Celebrate Earth Day! Say No to Greenwashing!

Corporations know that earth-friendly, healthy food is in demand. The solution? Change the marketing!

Earth Day is Sunday. This year, it's getting more attention than ever because global warming is increasingly accepted as serious threat.

The good news is that there is hope. Collectively, we have the power to restore health to Mother Earth. The other good news is that, in order to make that happen, we'll need to change our lifestyles for the better. A healthy world begins at home. Call me an optimist, but anything is possible if it's important enough to us.

If protecting the environment and becoming healthier are more important to you than they used to be, you're not alone. Environmental and health awareness are sweeping the globe. As a result, earth-friendly and healthy product sales are on the rise.

Companies that make environmentally harmful and unhealthy products have noticed this, and are trying to prevent declining sales. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is to "rebrand" and "reposition" harmful products as earth friendly and healthy. It's called "Greenwashing."

The marketing profession has a mantra (not used by all of them, mind you), that "perception is reality." The greenwashers are wrong. Reality is reality. Believing junk food is healthy doesn't protect you from bad health.

The Rise of "Nutraceuticals"

Companies are scrambling to create seemingly healthy products to keep up with appearances through greenwashing. The world's leading maker of liquid candy, The Coca Cola company, as well as cosmetics giant L'Oreal, are reportedly working on a new beverage called Lumať, which they will sell as a tea-based soft drink (possibly under a different, currently unannounced name) that promotes healthy skin via some yet-undisclosed ingredient. The beverage may be sold in department stores, rather than convenience and grocery outlets. Both soft drink and cosmetics companies in general want to cash in on what they see as a coming boom in "nutraceutical" beverages. "Nutraceutical" means food plus medicine.

My view: If you want healthy looking skin, then be healthy all over, inside and out. And that means eating a healthy diet, exercising -- and drinking plenty of water.

And in keeping with the same theme, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have reached new levels of absurdity in a new, misleading greenwashing campaign to market their sugar water as healthy. Pepsi and Coke have come up with new diet sodas, "Tava" and "Diet Coke Plus," which are fortified with vitamins and minerals and will be sold as healthy "sparkling beverages."

Coke and Pepsi realize that people accurately associate soda with poor health and obesity. And that's hurting them. Their sales declined in 2005 for the first time in years. Carbonated sugar water is still a good money-making industry, a $68 billion market. But Coke and Pepsi don't want to lose the significant profit margins they make by selling you tap water mixed with cheap high fructose corn syrup or chemical sweeteners. Natural beverages made with sparkling water sweetened and flavored with real fruit juices are not only more difficult to manufacture and handle, but also not as profitable, so the obesity-in-a-can companies will avoid selling products that come from orchards rather than from laboratories.

Brace yourself, because this is just the beginning. As people become increasingly knowledgeable about health and its link to foods and beverages, they'll increasingly turn away from products associated with poor health. So the junk food companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo will transform the branding and marketing of their products, to cash in on growing health awareness, without actually going to the expense of making and selling healthy beverages. That's why it's important to never assume something is healthy -- even if it's found in the health food store, and is sold as a healthy product. Don't be fooled by the words "natural" or "healthy." Those are just words, and not worth the paper they're printed on.

Greenwashing Everywhere

Expect to find greenwashing in conventional grocery stores and restaurants -- and lots more of it in the near future. More surprising, however, is that you'll find plenty of it at the local health food store, too.

On a car trip from Southern to Northern California, my husband and I wanted a healthy lunch and decided to stop at the New Frontiers grocery store in San Luis Obispo. New Frontiers is a standard "health food store," which has a convenience food section where it sells freshly prepared ďhealthyĒ foods and homemade pastries that one, naturally, assumes are healthy. To my disappointment, this was just another example of greenwashing.

The New Frontiers market had a menu for made-to-order sandwiches, which not only lacked creativity but also healthfulness. Their meat, vegetarian and vegan sandwiches were made with the typical ingredients that make healthy food so clichť, boring and off-putting, such as mayonnaise, bean sprouts and carrots. The former is not healthy and the latter generally unappetizing.

To my delight, however, the freshly-baked and mouth-watering pastries and scones displayed in the enclosed shelves looked promising. And even though I have a personal policy about baking my own desserts when I want to eat something sweet, I do make exceptions sometimes when I travel and will buy something if itís healthy. The organic vegan peach blackberry scones looked simply delicious and were made with organic whole grain flour and real fruit; something I really appreciated.

As I read the list of ingredients on a sign, however; I realized that one of the main ingredients was soy margarine -- undoubtedly, this required further investigation.

When I asked the clerk if the vegan scones contained trans fats -- one of the most toxic and unhealthy ingredients you can find in the worst junk food -- she looked puzzled and didnít understand what I meant. I explained to her that their vegan scones listed soy margarine as an ingredient, and that I wanted to know what kind of soy margarine was used to make the scones. She said she would find out and disappeared for a few minutes. When she returned, she told me that the margarine used in the baked goods was made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Of course, that clearly indicated that the scones were loaded with trans fats -- I didn't buy one.

What's wrong with this picture? Even junk food giants such as Starbucks, McDonalds and the people who make Girl Scout Cookies -- even the entire city of New York -- are moving away from trans fats. Yet some health food stores are adding trans-fats to their home-baked, vegan foods, and their employees don't know about the trans fats issue.

When I got back to Santa Barbara, I checked the largest upscale health food store in town and, to my dismay, I found that our local health-oriented grocery store, Lazy Acres, makes some of their baked goods with trans fats, too.

Health conscious shoppers go out of their way to avoid conventional bakeries and other sources of unhealthy baked goods (such as Starbucks), and enter the health food store believing that they'll probably pay more, and will get foods that arenít as tasty as their conventional counterparts. But they do it because they trust the store to offer healthy food thatís better for them. It's disappointing to see that health food stores betray that trust by adding toxic, man-made, health-wrecking ingredients like trans fats to foods they make in the store, then selling it as healthy.

How to Beat Greenwashing

Now that many people seek out healthy food instead of junk food, it comes as a shock to some that the food sold as healthy is junk food, too. Greenwash marketing spreads so much misinformation that some fear that they'll never figure out how to eat a healthy diet.

But there's a simple solution. The only way to make sure you don't eat nasty toxic foods is to always find out what the ingredients are.

Marketing is designed to make you think a certain way about a product, and doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what you'll be putting in your body.

It is the ingredients what you're buying and putting in your body -- not the marketing. Don't buy the "Perception is reality" philosophy. Perception is the marketing, and reality is the ingredients. Your body cares only about the ingredients.

If you compare as an extreme case, for example, the difference between maple syrup and Aunt Jemima syrup, you'll note that from a marketing perspective, they're fundamentally identical. Both emphasize a dark brown sweet liquid for pancakes or Amira Elganwaffles that tastes like boiled-down sap from maple trees. But from an ingredient perspective -- and from your body's perspective -- the two foods have nothing in common. Aunt Jemima syrup is sugar from corn, thickeners, coloring, preservatives and artificial flavor. Real maple syrup is 100% maple tree sap. Fake syrup like Aunt Jemima does not even have one drop of maple tree sap.

If you're about to buy something in the grocery store, read the list of ingredients. If you're in a restaurant or other place where ingredients are unavailable -- ask.

Educate yourself about what's healthy and what isn't. In addition to protecting yourself and your family from bad food, asking about ingredients -- then rejecting foods that turn out to be unhealthy -- also adds the benefit of educating the people who serve foods, and applying consumer pressure on companies to improve their fare.

Companies that use greenwashing rely on ignorance, passivity and apathy on the consumerís part. That's the business model. Make something cheaply, and tell 'em it's healthy. I say be educated, proactive and highly conscious about what you buy, where it comes from and whether or not it's good for you. Assert yourself to give the food industry an incentive to be more honest and sell you real and healthy food not just the false pretense of "healthiness." Be a food snob and say no to junk food.

Here are the top 7 things you can do to protect yourself from hidden toxics:

1. Always read labels or ask about all the ingredients in any food you buyóeverywhere. Reject junk food.

2. Buy whole foods whenever possible; I mean real ďliveĒ foods that are as close to their natural state as possible (whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit, legumes).

3. Never buy anything that lists partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in it (even if it lists zero trans fats because the FDA allows companies to not list trans fats if a serving of an item contains .05 grams or less).

4. Never buy an item that contains high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose or high amounts of any sugar.

5. Never buy an item if you donít recognize ingredients in it.

6. Avoid buying processed or packaged foods.

7. Get real: Never buy any food product that lists artificial preservatives, artificial color or artificial flavors.

Empower yourself to make healthy choices for a life time of good health and the legacy of a healthy planet for future generations. Reject companies who unscrupulously resort to greenwashing. The way you spend your money is a powerful way of telling food companies what you want: Safe, healthy food and a safe, healthy planet.

We live on this planet. Every day is Earth Day!

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Safest Non-Reactive Cookware?

Q: I realize that that what we eat is important but another part of that is what we cook with. I am now beginning to educate myself about the harmful consequences of teflon and plastics, and I don't trust all those silicone bakeware, Silpats, and spatulas but they are all very hard to avoid. What has your research revealed regarding cooking with safe materials? I love glass but glass pots & pans are extremely hard to find, and I don't know how they fare with sticky foods like omelets. Ditto on the sticking part with stainless steel. I cannot find any information on enamel or parchment & wax paper. I'm hoping a future newsletter can be devoted to this :) Thanks for leading by example. - Cindy

A: Dear Cindy, thank you raising an important issue. Foods can definitely have a reactive effect on certain types of pots and pans. Highly acidic foods, for instance, can make low quality materials chemically react and leach those chemicals into food as it cooks, which we ingest when we eat the food.

Contrary to what some manufacturers say, research suggests that aluminum and Teflon can be toxic to our bodies and the environment. Moreover, the quality of the craftsmanship of cookware determines how heat is conducted at various temperatures making cooking easier or more difficult.

As you mentioned, glass cookware is safe and non-reactive but a poor conductor of heat, hard to find and easy to break.

Non-stick and Teflon cookware is not safe because metal utensils damage them easily breaking the coating, which gets into our food. Also high heat makes it release harmful fumes. Some of the chemicals used to make them are believed to cause cancer.

Although anodized aluminum has a corrosion-resistant surface that prevents it from reacting with food, it's definitely something to stay away from because itís unsafe for the environment.

Copper is the best conductor of heat, but it needs to be lined with tin to prevent it from reacting with food, I donít think itís a good idea to over use such a reactive metal, which becomes a factor when the tin scratches. Itís also really expensive and hard to maintain.

Stainless steel is not the best conductor of heat, but this cookware can be safe and non-reactive. One of the top companies making high quality stainless steel cookware is All-Clad. I own a set of high quality five-ply stainless steel cookware, which are good for cooking, safe and non-reactive to food. They're also easy to clean. Watch out though, a lot of stainless steal cookware is very low quality and not worth buying. Look for thick bottoms that have heat-conducting layers of copper, high craftsmanship and "18/10 stainless steel." Unfortunately, the best stainless steel cookware is also the most expensive, in general.

Porcelain enamel-coated cast iron cookware is great. If you want peace of mind and can buy this expensive cookware without going bankrupt, I recommend Le Creuset porcelain enamel-coated cast iron pots. Theyíre completely non-reactive with foods. The enamel used is perfectly impermeable; it wonít react with any food no matter what heating temperature is or how acidic the food may be. The best part is that these pots are not only good for stovetop cooking but can also be used under the grill or in the oven. Do keep in mind, however, that the knobs on the lids can only withstand up to 400įF in the over. Also, if the pots are low quality, the enamel can chip, making the pot useless, so only use wooden utensils with this type of cookware. I use my Le Creuset cookware every day, and prefer cooking in large pots to avoid splashing food all over the stove. One caveat is that these are extremely heavy and can be problematic for those with arthritis. In fact, I should consider handling and washing these pots part of my daily weight training routine.

To keep up with vegetarian, organic and health-related research news every day, check out my Vegetarian Organic Life Blog.

Lentil Super Soup Recipe

Hello, Iíve been reading your newsletter for some time now Ė I learned of it through your husbandís newsletter. Though I donít consider myself a vegetarian, I enjoy your positive outlook, quotes, etc so I read every issue.

Iíve never tried any of your recipes, until last night. Iím a single dad with two daughters, so a pretty busy guy; the recipe for Lentil Super Soup caught my eye as it used normal ingredients : ) and was quick and easy and healthy. Iím always looking for ways to improve the quality of food that we eat. It was a snap to make, and so delicious. Iíll be sure to keep this one in our regular rotation. Thanks for what you doÖEd

Guiding Your Thoughts

"If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place." ~Nora Roberts

Your Wholesome Life

This newsletter and blog are free, but I make my living providing one-on-one holistic health counseling, either in person or by phone.

I invite you to contact me and let me help you make the changes you always wanted to make, one step at a time. The first initial one-hour consultation is free.

When it comes to overall health and happiness, itís all connected; your food, your relationships, your lifestyle and you career are all part of the equation. Iíd love to help you find your solution.

Maranatha Raw Sesame Tahini

My recipe below calls for raw tahini. I recommend that you try Maranatha raw sesame tahini. It's excellent, and gives the results I want when I make my hummus or my tahini sauces and dressings. Iíve tried other brands, but this is by far the best. Itís raw, organic and has no additives.

The one and only ingredient in it is ď100% Organic Hulled Raw Sesame SeedsĒ (allergy warning: Itís processed in a facility that also processes other nuts).

Deadly Salt Risk At Restaurants

The first-ever long-term study on the impact of salt on health was released this week. The study, conducted at Harvard University and published in the British Medical Journal, found that "People who ate less salty food were found to have a 25 per cent lower risk of cardiac arrest or stroke, and a 20 per cent lower risk of premature death."

We are eating too much saltódouble the total daily recommend limit of about one teaspoon (2,300 milligrams). Not surprisingly, a different study found that eating at restaurants increases sodium intake because restaurants add a lot of salt to their food, as salt is associated with high flavor. Food low in salt is perceived as bland only because our palates have become accustomed to salty foods.

One restaurant meal can provide almost twice the amount of salt an adult should consume in an entire day. For example, Chiliís Grill & Barís ďfamousĒ baby back ribs contain a whopping 4,410 milligrams of sodium. And thatís, of course, what you get if you're not one of those people who really go at it with the salt shaker even before trying the food. The sodium intake is alarmingly higher for our defenseless children who are being plagued with obesity and adult onset diabetes. Those chicken McNuggets are loaded with salt.

What to do? Eat out less and, when you do, eat at healthier restaurants. Avoid packaged or prepared foods. Cook your own meals and add a minimum of salt. Your food may taste bland for awhile but it will get better as your taste buds come back to life.


Leafy Greens Power Salad
(vegan) Serves 4

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Leafy greens are super foods that are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. This nutritious and delicious power salad is full of wholesome goodness. These types of salads can be eaten at any time of the day including breakfast to revitalize your body, boost your immunity and increase your energy.

Preparation time: 20 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender for dressing

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)

(yields about 2 cups)
Ĺ cup raw tahini
ľ cup flaxseed oil
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
⅓ small onion, chopped
6 fresh garlic cloves
3 tablepoons ground flaxseeds
ĺ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon organic raw agave nectar
1 tablespoon turmeric
Ĺ teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt to taste

4 large leafs of kale with stems removed, chopped into bite size pieces
1 large green chard leaf with stems removed, chopped into bite size pieces
2 cups of romaine lettuce, finely chopped
1 cup cooked kidney beans or garbanzo beans
2 thin carrots, sliced or shredded
1 cup cherry tomatoes, whole
Ĺ small onion, diced
1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced
Ĺ red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons of raw pine nuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
Ĺ sliced avocado (to be added after is plated)
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a blender or food processor, combine all the dressing ingredients and puree until completely smooth adding more lemon juice mixed with half water if a more liquid consistency is desired.

2. Place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl excluding avocado. Pour about one third of a cup of dressing onto the salad gently tossing and mixing thoroughly. Serve on plates, garnish with avocado slices and add more freshly ground pepper if desired. Store dressing in a glass bottle or jar in refrigerator for up to two weeks.



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