Is Your Child Suffering From This Not-So-Well-Known Allergy?

Most of us are well-aware that tree nuts, dairy, soy, corn, seafood and other foods can cause serious issues to those allergic to them.  However it is not so well-known that harsh, synthetic chemicals can also cause serious allergic reactions especially in children.

I found out the hard way a few years ago, when I slathered my then 2 year old’s body in a big brand chemical-based sunscreen thinking I was protecting her. The result was frightening. Her wee body swelled and turned red from head to toe. Luckily in our case no swelling of the throat occurred. The medical doctors attending to her described the situation as a ‘hyper-allergic reaction’.

However, as many parents of allergic children know, you NEVER let your guard down. You arm yourself the best way you know how and are always on guard. With allergies you can’t assume what the ‘next time’ could bring.  I now live life avoiding chemicals in my daughter’s products that could be suspect in fear of a similar or worse episode.

I was happy this week when CBCHealth raised awareness of chemical allergies. Their article documented the case of an otherwise healthy 8 year old girl who had an allergic reaction to a synthetic chemical in a children’s product. The girl was having her mouth wiped constantly with baby wipes containing methylisothiazolinone (aka MI or MIT). The picture of the young girl causes me upset. Unfortunately her parents had no idea what was in the wipes and the issue synthetic chemicals can cause.

MI is a very commonly used preservative that has been on my personal ‘hotlist’ since my daughter’s episode (it was one of the chems making up the chemical stew that was her sunscreen that day).  You will find this chemical on Health Canada’s Hotlist of cosmetic chemicals…a list of the nastiest chems known to be used in cosmetics in Canada. And if you research MI, you will also find medical studies linking it to neurotoxicity. All good reason for any parent to avoid methylisothiazolinone in their family’s products.

Also according to the CBC article the girl’s allergy was initially mis-diagnosed as impetigo or eczema and she was prescribed steroid creams and antibiotics.  As the baby wipes were still being used, the prescription drugs did nothing to clear up her skin. Makes me wonder how many other kids may have been similarly mis-diagnosed? And how many parents are not aware of the potential issues caused to children from commonly-used synthetic chemicals? How many parents think their child’s eczema-like symptoms may be an inherent skin condition as this girl’s family did?

Once I my guard down. My husband took my daughter to a classmate’s birthday party when she was in kindergarten.  It was being held in the family’s backyard. Being mid-June, the mom hosting the party opted to slather the child-guests upon arrival in big-brand sunscreen (full of the same chemicals that caused our family grief a few years before).  I never considered someone else would put product on my child’s body. As my husband ran to the car to retrieve our zinc-based sunscreen, the hostess was insisting not to bother as she had enough for all. In my perfect world all parents would be aware that products other than food can cause serious allergic reaction.

I understand navigating chemicals is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Fortunately, I have the advantage of having studied environmental chemistry at university. Since my daughter’s allergic reaction I have delved deeper into researching everyday household chemicals, all health issues they are linked to as well as alternative products which do not contain controversial chemicals. And I now love to talk chemicals to interested parents in hopes of helping out. So feel free to ask!

8 Things You Should Know About Common Household Plastics

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Plastics are everywhere. They are used everything from building materials to shower curtains. Mass production of plastics was born out of a desire to make cheap, durable goods. Sadly, some plastics are now known to be toxic to human health as well as damaging to the environment. Here are some facts about plastics which may make you re-think your use of them.

1) Polyvinyl Chloride is toxic. PVC is very commonly used as its cheap to manufacture and allows for plastic to be pliable. So chances are you come in contact with PVC much too often. Look for recycling code #3 and avoid where you can. PVC is commonly used in children’s backpacks, rain gear, and school supplies such as 3-ring binders. Check this very informative list that gives non-PVC options for products kids typically take to school. And good to note that a #7 recycling code is ‘everything else’. Some drinking bottles made with this #7 ‘mystery’ plastic have recently been found to contain BPA.

2) Children’s toys contain PVC. In fact, the iconic kiddie toy, the rubber ducky has become a symbol of a toys made with toxic materials.  Apparently many toys do contain at least some PVC as no alternative suitable material to PVC has been found… claim at least a few of the giant toy manufacturers. And some parents are not taking this lightly creating petitions asking for change.

3) Although ALL plastics have some degree of negative environmental impact, know that the least toxic (based on containing no PVC) commonly used plastics are believed to be low density polyethylene and polypropylene. Recycling codes #4 and #5 respectively will allow you to easily identify these.

4) Saran food wrap (a Dow Chemical product) was once made of PVC but due to health concerns is now reported to made of polyethylene which is apparently much more permeable to oxygen than it ever was, so doesn’t keep your food as fresh.  So really what’s the point of it? Best to avoid all non-biodegradable plastic wrap altogether and use good quality, re-usable food containers made without toxins. I use lined, fabric sandwich bags for my kids lunches and have been pleasantly surprised and glass or stainless for leftovers in my fridge.

5) Plastics are being used in exfoliating face and body washes.  So hard to believe that anyone ever thought it was a good idea to put microscopic plastic beads in body care products.  Now the Great Lakes and other waterways are suffering for it. And the issue persists as municipal water systems weren’t built to remove theses plastic beads.  Check your scrub products for plastics such as ‘polyethylene’. Best to choose biodegradable exfoliators.

6) Plastics are harming aquatic wildlife by ingestion and by entanglement. In fact some who have recently journeyed across oceans give haunting accounts of unspeakable amounts of plastics floating in the oceans and the apparent cost to wildlife. Best for all of us to reduce plastics use where we can. Plastics NEVER breakdown. You throw it away and it then becomes someone else’s issue.

7) Many plastics gas off when they are new causing an unhealthy mix of compounds in the air. This translates into how much better it may be to buy used than new or recycle someone else’s products Who will covet that ‘new car smell’ when it most probably means toxic gassing off?

8) Plastic beverage bottles are a huge environmental issue. PET plastic can be recycled but stats show the majority aren’t recycled but thrown away and end up in landfill.  If you reach for a plastic bottle out of convenience, think again and bring a stainless steel or glass refillable bottle with you next time.

And the good news? There are lots of alternatives to plastic products being created everyday by companies who are being innovative and thoughtful.  Ask questions of product manufacturers and seek out alternatives where they exist. Google everything you question and you may be surprised to find how many alternatives to polluting, harmful plastics are available.

The Superstar Skin Hydrator You May Not Know About

Rosehip OIl is quietly becoming a superstar of the skincare world.

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Rosehips are the seeds of the rose plant. They are traditionally grown at high altitude in places such as the Andes where the air is fresh and clean.  After being cold-pressed the oil remains full of vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids.  Its vibrant orangey-red colour is evidence to the inherent beta carotene and lycopene. These are the same compounds that make some brightly coloured vegetables an integral part of healthy eating.

Apparently ancient Egyptians and Mayans were in the know and used rosehip oil for its healing properties, however, it wasn’t until recently that it made some waves in the beauty world via the media. Some very beautiful and very famous people were recently quoted touting Rosehip Oil as an integral part of their skincare regime including women AND men.

The claims of these beautiful people are not surprising when you read the results of studies conducted regarding its befits to skin. In the 1980’s, both the University of Santiago and University of San Marcos, Lima, Peru studies concluded rosehip oil was effective in:

  • regenerating skin
  • reducing scarring (from burns, surgery and acne)
  • reducing wrinkles
  • reducing sun spots.

Other benefits of using rosehip oil include:

  • it is a ‘dry oil’ it so it sinks quite quickly into skin without a residual greasy feel
  • it is a great source of all-trans retinoic acid (aka trentinoin), and so much more gentle than its harsh, synthetic cousin Retinyl Palmitate
  • it has a neutral scent (no scent of rose) making it particularly appealing to men who don’t want flower-scented skincare
  • being 100% oil, it does not require a preservative system so you can buy organic rosehip oil with no added preservatives…so rare in the beauty product world

There are many brands and options when searching for rosehip oil.  Look for organic, cold-pressed (means chemical solvents are not used to extract the oil) and 100% rosehip oil…with no fillers or additives of any kind. A good brand will have the oil in an amber glass bottle to shield the product from light as it is photosensitive. And the oil should have a gorgeous orangey/red hue to it…testament of the inherent carotene and lycopene.

My favourite rosehip oil comes from Canada’s Cocoon Apothecary.  After meeting the owner, Jessica, I am assured of the detail she pays to quality and sourcing 100% cold-pressed, pure, exceptional quality oil.  Cocoon Apothecary’s 100% Organic Rosehip oil is available online at Sessabel (ships coast to coast in Canada) and online also directly via the manufacturer.

Mothers March: A Stroller Brigade To Demand Tougher Laws on Toxic Chemicals

A stroller brigade is planning to march in Washington DC on October 29 (tomorrow!.)

Stroller BrigadeThey will be demanding laws which protect people from toxic chemicals in everyday products. And they have my support…

From my home in Toronto, I will be watching and cheering on my American neighbours who are marching for change which will benefit all of us all.

This march brings to light that so many people are tired of hearing what to avoid in every day products. People have had enough of trying to research each and every ingredient in a product to determine whether it is safe or not. AND most of us are not accepting of our kids being used as ‘canaries in a coal mine’. The stats on increasing rates of childhood disease, including severe allergies, dermatitis, eczema, asthma and cancers are alarming. It has to stop. Laws need to protect us.

There are a number of reasons that Canadians should be paying attention to this march on the US Capital tomorrow.  Most of the Canadian population lives within 250 km of the US border, or buys US consumer goods, or shares water and air with the US (think Great Lakes, rivers which transverse our borders). Toxic chemicals do not stop at the 49th parallel.

And of course there’s always the hope that Canadian lawmakers will take note. Canadian laws concerning toxic chemicals have loads of room to be strengthened too so my fingers are crossed….

Please spread the word of this Stroller Brigade. Post details of this march to your Facebook page, tweet about it using hashtags #StrollerBrigade and #SaferChemicals. And you can sign up here to lend your support on line.

Happy ‘marching’ everyone! Together, we can make a difference.

Petroleum Jelly As Skincare: The Bad and the Ugly.

Petroleum Jelly is a staple in many beauty routines.  And for that reason alone, I went with the flow a long time ago, trusting that it must be a good choice. I have since used petroleum jelly for everything from lip gloss to skin ‘cream’, hoping that it was what some claimed it to be; a cheap yet effective hydrator. Cheap yes…effective hydrator.. not so much and when I found out the very ugly side to petroleum jelly the ‘cheap’ was no longer so inviting.

The Bad

Petroleum Jelly is a by-product of  gasoline production. Strangely its origin as a residue left over in the refining process of crude oil really never occurred to me.  It is not ‘green’ nor natural in any way and comes with a host of potential concerns.

One such concern is that it can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). According to David Suzuki, studies suggest that exposure to PAHs, including skin contact over extended periods of time, is associated with cancer.  And it is on this basis, the European Union classifies petrolatum, a carcinogen restricting its use in cosmetics. And to make matters even worse, PAH’s are known to cause skin irritations. So just because it is allowed to be used as skincare, I started to figure…it doesn’t necessarily mean it should be.

The Ugly

Drinking Gasoline! The famous Dr Oz once caught my attention when he likened using petroleum jelly on lips being comparable to drinking gasoline. Oh my! And to add insult to injury there are many who claim that using petroleum jelly on your skin does it no benefit in terms of skin health. It is said to slow skin’s cellular regeneration, potentially damaging collagen and elastin, ultimately contributing to the appearance of older looking skin. Thoughts of sagging, drooping skin started to hit home and gone were all petroleum-based skincare products from my medicine cabinet. The Bad and the Ugly trumped any possible good.

Giving up on petro skin products altogether gave way to new-found alternative plant-based skin soothers, hydrators and glossers. Some of my favourites include:

For Lips: I now like dabbing my lips with 100% pure organic argan oil such as this one by Canada’s Cocoon Apothecary. It soothes lips, looks glossy for a bit and, no there’s no ‘eating gasoline’.  And to carry in my pocket or purse for myself or my young daughters, I like Keeki Pure & Simple Lip Shimmers or Consonant’s Organic Lip Conditioner. Made of organic plant oils and beeswax, these give shine and hydration to winter-weary lips. And bonus… as compared to petroleum-based lip products…the plant-based ones for some reason last so much longer. Woot!

For Face: Cocoon Apothecary’s 100% organic plant oils are so incredibly nourishing that I use them on my lips and on my face. Choose either Rosehip and/or Argan oil with no fillers, no synthetics and no harsh preservatives. Read about these oils to see how using them is associated with glowing, beautiful skin.

And I love Consonant’s HydrExtreme Skin Hydration Booster. Two plant-based ingredients (and nothing else!) give skin the best hydration with no oiliness. Love, love, love. This product won the Canadian Beauty Innovation Award in 2012, so clearly I feel am in good company!

For Body:  I find the hydrating effect of Graydon’s Green Cream is nothing short of fabulous.  I use it on any dry areas including my face.  Made with cold-pressed green broccoli seed oil, avocado oil and chlorophyll, it sure beats the idea of refined gasoline on my dry parts. I can’t help but liken it to eating broccoli vs. refined, processed foods. Mmm.. Salad for the skin!

For Hands: My skin loves the hydration of Ella’s Botanicals Magic Balms.  Made mainly of olive oil and shea butter, these balms give extremely de-hydrated hands a serious hydration fix in either Lavendar or Clementine scents. And at $15 for a wee tub that lasts a very long time, no wonder this Toronto-based company has trouble keeping its Magic Balms in stock.

If you have any petroleum-free beauty products you would like to share, please do!  I tend to favour local companies making great quality products but love to try new products. So bring on the suggestions!

Babies Are Born ‘Pre-Polluted’. So What’s A Parent To Do?

Recently Environmental Defence Canada reported on the results from testing umbilical cord blood OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAof three newborn babies born in Toronto and Hamilton, ON. A small sample size that indicated a potentially HUGE issue. Each baby was found to contain 55 to 121 toxic compounds such as flame retardants, PCB’s, organochloride pesticides, dioxins and furans, mercury and lead. Of 137 toxic compounds found in these wee babies, 132 are reported to cause cancer. So before our babies can even say the words….they are subject to these horrific toxins.

It is important to note that the test results reported by Environmental Defence, by no way are the result of the actions of any one of the women whose baby was tested. The reality is that toxic chemicals are most everywhere….including in a significant number of common household products. Lax laws on toxic chemicals are affecting all of us including our newborn babies.

Luckily, organizations on both sides of the 49th parallel are urging both the US and Canadian governments to make change and to tighten laws around toxic chemicals. This is an issue where conventional borders often mean nothing. Irregardless of where you live, it is most important to note that the US and Canada share waterways, airways, and consumer goods.  Lax laws affect all of us. While we all wait (Read: law reform can be very slow!), there are steps we can all take toward reducing our individual toxic loads:

1) Speak up! Feel free to sign petitions such as this one to get laws put in place to protect us. Give backing to those who are working on all of our behalf.

2) Follow and support organizations who are working on all of our behalf everyday. In addition to Environmental Defence, I follow Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Women’s Voices For The Earth. I cannot tell parents how fabulous the information is I get just by ‘liking’ or following these organization that report on this subject matter everyday.

3) Inform yourself!  I like to say ‘make google your best friend’. Research and then make the decisions you feel are easiest and most important for you and for your own family. The Top 10 worst household toxins are easily found on-line making them easier for you to avoid.

4) Know that toxic chemicals are finding their way to you in your bodycare products, clothing, beds, couches, food, toys, backpacks, lunchboxes, laundry detergent just to name a few.  I know it can be overwhelming but make one small change at a time.  It becomes easy and feels so good to know you are reducing your family’s toxic load.

5) My mantra is ‘speak with your wallet’. I choose not to buy from companies that are not making change toward cleaner products and conversely I wholeheartedly support those who are. Companies that fight the move toward cleaner products or call it ‘fear-mongering’ when we ask for chemicals banned in other countries to be eliminated from products in our country, lose me AND my dollars.

6) Make it your business to know what is in your family’s foods. organochloride pesticides were found in that cord blood. Research organic farming and see why foods grown organically might suit your family better. Know what genetically-modified food is and that toxins are spliced right into the foods we eat.  Then make the decision if you want your family to eat that type of food? Or speak up so none of us have to even make that decision. Really all food should be free from toxins, shouldn’t it? Know that it has become the norm in processed grocery-store foods to add oodles of health-affecting additives most people don’t even know are there. For instance take a look at what is commonly in commercial breads. Who wants that for breakfast?

7) Choose safe body care products from reputable businesses. In Canada, Environmental Defence has a list of some pretty fabulous companies that offer all-natural and good quality products. And I am a fan of the Skin Deep database for being the best single database around for families to check out what is in their cosmetic products. Know that hundreds of UNTESTED toxic substances are allowed in bodycare in Canada and the US. Read your labels..research ingredients you find such as methylisothiazoline, oxybenzone, Quaternium-15, parabens, BHA, BHT, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate….just to name a few. Once you know what these chemicals are suspect of, you may change up the products you have been using.

8) Say ‘no’ to plastics! I know its a challenge but we all can do it it. Ditch the plastic wrap, plastic grocery bags, plastic toys, plastic shower curtains, plastic drinking containers, plastic rain gear.  And know some companies are even using plastics in exfoliating skincare products! So ditch the polluting plastic skincare products too….

Seemingly small changes by all of us can make a big difference not only to us here and now, but to our children and their children. Perhaps from all of our combined efforts, in a generation or two, babies will no longer be born ‘pre-polluted’.

Feel free to share changes you are or will be making toward reducing your family’s toxic load. We always love to hear from you!

Kombucha CA-RAZY!

CA-RAZY is how I describe my family’s reaction to Tonica Kombucha, our new favourite thirst-quenching, so-much healthier than conventional, outrageously delish r-KOMBUCHATONICA-large570drink!

What first drew me this odd-sounding, beverage was the superior nutritional attributes and purported healthy benefits as compared to conventional drinks. Nutritionally we are not comparing apples to apples when comparing healthy Kombucha to soda pop, I know. Soda pop is horribly high in refined, GMO sugars and in some cases may contain carcinogenic caramel colour but I make the comparison as my family likes sweet, bubbly drinks. And until now, we only knew the unhealthy version.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a refreshing beverage made from fermented sugar, tea (green, black or white tea), and a live starter: a combination of beneficial bacteria and yeast (also known as SCOBY “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast”). The live starter gives kombucha all sorts of fabulous benefits including probiotics, antioxidants, amino acids, B vitamins, and enzymes.

Although Kombucha was recently discovered by my family, it has been known in Russia, Asia and Eastern Europe for a long time. In fact, it was known in the Tsin Dynasty (221 BC) as the ‘Elixir of Long Life’.  It’s healing and restorative properties have been well-documented over the ages to include: resistance against cancer, prevention of cardiovascular diseases, promotion of digestive functions, stimulation of the immune system, reduction of inflammatory problems etc. etc. As well, age old remedies cite the following benefits of drinking Kombucha on an ongoing basis:

  • Promotion of liver cleansing, resulting in healthy skin, hair and improved eyesight.
  • Increase of metabolism & resulting decrease of body fat
  • Balancing of blood sugar levels
  • Increase of energy (yippee!)
  • Improved PH balance and resulting mental clarity

As Kombucha is an adaptogen, contains trace amounts of alcohol (.5%) AND a significant amount of lactic acid it is best for pregnant women to consult a physician before consuming it. Always best to be safe when expecting and its usually not the best time to try anything new.

As for kids, mine do drink Kombucha and absolutely love it.  It has become their number one choice for a thirst-quenching beverage this summer. AND at only 45 calories per serving, it is clear they are consuming very little in the way of sugars as compared to most other drinks kids like. 

I easily made the decision that the health benefits of Kombucha were too many for my family NOT to drink Kombucha. Soda pop which is linked to Type II Diabetes along with some other undesirable health concerns hasn’t been an option in my house for a very long time. 

The Best Brand of Kombucha I Have Found:

I tried a few but Tonica Kombucha is my ABSOLUTE FAVE! I love that it is all-Canadian, made in Toronto, is organic, raw, uses cane sugar (which is always GMO-free!) and comes in 6 fabulous flavours; Ginger Rapture, Green Tea Revival, Nude Brew, Peach Resolution, Mango Passion and Vibrant Blueberry. Check here to see where it is sold near you.

So when my family goes on our annual summer road trip this summer, no doubt we will be carting a few cases of Tonica Kombucha in the back of the family-wagon! Mango Passion for my 4 year old, Green Tea for my 8 year old, Ginger Rapture for my husband and Vibrant Blueberry for me!

Let me know if try Tonica Kombucha and what you, your family and friends think of it! We might all forget we ever knew ‘soda pop’….and might all be healthier for it!

5 Best Family-Friendly ‘After Sun’ Products

Now that summer is finally here and is accompanied by sun drenched days (Yippee!), I amMuskoka chair reminded of the need for after-sun products. My own experience has proved that some of these can be very hard on sensitive skin and that in many cases, conventional after-sun products don’t cut it.

I found out the hard way that conventional ‘after-sun’ was not going to work for us. One day, when I applied one to my young daughter’s skin, she screamed AND cried, ‘Get it off. It’s hurting me’!!

I had assumed the product was safe for her uber-sensitive skin as it was from a ‘natural’ products company.  Apparently, not so.  I checked the label after the screaming subsided, to find after aloe, were listed a few synthetic chemicals.  Clearly not suitable for sensitive-skinned kids. I then researched to find truly soothing products that would not cause us upset when applied.

As I hear so often that many parents identify with my need for only the most gentle of products, I am sharing my new fave, better-than-conventional skin soothers:

Dr. Robin For Kids Daily Moisture

  • Size/Price: 6 oz/177mL $16.00
  • Main Ingredients: Shea Butter, Safflower Seed Oil, Coconut Oil
  • Why We Love It: Dr. Robin is a pediatric dermatologist and developed her line of products for sensitive or eczema-prone kids.  She is also a mom of three wee kids. And Dr. Robin’s Daily Moisture works well on winter-weary skin too so if you have some left over at the end of the summer…lucky you!
  • Buy Here or Here

COOLA Body Lotion Bars

  • Size/Price: 2.75 oz./78g $22.00
  • Main Ingredients: Shea Butter, Beeswax, Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Vitamin E
  • Why We Love It: Easy to apply. It is a bar of soothing, hydrating ingredients that you simply pick up like a puck and rub on skin. Older kids can apply themselves.  And we found it difficult to waste product.
  • Buy Here or Here

COOLA Radical Recovery After Sun Lotion

  • Size/Price: 6oz/180 mL $36.00
  • Main Ingredients: Sunflower Seed Oil, Aloe Vera Juice and delicious-smelling flower and citrus oils AND many ingredients are organic.
  • Why We Love It: Works so well AND smells so good! It comes in a tube large enough to do for the whole family for the entire summer season.
  • Buy Here or Here

Ella’s Botanicals Magic Balm

  • Size/Price: 62g/2oz $15.00
  • Main Ingredients: Olive Oil, Shea Butter, Beeswax and delicious-smelling oils of lavendar or tangerine depending which scent suits your fancy….Ella makes two Magic Balms. She says Lavendar is her best-seller but we are partial to Clementine.
  • Why We Love It: Soothes skin sooo well and we love that Ella is a person not just a brand name and a mom herself. Ella is a hometown favourite where I live for moms looking for all natural products for their kids.
  • Buy Here or Here

Consonant Unscented Hydrating Body Lotion

  • Size/Price: 8.5 oz/ 250 mL $22.00 OR 17 oz/ 500mL $42.00
  • Main Ingredients: Organic Aloe, soothing Sunflower Seed Oil and hydrating Coconut Oil.
  • Why We Love It: We love most products by this award-winning Canadian cosmetic company and this product is no exception. Unit for unit Consonant gives great value especially as many of its ingredients are certified organic.  We love that the larger format with a pump makes easy to use on squirming kids.  In fact we find it great for the whole family!
  • Buy Here or Here

I know there are lots of fabulous products I haven’t discovered yet. If you have a favourite , please feel free to share as I would love to hear! I do tend to favour local products as well as products that are standouts in their category no matter where they hail from.

Here’s to Happy Summer Skin!

Why Corn Stresses Me Out.

I love corn. However I do not love that it is ‘genetically-modified’.

Genetically-modified in the case of corn, refers to the fact that it has been roasted cornaltered in a lab to be able withstand huge loads of pesticides. Without modifying the corn to withstand insect-killing toxic pesticides, the plants would die from the chemical load.

How does it become genetically-modified? Specifically, corn is spliced with a gene from soil bacteria, known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).  The toxin-containing seeds are then sold to farmers, ultimately affecting food we eat. You will never be able to see the pesticide OR wash it off….you are stuck with it. And the fact that this particular pesticide works by rupturing the gut of insects that eat it, makes it EXTRA unappetizing. It’s no wonder GMO food products including corn are now implicated in ill health.

GMO corn is reported to be making its way to some roadside stands, farmer’s markets and even grocery store shelves. The worst of it is that you may never know if your corn has been grown from GM seeds and peppered with more gut-wrenching pesticide than you can imagine. Neither Canada or the US have joined the dozen or so other nations with mandatory labelling GMO of foods. So this summer, our usual family tradition of buying roadside corn on the cob will also be modifed.

As corn is used in oodles of processed food ingredients,  it is best to know that you may be eating GMO corn even when you don’t think you are eating corn. And sadly, uber popular corn snack products… popcorn and corn chips are most often genetically-modified. That alone is an issue in my house (READ: corn chips are my kids favourite after school snack and movie night just isn’t movie night without popcorn).

As with many debates on whether these toxic chemicals will harm humans…be assured you will see both sides of the debate if you research the topic. I am in the camp with well-regarded experts who believe that by eating GMO foods, we are the test subjects for a huge science experiment.  Who has the time it takes for absolute conclusive evidence? By then my kids might be grown. So while both sides duke it out, I choose to avoid GMO foods.

Recently at a backyard BBQ, when the roasted corn on the cob was passed around… I passed. Who needs the stress?

Tips for avoiding genetically modified foods of any sort:

  • Buy organic. Organic foods cannot be genetically modified. Even organically-raised animals cannot be fed GMO grains.
  • If possible, grow your own.
  • Ask food companies whose foods you buy if their products contain GMO ingredients and hope you get the correct answer.
  • Search out retailers who are vowing not to stock GMO foods. Lists exist of such retailers. And conversely it has been reported that some retailers will be stocking GMO corn.
  • Look for the non-GMO Project symbol on foods.

Hooray My Family Likes Hemp!

I recently introduced my kids to Manitoba Harvest’s hemp hearts. All I read touted these wee seeds  as a nutrition powerhouse which naturally intrigued me. What parent doesn’t dream of good-tasting, easy to use (read: NO PREP!!) healthy foods that kids will happily eat. So I gave it a go.

Now a few months after adding hemp hearts to our meals, my eldest daughter now requests them.  We use them on salads, in our home-baked goods and sprinkled on after school snacks such as Coconut Bliss.  Even our fave baking mix becomes a little bit more super-foody by adding hemp hearts. And as my daughter tends not to eat much meat or cheese, her favourite meal…a corn tortilla with salsa suddenly becomes a more nutritionally-balanced meal by adding hemp hearts.

There are a number of other reasons I love that hemp hearts have become a food choice in our house:

Hemp is grown in Canada. With so many of our foods in Canada coming from warmer climes, I love that hemp is home-grown.  Hemp is a sustainable crop used also in the production of building products, paper and clothes. So as an environmentalist, I am hoping that this means eventually less of our gorgeous trees will be cut down for paper. And hopefully there will be less need for clothes made from cotton….one of the most-sprayed crops in North America.

And anyone who knows me or reads my posts, will know that I LOVE the fact that hemp is not grown with the high pesticide use common in many other North American food crops. High pesticide use is why my family has  already given up non-organic wheat, soy, corn and sugar.

The nutritional benefits of hemp would make anyone striving for an all-round healthy foods want to try it. Known for its protein-packed punch…10 g of vegan protein per 3 tbsp AND without excessive saturated fat and cholesterol, it knocks the socks off a number of other conventional animal sources of protein. And the near perfect ratio of Omega 3 and 6’s is not found naturally in either flax or in chia.

And hemp contains the hard to come by Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA). Studies have shown that GLA helps with arthritis, join mobility, eczema, hormonal balance, migraines, blood pressure levels and even weight management.  Hemp is also a good source of fibre, iron, thiamine, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and manganese.

Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts come already hulled making them easy to digest allowing the nutritional benefits to be easily assimilated into the body.  I appreciate that Manitoba Harvest processes in a dedicated facility meaning it does not process any dairy, soy, nut or gluten products.  We have no allergies in our home but being void of known allergens makes Manitoba Hemp Hearts a suitable addition to my kids lunchbox meals.

Reading up on the hemp industry in Canada will confirm that it is a very regulated business. You can rest easy knowing that any notion that hemp is related to marijuana was put to rest years ago by our Federal Government.  They reportedly tested hemp for 4 years prior to legalizing commercial hemp production in Canada in 1998. A ‘virtual high-five’ for Health Canada!

So super-healthy, tasty and clean (even the de-hulling process is chemical-free), I am happy I gave hemp hearts the ‘kid-test’ in my house.

Manitoba Harvest has offered to send a total of 5 lucky people in either the US or Canada a bag of hemp hearts!!!  We will draw from the entries on July 5, 2013. There are a number of ways to become eligible to win.

Here’s What to Do:Hemp_Hearts__12867.1371813843.1280.1280

  • Post a comment on this post telling us why you would like to try hemp hearts.
  • Tweet: I want to try #hemphearts  @sessabel @manitobaharvest #giveaway #EatRealFood
  • Share this post and giveaway on Facebook and tag @sessabel (and we like when you ‘like’ our page too!)
  • Or Pin the Hemp Hearts photo to Pinterest tagging Sessabel We just started Pinterest this week so would love a wee bit of love for our board!