Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Olive You

Another great local spot is the Queen Creek Olive Mill. This hidden gem is "Arizona's own working olive mill and farm," according to their website. All olives grown at the farm are done so without the use of pesticides, due to the abundant Arizona heat (apparently, they don't have to worry about the olive flys that are usually predominant in olive farming).

Head out to the Queen Creek Olive Mill for their Annual Olive Festival until February 15th for olive oil, tapenade and wine tastings, as well as live music and tours of the mill. Enjoy lunch out in the olive grove at the olive mill's cafe, del-Piero. You can also buy their products online.

A Healthier (& Organic!) Option for Pizza

Support a local restaurant and check out Pizza Fusion in Mesa, Arizona, where they are "Saving the Earth, One Pizza at a Time."

The pizzeria features a range of organic ingredients as well as a few wheat-free, lactose-free and vegan options. (Check out the tasty looking vegan, gluten-free brownie, which I hear is amazing!) Their menu also includes a variety of organic beverages, including a few organic beers, salads and sandwiches. They even have cool little hybrids for delivery.

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A yummy organic beverage

Check out this cool organic giveaway from SimpleMom: Choffy.

According to their website, this functional beverage is made from 100% organic
cac√£o beans and is full of antioxidants and other great minerals, (without any sugar, dairy or other chemicals). Drinking a chocolate beverage without all of the "side effects," (i.e., sugar, fat, having to spend hours at the gym to work it off), um, yes please!

Check out
Choffy's website for more information (they even have a recipe to make your own Choffy Gelato...yum) and enter to win Simple Mom's giveaway to start your own stash.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Organic on a budget Pt. 2

We're all looking to be good stewards of our money, especially in the given economy. As mentioned in a previous post, a more wallet-friendly way to switch to an organic menu includes buying products that typically have a higher concentration of chemicals.
According to Dr. Alan Greene M.D. , author of Raising Baby Green, the following is a list of items that should be priority in your quest for organic: (Dr. Greene's Organixc RX)
  • Milk - “When you choose a glass of conventional milk, you are buying into a whole chemical system of agriculture,” says Dr. Greene.
  • Potatoes - "In recent USDA testing, the Environmental Working Group found that 81% of potatoes still contained pesticides after being washed and peeled, and the average potato had the highest total amount of pesticides of all of the 43 fruits and vegetable tested."
  • Peanut Butter - "More acres are devoted to growing peanuts in the U.S. than to any fruit, any vegetable, or any nut (peanuts are legumes, like beans or peas). More than 99% of these acres are conventional. Peanut Butter is the leading use of all these acres of peanuts."
  • Baby Food- "If I were going to pick only one time of life to eat organic, it would be from conception through age 3. Our bodies and our brains grow faster during this period than at any later time. Babies eat more than adults, pound for pound, and they are more vulnerable to environmental toxins. The EPA has concluded that carcinogens average 10 times the potency for babies than for adults, with some chemicals up to 65 times more powerful. The EPA does not yet have a formal policy addressing babies' exposure to chemicals that affect their bodies in other ways, such as their hormones, immune systems, or their brains - even though babies are clearly more vulnerable."
  • Ketchup / Catsup - "Just switching from conventional to organic catsup could significantly increase the nutrients in America's diet and decrease conventional tomato farming methods...And you might want to think about switching to organic marinara and pizza sauce at the same time."
  • Cotton - "...according to some studies, cotton accounts for 10% of all pesticide use, 25% of all insecticide use, and more total insecticide use than any other crop. And those used are among the most toxic. The World Health Organization estimates there are 25 million global poisonings and 20,000 deaths from all pesticides each year, not to mention the enormous damage to wildlife. Cotton is a major contributor."
  • Apples - "Consistently named as one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables, apples make my list because they are more popular than the other fruits and vegtables on the list... In 2005, apples were the second most commonly eaten fresh fruit after bananas) and the second most commonly used in fruit juice after oranges), making them the biggest pesticide concern among fruits. Apples are a major source of our exposure to organophosphate pesticides, which some studies suggest are linked to decreased intelligence and increased attention problems in kids, as well as changes in hormone levels for some adults."
  • Beef - "I suggest replacing conventional beef either with grass-fed organic beef, or with a variety of other plant or animal sources of protein, such as organic eggs, garbanzo beans (a huge source of plant protein around the world), quinoa (a wonderfully complete protein), or soy."
  • Soy - "More than 72 million acres are planted in soy. Soybean pesticide use in the US ranks second only to corn. In recent years soy has been the domestic crop found most contaminated with organophosphate pesticides. Beyond this, soy leads the way in genetic modification, with 87% of the soy planted in the U.S. genetically modified (62 million acres). Choosing organic is one way to be sure the foods you eat are GMO-free."
  • Corn -"More pesticides and more chemical fertilizer are used to grow corn in the US than any other crop. Most of the corn, almost 50 million acres of it, is GM corn."
  • Wine - "In my opinion, the closest thing to a Fountain of Youth nutrient may be resveratrol. It is found in the skin of red grapes, and has been shown, in at least some circumstances, to have gentle antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, neuroprotective, anti-aging, and life-prolonging effects... In testing, organic wines average 32% higher resveratrol levels than their conventional counterparts."
  • One other way to save: buy generic. Many stores are beginning to come out with their own generic brands of organic foods. Some to check out: Archer Farms (Target - some AF products are organic, but not always wallet-friendly), O Organics (Safeway), Whole Foods generic brand, Trader Joe's brand, and Wild Harvest (Albertsons). Keep an eye out for your local store to come out with its own organic brand.
Check out this link to the Organic Center's pocket guide to produce. Use it to identify which fruits and veggies should be purchased organic to reduce dietary pesticide exposure.

By choosing to purchase these items (or products with these ingredients), you will most likely be lowering your total concentration of consumed chemicals. Makes sense.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Do You Really Need to Buy Organic"

Check out this interesting and relevant audio podcast from Bon Appetit Magazine (December 25, 2006).

The interview features New York University nutrition professor and author of What to Eat, Marion Nestle discussing her book and her thoughts on organic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A little vino...

Arizona has some wonderful wineries around the state. Among them, you can find a few organic wines available.

Kokopelli Winery
Produces a variety of organically grown grapes
Grown in Bonita Valley, north of Wilcox, AZ
Wines available in grocery stores, as well as their two bistros located Chandler & Surprise

Granite Creek Vineyards, L.L.C.
100% Certified Organic Grapes, Sulfite-free wine
Chino Valley, AZ
Purchase wines at winery or local stores

In our quest for a more organic, chemical-free lifestyle, you may also want to look for wines with "no added sulfites" or "low in sulfites". Sulfites are chemical preservatives added to wine to prevent oxidation and bacterial growth. They've been linked to headaches and a variety of allergic reactions. Another FYI - European wines typically have more sulfites than American-made wines. And white wines require double the amount of sulfites than red wines. (Note, that some sulfites occur naturally due to the fermentation process.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, the USDA has strict guidelines using the term organic on the labeling of products. Since many winemakers choose to include sulfites in their wine (other than those naturally occuring), you may need to look for wines labeled "using organically grown grapes".

In addition to the Arizona wines, there are quite a few organic / organically grown wines that are worth mentioning and trying out for yourselves: (in no particular order)
  • Sanford Winery, Pinot Noir, 2000
  • Bonterra Vineyards, Syrah, 1999
  • Badger Mountain Vineyards, Riesling, 2002
  • Guy Bossard, Muscadet's De Sevre Et Maine, 2001
  • Frey, Syrah 2001
  • Frog's Leap, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1999 (organically grown, not certified)
  • Topolos Piner Heights, Zinfandel, 1999
  • Lolonis, Chardonnay, Redwood Valley, California 2005
  • Domaine Montanet-Thoden Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, 2005
  • Trader Joe's Organic Syrah
  • Rosenblum's Black Muscat Gallagher Reserve, Alameda, California, 2004
Remember that, like non-organic wine, you may need to try a few to find your niche.

Let me know if there are any other great organic wines we should be trying!

Hollywood goes Organic

Check out's, "10 Organic Diet Secrets of the Stars"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why Go Organic?

According to the Organic Center's Mission Organic 2010 website,
  • On average, organic produce contains about 30% higher levels of antioxidants. (Find out more about antioxidants and why they're vital to your health --- I HIGHLY recommend learning more about this health buzzword that's being touted in everything from produce to skin care products)
  • Organic farming helps fight climate change because soil treated organically absorbs more carbon.
  • Organic food is safer and more nutritious than conventional food, and you can be assured that organic food will never be irradiated or cloned
The Organic Center has created a video explaining the health and environmental benefits of a more organic lifestyle.

Serious Science, Serious Benefits

Monday, January 12, 2009

Organic on a budget

You may be thinking, "Great! I would love to eat healthier and not consume a chemical cocktail every time I eat or drink...but I can't afford it. Did you miss the memo, we're in the middle of a recession!?"

How can you make the most of an organic lifestyle while still sticking to your budget?

It's not about being perfect, but rather making subtle changes
in your lifestyle. You may have to take at look at what spending priorities mean in your life; do I really need a $5 drink from Starbucks everyday to "survive"? Do I HAVE to have the latest tech gadgets? Do we have to eat out a couple of time a week? To each his/her own. However, according to Laura Klein, publisher of, you can make the transition to organic without busting the bank.
  1. Commit to buying your favorites, organically
  2. Check out the organic food sections of your market to get to know which products you'll be buying on a regular basis - Safeway, Bashas, Albertsons and Fry's all have a "health" section, but selection may be limited. Also, try Whole Foods, Trader Joes, AJ's, Fresh & Easy, Sprouts & Sunflower Market
  3. Use a grocery list! - we should ALL be doing this, organic or not - eliminates those impulse buys, like those 3 bags of Dove Dark Chocolates that ended up in your cart because they were on sale....
  4. Prioritize your shopping list - and know where 'organic' counts (we'll touch more on this in the future)
  5. Look for organic generic or private labels from your supermarket chain
  6. Shop bulk
  7. Buy local & in-season - see Local Harvest link
  8. Don't rule out non-organic when it comes to local farmers
  9. Buy organic coffee and tea
  10. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) - check out the Local Harvest website link under resources
  11. Don't see it at your favorite grocery? Ask!
  12. Grow your own, organically! (This option isn't really an option for us in the desert - our ground is way too hard!)
  13. Buy Online - search for internet deals on organic products
  14. Check for local organic delivery services - Some located around Arizona include: Matt's Organics - Tucson,AZ (they have organic gift baskets too!), Boxed Greens - Tempe, AZ (they have everything from produce to pet food and household goods), Nature's Garden Delivered - Scottsdale, AZ (also includes coffee & tea and pet food)
  15. Spend a little more now and save your health later - you are what you eat! Think of it as preventative wellness - as opposed to the normal reactive medicine we engage in after we're sick
  16. Commit to eating out less - we should ALL be doing this regardless of our diets = more money in the bank for things that count!
  17. Think about your values when you shop
Check out OrganicAuthority for more information.

What does "Organic" mean?

I'm not going to lie, I was initially clueless about 'organic'; what it meant, what the standards are, what to look for (deciphering the organic "code" from manufacturers), the pros & cons of organic products, etc. Luckily, there are some GREAT resources online for all of us organic newbies. Here's a little breakdown...

The term
organic is often used these days to describe food or materials grown without the use of pesticides, antibiotics or other harmful chemicals. The USDA created The National Organic Program in conjunction with The Organic Foods Production Act, whose responsibilities include ensuring "that the organic agricultural products they purchase are produced, processed, and certified to consistent national organic standards. The labeling requirements of the NOP apply to raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients."
What does this mean to me as a consumer? Crops are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals to preserve shelf life. Ideally, animals raised as organic are supposed to be free from antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones, consume only organic feed and are free to roam (vs. living in cramped cages or pens their whole lives).

Unfortunately there is still much debate on what percen
tage of a product can be certified organic -AND- many companies are still using the term "organic" loosely on products that really should not be labeled as such. Not all organic products are created equal.

There are four categories of "organic" according to the FDA guidelines;
  • 100 % organic - may bear the USDA label shown above
  • Atleast 95% organic - may say "organic" on the label & may use USDA seal
  • Atleast 70% organic - may say "made with organic" followed by 3 specific ingredients & may use USDA seal
  • Less than 70% organic - may only list those organic ingredients on side or back ingredient panel, but not on the front and may NOT use USDA seal
Check out NOP Guidelines for labeling guidelines for organic products and Quality Assurance International.
What about "natural" products?

Many companies have jumped on the health bandwagon, and in attempts to get a cut of the burgeoning health and wellness industry, have used natural as empty marketing terminology to lure unsuspecting consumers. The term "natural" is not interchangeable with organic. According to the FDA, "the term 'natural' has not been defined in FDA's law...or in FDA's regulations," (FDA website). So watch out for products claiming to be natural (no matter how 'earthy' the packaging may look) --- read labels and if you have any doubts, contact the company's customer service for clarification.

Welcome to Organic Arizona!

A Resource for the Organic Life in Arizona

The term "organic" has recently become a trendy topic in our culture. With the many pesticides, preservatives and chemicals being blamed for illness, disease and antibiotic resistance, its no wonder we are becoming more aware of what we put into our bodies.

My itch to dive into organic was a combination of health and environmental reasons...that, and I didn't like that I couldn't pronounce or understand half of the ingredients I was putting into my body on a daily basis. In my own quest to migrate toward a more organic lifestyle, I found that resources for organic "newbies" like myself were sparse. I didn't know where to begin --- there's SO much information on the internet it's overwhelming! It seems like anyone and everyone has been touting the benefits of going organic but I wasn't sure which resources were legit and what the standards were for using the label "organic" for consumer products and/or services. It may not be financially feasible to go 100 percent organic in your life, but every bit counts!

I am NOT by any means an expert on the subject and there are still many uses in which the term "organic" is debated... However, I have tried to provide an array of resources for you to be informed consumers in your search for a more organic lifestyle. Enjoy!