Know What's in Your Food

Promoting awareness and change about the food we eat, and where it comes from.


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Quinoa And Artichoke Salad

qunioa and artichoke salad

I made this salad on a whim today, and I thought it turned out really well.

1/2 cup cooked quinoa. I use Tru Roots brand

1 can of artichokes

1/8 of tsp of cayenne pepper

1TBS of Annie’s Greek Goddess dressing

1 carrot chopped

1 bunch of green onions chopped

pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together well and serve on a bed of baby arugula.

* I use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Enjoy!


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Nature’s Path Is On The Right Path…

vegetarian poptarts

Not too long ago I did a post about the unsavory ingredients in Kellogg’s Wild Strawberry pop-tarts. I wanted to show that there are some products, that while they are not whole foods, they can be alright to consume every now and then. Nature’s Path has such a product. Let me say up front, I do not get paid in any way for talking about their product. I reviewed the ingredient list, which is much shorter than Kellogg’s.

Nature's Path Strawberry Ingredients

The first thing I noticed is, Nature’s Path tells you up front their product is vegetarian. It doesn’t contain animal products including insects that are used to make carmine food coloring.  I like the fact that it is also labeled non-gmo and is non-gmo verified.

My concern was the use of palm oil. Palm oil is found in a lot of foods. Food companies use it in place of trans fats. The problem with palm oil is it is harmful to the rainforest.  I contacted customer service to Nature’s Path and asked them about their use of palm oil. They assured me the palm oil they used wasn’t harmful to the environment. Their palm oil comes from a sustainable source. I asked them if they would be willing to put it in writing. They said they would be more than happy too. They sent me  a response in email within a couple of hours. Below a copy of the email.

“Thank you for your comments on Nature’s Path Organic Toaster Pastries. We take each comment seriously and we endeavor to always provide a good quality product. Nature’s Path is committed to producing quality organic foods, using the best ingredients available, while adhering to strict quality control procedures.

At Nature’s Path, we are dedicated to providing consumers with healthy, great tasting organic foods. Our family-owned company is committed to producing products which support the development and sustenance of organic agriculture. We aim to do this in a way that minimizes our ecological footprint while striving to maintain social, environmental and financial integrity.

Nature’s Path uses a variety of organic oils in moderation in our products. Palm oil is a dietary oil of vegetable origin; it is essentially free of cholesterol. It is a healthy, trans-fat free, non-genetically modified oil, high in phytonutrients. It is easily digested, absorbed and utilized in normal metabolic processes. It is a naturally occurring source of the antioxidant Vitamin E constituents, tocopherols and tocotrienols.Our supplier guarantees that our palm oil comes from long established organic palm plantations and small scale farms, located in an agricultural area of the Amazon delta near Belem in Brazil – and that these farms are cultivated in a sustainable & organic manner. Our supplier has re-establish forest on 185,000 acres of previously deforested lands, which consequentially led to the rehabilitation of 7 previously endangered animal species. It is their company policy to never replace forest with plantations. All of the organic production is done in accordance with Brazilian, USDA/NOP, and European standards and is verified by the Brazilian certifier IBD. Additionally, our product supplier is in the final stages of certification with RSPO Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil , is certified as an organic supplier and meets the stringent IBD Certification that has environmental and sustainable requirements: IBD . They have been approved as one of the first EcoSocial projects in Brazil, a seal issued by the IBD Program for fair relations in the trade of socially and environmentally certified products (and governed by rigid standards and requirements that are not easily met). Our supplier has implemented the Integrated Management System, which qualified them for triple certification (ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems, ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems and OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series) for all production processes. And they are the only palm oil company in the world that holds all three of these certificates.Because we are an organic company from the outset (going back several decades), we work diligently to increase sustainable agriculture and provide healthy, delicious organic products both locally and globally. We care deeply about our Earth we all share, the communities we operate in, the organic family farmers we provide markets for, and the customers we serve. At Nature’s Path Foods we also donate annually to endangered species, habitat conservation and environmental education. We have donated to groups such as the Amazon Conservation Team , Wildlife Trust , World Wildlife Fund & many others dedicated to environmental and social sustainability.

Your email tells us that you are passionate about your health and wellness. If you would like to get more involved and share your opinion with us, please accept our invitation to join our research panel, The Cereal Bowl .

Please visit Nature’s Path for more information on our company and our products.

Thank you for being a valued Nature’s Path customer.”

Kind regards

Laara
Consumer Services
Nature’s Path Foods
9100 Van Horne Way
Richmond BC V6X 1W3
or 2220 Nature’s Path Way
Blaine WA 98230

Wow!! 🙂 They put far more in writing than what I had asked them to do. They did it promptly as well. This tells me this is a company with nothing to hide. They are open with their ingredients list,  they have customer service department that is educated about their products, and willing to follow-up with their customers. The same can’t be said for other food companies I have talked to. Once again, I receive no compensation or gifts in any form from Nature’s Path. I just wanted to show that there are a few decent companies out there.


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Black Bean and Corn Summer Salad

new black bean corn salad

This is a recipe is another quick and easy summer salad. I deal for lunch. I centered this recipe around some fresh organic cucumbers that my friend Jamie gave me straight from her garden. You can truly taste the difference between store-bought and fresh local vegetables.

1 cup of organic corn

1 cup of organic black beans

1 organic cucumber

1 cup of organic cherry tomatoes

4 organic green onions chopped

Dressing:

1/2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

1Tbs olive oil

1/4 tsp of organic maple syrup

Combine corn and black beans in a bowl and stir. Cut cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, green onions and add to the corn and black beans.

Mix together ingredients for dressing and pour over salad and stir well. Refrigerate for 2 hours serve immediately.

Enjoy

*I try to use organic ingredients whenever possible.


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A Closer Look at Kellogg’s Pop Tarts

Wild strawberry

You wouldn’t think you would have to check to see if your pop-tart is vegetarian, but if you are eating Kellogg’s pop-tarts, you are not eating a vegetarian pop-tart. In addition to not being vegetarian, these things are loaded with a bunch of chemicals and other questionable ingredients.

A closer look at the ingredients of the” Wild Strawberry” flavor reveals an interesting find.

full ingredients of wild poptarts

Wild Strawberry? More Like Wild Ingredients..

  • First, in the ingredient list we see enriched flour. This is flour that has been stripped of its nutrients and has had artificial nutrients added back in. The artificial nutrients are the vitamins listed right after the enriched flour.
  • Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and sugar. You can read about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup from one of my previous post here.
  • Soybean oil is most likely from a GMO source. Soybean oil is listed twice in the ingredients.
  • Palm Oil- Most palm oil that is harvested destroys the rainforest.
  • TBHQ – This is a food preservative ,used to extend shelf life, that comes from butane. The FDA allows the use of this food preservative in the amounts of 0.02%. It is a very small amount, and as you might guess, it doesn’t take a lot to cause harm. As little as 1 gram of this additive can cause side effects ranging from nausea, ADD symptoms, delirium, and asthma. It is also suspected of causing estrogen hormone disruption in women.  Estrogen hormone disruption can be associated with weight gain and cancer.
  • Dextrose- Another form of sugar.
  • Wheat Starch- Plain and simple, starch.
  • Salt- Salt
  • Dried strawberries, pears, and dried apples. Just keep that in mind for a moment and I will get back to that…. 🙂
  • Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate- Another shelf life extender. Consumption of phosphates have been linked to osteoporosis.
  • Monocalcium Phosphate- A preservative that extends shelf life. This is another form of a phosphate.
  • Milled Corn- Most likely a GMO source.
  • Gelatin- Made from animal hooves.
  • Modified Corn Starch- A hidden form of MSG. You can read my post about MSG byclicking here.
  • Soy Lecithin- Most likley from a GMO source.
  • Modified Wheat Starch- A hidden form of MSG.
  • Red 40 & Yellow 6- The Center for Science in the Pulic Interest had this to say about Red 40 and Yellow 6:
  • “The three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens … Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet is still in the food supply.”
  • Carmine- Derived from ground up beetles. You can read my post about carmine by clicking here.
  • Natural and Artificial Flavor- Natural strawberry flavor maybe made from a beavers anus. You can read more about natural flavors by reading my post  by clicking here.

Wow! What a list of ingredients!!!

I was curious about the little disclaimer just below the ingredients list that reads, ” Filling made with equal to 10% fruit.”  Made with equal to 10% fruit??

So what is fruit filling actually made of?

This question prompted me to call the good people at Kellogg’s to find out.  The first customer service representative was adamant that this meant it could contain as little as 6% fruit or as much as 10% fruit depending on the actual amount of fruit inside the filling. She claimed they were allowed to label it that way based on FDA guidelines. I got off the phone …not convinced (even though she sure was). My research into the FDA yielded nothing.

I called the Kellogg company back and ask the same question. The representative that answered the phone admitted she didn’t know what it meant, and the wording did sound strange. She agreed to have a specialist call me back. I did receive a call back with in 24 hours. I was told that dried fruit (listed in the ingredient list) is equal to 2% or less, and is hydrated with water to make it equal to 10% fruit. ..that sounds more like it.

So after a long list of shelf life extenders, GMOs, ground up bugs, carcinogens, and MSG… they have the nerve to call this product,”Wild Strawberry.”  The dried fruit used to make the filling is 2% (or less)  total.  The 2% of dried fruit used isn’t all strawberry. Some of that 2% is from dried pears and dried apples.

I also inquired from the Kellogg’s company if the product was vegetarian. They said it was not because of the gelatin and carmine. I asked about the source of a natural flavor and they claimed it was proprietary information….doesn’t surprise me in the least.

Sources: Center for Science in the Public Interest, Live Strong, Mercola.


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Carmine Food Coloring

Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt that contains carmine from ground up beetles

Yoplait Yogurt

Would you  eat strawberry yogurt that contained pulverized beetle body parts? Would you consider purchasing a box of Kellogg’s Pop Tarts that contain ground up beetles? Probably not. Food manufacturers are aware this might be a turn off, so they cleverly disguise this very thing by calling it carmine.  Take a look at your ingredient list, for foods that are naturally colored red, they may contain carmine. Carmine is made from the cochineal beetle. The process for making dye from the beetles starts with thousands of cochineal beetles  that are collected and dried.  After drying,  the abdomen and fertilized eggs of the insects are separated from the rest of the body.  The abdomen and fertilized eggs contain the most red color of the beetle. The abdomen and  fertilized eggs are then ground into powder and cooked at a high temperature. The final product contains the settlement of the beetles at the bottom and a red clear liquid. The liquid is used as natural food coloring.

Now for a look at the ingredients of the Yoplait Yogurt box…

Yoplait Yogurt Ingredients that contain carmine from cochineal beetles

Yoplait Yogurt Ingredients

Carmine is listed twice. Once in the strawberry flavor, and again in the banana strawberry flavor. Yoplait and Pop Tarts are not the only food sources for carmine. Carmine is frequently found in ice cream, yogurt, juice drinks, and other foods. Food manufacturers are already aware that people are becoming aware of what carmine is. So they have come up with other clever labels for the same product such as, Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, Cochineal, and E120. Many people think that yogurt is a healthy source of vegetarian protein, but when carmine is added as food coloring, it is no longer vegetarian.

Here is a picture of the Kellogg’s Wild Strawberry Pop-tarts ingredients…. I guess they consider it “wild” because the beetles they used to make it are found in the wild ?

Ingredients for Kellogg's Wild Poptart Ingredients

Kellogg’s Wild Strawberry Poptarts

What You Can Do To Make A Difference:

  • Take charge and know what’s in your food by reading ingredient lists and don’t purchase products that contain carmine.
  • Contact food manufactures and ask them not to use carmine to color foods(there are plant options that can be used for coloring.)
  • Let others know about the use of carmine in foods.

 Natural flavoring can be just as gross. You can read my previous post here on natural flavoring.

Sources: Natural News and Center for Science in the Public Interest.


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Cucumber Open Faced Sandwich

Vegan and Vegetarian Cucumber Sandwich

Cucumber Sandwich

I love it when foods are simple and straight forward. While I do enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking, sometimes I just want something that is quick and easy.  That is just where I found myself today. I opted to make this quick, easy, and tasty open-faced cucumber sandwich.

Ingredients:

1 Slice of Ezekiel toasted bread

1 Tbs of tahini

several  fresh cucumber slices

3 fresh tomato slices

1/2 of an avocado sliced

1/4 cup salad mix

Toast bread and spread with tahini. Add cucumbers and tomato slices . Place sliced avocado on top.

Simple, straightforward, and delicious!!

Vegan organic Tahini

Organic Tahini

I always try to use organic ingredients when I can. Here is a picture of the tahini I used. I like this brand because it is fair trade, organic, one ingredient….. ground sesame seeds.


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Organic Egg Farming Versus Factory Egg Farming

Farmers' Market

Farmers’ Market (Photo credit: NatalieMaynor)

This past weekend I got up early, and I went to my local farmer’s market. I was so impressed with the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale, by the people who actually grow them.  I met several local farmers who were selling their bountiful harvest. I wish I could talk about every item I purchased, but I will have to narrow it down to one, eggs.

I purchased these eggs from Good Earth Organic Farm.IMG_9298

As you can see they don’t look like regular eggs from the grocery store. Good Earth Organic Farm (GEOF) is a true free range and cage free egg grower. They feed their hens a  diet that is supplemented with organic vegetables from the farm, and whole grain (only when needed), but it isn’t  the inexpensive soy feed that many factory farms use.  This farm does not use soy to feed their hens. Their hens roam freely on several open acres of land spending their days pecking and scratching the ground…and..well….doing what hens should do. Natural hen behaviors are not seen in factory farm hens according to, Carole Morison (former factory farmer). Carole  Morison believes the absence of natural behavior in hens is not found due to traumatic living conditions.

How is it, and why is it the eggs from supermarkets seem so uniform, while organic, free range farm eggs  appear so different?

According to GEOF there are several factors that play a role in the look of eggs. First there are the different types of hens that are used in egg production. GEOF uses Ameraucana hens that lay green, blue, and olive colored eggs.  They also use Speckled Sussex hens that lay cream-colored eggs, while Dominigues and Rhode Island Red hens lay brown eggs.

List of Rhode Island state symbols

Rhode Island Red Hen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Speckled Sussex Hen named Mata Hari.

Speckled Sussex Hen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Ameraucana hen.

An Ameraucana hen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Factory farm egg producers tend to favor hybrid hens that are known for their rapid egg producing abilities.  Okay, so that explains the difference of the outside of the eggs, but what about what’s on the inside? This is a picture below shows an egg (on the right) from GEOF, and the left is from a factory farm.

Factory farm egg yolk, versus the yolk of an organic egg.

Comparing a Factory Farm Egg & Organic Egg

The first thing you can see is the color of the yolk. The egg from GEOF is almost orange in color. The factory farm egg is much lighter yellow. The reason for the color difference in the yolk is the diet of the hen. Factory farm hens frequently feed their hens all vegetarian diets. I see this label a lot on egg cartons.  Vegetarian diet is usually associated with  health, but not for a chicken. Chickens are by nature, the way that God intended them to be, omnivores. They do eat grains, but they eat a lot of grass and insects too. When hens are confined on a factory farm they are  fed a strong diet of grains, their yolk goes from an orange color to a lighter yellow color.  Even when labels say cage free the hens are most likely confined to a barn…which qualifies for the use of term ” cage free” on labeling….kind of sad. Now, I am not sure you how well you can see the egg white, but in the organic egg it is slightly more cloudy than the factory farm egg. The fresher the egg, the more cloudy the egg white will be. As eggs mature, the egg white becomes more clear.

So they way to tell if a hen has been confined to a barn or cage, and what kind of diet they consumed is by looking at the color of the yolk?

Well, not exactly. Factory Farms are clever in their approach to this. They use additives to the feed that will cause the yolk to be more of a darker yellow or orange color. The best way to know how your hens were treated and what kind of diet they consumed, is to know where they came from.

What you can do to make a difference:

  • Purchase your eggs from a local and sustainable farm.
  • Review the egg score card from the Cornucopia Institute to see how well the brand of eggs you purchase rate.
  • Don’t purchase factory farm eggs.
  • Read my other post on factory farming, here, to learn what egg labels really mean.

Source: Good Earth Organic Farm, Take Part Interview with Carole Morison