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Archive for the ‘Organic’ Category

 

It may be that you already traveled to some sunny, exotic locale during the winter holidays, or for “spring break” if you have kids. So yes, I should probably post my sunscreen picks a bit earlier in the year. But as they say, better late than never!

As I wrote up the post on our April trip to Tulum, Mexico I realized I hadn’t shared my sun protection product recommendations. I’m a big fan of applying suncreen every single day of the year–rain or shine, at least to the face. When you consider that the backs of the hands and decolletage are the first places to show signs of aging, those of us in age denial would be wise to cover those areas with sunblock as well.

I recently tried a mineral powder based product with an SPF 30+. I figured that at my age, it probably looks more youthful to cover any sun damage and have the skin looking flawless and age/sun spot-free. However, I thought the heavy layer of powder, despite being natural, made me feel too made up, which in turn made me feel older. So I switched back to my tinted sunscreens. They’re light, moisturizing and the sheerness makes me feel like I’m not trying to cover up anything (although if I could find a natural way to get rid of my age spots, I’d do it in a heartbeat).

I think Andalou Naturals and Juice Beauty make the best, reasonably-priced, all-natural tinted sunscreens available. Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Color + Correct and Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream continue to be my top picks for everyday sunscreen for my face. They’re both SPF 30+ zinc based–for the broadest spectrum of sun protection available, non nano particle, free of all the nasties (parabens, glycols, butenes, chemical sunblocks, etc.), and they both smell nice–something I’m very partial to seeing as I’m very scent-sensitive. Andalou offers a better price point, but Juice Beauty has a wider range of colors to choose from.

For my kids’ faces and for all of our bodies, I continue to love Burnout Sunscreen. It, too, is zinc-based, non-nano and moisturizing. Burnout offers several different formulations, but I usually get the Kids Physical SPF 35 or the Ocean Tested SPF 30. Burnout products are “reef safe” which is becoming a bigger deal in many parts of the world that still have viable coral reefs and/or reef fish populations. The faint white sheen it has when you first apply it sinks in about 10-20 minutes after application, which is perfect timing given that experts recommend applying mineral sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. Another bonus: It doesn’t make you break out! There are no pore-clogging or other irritating ingredients, but if you’re prone to breakouts, always apply your sunscreen (or anything going on your fact) using clean hands. (But Burnout offers a Lightweight Oil-Free version if you’re extra sensitive.)

Of course, the best sun protection is no sun, or a long-sleeve shirt and broad-brimmed hat. (I love this inexpensive one featured above by Hinge at Nordstrom.) I don’t have a photo to share of her, but my 77-year-old aunt who grew up in Hawaii–but has always covered up, has an incredibly smooth, cream colored complexion. It’s too late to reverse some of the sun-worshipping naughtiness of my youth, but at least I make a point of putting on sunscreen everyday–rain or shine.

Happy summer and safe sunning!

 

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Simplify and freshen your Spring beauty routine!

These products are some of the best I’ve used (and being a product “junkie,” I’ve tried many, and am constantly scanning the horizon for new ones). These products boast all-natural ingredients, but they are also well-priced* and have other excellent properties, such as anti-aging, moisturizing and naturally beautifying.

Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers ($5) – You won’t be able to resist buying more than one! They’re super-moisturizing, come in a wide range of colors (some which don’t have shimmer), and they’re just the right size for slipping into a pocket, purse or yoga bag. The color shown here is “Strawberry”, a sheer, shimmery pink which has a slight peppermint taste/smell.

Hemp Organics Lip Tint by Colorganics ($6.95) – These tints are similar to the Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers, but they offer slightly “deeper,” less shimmery colors and I love that there are only six ingredients in them. Like the Lip Shimmers, they’re a super-convenient size and very reasonably-priced. Try “Kiss” for a sheer, cool berry color with barely a hint of shimmer.

Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm ($7) – Last I checked, these came in nine subtly -tinted colors. They’re super creamy, very emollient and lightly tinted. This is the perfect option for when you want a little color and need a little moisture but don’t want to appear as if you’re actually wearing make-up. The super-versatile peachy-nude color shown here is “Honeysuckle.” This color is also the perfect thing for when you want to moisturize and/or subtly tone down a bright lipstick.

Jane Iredale Pure Pressed Eye Shadows ($19) – I love many of Jane Iredale’s products, but I’m highlighting the shadows because they’re excellent quality, go on beautifully (with brush or finger), and wear well. And, of course, they’re all natural. The very versatile, perfect for Spring color shown here is “Slate Brown,” a soft, taupe.

Dr. Hauschka Eyeshadow – The color range is limited, but I also like these completely natural shadows as an alternative to Jane Iredale. The pale gold shimmer (“01 Sunglow”) does magic as a highlighter to the brow bone area or inner lids.

ecotools brushes are the perfect choice for applying your natural make-up. They use soft, cruelty-free bristles wrapped in recycled aluminum with bamboo handles. This “Sharpen & Smudge Duo” blends eyeliner or shadow along the lashline and is a bargain at $3.99!

Andalou Naturals All in One Beauty Balm, Sheer Tint with SPF 30 ($19.95) – OK, I think this may be one of my all-time favorite products. I’ve been looking for a “beauty balm”–commonly referred to as “BB,” and nearly everyone and his/her brother now offers one. However, I’ve immediately discounted all the usual drugstore and department store brands since they contain too many chemicals, synthetic fragrances and other yucky stuff I don’t want to put on my skin. Surprisingly, not very many natural skin care lines have introduced “beauty balms”. I was pleasantly surprised (actually, ecstatic) to try the Andalou Naturals BB. It provides very sheer coverage, blends in amazingly well, gives mineral-based, broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection and smells wonderful on top of it all. If you want more coverage, you can apply  foundation or powder directly over this product.

Sequoia Beauty Sun Damage Repair Serum ($44) – This is a wonderful product from my new favorite skin care line. All the products in the line are about as pure as they come, made locally to where I live and produced in small batches. Every product smells absolutely amazing and uses high-quality plant extracts and oils. This serum is what I apply each morning before my BB and each evening before going to bed.

John Masters Lip Calm ($6) – This is the last product I use before going to bed. I can’t tell you how many different lip balms I’ve tried, but this one always helps dry lips, doesn’t irritate and doesn’t have a too strong scent or flavor. (Remember, even all-natural products that use essential oils to flavor and scent their products can be irritating to sensitive skin.)

Happy Spring!

*Please note: the prices I’ve shown here are the prices listed by the manufacturer. Most of the products I’ve highlighted can be purchased at significantly cheaper prices by buying them from natural foods markets or on-line sellers.

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favorite thingsOK, so I mainly write about food and occasionally about things that can affect our health, such as household cleaners and skincare products. But today, I couldn’t resist sharing just a few of my favorite (non-food) things.

I selected these items because they look great and have a sustainable or world-friendly component which I think you’ll find pretty cool.

backpackFor sightseeing this summer 

I recently bought this backpack from Baggu. I’d been looking for a “day pack” that wasn’t too big for my small frame (nearly always an issue with the name-brand backpacks), and that had some recycled component. This cotton canvas backpack by Baggu is made from 100% recycled cotton, and the company offers this pack in a wide variety of colors including some great basic as well as some on-trend brights. (I got mine in marine blue stripes because I had the South of France on my mind.) Baggu also offers a larger version, but this size easily fits an insulated lunch bag, water bottle, wallet and scarf or light sweater. It also has a zippered pocket inside as well as on the outside–handy for keys and cellphones.

yoga bagHit the yoga studio in (fair-trade) style

This super-cool yoga mat bag by I AM. is made with fabric hand-woven by women in Guatemala, and each bag is hand-signed by the woman who helped make it. I AM.’s mission is to provide high-paying weaving work to Mayan women who live in impoverished communities. I also love the concept of connecting creators with users.

The Maya yoga bags come in great color combinations, have a wide and comfortable strap for slinging over your shoulder, and are roomy enough to store a wallet and light blanket or fleece in addition to your yoga mat. The inside is lined in recycled scraps of material, and there’s a waterproof inside pocket for any sweaty or wet items.

earthlustNever buy another plastic water bottle

Earthlust water bottles are my favorite because they’re light, BPA-free, use non-toxic paint, have small “mouths/necks” so you aren’t spilling water all over your face and they have the most gorgeous designs. Here I’ve shown one in matte paint as well as the more common glossy paint. I also love that they come with an aluminum carabineer clip for hooking onto your shorts, backpack or yoga bag.

Do your shopping in eco-friendly style

Make a personal commitment to reduce the 380 billion (!!) plastic bags used in the U.S. alone each year. (That number averages out to 1200 bags per person!) It’s estimated that only 1-2% are recycled, and thousands of marine mammals and more than 1 million birds die each year from plastic pollution. Ever since I committed to stop accepting plastic grocery bags, I’ve been amazed at how easy it is. I’ve gone as many as 6 months without taking a single plastic grocery bag. Granted, on those rare occasions I forget to bring my own and paper wasn’t an option, I’ve walked out of the stores with all my groceries precariously balanced in my arms.

envirosax

Envirosax makes great reusable bags. I love the bamboo bag featured here from the company’s Organic Series (which also offers organic cotton and hemp bags). Bamboo is incredibly strong, 100% sustainable and grows naturally without requiring pesticides or fertilizers.

Envirosax offers an incredible array of sizes, patterns and colors in several different fabrics. The company’s nylon bags fold (or stuff!) down into a pouch the size of a tangerine, so they’re super easy to keep in your purse or glove compartment. They’re also less than $10 each and last for years.

Of course the first rule of the three Rs is Reduce (before Reuse and Recycle), and while I didn’t own a backpack, I certainly can’t justify buying any new water bottles. But if you’re in the market for a new item or need a gift for a friend, please consider environment- and world-friendly options such as these.

Happy shopping!

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After I first heard the results of the now highly-publicized Stanford study, I thought “Really? Who Cares?” I haven’t heard people claim organic food is significantly more nutritious than conventional, so what’s the big deal. The main arguments for choosing to eat organic primarily revolve around the fact that there’s less risk of exposure to pesticides, and other nasties, such as the hormone cortisol, and because organic food is generally much better for the environment.

However, weeks after the study was published, I continue to hear discussion and debate over the findings–so now I feel compelled to comment.

I won’t analyze all the findings and claims, but I will address a few summarized on Stanford’s website.

“While researchers found that organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables, organic foods are not necessarily 100 percent free of pesticides.” Right. Well, quite frankly, I’ll go with the “30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination” regardless of whether the “not necessarily 100 percent” is 96 percent or 99 percent.

“… Researchers noted, the pesticide levels of all foods generally fell within the allowable safety limits.” Forgive me, but considering the U.S. still allows widespread use of Atrazine, an herbicide that has been shown to chemically castrate frogs and other amphibians, has been linked to breast and prostrate cancer in humans and has been banned in the EU for eight years, the U.S.’s “allowable safety limits” appear to hold little and questionable value.

“Two studies of children consuming organic and conventional diets did find lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of children on organic diets, though the significance of these findings on child health is unclear. Additionally, organic chicken and pork appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the clinical significance of this is also unclear.” Read heavy sigh here. Yes, the dramatic increase in antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria must be attributable to the fact that we spend too much time on our personal electronic devices. And pay no attention to the documented cases of serious illnesses from pesticides, such as Roundup, that have contaminated the air or drinking water of communities located near application sites. “The significance is unclear?” Really??

As a reminder of why organic is better, please read (or reread) my original blog on buying organic. If you want to get the most nutrition out of your produce, buy local and organic where it counts (see the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen“). Many fruits and vegetables start to lose their nutritional value the second they’re picked. Buying local food–for example, at a farmer’s market, in which case the produce was picked that morning–offers the most nutritional punch. If you don’t plan to eat the food that day, keep it as fresh as possible in bags (where appropriate) that allow your produce to release naturally-occurring gases and retain the right moisture levels.

Toward the end of their report, the Stanford researchers do include mention of the other benefits, such as environmental, of eating organic food, but it’s disappointing that they didn’t have the foresight to construe how the media would oversimplify the primary conclusion of their study as it was presented.

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Most of us don’t think nutrition when we think of crepes. The crepes I made years ago used all-purpose flour, milk and butter with more butter added to the pan.

But a friend of mine who grew up in France and is also concerned about nutrition made crepes for me using whole-wheat flour. I’m not a fan of whole-wheat in general compared with other whole-grain flours, and thought I’d try to improve upon a good idea. After returning home, I spent the next few days experimenting with ways of making crepes you can eat or serve without guilt.

I found that whole-grain barley flour (available from natural food stores) seems to produce the lightest crepe–compared with other whole-grain flours, such as spelt and whole wheat. If you are lactose intolerant, you can easily substitute plain soy, rice or coconut milk for the regular cow’s milk I use.

Recipe:

1 cup whole-grain barley flour

dash of sea salt

1 tbsp. sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cup milk (or milk substitute)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Whisk in the eggs and 1/3 of the milk mixing until the batter is completely smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk and blend well. Let the batter rest for 15-30 minutes.

Heat a medium-sized skillet* over medium heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with a small bit of butter (or coconut oil). Pour in a little crepe batter and swirl around to cover the bottom. Cook until lightly golden then flip to the other side. Cook until golden. Serve with savory or sweet fillings.

Suggested savory fillings:

– lox and finely chopped chives with a little goat cheese

– sauteed mushrooms

– ham or prosciutto and cheese

– sauteed spinach and goat cheese

Suggested sweet fillings:

– fruit spread (no sugar added)

– sliced fruit, such as strawberries and bananas

– chocolate spread (Nutella or the organic version, Nocciolata)

– sliced apples cooked until soft in a small saucepan with lemon juice and cinnamon

*I have an All-Clad LTD pan that works great. I’ve tried making the crepes in my cast-iron skillet, but I found I had to make them much thicker.

Bon appetit!

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This bread has loads of flavor and bakes so the top has a slight crunch and the inside is perfectly moist. I usually kill the dairy-free quality by letting a little butter melt into my slice of just-baked bread, but the bread is so good it doesn’t need anything.

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-grain barley, spelt or wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups mashed, ripe bananas (about 5)

2/3 cup evaporated cane sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

3 tbsp. coconut or almond milk

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a medium-sized bread pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients except sugar. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, bananas, “milk,” oil and vanilla extract. Fold in the dry ingredients until just blended. Pour batter into bread pan. Bake for an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes before removing from pan.

Enjoy!

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I decided to blog on the subject of raw milk because a friend asked my opinion about it after buying a bottle at our local farmer’s market. He commented on how delicious tasting the milk was, and wondered if he should make the switch from pasteurized to raw.

I am not a medical practitioner nor a registered licensed dietician or nutritionist, so the following is just the opinion of a cautious but health-conscious mother.

I do not drink raw milk nor do I serve it to my children. That said, I did regularly drink raw milk from a neighbor’s farm while growing up, and never experienced any health problems from it. I might add that our neighbor’s farm was not a particularly clean operation. We would plunk down the metal pail under the goat, milk her and take the pail to the house where the contents were poured into a glass jar and stuck in the refrigerator for later consumption. (There was definitely no hand washing or sterilization happening here.)

Now, I occasionally buy cheese made from raw milk for my personal consumption, but the majority of the time, I purposefully choose products made from pasteurized milk. My reasoning is that the alleged dangers of raw milk are simply too compelling—a little of the “better safe than sorry” philosophy.

While many websites exist extolling the virtues of raw milk, (e.g., cavity fighter, autism curer, antiviral, antimicrobial, etc.) the claims appear to be anecdotal with the exception of allergies. Studies have shown that drinking raw milk may result in fewer symptoms of hay fever and asthma. (June 2006 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, May 2007 Clinical and Experimental Allergy). However, despite these potential health benefits, all medical institutions warn that raw milk can harbor pathogens, the most common being E. coli, listeria and salmonella. The bacteria can be especially dangerous for infants and young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV or AIDS. For example, there have been cases in which children who had E. coli went on to develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition affecting the kidneys.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 1998 through 2008, raw milk or raw-milk products were implicated in 86 outbreaks in the US, resulting in more than 1,600 cases of illness, 191 hospitalizations and 2 deaths.

Where the problem lies is in the relativity of those numbers. The CDC does not share the overall number of foodborne illness outbreaks in which other foods, spinach or strawberries, for example, were implicated. Many foods can carry pathogens, and numbers are only numbers unless we can make them relative.

Cost is another consideration in the raw milk debate. My regular grocery store used to sell a quart of raw milk for $9.00. They have since pulled it from their shelves over liability concerns.

It is true that pasteurization (heating milk to 161 degrees F for about 20 seconds) does destroy some of the vitamins found in milk as well as many enzymes. Raw milk advocates claim these enzymes are what allow people to easily digest raw milk, and that many people who are lactose intolerant can tolerate raw milk. This seems logical enough, but since my children both love and drink regular milk, lactose intolerance has not been a concern for us.

My sister drinks only raw milk, as does her 7-year-old child. She buys it from a local farmer whose cows are grass-fed. She is convinced the benefits far outweigh the risks. And I imagine once you start drinking raw milk from grass-fed cows—which tastes the way milk should taste—it must be pretty hard to switch back to sterilized (i.e., pasteurized) milk.

Lastly, a word about homogenization because people often confuse it with pasteurization. Homogenized milk has been run through yet another process, which breaks down the fat molecules so your milk remains an even consistency. Because I want only the minimum amount of processing, I buy pasteurized—flash pasteurized, but not homogenized, milk. I don’t mind the extra step of having to scoop a little cream off the top and/or give my bottle a good shake before pouring.

So unfortunately, I cannot and should not make a recommendation as to whether my friend or anyone should drink raw milk. At least it gives us some food—or milk, as the case may be—for thought.

A drink to your health!

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