Sprouted Organic Food | Zebra Organics

Interview with Joshua, Founder of Living Intentions

This week we spoke with Joshua McHugh, founder of Living Intentions, a raw food company based in California. We wanted to learn more and find out what they’re up to.

In case you aren’t familiar with them, Living Intentions were among the early pioneers of the modern sprouted food movement. Over a decade ago Joshua began offering sprouted, activated foods under his Living Intentions brand. He has stayed true to his name, in both his intent to offer clean, nutrient-rich, excellent tasting nuts and seeds and to assure his customers are getting living foods via their sprouting/activation techniques.

Living Intentions | Organic Food, California

What inspired you to start the company?

Many things! I really wanted to start a food company creating innovative snacks that were healthier than the alternative out there. This really kept me on the forefront of sourcing high-quality unique ingredients and herbal extracts from other functional foods.

What are the main benefits of a raw food diet? Would you encourage everyone to try it?

I would recommend anybody try it as part of a balanced lifestyle, I really preach the 80/20 rule: 80% raw, 20% cooked. It’s all about the enzymes. Enzymes create a pathway for the body to rejuvenate and heal.

What product can you not live without?

Two items, Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds and our new Superfood Popcorn.

Tell us how you do what you do in an environmentally friendly fashion.

Well first off, 99% of the ingredients we source are organic. We also source “transitional almonds”. “Transitional” is the process from conventional to organic and all farming is done in accordance to organic methods. We have helped a handful of farms move from a conventional crop to an organic crop over the last 15 years.

What’s been the biggest challenge you have faced since you launched the company? 

Business is a roller coaster, and things are coming at you from all angles. I’m not sure if there is one specific challenge, however, you just have to take it as it comes and work your way through the process of learning.

Who (or what) inspires you?

I am inspired by innovation. Whether it’s food music or anything else I feel like being at the forefront of any movement takes a lot of courage, strength and perseverance. That’s what inspires me.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to someone that wants to make healthy food choices?

The best advice is actually really simple but under utilized in today’s crazy world. Feel your food! Feel what you’re putting in your body, as it knows what’s good for you and if you can learn to listen to it, you will be a super healthy person.

“We’ve been selling Living Intentions since Zebra Organics was founded in 2007. I first tried them an Erewhon Natural Foods in LA, when they first came out over 10 years ago, and fell in love with the flavors and quality” – Randy Olsen, founder of Zebra Organics.

“I admire that Joshua and his company always have, and continue to, strive to educate people on the value of sprouted / activated / raw / living foods and the nutrient / health value of such foods.”

View our favourite products by Living Intentions here.

Learn more about sprouted foods.

Tocos | Zebra Organics Superfood

A Powerful Lesser-known Superfood

If you’ve never heard of Tocos, we’re about to open your eyes to this lesser-known superfood. Move over maca and anandamide (and any other powders and elixirs you may have in your cupboards); it’s time to make way for this nutrient powerhouse of rice bran.

The scoop on Tocos

Tocos, also referred to as tocotrienols, contains protein, minerals, vitamins and healthy fatty acids. It is derived from organically grown brown rice. (A grain of rice consists of three parts; the endosperm and the rice germ and rice bran).

Fun fact: Commercial white rice lacks the germ and the brain. They are removed from white rice to prolong shelf life.  

Rice bran is the nutritional powerhouse of the rice grain. Its nutritional density is quite remarkable. It is a super rich source of natural Vitamin E. Research suggests that Vitamin E has an array of health benefits. First and foremost, it is an antioxidant that helps to maintain healthy skin. It also helps protect against cancer and other chronic diseases (2010 study). Studies suggest that higher consumption of Vitamin E decreases the chance of developing heart disease.

More research is required to determine the complete role of Tocos.

Why you should try it

Tocos adds a creaminess and frothiness to drinks. It has a delicious vanilla flavour, similar to vanilla ice-cream. It’s like eating some kind of rich, natural protein mix.

How to use it

We recommend adding 1-2 tbsp to the potion of your choice. Our favourite way to use Tocos is to blend it into smoothies. It can be sprinkled on desserts, lattes, yogurt and cereal, and added to nut butters. It can also be used to make face masks with shea butter and raw honey. Try combining it with spirulina, acai berries and chia seeds for a great assortment of nutrients to support your health.

Remember to use a high-quality, raw form such as Rice Bran Solubles Tocotrienols.

Organic Coffee | Zebra Organics

Organic vs. Conventional Coffee – How big is the difference?

Coffee lovers are very particular about the flavour, aroma and origin of their brew. These are among the differences between one brand and another, but one of the biggest differences is whether the coffee is organically or congenitally grown.

You may already choose organic in the shopping aisle but why should you go organic for your brew?

To meet demand for one of the most sought after commodities in the world, farming methods have evolved to maximise production – often to the expense of the environment.

Avoid toxic chemicals

Conventional coffee is doused in pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilisers and more (check out this Finnish study). Farmers are exposed to these chemicals while spraying the crops and harvesting them. These highly toxic chemicals are damaging to our health and the chemical residue in the air may impact surrounding communities.

Better for the environment

Organic coffee is grown and produced chemical and synthetic fertiliser-free, meaning our beans, air, land and water are cleaner.Grown with organic fertiliser such as compost, chicken manure or coffee pulp, organic coffee production emits less carbon than chemical farms.

Tastes better

Coffee connoisseurs claim that it has a richer, fuller flavour than congenitally grown coffee.

Organic coffee grows better in the shade, which means coffee plantations can exist without destroying forests and animal habitats. Coffee was traditionally grown in the shade but growers shifted to the sun to increase yield.

Zebra Organics supports coffee growers by supplying fair trade coffee. Instituted to provide growers with better conditions and a higher profit margin, fair trade rules indicate that the coffee importer must have a direct relationship with the grower.

The organic coffee market has grown in popularity because people want to drink something they can feel good about. As a purchaser of organic coffee, you are supporting heathy ecosystems, sustainable farming methods and high quality coffee.

Fast facts

  • Coffee is the most respected beverage in the world. The coffee exporting business is worth a whopping 20 billion dollars. After crude oil, it’s the most sought after commodity on the planet.
  • Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries in South and Central America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. 90 per cent of the world’s coffee is produced by developing countries. The top three producers are Brazil, Vietnam and Columbia.
  • 90 per cent of Americans consume coffee every day.

Zebra Organics carries organic and fair trade coffee by Joshua Tree Coffee Company.

Almonds | Brain food

Top 10 Foods to Fuel the Brain

We know it’s important to eat well to keep our bodies in shape but are we forgetting about our minds?

Our diet can impact our mood, concentration and memory. Keep your precious brain functioning at its best with these top ten foods for brain health. After all, it’s the brain that controls most of our body’s activities so it’s important we feed it the right fuel.

Blueberries | Brain food

1. Blueberries

Strong scientific evidence exists that suggests that blueberries (not to mention blackberries and strawberries as well) have positive effects on the brain and may even help prevent memory loss. Berries are packed with antioxidants, which aid brain function by simulating blood and oxygen flow to the brain.

Salmon | Brain Food

2. Wild Salmon

Wild salmon is best known for its high protein and Omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 oils are important for an array of bodily functions, from digestion and fertility, to muscle activity and brain development.

Farmed salmon is a good alternative is wild salmon isn’t available, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

Almonds | Brain food

3. Almonds

Much like salmon, almonds are high in omega-3 fatty acid brain fuel. They also contain vitamin E that slows down the aging of brain cells that impact memory. A study in the American Journal of Nutrition found that almonds assist with improving cognitive dysfunctions in patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Broccoli | Brain Food

4. Broccoli

Broccoli is rich in brain-healthy nutrients such as Vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta-carotene. Studies have shown broccoli and some plant-based foods may help to slow cognitive degeneration. In recent years, Vitamin K has been seen to fight oxidative stress and inflammation related to Alzheimer’s disease. Data also exists that suggests it has the capacity to influence psychomotor behaviour and cognition.

Leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale also contain the same nutrients and can fuel the brain in a similar way.

Walnuts | Brain food | Zebra Organics Health Food

5. Walnuts

Studies have proven that cognitive function is greater in adults that consume walnuts. Snacking on walnuts or tossing them into a salad or onto cereal are easy ways to include them in your diet for improved memory, concentration and information processing. Walnuts contain more antioxidants, folic acid and vitamin E than any other nut! They are also high in Omega-3 fatty acids that support brain health.

Fun fact: Walnuts are the same shape as the brain! 

Avocado | Brain Food

6. Avocado 

A recent study by Tuffs University in 2017 found that avocado consumption in older adults increases a pigment in the brain that relates to better cognition. The research revealed that adults aged 50 and over that ate one fresh avocado a day for six months experienced improved working memory and problem-solving skills.

Research also shows that the high levels of monosaturated fats may help keep nerve cells in the brain healthy by improving blood flow.

Herb infused chocolate | Zebra Organics

7. Dark Chocolate

Flavonols, a type of antioxidant in cocoa, can help to improve blood flow to the brain and heart. It’s also found in apples, wine and certain types of berries and vegetables.

Chocolate lovers should remember that dark chocolate is the healthiest type of chocolate you can eat but it should be eaten in moderation. Here’s how it compares to milk chocolate.

Turmeric spice | Brain food | Healthy Living

8. Turmeric

Studies have proven that turmeric, a herb in the ginger family, aids with brain regeneration, helping to enhance memory. Widely grown in the tropics of Asia, turmeric has also been proven to prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by eliminating a plaque buildup in the brain.

Zebra Organics Coconut Oil

9. Coconut Oil

There is evidence to suggest that coconut oil can help people suffering of dementia to regain their cognitive function. It is important to note that more research is required to determine whether coconut oil is able to improve cognitive function in normal brains.

(Coconut oil is rich in MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) that break down into ketones. Ketones are transported to the brain when there’s no glucose for it to burn, but only in emergencies will the brain actually use ketones as an energy source).

Coconut oil is a healthy fat with an array of health benefits and can be used in lots of different ways. Read about them here.

Green Tea | Zebra Organics

10. Green Tea

Green tea is well known for its powerful effects on the body. When it comes to brain health, the large amount of caffeine naturally present in green tea has been found to “improve performance on long-duration cognitive tasks” (National Institute of Health).

A Singapore study found that regular tea drinkers (those who drank a cup to three or more cups a day) reaped the most benefits in terms of brain health.

Learn about our top 5 herbal teas here.

We recommend making a conscious effort to include these foods in your diet. This is important not just for brain health, but because they’re packed with a whole lot of nutritious goodness.

Hall Newbegin of Juniper in nature harvesting

Interview with Hall Newbegin of Juniper Ridge

We recently had another chat with Hall Newbegin, founder of Juniper Ridge, to learn more about what inspired him to develop the California-based wilderness fragrance company.

Tell us about the process of producing your essential oils. What’s that look like from harvest to bottle?

We start by choosing a place. That location dictates what and how we harvest. It’s pretty straight-forward. A small group of us sets out on a trail and we go deep. We all stick our noses in the dirt and come up with a consensus on what makes that place smell the way it does. Once we’ve figured that out, we start harvesting.

Take Redwoods and other conifers of the West, for example. We get a lot of our redwood essential oil from trees that fall down in winter storms. We are commissioned as the cleanup crew and collect materials from the site. If we’re not collecting fallen trees, we obtain permits from the US Forest Service or State Parks to venture into the woods and trim the bottoms of tall trees. The trees respond well to pruning, and of course keep growing taller and taller, well out of the range of even the most acrobatic wildcrafter. Neither the trees nor the ecosystem are harmed by this type of careful pruning. Everything we do is done with permission and harvested sustainably.

Essential Oils by Juniper Ridge | Zebra Organics

What makes your essential oils unique and stand out in quality?

There are no shortages of reasons we’re unique – we’re the freaks of the industry! Our problem traditionally has been that we’re so far out there no one understands what we’re doing.

We’re the only aromatics company in the world doing what we’re doing; harvesting the natural materials extracting the aromatics from beginning to end, so we have complete control over every step in the process.

We’re also the only company working with local western plants from the mountains – so we have that added differentiator. One hundred years ago, before the advent of synthetic / petrochemical fragrance, this would have been totally normal, but today it’s just freakish.

You harvest ingredients straight from Mother Nature. How do you ensure that you are doing this ethically, as stewards of the land?

Here are just a few of our guidelines for sustainable harvesting, which we always follow and have modeled after those set forth by the legendary hippie herbalist Howie Brounstein:

  • Do you have the permission or the permits for collecting at the site?
  • Are you at the proper elevation?
  • Is there any natural or chemical contamination?
  • Are there rare, threatened, endangered, or sensitive plants growing nearby at any time of the year?
  • Is wildlife foraging the stand?
  • Do you have the proper emotional state?
  • Look around after harvesting. Any holes or cleanup needed?
  • Are you picking herbs in the proper order for a long trip?

It’s a long, thorough list, but following it in detail keeps us diligent and responsible in our work. In addition to meeting the qualifications on this list, we make sure to only take excess growth, that is, smaller plants that won’t survive in the middle of larger, mature plants. Generally speaking, we harvest one plant for every hundred you see.

In addition to ensuring we harvest plants sustainably, we also give 10% of our profits to groups that defend western wilderness. In the beginning I used to write checks for $50 bucks to wilderness groups and they’d be like “thanks” but now we can write checks for thousands of dollars to wilderness groups – if I can use this business to put that kind of focus on protecting the few large remaining scraps of western wilderness, wow, that’s great.

What aspect of what you’re doing at Juniper Ridge most excites you?

Most people dream about getting bigger, but I dream about getting smaller, more specific and weirder. The only way forward for us is to keep digging into beauty. I want our priority to always be doing our best work to capture the spirit of a place and put it in a bottle. As long as we’re digging deep into the wild places we love, we can keep bringing you aromatic snapshots of our beautiful world.

How do you come up with new ideas? What gets your creative juices flowing?

It’s all so intuitive. It’s really more artistic than scientific. When I’m out there on the trail, my rusty gears start turning in my head. I smell the dirt and leaf covered logs and it just gets me going.

Did you have any mentors or creative influencers that inspired you on your journey?

Neil Young, Iggy Pop, Jerry Garcia and Lou Reed come to mind immediately. They were the first people to whisper in my ear and tell me to go out there and do the weird thing. When I was 13 or 14 years old, I listened to “Walk on the Wild Side” over and over again. Lou Reed was singing about street hustlers, transgender folks, junkies and a world so much bigger than anything I ever knew growing up in suburban Portland. It freaked me out, but I figured, when you’re frightened by something, it usually means you should be checking it out.

Around that time, I started going off script of what my family and the world expected of me. Then later on it became all about the nature and place based freaks – Gary Snyder, Wallace Stegner, David Wallace, all those folks. They were the ones who started singing more directly to me about place.

I’m a wilderness perfumer, which is a job that’s never really existed before and may never again. I’m a total freak, so it shouldn’t surprise you that my inspirations and heroes are freaks and wanderers, people who aren’t afraid to chuck everything that came before them and try something new.

Douglas Fir Spring Tip Tea by Juniper Ridge | Zebra Organics

What inspired you to produce tea? How did this product innovation come about?

We make things that bring the mountains into people’s day-to-day lives. So whether that’s done through wild harvested aromatics, or a wild harvested tea … I just love it all and get so excited about it! I started making those teas as some of my first products I sold at the farmers markets 20 years ago. They languished in obscurity for years, but I didn’t care.

A normal business would have discontinued the teas a long time ago, but I do things for love, never for money. So I stuck to them because I knew they were beautiful and sure enough now they are one of our strongest sellers. If you make something truly beautiful from the inside out, eventually you’ll find your audience.

Pick your favourite:

Douglas Fir Spring Tip Tea or White Sage and Wild Mint?

I’m going to go with white sage and wild mint. I tend to gravitate towards southwestern / desert plants in general, but this tea just oozes real magic for me and immediately transports me to the wild sage fields that I’ve been visiting every year now for 20 years.

Red Wood Mist essential oil or Cascade Forest?

Redwood Mist! I love the redwood country so much, and even though I grew up on the slopes near Mt Hood in the cascades and while I love Cascade Forest because it evokes those Summery, fir and pine alpine areas of my youth in the peak of wildflower summer, Redwood Mist is more emotionally resonant and complex for me.

What’s your all-time favourite quote that you live by?

That’s easy:

“Find your place on the planet. Dig in and take responsibility from there” – Gary Sndyer

It’s who I am and what I’ve done with my life. I always see everything through the lens of place. And yes, once you’ve found your place, become part of it in a deep way – smell the dirt, use your animal senses to engage with the place, and then the taking care of it and the stand up for it part just naturally flows from there, because you won’t be able to help yourself – you’ve fallen in love and you’d do anything to protect it to make sure it’s ok.

Learn more about Juniper Ridge and their products.

Hall Newbegin of Juniper Ridge, California

Hall Newbegin, Founder of Juniper Ridge, shares his story

What do you do when nothing smells better than the forest? You bottle it up and bring it home – and that’s exactly what Juniper Ridge, a California-based wilderness fragrance company does – with the utmost sensitivity for nature.

Hall Newbegin founded Juniper Ridge in 1998 and almost two decades later, the company is flourishing and offers a range of all-natural essential oils, incense, body wash, smudge sticks, tea and more. We asked Hall to share the story of how Juniper Ridge was conceived. Very quickly, it was obvious – he has a very special love for nature.

Here’s what he had to say.

I didn’t have a business plan or philosophy or anything when I started my business. I didn’t envision a fully-fledged plan, I just wanted to make something beautiful. I had my truck, clippers, a copy of Jepson’s Guide to California Plants and I just spent time out there learning. Smelling, crawling around on the ground and sticking my nose in the dirt.

There were so many different teachers who took me under their wings and started teaching me about the plants. I’ve never been very good at the Marketing/Business side of the industry.

For me, it’s all about the plants, the places and that quiet feeling that I get when I’m out on the trail.

That’s the germinal idea that inspired the beginning of Juniper Ridge; that rich quietness that descends on you after you’ve been out backpacking for two or three days – I live for that feeling.

I’ve spent my entire adult life learning about plants and places. I dabbled in some medicinal herb classes but found the classroom setting a little inappropriate given the material. I wanted to be out there.

I spent my twenties learning plant names and wild mushrooms, learning about harvesting from various teachers and fellow wilderness junkies. I spent my thirties working with plants and getting more intimate, and now, well, it keeps getting deeper and more interesting.

I feel like nature is this giant book and I’m only about halfway through the first chapter.

Hall Newbegin of Juniper Ridge in nature

Developing intuition and our animal senses

It feels like, the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. I’m really into paying attention to my intuition when I’m out there now, if my nose is telling me “wild bolete mushrooms,” I dive off trail and start looking. I don’t know if it’s something I smelled or some kind of primitive hunter-gatherer thing I’ve awakened, I just know my instincts. I’m just really interested in developing that intuition.

We’re animals and we see nature with our noses. The things we’re putting in that bottle, well, people can’t help but be taken someplace. You’re going to have a deep emotional response to some of the things we make.

Sometimes I stick my nose into an old rotting log, a patch of wet soil, or a handful of redwood and I start breathing it in and, I don’t know, I just can’t get enough of it and it starts to make me feel really good. This can lead to awkward scenarios on the trail when I’m laying on the ground with my face in the dirt moaning in ecstasy!

We’re animals, all of us – it’s the easiest thing to forget- we’re animals and we see nature through our noses.

Enjoying “scent” doesn’t just belong to me, or the 12 folks who work here, or the handful of perfume noses in the world, or the best chefs. It belongs to all of us. It’s our heritage as humans. “Scent” doesn’t happen only at a department store perfume counter, it happens when you’re eating, drinking wine, beer or coffee, gardening, and hiking.

Please do pay attention. Your nose has so much to give you. It’s given me so much pleasure in my life, it’s just such a rich world and it’s there for all of us.

View the products Hall and his team have created.

herbal tea, healthy beverage

Top 5 Classic & Exotic Herbal Teas

Need a pick-me-up? Turn the kettle on and reach for your favourite teacup. Tea is much better for you than sodas, juices and cream or sugar-loaded coffee. A hot cup of herbal tea can wake you in the morning and relax you in the evening.

Herbal tea comes with a wide range health benefits. They are a great source of vitamins and minerals, can soothe an upset stomach and insomnia and can put a troubled mind at ease. A steaming cup of herbal tea can help to relieve nausea, bloating and an array of common ailments.

Herbal tea doesn’t come from a specific plant but is rather an infusion of leaves, seeds, roots or bark that are extracted in hot water. Consuming herbal teas means were are receiving the benefits of plants in digestible form.

To ensure that you are reaping the full benefits of your tea of choice, be sure to follow the steeping directions. Sometimes steeping for 10 to 15 minutes is required to bring out all the healthful properties. Also note the temperature indicated on the tea box – with some green teas, the water should be cooler than boiling temperature.

While there are many different types of herbal tea, these are some of our favourites.

yerba mate herbal tea | healthy

1.Yerba Maté 

This traditional South American tea is brewed from the leaves of a flowering tree and is known as nature’s original energy tonic. Nutritious and energizing, it contains nearly twice the amount of antioxidants compared to green tea. It’s also rich in B vitamins and minerals that help to combat stress.

This tea is traditionally consumed in a mate gourd with a bombilla straw. Look for organic yerba mate for a smooth, clean flavour.

herbal tea, healthy beverage

2.Ginger and Lemon

Known for strengthening your immunity, ginger and lemon tea is one of the best teas you can have. It’s been used for thousands of years to help treat colds, nausea, arthritis, migraines and hypertension. Ginger is now is one of the most popular dietary condiments in the world (Surh et al. 1999).

Organic Green Tea | Healthy Living | Zebra Organics

3.Green Tea

If you aren’t drinking green tea yet, it’s time to start now. Packed with antioxidants that help protect against cell damage, research has established that green tea features cancer-fighting, happiness-boosting and brain-saving properties. Having a cup first thing in the morning will enhance mental alertness. Green tea can be enjoyed in many ways, from matcha green tea lattes, to tea bags, or class loose-leaf versions. Green tea is most beneficial if it is steeped at a warm, not boiling, temperature.

Douglas Fir Spring Tip Tea by Juniper Ridge | Zebra Organics

4.Douglas Fir Spring Tip

Delight your senses with flavours of bright citrus, herbal mid-tones and earthly base accents. Harvested from the Douglas Fir tree native to the mountains of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, this tree is second in size to the two California Sequoia species and grows to enormous proportions. It’s important to ensure that you are purchasing a sustainable product when it comes to Douglas Fir Spring Tip tea. Try this tea by Juniper Ridge. It is a dedicated steward of the wild lands where they ethically and sustainably source the raw ingredients that go into this tea and all their products.

We supports companies that seek to build a harmonious relationship with the land, as well as creating economically viable environmentally friendly organizations.

White Sage and Wild Mint Tea, Juniper Ridge | Zebra Organics

5.White Sage and Wild mint

Suffering from stress? This tea will help put you back into the right frame of mind. This is a cozy, complex tea that tastes as good as it smells – its scent is calming and reminiscent of winter. Its top notes are refreshing mint, herbal mid-tones and resinous base accents. Harvested from the Mojave dessert in California and Nevada, the longer you steep this tea, the more earthy tones will be uncovered.

Juniper Ridge has gone above and beyond to create tea that captures the heart and spirit of nature. Juniper Ridge products are truly unique, sourced from remote areas of the west coast of the United States. These are relatively untouched environments where plants thrive and are places we may never get to visit but we can at least experience their exquisite scents.

BGreen food Team, Organic Health Food, Zebra Organics

An Interview with Alan Sklar, co-founder, BGreen Foods

In today’s day and age, a gluten-free lifestyle is growing in popularity. Even if we aren’t required to eliminate it from our diet for health reasons, many of us are choosing to. (In the USA, this number tripled between 2009 and 2014 according to the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine).

To learn more, we spoke to Alan Sklar, one of the founders of BGreen Food, a producer of 100% organic, non-GMO, naturally gluten-free foods since 2012.

What triggered your interest in gluten-free and organic foods?

I’m celiac myself. That’s how it all came about. I couldn’t find good tasting food that was good for me. I realized that a lot the food we consume contains added sugar and is filled with corn. I wanted good food that was non-GMO, non-artificial and healthy.

[Wondering what’s wrong with corn? It’s starchy food that’s high in cellulose, a fiber that is difficult to digest. Due to its high glycemic index, it can cause intense blood sugar spikes, which can ultimately make a person feel more hungry].

Would you recommend gluten-free foods to anyone? Or only people with intolerances?

Yes. Try going gluten-free for two weeks and let your body tell you how you feel. You’ll find articles that discourage a gluten-free diet if you are not Celiac because of a loss of nutrients. This isn’t true.

[There are many gluten-free grains including quinoa and buckwheat that are a great source of protein and fibre].

Be sure to read the labels, as not all gluten-free foods are created equal. I recommend avoiding those with added sugar and fat.

How do you ensure you’re sourcing the highest quality food?

Most farms that we source from are in very rural areas, far from anything else. The reason for this is because there’s a reduced risk of contamination. Most people aren’t aware that most of the corn in USA is genetically modified. If Monstanto has a farm down the street, who is teaching the birds and bees not to migrate from toxic fertilized crops to migrate to organic crops? I take aerial photos of the products we’re using to make sure they are not cross contaminating with toxic substances.

Can you tell us about the farms you source from? 

We have a really wonderful relationship with a farm in northern China near the Russian border. It’s located near the longest river in China, in a very rural area. That river feeds minerals to a beautiful mountaintop where our black rice is grown. It’s cultivated by hand with wicker baskets, without the use of machinery.

The farmers have the utmost respect for the rice and their ancestors that originally planted it. Once they accidentally spilt some grain but refused to proceed until they had retrieved it all. The way in which they cultivate and harvest rice has been passed down from generation to generation. This family and farm really care about what they do. You don’t get that in this kind of world.

I’ve never seen black rice look as beautiful as it does when it comes from this farm. It’s like every grain is sparkling. We’ve tried to source this rice from elsewhere but we always find it’s got a brown, white or red tinge. It’s not as pristine as this rice.

BGreen Organic Food, Zebra Organics

You offer a few different types of pasta. What’s your best seller and why?

Since 2012 we’ve been offering five types of pasta (and black rice). The best seller would have to be the buckwheat pasta. It contains 12 grams of plant protein per serving, which is very important to vegetarians. It’s like eating one hard-boiled egg. Body builders love it, as well as vegans and vegetarians that are looking for more plant protein.

Black rice, BGreen Food, Zebra Organics

For those that haven’t tried black rice pasta, can you tell us a bit about it? What makes it black? 

Black rice is black due to the heavy concentration of minerals it contains. It accounts for approximately 10 per cent of the rice grown in the world. It’s known as the “forbidden rice”, as centuries ago it was reserved for Chinese royalty only. Nobody else could eat it.

It takes us two weeks to turn black rice into black rice pasta. That’s how long it should take but I’ve heard of some companies cutting corners and only making the pasta in 20 minutes. We invest the proper time and energy to create a high quality product. We are required to test for carcinogens three times to ensure the product doesn’t arsenic. We’ve been able to craft a product that contains 100 times less than what’s allowed by FDA standards. 

What product can you not live without? 

I would say the black rice and buckwheat pasta. Our black rice pudding recipe is really popular. It’s vegan and is made with coconut milk, vanilla, orange zest and coconut sugar.

What sets you apart from other organic food companies?

Our dedication to knowing that our products are gluten free, non-GMO and organic. We don’t deviate from that at all. A lot of companies have two or three gluten free or organic products to offer but the rest are full of sugar. We are fully committed to only offering 100% organic, non-GMO, naturally gluten free foods.

Our products are rich in nutrients and are flavorful. That combination is hard to find. We’re fortunate enough to produce food that people thrive on. They literally feel the energy of eating pure buckwheat products, compared to something else. I’m proud of what we produce and how clean the food is.

What’s coming down the pipeline for BGreen?

There is a black bean pasta that we are looking at creating. Stay tuned for more details!

How do you see the health food industry evolving and what role will BGreen play?

My ambition is to make organic, gluten-free, non-GMO foods mainstream and priced right. I don’t want people to think these are hippie herbal foods. I want them to know that they taste great and they feel great when they eat them.

These days we eat so many foods that are GMO and are very processed. A lot of people go through life without being aware of why they have migraines or why they have bloating. These are minor issues in this day and age but they are often related to what we put in our body. People don’t realize that they don’t need to eat as much when they eat nutrient-rich foods, compared to empty calories. Be sure to read the labels on packaging so you know what you’re eating.

Interested in trying BGreen Food? View the selection.

Sprouted beans, Healthy Nutritional Food

Don’t Doubt the Sprouts

Sprouted Foods – Are they actually healthier?

Have you started to notice sprouted foods in grocery stores? Sprouted trail mix, pasta, nuts, seeds, bread – they are popping up everywhere. Are they actually more nutritious than non-sprouted plant foods? We’ve done the digging to find out the basics.

What is Sprouted?

When you think of sprouts, alfalfa and bean sprouts may be the first that come to mind but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Every sprouted food is a type of seed. Picture sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds – but that’s not all. Chickpeas, green peas and split peas are seeds as well. Some grains, including lentils, are known as a “pulse” which means they are harvested for their seeds. These can also be sprouted, as well as some legumes, quinoa, oats and nuts.

Sprouted Foods, Healthy Food, Nutritional Food

How Sprouting Works

Sprouting is the process of bringing a seed to life. You are most likely familiar with how seeds work. They consist of the raw materials that grow into a new plant when temperature and moisture conditions are ideal. Sprouted foods are essentially seeds that have begun to grow but aren’t baby plants yet. If a food is sprouted, it’s still very much living and growing.

Once a seed sprouts, the nutritious properties of the seed are released so the baby plant has more energy to grow. The theory behind eating sprouted foods is that those nutrients are more available to us as well, and they are easier to digest.

The sprouting process involves soaking the seeds, nuts or grains in water and rinsing them repeatedly until they begin to grow a tail-like feature. This mimics Mother Nature’s process of turning a seed into a plant. For most seeds, nuts, grains and legumes the sprouting method is more or less the same; it’s just the time that varies.

The Benefits

Enhanced nutritional value

The biggest benefit of sprouted foods is their enhanced nutritional value, as we mentioned above. Studies show sprouted cereal grains are higher in amino acids and B vitamins and contain less starch.

Improved digestion

Sprouted foods improve digestion. The raw materials in the food that become available when it’s sprouted come in enzyme form. Enzymes are crucial to digestion, as they are responsible for breaking down the food and increasing the absorption of nutrients. They would be a good choice for someone with a sensitive gut.

Enhanced natural flavours

Sprouting often enhances natural flavours without compromising nutritional value. We recommend Living Intentions for their sprouted seeds and trail mixes. Sky Island Organics offers a great selection of sprouted trail mixes and nuts, including walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios and brazil nuts. View their selection.

Scientific research

Promising scientific research exists about the benefits of sprouted foods. A study by the International Plant Grower’s Association outlines the benefits of eating sprouted foods and their anticancer properties. The Whole Grains Council lists additional benefits.

Sprouting at home

Sprouting is not difficult, but there is a risk of bacterial contaminiation. There are some great online resources for sprouting foods at home. Seeds should be purchased from a certified supplier and the seeds and container should be sterilized before sprouting.

Top 5 of our Favorite Farmers’ Markets in the USA

There are so many reasons why one should visit a farmers’ market. What we love most is all the freshly picked produce of course, and the rare opportunity to chat to the farmer directly – you might learn about new ways to store and prepare your favourite foods! Every trip to a farmers’ market ignites a new story. All these markets are charming, in beautiful settings and have their own unique personality.

Farmers market, healthy eating

1. Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, New Mexico

Located at the historic Santa Fe Railyard in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this market is one of the best around that features local agriculture of Northern New Mexico as well as a variety of chilies, foods and an abundance of sauces made from recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.

More than just a farmers’ market, you’re in for a truly unique experience. Added bonuses include health screenings, food demonstrations, samples of healthy, affordable meals and even the occasional exercise class.

Location: 1607 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Hours: Tuesdays and Saturdays 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Wednesdays 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Visit their website


Wheatgrass shot, Maui Farmers Market, Hawaii, Healthy Eating
Picture by Steven Depolo via Flickr

2. Upcountry Farmers’ Market, Maui, Hawaii

Operating for more than 40 years, this is a magical market has an abundance of organic vegetables (you almost have to go out of your way to find a conventional vegetable on Maui). There are many community chefs that make a variety of vegetarian, vegan and raw foods sold at this market. Apart from fresh, locally grown organic produce you’ll find coconuts, macadamia nuts, fresh fish, tropical flowers, plants and trees, Maui-grown coffee, Lilikoi butter, plus a bunch of new offerings weekly. Check out HawaiiOnTv’s coverage of the Farmers’ Market.

Location: 55 Kiopaa St, Makawao, Maui
Hours: Saturdays 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Visit their website


farmers market, healthy eating, healthy living, palm springs

3. Palm Springs Farmers’ Market, California

Our very own Palm Springs Farmers’ Market is part of a seasonal trio of markets called the Coachella Valley Certified Farmers’ Markets. It is open year-round the other two in the valley close for the hot summer season. Although Zebra Organics and Palm Springs are situated in the Sonoran Desert, we are surrounded by a profound variety of very nearby climates that provide the perfect growing conditions for a diverse range of produce. Although this market is smaller than those in larger cities, the quality of produce is outstanding – it will make you want to get out your blender and food processor and whip up your favourite dish.

Location: Palm Springs Pavilion, California
Hours: Saturdays, 8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Plus a new Summer Market at Westfield Palm Desert, California
Hours: Sundays, 9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Visit their website


farmers market, heritage cheese, new york city

  4. The Union Square Greenmarket, New York City

Featuring more than 140 regional farmers, fishers and bakers in peak season, this world famous market is open a few days a week and is always a special treat. It is an oasis in the city that provides an escape from the hustle bustle of urban life. It’s known for its fresh fruits and vegetables, heritage meats, award-winning farmstead cheeses, artisan breads, jams, pickles, fresh-cut flowers and plants, wine, ciders, maple syrup and more.

You can’t beat the electric atmosphere in one of New York’s greatest public spaces. As many as sixty thousand people a day flock to the market, from shoppers that come to chat with farmers, to students of all ages that come to learn about seasonality. Since its debut in 1976 with just a few farmers, this market has grown exponentially. Keep your eyes peeled for cooking demonstrations by some of New York’s most popular local chefs.

Location: Union Square, E 17th St & Broadway, New York City, NY
Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Check out their website


Eggs, Farmers Market, California, Healthy Eating
Picture by Foodlander via Flickr

5. Santa Monica Wednesday Market

Welcome to the largest grower-only certified organic market in Southern California. Spread out over four city blocks, Santa Monica’s Wednesday market showcases 75 farmers and a vast selection of goods. Three growers have set up shop here since 1981 when the market first opened; Flying Disc Ranch in Thermal, Mike and Sons Egg Ranch in Ontario and Scotts Farms in Dinuba. Chefs from across Los Angeles gather at the market for the first fresh pick of goods. The quantity and quality of produce is astounding!

Location: Arizona Avenue, between 4th & Ocean, Santa Monica
Time: Wednesdays 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.