An overview of natural and organic roods, supplements, and personal care items
“You are what you eat“ may be one of the oldest cliches on record. But it probably rings true for most readers of this blog.
Environmentalists, well aware that there is an undeniable connection between the natural world and what we eat, breathe, and touch, have an affinity for organic and natural foods. Untainted by pesticides and preservatives, often with eco-friendly processing and packaging, natural products are better for our lakes and as well as for our bodies. Many people believe that some natural herbs possess healing properties.(*)
As natural and organic food items increasingly find their way into mainstream supermarkets, it may be instructive to understand the difference between the two. “Natural” and “organic” are not the same thing. All organic foods are natural, but not all natural foods are organic. Organic foods are grown without pesticides, preservatives, additives, colors, refined sugars, and genetic engineering. To receive organic certification, they must also meet rigid growing and manufacturing standards that preserve the quality of our soil, water, and air. The standards are less stringent for natural foods. They are made without additives or preservatives, but may be grown using standard farming methods.
With that said, feast your eyes on some of the market’s best new organic and natural foods, supplements, and personal care items.
(*) Currently no natural herbs have been certified by the FDA to have curative properties.
1. GENERAL MILLS Sunrise Organic Cereal $3.39
Imagine the organic version of corn and wheat chex, dipped in honey Sunrise one of the nation’s most popular organic, ready-to-eat, supermarket breakfast cereals, is made of four organically-grown grains: corn, whole-grain red wheat, whole-grain oats, and whole-grain barley. A standard one-ounce serving has 110 calories, no cholesterol, and 5 calories of fat. Size: 12.5 oz. 800-328-1144 FREE; genmills.com
2. SHARIANN’S Organic Soups $1.99
Founded in 1994 as the first, fully-certified, organic soup maker, ShariAnn’s offers a pantry-full of hearty soups, refried beans, chilis, and beans. Found in natural food stores, favorites include minestrone, refried beans with green chili and lime, black-eyed peas, spicy veggie chili, Italian white beans with herbs, and the ever-popular tomato with roasted garlic, The 15 oz. cans serve two. 734-426-0989; shariannsorganic.com
3. SWEET WHEAT Organic Wheat Grass $27 (capsules); $25 15-gram bottle.
Want a pick-me-up in the middle of a long trek? How about a bee-string ointment, or a cold and flu remedy? Or a refreshing anti-bacterial toothpaste suture, or a one-shot substitute for ALL of your vitamins? Organic wheat grass is jam-packed with 82 minerals including zinc, calcium, and magnesium that do your body a world of good. Wheat grass, known as the “king of vegetables” because it is the only plant that can absorb every single nutrient in the soil, is the grassy (pre-wheathead) stage of wheat, about 10-12 days after planting. At that point, when richest in nutrients, Sweet Wheat then harvests, juices, and freeze-dries it at 50 degrees below zero to seal in nutrient value. Processed in flakes that dissolve instantly on the tongue, one teaspoon is the equivalent of 1-11/2 lbs. of organic vegetables. The small, 15-gram bottle provides 30 daily servings. A 50-gram bottle is $75. 888-22-SWEET FREE; sweetwheat.com
4. EDEN ORGANIC Pop-Top Beans Approx. $1 a can
No fat and no hassle! These yummy, 8.5 oz. pop-top canned beans come in four flavors: Chili, Baked (organic Navy beans with tomato puree), Black beans with ginger and lemon, Lentils with onions and bay leaves, and Spicy Pintos with jalapenos and red peppers. Eden makes 120 products, including a popular soy milk line that now includes new Eden Soy Extra. Fortified with calcium, betacarotene, and vitamin B2, Extra is made of GMO-free soybean, and sweetened with malt and seaweed, not sugar. Packs of 3 cost $2.. 888-441-3336 FREE; edenfoods.com
5. CASCADIAN FARM Fiesta Vegetarian Enchilada $2.99
The microwave entree gets updated with this delicious heat-and-serve 10 oz. organic enchilada, one of the few products anywhere to use organic cheese. All its ingredients are organic — black beans, kidney beans, sweet corn, diced onions, red and green peppers, organic pepper Jack cheese, yellow corn tortillas, plus mole sauce made of organic tomatoes from Cascadian’s sister brand, Muir Glen. 800-624-4123 FREE; Cfarm.com
6. CAPILANO PACIFIC SEAFOODS Organic Lox Salmon $6.99 per 4 oz.
Fish are fish, right? Not according to Bellingham, Washington-based Capilano, the world’s only certified organic fishing fleet. First of all, its sockeye salmon are not grain-fed, antibiotic-laced, color-dyed, farmed fish, like most salmon are today, but lean, firm, blood-red, wild fish actually caught in the Bering Sea. (“It’s like an athlete versus a couch potato,” says owner Jon Saarheim.) Half of the fleet is owned by native Alaskans; all the boats are thoroughly clean. After the salmon are caught, each processing step is monitored with “chain of custody” –that is, no processing aids, all biodegradeable cleaning, no caking agents used in smoking, and immediate freezing to prevent rancidity. Bottom line — maybe the best-tasting salmon in the world. 360-398-9453; capilanopacific.com
7. BOCA FOODS Boca Burger $3.39 (package of 4)
The Boca Burger may taste just like beef, but it’s made of soy-based protein, an important distinction from “veggyburgers,” which are made mostly of grains and vegetables. Soy’s role in reducing heart disease has been confirmed by the FDA. Choose from six flavors: garlic, salsa, roasted onion, vegan, cheddar, and grilled vegetable. 800-422-6950 FREE; bocaburger.com
8. BARBARA’S BAKERY Nature’s Choice Granola Bars $2.49 for box of 6
Made with real fruit and no added artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, these bars make for a perfect guilt-free snack. Only 80 calories each, they contain no fat or refined sugars, drawing chewy sweetness from roiled grains and honey. Flavors include oats & honey, cinnamon raisin, carob chip, and peanut butter. Other Barbara’s Bakery products include Natures Choice fat-free and wheat-free: Cereal Bars and Barbara’s whole-grain Fig Bars (Wheat-Free, Raspberry Wheat, and Whole Wheat). 707-765-2273; Barbarasbakery.com
9. WHITE WAVE Tempeh $1.99 for 8 oz.
Best known for its Silk-brand soy milk (now available in Mocha and Chai, as well as traditional plain, and vanilla, and chocolate, pictured), White Wave also offers a full line of dairy-free soy yogurts, tofu and tempeh. The latter a fermented, soy product with grainy, bean-like consistency, has nearly double the protein of tofu and is an excellent replacement for beef. White Wave products are found in major supermarkets as well as in health food stores. 800-488-9283 FREE; whitewave.com
10. KokoGM.com — KOKOPELLI’S GREEN MARKET ORGANICS
Kokopelli’s specializes in natural personal and pet care products, environmentally friendly cleaning products, and distinctive gifts from socially responsible manufacturers. Unique products to note include Green Ban, deet-free herbal insect repellents that blend citronella, cajuput, lavender, and other essential oils, and J.R. Liggett Bar Shampoo, ideal for backpacking trips because it is compact, nonpolluting, and can be used as a full-body soap.
This online store features everything under the natural products sun: Brand-name vitamins herbs minerals, supplements natural and organic foodstuffs, and cleaning products. It also offers all-natural solutions for weight loss and sports nutrition, all-natural soaps, shampoos, cosmetics and lotions, a bookstore, videos, music, stationery, and much taste.
This site stocks everything from Ma Huang to creatine, with a link to Wild Oats natural food stores for non-perishable foods. The site includes a consumer advocacy website and a link to Welder Publications, so you get the latest information about fitness, training, and product evaluations. Significantly, the site has a partnership with the independent tester ConsumerLab.com, the Consumer Reports of the nutrition world, and will remove supplements and other items that don’t meet their producers’ claims — an important step in a largely unregulated industry.
13. PACIFIC FOODS OF OREGON Soy Synergy Powder $16.99 for a 16 oz. can
If you want more soy isoflavones in your diet, there’s nothing easier than stirring a couple spoonfuls of Soy Synergy powder into your strawberry-banana smoothie, Isoflavones play a valuable role in inhibiting calcium loss and the breakdown of bone mass. The Synergy line is a new addition to a Pacific Foods lineup of non-dairy soy, rice, oats, multi-grains, and almond drinks. It comes in vanilla, and plain. A bone-building Calcium Synergy powder is also $16.99. 503-692-9666; pacificfoods.com
14. ALTA HEALTH PRODUCTS Sil-X Silica Tablets $11.75, 60 tablets; $17.25, 120 tablets
Silicon is powerful stuff. It not only makes computer chips hum, but is an essential trace element for connective tissue in bone and cartilage, as well as hair, skin, and nails. It also has been implicated in the prevention of osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Alta, which co-pioneered the concept of silicon supplementation in 1973, uses the only 100% pure silica on the market. Each tablet contains 500mg of silica, which is extracted from the organically-grown Horsetail herb (Equisetum arvense). Alta gathers Horsetail in the spring, at the peak of its beneficial qualities. 800-423-4155 FREE; altahealthproducts.com
15. FLORA Flor * Essence Tea $28 (17 oz. concentrate); $30 (3.quart-packet mixes)
Packed with anti-oxidants and nutrients, this powerful herbal tea uses a century-old formula that many believe works as a detoxifier, blood cleanser, and immune-system enhancer. Flor*Essence is typically used in strong doses to combat digestive problems and short-term illnesses like cold and flu, and in mild, daily doses for general health and potential relief from arthritis and cancer. Its traditional formula includes eight herbs: organic burdock root, sheep sorrel, slippery elm, watercress, Turkish rhubarb root, kelp, blessed thistle, and certified organic red clover. 800-446-2110 FREE; florainc.com
16. OMEGA NUTRITION Flaxseed Oil $7, 8 fl. oz.; $ 10, 12 fl. oz.; $23, 32 fl. oz.
You hear a lot about Omega-3, an essential fatty acid found in fish oil that supposedly strengthens the immune system and protects against diseases like atherosclerosis and cancer. But few know that there is a higher concentration of Omega-3 in flaxseed oil, a staple since Babylonian times. Omega Nutrition’s flaxseed oil has been rated best price-value and best quality by several publications due to its low-temperature pressing of flax (which excludes air) and its use of a black bottle to prevent light degradation. One to three teaspoons a day (or equivalent number of capsules) will keep the bad stuff away. 800-661-3529 FREE; omeganutrition.com
17. IMAGINE FOODS Power Dream Natural Energy Drink $1.19-1.49
Meet the world’s first liquid energy bar. Joining its well-known Rice Dream and Soy Dream siblings, Imagine’s new Power Dream is a high-calorie/low-fat, soy-based energy drink for triathletes, runners, and other active people. Packing 320 calories and fortified with 23 vitamins and minerals, it comes in a handy, environmentally-safe, 11-oz peel-spout aseptic container that needs no refrigeration and easily fits in a bike jersey pocket. High in soy protein and isoflavones, the Power Dream is Kosher, lactose-free, high in complex carbos, and available in chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, coffee, and chai. 650-327-1444; imaginefoods.com
Personal Care Products
18. SHIKAI NATURAL PRODUCTS Borage Therapy Dry Skin Lotion $12 for 8 oz. bottle
If you experience the redness and flaking of chronic dry skin, dermatitis, and eczema, get to know borage oil, extracted from the borage plant. It contains gammalinolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that the body uses in making skin cells. Without enough GLA, cell membranes can’t retain enough moisture, and skin becomes dry and rough. While ordinary moisturizers just coat the skin’s surface, ShiKai’s borage-oil-based lotion penetrates the surface of the skin and delivers GLA (hence moisture) to cells. The company offers a full line of biodegradeable moisturizing body products, including shower gels, shampoos, conditioners, and facial care. 800-448-0298 FREE; shikai.com
19. BOERICKE & TAFEL 3-in-1 Outdoors Kit $8.99
B&T, a leading maker of natural topical and homeopathic medicines since 1835, has put together a triple-pack of its most popular pain relievers for active people. The Outdoors Kit includes separate .33 oz. tubes of Amiflora Arnica Gel (a natural Ben-Gay, for muscle pain and stiffness), Califlora Calendula (a Neosporin-like first-aid that soothes sunburn, cuts, and bruises), and StingStop Insect Gel (an anti-poison oak and insect astringent). Amica, derived from Compositae, a daisy-like plant grown in the Pacific Northwest, Europe and Siberia, has cortisone-like effect and is said to be one of the commonly used homeopathic remedies. 800-876-9505 FREE; No web
20. TOM’S OF MAINE Natural Wellness Tonics $21.99, 16.5 oz/500ml; $14.99, 300ml; $3.99, 75ml
A Kennebunkport tradition since 1970, Tom’s introduced the market’s first natural toothpaste and now has a wide array of artificial-ingredient-free personal care products, including mouthwash, floss, deodorants, liquid glycerine moisturizing soaps, and home-grown nasal decongestant (8 oz., $14.99; 1.7 fl oz., $2.99), cough and cold products. New are Tom’s Wellness Tonics and Extracts, the former taken medicine-like by the spoonful, and the highly concentrated latter stirred into a tea with an eyedropper. The Natural Echinacea Tonic With Green Tea comes in Ginger-Orange or Elderberry flavors, while the three unflavored extracts include Ginseng, Valerian (for relief of sleeplessness), and Echinacea (which strengthens the immune system). The extracts are $12.99 for 1.7 fl. oz/50ml. 800-367-8667 FREE; tomsofmaine.com