Why Should We Actually Eat Organic?

Even though (thanks to my wonderful parents) I’ve been eating organic ever since I was a baby, I didn’t truly know what that meant until I became an adult.

I knew it was better for our bodies, but I didn’t really know why. I just assumed it was because the produce was higher quality…..

While many people argue that the term “organic” is a marketing scheme or little more than just a buzzword, the science tells us that’s just not the case.

The main case for eating organic is, of course, the pesticides & herbicides commonly used in conventional farming.

When a plant is sprayed with pesticides, that plant then becomes deadly to insects. This includes pollinators, such as bees, who play a crucial role in the health of our ecosystem.

Even more unfortunately, these pesticides don’t just stick to the plant they’re sprayed on….

Pesticide run-off contaminates clean water sources that precious (and even endangered) species of wildlife inhabit, cross barriers into neighboring organic farms, evaporate into the air and cause respiratory and digestive issues in sensitive individuals, decimates soil bacteria and quality for future farming and kills our already suffering population of honeybees.

Herbicides on the other hand, kill weeds and unwanted plant growth.

The most commonly used form of herbicide in the United States is called glyphosate.

What is glyphosate exactly?

“Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. It is a broad-spectrum herbicide, considered to be nearly nontoxic to humans (Williams et al.2000). However, a recent paper (Samsel & Seneff, 2013), argued that glyphosate may be a key contributor to the obesity epidemic and the autism epidemic in the United States, as well as to several other diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, depression, and cancer. ” – This Study on the link between glyphosate and celiacs disease.

As a resident of Sonoma County in Northern California, I will say that during summer months when glyphosate use is most prevalent (as well as yard work such as lawn-mowing that disperses the molecules into our atmosphere) I have an increasing tendency towards digestive issues, brain-fog and headaches.

The same study cited above states that: “Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria.”

I could cite hundreds of studies on the adverse effects glyphosate has on the body – and I will probably list a few more pretty soon.

So, glyphosate is designed to kill plants… but it’s still used in farming?

Yep! This is because in 1996, a company called Monsanto (also responsible for the pioneering of glyphosate as an herbicide) released its own breed of genetically engineered plants called “Roundup Ready Crops”. They started with soy beans, followed shortly by corn and cotton.

These seeds had their DNA altered so they could withstand glyphosate, while it killed the other surrounding unwanted plants.

Whether you’re pro-GMOs or not, the evidence is clear that there is a significant amount of seed contamination between Roundup Ready seeds and Non-Roundup Ready seeds.

For example, there have been multiple cases of Roundup Ready crops appearing randomly in the fields of non-GMO farms.

Regardless of opinion, I think most people would agree that the public should at least have a choice as to whether they’re consuming GMOs or not.

But this crop contamination isn’t the only way that glyphosate affects farming.

“This system is altering the whole soil biology. We are seeing differences in bacteria in plant roots and changes in nutrient availability. Glyphosate is very systemic in the plant and is being released through the roots into the soil. Many studies show that glyphosate can have toxic effects on microorganisms and can stimulate them to germinate spores and colonize root systems. Other researchers are showing that glyphosate can immobilize manganese, an essential plant micronutrient.” – Microbiologist Robert Kremer for The Organic and Non-GMO Report.

Along with permanently altering the microbiome beneath the plant, glyphosate also alters the plants themselves.

What happens when the chemicals introduced into our ecosystem start to actually genetically alter the affected plants?

I don’t want to know.

Luckily, the Organic Certification is there for those of us who wish to avoid pesticides.

While buying organic can certainly limit one’s pesticide consumption, the line between conventional and organic is growing thinner and thinner.

This is especially true for certain mass-cultivated organic crops (I’ll be using grains as an example, but this issue is also prevalent in other agricultural sectors such as the grape and wine industry) where glyphosate has been found on the harvested plants.

And I’m not talking small amounts of residue.

According to Health Impact News, “… Tropical Traditions tested the USDA certified organic grains from suppliers they had been using, sourced mainly from western states such as Montana and Idaho. Sadly, the presence of glyphosate residue was found in organic wheat and other organic grains, including organic barley, oats, spelt, and einkorn. The range was from 0.03 to 0.06 mg/kg, just slightly lower than the conventional grains that were tested.”

Could this explain the sudden increase in individuals with “Gluten Intolerance”?

What I can say is, I’ve heard (time and time again) stories of how an individual with a gluten intolerance went on vacation to Italy, ate a bowl of wheat pasta or bread, and felt fine.

This might be because Italy, along with several other countries, has put strict regulations on the use of pesticides and herbicides in farming.

And for good reason.

When I found the following two graphs in an article written by two independent scientists (Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff) I was shocked to say the least.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but everything starts in the gut.

When we take an already extremely sensitive microbiome such as our gut, then add chemicals like glyphosate into the mix, we end up with digestive tragedy.

“Glyphosate, patented as an antimicrobial (Monsanto Technology LLC, 2010), has been shown to disrupt gut bacteria in animals, preferentially killing beneficial forms and causing an overgrowth of pathogens.” – Samsel & Seneth.

Glyphosate wrecks healthy gut flora, permeates the intestinal barrier thus causing severe food allergies, and can cause liver disease at levels far under what the U.S. permits as “safe”.

A recent study where rats were exposed to low levels of glyphosate over a substantial period of time suggests that this toxic chemical has an ill effect on liver function – even in very small doses.

“… a 2-year study was conducted where rats were administered with a Roundup GBH via drinking water at a concentration of 0.1 ppb (0.05 μg/L glyphosate; daily intake 4 ng/kg bw/day), which is an admissible concentration within the European Union (0.1 μg/L) and USA (700 μg/L). The results showed that Roundup caused an increased incidence in signs of anatomical pathologies, as well as changes in urine and blood biochemical parameters suggestive of liver and kidney functional insufficiency.”

Ok, so clearly there’s some controversy around the safety of this toxic herbicide.

I want to end this article with some actionable tips for keeping pesticides and herbicides out of your body!

  • Eat Organic – This is the most obvious but also the most accessible way to avoid pesticides ending up on your plate. While organic doesn’t necessarily guarantee zero pesticides, it’s a much safer bet than buying conventional.
  • Find Pesticide-Tested Products – More and more companies are waking up to the threat that pesticide use imposes on organic farming. Many organic companies are now actually testing their products for glyphosate residue. This is especially important to look for when buying grains and alcohol, where cross-contamination is most prevalent.
  • Buy Your Pasta From Italy – This is a great option for those buying on a budget. Since wheat grown in Italy is likely to have far less glyphosate than wheat grown in the U.S.A., buying even conventional pasta that’s imported from Italy could be safer than buying pasta that’s made in America. (This applies to wine, olive oil and tomato sauce too!)
  • Keep Up With the Dirty Dozen – Every year, a list is released with the top twelve fruits and vegetables that are grown using the most pesticides. Respectively there’s also a clean fifteen list with the top fifteen fruits and vegetables that are less likely to be grown with high quantities of pesticides. This is a super helpful tool for those buying on a budget. (I would love to write a separate post about buying organic on a budget soon!)
  • Buy Locally – While produce grown in areas where pesticide use is particularly high, buying locally is still always a good idea. Here in Sonoma County, we’re actually living in a glyphosate “Red Zone”, meaning there’s an extremely high amount of glyphosate use in our area. However, small, local organic farmers are likely to care immensely about how their crops are grown. Furthermore, locally grown produce is fresher and higher in nutrients, so the benefits outweigh the negatives – in my opinion.
  • Grow Your Own – This is probably the most effective way to avoid pesticides. When you have complete control over your plants, how they’re grown and even what type of soil is used, there is little room for cross-contamination. Plus, it forces you to eat seasonally and generally tends to be a lot cheaper than shopping at the farmer’s market.
  • Take Supplements – While this is certainly an investment, I believe that your health is well worth it. Supplements such as Restore, Spirulina and Chlorella are all wonderfully supportive to our microbiome and help to keep the ill effects of pesticides at bay.

So there you have it! There are tons of great ways to keep pesticides off your plate.

Bottom line, there’s plenty of evidence out there supporting the idea that pesticides are wildly detrimental to the health of our bodies… and the planet.

Hopefully, we will get this toxic chemical out of our food system with strict regulations and widespread education!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

Raw Vegan Tummy-Loving Lemon Custard

I’ve always been a huge fan of lemon… mainly in desserts.

Lemon bars, lemon cake, lemon ice cream… the list goes on!

I think I got this from my mother, a serious lemon fanatic.

I’ve been craving lemon ever since the weather started getting warmer, but I didn’t want to make a huge, heavy dessert.

Part of me wanted to just suck it up and make lemon bars, but that would require a lot of work… and I just wasn’t feeling that. Ya know?

So, I grabbed a few lemons at the grocery store and headed for home.

And thus, this recipe was born.

This lemon custard is bright and flavorful, and has all the sunny spring vibes.

Plus, it takes literally 5 minutes to whip up (besides opening the coconuts).

It doesn’t need any thickeners, gums or food colorings, and somehow has an unbelievably creamy, pudding-like texture.

You can make it as lemon-y as you want. I added one lemon, but I could see myself adding another half if I was seriously craving that tart citrus flavor.

This recipe also contains prebiotic fiber AND probiotics, making it a wonderful breakfast or dessert for sensitive tummies (such as myself)!

These are totally optional, and can be left out. (They don’t affect the flavor at all if you choose to opt out of adding them.)

This custard would also be delicious topped with fresh berries or granola, but I love it by itself, topped with a little extra turmeric.

This recipe is also keto-friendly by default, but if you prefer to use a different sweetener, go for it. If you’re using a regular sweetener like honey or maple syrup, I would start with 2 tsp and work your way up from there.

If you’re making this keto like I did, keep in mind that every sugar-free sweetener is a bit different, so start off slow and continue to taste until your desired sweetness is reached.

This recipe makes 2-3 substantial servings.

Ingredients:

2 cups young Thai coconut meat
1 tbsp coconut water, plus more to blend if needed
Juice & zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
5-10 drops organic stevia
1 tbsp organic erythritol (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 pinch sea salt
1 scoop probiotic powder (optional)
1 tbsp acacia fiber powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a high speed blender and blend well, adding 1 teaspoon of coconut water at a time until a super thick, but smooth consistency is reached.
  2. Store covered in the fridge for up to 2 days, but best enjoyed immediately.

Enjoy! ❤

Aloe Vera, Nature’s Slimy Skin Serum

Ahh, aloe.

When I was little, I was obsessed with the slimy, antibacterial succulent. Any time I got any little scratch or cut, I would beg my mom to slice open a leaf of aloe vera so I could slather it all over the aforementioned injury.

I didn’t know much about aloe, or any of it’s magical healing properties, I just knew it was slimy, looked cool and left a cold, tingly feeling on my skin.

As I learned more about this amazing plant, my aloe admiration began to grow.

While I don’t particularly enjoy consuming aloe (it’s a textural thing, mostly) I absolutely love using it topically.

Back when I had a ton of Candida Albicans yeast overgrowth in my body, my face would frequently break out in horrible red rashes. Aloe vera helped to soothe and calm these breakouts, so I used it often.

Aloe vera has been used for centuries by ancient Chinese, Native American, Mexican, Japanese, Indian, and Egyptian civilizations. According to Lily of the Desert‘s website, Cleopatra used aloe vera on her skin regularly. I don’t know how to fact check this, but she’s said to have had glowing skin, so I completely believe it.

Aloe vera contains antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties, as well as antioxidant vitamins A and E.

A wonderful addition to any vegan or vegetarian diet, aloe contains amino acids, vitamin B-12 and even choline! Choline, which plays an important role in the metabolic process, as well as maintaining cell structure, is one of the more difficult nutrients to find on a vegan diet, and is usually ingested in things like eggs, meat and fish.

When it comes to healing properties, aloe is beneficial when taken internally as well as when used externally.

Aloe is a commonly used tool in the world of gut health, due to its gentle laxative effects and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to increase peristaltic activity in the intestines, resulting in improved bowel function. It’s also very lubricating, which soothes the gut and helps to maintain proper digestion. According to this study, aloe vera may also help to increase the good bacteria living in your gut.

Now onto the main reason I use aloe vera – its powerful skin healing properties!

When applied topically, aloe vera deeply moisturizes the skin, promotes collagen production, soothes inflammation, kills acne-causing bacteria and protects the skin from free radical damage; helping to slow down signs of aging.

Every time I apply aloe vera gel, I notice a difference in my skins overall appearance overnight.

It softens, plumps and moisturizes my skin while seriously diminishing redness. If I have any blemishes, they noticeably reduce in size as well.

I only use two types of aloe.

Bottled organic 100% aloe vera juice, and fresh, whole aloe vera leaves.

When it’s available at the health food store, I will usually opt for the fresh leaf because it has all it’s raw enzymes and nutrients intact. However, I still notice incredible benefits from using the juice as well.

If you’re using aloe juice, simply moisten a cotton pad with the juice and wipe it over your (freshly cleansed) face and neck. You can also pop a couple of aloe juice soaked cotton pads in the fridge and use them as soothing under-eye pads.

If you’re using the whole leaf, filet the leaf by slicing the green outer skin to reveal the magical goopy inner gel. I will usually just rub this into my skin, but you can also blend it to make a hydrating gel and use it that way.

It will form a protective, hydrating film over your skin. For this reason, I recommend using it in the evening before bed, so you can rinse off any remaining aloe when you wake up.

You can use the same aloe filet for another day or two – just scratch off the protective film it will form overnight. (Put any sliced pieces of aloe on a paper towel on a plate, as it can stain surfaces over time. I learned this the hard way!)

As far as consuming aloe vera, there are only two ways I’ve been able to get it down.

Method number one is to blend it into something. Overall, it has a very mild flavor, so it goes relatively unnoticed in smoothies and juices.

Method number two is chopping it up into teeny tiny pieces and dumping it into fresh coconut water. The aloe actually pairs nicely with the coconut water and makes for a refreshing beverage. I also kind of enjoy the little surprise bites of aloe with each sip.

While it’s definitely a little weird to eat, the benefits make it well worth the strange eating experience!

Overall, aloe vera is definitely on my list of the most magical plants of all time. It’s one of those things that I believe was gifted to us by nature, free to use, asking nothing in return but for us to show appreciation and love to ourselves.

If you want to read more about this fascinating plant on your own, I’ll link the source I used to write the science-y aspects of this blog post here.

If you are already a fan of aloe, let’s obsess over it together!

If you’re convinced and want to try it out, let me know if you have any questions or comments… I want to know what you think!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna