Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Natural vs. Organic: What All of It Really Means

I would like to begin by stating I am specifically writing about produce and not canned or jarred foods. For example jars of peanut butter that say "All Natural" is not what I'm referring to. That subject has enough information on its own for a completely separate blog.
MAP Packaging
I want to look at the difference between organically grown and naturally grown. The misconception (even by some health professionals) is if the word organic is spoken or written than you are getting the absolute best no matter where it comes from. The truth is there is no difference in naturally and organically grown when it comes to growing, fertilizing, and using pesticides. The difference is that naturally grown farmers are your local farmers. Naturally grown farms must still adhere to the very strict and growing guidelines of the USDA. Certified Naturally Grown farms is basically the grassroots of the USDA Certified Organic. The only difference is money. We all know that buying locally can keep spending down, so this is good for us as consumers. Quality fresh produce without the markup is a good situation. Now, moving on to the really important part. What is the difference when shopping in grocery stores rather than farmers markets or farms?
More MAP Packaging
For the most part you are only going to find produce labeled "organic" in grocery stores and club stores. Rarely do you find produce that reads "naturally grown" unless you shop at a farmers market. You can rest assured that whether organic or naturally grown it was grown in high quality soil and most likely this particular piece of food was not victim to synthetic pesticides. So far so good. Now for the red flag, the "pre-washed" and bagged romaine lettuce that you may have in your fridge will often last for 3 weeks or longer! Something about that seems unnatural. Here's where the good ole FDA gets you; they have approved what they call Modified Atmosphere Packaging or MAP. Their MAP includes packaging that is not only "smart" but "edible", and was created to "greatly improve the quality and shelf-stability" of produce. This is basically a displacement of gases in the package that contains the food which are then replaced by "desired mixture of gases". Now this process reduces the rate of respiration by limiting dioxygen therefore delaying the oxidative breakdown of complex substrates that the product is made up of. Simplified, this process of modifying the atmosphere of the package keeps the food from ripening or maturing at its natural rate. In doing this the food often doesn't show signs we would normally look for to determine if it's time to throw it out or not. It keeps shape longer and has little to no odor. The FDA even released a statement that the process of MAP has been the cause of many cases of food poisoning because the consumer has no signs that the food has already spoiled. The process of MAP increases the growth potential for "foodborne pathogens". Maybe it just makes sense to save some money and get a good bargain, but lets look at it from a different perspective. How much money are we really saving if we get food poisoning from a bargain priced bag of produce that was touched with MAP? If you have ever had food poisoning you know that it is painful, uncomfortable, and you more than likely are going to miss work. After missing a day or two of work, maybe seeing a doctor, and perhaps buying some disinfectant for home or mouthwash for post vomiting it is probably safe to say the produce that came in a "modified atmosphere" costs more than it actually saved.

In fact, don't take my word for it, please go into Costco or Sam's Club and buy a bag of spinach or Romaine lettuce. Take it home, write the date on it, and see how long it stays it's "good" for. Then just leave it in the fridge to see how long it lasts and keeps that edible look. Although we can get a great deal on organic, pre-washed, and pre-packaged food like lettuce or spinach we need to also realize that we are most likely getting more than we bargained for. So many extra additives are included by extending the shelf life of foods that were never intended to last more than a few days. Hopefully this information will be enough to nudge some of you into reconsidering what you buy for your families. I know that after I learned about this I couldn't stand the thought of putting this on my child's plate. Many steps and "advancements" are being taken by offices and administrations to "improve" our food system, and as consumers we should know all the facts so that we can make informed decisions.
The Next Abundant Living blog will be packed full of information regarding the foods we eat that are treated with irradiation. Please check back before your next grocery trip.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Using Tasty Foods & Herbs to Combat Illness

I thought I would blog about some information that was a bit more positive rather than informing you of fungicides in your natural medicine cabinet! Most people are aware that there are natural alternatives out there for everyday ailments. Many of these alternatives can be found at stores like Sprouts or Whole Foods, some other grocery stores even have small areas dedicated to natural foods. Often people don't feel comfortable purchasing a bottle that has "not reviewed or approved by the FDA" printed on the side of it. The reality is how can pharmaceutical companies make money if the FDA endorsed healing herbs and food that we could all grow in our backyards on our own?!
The first record of herbs being used for medicinal purposes was over 5,000 years ago! Personally, I feel more comfortable with something that has been around longer than pharmaceutical companies. Not only have herbal remedies been around longer, they have been proven successful. It only makes sense that the human body would have a better response to plants and herbs; after all, the two have existed and evolved together. Now, I'm not a doctor by any means and I'm not telling anyone to stop using medication and replace it with a natural cure. I have just spent years of my life studying the uses and effects of herbs for medicine and can honestly tell you that I have personally used what I have listed below, and use herbal remedies for my family.
There is an abundance of herbs and plants that have healing purposes. There is even more to study and learn as far as different parts of a plant being used for different ailments and how to use it. For right now I'm going to list some more common plants that you can probably find in your kitchen.

Ginger Root

Ginger Root- Good for stomach relief such as morning sickness, motion sickness, and several types of food poisoning. Also a circulatory remedy, helping blood flow throughout your body. It's an anti-inflammatory food, and good for soothing cough, cold, and flu. You can find ginger root in the produce section of where you shop, farmers markets, and you can even purchase ginger root tea bags.


Thyme- First and best known for remedy for whooping cough. Good for asthma and hay fever, especially in children. Remedy for chest infections such as bronchitis and good for overall immune system because it has antiseptic properties. If applied topically (oil form) it relieves bites, stings, athlete's foot, lice, and rheumatic pain.


Sage- Great remedy for sore throats, digestion problems, and irregular menstruation. Studies have even shown that this herb is helpful in preventing onset of Alzheimer's. For sore throats it can be used to gargle with, it is also good for canker sores and sore gums. Helps in reducing menopausal hot flashes and aides body in adapting to hormonal changes.


Avocado- Aside from being super nutritious and an excellent and easy homemade baby food avocado has also been shown to help lower cholesterol levels. If applied externally it cools and soothes irritated or burned skin. Avocado oil has been used to treat skin blemishes and the pulp has been used to stimulate hair growth.


Peppermint- Top of its class in relieving gas, flatulence, bloating, and colic by relaxing those stomach muscles. It relieves constipation and diarrhea. Peppermint oil makes a great chest rub for respiratory infections or colds. The oil is also good for migraines, headaches, and eczema. Peppermint tea is also great for congestion and tastes yummy.

Garlic- Is an antibiotic plant making it a very powerful treatment for many health issues. It can counter many infections, anything to do with nose, throat, and chest. Helps with cholesterol, problems with circulation, high blood pressure, blood sugar levels, protects against blood clots. Treats ear infections, flu, and urinary infections. Personally I make garlic tea whenever myself or family is starting to get sick. Crush or chop about 7 garlic cloves and boil for at least 30 minutes. Don't worry after all that boiling it tastes nothing like garlic!

Again, these are just a very few of the plants that can be used as medicine. There are many many more. I just wanted to give some insight to some common ones that most people would likely have in their homes. If you have questions about other herbs and plants please feel free to visit my website and contact me.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is shiny produce worth the risk?

Many people I speak with, including my own clients are unhappy when fresh produce goes bad in a few days. I'm curious if anyone remembers or has asked a parent or grandparent how long food lasted 20 years ago. Produce is waxed to increase shelf life and make it appear shiny and oh so visually appealing. Some foods like strawberries and tomatoes and injected to enhance color and shelf life, taking away from its natural taste. I don't know about you, but when it comes to food I know that I would prefer a better tasting tomato rather than a visually attractive one that I can keep in my fridge for 12 days. "But it says organic" is the next argument I get. Apparently labeling food "organic" means that  it cannot possibly be sprayed or waxed to keep on shelves longer in order for the grocer to make a profit. No, why would any grocer want to make a profit or save money by not having to order more produce?!
For those of you that don't know, when I say waxed I mean like you would wax your car. Produce is waxed with petroleum, beeswax, and even carnauba wax. Never fear, all waxes applied to the fruits and vegetables that we feed our families must always pass an inspection done by our trustworthy FDA. The FDA claims that these waxes are "indigestible" and therefore causes us no harm because they just magically float around, and never get absorbed by our bodies. In other words putting carnauba wax into our mouths and eating it will never have any type of effect on our bodies. I wouldn't want to eat anything that my body couldn't digest anyway, informing that this chemical is indigestible doesn't sell me on consuming it. Chemicals used to make sunblock that we put on our skin and do not digest can have damaging effects to our endocrine system (hormones). But wax being internally ingested does absolutely nothing?! See the direction I'm going in here? 
Wax on our produce can be removed, after all the FDA assures us that it is "a tiny amount" being used. Perhaps a quick rinse under running water would do it or perhaps not. It is more like a 6 to 7 step process to remove wax from fruits and vegetables. It requires 2 large bowls, a vegetable brush, vinegar or lemon juice, and baking soda in case the vinegar or lemon juice just isn't enough to remove the "tiny amount". Even after the soaking, scrubbing, and rinsing, it is still recommended to use a towel to scrub off any remaining wax. I know for most people this is 6 or 7 steps too many. Furthermore, after these many steps there is no guarantee that all the wax will be removed. 
If I haven't convinced you yet that buying natural produce (even if it means a few times a week) is a much better option, please read on. Most waxes contain preservatives and fungicides, yes fungicides. Up to 18; if not more, fungicides fall safely under the FDA's guideline known as GRAS (generally recognized as safe). These same fungicides are also recognized as "probable carcinogens" to humans. We live in a world where carcinogens are deemed generally safe! 
I hope that you will strongly reconsider buying produce that you know has been waxed. I hope that this little bit of information has maybe lit the fire under some of you and causes you to dig deeper and educate yourselves. Buying natural produce means that you would shop more than once a week if you cook everyday. In my opinion, a couple extra trips to a local farm or farmers market is absolutely fine. Especially if it means that myself and my family will not be consuming wax, preservatives, and fungicides.