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Archive for the ‘Organic’ Category

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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Here’s a product I wanted to blog about after the first use, but thought I owed it to my readers to really test it out.

After losing a close friend to breast cancer, and knowing too many women who have battled it, I have long been suspicious of anti-perspirants and their suggested link to the deadly disease. It just seems too unnatural to literally block sweat from exiting your body in one of the main places it wants to do it.

While the jury is still out on whether the active ingredients in anti-perspirants (aluminum-based compounds) contribute to the development of breast cancer,* I chose to play it safe more than a decade ago by switching to deodorants only. That said, I never was–until now–satisfied with their performance. Some were goopy, and some were sticky, but more importantly, all seemed unable to keep me feeling relatively dry and odor-free for an entire day.

In my pursuit of the best natural deodorant, I have tried nearly everything available in a natural foods stores (Tom’s, Kiss My Face, Desert Essence, etc.). All couldn’t last a normal day or any type of strenuous work or particularly stressful situation (e.g., running through the airport trying to catch a flight).

Approximately three weeks ago, I tried Weleda’s Sage Deodorant. While my expectations might arguably have been low, I was literally shocked by how good this product performed. It hasn’t just kept me smelling good doing desk work and going about a quiet day. It has kept me from smelling bad even after a 2-hour power hike up the mountain, working in the garden and running through the airport to catch a flight to L.A.

This deodorant is the best–without a doubt–of any I’ve tried. It comes in a glass bottle with a non-aerosol pump that delivers a concentrated spray. Although wet at first, it dries quickly due to its alcohol content. It leaves no visible residue nor anything you can detect by touch–making it superior to any product I’ve ever tried–deodorant or anti-perspirant. And it’s subtle herbal scent makes it truly unisex.

It’s not completely natural, but the ingredients are relatively benign even to those with the most stringent standards (e.g., the Environmental Working Group link). You can find it in many natural food stores, including Whole Foods, as well as on-line.

I recommend this product to everyone!

*”Some research suggests that aluminum-based compounds, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and cause estrogen-like (hormonal) effects. Because estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer.” [National Cancer Institute]

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One of my favorite skincare lines, and the maker of my absolute favorite all-natural, mineral sunscreens, is offering two Valentine’s Day specials.

Enter promo code roses to receive 20% off your entire order, or spend $100 and receive a 2 oz. bottle of Marie-Veronique’s Anti-Aging Body Oil ($36 value) using promo code valentine.

To order Marie-Veronique products click favorite.

To read my initial review of Marie-Veronique Organic’s Kid Safe Screen SPF 25 and their Moisturizing Face Screen SPF 30, click here.

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If you get a chance, watch the new made-for-TV movie, Harmony (link) I saw it this past weekend at a pre-screening party put on by Forest Ethics (link). It features His Royal Highness (HRH) Prince Charles, and discusses the importance of sustainable farming.

I’m guessing most Americans aren’t aware that HRH Prince Charles has owned and operated a large, organic farm and been a huge proponent of sustainable farming for decades. I first became aware of his “goodness” while living in London. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised one day to discover that the organic biscuits I’d been buying all along had been made from ingredients sourced from HRH Prince Charles’s organic farm.

In all his worldly travels–which I suppose any good prince makes–he saw first hand the horrific damage being done to our Mother Earth by unsustainable practices. (It ties back in to one of the first articles I posted here titled, “Why Eat Organic?”, link) The film discusses the difference between sustainable and organic farming vs. conventional farming–the later of which results in nutrient-poor soil, less tasty food and the overall degradation of the environment.

The film aired on NBC last Friday, but I suspect it will run again. In the meantime, you can watch the entire film on-line using the Harmony link provided above.

Happy viewing!

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OK, since a lot of people have been asking, here are my top picks for skin and hair care products. Keep in mind I have combination skin which under the California sun changes quite dramatically between summer (oily) and winter (dry).

I categorized my product picks as “steal” or “splurge” even though none of them is terribly expensive or anywhere close to the prices of some products, such as those by SkinCeuticals, La Mer, etc. I don’t believe you have to spend a fortune for natural, high-quality products. Besides, it’s good to pay homage to frugality during these economic times.

Steal

Splurge

Cleanser

Beauty without Cruelty (BWC) 3% AHA Cleanser, $10.99/8.5 fl.oz.

Duchess Marden’s Foaming Cleanser, $34/4 oz.

Exfoliant

(facial)

Avalon Organics Exfoliating Enzyme Scrub, $16.95/4 fl.oz.

Pevonia Special Line Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser, $25/5 oz.

Exfoliant

(body)

Queen Helene Organic Fair Trade Certified Cocoa Butter Body Scrub, $7/6 oz.

Reader input?

Facial toner

I’ve used Witch Hazel in a pinch.

Arcona Cranberry Toner, $32/3.67 fl.oz. or

Duchess Marden’s Pure Rose Water, $38.75/4.06 fl.oz.


Moisturizer

Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer, $28/2 oz.

Normal/Oily Skin:  Dermavita Perfecting Time, $27.95/1.7 fl.oz.

Normal/Dry Skin: Duchess Marden Damascena Face Cream, $57/2 fl.oz.

Eye Cream

100% Pure Acai Berry Antioxidant Eye Cream, $25/1 oz.

Jurlique Purely Age-Defying Eye Cream, $45/.05 fl.oz.

Hand lotion

Pure shea butter is great  at night or under gloves in the winter.

Weleda Skin Food, $17/2.5 oz.

Body lotion

Make your own (recipe coming soon to this blog) or

Griffin Remedy Body Lotion Orange Blossom, $7.99/8 fl. oz.

Jurlique Body Care Lotion, $38/10.1 fl.oz.

Bath Gel

Griffin Remedy Orange Blossom Natural Gel Body Wash, $7.99/8 fl.oz.

Jurlique Shower Gel, $22/10.1 fl.oz.

Time to pamper!!

Note: I haven’t included facial or body sunscreen here as I have already covered them in previous postings, link

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Hurray!

As an update to my earlier blog, “The Best Natural Sunscreens for Kids,” the maker of my favorite sunscreen for adults has just released a sunscreen for kids.

Marie-Veronique–a mother-daughter team producing completely natural skincare in Berkeley, CA–is now selling Kids Safe Screen, SPF 25 ($24 for 2.7 oz). Just like her “adult” sunscreen products, this product uses non-micronized (i.e., non-nano) zinc oxide, which is considered the safest, most-effective broad spectrum blocking ingredient available. (Note: Marie-Veronique is a former chemistry teacher and her daughter is a physicist.)

Because it is brand new, I have just ordered a bottle and cannot comment on its formulation, application, etc. However, the Marie-Veronique Moisturizing Face Screen, SPF 30 ($40 for 2 oz), which I use daily, is by far the best natural sunscreen I have found (and I have tried nearly everything out there!). Regarding the later, it is quite liquid so you don’t need a huge dollop, and it leaves a elegant matte finish. There is a slight “casper” factor when you first apply it, but within 10-15 minutes (i.e., by the time I finish my morning routine and head to the kitchen for breakfast), it has completely absorbed.

I cannot say enough good things about this line, and can’t wait to try this new sunscreen for kids.

Safe sunning!

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Maybe a friend has recently told you that you should start buying more organic food. Maybe you are that friend. Regardless, when people think about organic food, they often think about it in very simplistic terms. That is, I should buy more organic food because organic food is better for me. Actually, that’s just a small part of it.

When you buy organic food, you support organic farming. The more people buy organic, the more organic farmers there are. That doesn’t just mean the more healthy people there are from a dietary perspective. If more food is grown organically, less chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are used globally. Fewer pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers mean less runoff of these products into streams, rivers, lakes, oceans and watersheds. That means all the various life forms that live in and/or feed from water are healthier. Our entire planet is healthier.

Decades ago there were big news stories and class-action lawsuits involving companies who had knowingly dumped toxic chemicals into streams and rivers or tried to bury toxic sludge or other toxic material. They were found out by whistleblowers or by subsequent years of unexplained increases of certain cancers and other serious illnesses or birth defects in their areas of operation.

We don’t hear about these types of blatant or shamelessly ignorant wrongdoings anymore thanks to the EPA and other governmental and non-governmental watchdog groups. However farmers, are legally allowed to use all sorts of toxic* chemicals in the growing process to boost yield, prevent insect infestations, etc. Any and all chemicals applied to a crop are not absorbed by just the plants for which they were intended. For example, if a chemical is applied by aerial spraying, it is at the mercy of the wind and can affect the ozone depending on the specific characteristics of the chemical. Any chemical that is applied to plants will be on and/or in the ground and will make its way into our streams, rivers and lakes. That applies to chemicals you or I might use in our yard or garden, not just the thousands of acres of farmland managed by large, faceless corporations.

(more…)

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