Why Organic Produce IS Worth It

I don’t often write opinion pieces like this, but the recent debate over whether organic produce is any better than conventional has compelled me to speak up.  In a September 4th news post, researchers from Stanford University were reported as saying:

Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, including for children — but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits.

Really?  I’m not sure I’d like to test this food safety theory, especially on our kids!  Each year, we find out fallacies in what was once thought to be true, safe, and scientifically proven.  How can ANY level of pesticide or toxin be deemed “within safety limits”?  Not to mention that cancers and other serious health issues can arise from a lifetime of ingesting chemicals.  So won’t the accumulation of constantly eating sprayed produce add up to an unsafe limit at some point?

The focus of this particular debate is about nutrition — that organic produce offers no more vitamins or nutrients than conventional produce.  I agree with Marion Nestle’s response in the New York Times that “….nutrients are not the point. The point of organic production is its effects on the health of people and the planet.”

….nutrients are not the point [in this debate]. The point of organic production is its effects on the health of people and the planet.

Here are my responses, as lowly consumer, on the most popular issues with organic produce:

  1. Organic is more expensive.  Depending on the product, sometimes it’s the same price as conventional or not much more.  If the price difference is substantial, I check if the fruit or veggie is on safe end of the EWG’s pesticide residue chart.  I’ll buy conventional onions (49th in pesticide residue) but spring for organic apples (conventional ones are #1 in pesticide residue).  And I figure that my health and the health of my family is more important than saving a dollar here or there.  Check out this post for more money-saving tips.
  2. Organic isn’t more nutritious. Apparently, this is true if you compare vitamins and minerals.  I’m no scientist.  But stop and think for a minute…can organic vs. conventional really be the same — in the way you feel, how your body feels, how the food tastes, etc?  Are you telling me a carrot grown in nutrient-rich soil with no chemicals added really is the same as one grown in pesticide drenched conditions?
  3. Why not grow your own?

    Organic produce is hard to find.  It can be.  But as more consumers demand organic, more farmers are growing organic and more stores and markets are providing it!  The demand will increase the supply. Here are some ways to bring the farm to you, no matter where you live.

  4. “Organic” is a marketing ploy.  I’m sure producers capitalize on organic status for marketing reasons.  But I believe that organic is a way of life.  It affects everyone and everything — farmer, environment, animals, food, consumer.  When I eat organic, I take better care of myself and those around me.  I am a more productive and loving person.  I think better thoughts and exercise more and stress less.  I think organic produce tastes better, so I enjoy and appreciate my food and how it’s nourishing me.  I pay more attention to what I put on my skin and in my home.  I seek out products from companies who are making a positive impact on our world.  So…

Is going organic worth it?  I say, “ABSOLUTELY!” 

What do YOU say?

Fabulous Finds from the Coffee and Tea Festival

I recently attended the 6th Annual Coffee & Tea Festival–how did I miss the past five?–and I’m so excited to share the fruits of my diligent foraging, sipping, and sampling!  A $10 ticket I found on ScoopSt. bought me the opportunity to check out and take home goodies from over thirty companies.  Although I came for the coffee, the draw here was the vast range of organic, artisanal teas.  I’m not much of a tea connoisseur but I think I’ve caught the bug…I sampled some of the most fragrant, delightful teas I’ve ever experienced!  These teas are not your run-of-the-mill supermarket varieties, these are serious teas, and therefore are quite a bit more expensive.  So if Lipton and Celestial Seasonings is more your cup of tea, than by all means stick to those.  But if you delight in floral bouquets and flavor nuances, then you are going to love these tea-tastic companies!  Here are three brands from the event I am totally in love with, along with some other products you might want to check out.

I’m obsessed with….

Tay Tea

Nini Ordoubadi, founder of Tay Tea, is as lovely and serene as her artisanal teas.  Her loose leaf teas are blended with organic, locally sourced herbs and botanicals to create beautiful, fragrant teas.  All the teas have intriguing names as Duchess’ First Love (whispers of caramel), Nefertiti (if the colors red and pink produced a fragrance), Better Than Sex (tastes like an After 8 Thin Mint), Wild Woman (if purple had a smell), Berber (a delicate green tea with refreshing mint), and A Day in Provence (imagine standing in a  field of lavender and rose).

I purchased five samples to take home because I couldn’t commit to just one!  Nini’s full-size teas ($14-$16 for 4 oz, $12-$14 for refill) come in beautiful tins that guarantee your tea stays fresh for one year.

Red Bee skin care and honey

I always get excited when I meet owners who are as passionate about natural, chemical-free skin care and beauty products as I am.  Marina Marchese, founder and beekeeper of Red Bee, is a perfect example.  This entrepreneur and author is following her passion and providing the world with sustainable, healing, pure products made from honey.

Creamy Honey Scrub Mask ($16 for 4 oz jar) is made from ingredients that are pure (and tasty) enough to eat!  Creamed honey, avocado oil, coconut butter, and lavender essential oil gently exfoliate, clean, and soften skin for a radiant complexion you’ll buzz about.  Although the thick mixture looks silky, the honey contains finely granulated crystals that smooth out your skin, but without chemicals or harsh effects.  I applied about a nickel-sized amount of product on slightly damp skin, massaged gently for a minute to exfoliate, and left mask on for five minutes (you’ll feel your skin tighten a bit) before removing with warm water and a soft washcloth.  My skin felt so soft and moisturized, I almost didn’t need to apply moisturizer!  Suggested use is 2-3 times per week.  Try to resist the temptation to lick your face!

If your tea isn’t complete without a teaspoon of honey, you’ve got to try Red Bee’s Single-Origin Artisanal Honey ($11-$14 for 11 oz, other sizes available), gathered from beehives in New York to Florida.  With such intoxicating flavors as Apple Blossom, Star Thistle, Pumpkin Blossom, Wild Raspberry, Sweet Gallberry, and Alfalfa–just to name a few!–you’ll wonder how you were ever satisfied with those boring supermarket brands!  I love that these honeys are raw and unfiltered too.

Tavalon tea

This “future of tea” company’s mission is to not only provide their customers with the best tea, but also educate the (American, coffee-centric) masses on what makes a tea great.  They’re so serious about their tea, a tea sommelier was on hand to answer questions.  I tried their Organic Kama Chai Sutra (starting at $16 for 6.2 oz jar), a spicy, earthy blend of Indian black tea, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla bean.  The fruity, floral Summer Fruits blend of green tea, apricot, and sunflower blossoms (starting at $5.50 for 1.4 oz jar) was served iced, and would be perfect for summer sipping.

On their user-friendly and eye-catching website, tea is grouped by type (black/green/herbal/oolong/white/tea-sachets/blooming) and function (anti-aging/balancing/calming/energizing/enlightening/slimming).  Check out their cool Gravity Teapot, which not only brews your loose tea, but dispenses the brew just by placing the teapot on the rim of your cup.  One of the helpful (and tea-passionate) employees showed me a demonstration of how it worked, not one drip after the teapot lifted off the cup!  I didn’t purchase anything that day from Tavalon due to dwindling cash reserves, sensory overload, and having had just about enough of the space-invading crowd.  However, I’ll be ordering some of their teas (and that teapot!) soon from the comfort of my crowd-free home.

Products you may want to check out…

Teesa’s Garden teas and spices

Therese Rose of Teesa’s Garden uses 100% organic ingredients from her own garden in Long Island, New York to make her healing teas and spices.  I was thrilled to find stevia ($3 for 1.5 oz, $6 for 4 oz) in its natural state, not as a powder or liquid as I’m accustomed to seeing.  It looks suspiciously like ordinary leaves and twigs but when you taste it, it’s sweet.  Therese shared an interesting way to use it…sprinkle it on tomato sauce when it’s too sour!

Earnest Eats planks and bars

I received a sample of Earnest Eats‘ Almond Trail Mix bar in my event goodie bag and thought it was just an ordinary granola bar.  My first surprise was that it was soft, the second was that it tasted sooo good!  Except for having some organic evaporated cane sugar in the ingredients (listed 4th, which isn’t too terrible) I am right on board with their wholesome ingredients.  They use almond butter for protein instead of soy powders and other strange ingredients found in “health” bars–take a look at the labels on most bars and you’ll see lots of soy protein isolate, which disrupts hormone and thyroid function, among other things.  So I was glad to see it wasn’t in any of their products.

All ingredients for each flavor are listed on their website, which are pronounceable and recognizable, and therefore Earnest Eats gets a gold star.  However, the planks have 14 grams of sugar in half a serving–yikes–so they may not be a great idea to consume in one sitting.  While Earnest Eats products aren’t an ideal food, they are nuts and fruits above most bars on the market.

Melitta non-electric coffee maker

I was attracted to the Melitta booth after I arrived at the festival because I needed some coffee stat, but then a strange contraption caught my eye.  It was a single-serving coffee filter, called pour-over brewing, “the hottest new trend in gourmet coffee” according to the brochure.  Ready Set Joe Cone ($2.99) is designed to sit on top of the Ready Set Joe Mug ($5.99) or Travel Mug ($8.99), but it fits over most coffee cups.  I tried it out at home and while it’s cute, I think it’s a waste to use a filter for one cup of coffee.  I could see this coffee maker being useful for the office or while traveling.  Even though I wouldn’t use it over my french press, it’s still kinda cool.

Hope you enjoyed learning about these products from the Coffee & Tea Festival.  I’d love to hear about your favorite coffees and teas!

Valentine’s Day Nourishment

My idea of a romantic meal is one in which we aren’t disturbed.  For Valentine’s Day last year, that meant a simple but tantalizing feast at home that wasn’t interrupted by trips to the kitchen.  With no baking or cooking to coordinate and no pots and pans to clean, I was able to focus all my attention on what really mattered, connecting with my husband!

I wanted to share these pictures with you to spark your creativity and imagination.  While this is not the only way to make Valentine’s Day special, it’s a great way to spend time with your significant other without subjecting yourselves to crowded restaurants and jacked-up prices.  Keep the following message in mind not only on V-Day, but every day: 

Food will nourish us for hours.  Love will nourish us forever.

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Avoiding the Holiday Party Bulge

Between office functions, family gatherings, and friends‘ parties, your December calendar is crammed with opportunities for reveling in holiday spirit, as well as packing on a pound or two or three or….

But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Here are some tips to keep you looking and feeling great while enjoying the spirit of the holidays!

Holiday Party Game Plan:

Have a healthy snack beforehand. If you arrive at the party in starvation mode, your body will command you to shove food in your mouth, and you’ll end up eating a whole lot more high-calorie treats than if you arrived satisfied or mildly hungry.

If you do come to the party hungry, put all the food you want to eat on a plate. It’s hard to keep track of how much you’re eating when you pick here and there.  Remember that your stomach is approximately the size of your fist, and only eat until you start to feel full.  If there are more treats you’d like to have, wait at least 20 minutes and ask yourself again if you want to eat more.  That will give your stomach a chance to more accurately gauge its level of fullness.

Between each alcoholic drink, sip a glass of sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime. It will still look like an adult beverage to others, will give you something to hold and drink, and will keep you hydrated.  It’s also a great way to avoid getting too toasty, which often leads to mindless eating and drinking!

Don’t stand next to the buffet table! It’s too tempting to be arms length from tasty belly busters, so give yourself a chance and stand as far away from the food as possible!  If you have to battle the crowds to get to the food, you’re less likely to overindulge.

If you lose all willpower surrounded by holiday treats and sweets, make a game out of it! You can have that brownie, but tell yourself you must talk to five people you’ve never met before you can indulge.  Or you can delight in that spiced apple cider, but you need to make it last throughout Aunt Shirley’s long-winded story.  You get the idea!

Drop some peppermint oil in your mouth. Peppermint is a natural appetite suppressant, and when your mouth is all fresh and minty, food doesn’t taste as yummy.  I use this peppermint oil–it’s 100% pure therapeutic-grade essential oil–just one drop on the tongue is all you need to feel intensely fresh (and NOT hungry!)

Don’t get too wrapped up in guilt! While there’s no reason to gain a lot of weight during the holidays, expecting to lose pounds this time of year is not realistic.  It’s normal to crave heavier foods during the winter, when our biology responds to the cold weather and limited light.  Do what you can to be healthy and active, but don’t worry yourself into a panic.  Gaining a pound or two should not turn your world upside down, or affect the way you think of yourself.  You’re an amazing person no matter what you look like!

In this season of giving and sharing, be grateful for your friends and family, savor the food you eat, and above all…enjoy life!

Happy Holidays!