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
- Super Size Me. Using himself as a guinea pig, director Morgan 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
No matter what diet or lifestyle you enjoy – omnivorous, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, or somewhere in between – choosing organic produce and products is smart. Unlike conventionally grown produce, items can only be labeled “organic” if they meet fairly strict production standards implemented by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Choosing organic is a win for your health, for the planet, and for farmers committed to producing quality foods using environmentally-friendly, sustainable agricultural practices. It’s a new year – why not start it off on the right nutritional foot?
Here are 7 great reasons to make the switch and Go Organic!
- Less exposure to harmful chemicals. USDA rules strictly prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides in the production of products that carry the organic label. Further, products labeled organic must be verified by an accredited third-party certifying agent. Conversely, the use of harmful chemicals is routine in conventional agriculture. Worse, many of the pesticides registered with the federal government were approved before extensive research was done regarding their potential long-term health consequences. At this point, many pesticides have been linked to a wide range of human health issues that range from short-term impacts like headaches and nausea to chronic impacts such as cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption. Eating organic significantly reduces your exposure to harmful pesticides and other chemicals that can negatively impact your health.
- Better nutritional value. Studies consistently prove that the nutritional content in organic foods is higher than that of conventionally produced foods. Following a review of over 400 published papers comparing organic and nonorganic foods, the Soil Association Certification Ltd. reported that organic crops were higher than conventional crops in essential minerals, phytonutrients, and vitamin C. Another mass review by researchers in Europe and the United States concluded that organic crops and organic-based foods contained higher concentrations of antioxidants – 20-40% more – than conventionally grown foods.
- Avoid questionable GMOs. Genetically modified organisms are the product of genetic engineering, which transfers genes across natural species barriers. GM crops, including soy, corn, canola, cotton, and sugar beets, have bacterial genes inserted. The bacterial genes allow plants to survive what would ordinarily be a deadly dose of weed killer. About 20% of GMO crops produce their own pesticides! How creepy is that? Many scientists, including the federal Food and Drug Administration’s own scientists, warn of the possible long-term effects of consuming GMOs. Serious potential health risks include infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
- Decrease intake of hormones and antibiotics. USDA’s organic standards also prohibit the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. Did you know that approximately 80% of the antibiotics in this country are given to factory farmed animals? Antibiotics are administered early on in the lives of farm animals to prevent infection and disease caused by their unnatural and unsanitary living conditions, and antibiotic use remains consistent throughout their lives. Frighteningly, the overuse of antibiotics in factory farmed animals has fueled the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in both animals and humans. In addition to antibiotics, the use of artificial growth hormones is common and of particular concern with beef and dairy products. Growth hormones in milk, namely rBGH or rBST, are genetically modified and are directly linked to cancer, especially in women. Other possible health concerns from ingesting hormones in meat and dairy products include early onset of puberty, genetic problems, and various cancers.
- Preserve genetic diversity. At the core of the current industrialized agricultural system is monoculture: the practice of growing a single crop on a large scale. It is estimated that over 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost in the last century. Monoculture farming relies heavily on chemical inputs like synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and it decreases the genetic diversity of our foods. Genetic diversity is important to the security of our food system because when we rely too heavily on a single crop, the food supply is vulnerable to disease. On the other hand, organic farmers often rely on local varieties of plants that are specifically adapted to flourish in their environments naturally, and they produce crops on a small scale. Purchasing organic produce and products preserves and promotes diversity among crops.
- Support small farms. On a similar note, organic farming is growing, and a lot of organic products are produced and sold locally. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2014 Organic Survey, 14,093 certified and exempt organic farms in the United States sold a total of $5.5 billion in organic products in 2014, up 72 percent since 2008. Per the report, the first point of sale for 80 percent of all U.S. organic products was less than 500 miles from the farm, compared to 74 percent in 2008. In fact, almost half of all organic produce – 46% – was sold within 100 miles of where it was grown, and 78% of organic produce sales was to the wholesale market. Wholesale markets, such as buyers for supermarkets, processors, distributors, packers, and cooperatives, serve as the marketing channel to get organic products in the hands of customers. When you buy organic produce and products, you support local, independent farms.
- Enjoy better flavor! The well-balanced, naturally fertilized soil used in organic farming produces healthy plants that become nourishing foods after harvest. Conventional produce varieties are chosen for their stability, their uniformity, and other qualities irrelevant to taste. Taste is key when it comes to smaller crops, and several studies show organic foods have stronger, better flavor than their conventional counterparts. In a recent Washington State University lab taste trial, organic berries were consistently judged as sweeter than conventional berries.
Learn more about organic and non-gmo products here, and resolve to go organic today!
Most of us are familiar with the term heirloom in the family context – those treasured items that are passed down, from generation to generation. In the gardening and culinary world, these treasures are known as heirloom plants. Perhaps you’ve noticed the unusual looking tomatoes in the produce aisle – you know, the ones that are all different sizes, shapes, and colors, like the deep purple Cherokee tomatoes? Or perhaps the white, yellow, or purple carrots caught your eye? Chances are, they are heirloom foods.
Barbara Richardson, a horticulturist with the National Gardening Association, defines heirloom plants as “vegetables, flowers, and fruits grown from seeds that are passed down from generation to generation.” While there is no official or standard definition of heirloom plants, the consensus is two factors are essential for a plant to be an heirloom: it must be old, and it must be open-pollinated.
Just how old is old enough for a plant to be an heirloom? This is the subject of some debate. Some argue plants should be at least 100 years old; some say at least 50 years old; and some argue that they must predate the end of World War II, which marks the beginning of widespread hybrid use by growers and seed companies. Most authorities agree that heirloom plants must be at least 50 years or three generations old.
Heirloom plants have generally been passed down through families that saved seeds through generations, or they came from seed banks. (Some purists argue that only seeds handed down within families are true heirloom foods!) They sometimes have fascinating stories – like the Mortgage Lifter tomato. It was developed by a man named Radiator Charlie in the 1940s. He sold the plants for $1.00 each, and his pitch was that one plant could feed a family of six. He was able to pay off his $6,000 mortgage in four years. Another interesting heirloom is the Ananas d’Amerique a Chair Verte melon. It dates back to 1794 and was grown on Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate in Virginia.
In addition to being old, heirloom plants must be open-pollinated, which means that they are pollinated naturally by insects, wind, water, birds, or mammals. Seeds can be saved each year, and the plants grown from the seeds will have the same characteristics as the “parent” plants, also known as “true to type.”
In contrast to open-pollinated plants, many modern, mass produced seeds are crosses between plants, or hybrids, that will not produce seeds that grow true to type plants. Modern hybrids are developed for certain profit minded characteristics, such as high yields, uniform appearance, and thick skins so they can be shipped long distances without bruising. Unfortunately, taste is NOT the focus of mass produced produce!
Tomatoes and carrots may be the first heirloom foods that come to mind, but they aren’t the only ones. There are hundreds of thousands of heirloom plants available around the world. Common varieties of heirloom plants include:
Heirloom tomatoes: Black Krim, Red & Yellow Pear, Beefsteak, San Marzano, Cherokee Purple & more
Heirloom potatoes: Bliss Triumph, Early Rose, Early Ohio, Garnet Chile, Peach Blow, Snowflake & more
Heirloom beets: Bull’s Blood, Chiogga, Early Wonder, Ruby Queen, Detroit Dark Red & more
Heirloom squash/gourds: Sugar Pie Pumpkin, Black Beauty Zucchini, Early Straightneck Squash & more
Heirloom beans: Orca, Jacob’s Cattle, European Soldier, Flageolet, Cranberry, Tongue of Fire & more
Heirloom eggplant: Black Beauty, Long Purple, Listada de Gandia, Old White Egg & more
Heirloom cherries: Black Tartarian, Montmorency, English Morello & more
Heirloom watermelons: Charlseton Gray, Crimson Sweet, Moon & Stars, Mountain Sweet Yellow & more
Other than their fascinating history, why should you choose heirloom varieties? Here are 5 great reasons to choose heirloom foods:
1 – Flavor is king. Heirloom foods have unique colors, textures, and, most importantly, tastes not found in factory-farmed industrial produce. Commercial produce varieties are chosen for their stability, their uniformity, and other qualities irrelevant to taste. Heirloom varieties are all about taste – it’s the primary reason that heirloom varieties are grown generation after generation. They were and are prized for their flavor.
2 – They are naturally pesticide free.
Typically, heirlooms adapt over time and develop unique characteristics based on the climate and soil in which they grow. Due to their genetics, they are often resistant to local pests, diseases, and extremes of weather. This natural resistance makes the use of pesticides unnecessary.
3 – Buying them supports small, local farms. Heirloom plants are grown on a small scale using traditional techniques. Chances are when you buy heirlooms, you are supporting small, local agriculture, as these plants are not designed to be mass produced and travel long distances. So when you buy them, you are putting money back into your own community rather than supporting multinational, government subsidized agri-businesses.
4 – Purchasing heirloom varieties promotes genetic diversity. Large producers typically use monoculture, meaning they grow and produce a single variety or species of crop over a large agricultural area. This practice decreases the genetic diversity of our foods, and genetic diversity is important to the security of our food system. Remember the Irish potato famine of the 1840s? At that point in history, nearly half of the Irish population was dependent on the potato for their diet, especially the rural poor. The potatoes planted were mainly one or two high-yielding varieties of potatoes, rather than a larger variety of potato plants. This reliance on 1-2 species greatly reduced the genetic variety that would ordinarily prevent the decimation of an entire crop by disease, and the Irish were vulnerable to famine.
5 – FLAVOR. Have I mentioned that heirloom plants are prized for their flavor? If you’re a foodie like I am, it bears repeating!
Next time you’re at the farmers’ market or your local grocery store, keep an eye out for the unusual looking produce items and give them a try. Go easy on the spices and such so their natural flavor can shine – I suspect you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the taste and cooking possibilities with these amazing heirloom foods!
Gettle, Jere & Emilee, The Heirloom Life Gardener. New York: Hyperion, 2011. Print.
Iannotti, Marie, The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Heirloom Vegetables. Portland: Timber Press, Inc., 2011. Print.
It 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
I love eating my Cherry and Pear tomatoes in salads and my Black Krims on sandwiches but sometimes there’s just too much to use at once and I have to break out my tricks. Here are some of my best tips on using up all of your garden’s abundance.
7 Tips On Using Organic Tomatoes
1 – Dehydrate
Its easy to make ‘sun dried’ tomatoes in a food dehydrator. They can be used as is once they’re dehydrated or rehydrated to add a richness to soups and sauces. All I do is slice them in half, sprinkle a little bit of salt on them and pop them in the dehydrator. It can take about two days of dehydrating depending on how big your tomatoes are so keep checking to see if they’re dry and once they are, store them in an airtight container. *bonus tip: I like to use a smoked salt when dehydrating cherry, grape or pear tomatoes. Sprinkled on salads, they taste a little like bacon bits!
2 – Salsa
You can use just about any type of tomato for a salsa and it stores well in the fridge for nighttime and weekend snacking. Click HERE for some awesome summer salsa recipes.
3 – Spaghetti Sauce
I recently had an abundance of Roma tomatoes so I decided to make homemade spaghetti sauce and it was so good I could barely believe it. Its so simple yet so delicious. First you’ll need to blanch your tomatoes: boil a big pot of water and fill your sink with ice water. One by one, score the bottom of the tomato with an x and place it gently in the boiling water. As you see the skin peel back, remove the tomatoes and place them in the ice water bath. The skins will come right off. Set aside your blanched and peeled tomatoes for a moment. In a large pot, saute garlic and onion until translucent, then quarter your tomatoes and add them to the pot. Season with salt, pepper and any Italian seasonings that you like. I like to add a bit of dried fennel and bit of crushed red pepper for a sausage-y taste. Let this cook down for 45 minutes to an hour. Once it is at the thickness you like, taste and adjust seasonings then either use right away or freeze for later use.
4 – Flavored Butter
This recipe for Tomato Basil Garlic Butter looks amazing and can be stored in your freezer for use all year long.
5 – Juice it
If you have a juicer or a blender you can enjoy the refreshing flavor of tomato juice. Add a few other veggies like celery and red onion to kick up the flavor or you can add some seasonings and turn it into Bloody Mary Mix.
6 – Tomato Paste
If you really have more tomatoes than you could ever know what to do with, tomato paste is the way to go. In the winter months I find myself buying a lot of organic tomato paste, but making use of the summer’s abundance allows me to enjoy the freshness of the season all year long. Just use the same instructions for making spaghetti sauce, omitting the herbs and spices, and cook for another 2 1/2 hours or so until the sauce is a very thick consistency. At this point you can freeze or can the tomato paste for use later in the year.
7 – Fried Green Tomatoes
Often at the end of the season as it is cooling down, I’m left with a whole lot of green tomatoes that I know aren’t going to ripen. That’s fried green tomato season for me! You don’t have to be Southern to enjoy them – and they’re not very hard to make. Slice your green tomatoes in 1/2 inch thick slices. In a shallow bowl make an egg bath with a beaten egg and a little milk (or buttermilk). In another shallow bowl, add your breading. You can use breadcrumbs, cornmeal, or a mixture of both. Heat safflower or sunflower oil in a pan to about 375 degrees. Dip each tomato slice in the egg bath then the batter, then fry until crisp and golden. Transfer to a plate lined with a few paper towels to absorb the oil and enjoy!
Of course if you don’t have a garden or aren’t the happy recipient of a nearby gardener’s overabundance, you can always get that fresh flavor of organic tomatoes in a jar.
How do you like to use your garden’s abundance of organic tomatoes?
It’s likely that you will find black pepper on nearly every kitchen table and restaurant table in America. As popular as it is, not many people recognize the healing potential of this ever-present spice. Black pepper is the fruit of the black pepper plant from the Piperaceae family and has been used for centuries used as both a spice and a medicine.
It is the chemical piperine, present in black pepper, which causes the spiciness. Piperine is being studied for its physiological effects, which appear to be wide and varied.1 Nutritionally, one tablespoon of ground black pepper contains 13% of the daily value for vitamin K, 10% for Iron, 18% for manganese as well as trace amounts of other essential nutrients, protein and fiber.
Let’s look at some of the health benefits that you might not realize when you’re dusting your meals with salt and pepper!
7 Health Benefits of Black Pepper
1 – Weight Loss
The outer layer of peppercorn assists in the breakdown of fat cells. This makes adding pepper to foods a good way to help you lose weight naturally.
2 – Skin Treatment
According to researchers in London, the piperine content of pepper can stimulate the skin to produce pigment. This has lead to treatments for Vitiligo, a skin disease in which some areas of skin lose its typical pigmentation and turn white. Topical treatment of piperine combined with ultra violet light therapy has been used with success.2
3 – Digestive Aid
Black Pepper facilitates digestion by increasing the hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach. It also helps to prevent the formation of intestinal gas. Black Pepper is considered a carminative, a substance that forces gas out of the body in a healthy, downward motion, rather than pressing upward and creating uncomfortable pressure.
4 – Cough & Cold Relief
Black pepper is a natural expectorant that helps break up mucus and phlegm in the respiratory tract. Ayurvedic preparations for respiratory ailments often include black pepper. It is also beneficial for sinusitis and nasal congestion.
5 – Healthy Arteries
Eating black pepper helps to keep your arteries clean. In much the same way that fiber helps to reduce atherosclerosis, black pepper helps assist the body in scraping excess cholesterol from artery walls, thus reducing the chance for heart attack and stroke.
6 – Antioxidant Benefits
The antioxidants in black pepper neutralize free radicals and protect your body from many conditions. Free radicals are the byproducts of regular cellular function that attack healthy cells and cause their DNA to mutate into cancerous cells. By eating foods high in antioxidants you can even avoid premature aging symptoms like wrinkles, age spots, macular degeneration, and memory loss.
7 – Enhances Bioavailability of Other Nutrients
Black pepper helps in transporting the benefits of other herbs to different parts of body, maximizing the efficiency of the other health foods that we consume. That is why adding it to foods not only makes them taste delicious, but also helps make those nutrients more available and accessible to our system. This is especially true when black pepper and turmeric are eaten together. The black pepper enhances the bioavailability of turmeric by up to 2000%.
Preparation and storage tips:
Grinding pepper at home is better than buying pre-ground black pepper. Even home-ground pepper retains its freshness for only 3 months, while whole peppercorns can keep their freshness indefinitely. Handheld pepper mills or grinders are helpful; you can also use a mortar and pestle to grind black pepper at home. Black pepper also loses flavor and aroma through evaporation, so airtight storage helps preserve its spiciness and healing properties longer.
Adding a pinch of black pepper to every meal helps to improve both taste and digestion. It also improves your overall health and well being.
How do you like to use black pepper at your house?
“Mom, I’m hungry, can I have a snack?” That might sound like an all too familiar phrase. I know for me it’s much more common in the summer time, when kids are out of school and constantly rummaging through your cupboards. I’ve found that a little preparation goes a long way in keeping healthy organic snacks within the reach of their little hands. When you are living a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy foods will take some prep-time and that’s okay. Our health and our children’s health is worth the little extra time love and effort! And once you get the hang of it, prep-time is a breeze.
I have many options for you for healthy organic snacks that you will feel good about giving your children.
Tips on Making Organic Snacks for Kids:
- Buy a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. They are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, fats and protein, which all kids need for their systems to function correctly.
- When you get home from grocery shopping, rinse and wash all your produce. This will save a little extra time when you go to use them.
- Pre-cut your vegetables (carrots, celery, bell peppers), store then in an easy to grab container, and place it in the refrigerator where it is easy to grab.
- Don’t buy JUNK. If you have junk in your house, your kids will search for it. If you don’t buy junk, they can’t eat junk (well at least at home).
- Going on a trip, hike, or just going out for the day? Pre-package your snacks the night before. Use little snack size bags or containers.
27 Easy Grab & Go Ideas for Organic Snacks
- Celery (some options: celery with nut butter, coconut butter with raisins or another chopped dried fruit or nut)
- Olives (drained)
- Sliced bell peppers
- Carrot sticks (I like using rainbow carrots – purple carrots are especially delicious)
- Jicama sticks
- Strawberries (any berry that has been rinsed and dried)
- Ready to go organic fruits (apples, oranges, pears, grapes)
- Kale chips (store bought or make your own: cut the stems out of several kale leaves, sprinkle with avocado oil, sea salt, garlic powder and pepper, and bake at 275 degrees for 40 minutes, turning them halfway through)
- Dark Chocolate – Make sure it’s over 70% cacao (will be high in antioxidants and less sugar)
- Plantain Chips – One of my kids’ favorites. They taste like potato chips.
- Applesauce cups
- Pre-made muffins
- Crackers and cheese
- Granola and protein bars
- Raw nuts (good source of protein and fat)
- Trail Mix
- Hard boiled eggs
- Homemade fruit popsicles
- Dried fruit
- Seaweed snacks
- Chia fruit squeeze packs (great source of omega-3’s)
- Fruit leathers
- Bacon (sounds funny, but premade bacon slices, nitrate free of course, are one of my kids favorite snacks)
- Stuffed dates (stuff with a brazil nut or other nuts and a couple of organic chocolate chips)
It also helps to have a small container of their favorite dip (guacamole, salsa, nut butter, etc.) for dipping fruits and veggies, handy as well.
Snacking can be made easy. It may take a little effort and prep, but it will be worth it. Another awesome option for some great ready to go snacks is the Greater Goodie Snack Box. Meant for kids and adults alike, keeping a go-to box of healthy organic snacks within reach of your kids will keep them on the right track. A perfect choice for families that are on the go, these goodie boxes come in three sizes, all with great choices!
What are your kid’s favorite organic snacks?
By the year 2030, an estimated 67 million (25% of the projected total adult population) adults aged 18 years and older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, but did you know there are two types of arthritis? The most common type of arthritis is Osteoarthritis, a degenerative arthritis (wear and tear of the cartilage) usually associated with poor nutrition and aging. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. That means that the immune system attacks parts of the body. The joints are the main areas affected by this malfunction in the immune system. Over time it can lead to chronic inflammation and joint damage. A lot of doctors just treat arthritis symptomatically, meaning they will give you medication to help with the pain. However, there is growing research that just making dietary changes, like adding these organic foods to your diet, can go a long way with both types of arthritis.
6 Organic Foods to Help Fight Arthritis
Turmeric has a high antioxidant value and helps to boost the immune system. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and is popular among those with arthritis and joint problems.
2. Vitamin C Rich Foods
One important function of vitamin C is in the formation and maintenance of collagen, the basis of connective tissue, which is found in the skin, ligaments, cartilage and joint linings, bones and teeth. Vitamin C rich foods include organic:
- brussel sprouts
- dark leafy greens
Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating more cold water fish, olive oil, walnuts or freshly ground flaxseeds. You may also want to consider taking a fish oil supplement to help keep your protein intake low.
Ginger is another great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it’s said to be a superior anti-pain remedy, beating out over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol and Advil.
Berries including blackberries, raspberries, strawberries have anthocyanin’s which are a potent antioxidant responsible for the reddish pigment in foods, which may help reduce inflammation.
6. Blackstrap Molasses
High in valuable minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, blackstrap molasses has been a cherished home remedy for arthritis for a number of years. As a dietary supplement (easily consumed as a drink), blackstrap can help relieve symptoms of arthritis and joint pain, thanks to its vital constituents that regulate nerve and muscle function, and strengthens the bones. 1-2 tablespoons a day straight or mixed with warm water.
Though there isn’t an official Arthritis Diet (I don’t think), the following could benefit those with arthritis greatly:
- Avoid processed and fried foods, both of which promote inflammation.
- Decrease the amount of sugar you intake each day. The less sugar you eat, the less inflammation, and the stronger the immune system to defend us against infectious and degenerative diseases.
- Avoid dairy products. Dairy has a known protein called Casein which may irritate the tissue around the joints.
- Refrain from tobacco and alcohol use, which can lead to a number of health problems, including some that may affect your joints. Smokers are more at risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, while those who consume alcohol have a higher risk for developing gout.
- Drink your water. Water does more than hydrate you, it also helps lubricate our joints.
- Limit or eliminate nightshades from diet. They are known to contribute to pain, inflammation and arthritis. Nightshades include: tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.
Have you found anything to help alleviate arthritis pain? If so tell us what worked for you?
Store bought veggie burgers are an easy ‘go-to’ meatless meal when you’re in a hurry and want to put something warm and comforting on the dinner table, but making your own at home is quick and easy. You’ll also be using cleaner, fresher ingredients with these organic recipes. And in the end you’ll save some money too!
You can prepare any of these organic recipes ahead of time and freeze them for later use, making them super-convenient. Just lay the patties (raw or cooked) in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for about 60-90 minutes. Once they’re frozen you can stack the patties with parchment paper in between each patty and freeze in a ziploc bag for later use. Uncooked patties should be defrosted in the refrigerator before cooking.
I’ve gathered a collection of my favorite organic recipes for veggie burgers from some of the best food bloggers and compiled them in the list below.
21 Outrageous Organic Recipes: Veggie Burgers
- Vegan Beet Burger from Eat With Your Eyes Closed
- Moroccan Yam Veggie Burgers from Oh She Glows
- Spicy Curry Chickpea Burgers from Calm Mind Busy Body
- Thai Quinoa Burgers from One Green Planet
- Spiced Green Pea Veggie Burger from Organic Authority
- Olive Lentil Burgers from Post Punk Kitchen
- Hijiki Tofu Burgers from Vegangela
- Lentil Walnut-Apple Burgers from Plant Powered Kitchen
- Black Bean Sweet Potato Tempeh Burgers from The Kind Life
- Red Lentil Cauliflower Burger from Vegan Richa
- Raw Vegan Spinach Burgers from Choosing Raw
- BBQ Tofu Burger from Vegan Miam
- Homemade Sunshine Burgers from The Vegan Chickpea
- Za’atar Chickpea Burgers from Keepin’ It Kind
- Curried Eggplant, Lentil and Quinoa Burgers from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
- Walnut Lentil Beet Burgers from Hell Yeah It’s Vegan
- Smoky Bean & Spinach Sliders from Thug Kitchen
- Smooth Chickpea Kids Burger from The Flaming Kitchen
- Fabulous Un-Fried Falafel Burgers from Forks Over Knives
- Acorn Squash Veggie Burgers from My Whole Food Life
- Roasted Garlic Artichoke Veggie Burgers from Connoisseurus Veg
Do you have any favorite organic recipes for veggie burgers? Share below!