Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why Organic Produce Provides Much Higher Levels of Antioxidants

"Organic farming methods have increased antioxidant levels in some cases by over 300 percent. On average, across 7 studies that reported direct comparisons of the levels of antioxidants in conventional and organic foods, levels in organic food averaged about 1/3 higher."Dr Charles Benbrook for the U.S. Organic Center , January 2005 




"Organically grown plants display higher levels of antioxidants because they are grown without the added protection of synthetic pesticides and therefore suffer more stress.

Organic culture works to feed the soil, which gives plants the necessary nutrients with which to "heal" themselves when presented with this added stress. Emphasis is placed on soil nutrition rather than simply using a pesticide to remedy problems.

The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (2003), February agrees "that good soil nutrition appears to increase levels of natural compounds that have anti-cancer, immune boosting and anti-aging properties." Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, blueberries, red cabbage, strawberries, plums, broccoli, watercress, red grapes, kale and spinach tend to accumulate the highest levels of antioxidants. It also happens to be where many systemic pesticides tend to build up. Peeling the skin on conventionally grown produce may perhaps reduce your risk of chemical exposure somewhat, however it also reduces the amount of disease fighting antioxidants you consume."


Source: Economii.com, Yahoo

Lead, Cadmium and Other Nasty Chemicals in Jewelry


"Researchers from the Ecology Center recently released their findings that out of ninety-nine items of jewelry purchased from stores across the nation, 57% contained harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium, and chromium. "There is no excuse for jewelry, especially children's jewelry, to be made with some of the most well studied and dangerous substances on the planet," said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center and founder of HealthyStuff.org, in a press release. "We urge manufacturers to start replacing these chemicals with non-toxic substances immediately."
The larger retailers included H&M, Claire's, Walmart, and Kohl's. 
The study's key findings were:
  • Twenty-seven percent of the jewelry tested contained greater than 300 parts per million (ppm) lead in one or more components. Three hundred ppm is the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) limit of lead in children's products. Some of the items were marked "lead free." 
  • Ten percent of the jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm cadmium in one or more components. Cadmium, a known carcinogen, is unregulated. 
  • Ninety-three percent of the jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm chromium. 
  • Thirty percent of the jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm nickel.
  • Thirteen percent of the jewelry contained greater than 100 ppm arsenic. 
  • Seven percent of the jewelry contained brominated flame retardants (in amounts greater than 1,000 ppm bromine).
According to the Ecology Center, these substances are linked to acute allergies and may cause birth defects, cognitive impairment, liver toxicity, and cancer.
Contaminated jewelry is particularly dangerous for kids who are more likely to put it in their mouths. According to the CPSC, "Swallowing, sucking on or chewing a metal charm or necklace could result in exposure to lead, cadmium or other heavy metals, which are known to be toxic at certain levels of exposure." The CPSC has set up voluntary standards for the jewelry industry but six states, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, have enacted tighter regulations."
Sources: Yahoo

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chocolate Salami

This recipe has a tremendous presentation: fun, creative and delicious. Kids will love making and eating chocolate salami. This is a traditional dessert/snack served in Portugal and Brazil.


Chocolate Salami
Servings: 20 portions

12 ounces (30 grams) dark chocolate (70%, in pieces)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp rolled oat flakes
1 cup crushed vanilla whole wheat cookies
1/2 cup (125 ml) finely chopped Brazil nuts or almonds
3 ounces (85 grams) white baking chocolate, chopped

In a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate and butter together over medium heat. Remove from heat once melted and let cool. Stir in the oats, the crumbled cookies and the nuts. Finally, stir in the white chocolate.

Spread the mixture out on a large piece of wax paper. Shape the mass into a roll about 12 inches (30 cm) long, using the wax paper to help form a sausage-shaped piece. Once the roll is formed inside the wax paper, fold the ends of the wax paper tightly, and place the roll in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours to chill thoroughly.

When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator, unwrap the roll and slice into thick slices. Let rest for approximately 15 minutes to warm slightly, then serve.




Source: various, including Food Buzz

5 Surprising Foods that Boost Immunity


Check out these 5 foods to improve our immunity system:
"Kefir/Yogurt Many yogurts and almost all kefir, a fermented milk product, contain probiotics, the so-called "good" bacteria. These bacteria alter how the immune system in the digestive tract reacts to microorganisms. Studies have found that probiotics can help with diarrhea and other intestinal disorders. Although more research is needed, probiotics may also help reduce the severity of colds and the flu, according to the Mayo Clinic. Opt for the yogurt and kefir that contain live and active probiotics to make sure you're reaping the benefits of these miracle-workers.
Black/Green Tea
A hot cup of tea can help soothe a sore throat and lift spirits, but green and black teas are also a good source of polyphenols, or plant antioxidants, that can help prevent free radical damage in the body. In the lab, compounds in green tea have been shown to inhibit viral replication, which may aid in defending against cold and flu. In addition, a Harvard study found that people who drank five cups of black tea had elevated levels of a compound that can help ward off infections like viruses. The benefits also pertain to decaf black and green teas, so you don't have to over-caffeinate while loading up on the good stuff.
Garlic Garlic is indispensible in the kitchen but has recently received widespread attention for its potential in disease-prevention and immune-boosting properties. Although some of the claims are certainly oversold, garlic has shown some promise when it comes to warding off infections. It's believed that the sulfur-containing compound allicin could function as an antibacterial and antiviral agent. In one study, British researchers found that people who took a garlic supplement regularly were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold than those who took a placebo. The best way to reap garlic's benefits, however, is consuming it raw or freshly processed. 
Orange-Fleshed Vegetables
Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, squash, and other orange-fleshed vegetables are high in beta carotene, which the body uses to make Vitamin A. A diet low in beta carotene can suppress the immune system, so stocking up on these fall veggies is a great way to ensure your body has the nutrients it needs. Vitamin A also is important in keeping the skin healthy, which is our body's first line of defense against disease-causing microorganisms.
Oysters
Oysters are definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when a cold or other illness strikes, but the bivalves are a great source of zinc, among other good-for-you nutrients like omega-3s, selenium, and iron. Zinc is important in the development of white blood cells and even a low-to-moderate level of zinc deficiencies can have negative implications for the immune system. Of course, there can be too much of a good thing however: too much zinc can have an adverse effect and inhibit the immune system. Therefore, it's best to get zinc from a well-rounded diet. In addition to oysters, beef and chicken are good sources."

Quinoa and Greens Burger...Yummy!

I'm a huge fan of the taste and nutritional value of quinoa, and the shape and texture of burgers make it easy for kids to enjoy. These burgers are a huge win!



Quinoa and Greens Burger
Servings: 4 to 6 burgers
  • 1 bunch beet greens, stemmed and washed (1/2 to 3/4 pound)
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, preferably rainbow quinoa
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed in a mortar and pestle or spice mill
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste)
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Either steam the beet greens for 2 minutes above 1 inch boiling water, or blanch in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain, squeeze out excess water, and chop medium-fine. Place in a large bowl with the cooked quinoa.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a heavy skillet and add the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are just about tender, about 3 minutes, and add the ginger and a pinch of salt. Cook for another 3 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, and add the cumin and the garlic. Cook, stirring, for another minute, and remove from the heat. Stir into the quinoa mixture.
3. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, or in a bowl using a fork or a potato masher, purée the chickpeas with the lemon juice and, if using, the egg. Add to the quinoa mixture and stir everything together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Begin heating a heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Seasoned cast iron is good, and so is a heavy nonstick pan that can go into the oven. Moisten your hands lightly and shape 4 large or 6 smaller patties. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and, working in batches if necessary, cook the patties for 1 to 2 minutes on one side, until nicely browned. Carefully turn the patties over and place the pan in the oven. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until the patties are lightly browned; if they fall apart you can patch them together with some pressure from the spatula. Remove from the heat and serve, with or without buns, ketchup and the works.

Advance preparation: These can be put together and shaped up to 3 days before browning. They can also be cooked ahead and reheated in a low oven or in a pan on the stove. Keep them well wrapped in the refrigerator.

Nutritional information per serving (4 servings): 273 calories; 10 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 6 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 38 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 548 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 10 grams protein

Source: NYTimes, Martha Rose Shulman is the author of "The Very Best of Recipes for Health"

Frozen Chocolate Banana Pops

This recipe is perfect for the summer or Easter! Kids love it because they are fun and delicious. Parents love it because they are quite nutritious and very easy to make! Enjoy!

Frozen Chocolate Banana Pops

- 2 bananas
- 6 oz melted chocolate
- 4 wooden sticks


Halve 2 bananas crosswise. Insert a wooden stick into each piece; freeze the bananas and any dark chocolate candy you like (optional).
Chop the frozen chocolate candy. Coat the frozen bananas in 6 ounces melted chocolate; sprinkle with the candy. Freeze on a parchment-lined plate until firm.
    Source: real simple

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    Great News for Popcorn Lovers!



    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    Honey Bread with Dark Chocolate (Beets and Carrots!)

    Honey Bread with Dark Chocolate topping is a tradition in some Latin American countries. Considered a comfort food, locals can find it in almost all bakeries, and serve it throughout the year. Our version has a veggie twist: beets and carrots! Very delicious, healthy and decadent! Here is the recipe:


    Honey Bread with Dark Chocolate Topping
    Servings: Makes a 9x12 inches pan


    - 1 cup all-purpose flour
    - 1 cup whole whet flour
    - 1/2 cup beets, shredded finely
    - 1/2 cup carrots, shredded finely
    - 1/4 cup brown sugar
    - 3 tbs cocoa powder
    - 1 cup honey
    - 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    - 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    - 3 tbs butter
    - 1 cup milk
    - 1 tsp baking powder


    Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined. Pour into a greased 9 x 12 inch (22 x 30 cm) baking pan and bake in a preheated 325F (160C) oven for about 20 minutes, or until done (test with a toothpick).
    When cool, cut into 2 inch (5 cm) squares and cover with the chocolate.


    Dark Chocolate Topping:


    - 70% dark chocolate bars or chips for baking.


    Place coarsely chopped 70% dark chocolate, or dark chocolate chips for baking, in a microwave-safe container and microwave at MEDIUM (50 percent power) for 1 1/2 to 4 minutes, until the chocolate turns shiny. Remove the container from the microwave and stir the chocolate until completely melted.
    Cover the bread with the chocolate paste while still warm.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    10 Reasons Organic Food is Expensive


    From Yahoo Shine, this is a great article about the higher costs associated with organic food.

    "You might think organic food would cost less than conventional food since the production is spared the cost of the chemicals, synthetic pesticides, and antibiotics. Yet organic products typically cost 20 percent to 100 percent more than their conventionally produced equivalents. 

In an economy that is sluggishly recovering from a recession, that's a price tag many Americans can't afford, even though the majority of them would prefer to buy organic. If you're part of that majority, you've probably wondered what's behind that cost. Here are the top 10 factors contributing to the high price of organic food: 



    1. No chemicals = more labor 

Conventional farmers use all of those chemicals and synthetic pesticides because they end up reducing the cost of production by getting the job done faster and more efficiently. Without them, organic farmers have to hire more workers for tasks like hand-weeding, cleanup of polluted water, and the remediation of pesticide contamination. 

The Organic Farming Research Foundation explained it well: "The organic price tag more closely reflects the true cost of growing the food: substituting labor and intensive management for chemicals, the health and environmental costs of which are borne by society." 



    2. Demand overwhelms supply 

Retail sales of organic food rose from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $21.1 billion in 2008, according to the USDA, and 58 percent of Americans claim they prefer to eat organic over non-organic food. However, organic farmland only accounts for 0.9 percent of total worldwide farmland, and organic farms tend to produce less than conventional farms. Conventional farms have the farmland and the supply to keep costs down since manufacturers are able to reduce costs when producing a product in larger quantities. 


    3. Higher cost of fertilizer for organic crops 

Sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers might not be something you want in your food, but conventional farmers use them because they don't cost much and are cheap to transport. Organic farmers eschew these inexpensive solutions in order to keep their crops natural and instead use compost and animal manure, which is more expensive to ship. 

    
4. Crop rotation 

Instead of using chemical weed-killers, organic farmers conduct sophisticated crop rotations to keep their soil healthy and prevent weed growth. After harvesting a crop, an organic farmer may use that area to grow "cover crops," which add nitrogen to the soil to benefit succeeding crops. 

Conventional farmers, on the other hand, can use every acre to grow the most profitable crops. Because crop rotation reduces the frequency in which organic farmers can grow profitable crops, they're unable to produce the larger quantities that are most cost-effective for conventional farmers. 



    5. Post-harvest handling cost 

In order to avoid cross-contamination, organic produce must be separated from conventional produce after being harvested. Conventional crops are shipped in larger quantities since conventional farms are able to produce more. Organic crops, however, are handled and shipped in smaller quantities since organic farms tend to produce less, and this results in higher costs. Additionally, organic farms are usually located farther from major cities, increasing the shipping cost. 



    6. Organic certification 

Acquiring USDA organic certification is no easy - or cheap - task. In addition to the usual farming operations, farm facilities and production methods must comply with certain standards, which may require the modification of facilities. Employees must be hired to maintain strict daily record-keeping that must be available for inspection at any time. And organic farms must pay an annual inspection/certification fee, which starts at $400 to $2,000 a year, depending on the agency and the size of the operation. 

    

7. Cost of covering higher loss 

Conventional farmers use certain chemicals to reduce their loss of crops. For example, synthetic pesticides repel insects and antibiotics maintain the health of the livestock. Since organic farmers don't use these, their losses are higher, which costs the farmer more and increases the cost to the consumer. Additionally, without all the chemical preservatives added to conventional foods, organic foods face a shorter storage time and shelf life. 


    8. Better living conditions for livestock 

Higher standards for animal welfare also means more costs for organic farms. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, organic feed for cattle and other livestock can cost twice as much as conventional feed. 



    9. Organic food grows more slowly 

Time is money. Not only are organic farms typically smaller than conventional ones, but they also, on average, take more time to produce crops because they refrain from using the chemicals and growth hormones used by conventional farmers. 



    10. Subsidies 

Production-oriented government subsidies reduce the overall cost of crops. In 2008, mandatory spending on farm subsidies was $7.5 billion while programs for organic and local foods only received $15 million, according to the House Appropriations Committee. 



    Money-saving tips 

Until then, try to get most of your organic food from farmers markets. You'll be supporting local farmers and purchasing the food at a reduced price since you're cutting out the middle-man retailer. Check out LocalHarvest.org. You can plug in your city or zip code and get a list of all of the farmers markets in your area. 

It's also important to note that you don't need to buy all foods organic. 
    The Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides has a "Clean 15" list of the 15 types of produce lowest in pesticides. Save your money for the other organic produce and buy the conventional versions of these: 

1.Onions 
2.Sweet corn 
3.Pineapples 
4.Avocado 
5.Asparagus 
6.Sweet peas 
7.Mangoes 
8.Eggplant 
9.Cantaloupe - domestic 
10.Kiwi 
11.Cabbage 
12.Watermelon 
13.Sweet potatoes 
14.Grapefruit 
15.Mushrooms"

    Workout Mistakes Women Make




    1. You're not using the heavy weights: 
    It can be intimidating to venture out onto the weight room floor, especially when it's full of bodybuilding types throwing weights around. But you aren't doing yourself any favors by staying in the corner with those little pink dumbbells!
    "You have two types of muscle fibers: slow and fast. If you don't use heavier weights, you neglect an entire set of muscle fibers, namely the fast fibers, which are important for moving quickly, lifting weighty objects (your heavy purse, grocery bag, suitcase), and for spine and hip stability," says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery and creator of the Perfect Legs, Glutes & Abs DVD.
    And if you're worried that you'll bulk up, don't be. "Women cannot add much size to their muscles to begin with since we have low concentrations of the male hormone testosterone, which is necessary to enlarge muscle to any noticeable degree," Olson says.

    2. You don't have a plan: 
    Do you want to lose 10 pounds, run a 5K, or become more flexible? "There are special workout plans for each of the above, and they are not interchangeable-there is no "one exercise-fits-all" program," Olson says. "If you do not have a plan to address your greatest fitness needs and desires, you can stall results and actually create changes you do not need or that might not even be appropriate for you."
    Your primary objective (weight loss, endurance, strength) should influence the volume (amount you do), intensity (how light or hard/heavy) and the mode (cardio, resistance exercises, stretching programs) of every workout, which is why Olson says it's so important to take the time to meet with a qualified trainer at your gym for an assessment and to help create your goal-specific program.

    3. You don't "pound" enough to protect your bones: 
    You already know that it's important to do weight-bearing exercise to help protect your bones, but you may not realize just how much loading you need to do in order to reap the bone density benefits. "While treadmill walking is sufficient to keep the spinal bones strong, your hip bones need more loading," Olson says. "To do this, think "steep," or "stomp." If you want to stick to walking, increase the incline on the treadmill to seven percent for 3 minutes, followed by 5 minutes on level ground, alternating five times during a 40-minute workout.
    Other options: Take a step class, use that machine with the revolving stairs, or walk the stairs in your gym. This extra impact is not too heavy but at a level that is much more effective at getting your hip bones to take up more calcium and become more dense.

    4. You don't push yourself hard enough:
    You may have just spent 2 hours at the gym, but how much of that time were you intensely exercising? Yes, fitness should be fun, but if your set routine involves reading a magazine on a card machine followed by the same weight machine circuit, chances are you aren't seeing the results you want.
    "In the beginning exercise can feel unruly and even excruciating-which is clearly not fun-but once your body learns how to do various exercise movements and your strength and stamina improve, it's time to upgrade your program," Olson says. "Time and again research has shown that increasing to more vigorous levels of activity bring about greater healthbenefits and noticeably improved fitness and appearance."
    And you don't have to spend more time at the gym. In fact, if you focus on the quality of your workout, you may actually spend less time there. "This is why interval training has become so popular," Olsen says. Experts recommend a range of intensity levels, but many interval workouts go up to 85 percent or your max heart rate. "If you can learn to push yourself appropriately, you can also land the benefit of a higher metabolism following exercise-that means you are rewarded for your extra effort following exercise with an extra energy burn!"

    5. You don't take advantage of experts: 
    "If your club has trainers, movement specialists, physical therapists, nutritionists, or registered dietitians, use them!" Olson says. "They are skilled to determine some needs you may have that are not obvious but could prevent you from making progress or possibly be causing you injury."
    This is especially important if your goal is weight loss. If you're trying to lose weight, what you eat is incredibly important, especially if you're regularly exercising.
    "A trained expert can speed up your progress and results as well as prevent you from burning out, under-eating, or over-doing," Olsen says.


    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Nine Commandments of Healthy Eating for Parents

    By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian, for SparkPeople 

    1. Thou shalt not force, bribe or coerce thy child to eat. 

    2. Thou shalt set a good example by eating at least five fruits and vegetables, three whole grain products, and three dairy servings per day thyself. 

    3. Thou shalt make mealtimes pleasant. 

    4. Thou shalt encourage thy child to help in meal planning, preparation, and cleanup. 

    5. Thou shalt back off when mealtime becomes a power struggle. 

    6. Thou shalt accept food "binges" as phases that will eventually pass. 

    7. Thou shalt accept the fact that thy child is an individual and thus will dislike certain foods (and there may be many!). 

    8. Thou shalt not give up on introducing thy child to new foods. Thou shalt realize it sometimes takes ten tries to get a child to accept a food. 

    9. Thou shalt use this division of responsibility for eating: As the parent, thou art responsible for deciding when and what to serve. Thy child is responsible for deciding how much (if any) will be eaten. 


    Sources: SparkPeople, Yahoo

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    5 Great Reasons to Kick your Soda Habit



    By Emily Main

    If you've been reading health magazines and websites for any length of time, you've read a litany of reasons why soda is bad for you. It's nothing but sugar water. It's devoid of any nutritional value. It leads to obesity and diabetes. But we've dug up several other disturbing facts about what soda does to your body, besides packing on the pounds, that don't get much attention in broader discussions about soda and its impact on your health.

    Accelerated aging:
    Diet or regular, all colas contain phosphates, or phosphoric acid, a weak acid that gives colas their tangy flavor and improves their shelf life. Although it exists in many whole foods, such as meat, dairy, and nuts, too much phosphoric acid can lead to heart and kidney problems, muscle loss, and osteoporosis, and one study suggests it could trigger accelerated aging. The study, published in a 2010 issue of the FASEB Journal, found that the excessive phosphate levels found in sodas caused lab rats to die a full five weeks earlier than the rats whose diets had more normal phosphate levels—a disturbing trend considering that soda manufacturers have been increasing the levels of phosphoric acid in their products over the past few decades.

    Caramel cancer-causers:
    In 2011, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban the artificial caramel coloring used to make Coke, Pepsi, and other colas brown. The reason: Two contaminants in the coloring, 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, have been found to cause cancer in animals, a threat the group says is unnecessary, considering that the coloring is purely cosmetic. According to California's strict Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, just 16 micrograms per person per day of 4-methylimidazole is enough to pose a cancer threat, and most popular brown colas, both diet and regular, contain 200 micrograms per 20-ounce bottle.

    Mountain Dew mind:
    Dentists have a name for the condition they see in a lot of kids who drink too much Mountain Dew. They wind up with a "Mountain Dew Mouth," full of cavities caused by the drink's excessive sugar levels. "Mountain Dew Mind" may be the next medical condition that gets named after the stuff. An ingredient called brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, added to prevent the flavoring from separating from the drink, is an industrial chemical used as a flame retardant in plastics. Also found in other citrus-based soft drinks and sports drinks, the chemical has been known to cause memory loss and nerve disorders when consumed in large quantities. Researchers also suspect that, like brominated flame retardants used in furniture foam, the chemical builds up in body fat, possibly causing behavioral problems, infertility, and lesions on heart muscles over time.

    Toxic cans:
    It's not just the soda that's causing all the problems. Nearly all aluminum soda cans are lined with an epoxy resin called bisphenol A (BPA), used to keep the acids in soda from reacting with the metal. BPA is known to interfere with hormones, and has been linked to everything from infertility to obesity to some forms of reproductive cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have pegged soda cans, along with restaurant, school, and fast-food meals, as a major source of exposure to the chemical. And while Pepsi and Coke are currently locked in a battle to see which company can be the first to develop a 100 percent plant-based-plastic bottle—which they're touting as "BPA free"—neither company is willing to switch to BPA-free aluminum cans.

    Water pollution:  
    The artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas don't break down in our bodies, nor do wastewater-treatment plants catch them before they enter waterways, researchers have found. In 2009, Swiss scientists tested water samples from wastewater-treatment plants, rivers and lakes in Switzerland and detected levels of acesulfame K, sucralose, and saccharin, all of which are, or have been, used in diet sodas. A recent test of 19 municipal water supplies in the U.S. revealed the presence of sucralose in every one. It's not clear yet what these low levels are doing to people, but past research has found that sucralose in rivers and lakes interferes with some organisms' feeding habits.


    Source: Rodale, msnbc

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Organic DIY Food Dyes


    Colored foods can be very attractive to kids, however artificial dyes are completely out of question for my family! The good news is that there are plenty of fun (and healthy) options available. Here are a few ideas from Sayward Rebhal, Networkx:
    Pink and Red
    You can use any number of options, but for a ton of color with almost no flavor, beets are your best bet. Use the juice from the canned kind, or make your own by either boiling or juicing the raw vegetable. Learn exactly how to make frosting colored by beets from Joy the Baker.
    Alternately, you can also use any red fruit, like raspberries or pomegranate. Just know that these may change the flavor - which can be a great thing! To procure your dye, pulverize the berries in a food processor or blender, then strain out the colored liquid using a mesh sieve or cheesecloth.
    Orange
    Carrots are your best bet for achieving a perfectly peachy tint. Citrus may seem promising, but it doesn't lend much color. Stick to carrots and you're sure to be pleased. Just juice them (or buy fresh carrot juice), and don't worry about the flavor. Carrots are naturally sweet! Itsy Bitsy Foodies offered a super tutorial on how to make food coloring from carrots.
    Yellow
    Both saffron flowers and turmeric powder will create that sunny, summery hue. These are each intensely-colored spices, so a little goes a long way. Still, be careful, start with very small amounts, and taste as you add. I recommend these two recipes for yellow food coloring: Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy published an awesome recipe for making icing colored with saffron. Nouveau Raw published a delicious recipe for raw vegan frosting colored with turmeric
    Green
    Are you forever trying to find ways of getting greens into your kids? (Or into yourself?!) Well, how about . . . spinach in the frosting! That's right, a little spinach will work like a charm, and doesn't impart any flavor at all (PROMISE!).
    You can use juice, or you can even use the whole leaves. I recommend that you try The Edible Perspective's recipe for Green Monster Wipped Green Frosting, which includes two cups of spinach leaves.
    Another option for that emerald tone involves a "health food" supplement called chlorophyll. Liquid chlorophyll is available in most alternative markets (co-ops, Whole Foods) and is quite inexpensive. Besides it's purported health benefits, it's a great option for natural food coloring.
    Blue and Purple
    And finally, the tricky twosome. Blues and purples can be a bit harder, but they certainly are possible. Blueberries and blackberries can be used in the same process as described above (for other berries, under "Pink and Red"). But your real best bet is a totally unexpected vegetable: cabbage!
    That's right! Red cabbage can be used to make both purple and blue food coloring. For the former, cut and boil the cabbage until the water is very dark and concentrated. This will give you a pretty purple dye.
    For the latter, slowly stir in baking soda, a bit at a time. It will react with the cabbage juice and produce a perfectly pretty blue hue.