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FEED YOUR BRAIN is our phrase for everything we do to inspire and enable a healthier generation through learning and information. In our stores, we have Feed Your Brain menus, Feed Your Brain wallpaper and now we have our first online example – our Feed Your Brain blog!

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>Studies Show That Caffeine May Have Health Benefits (If You Follow These Simple Rules!)

It’s no secret that caffeine, naturally occurring in foods and beverages such as chocolate, coffee and tea, is a stimulant. When consumed with frequency, caffeinated treats may become addictive. However, there is emerging research that reveals potential health benefits of this easily accessible substance. Some recent studies even link coffee drinking to memory retention, potentially staving off conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Let’s face it—since caffeine does increase Basil Mint Guayusa Iced Tea in a bottlemental alertness, sometimes there are moments when we need our fix to get through a challenging day. Caffeine is the lesser of many dietary evils—as long as it’s coming from a clean, organic source free of refined sugars and preservatives. Processed, chemical-laden foods are much more harmful to the body than a cup of organic black coffee or flavonoid-filled Darjeeling tea.

In addition to our triple-certified, single-origin Sumatra coffee and organic green teas, Organic Avenue offers a refreshing lower-caffeine alternative to a daily cup of joe—the Basil Mint Guayusa Iced Tea. Technically not a tea, guayusa is a naturally-caffeinated leaf that grows in the mountains of Ecuador. It has been used for thousands of years as a source of energy in the Amazon. Guayusa has been said to contain twice the antioxidants and healthful polyphenols than green tea, which may protect against cellular damage. This leaf is also full of chlorogenic acids, which could potentially promote healthy weight management and heart health.

Unlike some stronger guayusa brews, our 14oz bottle of Basil Mint Guayusa contains approximately 45mg of caffeine, whereas a coffee of the same size would contain about 166mg. That’s 73% less caffeine. When comparing it to an 8oz cup of coffee (approximately 95mg of caffeine), our 14oz Basil Mint Guayusa is still 53% less caffeinated.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an average 8oz cup of green tea can contain anywhere from 30mg to 60mg of caffeine, making the Basil Mint Guayusa a safer bet for the caffeine sensitive seeking a gentle energy boost, yet powerful punch of polyphenols.

Ultimately, if you need a pick-me-up and don’t react negatively to caffeine, there are many beneficial options available—cacao, green tea, guayusa, among others. Above all else, make sure the ingredients are minimally processed and sourced organically for maximum nutrient and antioxidant content.

>Gluten Free-k Out?

Americans tend to obsess over fad diets. Now we are seeing the gluten-free diet becoming a front-runner in this ongoing tournament. With the low-carb/high protein diet still resting on its laurels, and after its low-fat diet predecessor, should we continue to recycle our faith into yet another dietary theory?

Gluten-free diets were designed to combat celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder that destroys the intestinal tract; and as this condition has become distinctly more commonplace, increasing attention has been paid to gluten intolerance and the dietary limitations that come with it.

Various kinds of fresh baked  bread, breadrolls and buns, gluten

Many people who don’t suffer from celiac disease are choosing to eliminate gluten as a way to lose weight; therefore eliminating many fast and flour-based foods that wreak havoc on the body, and replacing them with more fruits and vegetables.

However, going gluten-free (whether you have celiac or not), comes with the risk of becoming deficient in many vitamins and minerals such as iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc. This is because many “gluten-free” products on the market today are made with refined, unenriched grains and starches. An important solution is to remember to eat non-glutinous varieties of grains such as rice, corn, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth as well as oats.

If you suspect that you are intolerant to gluten, it’s very important not to self-diagnose and consult with a specialist such as a gastroenterologist right away. If you are unfortunate enough to have a disease like celiac, you will not get an accurate diagnosis if you have already removed gluten from your diet before being tested.

Thankfully, this “fad diet” has many advantages. Similar to the “eat local” movement, it guides us to eat more fresh whole foods. And, of course, crowding processed and modified foods out of the diet is a fad worth following.

>The Dirty Dozen – What You Should Know

At Organic Avenue, we know better than anyone how hard it is to be organic 100% of the time. If we can’t make something organically, we just won’t make it.

When cooking and shopping for yourself or your family, keeping completely organic can be time consuming and expensive. Reading labels and finding foods that please every picky eater can seem like an impossible task.

If you’re not ready to go full force organic at home, we have you covered with a list of produce you should always buy organic.

Each year the Environmental Working Group releases its “Dirty Dozen” — a list of the top 12 pesticide-laden conventional crops of the year. Let’s take a look at what you should only be buying organic in 2014.

farmer spraying pesticide in the rice field

1. Apples
2. Strawberries
3. Grapes
4. Celery
5. Peaches
6. Spinach
7. Sweet bell peppers
8. Nectarines (imported)
9. Cucumbers
10. Cherry tomatoes
11. Snap peas (imported)
12. Potatoes

 

Keep this “Dirty Dozen” list posted to your fridge or on a list in your phone so you can easily access it when grocery shopping. Keeping these dozen produce items in their organic forms can go a long way to keeping you and your family healthy all year.

Many of these items can be found in our 100% organic food at Organic Avenue. We have a few exciting new items coming out this fall such as the Roasted Apple & Walnut Wrap that gives you the taste of autumn with spice organic apples wrapped up in this delicious treat! An apple a day keeps you much healthier when it’s organic and not covered in synthetic pesticides.

Foods such as avocados, pineapples, kiwis, and grapefruits contain fewer synthetic pesticides and are safer to buy in their conventional forms to save on money and convenience.

At Organic Avenue we definitely think organic is better, but we are also big believers in balance. Your personal health doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing agreement. Simple positive changes, such as avoiding the “Dirty Dozen,” can make a big impact on your overall wellness.

>What Is “Food Combining” and How Can It Help My Digestion?

Have you ever finished a meal, even one that wasn’t a large quantity of food, and felt immediately weighed down and sluggish? You might think to yourself, isn’t food supposed to energize me, not make me want to crash on the couch? If you experience this sensation frequently, you may want to experiment with a way of eating called food combining.

While some sources make this concept confusing with lots of rules and nuances that make it seem impossible to follow, we’re going to break it down simply for you here.

In a nutshell, different types of foods require different enzymes, environments and transit times for optimal digestion. If we break down our food properly, we assimilate their nutrients properly and quickly eliminate the remaining matter as waste, providing the energy we need to function optimally. No digestive traffic jams for us!

There are 4 main categories of food that shouldn’t mix with one another in the same meal (according to these food combining principles).Shopping basket filled with fresh fruit and vegetables

> Fresh Fruit

> Starches (including potatoes and winter squash)

> Animal Protein (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, etc.)

> Nuts & Seeds

 

All non-starch vegetables (leafy greens, cucumbers, zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, beets, etc.) are NEUTRAL, and combine perfectly with each of these categories.

(Check out this easy-to-follow food-combining chart).

Fresh fruit digests the quickest, in about 20-30 minutes, so it should be eaten alone (or blended with leafy greens in a smoothie) on an empty stomach, ideally in the morning.

Starches digest primarily in the mouth and small intestine, which are alkaline environments, while proteins digest in the stomach with hydrochloric acid and the acidic enzyme pepsin. What happens when an acid substance and an alkaline substance mix? They neutralize each other, and in the case of digestion, make it super slow, robbing your body of precious energy (not to mention creating gas and fermentation in your digestive tract—yuck!). Nuts and Seeds digest similarly to animal proteins, but should be treated as a separate category.

At the end of the day, everyone’s body is different. While food combining may be the answer for some, others may have “stomachs of steel” and can digest just about anything in any combo (we’re jealous!). Try it for a day or two and see if it makes a difference. Good news is, by eating a large quantity of exclusively plant-based meals, you’re probably avoiding the whole “animal protein” category all together, and food combining by default. In this case, you’re digesting your food like a rock star! Remember, ease of digestion = ease of elimination = optimal health.

>Health Benefits of Liquid Chlorophyll (It’s not just for plants!)

You probably remember learning about chlorophyll in fifth grade science class—the green pigment involved in the process of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll collects light energy from the sun and converts it into energy that plants can use to create carbohydrates. However, what you may not know at the age of ten is how beneficial this green compound is for your diet.chlorophyll shot

Anything naturally green grown on the earth (sorry gree dye No. 3) contains chlorophyll, including all green vegetables and many fruits, which we know are essential to a balanced diet. Chlorophyll is dietetically beneficial due to its molecular structure, which just so happens to mirror the structure of the pigment hemoglobin found in our red blood cells. It’s hemoglobin’s job to transport oxygen throughout the body.  Research suggests that consuming chlorophyll-rich foods helps the body build an increased quantity of strong red blood cells.

In addition to creating clean, healthy blood cells, chlorophyll has a number of other benefits. According to Columbia University Health, chlorophyll has been shown to bind to carcinogens, such as those in tobacco smoke and cooked meats, and may prevent them from entering the bloodstream and damaging our cells and tissues. The antioxidant properties of this green pigment also aid in liver and colon health—even potentially assisting in treating colon cancer.

Chlorophyll also has beautifying effects; for instance, it’s a natural way to freshen your breath and body scent, and give your skin that natural, beautiful glow.

When you’re on the go and unable to sit down to a salad full of leafy greens, a potent dose of liquid chlorophyll will give you the needed boost of energy. Our Chlorophyll Shot is extracted from nutrient-dense alfalfa grass and can be taken alone or diluted in a glass of water. Many enthusiasts opt to do the latter and sip through a straw, as it’s super concentrated and may temporarily stain your teeth green (no need to worry—a swish of water will wash it right away).

Drinking a Chlorophyll Shot first thing in the morning or between meals on an empty stomach will enhance its absorption, allowing you to experience the full effect. Like all of our booster shots, an ounce of liquid chlorophyll is most beneficial as a daily addition to consuming other chlorophyll-rich fruits and veggies throughout the day. Go green and you can never go wrong!

>The 100-Calorie Snack Pack: Empty Calories, Empty Promises

potato chips in bag on white backgroundA popular trend in snack food is the 100-calorie “snack pack.” Major manufacturers of processed food market these tiny bags as a “healthier” way to indulge in the full-sized versions of their chemical-laden, preservative-filled counterparts. While the recipes are often tweaked slightly, they’re still in no way healthier. Take a peek at the ingredient lists on some of these items, and you’ll find “high fructose corn syrup,” “partially hydrogenated soybean oil”, “artificial coloring,” and “artificial flavor,” just to name a few. Not the best fuel for our precious bodies.

Despite the promise that little calories = little weight gain and good health, it’s safe to say that total nutrient consumption is a much better indicator of health than a calorie count. While the number of calories in a food can be helpful in determining its density and how much work it takes for the body to break it down, we also know that not all calories are created equal. If that were the case, 500 calories of soda and French fries would have the same impact on the body as 500 calories of spinach and quinoa. As Mark Bittman states in VB6: Vegan Before 6:00, “Hyper processed junk foods appear to be “fattening.” Their calories have a greater negative impact than the calories of real, unprocessed foods.”

When your body is receiving the nutrients it needs from whole foods, the brain will signal that you’re full, and hunger goes away. Consuming processed foods with “empty” calories devoid of nutrients may lead you to reach for even more of the bad stuff. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that smaller packages of snack foods encouraged people to eat almost twice as much as those who consumed from larger packages. It’s likely that one tiny portion of processed crackers isn’t enough, and you’ll be grabbing a second baggie in no time.

 

100-Calorie Snack Pack vs. OA Chocolate Mousse

It’s 3pm and you need a snack to get through the rest of the workday. You have 2 choices: A 100-calorie pack of processed cookies, or a 380-calorie Organic Avenue Chocolate Mousse. Although the Chocolate Mousse has more calories, its main ingredient is avocado, a water-containing fruit from which the body understands how to break down and extract nutrients. The lower-calorie cookies, on the other hand, are composed of an ingredient list that includes nutrient-devoid additives and preservatives foreign to the body. This foreign matter is then stored in the cells and tissues and may actually contribute to weight gain in the long term. Ingredient list always trumps calorie count when comparing food items.

Eating a balanced diet with a high percentage of plant-based foods, namely fruits and vegetables, sets you on a path to health and longevity. Focus on the quality of the nutrients you are consuming, rather than a single calculation.

 

Healthy Plant-Based Snack Alternatives

Here are some of our favorite deliciously simple, nutrient-rich snacks:

▪   Avocado with a sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt—envelop in a Nori sheet for a wrap on the go!

▪   Sliced banana dusted with cinnamonolives and nuts

▪   Strawberries and blueberries topped with shredded coconut

▪   Chia seeds soaked in Coconut Mylk—instant “tapioca” pudding!

▪   OA Veggies & Hummus—crunchy crudités paired with a raw, zucchini-based dip

▪   Celery and carrot sticks with a spread of creamy almond butter

▪   Sliced cucumber, tomato and red bell pepper with a squeeze of lemon or lime—low- sugar “fruit salad”

▪   OA Coconut Yogurt—experiment by adding your own fresh or dried fruit and raw nuts

▪   Handful of savory Kalamata or Castelvetrano olives

▪   Peeled and sliced raw sweet potato—yes you can eat sweet potatoes raw!

▪   Handful of almonds, cashews or walnuts—clean protein for sustainable energy

▪   1-2oz of high-quality dark chocolate—we’re partial to our OA Almond Chunky and Sea Salt bars, handmade in Brooklyn by Fine & Raw

>Not Only Is Hot Sauce Delicious, It Can Also Give Your Metabolism a Kick

The hot sauce craze has only gotten hotter in recent years thanks to the rising popularity of cult-favorite Sriracha. While we can’t deny the appeal of it’s deliciously spicy flavor, with preservatives, fillers, and non-organic ingredients, Sriracha may leave you feeling not-so-hot.

hot chili peppers on wooden desk

That’s  why we decided to start offering free organic hot sauce at all of our Organic Avenue locations.

Whether you’re a Sriracha fan or loyal to another brand of spice, using our hot sauce will give you more benefits than just spicing up your food.

Most hot sauces get their kick from mature peppers which contain capsaicin in the interior white flesh surrounding the seeds of the pepper. Capsaicin has potent medicinal qualities known to reduce inflammation and increase circulation in the body.

It has been also been studied as a potential cancer treatment for its ability to deactivate a certain protein that encourages tumor growth. This is especially significant for cases of prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men. Capsaicin may also help with common side effects of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation such as itching and mouth sores.

Additionally, capsaicin can help boost your metabolism and promote wight loss by raising body temperature and reducing your appetite. Even Hillary Clinton swears by the power of spicy peppers and has used them as part of her healthy diet for over 20 years.

The ripened red jalapenos found in the organic hot sauce now available at all Organic Avenue locations contain vitamin A, C, and K as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper. These nutrients aid your body in multiple ways such as building healthier tissue, bones and younger-looking skin.

The hot sauce now available at Organic Avenue stores contains no additives or chemical preservatives, making this organic hot sauce the hottest condiment for a healthy-minded eater. It adds the perfect kick to a BBQ Wrap, Three Bean Chili, Veggies and Hummus, or our Sunflower Falafel.

Start reaping the benefits of this medicinal condiment the next time you stop in for lunch at Organic Avenue, our treat!

>Plant-Based Foods for Beautiful Locks and Nails

Fall Fashion is upon us here in New York, which means it’s time to look your best, whether you’re sitting front row at Lincoln Center or perusing the shops to recreate your favorite designer’s looks.

female hand holding baby spinach leaves

As the saying goes, the clothes should never look like they’re wearing you—YOU should stand out while rocking the clothes. It’s what’s underneath that counts, and the best way to achieve radiant outer beauty is through a healthy diet, not from any product you may find at the drugstore or cosmetic counter.

Gorgeous, thick hair and strong, lustrous nails compliment the latest runway trends and can be accomplished with intelligent food choices—including lots of nutrient-dense plant foods, like these 3 superstars:

 

SPINACH: High in folate and iron, spinach is important for overall well-being, including the health of your hair and nails. Folate is a B vitamin that helps produce red blood cells, and iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Studies have shown that iron deficiency may be linked to hair loss. Low iron levels also weaken the nail plate, causing easy breakage. To ensure proper assimilation of plant-based iron, be sure to pair your spinach with a vitamin C-rich food, such as a squeeze of lemon juice (or OA Lemon Shot).

OA Juices & Foods Rich in Spinach:

Mexi-Fresh Quinoa Bowl

Roasted Veggies & Avocado Pesto Wrap

Middle Eastern Wrap

Spicy Avocado Soup

Mellow Love

Green Love

 

WALNUTS: Not only a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts contain biotin and vitamin E, which protect cells from free radical damage and shield your hair and scalp from the sun. The copper found in walnuts may also help your hair keep its vibrant natural color. For strong nails, the biotin content may prevent nail splitting and thinness, making that manicure last longer. To prevent unwanted white spots, make sure you’re getting enough zinc in your diet—a trace mineral found in all nuts, including walnuts.

OA Foods Rich in Walnuts:

Broccoli Slaw

 

CARROTS: Our favorite bright orange root veggies are loaded with beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A helps the body produce oils which protect the scalp. This powerful antioxidant also combats nail dullness, keeping them strong and shiny.

OA Foods & Juices Rich in Carrots:

The Big Kale Salad

Shredded Beet & Walnut Salad

Spicy Bahn Mi Wrap

Carrot Ginger Soup

Carrot Juice

>Paleo vs. Vegan: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The impact that different types food has on your body composition and overall health is a confusing and widely debated topic that helps fuel a weight-loss industry worth over $60
billion.

Vegan and Paleo are two of the most talked about diets of our time, and are seemingly on opposite ends of the dietary spectrum; however, devotees may have more in common than they think.

cow illustration on the left versus a broccoli illustration on the right

The Paleolithic diet (aka the Caveman Diet) was even the most Googled diet of 2013 and requires you to eat modern foods that mimic the foods groups eaten in the prehistoric era such as lean meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It also prohibits grains, dairy, and legumes. Followers theorize that the industrialization of agriculture has evolved our food faster than our bodies leading to modern day ailments.

While there are multiple long term studies showing the benefits of a plant-based diet, there is little to no scientific evidence to support Paleo health claims. That’s not to say the Paleo diet is bad or unhealthy. In fact, the Paleo diet has two major tenets that healthy vegans can agree on…

 

Eat mostly plants…

One of our favorite food advocates, Michael Pollan, famously wrote, “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” Vegans and Paleo-fans alike can agree that a diet rich in nutrient dense leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables is a good starting point towards better health.

 

…from Mother Nature

One of our basic food tenets at Organic Avenue is to choose foods from mother-nature that are unprocessed and free of additives, preservatives, and GMO’s. While this is also an important Paleo tenet, it’s easy for a lot of newbie vegans to forget this one and fill up on highly processed vegan foods – Pop Tarts and Oreos are vegan but we can all agree they don’t make the best dietary staples.

Where these two diets differ is on the subject of grains, legumes, and (obviously) animal protein. Many vegans choose their diet based on ethical decisions for both the life of animals and sustainability of the planet. The health benefits, like reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, are positive side effects that many long term studies have supported.

At Organic Avenue, we believe the healthiest diet is a balanced diet. Though we may disagree on some dietary choices, there is one thing we can all agree on: The more veggies the better. Lucky for you, this includes almost everything you will find on our shelves. Whether you’re a vegan yogi or a Paleo cross-fitter, we’ve got a high quality grab-and-go meal that you’re going to love.

>Why We LOVE Kimchi and Other Fermented Foods

What is Kimchi? Maybe you’ve seen it in the grocery store and wondered, how do I eat this? What does it taste like? WHY would I eat this? Kimchi is the national dish of Korea, but for some reason in North America, we’ve been much slower to adopt fermented foods into our diets. Kimchi is traditionally made of Napa Cabbage with a spicy, tangy taste, although some variations include daikon radish, cucumber, carrots, peppers, onions and more.

Kimchi Wild Rice BowlTraditionally Kimchi is made with a fish byproduct, but at Organic Avenue, we keep things vegan 100% of the time. Kim means salt, and Chi means vegetables, so it’s literally a mixture of salted veggies. Once the veggies are prepared and “brined”, they sit. And sit. And sit some more. Traditionally kimchi ferments for an average of a week. What results is a superfood and nutritional powerhouse – natural bacteria has eaten the sugars and starches to create lactic acid, resulting in a  “lacto-fermented” and living food. The outcome is a food that is nutrient-dense, and rich in probiotics and enzymes.

Our gastrointestinal tract is home to a very large population of beneficial bacteria responsible for the complex network which maintains balance in our digestive and immune systems. This microflora is with us from birth and continues to develop as we age, as long as our diets are balanced to provide proper sustenance. Our individual ecosystems rely on a probiotic population to promote balance and defend against illness and infection.

All the enzymes and probiotics work together to basically “pre-digest” the food, making all the vitamins easier to assimilate, while the fiber content also contributes to stabilizing the digestive load. 70% of our immune system is found in our gut, so probiotics can assist in boosting immune function. The secret workhorses of kimchi, including garlic, ginger, and hot pepper, work together to strengthen the immune system, and pack a large antioxidant punch. Additionally, it can be difficult to get a good source of b vitamins in a vegan diet, which is another reason fermented foods are so important.

What’s the best way to incorporate fermented foods into your diet? We make it easy! We offer a delicious Kimchi Wild Rice Bowl, with crunchy veggies, delectable cashews, and satisfying healthy wild rice that really hits the spot. Plus, you can always add your protein of choice to boost nutritional bounty, or serve it hot for a pleasant change.

We also offer a perfect serving size of Fermented Veggies. It’s a delicious tangy medley of fruit and vegetables rich in enzymes and probiotics for digestive health. Fermented vegetables are rich in B vitamins and enzymes, which can aid in calming the nervous system. The glucosamines in this dish can preserve cartilage and maintain joint flexibility. With cauliflower, carrots, daikon, and more, it’s great on its own, as a salad topping, or served in an avocado!

We believe in making good choices easier, and we hope you will give this energy-giving, immunity-boosting, enzyme-rich food a try!