You can read more about it here, here, here and here.

And always, always use organic produce because leafy greens and fruit typically retain high levels of pesticide residues, according to the Environmental Working Group's independent testing. My body has been through so much already, I'm always aware of what I'm feeding it because I know my brain is still healing in many ways and my cells need food that helps them function, not toxic chemicals that make their functioning harder

FeedingOrFighting800px.jpg

I prefer using frozen fruit because it gives me the most choice during the winter, even in California, and my blender does warm up my smoothies a little bit from all the friction happening during blending. I've seen a lot of info circulating on the internet about heat destroying the enzymes in raw foods, and cooking certainly changes which vitamins etc. we are able to absorb from different foods, but I can't find a definitive source that says the warmth from blending deactivates or destroys beneficial enzymes. But I like to keep my smoothies cold because they just taste better! Let's face it, warm smoothies are gross.

Frozen fruit isn't QUITE as nutrient dense as fresh fruit (fresh meaning picked by you or your farmer that day and eaten right away - fruit in the grocery store has often come from hundreds/thousands of miles away, picked before it's fully ripe just so it will make the trip and  it's not fully mature when you buy it) but frozen fruit is frozen immediately after being picked, usually at peak ripeness, locking in those nutrients, and I love the variety and the convenience it provides. We've got to find what works for us because it's not good for us if we can't be bothered to make it and it never gets in our bodies!

I want to mention that smoothies and fresh juice are also naturally very acidic, and can be very sweet if they contain a lot of fruit, so I try to swish some fresh water around my mouth when I finish drinking my smoothie to help protect my teeth. I lost all but one of my front teeth in the accident and they were replaced with dental implants, so the natural teeth I have left are very precious to me. And it's pretty counterproductive to drink green smoothies to boost my health but destroy my teeth at the same time. Green smoothies have a lot of beneficial fiber and nutrients but I try to use common sense, I don't drink them every day and I change it up.

Smoothie ingredients

Smoothie ingredients

Earlier in this post I mentioned my 30 oz. mason jar mug and I know that's a BIG smoothie. I love those mugs though because they often come with lids, so if I can't finish my smoothie, I screw the lid on and stick it in the fridge for later. I always finish my smoothie at the latest the next day because the longer it sits, the more it oxidizes and loses nutrients as the vitamins and enzymes do break down.  

You may have also noticed the straws I'm using! I never use plastic straws anymore because of the chemicals they contain that I don't want in my body (chemicals in the plastic can leach into the beverage your drinking as you suck on the straw). Plus, they're wasteful and I really believe the health of the planet affects our health directly. Instead I always use reusable stainless steel or silicone straws that don't leach any unwanted chemicals into my beverages, and can be washed and reused. Don't worry, they don't add any funky tastes to what I'm drinking and they're a much healthier way to go!

So give a green smoothie a try and tell me what you think, or if you drink them already, leave your favorite flavor/ingredient combo in the comments below! Maybe I'm missing out and you know something I don't know!

xo Maggie

PS - Add a clean boost to your smoothie with my favorite vegan protein!


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