Category: Lifestyle

Organic Raw Chocolate by Sacred Chocolate

Raw Chocolate by Sacred Chocolate: Interview with Founder, Steven Adler

We had the pleasure of interviewing Steven Adler, CEO and founder of Sacred Chocolate. In 2006, Sacred Chocolate introduced the first raw chocolate bar in the world. (Raw, in this case, means you’re taking the cacao seed—the primary ingredient of all chocolate—and not roasting it or grinding it at temperatures above 115 degrees Fahrenheit).

What strikes us about Steven’s story is that he’s a rocket scientist turned chocolate scientist! Applying his passion for engineering, raw foods and spirituality to chocolate making, Steven, along with his partner David Wolfe, were able to create one of the finest organic chocolate factories in California and perhaps the United States. Sacred Chocolate’s commitment to create organic, high-quality, clean, healthful and tasty chocolate is impressive… we wanted to know more. Here’s what we learned, after talking with Steven.

Sacred Chocolate, Food of the Gods

ZO – All the chocolate produced by Sacred Chocolate is raw. What’s so special about raw chocolate?

SA – Raw, organic chocolate contains higher levels of nutrients than that of processed commercial chocolate bars. Milk chocolate typically contains only about 30 percent cacao; the balance of the bar is made up of milk powder and cane sugar. The chocolate industry usually calls cacao “cocoa”; but, in reality cocoa is mainly used in reference to cocoa powder or cocoa butter, which are both derivatives of the cacao seed or “bean”. Botanically, cacao is actually a nut and not a bean. The botanical name of the cacao tree is “theobroma cacao”, theobroma meaning “food of the gods”.

Most cacao is roasted over 250 degrees F for 30-90 minutes. When chocolate is cooked at high temperatures, the antioxidants are degraded, as the chemistry changes and heat sensitive nutrients such as phenylethylamine (PEA) are destroyed or diminished. These nutrients, naturally present in chocolate, or more specifically cacao, are beneficial to the human body. A lot of plant chemistry is heat sensitive, and once you start cooking things the nutrients are diminished. The idea behind raw food is to preserve the nutrients and enzymes that naturally occur in the plant or food.

Our raw chocolate has twice the antioxidant content compared to a cooked, roasted and or otherwise high temperature processed chocolate bar at the same cacao content. There was a lot of trial and error involved in mastering our process, which involves slowly stone grinding the cacao below 115 degrees Fahrenheit. This is really special.

ZO – What makes Sacred Chocolate different from other chocolate?

SA – The main difference is we’re willing to do things other chocolate makers aren’t willing to do. We are the only chocolate maker that includes the nutritious husk of the cacao bean in its chocolate. There are a lot of phytonutrients in the husks, which are normally sold off as chicken feed or fertilizer by traditional chocolate makers.

Our cacao beans are cleaned in a special proprietary manner that maintains the nutrients and allows us the ability to include those nutritious husks in Sacred Chocolate. If you look at images of our cacao beans, you’ll see they look like almonds because they are so clean. No other chocolate maker is cleaning beans in the way we are. Cacao beans used by traditional chocolate makers are dirty after fermentation and drying, which forces them to roast them and winnow away the nutritious husks to avoid microbial contamination. We’re the only chocolate maker that takes the extra time and necessary steps to make truly “whole bean” chocolate.

There’s a lot of energy, electricity and gas just in the cooking process of making chocolate.

Cooking alone causes so much greenhouse gas, it’s unbelievable. Sacred chocolate is made in a certified organic, certified vegan, certified kosher, carbon balanced, and 100 percent renewable energy facility in California. Our ingredients are always raw where possible and always of the highest quality in terms of nutritional content, flavor, and food safety.

I’m adamant about praying over the chocolate, too. This is done in a sacred space.

ZO – What do you use to sweeten your chocolate?

SA – Our primary sweetener of choice is organic, eco-friendly maple sugar. It’s sustainably sourced from Canada and the USA, and is actually four to five times the cost of cane sugar, a common sweetener in chocolate. Maple is a wild crop which makes it very eco-friendly. Maple is around 55 on the glycemic index, and it is relatively low in free fructose.

The University of Tokyo found in a lab rat study that maple was the only commercial sweetener that improved the liver function of rats. They found it didn’t put stress on the liver of the rats.  The University of Rhode Island isolated quebecol in maple, which may help mitigate type II diabetes. Maple is also very high in certain trace minerals such as manganese.

We also use erythritol and inulin (from Jerusalem artichoke) as diabetic friendly sweeteners. All of the ingredients we use are sustainable, eco-friendly and of the highest quality.

According to Steven, cane sugar has caused an environmental disaster around the world because forests have been cleared on a massive scale to grow cane sugar.

Fun fact: Maple trees need to be in the ground for 30 years before they can be tapped for maple syrup and sugar.

 

Sacred Chocolate | Best Organic Raw Chocolate

ZO – We’ve heard there’s something special about the heart shape of your chocolate. Can you tell us more?

SA – Yes! It has a special characteristic: It’s built from sacred geometry. Each half of the heart is built out of a perfect, logarithmic curve growing at the rate of phi, which creates the perfect spirals. This reflects the Fibonacci sequence of numbers that show up everywhere in nature (conch shell, galaxies, sunflowers, etc.). That natural rhythm of life has been built into Sacred Chocolate:  a good reminder to live from your Sacred Heart.

Sacred Chocolate | Best Raw Organic Chocolate
Steven Adler visits a cocoa bean farm in Honduras

ZO – Where do you source your cacao bean?

SA – We source most of our cacao beans from a cooperative in Ecuador, known for its prized heirloom Arriba Nacional variety of cacao. We also source from Sri Lanka and Hawaii.

ZO – Hybridized cacao is causing deforestation around the world. Some people are aware of this issue around coffee, but many are not aware of the impact that commercial cacao growing is having in contributing to this agricultural disaster. What should consumers look for when buying chocolate?

SA – It’s truly a nightmare – particularly in West Africa. There are satellite images confirming all of this. Most of the chocolate industry is focused on the bottom line, in maximizing their profits using the smallest amount of land. When choosing chocolate you should make sure:

1) It’s organic.

2) It’s fair trade.

3) The cacao bean is heirloom or shade grown in a natural jungle environment. You need to talk to the company directly for this, as you won’t often find it on the packaging.

4) If you’re really health conscious, makes sure it’s raw.

Zebra Organics wholeheartedly supports Sacred Chocolate

After chatting with Steve, it’s evident that he is a smart, passionate, creative guy who cares deeply about the product he produces, the land that it comes from, the people that supply it to Sacred Chocolate, and the customers that end up enjoying these special chocolates. We fully support Sacred Chocolate’s mission to continue to produce the most exceptionally tasting and nutritious chocolate in the world.

All of Zebra Organics’ brand cacao and chocolate products are from heirloom variety, shade-grown trees that come from environmentally and socially responsible sources. One hundred percent of our Zebra Organics brand products are eco friendly, non-GMO, certified organic, and fair trade certified.

We carry some of the most delicious flavors of Sacred Chocolate; Twilight Dark Chocolate (69%), India Sunset Heart Bar (61%), Mylk Chocolate (58%) and the dairy-free white chocolate, White Passion. We look forward to hearing how you like them!

Interview: Dr. Friedlander on Collagen for Bone Health

As world-renowned physician, chiropractor, professional trainer and coach, Dr. Friedlander has a long history in the sports medicine field. We were fortunate to interview him for this blog post. Read on our listen to the interview on YouTube: Dr. Bernd Friedlander Interview – Collagen.Dr. Friedlander has been developing his current roster of products since 1990, which offer a wide range of solutions that promote health and longevity.

Q – What is Collagen?

A – Next to water, collagen is one of the most important structural substances in the body and is a major component of skin, hair, nails, muscles and joints. It is the mechanism that holds the calcium together in our bones and accounts for approximately 30% of all the protein content in the human body. I was one of the very first ones to really start using collagen for my patients in the 1980s.

Q – What led you to introduce a new brand of collagen?

A – After extensively researching the collagen on the market, I was unsatisfied with the quality of the products available and found them to be “watered down.” I conducted extensive research in obtaining the finest sources of collagen, which are largely composed of amino acids. I wanted a form of collagen that was of a very low molecular weight, low density and immediately absorbed without requiring further digestive enzymes to break it down.

My exhaustive search led what is perhaps the purest form of collagen on the market.I realized that one of the most important things in our bones, ligaments, tendons, skin, cell membrane, the lining of our arteries and spinal cord, is collagen. The principal that created all living systems that have a spinal cord and a central nervous system is called the nodo chord and is made of 100% collagen. This is the basic foundation for life.I wanted to make life simple for everybody and make sure they don’t need to take a million pills to find something that works.

Q – What sort of results have people seen from Collagen?

A – Improvement in the health of hair and nails have been reported by customers, as evidenced from using the product for only a relatively short period of time. Collagen has been proven to assist in cartilage recovery, the regeneration of hips and knees, ligaments, tendons, improve muscle definition, function and bone density and also has an anti-aging function.

Who should take collagen?

According to Dr. Friedlander, he has changed the lives of individuals from all walks of life. From bodybuilders, to professional athletes, to the frail, the elderly, exceptional results have been achieved from Dr. Friedlander’s work. Many people have said that they feel that they have had both short and long-term benefits from regular use of collagen.Dr. Friedlander has shared his products with world-class athletes; from teams that include the Raiders, Rams, Lakers, as well as athletes from across the globe that would travel great distances to seek his professional advice. Patients from a world-class sports facility located in Los Angeles were referred to Dr. Friedlander and he was able to assist in the recovery of some athletes without surgery.

Types of Collagen

Different types of Collagen and musculoskeletal supplements are available in store, depending on the results you are trying to achieve. Here are some options to consider when it comes to musculoskeletal health.

Collagen Peptide (powder) works to nourish your cells with the essential nutrition that may be lacking in the average diet.  It is anti-inflammatory, promotes wound healing, supports bone density, immune function, suppresses inflammation, repair/regeneration of ligaments, bones, tendons, skin.  Promotes gut function.

Collagen with amino acids (powder) The addition of amino acids promotes
anti-oxidant benefit, supports brain function, detoxification, wound healing and gut inflammation.

High performance coconut collagen – a proprietary formulation of collagen + colostrum + coconut milk powder and 22 vitamins and minerals. Promotes increased energy, wound healing, recovery, regeneration, and inflammation. This product was developed for those individuals that want a one stop nutritional product.  Excellent for the active individuals such as moms on the go as well as sports enthusiasts.

Ultra Blend Probiotic – supports immune function, gut inflammation, assimilation/absorption of foods and nutrients and weight loss.Note: The Team at Zebra Organics has experienced a number of products over the years but few standouts like Dr. Friedlander’s Ultra Blend probiotic powder. It sells with consistent satisfaction and enthusiasm from our customers.

MCT Oil – extracted from coconut oil, MCT oil is a fat that burns fat. Supports energy, brain function, fat burning function.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

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 in Santa Fe

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. May 6 – September 16, 2018

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.

almond-milk-healthy-living-zebra-organics

Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives – Which is right for you?

The industry for non-dairy alternatives to milk has grown exponentially in the last decade. In fact, worldwide sales doubled between 2009 and 2015 to $21 billion.

Buying milk from the supermarket is not as straightforward as it used to be. We aren’t just limited to full cream and skim; there’s a whole world of non-dairy options available. The most popular alternatives are derived from soy, almond, rice, coconut, cashew and macadamia. Oat, pea and hemp milks are also making appearances. Next time you’re at the supermarket, peruse the options and you’ll be surprised at the selection. Non-dairy alternatives are not only popular for those with allergies or intolerances to cow’s milk; they have become a lifestyle choice.

Tip: Look for “calcium fortified” varieties, which contain similar amounts of calcium to cow’s milk.

Healthy Non Dairy Almond Milk

Almond Milk

This is a fabulous alternative for vegans, as it’s lactose-, soy-, and dairy-free. If you have ever tried to purchase almond milk from the supermarket, you may have struggled to choose between the refrigerated options and long-life options. The only difference is that they have been pasteurized differently. Without getting too technical, they use either UHT (ultra high heat) pasteurization or HTST (high-temperature short-time) pasteurization. The UHT processing for shelf milk doesn’t actually deplete key nutrients like protein and calcium. (Fitness Magazine goes into depth about this).

If you’re tossing up between brands, the best way to choose is to do a direct comparison of the almond content. The unsweetened option is your best bet.

The not so good news

The thing about almond milk is that it’s not so great for the environment. It takes five litres of water to grow one almond. Around 80 per cent of the world’s almonds are produced in California (Almond Board of California) and the state suffered from a drought for more than five years (California Water Science Center).

According to estimates from Euromonitor International, almond consumption grew 15 per cent from 2012 to 2017 and growth is predicted to continue rising through to 2021 by 4 per cent annually.

Oat Milk

With the market growth in lactose-free alternatives comes the rise in the lesser-known oat milk. Made from steel cut oats mixed with water, oat milk is nut-free, high in fiber and has a neutral and creamy flavor. It requires six times less the amount of water to grow than an almond, making it much more sustainable to produce. Sweden-based Oatly was the world’s first producer of oat milk and has been making it for about 30 years. It has made its way into cafes in the United States and has been praised by coffee drinkers for its taste and consistency. Unlike soy milk, it reacts well to heating and doesn’t curdle.

raw-milk-organic-zebra-organics

Raw milk

Raw milk is a growing food fad but sales are restricted. In 17 states, raw milk is allowed to be purchased on the farm on which it was produced. Only 13 states in the US (which includes California) are allowed to sell their milk in retail stores. Selling and purchasing raw milk in Canada is illegal. Read more here. There is a long history and debate surrounding legalizing raw milk in the United States. Raw milk is unpasteurized, a process where milk products are heated to make them safe for drinking. Public health authorities claim that there is a risk of illness from raw milk consumption. Others swear by it and advocate the benefits. The Guardian investigated this further. If you’d like to learn more, we encourage you to watch the “Milk Money” episode as part of the “Rotten” Netflix documentary series.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is made from brown rice and commonly found unsweetened. It is often available in different flavours, much like almond milk. It’s low in fat and generally tastes sweeter than cow’s milk. Research suggest it lowers cholesterol and hypertension, and has anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative effects.

Hemp, soy, coconut, macadamia, cashew and pea milks are also great non-daily options. We recommend you do further research to ensure that you are choosing the best option for you. If you enjoy making your food from scratch, read our post on Homemade Nut Milk.

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.

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.

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.

Hydration, Fruits, Vegetables, Healthy Diet

Top Hydrating Fruits & Vegetables

Sometimes drinking your recommended daily intake of water can seem daunting. On average, approximately 20 per cent of our daily water intake comes from solid foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Many vegetables that are more than 90 per cent water are low in calories and are easy to digest, making them a great idea for a pre-work out snack.

According to research carried out by the University of Aberdeen Medical School in Scotland, water-rich fruit and vegetables may hydrate our bodies twice as effectively as a glass of water.

Research suggests that they may be more hydrating than some isotonic sports drinks, due to their content of mineral salts, natural sugars, amino acids and vitamins lost during exercise.

“To be properly hydrated, you need to replace fluid lost from the body with one that’s similar to the body’s natural composition,”
– Dr Susan Shirreffs, exercise physiologist and hydration expert at Loughborough University.

“Watery fruit and vegetables often contain levels of minerals and sugar that mirror this, so they can hydrate you more effectively than water alone.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Cucumber
Water content: 96.7%

Cucumber has the highest water content of any solid food. Great in salads or served with hommus, it can be blended with yogurt, mint and ice cubes to make a refreshing and delicious chilled soup. A cucumber can produce similar hydration levels to twice the volume of water with the bonus of calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium.

Iceberg lettuce
Water content: 95.6%

Although iceberg lettuce lacks the fibre, folate and vitamin K nutrients found in darker greens such as spinach and romaine lettuce, it has the highest water content of any lettuce. Instead of adding it to a sandwich, it can be used as a wrap for tacos and burgers.

Celery
Water content: 94.4%

Celery’s high water content helps neutralize stomach acid and it is commonly recommended as a natural remedy for heartburn and acid reflux. White containing folate and vitamins A, C and K, celery’s fiber content helps you feel full and curbs your appetite.

Radishes
Water content: 95.3%

Radishes are filled with catechin, an antioxidant that is also found in green tea. They spicey-sweet flavour of radishes can be enjoyed by slicing them up and tossing them with other ingredients in a summer salad.

Tomatoes 
Water content: 94.5%

An excellent hydrating snack that is well-paired with basil and mozzarella as an appetizer.

Watermelon
Water content: 91.5%

Watermelon is one of the richest sources of lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant. Containing essential hydration salts calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, watermelon is also high in vitamin C, beta carotene and lycopene, which helps protect the body from UV light.

Spinach
Water content: 91.4%

Raw spinach leaves are rich in lutein, potassium, fiber and folate. One cup of spinach will give you 15 per cent of your daily vitamin E intake, an antioxidant that fights damaging free radical molecules.

Other fruits and vegetables to note are the star fruit, strawberries, broccoli, grapefruit, baby carrots, green peppers, cauliflower and cantaloupe, which are all more than 90 per cent water.

Beans, healthy food

Top 10 Sources of Plant Protein

What is Plant Protein?

By now, we’re all getting used to the idea of protein coming from sources other than meat. It’s found in legumes, vegetables and whole grains and we don’t have to be vegan to prefer it.

Without reeling off big words in physiology, plant protein is just that: protein from plants. Your body doesn’t mind whether you nourish it with protein from steak or nuts, so you’re not losing anything by choosing plant protein. In fact, by reducing your meat intake, you are lowering your risk of heart disease and you will get the satisfactory feeling of knowing you ate your veggies. You’re choosing a sustainable and healthy option!

“I think that the U.S. is one of several developed countries that have just made it seem like protein is so pivotal to our health when in other countries their base diet is plant protein, beans and grains. I think it’s just evolved to be a cultural thing”
~ Dr. Michael Greger, internationally-recognized lecturer and physician

You do not need to combine a plant-based protein with a meat protein for it to become a “complete protein.” This is a myth. Plant protein is made up of essential amino acids, which our bodies can’t produce so they must come from our diet. All essential amino acids come from plants.

Top 5 Sources of Plant Protein

If there’s one thing you take from this post, is should be which foods are rich in plant protein. Dr. Leslie, registered dietitian and instructor at University of Hawaii, explains ideal sources of plant proteins:

“Any type of whole grain, beans (including tofu and edamame and soy milk), and nuts (including peanut butter). In terms of vegetables – primarily from the dark green leafy vegetables, so broccoli, spinach, kale, all of those have protein and a lot of people don’t realize that.”

Here’s our Top 10 List:

(1) Lentils

Lentils are affordable and easy to cook. From soups to curries and salads, lentils are a versatile ingredient that make for a great meat substitute.

Beans, healthy food

(2) Beans

Beans, especially soy beans, are a great source of protein. Beans are great for salads, tacos, chillies, or simply baked and seasoned on their own. If you buy dried black beans, remember to soak them for a few hours minimum, and then simmer them over heat before eating them. 

Source: Ruby Ran/Flickr

(3) Hemp Hearts

Hemp hearts have a sweet and nutty flavour. Sprinkle them on salads and cereal, add them to smoothies and baked goods and blend into stews and soups to thicken.

chia seeds, healthy food

(4) Chia Seeds

Similar to hemp hearts, chia seeds have a mild natty flavour. Sprinkle them on cereal, sauces, vegetables, yogurt or rice dishes. Add them to a glass of water and they will expand and create a gel-like texture.

quinoa salad, healthy grain, healthy food

(5) Quinoa

Quinoa is similar to couscous and is as versatile as rice. It can be served as a side dish with butter or oil, salt and pepper or other seasonings. It goes very well in veggie burgers, tossed in salads or mixed into stews. If you’re looking for a warm, hearty, flavourful breakfast on a cold day, you can’t go past a quinoa breakfast bowl. Trying mixing quinoa with dried or fresh fruit, cinnamon, almond or coconut milk and honey.

Sesame seeds, plant protein, healthy food

(6) Seeds

Protein-rich seeds include hemp, flax, chia, sesame and sunflower. Sprinkle seeds on salads and mix them into desserts and snacks.

Nuts for protein, healthy food

(7) Nuts

Protein-rich nuts include almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios and brazil nuts. Nuts can be blended into smoothies, mixed into salads, yogurt and can be enjoyed on their own as a snack.

edamame, vegetable protein, healthy food

(8) Edamame

If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant you’ve probably enjoyed edamame as a snack. Edamame are fresh green soybeans. To cook edamame that’s still in the pod, boil the pods in water with some salt, or steam them. They can be eaten hot or cold and can be added to risottos, stir frys or salads.

chickpeas, healthy legume, protein rich

(9) Chickpeas

Chickpeas are incredibly versatile. You can eat them hot or cold, canned or dried. They can be roasted and added to salads, used as a substitute for croutons in soup, or simply seasoned with salt and eaten on their own. They are best known for being turned into hummus.

tofu, protein rich, healthy food, plants

(10) Tofu

Derived from soya, tofu is a staple ingredient in Chinese and Thai cooking. Tofu is an excellent source of not only protein but amino acids, iron and calcium. It’s best enjoyed stir fried or in noodle bowls.


How much is enough?

You don’t have to spend too much time worrying about your protein consumption, provided you eat an array of grains and vegetables.

According to Harvard Medical School, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That is the bare minimum you need to eat to prevent getting sick. This is calculated by: Weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended daily protein intake (grams).

A sedentary young woman that weighs 155 pounds should be consuming 56 grams of protein per day.

Further reading:

If you’re curious about the risks associated with animal proteins such as meat and dairy, this article by the the University of Hawaii will be of interest to you.