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Healthy Living

7 Great Food Documentaries You Need To Watch

Think all documentaries are boring? Think again! These 7 great food documentary films from the last dozen years provide an astounding amount of insight and information about the current unsustainable, unhealthy, and corrupt system of food production. Plus, they prove that you can be educated and entertained at the same time. How much do you really know about our current food system? Tune in and find out – you may be surprised!

7 Great Food Documentaries You Need To Watch

  1. Super Size Me. Using himself as a guinea pig, director great foodMorgan Spurlock takes an amusing and often terrifying look at the effects of fast food on the human body in this 2004 film. For a solid 30 days, he eats nothing but McDonald’s, all day, every day. And what were the psychological and physiological impacts? Tune in to find out – the results of his human experiment may surprise you. And deter you from hitting the drive through on the way home.
  2. Food, Inc. GMOs. Pesticides and other chemicals. Animal cruelty. It’s what’s for dinner – and breakfast, and lunch. This Academy Award nominated 2008 documentary explores industrial agriculture in the United States and concludes that the current system of food production is a triple threat: bad for human beings, bad for the animals, and bad for the environment. But for the agri-giants, profitability is tied to production of contaminated food, the heavy use of petroleum-based chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers, and the promotion of unhealthy food consumption habits.
  3. Food Matters. Father of modern medicine Hippocrates said “Let thy food by thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” His message is central in this 2008 film, which takes a long, hard look at how the food we eat is helping or hurting our health and examines what we can do to eat – and live – better. The documentary features nutritionists, naturopaths, doctors, and journalists who weigh in on topics like organic food, food safety, raw food, and nutritional therapy. Could it be that we have a lot more control over our health than we realize?
  4. Forks Over Knives. According to the research of food scientists and doctors Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell, the popularity of processed and “convenience” foods has led to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes, and other preventable diseases. This 2011 film follows the careers of Drs. Esselstyn and Campbell, illustrating how they were independently and simultaneously reaching similar conclusions regarding the causes of chronic disease, namely that  “most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.” The doctors advocate a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based lifestyle as a way to avoid or reverse chronic maladies.
  5. Hungry for Change. This 2012 documentary exposes the shocking secrets the food, diet, and weight loss industries don’t want you to know about – deceptive strategies they use to keep customers coming back for more, and keep them from living a healthy lifestyle. It features interviews with Crazy Sexy Cancer survivor Kris Carr, Joe Cross of “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” fame (another awesome food documentary you can find on Netflix!), actor Frank Ferrante, and a number of medical experts, plus real-life transformational stories with people who know what it’s like to be sick, overweight, and generally unhealthy.
  6. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. Per the film website, “Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill.” Yet the industry is almost entirely unchallenged. This 2014 documentary from Director Kip Anderson gives us an in-depth look at how the environment is being decimated by factory farming – and why this crisis has been largely ignored by government authorities and major environmental groups.
  7. Fed Up. It’s undeniable that childhood obesity is one of the most pressing health issues of our time. Directed, written, and produced by Stephanie Soechtigh, this 2014 documentary examines the underlying causes of childhood obesity and presents compelling evidence that large quantities of sugar in processed foods are an overlooked root of the problem. Further, the film points to the well-connected and well-funded lobbying power of “Big Sugar” in blocking attempts to enact policies that address the issue.

And guess what? They’re all streaming on Netflix! Log on or tune in, grab some organic popcorn, and prepare to be educated, entertained, and perhaps surprised by what you learn.

How to Pack an Organic Lunch with Zero Waste

zero waste organic lunchHow to Pack an Organic Lunch with Zero Waste

Did you know that every year, Americans throw away enough paper cups, plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times? According to the EPA, every child who brings a brown-bag lunch to school every day will generate 67 pounds of waste in one school year – and that doesn’t include summer break! Disposable items may be convenient, but our throw-away approach to meal time is hurting the planet. With a little effort, you can do good for yourself and Mother Earth by packing a zero-waste lunch.

A zero waste organic lunch means everything in the lunch, including the container itself, is eaten, reused, or recycled. Say goodbye to plastic, aluminum, and paper products! Reusable items are environmentally-friendly and save money over the long run. Buying reusable items is a long-term investment, unlike repeatedly purchasing disposable plastic wrap, plastic bags, aluminum foil, plastic bottles, and paper napkins. Check out these alternatives and you’ll be packing eco-friendly organic lunch in no time!

Five essential items for packing a zero-waste organic lunch:

# 1: The lunch container. Never mind plastic or paper bags – select a lunch container that is durable, easy to clean, and free of toxins like heavy metals, PVC, phthalates, and BPA. (Bonus if your container is made from recycled or organic materials!) Check out these ECOlunchbox products, or these great lunch packing options from Bentology. Another great lunch idea: pack salads in mason jars. Put the dressing, nuts, seeds, hearty vegetables and legumes on the bottom, topped by your greens and lighter veggies. Carry the jars upright in your lunch container so the dressing stays on the bottom until you’re ready to eat. Then shake and enjoy.

# 2: Food wrap. Plastic wrap, plastic bags, and aluminum foil are out, reusable wraps are in!  For sandwiches, wraps, and snacks, consider using a reusable product like Bee’s Wrap for sandwiches and snacks, cloth bags like Itsy Ritsy  or reusable snack bags from BlueAvocado.

# 3: Beverage containers. As with food containers, always pack beverages in stainless steel or glass bottles, and avoid plastic and aluminum. Even BPA free plastic may not be safe, according to a number of sources! Kleen Kanteen offers some great insulated metal bottles, and Ello offers some beautiful glass bottles. Or, enjoy a bottle of Voss artesian water from Norway and keep the glass bottle to reuse.

# 4: Utensils. Keeping your old or extra stainless steel utensils for use in your lunch pack is a great way to recycle when you upgrade your housewares. Or if you want to carry something a little lighter weight, try eco-friendly bamboo utensils (available in a variety of colors). A spork – a combination spoon and fork – is a handy, versatile option. Check out this folding stainless steel spork.  It’s two utensils in one and it fits in a pocket or purse!

# 5: Napkins. Cloth napkins aren’t just for fine dining. Use them instead of paper napkins or paper towels. Organic cotton and hemp are both sustainable choices. You can find LeSwipe organic cotton napkins from funfunctional or  try these cute hemp/cotton blend napkins from Scoutmob.

With these simple items, you can easily pack a waste-free organic lunch every day of the week and feel good about making a small investment now to save money in the long term!

7 Organic Herbs & Essential Oils for Managing Holiday Stress

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. While the holidays are a wonderful and magical time of year, they can also be a source of stress and anxiety.organic herbs for holiday stress No matter what the source of the stress is – family, finances, travel, a combination thereof, or any other aspect of the holiday season – it can have negative impacts on your body, on your mood, and on your behavior. Did you know that 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints? Stress is a toxin to your system and makes you vulnerable to a myriad of ailments and diseases, such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, skin issues, asthma, arthritis, and depression.

No worries, though – here’s the great news: organic herbs and essential oils are effective remedies for managing stress naturally. Increasingly, people are choosing natural remedies over pharmacological ones, in part because of the advantages they offer over pharmaceuticals. They are natural, first and foremost. They are widely available, no doctor’s appointment required. They are inexpensive, they are effective, and they don’t have side effects!

Generally, herbs are plants used for food, flavoring, medicine, or perfume. Choosing organic herbs ensures you aren’t adding to the toxicity in your body by ingesting pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Essential oils are natural aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. They are 50-70 times more concentrated than herbs – so a little goes a long way! Oils are often used aromatically, and many are safe to be used topically and even internally. If you’re going to use oils topically and internally, quality is key. There are many synthetic products posing as pure essential oils, so be careful! Choose a quality, organic essential oil to ensure it has the best possible purity, chemical composition, and therapeutic properties. Read on for seven herbs and essential oils that can help you manage holiday stress without a prescription.

7 Organic Herbs & Essential Oils for Managing Holiday Stress

  1. Chamomile. Chamomile has been used for centuries for various conditions, including fevers, colds, stomach ailments, and as a sleep aid. It is probably most well known for its calming effects. The plant’s medicinal properties come from its flowers, which contain volatile oils and flavonoids. It can be taken internally and externally, and two of its most popular forms are tea and essential oil. Pure chamomile essential oil is safe to diffuse, to apply topically, and to ingest.
  2. Lavender. Lavender, too, has been around since ancient times when the Egyptians and Romans used it for bathing, cooking, relaxation, and as a perfume. It is a versatile herb and oil, one that is sometimes referred to as the “Swiss army knife” of essential oils. It is widely known and used for for many qualities, most notably calming and relaxing. The power is in the flower, which contains linalyl acetate and linalool, both known for their sedative effects. Lavender is available as a tea, prepared or loose leaf, and as an essential oil. The oil can be diffused, applied topically, or ingested.
  3. Indian ginseng, also known as ashwagandha. Traditional Chinese medicine and the Indian ayurvedic tradition both contain extensive scriptures describing the medicinal qualities of ashwagandha, which include anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidizing, anti-stress, sleep-inducing, and drug withdrawal properties. “Ashwagandha” derives from the Sanskrit language and is a combination of the word ashva, meaning horse, and gandha, meaning smell. The root has a strong smell that is described as “horse-like,” or akin to the smell of horse sweat. The root and the berry are used to make medicine, and it is available as a powder, in dried form, as a tincture, as an oil, and in fresh root form.
  4. Kava. The kava plant, also known as kava kava, is native to the South Pacific, and its root has been used as medicine and in ceremonies by the Pacific Islanders for centuries. Its name, which loosely translates as “intoxicating pepper,” was coined by famous explorer Captain Cook. The active chemical ingredients of kava root are called kavalactones, and research shows they can affect brain chemistry in ways similar to prescription anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. Kava’s calming effects may relieve anxiety, restlessness, sleeplessness, and stress-related symptoms. It is available as a tea, in bulk in powder form, in capsules, and as a tincture.
  5. Valerian. Valerian is a flowering plant native to the grasslands of Europe, and its root has been used for over 1,000 years as a sedative. It acts as a sedative on the brain and the nervous system and promotes feelings of tranquility and peace. In Japan, valerian is popular as an over-the-counter sedative to reduce symptoms of anxiety and promote restful sleep. Scientific studies have shown that valerian not only improves the quality of sleep, but it also reduces the time needed to get to sleep. It can be taken in capsule form, in liquid form as a tincture, as a liquid extract, or infused in a tea – though the taste of the tea can be a little strong for some palates. Studies also indicate that the more regularly one takes valerian root, the more effective it is.
  6. Holy basil. Also known as “Tulsi” or “The Incomparable One,” holy basil is a member of the mint family. It is related to the sweet basil many of us know in the culinary world, but it has a much richer history. Holy basil has been grown in India for over 3,000 years and is widely used in a variety of ancient medicines, including the Greek, Roman, Siddha, and Ayurvedic traditions. The leaves, stems, and seeds are used to make plant medicine. Holy basil functions as an adaptogen, which enhances the body’s natural response to physical and emotional stress. Scientific studies suggest that eugenol in holy basil helps to combat stress and enhance mental clarity, and that the triterpenoic acids in holy basil improve the body’s response to stress. It is available as a tea, as a liquid extract, as an essential oil, and in capsule form.
  7. Lemon balm. Another member of the mint family, lemon balm is considered a calming herb. It has been used since the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease the pain and discomfort associated with indigestion. Supplements are made from the leaves of the plant, and lemon balm essential oil, also made from lemon balm leaves, contains plant chemicals called terpenes. Terpenes are organic compounds found in a variety of plants, and contribute to the flavor, scent and color of the plant. They are thought to contribute to lemon balm’s relaxing effects. One study found that ingesting 1,600 milligrams of dried lemon balm was associated with an increase in calmness for up to six hours. Lemon balm is available in capsule form, as a tincture, and as an essential oil. The essential oil is also known as  “Melissa” because of its sweet, fresh, citrus-like fragrance, which is known to attract bees (Melissa is Greek for “honey bee”). It can be used aromatically, topically, and internally.

And there you have it! With these seven organic herbs and essential oils, you can have a relaxing, stress-free holiday season, naturally.

What natural remedies do you use to combat holiday stress? Share below!

Healthy Halloween Recipe Roundup

healthy halloween

Image courtesy of JeffK via Flickr Creative Commons Licence

Around the office and around the house, it seems like Halloween candy is everywhere!  The really scary treats are all of that candy loaded with high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, artificial colors and trans fats.  With Halloween candy everywhere, tIt can make it really hard to avoid snacking on sugary and unhealthy foods when you want to be eating right and staying fit.

My mission this week is finding healthy Halloween treats that even kids will enjoy.  I put together this fun recipe roundup from across the web.  A lot of these suggestions would make great office snacks, party snacks, pre-trick or treating food.  Just make sure to use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Skip the packaged junk foods this year and try making some of these easy, spooky, scary and sometimes gross looking snacks!  Hope you enjoy these healthy Halloween snacks!

13 Fun & Healthy Halloween Treats!

  1. Candy Corn Veggie Tray With Dip – make sure to serve organic veggies and healthy dips like hummus, or Simply Organic’s dips.
  2. Veggie Skeleton – a super fresh alternative to sweet snacks and packaged treats.
  3. Spooky Spider Deviled Eggs – creepy, but oh so tasty!
  4. Halloween Spider Crackers – try using Late July’s Rich Crackers, Once Again Nut Butter and Newman’s Organic Thin Stick Pretzels
  5. Carrot-Rice Mini Jack O’Lanterns – great for kids who can’t have sugar but still want something sweet.
  6. Jack O Lantern Hummus Plate – use Pacific Red Pepper Hummus, organic canned black beans, a pretzel stick for the stem and surround with organic crackers or veggies.
  7. Ear Wax Snax – sure to gross out the kids! Make it vegan with Dandies Mini Marshmallows and Cadia Peanut Butter.
  8. Peanut Butter Pumpkins – try using almond or sunflower butter if you have peanut allergies!
  9. Banana Ghost Pops – coated in shredded coconut with chocolate chip eyeballs, they’re ghoulishly good.
  10. Stuffed Roaches – nope, they’re not really roaches – they’re Medjool Dates stuffed with a cream cheese/walnut spread!
  11. Bloody Band-Aids – these will gross out even the adults! Use graham crackers, cream cheese and strawberry jam.
  12. Apple Smiles – An easy way to get some fresh fruit in with the candy treats.  Use Dandies Mini Marshmallows and your favorite nut butter.
  13. Candy Corn Quesadillas – these would make a great dinner before trick or treating to get everyone in the spirit!

What are your favorite healthy Halloween snacks? Share with us in the comments below!

 

Organic Produce: Maximize Nutrients With These Tips

Organic produce is plentiful all year round.  Local farmer’s markets, backyard gardens and your local grocery store are brimming with the vibrant colors of the finest organic produce. We’re all know that adding more veggies to each meal is beneficial, so what’s the best way to prepare organic produce so you can maximize the nutritional value?

Organic Produce From the Ground Up

organic produce

By TSgt Samuel Morse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s start from the ground up. Organic produce is grown in an organic and sustainable manner. Organic farmers use things like crop rotation and organic fertilizers to provide plants with the best nutrients possible for robust growth. Better soil, better nutrition, better produce!

Organic Produce: A Long Haul or Right Next Door?

Once produce is harvested, a number of factors impact what ends up on your plate.  Time in transit and and methods of storage, can greatly influence the nutritional quality of your produce.  The upshot is, the longer it takes between being picked and getting on your plate, the more nutrients are lost.  The best choice is finding fresh, local, organic produce and consuming it within a few days.  If finding local produce is challenging, simply eating seasonally will boost the nutrient value.  If you’re eating blueberries in the middle of winter, chances are they’ve come from very far away and will have lost most of their nutrition by the time you eat them.

Organic Produce: Fresh and Raw

Of course, your best bet for the highest nutritional value of your vibrant, fresh organic produce is to bring it home quickly and eat it soon. Think fresh salads, adding raw fruits to your breakfast cereals, veggie/grain/bean side dishes, even juicing.  Enjoying your produce when it’s at the peak of freshness will maximize nutritional value.

Organic Produce:  Freezing and Blanching

Freezing fresh fruits and vegetables that you won’t consume immediately is the best way to preserve nutrient value of your organic produce. Freeze in small containers so you can pull out just what you need each time. Removing as much air as possible will help prevent the likelihood of freezer burn. Add frozen fruits and vegetables to a morning smoothie with organic protein powder, add frozen veggies to simmering soups and stews, the possibilities are endless.

Blanching is the process of boiling fresh vegetables just long enough to stop enzymatic activity to preserve color and flavor. It can be tricky, though, because over-cooking will contribute to vitamin and nutrient loss; under-cooking will fail to stop enzymatic activity. Be sure to follow time recommendations if you choose blanching before freezing.

Organic Produce: Canning and Drying

In addition to preserving organic produce through freezing or blanching, you can try canning or drying. Canning involves preparing the fruits or vegetables using high heat and sealing the container once the contents have reached a minimum temperature. High cooking temperatures will reduce Vitamin C content, but most other nutrients will remain intact and your summer’s bounty of organic produce will last well into the following winter, spring and beyond.

Drying is a process of reducing water from fresh, organic produce. This process reduces enzyme activity and thereby decreasing the likelihood that your fruits or veggies will spoil. Because water content is reduced, remaining nutrients are more densely concentrated, so you’re boosting your nutrients per serving.

Organic Produce: Heating Things Up

Last, but certainly most common, is cooking. You can steam, microwave, boil, broil or bake fresh produce in a variety of ways. The simple rule of thumb is this: the longer you cook fresh, organic produce and the more heat you use, the more vitamins you lose. Water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C and B vitamins are primarily impacted. Steaming is better than boiling since you are not losing nutrients by soaking your veggies in water. Microwaving is preferable to boiling – again because you retain more of your water soluble vitamins. Roasting, baking and broiling vegetables can caramelize the sugars in the food, creating a nice sweet flavor on your favorite veggies. High heat for long periods of time will reduce some of the nutritional content, but the delicious roasted flavors may encourage picky eaters to chow down on more organic produce than they might otherwise.

No matter how you choose to prepare your fresh, organic produce, you’ll be packing a powerful nutritional punch. Your body will thank you.

 

13 Optimal Organic Foods For a Healthy Brain

What does it mean to eat a brain-healthy diet? Well, the brain needs the good balance of nutrients to function well. A variety of organic foods that are rich in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids is a great start. organic foodsYou’ll also want to make sure to get enough vitamins like C, E, B12 and folate.  How do you make sure you’re getting the right organic foods for your brain? Use the guide below!

13 Optimal Organic Foods For a Healthy Brain

1 – Antioxidant Rich Fruits and Veggies
The best organic foods to reach for here are dark and colorful. Think spinach, kale, beets, red bell pepper, broccoli, blueberries, raspberries, red grapes, pomegranates and cherries. Some light colored veggies are a good addition: cauliflower and onion.

2 – Omega 3’s
Try eating small oily fishes like sardines and mackerel. Cold water fish like salmon, trout, tuna and halibut are good options. Fatty fish have been shown to lower the risk of dementia, and can help improve memory and attention. Our bodies don’t make essential fatty acids (EFAs), so they must be obtained through diet. They are good for healthy brain  function as well as the heart, joints and general well being.  Oily fish contains  EPA and DHA in a form which enables the body to use it  easily.

3 – Vitamin E Rich Nuts and Seeds
Some of the best are walnuts, brazil nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds. You can also eat nut and seed butters for the same benefit. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent  cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly.

4 – Vitamin C Rich Foods
Some of the best are red bell peppers, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, spinach and cauliflower. Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat so make sure to eat some of these foods fresh and raw to make sure you’re getting optimal levels.

5 – Zinc rich foods
Include in your diet oysters, beef, crab, beans, yogurt, cashews, chickpeas, oatmeal, almonds, pumpkin seeds and peas. Just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all you need to get your  recommended daily amount of zinc, an important nurient for enhancing memory and thinking ability.

6 – Choline rich foods
Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a substance that helps stimulate the brain; a more stimulated brain is better able to make new connections, which is an important part of memory. Foods high in choline include eggs, liver, soybeans, peanuts, butter, potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, oats, Swiss chard, collard greens, sesame seeds, wheat germ and flax seeds.

7 – Water
It isn’t really a food but it is vitally important. Make sure to get enough water to keep your body and brain hydrated. Dehydration can cause a headache, and several studies have shown that dehydration can affect cognitive function. When a person becomes dehydrated, their brain tissue actually shrinks. How much to drink? A good rule of thumb is to divide your weight by two and drink that number in ounces.

8 – Whole grains & Beans
The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate and steady  supply of energy.  Our brain feeds on glucose in our bloodstream.  One of the best ways to make sure you have adequate levels is to choose whole grains with a low glycemic index. Oatmeal, whole-grain breads, brown rice, lentils and black beans are optimal for promoting glucose rich blood flow to the brain.

9 – Tea, Coffee & Chocolate
Boost your brain power with caffeine.  Modest amounts of coffee or tea can enhance memory, focus and mood.  Green tea is especially beneficial because it is rich in antioxidants that also promote brain health. Dark chocolate includes several natural stimulants including caffeine; it stimulates the production of endorphins, improving mood as well.

10 – Avocados
Avocados help to lower blood pressure.  Since hypertension is a risk factor for the decline in cognitive abilities, eating foods which lower blood pressure may promote brain health.  Eating avocados contributes to healthy blood flow and healthy blood flow means a healthy brain.

11 – Garlic
Garlic may help stave off some forms of brain cancer, according to research published in Cancer, the medical journal of the American Cancer Society. Investigators found that the organo-sulfur compounds in garlic worked to kill glioblastoma cells,a type of malignant tumor cell.

12 – Vegetables rich in Betacarotene
Some of the best organic foods in this category are carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach.  They have all been shown to improve the health of the brain.

13 – Spices
Certain spices like sage, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron, basil, thyme, rosemary and ginger have been shown to improve brain function and stave off disease.  These spices are anti-inflammatory and contain many antioxidant compounds that are protective for the brain.

Along with adding these foods, make sure you’re also reducing oxidized cholesterol, like trans fats and fried foods.  Avoiding processed foods is another helpful tip toward keeping your brain at its peak.

Top Ten Foods In My Plant Based Pantry

Plant-Based-PantryIt can be intimidating to stock a kitchen for plant based living, especially if you don’t have a lot of cooking experience or a health coach guiding you. One of my number one tips as a plant based living educator is this: set yourself up for success. If you have a well-stocked pantry, you can be prepared to make all kinds of amazing plant based meals – with just the addition of fresh produce – without a lot of fuss! Read on for my top ten must-have vegan pantry items.

 10 Must-have foods in my plant based pantry:

  1. Beans: Inexpensive, filling, and versatile, beans are a staple in my kitchen. I keep both dried and canned organic beans on hand, and I often cook a batch in the slow cooker on Sunday for use in various dishes throughout the week. My favorites are black beans, green split peas, and pinto beans.
  2. Lentils: Did you know that lentils are “pulses,” the edible seeds of legumes? They are good sources of fiber and protein and also contain high amounts of calcium and vitamins A and B. The most common varieties are brown, green, yellow, and red lentils. The yellow and red ones break down a lot during cooking, while the brown and green ones hold their shape. Make your choice based on your desired outcome, in terms of texture! I use the red ones for my Red Lentil Dal.
  3. Jarred or canned tomatoes: Tomatoes are an excellent base for a variety of soups, stews, and sauces. I keep a variety of them on hand, both canned and jarred tomatoes . Diced tomatoes, spiced or not, are preferred for some recipes, while whole or stewed tomatoes may be better for others. I also keep sun-dried tomatoes on hand for some recipes, as they have a depth of flavor and a richness you don’t get from regular tomatoes.
  4. Whole grains: Whole grains contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. When processed, meaning cracked, crushed, rolled, or cooked, the grains deliver the same rich balance of nutrients found in the original grain seeds. Brown rice and quinoa are my go-to grains. They are great on their own or with a little sauce/dressing, and they can be incorporated into tons of dishes, like soups, stews, vegetable stuffing, and cold salads.
  5. Nuts: Nuts are versatile in the kitchen and contain healthy fats. Cashews are probably the nut I use most often. With just two base ingredients – raw cashews and water – and whatever spices or flavoring you prefer, you can make cashew cream cheese (enjoy plain or add your preferred flavors – I add walnuts and agave nectar), cashew sour cream (add lemon juice and garlic powder), cashew creamer, and cashew milk. For the creamer and milk, I usually add a little agave nectar and a little vanilla.
  6. Seeds: My favorites are flax, chia, and sunflower. I use the first two in smoothies and breakfast dishes, and I use sunflower seeds in a variety of ways! My favorite way is to soak them and make a white sauce for pasta that is absolutely divine. You can also put them on salads, roast them with spices as a snack, or incorporate them in a stuffing – the possibilities are endless!
  7. Plant-based milks: You can find plant-based milks in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, but I prefer the aseptic (shelf-stable) packaged milks. They aren’t as perishable, of course, and they come in smaller containers! My personal favorite is hemp milk, as it tastes good and hemp is a nutritional powerhouse – packed with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  8. Nutritional yeast: Affectionately known as “nooch” in the veg community, this is a deactivated yeast in powder or flake form that is sold commercially as a food product. It contains folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein, and it is often fortified with vitamin B12. It has a nutty, “cheesy” flavor, so it’s an excellent substitute for dairy cheese in many recipes. I like nutritional yeast best on organic popcorn and as a pasta topping in place of parmesan.
  9. Tahini: It’s hard for me to imagine that just a few short years ago, I had never heard of tahini. Now, it’s one of my go-to ingredients for salad dressings and sauces! It’s simply ground sesame seed paste, and it is commonly used in North African, Greek, Iranian, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is remarkably versatile, and it packs a ton of flavor. It’s usually my dressing base instead of oil – this Tahini Lime Dressing is my absolute favorite!
  10. Agave nectar or maple syrup: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but a lot of savory recipes need just a touch of sweetness. Agave nectar and maple syrup are my preferred sweeteners. I use one of the two in my plant-based milks when I make them from scratch. I also use one or the other in veggie chili, in some salad dressings, and in a lot of the soups and stews I enjoy.

If you stock your pantry with these staple ingredients, an easy, plant based meal is at your fingertips every day. Just add fresh produce, and the variety of dishes you can make is limited only by your imagination. Bon appetit!

Coffee & Beyond: Seven Organic Drinks to Start Your Day

I will admit that I love the taste of coffee.  I love the smell, I love the rich dark color, I love the energy boost it gives me.  Unfortunately, my body doesn’t love it as much as my taste buds do.  I’m far too sensitive to caffeine to have a morOrganic-Drinks-For-Morningning cup of coffee so I’ve learned to replace it with other organic drinks instead.  Along the way I learned that I really don’t need coffee to wake up in the morning and I actually feel better without it.  Even if you tolerate coffee well, you might want to try one of these seven organic drinks to start your day instead and see how it feels!

Seven Organic Drinks To Start Your Day

1 – Fresh Squeezed Organic Lemon Water: Squeeze a half a lemon into a 16oz glass of lemon and drink it first thing in the morning and reap the benefits.  The vitamin C in the lemon will give your immune system a boost.  It will help detoxify your liver by encouraging the production of bile.  The potassium will give your brain a boost, helping to lift depression. The alkalizing effects of lemon water help decrease systemic inflammation. Drinking lemon water first thing can even help decrease your appetite.

2 – Organic Green Smoothie:  If you have a hard time getting all of your veggies in, this is a great way to start your day.  As simple as a handful of spinach, some almond milk and a frozen banana whizzed in a blender, you’ll be starting your day ahead of the game nutritionally, fueling your body right from the start.  Try these Green Smoothie Recipes if you need ideas.

3 – Organic Chai Tea:  If you let Starbucks make your chai latte, not only will you be overpaying, you’ll get way too much sugar in your morning drink.  Brew your own organic chai tea at home and let the spicy aroma and flavor wake you up. You’ll get antioxidant benefit of the black tea, and the spices in chai have been used for centuries for general health and vitality.  These spices, in Ayurvedic tradition are considered both calming as well as vitalizing and mentally clarifying.  One of the best organic drinks to counteract the stresses of daily life.

4 – Organic Matcha Green Tea:  High in antioxidants with a caffeine boost, drinking matcha green tea is a great way to start your morning.  Learn more about the antioxidant benefits HERE.  Try it hot or iced in the morning or any time of day for a healthy pick me up.

5 – Organic Coconut Water:  If you had a little too much red wine the night before, this is one of the best organic drinks for a hangover.  The naturally occurring electrolytes in coconut water are perfect for replenishing what you may have lost the night before.  Coconut water is perfect for extra hydration in the summer or when you’re extra active.

6 – Organic Fresh Pressed Vegetable/Fruit Juice:  Another great way to start the day if you have a hard time getting all of your veggies in once the day starts.  I like to make fresh juices with really minimal amount of fruit.  It’s better to juice your veggies and eat your fruits because your body will overload on sugar if you don’t consume fiber along with it.  So when you’re making a fresh green juice in the morning, don’t go overboard on the fruits.  A simple green juice recipe would be something like this:

Apples – 2 medium (preferably tart like a Granny Smith)
Celery – 3 large stalks
Cucumber – 1 large cucumber
Ginger Root – 1/2 thumb (1″ dia)
Lemon – 1/2 fruit (including rind)
Parsley – 1 bunch
Spinach – 2 cups

7 – Organic Yerba Mate: If you’re not familiar with yerba mate, it is a South American beverage made by steeping the ground leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant.  It does contain caffeine – about twice the amount of black tea but less than half the amount in coffee.  It doesn’t give me the coffee jitters, nor does it give me the crash that happens with coffee.  When I’m looking for something strong to start my day, this one is my go-to.

What organic drinks other than coffee do you start your day with?  Share with us in the comments below!

Seven Unexpected Health Benefits Of Organic Ginger

Organic ginger is most widely known for its anti-nausea effects.  When you were a kid, did your mother give you a glass of ginger ale when you had a stomach ache?  It’s no wonder!  Ginger is incredibly beneficial for stomachaches and nausea.  Even MythBusters did an episode on motion sickness and confirmed that ginger was actually beneficial.

organic ginger

By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Ginger Uploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Newly pregnant women, travelers, chemotherapy patients and others have successfully used ginger to treat nausea but did you know that organic gingerdoes so much more?

 

Seven Unexpected Health Benefits of Organic Ginger

1 – Beneficial for Diabetes
Ginger has been found to reduce blood glucose, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol.  The beneficial effects come from ginger’s ability to increase insulin sensitivity and inhibit enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism.  It can be used both for prevention and treatment. Ginger also has protective benefits against certain common complications of diabetes, offering protection to the liver, kidneys and eyes.

2 – Healthy Circulation
Ginger is a stimulating herb that gets the blood flowing.  It contains chromium, magnesium and zinc which can help improve blood flow.  It supports circulation has also been shown to help lower high blood pressure and it has blood thinning properties and prevents clots.

3 – Anti-Viral
Ginger is a natural anti-viral agent.  It heats up the body, inducing fever, so it will help your body fight off colds and flu while you’re relieving the symptoms as well.

4 – Strengthens Immunity
Consuming a little bit ginger every day can help boost your immune system and provide a wide range of benefits –antimicrobial, antibiotic, antiparasitic, cancer-protective, tumor inhibition, and is a powerful antioxidant.

5 – Reduces Pain and Inflammation
Ginger contains some of the most potent anti-inflammatory fighting substances known and is a natural powerful painkiller. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that ginger was as effective as ibuprofen for relieving painful menstrual periods. Ginger blocks the formation of the inflammatory compounds-prostaglandins and leukotrienes-and also has antioxidant effects that break down existing inflammation.  Try it for muscle pain, cramps, and arthritis pain.

6 – Memory and Cognitive Function
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can accelerate the aging process, leading to memory and cognitive decline.  Researchers studied middle-aged women who had developed some form of cognitive and gave them a daily dose of ginger.  After two months the women who had taken ginger had better test results for memory, attention and cognitive processing than women given a placebo.

How To Use Organic Ginger

  • There are many ways to enjoy ginger in your diet depending on how much you want to consume.
  • For a hot tea, steep 2 tablespoons fresh sliced ginger root in water for 15 minutes, strain, and enjoy with some lemon and your favorite sweetener.
  • In soups, add fresh grated ginger or ground ginger powder to add a little zest and zing.
  • In stir fries, add fresh grated or ground ginger to spice things up.
  • In sweets, ginger is wonderful in cookies, pumpkin or apple pies, ice cream
  • In marinades ginger gives a delightful fresh tangy flavor to your meat, fish, poultry or tofu.

What are your favorite ways to use organic ginger?

Matcha Green Tea: 7 Amazing Antioxidant Benefits

We all know that green tea is supposed to be high in antioxidants, great for weight loss, energy and vitality.  Did you know that not all green tea is created equally?  Matcha green tea is made from the nutrient-rich young leaves picked frmatcha green teaom the tips of shade-grown Camellia sinensis plants.  It is them steamed and de-vined before being stone ground into a fine powder.  Stored away from light and oxygen in order to preserve its color and nutrients, Matcha green tea is now ready to be enjoyed for its flavor and antioxidant benefits.

Why are antioxidants so beneficial?  Well, they are responsible for fighting the negative effects of free radicals that we encounter in everyday life from pollution, UV rays, radiation, and chemicals.  These free radicals can lead to cell and DNA damage.  Antioxidants combat free radicals and have numerous health-promoting benefits like preventing cancer and other life threatening diseases as well as making us look younger, with glowing, radiant skin.  All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants but Matcha green tea has the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score – one bowl of Matcha green tea has over 5 times as many antioxidants as any other food.  So what will those antioxidants do for you?

 

7 Amazing Antioxidant Benefits of Matcha Green Tea

  1. Anti-Cancer
    Matcha green tea contains a specific type of antioxidants known as catechins.  Catechins are the most potent and beneficial of the antioxidants. A specific catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) makes up 60% of the catechins in Matcha Green Tea. Out of all the antioxidants, EGCg is the most widely recognized for its cancer fighting properties. It has been found that Matcha Green Tea contains over 100 times more EGCg than any other tea. EGCg has been found to not only inhibit an enzyme required for cancer cell growth, but also kills cancer cells with no ill effect on healthy cells.
  2. Detox
    Chlorophyll is what gives green tea its beautiful green color.  It is also a powerful detoxifier, helping to eliminate both chemicals and heavy metals from the body.  Because matcha green tea is shade-grown, it is richer in chlorophyll than other green teas, making it a superior detoxifying drink.
  3. Immune Support
    The levels of vitamins C and E in Matcha Green Tea along with the catechins, have been shown to improve immune health. Studies have even suggested that the nutrients in Matcha may have the ability to inhibit the attacks of HIV on human T-cells.
  4. Healthy Teeth & Gums
    A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that among 940 men, those who regularly consumed green tea had better periodontal health than those who did not. Researchers in the study found that for every cup of green tea participants drank per day, there was a decrease in every indicator of periodontal disease studied.
  5. Heart Healthy
    A 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming green tea beverages or extracts significantly lowered serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.  Matcha treatment significantly lowered the glucose, triglyceride, and total cholesterol levels.
  6. Anti Aging
    Matcha Green Tea’s potent anti-inflammatory effects makes it an incredible boost for the skin – protecting it from UV damage and improving skin elasticity.  Regular consumption of Matcha Green Tea is one of the reasons attributed to the longevity of the Okinawan people, some of the longest living people on the planet.
  7. Weight Loss
    Studies have suggested that drinking matcha green tea regularly helps burn calories at nearly 4 times the normal rate – a great benefit as we age and our metabolism slows down. Other studies have shown that green tea helps git rid of belly fat; dieters who drank green tea lost more from the waistline than those who weren’t drinking green tea.

How Much Matcha Green Tea Should I Drink?

It only takes a small amount of matcha green tea to get its potent antioxidant benefits.  Just 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon whisked with hot (not boiling) water gives you great benefit.  Feel free to drink more; there are no negative side effects.

If you don’t like to drink tea, try matcha in these recipes:

Matcha & Avocado Popsicles
Matcha Green Tea Muffins
Matcha Crepes with Chocolate Ganache
Matcha Chia Pudding
Matcha Coconut Fudge

Do you already enjoy drinking matcha green tea? How do you like to use it?

 

 

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