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Posts tagged ‘organic food’

Worth writing a novel about

Please make sure you check out the gallery pictures closer to the end!

Latvia is a place I come from. Most of my family still resides there but I went for a chance to change my life dramatically a bit more than 13 years ago and relocated to Canada. Everything was different, I had to adjust myself, learn a lot and, basically, I can say I’m fine by now. It feels like I started fresh at the age of 46 again.

Time passes so fast, but there are things which I miss a lot while in Canada. I definitely miss my mom, my daughter, grandchildren, my sister and also friends. The other thing which is quite important and which I miss every time I go to the grocery store is Latvian food. I miss the huge variety, the very natural produce, wild mushrooms, wild berries, endless salads, soups and deserts. I miss dairy products and the huge selection of fresh-water and salt-water fish which we do not have in Canada, and it is hard to live without their cakes, pastries, pies and all the stuff that comes on the table just rarely, but makes all the difference. For instance, black or rather grey peas with crunchy bites of Latvian bacon and kefir, or thousands of dishes made of Latvian cottage cheese which is always excellent quality compared to what I have when I can find it in Canada. I mean the raw, nothing added, nothing removed cottage cheese. Their daily bread selection is worth writing a novel about: from dark rye and carrot bread baked using ancient Latvian recipes to all kinds of white, dark bread made with or without seeds and from all kinds of grains. The freshness is breathtaking, and so is the taste. I have always hard times finding a good quality bread at home, it goes bad and stale next morning, and it usually falls apart. My guess is: it consists of hardly anything, but costs a lot.

Therefore, I try everything Latvia can offer, and that is plenty. Neither I want, nor I intend to avoid such a delicious pleasure: it is a feast from the day 1 of my stay here until the dinner before my flight back home.

As I walk along the Central Market (I came here with just one intention: to take a few pictures because this is sort of very large farmer’s market, the largest in Europe), my eyes run all around and it’s great I’m not hungry because otherwise I’d end up buying too much stuff. Most people, however, prefer the ecologically clean product stores. Prices are quite high in stores which offer organic, biologically and ecologically clean produce and all kinds of other foods, and frequently above the affordable level, but still: Latvians take food seriously and they can certainly choose something great even when the wallet is not that full.

There is something else: traditionally Latvians do gardening, even these who live in the downtown of Riga, usually have some out-of-town place where they can grow something. Latvia did a lot of farming in the soviet times, and it was actually quite agricultural outside the biggest cities. The first Latvian Republic before the World War II was famous for its fantastic dairy products, bacon, butter, meats and produce. Although, agriculturally used land and the number, as well as size of farms have decreased, the need for good quality food is the same. People know what is good, Latvians know what delicious and fresh means, and therefore, the food quality standards remain high.

If you are wondering what I mean with all this praising, I do suggest you stop by in Latvia for the greatest and cleanest foods one can try. It’s worth it. I did not notice where their fast food places were, I know there are some, but people who think about their health won’t eat in such places. I personally never learned loving fast food, I don’t think they are popular here because everything is geared towards healthier, fresher, cleaner and less processed.

I have taken pictures also of smoked fish and meats, and these are certainly not for daily consumption, they are not part of a healthy diet, however, small bit here and there cannot harm. They taste incredibly good. If you have never tried, you won’t know how delicious these things are: smoked fish and chicken especially, and I miss such treats a lot. Some fishing villages still smoke fish like Latvian fishermen did 200, 300 and more hundred years ago.

Caraway seed cheese is my favorite, it always has been. When I was 12 or so I worked at a dairy plant during the summer (all kids worked). I had to help by preparation of caraway seed cheese. It was warm and so yummy that I never forgot this taste. The only place I get it as I like is Latvia. I tried to make my own in Canada, but milk and cottage cheese were totally unsuitable: they are too processed and do not have the same properties, so, I did not get very good caraway seed cheese. Dairy products are definitely bad and low quality in Canada. I sometimes wonder: why wouldn’t they go to Latvia, for example, and learn how to achieve greatness in dairy products. It’ s not going to happen because their profits come always first.

Well, wild mushrooms and wild berries are something Ontarians do not get to see or taste. Some might, but it’ s not everybody by far. Mushrooms are still in season, but there are less and less berries in the forest because fall sets in sooner in Latvia than in Canada.

mouth-watering Latvian dairy products

Meats and smoked meats

Fresh, live and smoked fish

A few veggies (because they looked so nice) and some wild berries and mushrooms

I actually wanted to publish separate posts about separate food groups, but time is really short, so I will leave you with these pictures and I am going back home soon.

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Health or trouble from the grocery store?

Can we trust any food-producing company and take their word as a guarantee for healthy and harmless food? I know that you are aware we cannot. We should not.

I’ve seen recently organic sour cream which wasn’t a cream, but a mix of different thickeners, taste enhancers and some other things. Hey, cream should consist only of cream! Shouldn’t it? That’s how it always was: when we separate the fatty layer from milk, we get cream. Not nowadays. Dairy products are the most chemically enhanced food, quite often: surrogate food. Dairy products are easy to replicate using all kinds of substances.

Can we trust anybody who swears their produce is organic, grown in organic soil without the use of non-organic fertilizers? Absolutely not. I have suspicion certificates do not land only on organic farms. Some former employees point out such issues. Only after multiple claims, food inspection would do something about it.

How healthy are they?

Where do they come from?

Look at the grocery store shelves: long rows of vegetables. Some are not that great looking (organic since so small?), some are as if from a colorful food commercial (these are the GMOs: the taste and flavor is sacrificed to longer shelf time and more attractive look), some are frequently soaked in the water or they call this process: sprinkled with water to appear greener and fresher. In other words: these green leaves are slowly rotting straight before your eyes.

Leafy vegetables and greens cannot tolerate such soaking: dill, parsley, coriander, lettuce, spinach and other greens start losing nutrients and getting damaged right after they are harvested. They rot literally on the shelf. How much vitamins and minerals have they managed to preserve that way? I bet not much. Especially, when we take into account how unstable some vitamins and amino acids are, for instance vitamin C. I also do not like how these greens practically disintegrate very soon even in fridge. They lack flavor, as well.

I believe selling unwashed potatoes, carrots, beets and similar root crops would feel offensive for aesthetically refined clients, but anybody who ever has grown some vegetables knows that storage time of root crops decreases dramatically after washing them. I just bought a bag of new potatoes. They were most likely packed wet, so some are already damaged. What happens after a week? They are all rotten.

Root vegetables have a protective layer which keeps them undamaged in the soil. When this layer is washed off, this vegetable becomes sensitive to any harmful bacteria and environmental issues. Washed root crops must be consumed fast. Also: avoid potatoes with visible green parts: that is effect of toxins due to improper storage or handling. When peeled, that should be ok, but generally, green color potatoes should not be consumed.

The other issue is too good-looking fruit and vegetables. If vegetables look very neat, are all the same size, have flawless shape and even color: they are most likely genetically modified.

We should require such food to be labelled, but Health Canada, for instance, does not think we should know that. They also emphasize that GMOs do not cause any problems, issues or concerns. Short sighted? More than that: they are protecting farmers that use GMOs in order their profits would not decrease. Insects and animals die out, but they are of no concern for human use, sure!

While greens and vegetables along with fruit that contain only naturally intended things are good for us, especially, if they are not stored for weeks or they haven’t been travelling to the point of sale for months, packaging material matters, too.

As we walk around the grocery store, we can see lots and lots of greens packaged in plastic bags, containers: baby greens, especially, pre-cut vegetable and fruit salads, lots of them. Generally speaking, it’s bad news. Whatever vegetable: it needs to breathe. Believe or not: they really do. When such greens are packed in a plastic container that is practically sealed, vegetables have no other way but to get damaged faster. So, they are washed. They are pre-cut for salads. They are pre-packaged. Who knows when they were harvested? That is all bad news. Such vegetable already loses nutrients in storage. Even without cutting, washing and handling. After washing these vegetables with special dirt removing mixes (it’s not clean water, believe me, because it wouldn’t be able tore move all stuff from leaves) they are dried and then placed in plastic bags or containers. Whatever way you look at it: I cannot see how they would possibly still have nutrients. Not to mention there is nothing fresh. Fresh, in fact, is: straight from the place where it was grown. There is no other fresh. Plus, toxins from plastic packaging, plus, handling with tools (cutting): that causes rapid losses of good things and fast increase I bad things, e. g., bad bacteria.

If you have access to a food lab, please test the vegetable for essential nutrients 2 times: straight from the garden and after a week in fridge. I don’t think you will ever use any pre-cut salads again.

It is too bad that large cities provide with so much life and entertainment, but getting really good food is such problem there because most often we are eating illusion about healthy food.

Congratulations if you can grow something in your backyard and you are in a driver’s seat if you can grow most of stuff which goes on your table.

Please, stay away from plastic packaging. Salad that is not prepared before the meal has practically lost not only its flavor and taste, but also most of nutrients.

While we do not have a decent food labeling system, we will never know what we are consuming. Never. Heavy metals, toxins, pesticides, chemicals: it greatly depends on soil, on farm, its location, climate and soil characteristics, greenhouse location, applied methods, processing plant, its location, its processing techniques and methods and storage and packaging facilities. This matters to a great extent. To a huge extent. Not to mention whether a product comes from a genetically modified seeds and plants. I can see at the present moment only: product of the USA, product of Mexico, product of Ontario. There is no sign of a specific harvesting date or location, nothing. I personally think this has to change. Our health very directly depends on the process of harvesting, sorting, washing, cleaning, transporting, storing and processing foods. Especially, that refers to foods that are deemed to be so healthy and nutrient-dense.

Can gardening save your life?

I know people who have survived thanks to gardening.

So, are you the lucky one with a garden?

That could pretty much be an answer to many of your health problems and even save your life, because doing gardening will make your life so much more enjoyable and even support you financially and save money.

It just said on the news that one-third of the world’s population was obese.

That is the most recent statistics. When we imagine how many places on the Earth cannot provide people who live there with any food or clean water, it becomes very clear that so-called developed countries are the ones mostly suffering from this disaster. It’s no surprise it comes as a combo of all kinds of cancers and dementia, plus diabetes and cardio-vascular fatalities. Diseases are getting younger. We thought stroke was more likely to happen after 40-50, it’s affecting now people 16 years old and even younger.

This happens due to food production which is very distant from the way we were having food even 50-60 years ago. With every year, more newly discovered chemical combinations, supplements, taste enhancers, coloring and thickening agents, preservatives and so on and so forth, have been replacing natural food. Not to mention 90 types of artificial sweeteners which replace sugar.

When we think dairy, do we imagine pure chemicals in the container with a label organic cream? We don’t. Yet, it isn’t even a cream, but some mix of things that make this substance look and to some extent taste like cream. The whipping cream isn’t a cream, and milk that comes from powder or egg mix that doesn’t have real eggs in it: that’s all processed already. Cheese is the most affected because it’s easy to replace real ingredients with chemicals in cheese. Your breakfast flakes: they are already processed, if they were not you’d have raw grains. Natural and good fats such as organic butter have been replaced with chemically created fats for some 80 years. That refers to any margarine, oils of not organic origin and obviously all pastry includes that: bread, bread type of snacks, etc. since it really needs some fat or it goes stale the next day.

So, what difference does the produce you have grown on your own make?

Huge. If you have ever tried freshly picked cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini or peppers from the backyard, you know how much richer the taste is. At some point, it’s impossible to compare garden produce with fruits and vegetables from the grocery store. Greens and herbs such as green onion, dill, parsley, basil, thyme and sage from the grocery store wilt right away and they never feel really fresh because they soak them in water by spraying all the time at the store.

Farmer’s market is a good place, however, sometimes prices are extremely high (at least in Whitby, Ontario) and the produce does not look that great.

By growing our own vegetables and fruits we know what they contain.

I love that I know exactly how my vegetables are grown: what water I use, what soil, etc. Small gardens can be easily weeded manually; there is no need to use chemicals to conquer weeds. It’s also easier to control any pests in case they would appear with simple household supplies.

It makes an incredible difference for me: I just walk outside and choose whatever I feel like having for meal. Being in fresh air and having so much stuff for eyes to enjoy is definitely an added bonus.

Plus, one does not need any gym to stay in a good shape: thankfully garden work involves all kinds of moves, exercises and tasks.

I know that not everybody can live in a house with a decent size backyard. I live here also because we rent this place. Yet, there are millions of people who only have lawns everywhere: in the front and in the back. If we would start with lots of people growing healthy chemical-free vegetables and fruits not only for themselves, but also for a few other people, we might end the cancer, cardio-vascular, diabetes and obesity epidemic. We might just also have better mental abilities because of that; and some garden work is always useful as opposed to scrolling through screens or snoozing in front of TV.

This is how gardening will make you healthy:

You will get lots of exercise without paying fees for gym or designating specific time for it;

You will be rewarded with crops that are clean and contain many times more nutrients;

Naturally occurring minerals, vitamins and other good substances are only found in FRESH garden produce;

You will avoid harsh chemicals by using in your gardening only natural fertilizers and composted plant food;

You will have something to take care of and you’ll never feel lonely;

You will have peace of mind, place to relax and ability to clean the bad energies when being in contact with the soil;

You will save money on organic herbs, fruit and vegetables which we really need, but which are not in a good shape at grocery stores and very expensive;

Kids find gardening attractive because we can monitor the steady development and growing;

Gardening is suitable for any age or condition: we can always find ways to do things easily;

You don’t have to travel far to be surrounded by the nature;

Garden can become the most inspiring thing for writers, artists, designers and other creative folks;

By doing gardening and consuming only fresh and chemical-free produce you will literally help your body and brain fight diseases and manage easier the existing conditions.

So, gardening might save your life, especially if gardening becomes your passion.

Please enjoy the purple blossoming in my garden!

Chives in bloom

Purple iris

Close-up

Lovely faces of pansies

Isn’t it pretty?

The many shades of beauty

Easy to grow, always smiley

 

Avoiding harmful chemicals and making good choices to quench our thirst is a big deal

While standing in the grocery store line, it’s impossible not to pay attention to what people are putting in their shopping carts. There is pretty large crowd which walks around the store with flyers in their hand looking for deals and discounts. Well, it’s not that the best products or the freshest ones get into this flyer, but we can sometimes get promotional products at very inexpensive prices. However, the most deals are offered for unhealthy and processed food and drinks.

I would say there’s a reason why soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi and Sprite family drinks are banned from schools and their neighbourhoods in quite a few European countries. My native country Latvia has always been strict with such foods and drinks, the positive side is that we didn’t even see them or know they existed until borders were opened in 1991, and the Latvian market was flushed with North American chemical foods and fast food places appeared. We had practically no obesity and related issues until the era of imported stuff begun. Believe or not unlike in Canada, real dairy products are still available in Latvia. It’s always up to consumers because manufacturers will try to meet the demand. When consumers show their dissatisfaction with chemically enhanced food, manufacturers and food producers have no other way, but to offer food and drinks which are in line with healthy eating guidelines and which are compliant with restrictions in use of chemical ingredients.

I’ve read in some surveys how people who told Coke was a total poison and Pepsi was a pure junk were attacked. That makes one wonder: are there really too few obesity, type 2 diabetes, digestive and heart and blood vessel associated diseases and cases yet? Isn’t there proof enough that not real food, proteins, carbohydrates and fats make a person sick, but their chemical substitutes and surrogate ingredients? Nobody would need to ever diet or fight the unwanted pounds if all of a sudden fast food, processed food and chemically produced food and drinks disappeared. However, that is NOT going to happen because profits always come first. There is a wide range in standards for chemicals and their maximum contents in food products. Therefore, the choice is ours: we all can exclude chemicals, fast food and processed foods from our menu. To some extent at least, because vegetables, fruit, berries, herbs and organic products are still a subject to standards, and these standards allow for plenty of variation. Organic DOES NOT mean the product is completely free of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers. Organic means the amount of harmful chemicals meets the stated limits.

It has been abnormally hot in Canada, Ontario for the last 2 weeks. We are expecting one more heat wave. Everybody will need to quench their thirst, and everybody will have a choice: use pure water, mineral water or fruit flavored water for hydration, or just grab some soft drink, milk shake and juice. When we talk about hydration, there is nothing better than PURE water. There simply isn’t. For quite a few reasons: for its chemical formula, for the fast absorption rate, for its friendly attitude towards our cell structure and for its lack of chemicals (however, some tap water can contain a lot chlorine, even antibiotics, even metformin which is blood sugar lowering drug, even residues of very harmful chemical elements: everything which does not degrade naturally and fast within the source of drinking water). We are very fine when we use MODERATE amounts of water because overdoing anything has bad consequences (hyponatremia or deficit of sodium in the blood stream). Everything else will have some additional something: juice is too high in sugar, soft drinks are high in sugar and mainly consist of chemicals, milk shakes and ice-cream based drinks have way too many calories. The only thing we actually need is to hydrate ourselves and maintain a good functionality, isn’t it? We don’t have to intake as many calories as with meal for this purpose.

How about kids? Kids will use whatever their parents are offering them from early childhood. When the family does not use soft drinks, kid will never have cravings for them. When the family is not addicted to sugars and fast foods, kid will never know such disorders as type 2 diabetes even exist. Some parents are very worried that child does not eat enough. Well, normal kid will not starve himself to the point when some disorders occur. Kid could be reluctant to drink enough water, though. I also told this in my previous post: making fruit flavored water with colorful slices of citrus fruits is a good idea because this type of drink does not raise the content of sugars noticeably, but hydrates well. Nobody has appetite when the blood glucose level is too high. We humans are having lots of signals in place to know when we are hungry (and being hungry is really good, but not starving), therefore, if kid has had some sugar-rich food or drink before, they will not be interested in eating normal meal. Adding colored ice to such drinks is also a nice thing: we can freeze small mint leaves in ice cubs, we can freeze tea and juice to add to water, it looks very attractive.

My photos of fruit flavored water and ice

Fruit flavored water

Colorful, fresh and healthy

Mineral water good choice to quench our thirst

Mineral water: good choice to quench our thirst

Add fruit and ice to regular bottled water

Add fruit and ice to regular bottled water

Sparkling mineral water

For people who want to stay away from alcohol: using sparkling water with lime and mint allows to get rid of cravings for alcohol

Still life with water and fruit

Fresh and delicious: what’s not to like?

I’m always embarrassed how when we have to stop on the roadside while travelling for some snack these places always will push one to have a Coke or Pepsi with food, but when I ask whether they have sparkling water or mineral water, they quite often don’t. Well, I usually get by asking for water with lime.

Stay hydrated and use healthy water to quench your thirst!

Why wonder-diets don’t work?

The reality of today is as follows: we have forgotten why we have to eat, instead we are getting obsessed with what, when, how, how much, where to eat. There are many millions of diets and food recommendations, no surprise we get easily lost.

Healthy diet

Why don’t the wonder diets work and why aren’t we all physically and mentally fit and living very long, peaceful, enjoyable life? Based on so much research and findings, it’s about time we should be getting to the point that every single person who follows all countless suggestions about what to eat and what to avoid should be getting extremely healthy and free of diseases and health related problems. In fact, the health situation is becoming worse and worse and we never thought cancer would be present in newborns, yet it is, and in multiple hard to cure forms and very rare forms.

It is very logical to conclude, that something does not add up and something must be profoundly wrong.

fresh vegetables

The first reason why many diets don’t work is that they may be suited to the person/persons who tried them, and they are completely useless or even harmful for you, me or whoever else. How so? Just like our DNA is absolutely unique, everything else about particular person is absolutely unique. While all humans have lots of similarities, they also have plenty of distinctions. Our DNA is much older than our personal age or the age of our closest relatives. It has the knowledge of things we might have no clue about.

Therefore, the main principle in choosing our food should be to use such products which suit the health condition, age, life style and activity level, any existing physical or mental problems and is as natural as possible and is also easy enough to find, get and prepare. That’s theoretically, but practically we should follow more our own feelings, listen to our body, make conclusions and correct our previous mistakes. That means, not everything which is good for some celebrity is good for you or me, that also means that not everybody should or can be a vegetarian, vegan or use any other restrictive food choices, unless clinically indicated. Clinically indicated is: tests are done, and the condition has been confirmed. That means not to base the exclusion of some important food and nutrients just because some other people think they feel better using that type of diet.

Balance and moderation is what nature teaches us. Balance in everything, because it is so easy to overdo with good things and even excellent things.

Healthy habits

The second principle which applies to food, and especially nowadays: we should always choose everything in its most natural form: plants as plants, vegetables as vegetables, grains as grains, etc. The less unchanged something is, the better. What do the grocery stores offer? Those are for the most part already processed foods, packed foods, products with something added, something taken off. Lots of as if improved products: with different flavors, in different colors. There are obviously vegetables and fruits, but I would like to ask: how much of nutrients are you getting when buying your vegetables and fruit at the closest supermarket? Place like Wal-Mart? They’re always busy. The answer is: very little. These vegetables will even look good, they might have some flavour and attractive fragrance, but if they have traveled for thousands of kilometers and then have spent quite a time in storage and sorting departments, it is very unlikely they will have the same amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as the small while ago picked ones.

The most over-used descriptors for food are: fresh, natural and organic.

Organic vegetables

By a short definition natural is present in or produced by nature, and it could no way contain additives, chemicals, sweeteners, flavorants, taste enhancing substances, added vitamins or any substances which were not present in this product when found in a natural environment. Organic food in the context of regulations is food produced in a way that complies with organic standards set by national governments and international organizations. These standards greatly vary, there are very distinctive approaches for labelling handling and other procedures as organic. Therefore, organic might cost a lot more, but it does not necessarily mean it is free of pesticides, chemicals or other harmful substances. Basically, organic food would be food which is grown and processed in accordance with standards in that particular country or region and the company putting it out on the market has the certificate.

Vegetables from the garden

What do we choose? Whether organic or not: the freshest and the least processed. I suppose, if we could, we would grow every single product in our backyard. The quality of some stuff is so low in Canada, that I have been seriously thinking about baking my own bread.

Nutrition and fresh vegetables

The attached pictures are from the local farmer’s market. Well, it is a better choice than supermarket, but there is no guarantee you are getting all nutrients you think you are. I will continue in some other post.

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