'Natural' Products You
It's easy to find
personal care products labeled "natural" or "organic." But labels can be
As we walk through the aisles at the health food store we see hundreds
of products labeled with the words "organic" and "natural."
Naturally, we assume that foods with such labels were produced
using sustainable farming practices that do not include artificial
fertilizers or pesticides and are free of toxic chemicals, artificial
ingredients, additives, preservatives and petroleum derived ingredients.
Unfortunately, not all "organic" products are created equal -- or even
organic. Many such products are blatantly and misleadingly branded such
by unethical companies.
The USDA has not established standards for organic personal care
products, which adds to the confusion. Companies can, however, choose to
be certified under the USDA National Organic Program through which food
producers are certified. Dr. Bronner's Magic
Soap company, for example, is has been certified as an organic processor
and also certified Fair Trade.
Not all companies are as exemplary. A recent study found that some
"organic" personal care product companies are cheating and making
products using petrochemical ingredients such as olefin sulfonate,
cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium myrth sulfate and methyl and propyl
paraben preservatives. They package, label and sell these products to
unsuspecting consumers as "organic." And, although these products are
not certified organic, we buy them because we trust that their claims
are truthful. This is another example of greenwashing.
While conventional personal care products such as Johnson's Head-to-Toe
Baby Wash by Johnson & Johnson might be laden with carcinogenic
petrochemicals, these products are not misleadingly sold as "organic."
But to health oriented and environmentally conscious consumers, who pay
a premium for organic and biodegradable products, it might be shocking
to realize that some of the products they have been buying are not much
better than conventional products found at mainstream grocery stores.
For instance, a close look at a label on Jason "Pure, Natural & Organic"
liquid soaps, body washes and shampoos, reveals that one of their main
ingredients is Sodium Myreth Sulfate, a cleansing or foaming ingredient,
whose production involves the ethoxylation of petrochemical Ethylene
Oxide, which produces the byproduct 1,4-Dioxane, a well known
carcinogenic. Avalon "organic" soaps, body washes and shampoos are made
with Cocamidopropyl Betain, which contains the petrochemical Amdiopropyl
Betaine, which can cause allergies and skin irritations. Nature's Gate
"organic" hair care products contain Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate,
which involves ethoxylation and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Although these
can be produced with coconut oil, the production process often involves
petroleum. Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate is used in 90% of all foaming
personal care products that exist in market, which can be contaminated
with carcinogenic nitrosamines posing a serious health threat. Kiss My
Face "obsessively organic"
cleansing ingredients include olefin sulfonate, which is a petrochemical. Giovanni "organic cosmetics" are
made with cocamdiopropyl betaine.
The vast majority of us spend our lifetime using soaps, shampoos,
conditioners and shaving creams all over our absorbent bodies. We use
laundry detergents, fabric softeners and even bleach on towels,
beddings, table linens and clothing that come in direct contact with our
skin. Every single day of our lives we lather our bodies, clothes and
dishes with cleaning liquids and bar soaps that could be poisoning us
and the environment. The damage from a single use might be miniscule --
maybe insignificant -- but the long term cumulative effect can be
seriously hazardous to our health. Skin irritations, upper respiratory
illnesses and even cancer can result from exposure to the varied toxic
chemicals found even in baby products branded as "organic", gentle and
Shallow, unethical and shameless companies are cheating consumers by
selling products that violate the principles of the organic movement and
consumer trust. What is seemingly a wonderful and healthy organic
product made from botanicals created from nature might actually be a
bottle deceptively branded as "organic" but in fact filled with a
smidgen of organic ingredients or a pinch of herbs drowned in distilled
water, preservatives and synthetic ingredients produced partly or fully
Truly organic all-vegetable soaps, lotions, shampoos, conditioners,
etc., should be made using ecological materials and environmentally
friendly methods. We certainly don't expect an organic product to be
just another synthetic cocktail of harsh detergents and petrochemical
compounds that produce byproducts such as 1,4-dioxane, which can not
only cause cancer but also pollute our ground water.
How do we protect ourselves from being scammed by these crooked and
deceitful companies? On a previous blog posting I ask readers to boycott
companies that have been unashamedly deceiving consumers by selling
products labeled as "organic" despite the fact that they've been
produced with the same toxicants usually found in mainstream
Some readers asked me why not just boycott only the products containing
toxicants instead of the entire company? Before I answer that, I ask
you, would you buy fruit from a farmer who claims his fruit is "organic"
but when the said fruit is tested, it's found to contain high levels of
cancer-causing pesticides? Can you continue to believe in anything sold
by a company that has so derisively betrayed your trust? Can you and
should you support a company that has no consideration for your health
or the fact that you pay a premium of 200 or even 300 percent more for
what you believe to be a truly organic product?
What these shady companies have done is a premeditated infringement on
consumer trust purely out of avarice. Their actions are a demonstration
of their absolute lack of respect and appreciation of consumers as well
as complete lack of environmental stewardship.
Thinking that the solution is to selectively purchase products from a
company that has proven to be deceitful is a disjointed notion. The
practice of misbranding, misleading and mislabeling can stop only if
consumers stop buying products from corrupt companies.
It's up to consumers to hold
dodgy companies accountable. Until these companies either desist from
calling themselves "organic" or publicly commit to making all their
products 100 percent free of toxic petroleum compounds and adhere to
organic practices. We should not spend a penny on their fake "organic"
products. Our only power over a company who profits from our consumption
is choosing wisely how we spend our money. Use your buying power to
reward companies that are ethical and have not been lured to increase
their profits by lying and cheating at the expense of your health and
that of the environment. This is the only way to send a strong message
to unethical companies to force them to adopt higher, ethical and safe
Although you may be feeling frustrated and thinking that "everything is
bad" or that "everything causes cancer," that's simply not true. It's
just a matter of being an educated consumer. Learn what to look for and
be an active and conscious consumer. Here are some helpful suggestions
to keep in mind next time you buy personal care products:
1. Buy organic products that
have been certified under the USDA's organic food standards. These
products are produced in accordance to strict organic guidelines of the
USDA National Organic Program that currently apply to organic food.
2. Take the time to read the *ingredient label* carefully. The list of
ingredients should be easily understood and pronounced with words that
are familiar. Be suspicious of hard to pronounce words on the
ingredients list. The Organic Consumers Association recommends to avoid
buying products that contain ingredients with words such as "myreth," "oleth,"
"laureth," "ceteareth," or other words ending in "eth" (which implies
the ethoxylation process that generates 1,4-Dioxane). Also, avoid
products with ingredients such as "PEG," "polyethylene," "polyethylene
glycol," "polyoxyethylene," or "oxynol."
3. Buy products made with real ingredients that come from herbs,
flowers, vegetables, fruit, trees, spices and other nontoxic plants. The
bulk of the ingredients should have been grown, not synthetically
created in a lab.
4. Avoid buying products that contain toxic and even carcinogenic
phthalates, FD&C artificial colors, methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl
5. Avoid any ammonia compounds such as DEA (diethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine),
which cause dryness and irritation of eyes, hair and skin but also can
be contaminated with cancer-causing nitrosamines when exposed to
6. Avoid buying products with the word "fragrance" on the labels.
Synthetic fragrances can cause skin and respiratory problems.
7. Other ingredients to avoid include stearalkonium Chloride, a toxic
anmonioum compound used in hair conditioners, lotions and creams. PVP/VA
copolymer used in hair sprays can cause damage to lungs. Petrolatum is a
cheap mineral oil that offers no benefits and can create skin problems.
Diazolidinyl urea and imidazolidinyl urea are chemical preservatives
that may cause contact dermatitis and release formaldehyde, which is
Here is a list organic and
natural companies whose products were recently tested and came clean
with no detectable carcinogenic petrochemicals such as 1,4-Dioxane.
Nurture My Body
Real Purity Products
Sensibility Soaps (Nourish products)
The Natural Alchemist
Here is the list of
companies, which had some of their personal care products test positive
for carcinogenic ingredients.
Don't Buy These:
365* Everyday Value By Whole Foods
Circle of Friends
Giovanni Organic cosmetics
Kiss My Face
Nature's Gate Organics
Ultra Hair Conditioning Shampoo (by Nature's Plus)
for a complete list of products tested as well the specific results. I
also recommend that you check out
a safety guide to cosmetics and personal care products.
For a list of my favorite personal care products, check out
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Rapadura OK for
I understand Rapadura is a healthy alternative to Refined Sugar for
normal individuals. But what about the diabetic patients. Is Rapadura
better than aspartame or saccharin for a diabetic patient?
Rajesh (Seattle, WA)
Dear Rajesh: Thank you for asking such a great question. Although
Rapadura is not a refined sugar (unlike white table sugar, which has
been bleached) and contains the nutrients from the sugar cane, it is
still sugar. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are best avoided
due to possible negative health effects. Some women, for example, have
experienced side effects from using aspartame including headaches and
worse symptoms of PMS. Aspartame is believed to be an "excitotoxin,"
which can damage nerve cells through over stimulation. The best
available non-caloric sweetener is stevia, an herb in the chrysanthemum
family native to Paraguay. It’s available at health food stores in the
form of whole-leaf powder or extract. A little bit of stevia powder or
just a few drops of the extract goes a long way providing lots of
sweetness. Diabetics are better off using stevia as regular sweetener.
Raw agave nectar is also a good sweetener but should be used only
sparingly by diabetics.
WORDS OF WISDOM
How Do You Know What's
"The only way of finding the
limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible."
-- Arthur C. Clarke
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wanted to make, one step at a time. The first one-hour
consultation is absolutely free.
When it comes to overall health and happiness, it’s all connected: your
food, your relationships, your lifestyle and you career. Let me help you find your solution.
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VEGETARIAN ORGANIC RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Homemade Savory Baked
Click on the last picture for a closer look!
Baked tofu makes a
quick and yummy snack. It’s also a versatile ingredient as part of a
meal, such as in a salad or sandwich or in a stir fry with vegetables
and quinoa or brown rice. It even makes a fast breakfast meal: Grab it
out of the fridge and eat it as a finger food on the go. Baked tofu is
definitely a staple food to keep in every healthy kitchen.
organic baked tofu is not the healthiest or cheapest you can buy. In
fact, one of the most expensive prepared foods sold at health food
stores is organic baked tofu. One package of two small pieces of tofu (8
ounces) costs between $3.70 and $4.50 in the U.S. That’s one to two
servings only. Baked tofu sold at stores often comes also packed with
additives and preservatives. But you can bake your own at a tiny
fraction of the cost of store-bought baked tofu, and make it healthy,
organic and free of additives or preservatives.
2 (16 or 20 oz) extra firm tofu
3 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1¼ cup vegetable broth
3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons stone ground whole grain mustard
3 tablespoons raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
¼ cup fresh orange juice (one juice orange)
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, very finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons fresh basil, very finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
½ teaspoon ground yellow mustard seed
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon blackstrap molasses, unsulphured
2 teaspoons raw agave nectar or brown rice syrup (optional sweetener)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1. This step is
optional. Skip to step two if desired. For better baked tofu texture and
absorption of flavors, place packaged tofu in freezer overnight but no
more than six months. When ready to make baked tofu, transfer packaged
tofu from the freezer to the refrigerator overnight to defrost slowly.
2. Remove tofu from
packaging and gently squeeze it over the sink, taking care not to
crumble it or break it, to remove as much liquid as possible. Wrap tofu
in clean and lint-free cotton kitchen towel and place a heavy object
over it letting it sit for 30 to 60 minutes to allow it to further
3. Cut tofu into about
eight (more or less depending on shape and size) equal pieces about half-inch
thick. In an extra large or two medium deep baking dishes, whisk all the
ingredients together (except tofu). Place tofu in baking dish tossing in
the marinade. Arrange tofu pieces to fit flatly in baking dish without
overlapping. With a spoon, take some marinade from the side of the dish
and pour over all the pieces of tofu.
4. Cover the dish with
lid or plastic wrap, place in refrigerator and let tofu marinade for 24
hours but no less than half a day. Half way through the marinating
period, take tofu out of the fridge and flip over all the pieces. The
tofu should absorb most of the marinade. Note that the tofu will be
baked with all remaining marinade.
5. When ready to bake
tofu, preheat oven to 350 F. Right before placing tofu in oven, turn
over all the pieces in the baking dish then place baking dish in middle rack of oven.
Bake for 15 minutes then remove from oven to turn over once
and bake for another 15 minutes for a total of 30 minutes. Remove from
oven and allow it to cool off. To store it, place in glass food storage
container with plastic lid and keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.
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