Top 5 Foods To Consider Buying Organic

Organic is something that almost everyone has an opinion on these days.Eating organic isn’t a new trendy movement. In fact, it is a much older concept as your parents and grandparents probably ate more organic food before. And while everyone may not agree with me about the benefits and necessity to choose organic produce whenever possible, I know that sustaining a healthy lifestyle is something that we ALL can agree on! I’m sure if organic food was more affordable to consumers, there wouldn’t be much debate on the topic. Cause let’s face it, with today’s demand in food transparency, nobody wants to ingest pesticides, chemicals and harmful GMOs.

Essentially, nobody wants to eat crap!

Unfortunately, our governing food system makes it challenging for a lot of folks to conserve an  entirely organic healthy diet without completely emptying out our wallets. It’s no surprise that organic food comes with a hefty price tag! It definitely all adds up at the end of the day which can be discouraging and off putting especially to someone who’s on a conscious budget. This is when it pays to attend your local markets on the weekends, perhaps subscribe to organic box delivering services like Mama Earth, or even select and budget which particular foods you buy organic to help save some dollars. If you can lower your exposure to pesticides and chemicals, why not?

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Here are my suggested top 5 everyday foods that are worth buying organic (and if you can, local!):

1) Apples

If you eat an apple a day, opting for organic apples should be your first swap. Conventional apples has been ranked as the top fruit contaminated with the most pesticides and GMOs at your grocery store. The peel of the apple is 100% covered with herbicides and accumulated pesticides and you definitely don’t want to be eating that!

2) Leafy Greens

Eat your greens! But make sure you have the good kind. Conventional kale, collard greens, lettuce and especially spinach have been heavily sprayed with scary high levels of pesticides. Pesticides that even a little bit ingested can be an interference to your hormones thus can lead to many illnesses in the future. Do you really want to be eating food that contain obscene amount of chemicals which crop workers wear masks to prevent inhaling? Heck no! So if you’re an avid leafy monster like moi, this is #1 on your food list.

3) Berries 

Sorry conventional berry lovers. But the berries you’re eating probably contain more than 10 types of those pesky insecticides. Yikes! Also, ever wonder why conventional strawberries at the store are the size of golf balls these days? You can credit GMOs for that. Organic berries are much smaller, juicier and healthier! Your best bet is to buy them local and in season too. Your smoothies will thank you.

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4) Corn

Most corn in the world is genetically modified and engineered. Sad but true. Whether you’re skeptical or not about GMOs, there’s really no reason you should be eating crops that potentially have the DNA and genetics of another species. Corn has been tampered in labs for many years in labs and that should be logic enough for us to avoid it. Or just buy locally harvested organic corn products. I won’t make you give up popcorn or corn tacos. 🙂

5) Bell Peppers

Approx 68% of conventional bell peppers sampled and tested came back positive for pesticide contamination. They are considered one of the most pesticide laden vegetables available today. And bell peppers is a staple in a healthy eater’s pantry. They’re packed with vitamins C and A, so choosing organic peppers allows you to reap all of its nutrients without the added toxins.

Choosing organic/local is great for both your personal health and the health of our planet. After all, Mahatma Ghandi said that ultimately our health is wealth!

Not Another Model Salad + Creamy Cashew Dressing (Oil Free & Vegan)

Homer and Bart once said to a devoted vegetarian Lisa Simpson that “you don’t win friends with salad.”

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Courtesy of the internet.

Little did they know about this delicious salad recipe. (I like to pretend it’s one of Lisa’s go to favourites!)

A salad so simple, creamy and nutritious, it’s hard not to impress people (or at least your taste buds) with all of its glory.

And if you’re like me and absolutely crave a filling tossed salad, this recipe will become a staple in your cooking routine. Works perfectly as a side dish to a hearty entree or just as its own. This salad is very similar to my popular lemon tahini dressed kale salad. Which by the way, was an absolute hit on Facebook! 😀

In this case, I use cashews as the main base to achieve the creamy-ness and “milk-like” flavour. Cashews, almonds, and sunflower seeds are some of my favourite ingredients to use in the kitchen! Chop em, mash em, blend em, bake with em, these tiny yet powerful entities are so versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. (You can even make your own vegan “cheese” with cashews!) However, I’ve noticed that a lot of people aren’t familiar with the health benefits of consuming them, and sometimes think twice about eating them because of their “high fat content” (which is mostly the healthy kind of fat). I’ve stressed many times in my blog about the importance of eating good healthy fats and incorporating cashews into your everyday diet is a great way of doing so.

Did you know that cashews come from trees? The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentaleis native to Brazil, where its fruit is considered a delicacy. Technically they’re not even nuts, rather a seed (or fruit) that comes from a tree that thrives in tropical climate. In the early 16th century, the Portuguese introduced them to India and a few African countries, where they now also are grown and produced. What we call the cashew nut is actually the seed of a fruit, very similar looking to a large bell pepper, that hangs off the cashew tree.

They’re typically sold shelled and roasted. If you do buy cashews labeled raw, they are not truly raw but instead gone through a process of steaming, light roasting or otherwise processed to remove its toxic oil. This toxic oil is found in the double shell that encases the raw cashew called anacardic acid, which is a poisonous oily substance that can trigger significant skin rashes, and can be toxic when ingested. Alike to the toxic compound that’s found in poison ivy and poison oak.

Despite its proneness to poison, this potent C shaped ‘nut’ is lauded for its substantial emporium of vitamins and nutrients. They’re deliciously rich in iron, phosphorus, niacin, selenium, zinc, copper and magnesium, you know – all that good stuff our bodies require! And like most nuts, cashews are an excellent source of cancer-fighting phytochemicals, flavanols, antioxidants, vitamin E and protein. Being cholesterol free and high in mono-unsaturated fats helps lower the risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases.

So before you crack open that big bag of cashews (for our recipe), please take a moment to value the hard work that went into them and the long expedition those beloved nuts took from the exotic tree to your hands!

And if we don’t win friends with salad, then dang-it…it just means more for us!!

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What you’ll need:

3/4 cup – 1 cup of preferably organic unsalted cashews (Using 1 cup will make your dressing creamier!)

1 cup of filtered water

1 1/2 Tbsp of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

3 Tbsp of lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)

1 garlic clove

Optional: 1 Tbsp of All Natural Dijon Mustard (if you like your dressing zesty and tangy!)

1/2 Tsp of black ground pepper

Soak cashews in warm filtered water for about 2-3 hours. If you have a high speed blender, Magic Bullet or Vitamix, then you can skip this step.

Blend all ingredients until you get a smooth and consistent dressing – start with just a 1/4 cup of water and add more as you blend until you reach a consistency that you like. The more water, the more of a dressing it will be. Use less water, you’ll have a thicker sauce like dressing. Adjust to taste.

Coat baby kale, chickpeas, chopped peppers, cucumbers and broccoli (or veggies of choice) in homemade dressing. Serve immediately. x

Easy Peasy Tuesday Spiced Tacos (Vegan, GF/WF & Healthy)

So yesterday was Tuesday. If you’re like me, a Tuesday can (at times) feel more challenging than a Monday.

Maybe you’re feeling a little sluggish still from the weekend? Or maybe you’re overwhelmed by the lack of time you think you have? Or in my case, you forgot to meal prep on Sunday, forgot to buy stock up on produce and left having to figure out quick, healthy and delicious lunch ideas for the week…(doh!) this was yesterday also known as, you guessed it – Tuesday.

Now what’s one of the most popular and appreciated dishes to devour on a Tuesday? (Not referring to the ghastly “Toonie Tuesdays” at KFC!)

Answer: Taccccoooosss! (Arriba!) 

Beloved by all, many tacos are stuffed of refined and processed ingredients and nonessential meat grease. These easy peasy tacos I’m about to share with you are downright healthy in comparison. They’re nutritious, shockingly satisfying and just enough flavor to get you through the day!

The best part? Super easy to make and you can whip it up in a mere few minutes with just a handful of simple yet heart-healthy ingredients. You can improvise on the vegetables too – a little fresh organic corn would work great added in or some cooked beans if you’re in the mood. I prefer to keep it light at lunch so I kept these tacos to a few of my favorite greens, onions and ripe bell peppers. Certified easy peasy. 

However, the key to the overall taste is in the way you season and saute those veggies. One of my go-to spices is the infamous cumin powder. Ground cumin, or seeds, is a favored spice native common to regions of Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean. Now used worldwide, cumin not only adds a punch of exotic and savory flavor to almost any dish (IMO) but it actually has some surprising nutritious content that our insides would favor. It contains a wholesome antioxidant called curcumin, along with other elements, that provide health benefits. Some include its ability to aid in digestion and related issues, improve immunity, support heart health and can help treat and fight an assortment of conditions such as insomnia, anemia, skin and respiratory disorders, bronchitis and that pesky common cold.

Cumin is considered a low sodium herb and spice so by adding cumin flavor to your food, you essentially will use less salt and other high-sodium seasonings during cooking and at the table. Consequently, by reducing the unnecessary sodium in your diet, you help prevent and/or lower high blood pressure – FYI!

A little less salt please, a little more sprinkles of cumin!

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What you’ll need:

2 cloves of garlic, crushed and then minced

1 tbsp of cumin (organic without fillers if possible!)

1/4 tsp of ground black pepper

1/2 medium onion, chopped

Pinch of ground oregano

Pinch of turmeric

Pinch of chili powder

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional if you don’t want it that spicy)

Organic EVOO

Chopped bell peppers (not the green ones!)

Broccoli florets

Zucchini, sliced into thin strips

Raw baby spinach (keep this raw for your tacos!)

Sprouted organic corn tortillas (always buy corn and corn products organic!)

Heat a tablespoon (or two) of EVOO in a large saute pan on medium high heat. Add the chopped onions and minced garlic for a few minutes until nicely browned. Lower heat to medium if needed to avoid burning. Spread veggies of choice (except spinach) on the pan and sprinkle spices evenly. Stir and let sit for a minute or two until lightly browned. Lower the heat to low and let gently cook for a few more minutes while you heat up the tortillas in another pan or skillet.

Remove both pans from heat. Assemble and add baby spinach. And serve with homemade sugar free salsa and sliced lemons!

Enjoy your Tuesdays. x

Kale Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

I’m crazy for kale! Who isn’t these days?

Kale is taking the food world by storm and almost everyone is using this hearty, healthy green in various things like salads, juices, stews and smoothies!

It’s a nutritional powerhouse and beneficial to your health in many, many ways. If vitamins can be packed and labeled, they’d very much look like kale. From a range of vitamins and nutrients such as C, B, A, iron and even protein, the benefits offered by just one cup of this relatively infamous veggie can trump a lot of other foods combined. Anti-inflammatory, packed with anti oxidants, immune building and impressively fiber and iron rich, this fighting disease leaf is a force to be reckoned with.

Kale is one of the best vegetables for your health that you should happily have everyday. But let’s face it, raw kale isn’t as easy to consume directly like spinach. Sometimes known as “crazy lettuce”, this tough leafy green needs to be tamed in order to fully enjoy its deliciousness.

In this delectable salad, the key is to massage your fibrous kale for a few minutes and let it sit marinated in lemon juice. This simple rubdown step can deliciously transform this green from being bitter and strong to becoming silky and smooth. Pair it with a kick butt lemon tahini dressing and you’ll have one heck of a nutritional and healthy dish that’ll have you forgetting about those Caesar salad days.

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KALE SALAD:

Massaged kale, raw

Rinsed and soaked organic chickpeas

Diced cucumbers, raw

Diced bell peppers, raw

Chopped broccoli florets

Finely minced red onions

** 1 small pouch of Natera natural hemp seeds

LEMON TAHINI DRESSING:

1 lemon, juiced (about 2-3 tbsp)

5 tbsp of organic tahini (also known as sesame paste)

1 clove of garlic, pressed

1 tbsp of organic raw apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of water (add less or more depending on desired consistency)

Optional: 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

Add dressing ingredients in a Magic Bullet or blender and mix thoroughly. Pulse well.

Toss with salad ingredients. Combine well until there is not a naked kale leaf left! Sprinkle hemp seeds/hearts and devour.

Redefining 100% Natural – YES Please!

Today, I read a fantastic article on News.Mic about how many companies are labeling their products as “all natural” when in actuality, they’re far from that. The article talked about many unverified health claims from businesses like Snapple, Quaker Oats and Kashi using marketing tactics like claiming to use “all natural” ingredients or phrases such as “no artificial flavors or preservatives” and even “100% healthy and natural”. However, if you’re like me and carefully read every label, you know that all your left with in these products is loads of added sugars (especially high fructose corn syrup), toxic chemicals and synthetic substances like maltodextrin and my favourite, the ridiculous and unidentified natural flavors. That’s natural? No, it’s misleading.

Apparently the word natural doesn’t mean anything anymore. This is one of the most emotive words used in food marketing and consumers are being duped by many marketers who are constantly abusing it. Chances are, they probably don’t care about the public’s optimal health and how their “natural” ingredients can affect our long term health in the end. It’s being inaccurately thrown around and used inappropriately in order to make up for the harmful ingredients added and made to believe that they are acceptable to consume. At this point, the word means about as much as “real” does, especially when it comes to food marketing. This is why I’ve expressed on my blog 100 and 1 times about how truly important and crucial it is to read your food labels. Do not be fooled by the large bold words splattered on the front box stating to be wholesome and good for you. Even catch phrases like gluten free, low fat, half the amount of salt, can all be used to deceive you into buying their sugar/chemical laden products.

While some ingredients listed may be “naturally derived” from sources like soybeans, corn and canola oil, these ingredients aren’t the safest to consume and almost always manufactured artificially and manipulated. For instance, a company like Nature Valley can promote their granola bars as “100% natural” because the ingredients it contains like high maltose corn syrup is derived from corn (and most likely from GMO corn). But they ignore the absolute unnatural process it takes along the way to create this “natural” syrup. All this means to me is that foods that are genetically engineered or used with toxic chemicals are permitted to be labeled as natural. Unfortunately it is a processed sugar and should definitely not be marketed as a healthy, wholesome snack. Period.

[Eating] natural is such a nebulous thing these days but you can navigate and redefine it. Eat whole foods (you know, broccoli, spinach, mother nature stuff), buy products that only contain real quality ingredients, look for organic which means something substantial and avoid products that dub themselves as natural but use ingredients unpronounceable and misrepresented. Take the time to distinguish between the good and the bad. Remember that your health relies on it.

There’s a new premium drink in town! And they’re helping to redefine what it means to actually be ALL NATURAL.

YES Drinks has a promise to their customers – everything they make will always be 100% natural (and about 85% organic), they’ll only use the highest quality ingredients, there will not be any shortcuts taken, no preservatives, artificial ingredients, stabilizers or flavor extracts used and will always be kept 100% plant based. Oh yeah, and no added sugars! Yay!

The handcrafted drinks are a natural and healthy alternative to many sugary (and sugary-healthy) beverages and snacks. They are naturally sweetened with stevia and contain absolutely no funky stuff. What you see is what you get. All of the delicious beverages are cold pressed low in calories, gluten free, vegan and contain familiar super foods like organic chia seeds, raw sprouted rice protein, coconut milk, turmeric and psyllium husk. They’re also a delicious way to get a large helping of natural protein and fiber. They won’t cut corners so that we are only left to enjoy increased vitality with the most nutritious and great tasting all natural ingredients. A company that truly knows what’s best for us to achieve optimal health.

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Simple to read and you know exactly what you’re getting. Just how it should be.

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I like the Belgian Cocoa Hazelnut “Milk” and the Vanilla Charge the best! They boast so much flavor (real natural flavors) and I feel great after having a few sips. The bottles are so convenient to have on the go and you can swap your morning coffee with one of these bad boys for a more beneficial wake up call! Which flavor will you say YES to?

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