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Organic World

Stress Busting Organic Foods for the Holiday Season

The jam-packed parking lots, the shopping and crowds, the back-to-back diet-busting parties. The interminable chats with the in-laws, and even finances take a toll. We understand how easy it is to feel not so wonderful at this most wonderful time of the year.  That’s why I’ve rounded up some healthy organic foods that are perfect for beating those oh so common holiday blues.organic foods

First, What Does Stress do to the Body?

Stress is awful, it weakens your immune system, strains your heart, dampens your sex drive, creates aches and pains, and can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Your body can only work with what you feed it, so if you consume junk (processed foods), you’re going to feel junky in return. Filling and nourishing your body with the right organic foods can help keep your mood bright and the above stressors rolling off your back.

Foods That Add Stress to Body

So which foods should we avoid? The following foods increase stress and anxiety by either stimulating the brain the wrong way or putting the body under stress during the digestion process. Foods to avoid include:

  • Coffee, energy drinks, sodas, and other caffeinated drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Refined sugars
  • Fried foods
  • Foods high in polyunsaturated fats found in processed foods

Now that you know what to avoid, let’s get down to what foods will help you bust the stress.

Stress Busting Organic Foods

  • Asparagus, yes I know, these skinny little stalks are known to make your urine smell funny. But they are high in folate, which is essential for keeping your cool.
  • Turkey - here’s the reason you feel so relaxed after eating turkey. The acid known as L-tryptophan is releasing serotonin, a chemical that calms your brain. The best turkey to buy is pasture raised turkeys.
  • Blueberries have some of the highest levels of an antioxidants and they’ve been linked to all kinds of positive health outcomes, including sharper cognition. But all berries, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are super rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to be helpful in alleviating stress.
  • Dark Green Leafy Vegetables Greens carry lots of B vitamins, including folate, like asparagus, which is important for easing symptoms of depression, relieving stress, and reducing anxiety. Good choices are kale, spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard.
  • Cashews are an especially good source of zinc. Just 1-ounce serving has 11 percent of your daily allowance. Low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression. Since our bodies have no way of storing zinc, it’s important to get some every day.
  • Honey - You’ll get an instant kick and energy for the long haul. Plus, research shows that its antioxidant and antibacterial properties may improve your immunity.
  • Chamomile teaProbably the most recommend bedtime soothers around, but in addition to helping sleep it also helps calm the nerves.
  • Fatty Fish like salmon, herring, and tuna, are high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B6 and B12. These essential nutrients promote healthy brain function and elevate your mood—two important aspects of fighting stress.
  • Almonds & Sunflower Seeds – These easy-to-find crunchy snacks cut stress like a sharp knife. They contain riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, and other important vitamins and minerals. Snacking on seeds and nuts throughout the day can prevent stress from building up. To maximize nutrition benefits, opt for raw varieties over salted and roasted.
  • Pumpkin Seeds contain L-tryptophan, which helps with good sleep, lowering depression and combating stress. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin (the feel good hormone) and niacin. Serotonin is also very helpful in helping us to have a good night’s sleep.
  • Dark Chocolate, in particular, is known to lower blood pressure, adding to a feeling of calm. It contains more polyphenols and flavonols—two important types of antioxidants. You can safely allow yourself dark chocolate as a snack once a week, or as a conscious indulgence.

I hope you can incorporate some of these stress boosting organic foods into your diet and even your holiday meals to help you calm those holiday blues!

What are your favorite ways to relieve stress during the holidays?

Beyond Probiotics: Maintain Healthy Digestion During the Holidays

Let’s start with a recap of what probiotics are. Probiotics are the friendly bacteria in probioticsour digestive system.  They help to improve absorption of nutrients and vitamins. Improved absorption means good digestion.  This allows your body to get the most nutritional value from the foods you eat and helps to regulate your digestive system. Sounds good, right? Well, with the holiday season being the dietary minefield that it is we wanted to give you some tips on how to keep your digestion on track this holiday season!

Now that we know what probiotics are, where do we get them?

Probiotic supplements are an excellent choice, they add healthy bacteria to the digestive tract, and actually digest sugars for their own fuel. They are a great antidote when we eat too many sweets, which is perfect for the holiday season. Probiotics are also found in cultured/fermented foods, such as yogurt (good quality) kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and probiotic drinks. Eating and drinking these foods daily will ensure a healthy digestive tract.

What Else Can We do To Help Digestion?

  • One of the primary ingredients to good digestion is water. Many of us are chronically dehydrated, so be sure to drink plenty of filtered water or herbal teas. Adequate hydration can curb excessive food cravings, and help us to not overeat, especially for sweets.
  • Sit down to eat. People tend to eat more and more quickly when they’re standing or walking than they do when they’re sitting. It seems like a fairly simple rule, you may be surprised how effective it can be. Sitting down is also less stress on your body because you are more relaxed and being relaxed helps our digestion work better.
  • Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly.  Ideally, you should chew your food until it is liquid.  I know sounds gross, right? But your gut will love you. You will be satisfied with less food and you will have better digestion. Your saliva actually has enzymes that facilitate digestion. Also, it is easier to digest small particles than large ones. Most people eat too fast. Not chewing well stresses your digestive system and can lead to poor absorption of nutrients, digestive problems like gas and bloating and promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive tract which can lead to leaky gut and much worse.
  • Drink warm liquids before meals. Drinking warm water with lemon, Apple Cider Vinegar or broth, tea (peppermint or dandelion are good choices for digestion), or soup before a meal (15-30 minutes before) will prepare the digestive tract for digestion.
  • Add more veggies to your diet. Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables with high water content, especially raw, will help digestion and increase bowel transit time.
  • Avoid ice water as it suppresses circulation to the digestive tract.

I hope these tips help you this holiday season! Do you know any of more tips to help improve digestion? Share below!

The Best Natural Sweeteners for Diabetics

natural sweetenersWhether you’re diabetic or not, sugar and even some other natural sweeteners are something you should be wary of. Don’t think that just because the package says sugar-free, that it’s good for you. Instead, let that be a red flag. This will give you the opportunity to turn that package around and give the ingredients label a good look. Key words you are looking to avoid are:

  • ACESULFAME POTASSIUM, ACESULFAME K or ACE-K
  • ASPARTAME
  • SACCHARIN
  • SUCRALOSE

All the above are ingredients that must be avoided, not just by diabetics, but for all of us. In the grocery stores you will see them labeled as Equal, Sweet-Low, Splenda and NutraSweet. These artificial sweeteners are used in snack foods, dairy foods, processed fruits, jams and jellies, sugar-free drinks, soda and other carbonated beverages, baked goods, condiments, chewing gum, supplements, and even in infant and children’s medicine. Why are they so bad? Well, long-term exposure to these chemicals has been found to promote memory loss, hypoglycemia, multiple sclerosis (MS), dementia, nausea, migraines, sleep problems, vision impairment, depression and anxiety, Parkinson’s disease and brain tumors.

Best Natural Sweeteners For Diabetics

Xylitol

This natural sweetener is an all-natural sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables and produced in small amounts by the human body. Xylitol is absorbed slowly and only partially utilized by the body, which means fewer calories. It can be substituted for most common sweeteners without compromising taste or texture. Xylitol has a few benefits too, it helps create a barrier between germs and your gums and has been shown to be beneficial for dental health. It’s why you’ll find a lot of chewing gums using this natural sweetener. Also, in addition of xylitol to saline nasal sprays, has been shown to make them more effective at improving and maintaining upper respiratory health. Xylitol helps prevent the causes of sinus issues and upper respiratory discomfort by stimulating the body’s natural cleansing process to clear away contaminants and irritants in the nasal passages (*Xylitol is highly dangerous for dogs so make sure to keep any xylitol products out of their reach. Even small amounts from candies can be toxic. If your dog eats a product that contains xylitol, it is important to take the dog to a veterinarian immediately.)

Erythritol

Discovered in 1848 and produced from Natural Sugar Cane Juice, which is naturally fermented and crystallized to create natural Erythritol. Erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is found in our bodies, as well as in many fruits, vegetables and even certain fermented foods. It has 95 percent less calories than sugar, although the FDA does label it as having little calories and a glycemic index of zero, Erythriotol makes an ideal sweetener for people with diabetes. So while it sweetens, it does without adding calories or spiking blood sugar the way other sweeteners do. And because it doesn’t ferment in your gut, you can use it without worrying about other unpleasant digestive issues that are often associated with other sugar alcohols.

Stevia

Is my top choice for diabetics for adding a little sweetness to their life. Stevia is a naturally occurring extract from the sweet leaf of a plant that belongs to the sunflower family. It has been used since early times as a sweet source (the leaves are 30- times sweeter than sugar). It grows in South America, and the leaves are similar in shape to the mint family. The great thing about Stevia is that it has virtually no calories, no sugar, and has no affect on blood sugar. Because Stevia is many times sweeter than sugar, it takes very little to make things sweet.

Further reading:

Are you a diabetic or watching your sweeteners? Which natural sweeteners do you like best?

How to Keep Your Family from Getting Sick This Cold & Flu Season

flu seasonIt’s that time of year again, the wonderful holiday season which unfortunately means the dreaded cold and flu season. It’s the time of year when the weather is starting to cool and we are spending more of our time indoors and because of the back-to-back holidays it’s also the time of year when sweets like Halloween candy, Christmas cookies and caramel pumpkin lattes etc. are in full force. Most people don’t know that all those sweets (sugar) really take a toll on our immune systems which makes fighting illness more and more difficult.

With the following tips for boosting your immune system not only will it help protect you and your family against the cold and flu season, you can take control of your health and trim your time spent feeling under the weather during the holidays.

Immune Boosting Tips For Cold & Flu Season:

Eating Healthy

Sounds like a given right? Truth is many of us don’t know what it means to eat healthy. When it comes to boosting our immune system the best thing you can do is ditch the processed foods. Processed foods are packed with all kinds of sugars which impair our immunity. When building your immune system whole foods (foods with 1 ingredient) are going to be your best bet.

Sleep

When it comes to your immunity system, sleep is extremely important. When we are sleeping our immune system really kicks into gear and helps us recover more quickly from illness and much more. Need help on getting a good night’s rest? Visit my sleep solutions post for some tips.

Exercise

While colder weather may trigger an urge to curl up in a blanket with a cup of tea, moving your body and exercise will actually boost its immune function. In a 2006 study, researchers at the University of Washington enrolled 115 women in either a weekly 45-minute stretching session or 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. After 12 months, the exercisers had developed significantly fewer colds than the stretchers did. Don’t let the word exercise intimidate you. A brisk walk with the family for 20-30 minutes will do your body good!

Supplements

I love supplements. Good quality, properly sourced supplements can be very beneficial to our health and to help boost our immune system. Ideally we strive to get all the nutrients we need through an optimal diet, but sometimes we just can’t get all of one nutrient with the food we eat, and need to make up the difference in supplement form. The best supplements that I like to take during flu season are:

  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil – Contains Vitamins A and D, which are both necessary for many aspects of health, Immunity being a big one. While we can get Vitamin D from sunlight, Vitamin A can be harder to consume or absorb and fermented cod liver oil is an excellent source.
  • Probiotics - 70-80% of our immunity resides in our gut which makes probiotics very important for a healthy immune system. Probiotics help populate our gut with all that good bacteria (flora) which will help fighting sickness. Probiotics are especially important to take if you have ever been on antibiotics because while antibiotics can be useful in some cases they also destroy not only the bad bacteria, but the good bacteria as well.
  • ZincIs great for the immune system and can prevent a cold or flu virus from reproducing and can even help relieve respiratory symptoms. Adults should consume 50-75 mg a day when sick in capsule or lozenge. Those who avoid meat could be at risk for deficiency the recommended daily intake (RDI) is 15mg/day.

More Immune Boosting Tips

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is known to boost the immune system. It has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It is high in lauric acid and is thought to dissolve the lipid coating around some viruses and make them more susceptible to attack by the immune system. If sick, aim for 5-6 tablespoons per day in food or melted and stirred into hot tea.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry increases the production non-inflammatory infection-fighting cytokines as much as 10 fold. Elder berries are known to be effective against eight strains of influenza. This suggests that elder be superior to vaccines in preventing flu, because flu vaccines are only effective against known strains of flu, whereas the virus is continually mutating to new strains. I make elderberry syrup all year round but I especially like to make sure I have it one hand from September – April.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Is wonderful at helping the body to alkalize. When our body is alkalized it helps kill bacteria and virus. Yes, it tastes awful, but if you add 1 tablespoon to an 8oz glass of water and add a little raw honey, it’s actually pretty tasty!

More resources for cold/flu season:

How do you plan on keeping your family healthy during this cold and flu season? 

Tips for Eating Healthy During Pregnancy

Thinking about having a baby? Expecting a baby? Just had a baby? Eating healthy in all of those stages is critically important. Whatever stage you fall into, you have come to the right place. Today I’m giving you some easy to follow tips that you can implement at any stage of your pregnancy.

eating healthy

By File photo, Canwest News Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

14 Eating Healthy Tips During Pregnancy

1. Eat for Two?

Nope, don’t fall into that trap. Yes of course you need to bump up your food intake a little but you definitely don’t need to be eating two of every meal.

2. Stay Hydrated

Water is the best choice during pregnancy. Did you know that water accounts for 75% of your baby’s water weight at birth? Lack of water can lead to dehydration, dehydration equals stress and when mom’s body is in stress so is baby. So stay hydrated. Aim for 1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water minimum, if you can drink more, go for it. For example a mother who weighs 150lbs would need to drink 75oz of water. Another good bonus is that staying hydrated also helps alleviate morning sickness.

3. Nitrates & Listeria

Packaged lunch meats are high in a preservative called sodium nitrate. Some specialists are of the opinion that sodium nitrates can lead to difficult complications during pregnancy. This is because the body turns nitrates into potential carcinogens. Another issue with cold cuts is that they may contain lots of the Listeria bacteria. Listeria can grow in refrigerated temperatures. This bacterium causes an ailment called Listeriosis which can cause problems during pregnancy such as miscarriage, premature delivery, infections or even death of the new born baby.

4. Good Fats

Don’t be scared of eating good fats. Fats are absolutely necessary for absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K which are vital for baby’s brain and organ development.  Coconut oil, butter, eggs, olive oil, quality red meats, and nuts are good choices for eating healthy fats.

5. Bad Fats

The human body does not have the capability to digest refined oils and trans-fats.  Consuming trans-fats can alter the composition of your breast milk and lowers the overall fat content.

Stay away from oils like: margarine, shortening, vegetable oils including canola oil, all hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils, and soybean oil.

6. Say Goodbye to Processed Foods

Unfortunately we are already passing toxins to our baby through the air we breathe and even chemicals we put on our skin (lotions, creams, shampoo etc.) the last thing we need to do is overload our system with unnecessary chemicals from the food we eat, which also offer little to no nutrition.

7. Fiber is your Friend

Eating healthy with a high fiber-diet includes eating properly prepared whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Fiber is important to keep the intestines moving to ensure good bowel function and elimination.  This also helps to avoid constipation, a common problem during pregnancy.

8. No Sugar

Avoid or greatly limit sugar intake in your diet and stick to natural sugars like maple syrup or raw honey in little quantity.  Bacteria, viruses, parasites all thrive off sugar.  Avoid aspartame1, sucralose2 and other artificial sugars, which are all chemical based.

9. Grab and Go

Always have healthy food snacks that are ready to go. When you get home from shopping, wash your produce right away and chop it up, store it in the fridge for easy access when you need a quick grab and go snack!  I liked to chop up carrots, celery, and my sweet husband would always cut me up a whole watermelon and keep it in the fridge when I wanted something for my “sweet tooth”.

10. Big Fish

Accumulate mercury in their bodies, which is transferred to you and your baby. Mercury causes damage to a baby’s nervous system. Stay away from swordfish, marlin, and shark. Limit tuna consumption too.  When choosing fish at the market always look for wild caught fish.

11. Organic

Eat as much organic or locally as you can.  If you can’t buy all of your produce organic, use the Environmental Working Group (EWG) ‘Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen‘ as a reference for which fruits and veggies you definitely should buy organic.

12. No Booze for You

Alcohol is not a bright idea while pregnant. It is linked to various health issues you want to avoid such as premature delivery, low birth weight, birth defects, and mental retardation. A little sip here and there is probably fine, but again, why take a risk?

13. Shop the Perimeter

The best tip when you go shopping is to shop the perimeter of the store, this is usually where all the good stuff is; your meats, poultry, seafood, produce, dairy. It’s when you get into the middle of the store and get lost in all those aisles with packaged and processed foods. This is where you really need to pay attention to the labels, read the ingredients.  Look for items that have less than 5 ingredients (more is NOT better).  Ingredients to avoid are:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Dyes, food colorings (red #40, yellow #5, red # 3 etc.)
  • Hydrogenated / partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats)
  • Artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, saccharin)
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • BHA & BHT
  • Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite (cured meats)
  • Potassium bromate  (found in commercial breads)

14. Double the Protein

When we are pregnant we need nearly twice as much protein. The average intake of protein is around 45grams; 75-80 grams is needed daily during pregnancy.  3oz of chicken breast is around 20-30grams of protein, so don’t worry it’s not that hard to get your protein in.  Here are some other great sources of protein.

  • Grass feed beef, lamb, bison
  • Pastured chicken/turkey
  • Pastured eggs
  • Nuts, seeds,  and legumes
  • Organic Dairy (milk, full fat yogurt, cheese)

If these tips seem overwhelming. Don’t worry you don’t have to add them all at once, but if you do, right on! Start by adding one or two tips, then build on that. Just by reading this you made a good first step to creating a healthy lifestyle for you and your baby!

 

1 – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/16/aspartame-diet-soda.aspx

2 – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/18/sucralose-side-effects.aspx

Organic Snacks for Halloween Parties

October is my favorite month out of the year, but I can’t lie, these past few years when Halloween rolls around, I get a little anxious about all the candy, and I have a hard time deciding what to hand out to trick-or-treaters, or what kind of organic snacks to bring to Halloween parties.organic snacks I don’t want to be known as that friend or neighbor that hands out the “weird” stuff to trick-or-treaters like dried fruit or apples. But I also cringe at the thought of knowingly giving kids candy that’s loaded with GMO’s, sugar and artificial ingredients. In the past I would usually cave and end up buying the fun-size bags of popular candy brands – but not these last few years!  Thanks to these organic and natural brands, Halloween just got a little healthier. Trick or treat!

7 Organic Snacks for Halloween Parties

Throwing a party this Halloween? No problem. Head over to Pinterest to visit our Healthy Halloween board to get some great ideas from organic snacks recipes to decorations and much more! Below I’ve posted a few healthier, organic snacks that both kids and adults will love and you can feel better about serving.  And for trick or treat candy that you can feel good about, click HERE.

18 Rabbits

Makes these great organic granola junior bars for kids, which come in some pretty fun flavors like Chocolate Banana, Cranberry Apricot, Mango Strawberry, and Chocolate Cherry. For us adults they have big kid bars with yummy flavors such as, Date Pecan Coconut, Fig Cranberry Hazelnut, and Cherry Chocolate Almond.

Glenny’s Marshmallow Treats

Who doesn’t love a yummy marshmallow treat?! Now you can even feel better that these are organic and also this is a wonderful treat for people who are gluten free.

Popcorn

Can’t have a party without popcorn. Choose from microwavable, pre-popped or pop your own varieties. If you pop your own, try coconut oil for a little extra flavor.

Clif  Kids

They have the choice of organic Z-Bars which are baked whole energy grain bars, which are low-fat, made with whole oats and contains 12 essential vitamins and minerals kids need every day. You can also try the organic Twisted Fruit, it is real fruit twisted into a fun rope shape that’s easy to slip into a backpack, lunchbox or take anywhere kids are on the move.

Jackson’s Honest

These are by far my favorite potato chip. They are kettle fried with coconut oil. Can’t get any better than that. These will for sure be a hit at any party!

Surf Sweets

Made with organic fruit juice and sweeteners and free of corn syrup and GMOs, these organic gummy candies are bursting with flavor.

Pur Gum

GMO and aspartame-free. It’s vegetarian-approved. It’s naturally colored, flavored, and sweetened and tastes super fresh! Great parting treat to give to guests when they leave a party.  They’re also great for giving out to trick or treaters if you get the blister packs and cut individual pieces of gum to give out.

What’s your favorite organic snacks for Halloween? What do you pass out to trick-or-treaters?

7 Health Benefits of Eating Organic Cinnamon

There is no better way to kick off the fall season then by talking about one of fall’s most loved spices… organic cinnamon!  Mmm I can smell those pumpkin pies baking already! Cinnamon is one of those spices that most of us have in our kitchen cupboards, but many of us may not be aware of the many health benefits it there are in organic cinnamon.

organic cinnamonWhy organic? Well because it ensures you it has not been irradiated, which means being exposed to ionized radiation for a period of time (which may lead to decreased amounts of vitamin C and carotenoids). Irradiated foods contain more free radicals (free radicals make our bodies more prone to chronic diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes). And, irradiation plants emit ozone into the environment. Pretty good reasons to buy organic cinnamon I’d say!

Some Benefits of Organic Cinnamon:

  1. May help treat Type 2 Diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and increasing the amount of insulin production in the body. Research shows that cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, lowering blood sugar after eating.
  2. It’s a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Has been shown to stop medication resistant yeast infections and also has been effective against three strains of Candida albicans fungus. Not only that, cinnamon is by far the best remedy for stomach bugs and food poisoning like E.Coli, which sickens more than 100,000 people each year.
  3. Cinnamon may actually prevent the spread and growth of cancer cells1. Cancer cells abnormally take up glucose, ignoring regular metabolic signals. Cinnamon may play a role in reestablishing the proper signals and keeping sugar levels under control so cancer cells cannot grow as quickly or spread as far.
  4. So much more than a spice, cinnamon is rich in manganese, iron, calcium, and fiber too. By adding it to any recipe, you are increasing your minerals and it is one of the top seven anti-oxidants in the world, which reduce the formation of “free radicals” that cause cancer and also increase aging.
  5. Cinnamon has been found to be an effective natural remedy for eliminate headache and migraine relief.
  6. In traditional Chinese medicine, cinnamon has been used for digestion upset like: gas, nausea and diarrhea and helps relieve symptoms of IBS. It is also believed to improve the body’s ability to digest fruit, milk and other dairy products.
  7. Just smelling cinnamon or chewing cinnamon gum is enough to boost brain activity, according to another study. In fact, test scores were higher, and memory, visual recognition, and motor speed were greatly enhanced in individuals who took a whiff of cinnamon, compared with individuals who smelled jasmine, peppermint, or no fragrance at all. If you put an oil diffuser in your car and add cinnamon oil, studies2 have shown to improve alertness behind the wheel.

Organic Cinnamon – Uses and Tips:

  • Mix cinnamon oil with hydrogen peroxide and spray your cutting board and kitchen sink to clean, especially after you have cut meats. Spray it in your refrigerator. It’s safe and natural.
  • Cinnamon is a well known warming agent making it great for massage. Combined with a carrier oil it is highly effective in relaxing and relieving muscle pain. Some put a few drops in their bath to relax and to sooth tired and aching muscles.
  • Half a teaspoon in a cup of tea with lemon juice and honey when colds or flu strike.
  • In tincture recipes to increase absorption of the herbs and for flavor.
  • A dash or two of cinnamon added to soups such as lentil or black bean may add an exotic flavor, plus provide the warming goodness may bring relief to those feeling under the weather.
  • Cinnamon oil in a diffuser.
  • Add one to two teaspoons of ground cinnamon to your coffee before brewing. It gives the coffee a nice cinnamon flavor and is an easy way to incorporate cinnamon into your diet.
  • Sprinkle or add into your favorite baked goods like, muffins, spice cakes and pies.
  • Add to your oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast.
  • Use in homemade elderberry syrup to protect against the flu.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19000754
2. http://www.wju.edu/about/adm_news_story.asp?iNewsID=1882&strBack=/about/adm_news_archive.asp

What are your favorite ways to use organic cinnamon?

General Mills Buys Annie’s Homegrown; shopOrganic Offers Alternatives

If you haven’t heard the buzz yet, General Mills has purchased Annie’s Homegrown/Annie’s Naturals.  While they promise that their ingredients won’t change and their commitment to using non-gmo ingredients is as strong as ever, they have allied themselves on the pro GMO side by default.annie's

General Mills may be looking to take advantage of the increase in sales of organic products, but savvy organic consumers are turning away from Annie’s, now that they have been purchased.

With a commitment to not carry any brands whose parent company donates to oppose GMO labeling, shopOrganic will no longer be selling Annie’s Homegrown or Annie’s Naturals products.  We are moving out the remainder of the inventory that we already purchased pre-aquisition and that will be it for our relationship with Annie’s.  We believe in putting our money where our mouth is and we believe that consumers have the power to shape our economy.  Let’s shape it toward organic producers who still believe in the spirit of organic.

I know that many families rely on Annie’s products to feed their kids foods that are familiar, that are fun and that they like to eat.  We’d like to suggest some alternatives for you to choose from.

If you like Annie’s Mac and Cheese:

If you like Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies & Pretzels:

If you like Annie’s Fruit Snacks:

If you like Annie’s Salad Dressing:

If you like Annie’s Gluten Free Cookies:

If you like Annie’s BBQ or Worcestershire Sauce:

If you like Annie’s Granola Bars:

If you like Annie’s Ketchup & Mustard:

7 Benefits of Feeding Your Family Organic Food

I get many questions about the importance of organic foods. People ask if it is really that big of a deal, and some sadly don’t even know what organic means! And so, here’s a quick reminder of what organic means:organic food

Organic (or-gan-ic): Food produced without the use of artificial or chemically formulated substances.

That’s it. Plain and simple. Eat organic and consume less toxic chemicals! A few years ago, I made organic brownies to bring to a social function and a gentleman asked me what my treat was, I told him they were dark chocolate organic brownies…and he immediately said that he doesn’t eat “that stuff”. I said, “What do you mean? Organic just means that no chemicals were used.” This man had no clue what organic meant. It’s so sad, and I know there are many others out there like him.

Seven benefits of eating and feeding your family organic foods:

1. Less toxic load.

We get enough toxic load from the air we breathe (think car exhaust, secondhand smoke, chlorine in our water, etc.).  The last thing we need to do is eat our chemicals. Choosing organic can lessen your toxic load by two-thirds; that’s pretty significant to me, and a much better for your family. A note for babies: The advantages of organic foods might be highest for babies because of the amount of food they eat relative to body size. The average baby is born with around 200 toxins and carcinogens in their body. By the time kids reach their 2nd year, most have passed the lethal limit for the toxins. By feeding your child organic food, they will have about one-sixth the amount of carcinogens in their blood. Thus you will decrease the chances of illnesses significantly. Therefore, especially for infants and children an organic food diet is incredibly important.

2. You know where it comes from.

Food is considered organic if it comes from a farming system that avoids man made fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics and growth regulators. Instead, most organic farmers rely on basic crop rotation, using animal and plant manures, and hand weeding to grow their products. That benefits us because the foods contain no hydrogenated fats, artificial colors or flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives.

3. Avoid GMO’s.

More recently, an increase in production of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) and the lack of labeling of these foods is causing many of us to choose organic. The impact of GMO foods and our health is still being studied, but the results so far do not look good. Rat studies show depressed immune systems, reproductive dysfunction, cancer, allergies, toxicity and more. In one 2005 study, conducted at the Russian Academy of Sciences, a 55% death rate of rat pups born to rats fed a GMO soy diet was discovered, compared to a 9% death rate of rat pups born to rats fed a non-GMO soy diet. Nearly 70% of all processed foods contain GMO ingredients, so choosing organic is the only guarantee that our food is free of GMO’s.

4. Tastes Better.

Yes! Have you ever ate an organic strawberry vs. a conventionally grown strawberry, or even an organic pastured egg vs. a conventional egg? The taste is so different. You will find that organic fruits usually always tastes sweeter and vegetables will taste bolder in flavor. It’s hard to go back to conventional once you have tasted organic. I think this is also true for how organic food looks. Organic foods just look more vibrant and healthy in size, shape and color!

5. Nutritional punch.

Antioxidants are important nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables and have been shown to impart multiple health benefits, including the prevention of many cancers and helps to slow our aging process. Some studies show that organic foods may have more antioxidants compared to commercial varieties. A 2012 study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture discovered higher antioxidants, including vitamin C, in organic broccoli compared to conventional.

6. Organic meats or meats produced by local farmers are healthier.

As for organic meats and poultry, to be considered organic, animals cannot be fed animal byproducts (which reduces the risk of mad cow disease) and antibiotics additives that means that organic diary and meat products do not contain these residues. Repeated exposure to low doses of antibiotic residues can disrupt the normal flora of the human gut, reducing the number of healthful bacteria and leaving humans more vulnerable to harmful bacteria and illness, because remember 70-80% of our immunity is in our gut. Also organic fed animals are given more space to move around and access to the outdoors, which help to keep the animals healthy.

7. Help Detox.

Eating organic foods for just five days can rid the body of virtually all pesticide residues. Think you can’t afford it? Look for in-season deals at local farmers’ markets, buy in bulk, buy organic food online and preserve the excess to enjoy during the winter months.

I think the best benefit to eating organic foods is the guilt-free pleasure associated with the whole experience. Isn’t it reassuring to know that, by eating organic, you’re not only helping the environment but you’re feeding your family good, pure food that’s fresh and preservative free?! I think so!

Here’s the bottom line: If you’re trying to reduce pesticides and chemicals in your family’s diet, the best thing is either to buy food labeled “organic,” or ask the grower directly if you are concerned about how they grow their food. Most farmers are more than happy to share with you.

What are some of the benefits your family has received from switching to an organic diet?

Healthy Snacks for Heading Back to School

For most of us parents, the back to school countdown has officially begun. I know I’ve got my own countdown going on. Don’t get me wrong, I love summer time with my kids, but I can’t wait for the familiar daily routine we have when the kids are in school. I do know that with school also comes the after school snacks. If you’re a parent you’ve undoubtedly heard something like this a few… hundred times, “Mom, can I have a snack?”   healthy snacksI hear this every single day right after they walk through the door, after they kick their shoes off and set their backpacks down. It’s like clockwork.  Sometimes I actually have a snack ready for them, other times I’m scrambling around the pantry and refrigerator to figure out what I can make with the options I have.  The one thing I do know: every snack I feed them is a healthy snack.   So what kind of snacks are they?  I will list a bunch of easy ideas for healthy snacks, then maybe you can get creative with your own!

20 Healthy Snacks Ideas:

  1. Almond Joy Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  2. Trail mix (1c soaked nuts, 1/2 c seeds, 1/2 c chopped dried fruit)
  3. Homemade Granola
  4. Homemade popcorn using organic popcorn seeds and coconut oil.
  5. Smoothies
  6. Veggie sticks with dip (try making your own homemade ranch dip)
  7. Nitrate free meat or deli slices rolled up with cheese sticks
  8. Peaches and Cream with cinnamon: sliced or diced fresh peaches, drizzled with milk of choice and cinnamon
  9. Cherry Chocolate Truffles
  10. Organic Greek yogurt sprinkled with choice of toppings (chopped nuts, seeds, fresh or dried fruits)
  11. Frogs on a Log ( the classic celery with nut butters and raisins or dried cranberries on top)
  12. Hard boiled eggs with sea salt
  13. Homemade popsicles 
  14. Leftovers (this is especially true if we made homemade pizza the previous night)
  15. Plantain chips with homemade salsa
  16. Toast  (we are gluten free in my home so sometimes they like gluten free bread toasted , spread with coconut oil or ghee and topped with raw honey or homemade jam
  17. Lettuce boats (yep my daughter likes these for snack…butter lettuce or romaine hearts are good for the “boat”, lay some nitrate free meat in there with a little cheese or an avocado slice)
  18. Homemade Chocolate (and yes, it’s healthy)
  19.  Homemade Fruit roll ups (recipe here)
  20. Cucumber slices with cream cheese

I hope these healthy snack ideas gave you a good back to school start! What are you kids favorite healthy snacks? Heck, what are yours?

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