Surf Sweets All-Natural Treats Get Thumbs Up

July 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Food, Front Page, Nutrition, Organic, Reviews, Slideshow

Surf Sweets offers a variety of natural and organic treats. Photo: Courtesy Surf Sweets

If you have young kids, you’re no doubt careful about what snacks and treats they eat at home. But everywhere else they go, their diet is pretty much out of your control. If you want to allow your kids occasional treats but still protect them from artificial dyes and sweeteners, Surf Sweets candies may be a good choice.

Gummy Worms nutrition facts. Courtesy: Surf Sweets

Too much sugar in anyone’s diet is a bad idea. And it’s a really bad idea for children with a developing weight problem. My best recommendation is to give your kids healthy foods, including lots of raw fruits and vegetables for snacks. But let’s face it, most of us want a little snack from time to time. And if your child is going to have a sweet snack, it’s way better to give them a healthier alternative than most of the candies on the market.

Worldwide, there’s growing concern over artificial sweeteners and synthetic food dyes. The following information is from a press release I received from Surf Sweets: In July of 2010, “European food and beverage manufacturers will be required to include a strong warning statement on products containing six synthetic dyes indicating their products ‘may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.’  In the U.S., the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is urging the FDA to ban completely eight widely used food dyes that have been linked to behavior problems in children, specifically those with ADHD.”

Naturally, Surf Sweets is promoting this information because it doesn’t apply to their products. “Chicago area-based Surf Sweets® is one of the few candy companies in the United States that avoids using synthetic dyes or artificial flavors in any of its products, which was a primary goal of the brand when it was originally founded. All Surf Sweets products are Stage 2 Feingold-approved, meaning they are approved by The Feingold Association, a non-profit that publishes approved food lists to help people avoid certain synthetic food additives.”

When my own kids were young, I knew moms who almost religiously adhered to recommendations from the Feingold Association. Controlling the amount of food additives — especially dyes — their children ate made a dramatic difference in their children’s behavior. And Feingold was a leader in identifying the link between food additives and hyperactivity. So, I’m a believer (albeit through second-hand experience) that synthetic food dyes are a potential problem for many kids. And if Surf Sweets are Feingold-approved, that’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

Unless you’re so young you never knew anything different (or really don’t want to know), you can’t avoid the increased “artificialization” of pre-packaged foods today. And one of the greatest culprits is synthetic food dyes. In 1955, according to FDA statistics cited by Surf Sweet, “the amount of food dye certified for use in 1955 was 12 milligrams per capita per day.  In 2007, it was 59 mg per capita per day, or nearly five times as much.”

But Surf Sweets uses only natural food dyes. “Where most candy gets its color from synthetic dyes, Surf Sweets uses natural ingredients like black carrot juice concentrate and turmeric (from the ginger family) to color our candy,” says Bert Cohen. Cohen is president and founder of TruSweets, LLC.

But dyes aren’t the only culprit. Artificial sweeteners are also potentially hazardous. We hear an awful lot about high fructose corn syrup leading to obesity and diabetes. It’s ubiquitous, and nowhere more so than snacks and treats. Cohen adds, “And where most candy is sweetened with corn syrup, Surf Sweets candies are organically sweetened with real organic fruit juice and evaporated cane juice instead.”

Also of concern to many consumers, whether or not we’re parents, is the use of foods that have been genetically modified (GMOs). Surf Sweets are free of those, too. And, to my mind, that’s a very good thing. Of course, it’s also a nice touch that they also “provide 100% of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of antioxidant Vitamin C.”

I received a sampling of seven Surf Sweets treats (yes, this job has benefits), and though I’m not generally given to snacking on candy, I’ve been having fun writing this review.

Here are the treats I received (and which I am busily consuming out of my “duty” to accurate reporting).

  • Gummy Bears
  • Gummy Worms
  • Organic Jelly Beans
  • Sour Worms
  • Organic Fruity Bears
  • Gummy Swirls
  • Sour Berry Bears

I very nearly wrote that my favorite is the Surf Sweets™ Sour Berry Bears. Then I tried another of their Gummy Swirls. Ooh. Delicious there, too. But the Gummy Worms were also a big hit with me. They were almost creamy; an odd description for Gummy Worms, I suppose, but accurate to my taste.

Everyone has their favorite as far as flavors, but mine has always been cherry. That holds true for me with Surf Sweets treats, too. Each treat I tried came in a variety pack. (If I had my choice, every pack would just contain the cherry treats.)

All of the treats except the Jelly Beans were of the “Gummy Bear” variety, in that they are jelly-like candies. Most also have a light dusting of sugar on them. For me, that’s overkill. I’d be content with just the sweetness of the treat itself.

I was initially willing to accept samples of Surf Sweets treats not only because of their natural food dyes and sweeteners, but also because the products use organic ingredients. Is every ingredient organic? Doesn’t appear that way. But between the seven products, several ingredients are organic; and every product’s main ingredient is organic.

There’s more good news about Surf Sweets, too. Surf Sweets treats are —

  • Gluten free
  • Dairy and casein free
  • Allergy friendly (no wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish, shellfish)
  • Feingold approved
  • Produced and packaged in a dedicated nut-free facility
  • Four vegan options (Fruity Bears, Gummy Swirls, Sour Berry Bears, Sour Worms)
  • Five vegetarian options (Fruity Bears, Gummy Swirls, Jelly Beans, Sour Berry Bears, Sour Worms)

Are they fattening? Not particularly. “Each 2.75-oz bag of Surf Sweets candies contains only 120-140 calories per serving depending on the variety.”

The suggested retail price for a 2.75 oz. bag is $1.99. You may well be able to find Surf Sweets treats in your local grocery store, as the company says, “They’re currently available in mainstream grocery and natural foods stores, online and at specialty retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada.”

For those of you who are looking for healthier snack options for the Trick-or-Treaters in your neighborhood, watch your store shelves in October for the Surf Sweets Sour Worm Halloween Pack. Each package contains 20 individually wrapped treat packs of Surf Sweets Sour Worms. The suggested retail price is $4.99.

A final note from the company: “Unlike other candy brands, Surf Sweets proudly makes its products in the USA.” For more information visit the Surf Sweets website.

And a final note from your intrepid candy reviewer: Because I love chocolate, and I didn’t see that listed on any of the labels, I thought I’d be disappointed. But these are definitely yummy. I’ve just spoiled my dinner.

The Small Print

Blue Planet Green Living received a free sample of the product described in this post. No other compensation or incentive was provided.

Blue Planet Green Living’s review policy is to only review those products we feel merit overall positive comments. If we do not like a product, we do not review it. We are not influenced by complimentary products and provide our honest opinions. For more information, please visit the Policies tab on the top navigation bar.

Blue Planet Green Living has an affiliate relationship with If you purchase this product or any other products through Amazon by clicking on our affiliate link, Blue Planet Green Living will receive a small financial compensation from Amazon, which we use to sustain this website.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Healthy Soil -> Healthy Food -> Healthy People -> Healthy Communities

"There is a very important connection between the health of our environment, the health of our food system, as well as overall public health," says Angie Tagtow. Photo: Julia Wasson

"There is a very important connection between the health of our environment, the health of our food system, as well as overall public health," says Angie Tagtow. Photo: Julia Wasson

E. coli on lettuce. Salmonella on peanuts. Corn sweetener laden with mercury. Growth hormones and antibiotics in dairy cows. Arsenic in chickens. Sub-therapeutic antibiotics in swine. … Consumers have plenty of reasons to be concerned about the safety of our food supply.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Angie Tagtow, a registered dietitian, who has spent many years working in the public health sector, to talk with us at about the role of public policy in assuring safe, nutritious food.

After working at the Iowa Department of Public Health for 10 years, Tagtow opened a consulting firm to focus on her passion: the connection between the environment, food systems, and public health. She also is a Food and Society Policy Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy out of Minneapolis. As we began our conversation, she explained to us what she does as a Fellow. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

Small, kitchen gardens can help families eat healthier foods. Photo: Joe Hennager

Small, kitchen gardens can help families eat healthier foods. Photo: Joe Hennager

TAGTOW: After leaving public health, I recognized that policy is influential with all elements of our food system. So I am connecting the dots between soil, food, and health. Food, of course, is directly related to environmental issues — soil, water, biodiversity and those types of things. I do a lot of public speaking. I work quite a bit with universities, with undergraduate and graduate classes in delivering the message that there is a very important connection between the health of our environment, the health of our food system, as well as overall public health.

Being a Food and Society Policy Fellow is almost an independent study in a way, in the fact that we are located all over the country, though we do collaborate on a few projects. The most recent project that I have been involved with is to launch a National Gardening Initiative in partnership with the USDA. Five of us have been working together on doing that: Rose Hayden Smith out of University of California Davis Extension. We have Roger Doiron, who is the director for Kitchen Gardeners International out of Maine. We have Fred Bohnson, who has established church-based community gardens in North Carolina. Lisa Kivirist, who is an innkeeper, farmer and author in Wisconsin, and myself.  We’re now working together as a group, bringing our different networks and skill sets to the table to help the USDA launch a national school-community-workplace-home gardening initiative next year.

BPGL: What would that look like?

TAGTOW: It’s really capitalizing on what USDA has already done with the People’s Garden Initiative, as well as what the First Lady, Michelle Obama, has done at the White House. We had the privilege of visiting the White House garden three weeks ago with the assistant executive chef, Sam Kass. And they are actually launching their own White House Food Initiative. It’s taking this new momentum in people growing their own food to a greater level from a campaign perspective, very similar to the Victory Garden initiative in the 1940s. But of course, using the latest in technology and social media to do that.

BPGL: Will you reach out to people through social media to encourage them to participate in this effort?

TAGTOW: Absolutely. And we will follow the lead of USDA, and offering our services to them to help them with a national campaign.

Funding with Transparency

BPGL: Who supports the Fellows program?

Angie Tagtow, lecturing in Italy at the Palazzo dei Congressi di Riccione. Photo: Courtesy Angie Tagtow

Angie Tagtow, lecturing in Italy at the 21st Annual National Congress of the Associazione Nazionale dei Dietisti Italiani (ANDID), the Italian equivalent to the American Dietetic Association (ADA) Photo: Courtesy Angie Tagtow

TAGTOW: The Fellows program is administered by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Support comes from a couple of different foundations. The bulk of the funding comes from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, from their food systems and health initiative that they started many years ago. The Woodcock Foundation out of New York City is providing funding for a couple of the fellows. And we did have, at one time, funding from the Fair Food Foundation, Oran Hesterman’s group out of Michigan; however, that foundation went under last year because of the Madoff scandal.

We have diverse funding for the fellows, and hopefully the funding will continue in future years.

BPGL: So often, research is underwritten by companies with a vested interest in the results — whether it’s about food or pharmaceuticals or coal. Is the Kellogg Foundation that supports the Food Policy Fellows independent of Kellogg cereals?

TAGTOW: Although it is the same company, the foundation is not influenced by the food industry part of Kellogg. The Fellows report to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, so there is really no connection between the WK Kellogg Foundation per se and the work of the Fellows.

And we wholeheartedly believe in transparency in this process. There is no influence by the Foundation over our work.

An Ecological Approach to Food and Health

BPGL: Tell us about your work as a Food and Society Policy Fellow.

TAGTOW: A lot of the work that I’ve done over the last five to seven years looks at food system perspectives as it relates to nutrition and health. After coming out of the Iowa Department of Public Health, I recognized that policy plays a huge role in people accessing food. But I’ve been able to look a bit broader at the food system and at how policy dictates everything — how food is grown, how it’s processed, packaged, transported, exported, imported and ultimately available for consumption.

BPGL: Are you talking strictly about vegetable matter, or are you also talking about meat?

TAGTOW: I’m talking about everything. Investigating how decisions we make in our current food system influence the quality, quantity, and biodiversity of the food and overall health indications for eaters has steered me toward connecting these dots. I deliver these messages not only to dietitians but to public health practitioners, the medical community, and students in all of those programs. I’ve been able to branch out and deliver more of an ecological approach to food and health to other health professionals. My one-minute elevator speech is, “The science proves that healthy soil grows healthy food. The science also proves that healthy food nourishes healthy people — and healthy people live in healthy communities.”

Angie Tagtow shared this message at a recent presentation in Italy. Photo: Courtesy Angie Tagtow

Angie Tagtow shared this message at a recent presentation in Italy. Photo: Courtesy Angie Tagtow

I’ve had the opportunity over the past few years to work quite a bit with the American Dietetic Association in advancing the concept of sustainable food systems as a core component of dietetic practice. And I’ve done a lot of work in that area. The American Public Health Association is advancing these concepts as well.

In addition, I have had the opportunity to work with farm organizations in Iowa and learn how I can contribute to meeting the needs of their members in creating a healthy food system.

BPGL: When you work with dietitians or the American Public Health Association, what can they do? What influence do they have over agricultural practices?

TAGTOW: Very good examples are the different position statements that come from the American Public Health Association [APHA], the American Medical Association [AMA], the American Dietetic Association [ADA] on the link between sustainable food systems and how it influences the nutrition and health of the population.

Each of these organizations have policy statements now that have put the tools in the back pockets of health professionals to create change in agricultural practices and the larger food system. AMA and APHA have statements about the use of growth hormones in cattle and dairy cows. They have position statements on the use of antibiotics in livestock. It’s things like that that put health professionals in a position of being able to influence policy using evidence-based information.

BPGL: Are you seeing changes in agriculture based on the policy positions of the physicians and the dietitians?

TAGTOW: Absolutely. It’s been slow, mind you, but the first step that needs to be taken is to increase awareness among those professions. I can speak to that. I was never formally trained in the role of policy and how policy influences nutrition and health. And I was never formally trained in the link between agricultural practices and its influence on nutrients and health. I think that’s a huge disservice within the formal training of health professionals and not having this broader food system framework as a context of practice.

A Recommendation to All Eaters

BPGL: In a nutshell, summarize what you feel about sustainable agriculture and health. What should we be changing about what we’re doing? On Blue Planet Green Living we talk a lot about CAFOs and the detrimental effects of the excess manure and arsenic in the chicken feed, and so on. What might you say to speak to that?

TAGTOW: I think a recommendation to all eaters, regardless of where they’re coming from, if they’re a health professional or not, is that they need to instill some critical thinking when it comes to our food system. Ask questions. Not only, Where is the food coming from? but also, How is it grown? How is it treated? What chemicals are being used? What sub-therapeutic pharmaceuticals are being used?

Ask questions about where your food comes from and how it was produced. Photo: Joe Hennager at Foxhollow Poultry Farm

Ask questions about where your food comes from and how it was produced. Photo: Joe Hennager at Foxhollow Poultry Farm

We need to first establish those critical thinking skills not only among the health professionals but among all eaters. That’s my first recommendation.

What I see dietitians do, especially, is to create an environment in which they can comfortably ask these questions. When we talk about issues of transparency, this is where we definitely have some issues with our professional associations and their connections to the food industry, agribusiness, and pharmaceutical companies. We need to create an environment in which we can comfortably ask the questions and engage in evidence-based dialog about the issues.

BPGL: In what setting might that take place? In public discourse? Social media?

TAGTOW: All of the above. I think it first needs to happen internally within those professional associations, for example within the American Dietetic Association there is a Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, which is the only group of dietitians within ADA that look at nutrition and health from a food systems perspective. They’re the only ones who address the role of sustainable agriculture in providing for a healthy, green, fair, and accessible food supply for all eaters. We also dabble in water security, organic farming, and agriculture policy as well. Some of these groups are emerging and forming the environments in which these discussions can take place. And they’re also influencing policy within these organizations.

BPGL: So you’re making a difference.

TAGTOW: We hope to think so. But it never fails that there’s always a new challenge on the horizon.

Organic Food Has Greater Benefits

BPGL: What’s the current challenge?

TAGTOW: The current challenge within the dietetic profession has to do with the nutritional characteristics of organically grown products versus conventional products. For years, the ADA has always framed the discussion by saying that there is no evidence to support that organically grown foods have more beneficial nutrients as compared to their conventional counterparts.

Organic food is healthier, according to the ADA. Photo: Joe Hennager

Organic food is healthier, according to the ADA. Photo: Joe Hennager

Just this year, the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group came forward and said, we need to really evaluate this. So after several months, the ADA released a Hot Topic on organic food production. They finally put in writing a position of the American Dietetic Association that says that, depending upon the growing practices, there is evidence to suggest that organically produced foods do have higher beneficial nutrients as compared to their conventional counterparts.

That in itself was a milestone. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but with an organization that has very close ties to food industry, that was a celebratory event for many of us.

Dietitians often reduce issues down to nutrients and their link to treating disease. But I think we need to emerge from the classic nutritional reductionist paradigm and think about food as a complex system and that the health of the environment in which food is grown is the better indicator for human health.

Part 1: Healthy Soil -> Healthy Food -> Healthy People -> Healthy Communities (Top of Page)

Part 2: Soil Is a Finite Resource – Once It’s Gone, It’s Gone for Good

Julia Wasson
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Post:

Shades of Green – Looking at the Food System with a Critical Eye

My 5: Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group

Comments Off on My 5: Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Ken Cook, president and founder of the Environmental Working Group, two questions we like to ask all our interviewees. Following are our questions and his responses. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

5 Ways to Save the Planet

BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet? (You can answer as the head of Environmental Working Group or as a parent, if you prefer.)

COOK: Those two things — my job as a parent and my job as the head of Environmental Working Group — have come together in lots of things. It’s a blessing to be able to do this work now, and have both of those sets of objectives in mind, because they do merge pretty well.

Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group. Photo courtesy: Environmental Working Group

Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group. Photo courtesy: Environmental Working Group

  • One of the first things we need to do, obviously, is deal with climate change. We need to reduce our carbon footprint — and our environmental footprint, generally. That means in our everyday life as well as at the government level.
  • Second, we think one of the most important environmental campaigns in history is to protect our health from toxic chemicals. So, again, we need to take steps in our everyday life. We can do a lot of things as individuals to protect ourselves and our families from toxic chemical exposures, but we also need laws at the state level and at the federal level, the reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, the enactment of something that looks like the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act. That would be number two for me.
  • Third, I think we really do need to focus strongly on diet and nutrition in this country. We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the food that’s available to us and the price it’s available. We need to do a better job of paying attention to which foods, individually, we can eat and which foods we have available, not just for those of us who can live in a big city and can afford to shop anywhere, but for the disadvantaged in this country and around the world. We need to be smarter about providing adequate nutrition, healthy nutrition that leads to a nice, productive life.
  • Fourth, I would say, we need to take care of the creatures in the world. We really do need to focus on the incredible threat that we are posing, as a species, to all the other species on the planet. We need to protect biological diversity, including the rainforest, with the native people living there and the incredible resources that still remain. We need to conserve those, as well as our ocean resources.
  • Then, the final thing I think is really important is, generally speaking, we need to have high expectations and engagement with our government. I don’t care what end of the political spectrum you’re on, this is not a time, and there never will be a time again, to step back and assume that we can let the government run along by its own power, influenced by the various special interests that come to influence it, and expect we’re going to have a good outcome.As a citizen, you need to be engaged with your government at the federal level, the state level, the local level. It doesn’t mean a full-time job; but it does mean, pay attention, get involved, get engaged, find organizations that you can work with, and, if you need it, organizations that can provide some access to information, ideas, and actions you might take. The EWG wants to believe it is, and tries to be, an organization that provides that for citizens. But being a citizen is one of the most important challenges all of us face, rather than just retreating into our own lives, our own homes, without paying attention to the bigger world around us.

2 Minutes with the President

BPGL: If you had two minutes with President Obama, what would you say to him?

COOK: I would say, “Hang in there. You’re trying to do a lot of the right things, and you’re trying to lead the country from a broad base; that hasn’t always worked out, but we salute you for trying.” I would say, in particular, “These environmental issues can really unite people. We have seen, in the case of our work on toxic chemicals, that across the spectrum — whether it’s the spectrum of religious beliefs or from conservative to liberal [politics] — people want to take care of the next generation and its health. And if, by providing additional protection for toxic chemicals, we can do that, that’s something we ought to do. I’d encourage you to do that.” And I’d say, “Thank you, Mr. President. ”

Ken Cook, President and Founder
Environmental Working Group

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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Environmental Working Group – A Nonprofit with Great ROI

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The New Deal Supper Club – A Moveable Feast

Sarah Pace and Suzanne Barr prepare tacos for the meal. Photo: T. I. Williams

Sarah Pace and Suzanne Barr prepare tacos for the meal. Photo: T. I. Williams

Last week, Blue Planet Green Living had the privilege of introducing our readers to a unique, traveling supper club in the greater New York City area. Chef Sarah Pace of Rabbit Mafia and Chef Suzanne Barr of Sweet Potato Bakery have come together to provide unique, locally sourced, raw meals at a modest cost. To the delight of their patrons, they choose a different venue for each event. If you’re inspired to join this movable feast, check the websites at the bottom of the post for future event announcements.Julia Wasson, Publisher

The New Deal Supper Club on July 15th was sweeter than a song.

This time, the ladies of Rabbit Mafia and Sweet Potato took their awesomely sophisticated show on the road to Brooklyn’s hinterlands (I mean, Williamsburg). The trip to BRIDGET Tasting Room felt like an updated Mission Impossible scene. Only this time, the instrumentals were the introductory bars to the infamous 1987 hit, Smooth Criminal.

Brooklyn provided a beautiful backdrop that surprised the guests, some from as far as New Jersey. There, miles from a train (translation: civilization) attendees were greeted by a beautiful waterfront — bridge and all. The wide-open streets of the once commercial district in Williamsburg edged right up to the wide-open glass façade of BRIDGET Tasting Room at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

The dinner, like Michael Jackson’s song, was a never-ending interplay of unexpected experiences and associations. Chefs Sarah Pace and Suzanne Barr touched on multi-layered possibilities when they served the Papaya Lime Summer Soup. Ooooowwwww. Spicy and smooth, guests at the dinner raved about the shock delivered to their palates in the form of summer tropical fruits cinched with lime.

The Cucumber Agave Juice, which came by the carafe, was eagerly downed by folks playing with the flavors of the mildly sweet and super-refreshing drink.


Summer Corn Tacos proved to be a hit. Photo: T. I. Williams

Then came the crescendo — both at the table and in the song that looped in my head. When the Summer Corn Tacos were placed before me, I was officially hit — by the smoothest of criminals. Radicchio & Romaine Chiffanade, Pico de Gallo, Chunky Guacamole & Nut Chili with a pickled side salad… these were just the parts of the carefully orchestrated whole. What more does anyone want from a taco… besides another serving?

And in keeping with the raw Latin American theme, the ladies capped the meal with the most appropriate dessert. Somewhere between pre-Colombian past and 2051, they landed in a middle ground that’s eons away from the present. And yes, I was very much okay after having the Spiced Chocolate Mousse. Thank you for asking.

There is one aspect of the New Deal Supper Club that outshines the food: the price. Pace and Barr make a conscious effort to buy local produce from Satur Farms and other local farmers, in combination with consciously sourced international items, like papaya, all at a an economical rate for guests.

All New Deal Supper Club meals are served at establishments that share the team’s mission to embody sustainability. A delicious, nutritious, three-course meal for $25.00 in New York is a rarity. A three-course meal that is raw, seasonal, and touches all the finer parts of the palate for $25.00 in New York is near impossible. The ladies, once again, shine as stars in the New York City Supper Club scene.

The most

BRIDGET Tasting Room proved to be a delightful venue for the New Deal Supper Club's second event. Photo: T. I. Williams

BRIDGET Tasting Room was well worth the trip. The tasting room carries a selection of amazing wines that round out BRIDGET’s own collection of superb bottles from the Bridge Urban Winery’s vineyard on Long Island. Respecting both the environment and discerning consumers, the vineyards in Hudson Valley were developed and cultivated by Greg Sandor and Paul Wegeimont. Later they were joined by Everard Findlay, who expanded BRIDGET’s presence by creating a home for the excellent wines in Brooklyn.

T. I. Williams
Baker and Live Foods Chef-Educator

Contributing Writer
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Post

The New Deal – A Progressive Supper Club

The New Deal – A Progressive Supper Club

Unlike Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the only thing complex about this supper club are the flavors of Rabbit Mafia and Sweet Potato’s dishes.

Chef Suzanne Barr. Photo: T. I. Williams

Chef Suzanne Barr. Photo: T. I. Williams

The New Deal Supper Club, hosted by Chef Sarah Pace of Rabbit Mafia, features meals by the talented Suzanne Barr, chef and creator of Sweet Potato Bakery. The chefs have teamed up with marketer Kizzy Kae to provide the New York area with an exquisite dining experience that moves from one exciting venue to another.

Pace, a graduate of the Natural Gourmet, developed the affordable New Deal Supper Club in response to shifts in consumer consciousness favoring conserving resources and cautionary spending.

June: Green Spaces, Brooklyn

For the first installment in June, Pace selected Green Spaces New York in downtown Brooklyn. With its wide-open communal work spaces, unbelievable rooftop garden, and fully stocked kitchen, Green Spaces proved to be an excellent choice for an evening dinner punctuated with smart and inviting conversations.

Barr, who owns Sweet Potato Bakery, a boutique vegan bakery specializing in gluten-free cookies, met Pace while studying at Natural Gourmet. Barr’s pairings heralded a season of foods simple in presentation, yet deeply satisfying in their wholesome quality.

The evening began with a wine tasting by Saba Peace Wine, a homemade winemaker based in New Jersey. Saba featured its Multaburgandy and Merlac both from 2008. The earthy and sensuous wines were the perfect introduction to the menu, which started with Strawberry Basil Salad with Stinging Nettle Sauce, followed by a Cream of Cucumber Soup with Red Pepper Coulis Sauce and Sesame Flax Crackers.

Cream of cucumber soup. Photo: T. I. Williams

Cream of cucumber soup. Photo: T. I. Williams

The Wild Arugula & Mixed Green Salad with Pineapple Carpaccio plates came piled high with greens and herbs from the revolutionary Satur Farms and finished with a perfect Sorrel Dressing.

The main course was a surprisingly savory Sundried Tomato Walnut Torte stuffed with fresh Fava Puree, Lemon Bathed Radishes and Pickled Onions.

The grand finale was absolutely delightful — a Lavender Coconut Ice Cream served with a Fresh Berry Sauce and finished with Chocolate.

The best part? The dishes were mostly local, mainly seasonal and all raw! A tremendous feat, since Pace managed to offer all five courses and wine for $30.00!

Sun-dried tomato torte. Photo: T. I. Williams

Sun-dried tomato torte. Photo: T. I. Williams

For New Yorkers, the New Deal Supper Club hits the mark of sustainable dining. Where else can 30 people get together to dine on goods that still had soil on them just hours before while appreciating wildflower art on the rooftop — and still make the open-bar cutoff using mass transit?

The evening began with a wine tasting. Photo: T. I. Williams

The evening began with a wine tasting. Photo: T. I. Williams

In respect to taste and freshness, the dinner pulled together every element of a great Hudson Valley farm-raised dinner, sans farm. And even though the organizers skipped the animals and wide-open fields, they kept the composting and waste water recycling.

The ladies of Rabbit Mafia and Sweet Potato Bakery are already hard at work planning their next Brooklyn affair scheduled for July 15th at Bridget’s Tasting Room in Williamsburg.

Pace’s talented team was successful in bringing together diverse people for a pleasurable evening, and I am sure the New Deal Supper Club will soon become a New York staple.

July: BRIDGET Tasting Room, Williamsburg

This month, New Deal diners will enjoy a 3-course raw dinner made with handpicked, local ingredients at BRIDGET Tasting Room, located on the edge of the East River in Brooklyn.

July 15 @ BRIDGET Tasting Room 20 Broadway at Kent St., Williamsburg

7:30 Wine Tasting
8 pm Seating
Wine is available for purchase by the glass or bottle
$22 in advance
$25 at the door (cash only)
Limited Seating Available

BRIDGET serves a variety of local wines from Bridge Vineyards in Mattituck, New York on the North Fork of Long Island. Bridge Wine is made from locally grown grapes on Bridge Lane in Cutahog, NY.

3 Course Raw Mexican Summer

  • Papaya Lime Soup
  • Duo Summer Corn Tacos with Radicchio & Romaine Chiffanade, Pico de Gallo, Chunky Guacamole & Nut Chili with a pickled side salad
  • Spiced Chocolate Mousse with a Nut Cream & Sweetened Raw Coconut Flakes

Who’s Who

Rabbit Mafia works specifically with the arts industry, non-profits, and socially conscious companies to provide excellent cuisine using locally sourced products.

Sweet Potato Bakerys Chef Suzanne Barr, a graduate of Natural Gourmet NYC caters to clients’ cravings for delicious seasonal vegan and gluten-free desserts in Brooklyn and — coming soon — Manhattan. Stop by V-spot, Organic Heights, or Tiny Cup for weekly cookie pickup spots in Brooklyn.

T. I. Williams

Baker and Live Foods Chef-Educator

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Zamu – A Healthy Blend of Fruits and Herbs from the Amazon Herb Company

The Amazon rainforest is full of plants, herbs, and wildlife. Because of this, the Amazon rainforest has gained a reputation as being one of the best natural pharmacies for not only known remedies that originate in the forest, but for its massive potential healing powers as well. The Amazon Herb Company is one organization using the power of exotic fruit to bring health benefits to its consumers.


The Amazon Herb Company produces and markets herbal remedies for all kinds of ailments. These herbal remedies emerge from various wild herbs and fruits found in the Amazon rainforests. Their products range from a Rainforest Treasure Tea, to the natural skin care product line, Lluvia, to their most popular product — Zamu — a blended drink of Amazonian fruits and herbs.  The company is most concerned with environmental conservation and delivering natural health products to consumers without causing any detriment to the rainforests or its inhabitants.

The recommended daily dose of Zamu is only two ounces. Photo: Julia Wasson

The recommended daily dose of Zamu is only two ounces. Photo: Julia Wasson

The founder of the Amazon Herb Company, John Easterling, describes his products as “natural compounds [that] reinforce the body’s vitality.” Dubbed “Amazon John” because of his extensive work in the Amazon, Easterling is passionate about the natural healing properties of the plants in the Amazon and the role the rainforest plays in contributing to a healthy global future. He is especially excited about the company’s most recent offering, Zamu.

Zamu, a drink made from superfruits and herbs, is certified USDA organic and contains no preservatives. It also has a highly concentrated source of immune-boosting vitamin C, which helps to eliminate any free radicals in the body. Other benefits reported by consumers include emotional stability and mood enhancement, anti-aging properties, improved cardiovascular health, and nutrition that supports healthy skin, hair, and nails. It is important to remember, however, that although many people have experienced health benefits from the blended drink, these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A Synergistic Blend

Each ingredient serves its own purpose in Zamu and is said to function synergistically with the others: Cacao is said to increase blood flow to the brain and is recognized for its antioxidant and mood-enhancing properties. Cinnamon helps to maintain healthy glucose levels. Pineapple contains a high level of bromelain, which has anti-inflammatory potential. And the beta carotene found in mangoes helps improve memory.

Amazonian fruits are also said to pack a powerful punch.  The acai berry is said to contribute to overall good health and may assist in weight loss.

Sangre de drago is also said to promote a natural anti-aging process in the body. Sangre de drago is the Spanish name given to the Dragon’s Blood Tree, which is most commonly known by its Spanish name, even in English-speaking countries. The tree is of medium height, and was named after the red-orange sap that seeps when the tree is injured. The sap itself is particularly useful, because it has many medicinal qualities ranging from treating diarrhea to relief from insect bites. Many naturopaths claim that the sangre de drago contains beneficial anti-aging compounds called proanthocyanidins. As of June 2009, no official research has been completed by the FDA or other recognized institutions to confirm these statements.

What may sound the most foreign to consumers not from South America is the main ingredient in the Zamu drink: the Camu Camu fruit. The Camu Camu tree grows on the edge of the Amazon Basin in Peru. It is most commonly sought after for its fruit. Four months of the year, the roots of the Camu Camu trees are covered by flood waters. When the flood waters settle, so do the nutrients contained in them. These nutrients are then absorbed by the trees.

Some scientists believe that the Camu Camu fruit contains the highest concentration of naturally occurring vitamin C, approximately 30 times more than oranges. The fruit is also rich in iron, niacin, and riboflavin. Camu Camu even contains very high amounts of essential amino acids, which are not naturally occurring in the human body and need to be consumed daily.

The fruit contains significant amounts of luecine, which promotes the production of growth hormones and increases energy; serine, which supports a healthy nervous system, including brain and emotional function; and valine, which is used as a primary energy source in muscular activity and promotes mental health and emotional stabilization. It also contains limonene, a compound thought to reduce appetite, which could then aid in weight loss.

Of course, as with any new food or medicine, consumers should watch for any signs of allergic reaction, stop taking it immediately if one should occur, and consult a physician.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certifies that Zamu is made from an organic blend of fruits. And unlike many of the companies promoting açai berry scams, the Amazon Herb Company received an A+ rating on the Better Business Bureau’s reliability report. In the past 36 months, only one complaint was submitted to the BBB about the company, and the report shows the company responded immediately to the situation.

Giving Back to the Amazon

Amazon Herb Company gives back to the rainforest in several ways. The company employs members of the Shipibo tribe to harvest the fruits and herbs. This benefits the local communities and prevents machines from destroying the land. The Amazon Herb Co. is in partnership with the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting the conservation of the Amazon Rainforest.

Easterling also said that the company gives 10 percent of its profits to other projects that benefit the Amazon rainforest and its inhabitants. The indigenous people determine how the money should be spent, whether on a new community center, mosquito netting, education, or something else that will meet the community’s needs.

Although clinical studies have yet to be conducted that support all of the health benefit claims of the Zamu drink, in a world full of fast-food joints, you can never get enough fruit in your diet. By consuming the recommended amount of Zamu each day, you can feel good about your body and have a guilt-free conscience, knowing that the rainforest is not destroyed while creating this product. If the drink itself doesn’t give you an extra spring in your step, then knowing that you are supporting the rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants should.

Amazon Herb Company products are available for purchase from independent representatives on the web.

Sabrina Potirala

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Crofter’s Superfruit Spread Gives a Tangy Twist to Jam

Crofter's Superfruit Spread comes in four flavors: Europe, Asia, North America, and South America. Photo: Courtesy Crofter's

When Crofter’s sent Blue Planet Green Living free samples of their new jam, I wondered how different could this product really be? Jam is jam, right? But after one bite into a piece of toast topped with the gooey spread, I knew I was in for a treat.

Manufactured in Canada, Crofter’s Organic Superfruit Spreads are a USDA-certified organic product. The four varieties are named by the continents on which the fruits grow: North America, Europe, Asia, and South America. The spreads are produced by combining morello cherries and red grape with superfruits — fruits with exceptional nutrition and antioxidants — unique to a specific continent.

The outcome of this innovative idea? A jam packed with bold, exotic flavors with nutritious benefits for every consumer.

Jam vs. Jelly

I invited a small group of friends to taste-test the spreads. During the tasting, I noticed we were using the words “jam” and “jelly” interchangeably. But these are, in fact, different products. When I googled the differences between the two, all sites relayed the same information: Both products are made with crushed fruit, sugar, and the gelling agent pectin. When the fruit juice is strained, it creates a smooth textured jelly. Jam, on the other hand, is not strained and contains chunks of fruit. The terms jam and preserve may be use interchangeably, however. Preserves indicates a fruit is canned for later use, and because jam contains fruit pieces, the words can be used with the same meaning. With chunks of fruit dispersed in the gooey texture, there is no doubt Crofter’s Superfruit Spread is a jam, not a jelly.

The Taste Test

My two roommates, my boyfriend, and I decided to try the jam on what we most frequently eat jam on: toast. I cut a few pieces of plain, whole-wheat toast and a thicker, honey-crushed wheat toast, into four squares and spread one of the jams on each square. After a few samples, we found the jam’s strong flavors didn’t mix well with the honey bread, and determined the jam was best on the plain, whole-wheat toast.

The fruitspread has a thick, gooey texture.

The fruitspread has a thick, gooey texture. Photo: Megan Lisman

The first jam we tried was Asia. The combination of the raspberries and yumberries immediately got our attention. Raspberries give the spread a sweet flavor commonly found in jam, while the yumberries — a sweet-sour berry found in China — give the jam a distinct sour twist. The unusual ingredient received mixed opinions. My boyfriend thought this flavor stood out from the other three jams and found it was his favorite. Eventually, he even made a peanut butter and jam sandwich with the Asia jam and found the extra flavor gave a whole new taste to a classic sandwich.

On the other hand, my roommates were not so enthused with this flavor. They enjoyed the taste, but were content with just one square. They felt an entire piece of toast with this tangy flavor would be too much for them.

The North American spread added a completely new taste into the mix. This jam has a subtly sweet blueberry taste, accented with a distinctive cranberry zest. Because this jam combines familiar  fruits, I thought this jam would be an overall crowd-pleaser. But to my surprise, it was everyone’s least favorite. We all enjoyed the taste of the jam, but preferred the other, more exotic flavors. Perhaps this is because North America is made of flavors we know so well, and we found the other jams more surprising and fun.

The final jam, South America, is a mixture of maqui, one of most nutritious berries in the world, and passion fruit. The combination of these two exotic flavors creates a bold, yet sweet, flavor that is unique from the rest. We unanimously liked this jam, and we kept coming back for more. As my favorite flavor, I could easily see some of this jam on a piece of toast for the perfect complement to my morning coffee.

Nutritional Benefits

My roommate, Karolina, sampled North American jam. Photo: Megan Lisman

When I compared the nutrition labels of Smucker’s Strawberry Jam, Welch’s Grape Jelly, and the Crofter’s Superfruit Spread, it was obvious Crofter’s doesn’t only rival regular jam with their unique and bold flavors — it also offers a healthier option for a morning treat.

At one tablespoon per serving, Smucker’s Strawberry Jam has 50 calories, 13 grams of carbs, and 12 grams of sugar. This is similar to Welch’s Grape Jelly, except that Welch’s jelly has 15 milligrams of sodium and an additional gram of sugar. Neither the Smucker’s jam nor Welch’s jelly are organic.

All flavors of Crofter’s Superfruit Spread are noticeably lower in those categories. At one tablespoon per serving, Crofter’s Spread has 30 calories, no sodium, 8 grams of carbs, 7 grams of sugar, and an additional 50 percent of the recommended adult daily intake of Vitamin C. In addition, Crofter’s uses all organic superfruit, organic fair trade cane sugar, and natural fruit pectin.

Although the product samples were free, this is an unpaid, unbiased review. If my friends and I had disliked the jams, I would not have reviewed them. Our verdict? With its extra nutritional value, all organic ingredients, and taste-bud twisting flavors, Crofter’s Superfruit Spread is a unique jam that’s definitely worth a try.

Megan Lisman


Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Make a Difference in Hunger, One Person or Village at a Time

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Starvation looks like taut skin over brittle bones. (c) Mickeal IRLES_Fotolia

When most people I know talk about hunger, we are referring to a rumbling emptiness in our stomachs that makes us look forward to our next meal in a few minutes or, at worst, a few hours. We get hungry, but we are far from starving.

Yet I have known plenty of kids whose only meals were the breakfasts and lunches they received at school. I’ve seen hungry people standing in line waiting for a free lunch from volunteers. I’ve filled bags of groceries for hungry families who count on the food bank to supplement the little they have in their cupboards. They lift their own grocery bags and walk to a car or stuff their items into a backpack to find a safe place to eat. This is often what hunger looks like in the U.S. and, I suspect, in other industrialized nations.

But starving? Almost without exception, starving happens in developing nations. Starving looks like taut skin stretched over brittle bones, ribs outlined in scrawny chests, and distended abdomens. Starving is listless people who no longer have enough energy even to stand, let alone carry food. Starving is a slow march to death.

The lack of adequate nutrition kills some 5 million (5,000,000) people per year, according to Wiki Answers. About 30,273 people die every day from starvation. Those are staggering numbers.

To put it in perspective, consider this fact from the United Nations Millenium Development Group (UNMDG) report: “Every day, nearly 7,500 people become infected with HIV and 5,500 die from AIDS…”  So AIDS, about which we hear so much, kills only a bit more than one fifth the number of those who starve to death each day.

Poverty in developed nations generally means hunger, not starvation. Photo: © Xavier MARCHANT-

Why don’t we hear more about hunger and starvation? Or do we hear, but we just don’t listen? Maybe we’ve become inured to the photos of children with distended bellies and sticks for legs and arms, and mothers so devoid of hope that they stare without expression while holding a skeletal toddler. Perhaps we’ve grown weary of hearing of other people’s troubles when we ourselves are struggling to make ends meet. There is hardship everywhere, and we cannot, as individuals, save the world.

Relief agencies cry out for money to buy food for the masses in refugee camps and disaster areas. That humanitarian effort is a vital one, but something else has to happen, too. If all we do is provide food for people without also providing education, jobs, and safety, we have simply extended the inevitable spiral toward death by a few more days, weeks, or months.

Target 3 of the UN’s Millenium Development Goal is “Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.” This is a complex issue, as the report goes on to explain:

Overall, most poor people are caught in a vicious circle. Breaking this circle requires an array of simultaneous actions: a single intervention is unlikely to be sufficient. Governments should ensure that poverty reduction is mainstreamed into all policies, ranging from national macroeconomic strategy to local-level administrative actions. Particular attention should be paid to the creation of additional opportunities for decent work. Public investment and public institutions should endeavour to target the poor, particularly in their expenditures on education, health and infrastructure.

Ensuring gender equality and empowering women in all respects – desirable objectives in themselves – are required to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to ensure sustainable development. The limited progress in empowering women and achieving gender equality is a pervasive shortcoming that extends beyond the goal itself. Relative neglect of, and de facto bias against, women and girls continues to prevail in most countries. As an indispensable starting point for women’s betterment in later life, all countries that failed to achieve gender parity in primary and secondary enrollment by the target year of 2005 should make a renewed effort to do so as soon as possible. Improved support for women’s self-employment, and rights to land and other assets, are key to countries’ economic development. Above all, however, achieving gender equality requires that women have an equal role with men in decision-making at all levels, from the home to the pinnacles of economic and political power.”

Give to organizations that will empower people. Photo: ©TheFinalMiracle_Fotolia

These are ambitious goals, and I would love to see the nations of the world take leadership and give equal educational opportunity to girls and boys, provide equal job opportunities (with equal pay for equal work) to women and men, and protect women and girls from the gender violence that (though not mentioned in this report) puts them at risk of rape and abuse both at work and at home. By providing such opportunities, governments can help people rise from poverty and gain the means to feed their families and themselves.

You and I alone can’t change the policies of nations. But we can each make a difference to one person, one family, or one village. We can give to charities that fight hunger directly, of course, but a far more potent solution is to give to organizations that empower individuals to feed themselves, attend school, or start a business of their own.

In the next few days, we’ll look at the Heifer Project, Kiva, and the Grameen Bank. These are three important weapons that help families and individuals fight the deep-seated economic and social problems associated with poverty and starvation. If you have suggestions of other organizations that are battling poverty and starvation through empowerment, let us know who they are, so we can spread the good word about their work, too.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Swallowing Your Pride to Put Food in Your Stomach

A week's rations at the food bank — once the soy-containing items are culled. Photo: J Wasson

I was at the local food bank today, having given a ride to a friend. He’s talented and capable, but temporarily out of work and low on resources in this tough economy. The experience was a painful one for him, and I write this with his reluctant permission. He wishes to be anonymous, he says. He’s embarrassed that he has to avail himself of these life-saving services. He’s not alone.

In the short time we were there — possibly 15 or 20 minutes — three dozen people crossed our paths, arriving, waiting, leaving. Ours is a relatively small city of 60,000 or so. I can only imagine the numbers of hungry residents lining up for help in Dallas, New York, or downtown L.A.

Our local food bank is a compassionate place. The folks who go there for help are treated with dignity and respect by the staff and volunteers. Clients are treated like human beings, not like numbers. And yet, there seemed to this observer to be a pervasive sense of embarrassment among many of them. I saw several people quickly scan the waiting room, then furtively watch the door as they waited for their names to be called for a bag of groceries. Others’ heads were lowered and their shoulders hunched, perhaps in defeat, perhaps in an attempt to draw inside and become as small as they could.

Not all reacted the same way. Two women stood at the entrance, openly snacking on a bit of this pastry and a mouthful of that fruit bar. The elder of the two tossed boxes of generic macaroni and cheese onto a worker’s cart as he passed her. “I don’t want no more of that crap,” she said sharply. “Every week, it’s the same bad stuff.” The worker took her comments in stride, smiling. I got the impression that he’d heard the same story many times before.

Canned beef stew contains two forms of soy. Photo: J Wasson

In the center of the reception room, people gathered around a large table loaded with cartons of soy yogurt, wilted greens, organic sour cream, French onion dip, cottage cheese, and a few stray cans of fruits and vegetables with unappealing labels. Bread racks on two sides of the room were loaded with loaves of French bread, wheat bread, ciabatta rolls, and dinner rolls. All this is a bonus; clients can help themselves to as many of these items as they can carry. And they do.

When their names are called, each person gets a single bag of groceries assembled from the donations of concerned citizens and businesses. The intake form asks about dietary restrictions, and my friend wrote “Soy Allergy” in big letters. He might not die from eating soy, but he suffers with welts that last for more than a week. He is understandably cautious.

In his bag of groceries, allowed once per week, at least three quarters of the items listed soy in the ingredients on the labels. Coffee cake: soy lecithin and vegetable oil (may contain soy). Canned soup: contains soy protein. Canned chili: contains soy protein. And soy and soybean oil and more soy and soybean oil. “Go back and ask them again,” I said, trying to be helpful.

“I heard you shouldn’t make trouble, because they’ll remember the name on your slip and give you all the bad stuff the next time,” my friend said. But after looking at the slim pile of groceries remaining in his bag, he went to the counter and asked to exchange. A second try, and the volunteer cheerfully brought him a small bag of Doritos (soy ingredients). He also handed my friend a few cans of tuna and some beef jerky — which one might expect to contain just tuna and just beef.  “These should be fine,” the man said. My friend checked the labels and said, “Thanks for trying, but all of these list soy in the ingredients.”

“What can you eat?” the volunteer asked. I thought he sounded exasperated, but he surely couldn’t have been as exasperated as my friend, who kept his cool through the whole ordeal. A third try, and he brought out two small, sealed snack packets, one containing tuna and the other shrimp. No soy this time, but not enough food to get through the week, either, after having to forgo the soy-inclusive items (canned beef stew, etc.) that had formerly filled the bag.

The canned fruits and vegetables in his shopping bag were the cheapest quality goods on any grocery store shelf. I get it that the food bank needs to stretch its dollars as far as it can. If green beans are priced at three for a dollar for the generic brand (with lots of sodium and water), and the brand name beans are 79¢ apiece, then it’s no contest. The food bank will opt for the cheaper variety every time. Feeding three people wins out over feeding one. But no one asks about the quality of the ingredients; they can’t afford to raise the question.

What struck me as I waited was that almost all of the clients were overweight, and some were grossly obese. Former Texas Senator Phil Gramm (one of Senator John McCain’s main economics advisers during the presidential campaign) is quoted as saying, “Has anyone ever noticed that we live in the only country in the world where all the poor people are fat?” The implication seemed to be that overweight people couldn’t possibly be that poor, because they’re obviously eating. But what are they eating?

Even beef jerky contains soy flour and soy beans. Who knew? Photo: J Wasson

Another friend who had lived with us for a while also took regular trips to the food bank. Most of what he brought back was pastries and breads and pasta. The pastries and breads were the items available daily (rather than weekly) in the waiting area, because stores freely offer those items as their expiration dates pass. Like my friend today, he could take as many of those as he wished. So what does a hungry person do when nutritious food is hard to come by, but starches are plentiful? What would you do, if your belly was aching to be filled and that was your only option?

It’s a vicious cycle, of course, as malnourished people have difficulty mustering the energy to get a job. And people without a job have no money to buy healthy foods — for themselves or their children. Malnutrition also begets despair, and despair often feeds its belly with comfort food. Comfort food — the pastries and breads and pastas — lure the poor onto a treadmill that fattens them. And being fat begets inertia, so that getting a job becomes less of a goal — and less of a possibility — all the time.

So much for my penny psychology.

What I learned today — the takeaway that I would like to share with you — is this: When you have the wherewithal to donate to a food bank (and, unless you’re receiving food there yourself, perhaps you do), please choose selections that will provide first-rate nutrition. Sure, everyone loves a guilt-filled snack now and again, but try to remember how much healthier it is to munch on trail mix or dried fruit. Donate food (or funds) with the sobering thought that one day you, too, could be on the receiving end of the generosity of others.

Oh, and it would also be helpful if you could find some foods without the ubiquitous soy. (Read the ingredients label.) Someone who’s hungry may thank you.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Acai – Amazon Wonder Berry or Just Another Craze?

Harvesting the acai berry. Photo: ©

If you listen to the hype, you may begin to think that the acai (pronounced a-sigh-EE) berry is the wonder food for everything that could possibly ail you. The ads are all over the Internet, in magazines, on television. They lure you in with questionable (if not outright fabricated) celebrity endorsements, “free” sample offers, and broad claims of almost mythical proportions.

Although acai is most commonly advertised as a weight-loss product, marketers also claim that it provides increased energy levels, improved sexual performance, improved digestion, detoxification, high fiber content, high antioxidant content, improved skin appearance, improved heart health, improved sleep, and reduction of cholesterol levels.

The acai berry has been touted as one of the most highly beneficial dietary supplements on the market. And WalletPop named it the #1 hottest product of 2008, after marketers dubbed the berry a “super food.”

But despite all the hype, groups are challenging acai’s health and weight-loss claims, and warning consumers to beware of acai berry scams. With so much conflicting information, it’s hard to know what is fact and what is fiction.

What It Is

The acai berry grows in Central and South America on eight different varieties of palm trees, primarily in swamps and floodplains — areas with heavy rainfall or standing water. The berries are small, round and black-purple in color. You might find them similar in appearance to a blueberry, but with a large, inedible seed in the center. Acai palm trees are tall and slender, reaching between 50 to 100 feet. Due to recent demand for their berries, acai palm trees are currently cultivated primarily for their fruit; but their fronds can also be made into hats, mats, baskets, and brooms.

Unripened acai berries and acai palm fronds. Photo: ©

Unripened acai berries and acai palm fronds. Photo: ©

Acai is commercially available in a number of forms, including juice, pulp, powder, and capsules. It has been marketed as an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, and an antibacterial. It’s also said to contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential to human health.

Acai’s other chemical contents are impressive, too:

  • A concentration of 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes, and 10 to 30 times the anthocyanins of red wine, which helps combat premature aging
  • Monounsaturated (healthy) fats, dietary fiber, and phytosterols to help promote cardiovascular and digestive health
  • Anthocyanins and flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that help prevent free radicals from forming in the body and starting chain reactions that damage cells
  • Amino acids and trace minerals that are vital to proper muscle contraction and regeneration

Amazon Wonder Berry?

Although some people say they have more energy and feel healthier after taking acai dietary supplements, these claims are not supported by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But the medical community does agree that — like the cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry — the acai berry, carries antioxidants.

Acai berries can be blended and mixed with granola. Photo: iStockphoto/Brasil2

Claims of weight loss from acai are unfounded, however, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). “There’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest that acai pills will help shed pounds, flatten tummies, cleanse colons, enhance sexual desire, or perform any of the other commonly advertised functions,” according to a press release from CSPI.

Kristina Conner, a licensed naturopathic physician and Assistant Professor of Naturopathic Medicine at National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, Illinois, said naturopaths sometimes work with the acai berry, because it is a natural substance. But she agrees that the berry is not a one-stop, quick fix for weight loss or any of the other ailments the companies are claiming the berry can improve.

“It is important to address lifestyle things first. So supplements including something like the acai would be considered beneficial on top of making healthy lifestyle changes — like a good diet, sleep, exercise, all of that stuff. Relying on just one agent like [the acai berry], no matter what it is, is not the wisest course. If you look at things like weight loss or cardiovascular disease, it is never one cause, so it should never be one fix,” Conner said.

According to Conner, the acai berry is a reasonable alternative to drinking red wine, because the two products are both preventive substances. Because many people do not incorporate the acai berry into their normal diets, some people can see positive results where others may not.

“There is probably going to be a percentage of people who do [an acai] diet and are going to respond really well to it, but then there is a larger percentage who probably aren’t. They need to make sure they are not throwing out common sense when they try a new diet or a new product,” Conner said.

A Pricey Alternative

Mark Stibich, a physician specializing in health behavior, has expressed concerns about the sudden and tremendous fame of the acai berry. “A week’s supply of acai berry juice will cost you about $40 (over $2,000 a year). For that much money, there are a lot of more proven things you can do to increase your health.” Yet Stibich said that the fruit did hold at least some promise, commenting, “It is true that the acai berry has about 10 times the antioxidants of grapes and twice the antioxidants of blueberries, but that’s not enough nutritional punch for all the claims.”

Even nutritionists are weary of the numerous health benefit claims associated with the acai berry. I spoke with 10 nutritionists and dieticians, all of whom said they were unfamiliar with the real benefits of the acai berry. None said they would recommend any acai products until they themselves became more familiar with the fruit.

Cancer Fighters?

Although other research studies are reportedly in progress, a recent study by the University of Florida is the only research that has been completed to investigate the benefits of the acai berry. Researchers at the University of Florida found that in a laboratory setting, acai berry extract caused a significant decrease in cultured cancer cells. During the testing, various concentrations of acai extract were applied to the cells. After a period of 24 hours, the results varied from 35 percent to 86 percent of the cancer cells dying. The acai berry stands up well in a lab setting, but this claim has yet to be tested and proven in humans.

“A lot of claims are being made, but most of them haven’t been tested scientifically,” Assistant Professor at the University of Florida Stephen Talcott said in a press release. “We are just beginning to understand the complexity of the acai berry and its health-promoting effects.”

The acai berry has just recently become popular, so not all of the claims have been researched. But with time, Talcott said that more nutritional information will be revealed.

“One reason so little is known about acai berries is that they’re perishable and are traditionally used immediately after picking. Products made with processed acai berries have only been available for about five years, so researchers in many parts of the world have had little or no opportunity to study them,” Talcott said.

Beware of Scams

Since the berry’s popularity has exploded in the past few months, offers for free acai berry trials are becoming ubiquitous online.

But remember how your parents told you, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”? That warning is certainly applicable to any company claiming it will send you acai products for free. Free trial offers for acai berry supplements are rarely — if ever — free.

The CSPI and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) said companies offering free trials of diet pills made with the acai berries have tricked thousands of consumers using fake celebrity endorsements and blogs to lure customers into buying the acai products.

According to the Better Business Bureau, FWM Laboratories, Advanced Wellness Research, AcaiBurn, FX Supplements, and SFL Nutrition all received an F rating, which is the BBB’s lowest rating. The BBB evaluates companies on numerous categories before assigning a grade, such as the number of customer complaints and a company’s ability to adequately resolve issues.

Purchasing acai products like this sauce can be pricey. Photo: ©

Purchasing acai products like this sauce can be pricey. Photo: ©

Central Coast Nutraceuticals, FX Supplements, FWM Laboratories and Advanced Wellness Research are just some of the businesses accused of scamming customers into accepting “free” trials. These companies reportedly hook consumers by advertising a “free” bottle of acai pills, for example, and by claiming that the customer only has to pay for shipping and handling. Many customers neglect to read the terms and conditions pages, which often specify that the total price for the bottle of pills will be charged to the credit card used to pay the shipping and handling fee. Often, the companies will sign consumers up for a monthly subscription of the product and charge them for more bottles of the pills that the customers unwittingly “consented” to receiving each month when agreeing with the fine print. Each of these bottles costs approximately $80 and will be billed to a credit card every month until the customer calls and cancels the subscription.

I signed up for a “free” trial of Acai Berry Edge in order to test the scam claims. For this product, the terms and conditions specified that the customer would “Get two bottles of Acai Berry Edge free for 21 days during the trial period. You invest $3.97 s&h today then $39.95 per bottle at day 21 only if you are satisfied.” I sent both bottles back within the 21 day time frame, yet was still charged $79.90. Upon calling the company, a representative said that they had not received the bottles. Yet I intentionally sent the bottles back with a delivery confirmation receipt from the U.S. Postal Service. With the delivery confirmation number, the representatives could not dispute that the bottles had been returned. Even if you do read the fine print and return the bottles, make sure to send the product back with a confirmation number from the postal service or an express carrier. Those few extra quarters could end up saving you $80 — or more — in the long run.

Connor said people can ask the company for objective information about the product or studies published about the product to determine whether or not any health claims made about products are true. She also recommended asking a health care practitioner who knows about natural products and cautioned consumers to always be skeptical.

“If people find that it is one company offering a particular type of product no one else offers, or if it seems very expensive — more expensive than other products on the market that are like it — that always raises my suspicion level,” she said.

The Jury’s Still Out

Much is still unknown about the acai berry. And, with studies still in progress, health care professionals are understandably cautious about judging the berry’s merits as a “super food.” Nutritionists say that, for most people, taking moderate amounts of acai supplements won’t negatively impact your physical health. But it just might hurt the health of your wallet.

Sabrina Potirala

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Healthy Kids – Yours, Mine, Ours

I’ve been called diminutive, and I guess I am, at 5’2” and kinda thin. So when I walk anywhere with my son, who’s 6’4”, 330 lbs., no one believes I’m his mom. In fact, when he was little, people thought I was his nanny — he was so big compared to me even then.

Chef Helen Sandler with a spread of all natural foods. Photo courtesy of Helen Sandler

Chef Helen Sandler with a spread of all natural foods. Photo courtesy of Helen Sandler

His high school football team had a good laugh when I walked onto the field with him during Mom’s Day. His dream was to be an NFL defensive lineman, and although his workout routine still, at 24, equals NFL stats, he changed his direction to pursue another lifelong dream unrelated to sports. Most of his friends are athletes, and most of them stayed with us at one point or another. And they all came to know and really appreciate the food he was brought up on — whole grains, greens, beans, and sugars all as organic as I could find and cooked at home from scratch. Before their next visit, they’d phone in their orders to me or through him. Feeding a football team, if you’ve never done it, even for a few days, can be daunting. But surprise of surprise, they finished it all and wanted more.


My son ate his first beef burger at age 12 or 13, inadvertently, and never really did develop that much of a taste for it. True story: During a football game in high school, he banged bodies with an offensive lineman, also big. What a hit! What a horrible sound! It was a clash of the titans. And they were both carted off to the hospital. The orthopedic surgeon reported to us that the other kid came away with a broken shin bone, I’m sorry to say. However, he was incredulous at my son’s injury, a slight bone bruise. With taped leg and crutches he went back to the sidelines to cheer his team on.

“Whatever you’re feeding him, keep doing it. I’ve never seen bones that size or that dense in a kid before!” Those were his exact words. That was an extraordinary feeling to have our lifestyle applauded, though not the way I would have chosen.


He’s still my trophy and my testament to natural foods for kids, especially when he visits my cooking classes. People just don’t believe it. True, you’re thinking there must be some big genes somewhere in the family, and yes there are, but it’s not the size, it’s the quality. He’s a walking testimonial to a lifetime of natural foods, with a presence that answers their questions: “Will my child get enough calcium?” “Will they grow?” “Won’t they get sick more?” “Can they grow up healthy without all the protein and vitamins from meat and dairy?……… Yes, yes, no, and yes. Absolutely. Here. Look. And in he walks.

I’ve had non natural foods kids raiding my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator forever. One 10-year-old made a B-line for seaweed whenever he came. Didn’t bother him at all what it was. He just wanted it. Loved the taste, and he said it made him feel good. You can’t argue with that.


Like that 10-year-old. They want to be shown, but also to be allowed to experiment.  I have another true story here: I was asked to make two dishes for a grand opening for a holistic heath center last year in Coronado, CA. One of the dishes was an Asian style tofu appetizer (go to my website,, and click on Asian Style Tofu Wrap-Around — the very same one). A 13-year-old boy (difficult to please at that age regardless, unless…) came by in the line and wouldn’t try it (Tofu, yuk!) until I told him he could spit it out in front of me if he didn’t like it. No pressure. That intrigued him enough to try it. Guaranteed, he liked the idea of spitting it out in front of me.

I was distracted by other people asking questions and didn’t see his reaction or his leaving. About ten minutes later, he returned with a few friends. They didn’t say a word, but they did polish off the entire platter and left. Maybe they had a new regard for tofu after that. I like to think so. Kids want to know you care by giving them options, challenging them, and respecting their opinions. And what better place to start than in your own kitchen, where your daily soul replenishment for the five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and feeling all come together to create the ultimate sense of well being from food. “Home (and hearth) is where the heart is.”


Make it a game, interesting, fun. Dress it up. Make it all natural and as organic as you can. Make it look like what they’re used to, but the ingredients can either mimic or be completely different. Season it and spice it up with a familiar aroma, appearance, and mouth feel. But whatever it is, it’s got to taste great! Another thing about them, which you probably already know, they don’t spare your feelings. They tell you the truth. So ask them what the dish needs, and get them involved in the kitchen and the preparation by letting them fix it the way they want.

Let them make it their own. For you, it’s hands off unless asked. Whatever the mess, whatever their tastes, whatever their additions or deletions, it’s theirs and not only deserves, but requires, your respect. My son is getting to be one incredible chef, choosing food and spice combinations I would never think of in a million years. He astounds not only me, but his friends, with his choices and complexities of taste, while still sticking to organic whole grains, veggies, even meat, chicken, and wild fish. Allow them the gratification of astounding you. Their tastes are often so different from ours. There’s no age limit or requirement, by the way. So much more fun than going to formerly frozen formula Chili’s or McDonald’s or wherever, and their memories are priceless. Oh yeah! And invest in a bread machine. Let them invent variations on their staple. So easy.


Prenatal to post natal to pre-school to post college, they need and want guidance from mom and dad. Their culinary creativity being rewarded early with applause and respect will give them the confidence to continue natural foods in their lives and to teach their friends and their own children. Give them their jump start by changing to whole grains and veggies during pregnancy. When nursing, they’re already used to the foods. And when you start introducing solid foods, they intuitively know them already. Even seaweeds. Really. Yup, even seaweeds can be luscious. It all depends on your creativity and that intangible ingredient that makes it all a hit, your LOVE.

My son once observed to us from a boarding school he attended for one year for football before going to college, that he thought he was the only person there who loved his parents. Wow! Now that blew us away. He realized that we always inspired him to achieve and create, to have his own opinions, and respected his choices. Experiment. That was the year he started cooking for himself and starting teaching me. Very gratifying. He’s still teaching me.


With the meteoric rise of childhood and young adult health diseases: diabetes, obesity, eating disorders, high cholesterol, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, ADD, ADHD, and the lists goes on and on… Diseases once thought to be brought on by age deterioration in adults are now epidemic, even plagues, among our children. Drugs are not the answer. One definite answer is natural foods. Too simplistic? Things in life don’t have to be that complicated. You really are what you eat.


It’s the insidious invasion of the soul snatchers in the guise of the big pharmaceutical companies and the big brand name food manufacturers all in collusion with the advertising companies and the food/chemical lobbyists in Washington, D.C. I refer to Dr. David Kessler’s (former FDA commissioner, 1990-1997) new book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. He writes about just this, not that we didn’t know it already, but a former FDA boss telling us from the “inside” about how our souls and health have been hijacked for profit is pretty frightening, along with our disastrous eating habits being engineered by those companies’ food scientists. Very scary, but not irreversible.


Get your whole family into the kitchen. Have fun creating a lifestyle change that makes you happy and gives you the power of choice. Food becomes an exploration into a culinary world of individual tastes designed by you that changes with your whims by adding a little bit of this or a whole lot of that. And your children? They’ll love it!

Helen Sandler

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Product Review – Larabar Apple Pie Bar

Last week, when I wrote a review of the Bora Bora Organic Almond Sunflower Bar, I mentioned that I’d purchased another bar as well. The Larabar Apple Pie bar is, according to my 29-year-old son, Aaron, “Not as bad as you would expect from an all-natural bar. Pretty cinnamony, with a little less apple taste than cinnamon.” Overall, he said, “It had more flavor than you would expect from something without artificial flavors added.”

Larabar Apple Pie Bars are packed with raw dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon.

Larabar Apple Pie Bars are packed with raw dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon. Photo: J. Wasson

I suppose that’s high praise from a guy who thinks Mountain Dew is the nectar of the gods. For comparison, he also had tried the Bora Bora bar, and reported “It had no taste. It was very bland.”

But we differ. Joe and I both loved the Bora Bora bars because of all the nuts and fruits they contain. The Larabars are good, too, in our opinions. They’re made of a mixture of dried dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon. The ingredients are formed into a dense bar that is packed with flavor and nutrition.

I’m not a fan of cinnamon, so that flavor is a bit heavy for me. Joe, who loves that spice, finds it perfectly satisfying. Although the texture is primarily like dried fruit smooshed together (in a very pleasant way, mind you), there’s still enough of a crunch from the occasional nut to appeal to those of us who like a firm texture. In fact, it’s the nuttiness that I like most of all.

So, what about the nutritional element? Here’s what the Larabar folks have to say about their Apple Pie Bar:

  • All natural, unprocessed
  • No added sugars or sweetners
  • Raw
  • Non-GMO
  • Non-irradiated
  • No sulfites
  • No fillers
  • No preservatives
  • Gluten free
  • Dairy free
  • Soy free
  • Vegan
  • Kosher

Ingredients list for Larabar Apple Pie Bar.

The Larabar Apple Pie Bar has a bit of fat — 10g, to be exact. And half the bar’s total calories (180) are fat (90). Not great. But no transfat, so that’s a plus.

On the other hand, it’s real food, not artificial sugars and fluff. And it has actual vitamins and minerals, as opposed to a lot of the other snacks I might try.

At $27.99 for 16 bars, the cost is $1.75 each. But deduct the $4.19 cash back (for shopping through your own eCommerce site), and we’re down to $1.49 each. (Shipping charges apply if your total order is less than $167.) Most likely, you can also find Larabars at your local co-op or health food store.

Overall, though the Larabar is more expensive than a candy bar, it’s no contest when you compare the effects of the Larabar ingredients vs. typical junk food on your body.

Have you tried a Larabar? Let us know what you think.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Post:

Product Review: Bora Bora Organic Almond Sunflower Bar

Product Review – Bora Bora Organic Almond Sunflower Bars

You eat snacks, don’t you? Most of us do. And if they’re good snacks — natural, healthy foods that aren’t too high in refined sugars, salt, or the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup — we can even feel good about eating them. At least that’s what I told myself when I set out to review a couple of natural and organic goodies for this website.

From time to time, at Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) we receive sample items for review. As I’ve said in previous posts, those items are free, and it’s fair to keep that in mind. We do our best to be unbiased, but we’re not immune to feeling bad if we can’t say something nice. So, Joe and I decided, if we really don’t like something, we simply won’t review it. No point adding to the negativity of the world.

The Bora Bora Organic Bars are a delicious snack food, packed with nuts, raisins, and more.

The Bora Bora Organic Bars are a delicious snack food, packed with nuts, raisins, and more.

Sometimes, however, we purchase the items we review. And that’s the case with the food item I’ll write about today. We’ve been trying to eat more healthy foods, and with access to all sorts of good choices on our e-Commerce site (Blatant bias alert! Earnings from our e-Commerce site support BPGL, but you can most likely find this item in your local food co-op, too), I took some time to make a selection.

Because Joe is supposed to stay away from certain foods, our choices were a bit narrower than many of yours might be. Here are the criteria we used to identify the snacks we purchased:

1. Healthy snacks with no pineapple, oats, cashews, or milk products. Unless you have similar sensitivities, this doesn’t really apply to you. If you are sensitive to gluten, peanuts, or other foods, you’ll need to make a list of your own.

2. Made of organic or natural ingredients. Natural was okay, but organic food was definitely preferable.

3. A good value for the money. Value is a relative term, of course, but what it meant to me was to find a dense food, filled with nutrition for a reasonable price.

So, I set about finding two snack bars to purchase. Because of the way our e-Commerce site works, some of the items from the earth-friendlier side of the shopping site are available only in bulk. That turned out to be true of the two foods that I purchased.

I looked at a few of the many stores offered on the green side of the e-Commerce site and found several items to choose from. But if they met the last three criteria, they frequently didn’t meet the first one, because many of the items contained one or more of the foods Joe shouldn’t eat. Other than that, it was a surprisingly easy quest. We settled on the Almond Sunflower Bar from Bora Bora Organic Bars and another bar, which I’ll review in another post.

Bora Bora Organic Bars — Almond Sunflower

This one’s densely packed with healthy ingredients. The bars are sweet, but not too sweet; chewy without being a jaw breaker; and — in both Joe’s and my opinions — delicious. They also met all three of our criteria:

1. With “raisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds, agave syrup, almonds, Brazilian nuts, walnuts, crisp brown rice, rice syrup, and pumpkin seeds,” we were already salivating just by reading the ingredients list. And no pineapple, oats, cashews, or milk products to be found.

2. Although the ingredients list doesn’t specifically say “organic raisins, organic peanuts, organic sunflower seeds” and the rest, the label indicates that the bar is organic. That’s comforting.

3. The appearance of value starts with the delicious, healthy ingredients. Every one of these Bora Bora bars is densely packed with nutritious foods. On a couple of occasions, we each ate a bar at lunchtime instead of taking on something bigger.

But that’s not the only part to the value equation. The other is cost. At $1.71/oz., these 1.4 oz. Bora Bora bars are not cheap. But, if you factor in the shopping discount ($4.30 for the case of 12), then figure out the cost per oz., you get $1.45/oz. To put that in a bit of perspective, at the advice of a friend who is a naturopath, today at our local co-op I bought some items for making an herbal tea. The herbs ranged in price from $0.82/oz for scullcap to $1.88/oz. for white willow bark. (And I won’t even eat those.)

What else might someone dislike about Bora Bora Organic Almond Sunflower Bars? Take a look at the table below.

Serving size: 1 bar
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
Amount Per Serving and/or % Daily Value*
Total Fat
11g (17%)
Saturated Fat
1.5g (8%)
Trans Fat
0mg (0%)
15mg (1%)
Total Carbohydrate
18g (6%)
Dietary Fiber
2g (9%)
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower based on your calorie needs.

Given the fat content, a Bora Bora bar probably isn’t something to try if you’re on a diet. On the other hand, if you eat this product instead of chips, candy, or sodas, calorie for calorie, it seems like you’d have to be ahead with the Bora Bora Organic Bar. And, take a look at the following features:

  • All Natural
  • 100% USDA Organic
  • Certified Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • Kosher
  • Non-GMO
  • No Sugar or Preservatives
  • Trans Fat Free
  • Low Sodium
  • Low glycemic carbs

If any of these matter to you, odds are they matter a lot. The Almond Sunflower bar may not the perfect food (that’s an apple, in my book), and it’s no weight-loss item, but it makes a nice alternative choice for a healthy snack. To find out whether it’s right for you, check the ingredients and nutrition facts with care.

And if you try this organic bar — or want us to review another one — please let us know in the comments field. We value your opinion.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony

When it comes to eating, the majority of Americans confuse complicity with simplicity. The term “meat” encompasses a vast array of products: poultry, pork, beef, all terms that mask its origin. We don’t call cabbage or celery by another name, there is a celery stalk, or celery root, or celery leaf. On the other hand, food from a pig is called bacon, pork chops, or ham. The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony, by Will Tuttle, Ph.D., seeks to explain what meat is, and what its impact is on the environment and our bodies.

The impact is decidedly negative. If this book were to be read by everyone, and its argument accepted, the world would become vegan. Calling the vegan movement a “revolution,” Tuttle challenges the root of Western culture, taking it on as a violent and oppressive civilization, and tracing our eating habits from Homer, to the Bible, to Constantine, and then to what he calls the “military-industrial-meat-medical-media complex.” To consider veganism a revolution is idealist, but appealing, because Tuttle has a vision for a better human society. And that is why the book is worth reading.

Imagine everything that is wrong with society: drug abuse, domestic abuse, poverty, pollution, over-consumption, environmental destruction, government corruption, inequality, and depression. Imagine there is one answer to those problems. The The World Peace Diet argues that a simple change in what we eat, an easier change than most people acknowledge or accept, will eliminate all of these problems. Although it is a difficult idea to digest, there is ample evidence that our treatment of animals is replicated in how we treat humans — a theory repeatedly reinforced by the Pythagorean principle, or the Golden Rule.

What is at stake, Tuttle insists, is our spirituality, wholeness, benevolence. The depravity of humans is caused by our persistent oppression of animals, whose spirits we cognitively deny, because we deny it physically at meal times. This argument seems fallible. Looking at Native American culture, we see how omnivores existed in harmony with their environment. There is an important difference, however. Through observation of society, in the time I was reading this book, seeing chicken sandwiches in vending machines, yogurt in plastic containers, and the hollowness with which these precious products of flesh were consumed, I became aware that the disconnect that pervades society on many levels — political, intellectual, artistic — begins with what we eat.

“Looking undistractedly into the animal-derived foods produced by modern methods, we inescapably find misery, cruelty, and exploitation. We therefore avoid looking deeply at our food if it is of animal origin, and this practice of avoidance and denial, applied to eating, our most basic activity and vital ritual, carries over automatically into our entire public and private life. We know, deep down, that we cannot look anywhere, for if we do, we will have to look deeply into the enormous suffering our food choices directly cause.”

Did this chicken suffer a life of extreme abuse? Probably. Photo: J Wasson

Did this chicken suffer a life of extreme abuse? Probably. Photo: J Wasson

This statement is a challenge to anyone who considers himself capable of looking deeply. If you can look deeply, look at what you eat. Accept that animals are capable of suffering, that when you order chicken, a chicken suffers, not only death, but prior to that, a life of (often) extreme abuse. Tuttle asks that we see animals as spiritual equals, not as objects or property. It is a challenge to stop the hypocrisy of theory, and embrace practice. Veganism is a mode of thought that requires action, so while you may sin and still be Catholic, you cannot eat eggs and be vegan.

Tuttle blames the herding culture from which we are derived for instilling oppression in our habits. A true revolution, he insists, must overturn this influence, specifically what began as the domestication of animals, and spread to wars fought over grazing land. Today we are fighting a “War on Terror” that is strongly linked with oil, a resource necessary for production of animal feed in mass quantities. If we were vegan, the logic implies, we would not be a violent nation. The incredulity some express at that statement, a vehement objection, does not suggest the falseness of it, but instead the dependency on violence and oppression. America has overcome its dependence on slavery, finally recognized women’s right to vote (some 60 years ago), and there is no reason animals should not be accepted in the progression toward a liberal world.

We often call meat products by names that disguise their real origin. Photo: J Wasson

We often call meat products by names that disguise their real origin. Photo: J Wasson

“In a herding culture, nothing is more subversive to the established order of exploitation and privilege than consciously refusing to participate in buying and eating the animal foods that define our culture.” The culture he refers to is one dominated by the military-industrial-meat-medical-media complex. These industries profit from the production of meat, the book argues, at the expense of our lives. The chain of influence — from meat processors lobbying in government, to the medical industries denying the viability of a vegan diet because of the profitability of clogged arteries, to the commercials that perpetuate the societal norm that humans need meat to survive, which tells us to eat meat, but does so for selfish reasons. The destruction, personal and environmental, of these influences, can be overturned by individual decisions.

The health benefits of eating vegan are enough reason to make the switch. Granted, you must first accept that most of what you have been told about a proper diet was a lie designed to squeeze money from you. Disabilities such as heart disease; diabetes; breast, prostate, and colon cancer; gallstones; strokes; and liver and kidney disease may be caused by diets high in animal products. Vegans typically risk having insufficiencies of three vitamins/minerals. Meat eaters, however, may lack closer to seven. They may also lack sex-hormone-binding globulin, which increases testosterone in the blood and increases likelihood of aggressive-destructive behavior.

This is only a brief overview of the health problems for humans. On the opposite side of the fence is a system that exploits living animals and destroys them. This is our food, and the toxicity of animal-based food is terrific. Fish, for example, especially those living in polluted water, “absorb and intensely concentrate toxins like PCBs, dioxins, and heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic.” The same occurs for animals fed food sprayed with pesticide and grown with fertilizer, and enhanced with animal flesh from fish or any type of livestock.

There is also excrement to consider. Livestock produces 10,000 pounds of manure for every person in America. Where does it go? Some of it ends up in your stomach. The lax conditions in meat processing plants enable about any unbelievably disgusting thing you can imagine. Entrails and manure are reportedly shoveled off the floor and mixed with the meat being processed into hot dogs or bologna. If it doesn’t go into our food, it eventually ends up in the water, which helps explain the 7,000 square meter dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

The environmental costs of meat are appalling. The “Standard American Diet,” as issued by the US government, produces 1/15 as much protein per acre as a plant-based diet would. One pound of beef requires 5,200 gallons of water to produce, while a vegan meal requires 300. The waste production of livestock is 130 times greater than human waste. Methane from cows is a more important cause of pollution than carbon dioxide from cars. Natural habitats are destroyed for pastures. 521,000 square miles of US forests have been cleared to graze livestock, and that number grows by 6,000 every year.

Tuttle compares obese men to Butterball turkeys. Photo: ©Bruce

Tuttle compares obese men to Butterball turkeys. Photo: ©Bruce

The human expense of eating animal flesh, the effect on humanity, is tragic. Tuttle compares some obese men incapable of sex to Butterball turkeys. This is the justice of nature, that while we force feed the turkeys until they can barely stand, humans assume a similar posture by their consumption. I say it is tragic, because until we knowingly turn our head from the problem, we have not been made aware of a choice.

Eating animals has been a requisite of Western society for thousands of years. Reductionism, scientific and religious, are cited as causes for our oppressive habits. “The fourth-century emperor Constantine made Christianity the Roman state religion, that its earlier vegetarian emphasis was completely repressed… Constantine reportedly ordering his men to pour molten lead down the throats of any Christians who refused to eat animal flesh.”

Reductionism, Tuttle argues, permits the domination of animals through conventional, but outmoded, thought. The oversimplification of life and justification of eating flesh based on the principles our ancestors followed must be abolished. The glory and righteousness of man are more questionable the more we insist we are glorious and righteous. To accept animals as partners of the planet, we step beyond the theory of man’s goodness, overcome our depravity, and achieve the practice of goodness. On the other hand, if we choose to continue eating animal products, we reinforce ancient wrongs.

One example of the suffering we cause is the chapter, “Reviving Sophia,” the sacred feminine. The chapter discusses how dairy products destroy the respect for women, which our culture persistently searches for. With every baby calf stolen from her mother and killed, with every gallon of milk stolen from enslaved and broken mothers, with every thrust of the waking sperm gun… we kill the sacred feminine within ourselves.” This is an illustrative example, because the subject is one that is discussed more frequently; and, yet, the objectification of women continues on television, in magazines, and in relationships.

How far is cow's milk removed from its pupose?

"I think again of the yogurt in the plastic cups... and how far the cow's milk is removed from its purpose." Photo: J. Wasson

Once again, the connection might seem unlikely. After all, women have made significant progress in gaining respect, recognition, and equality. It is clear, however, especially among lower socio-economic groups, that women are subjugated to oppressive ideas of men that limit women to objects for sexual pleasure and domestic chore. I think again of the yogurt in the plastic cups, and how disconnected the food is, how far the cow’s milk is removed from its purpose. Aside from the research that suggests cow’s milk is nutritionally unhealthy for humans, the more significant idea is how dairy affects our psychology.

Since becoming vegan, barely more than a month ago, I can attest that I already feel more connected with living humans and animals, and am more involved in the life of the planet and removed from the destruction of it. Eating has become a greater pleasure than ever; my body, its cells, feel more connected to the earth; I look at my hand and see an open palm, not a fist. I am convinced that there is little to lose by refusing to eat animal products. Instead, I am proud, if not thrilled, to consider myself a part of a revolution, although I do not agree with the book’s claim that the only way for a spirit to be liberated is to not eat meat. I still do not condemn eating meat as evil, but I do see it as an unnecessary and costly act.

After reading The World Peace Diet, you will understand the excitement of eating, living, and being part of the revolution that fellow humans are beginning: to strive for greater harmony, to seek for inner peace, and to not yield to ancient and oppressive ideals. We are, I believe, on our way to a more united planet, not only for humans, but for all living creatures.

Elias Simpson

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)