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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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>3 Tips to Make Eating Occasional Junk Food AOK

At Organic Avenue, we believe balance is the key to a healthy lifestyle. While eating lots of alkaline-forming fruits and vegetables is a surefire way to promote optimal health, treating yourself to an indulgence on a regular basis is also part of taking care of yourself.

Luckily, there are high-quality treat options like dark chocolate and kale chips, both which contain lots of nutrients. But if you decide to go “off the rails” and indulge in something delicious that is not comprised of nature’s finest, here are few healthy eating hacks:

Big Kale Salad and Fine & Raw chocolate

Eat the treat after eating something healthier.  The best options are raw salads or any dish with raw vegetable components. The enzyme-containing water content and fiber of the veggies will help you digest the heavier food that follows (burger, slice of pizza, scoop of ice cream, etc.)  Filling up on the nutrient-dense vegetables first will help you feel fuller faster, and you may end up craving a smaller portion of the treat.

- Consume the treat after dinner or as dinner.  Eating the treat closer to bedtime will give your body the needed time to digest the indulgence overnight before another meal enters the system for processing in the morning. For those concerned with weight management, some studies have shown that eating in the evening has no impact on weight gain or loss (when compared to eating earlier in the day), and may actually promote fat loss.  Consuming less than ideal food in the middle of the day may rob your body of the energy it needs to function optimally, hence the midday food coma so many folks suffer from.

- Eat the treat slowly. Take your time with each bite. Savor each as it is the last. Be sure to chew thoroughly as this will not only stretch out your “reward,” giving your brain a chance to catch up with your stomach, but will help your body process the treat faster as well.

All things in moderation leads to happier life.  Be sure to eat well the majority of the time, but when you feel like indulging, do not deprive yourself. Use these healthy eating hacks and get the best of both worlds.

>Healthy Oreos Are the Perfect Halloween Treat

Healthy oreosHealthy Oreos sounds like an oxymoron.  After all, store-bought Oreos are constructed with processed wheat, dairy, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and a laundry list of other confusing ingredients. No wonder these gluten-ridden cookies can be as addictive as cocaine!

 

I am here to tell you that you can not only replicate America’s most popular cookie (100 years and running!), but you can create a delicious version that contains more protein and fiber, with considerably less calories, fat, carbohydrates and sugar. Plus, my healthy Halloween version uses unprocessed plant-based ingredients, contains no preservatives, additives, GMO’s, or added colors or flavorings. They are delicious, relatively easy to make and easy on your digestive system.

 

Here’s how to make healthy Oreos for Halloween.

(high raw, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, soy free)

Yields 24 Cookies

Cookies:
• 1 cup of raw walnuts
• 1/2 cup of dates
• 1/4 cup of raw cacao powder

Filling:
• 1 tbs raw coconut butter
• 2 tbs pumpkin purée
• 1 tsp alcohol-free vanilla
• 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
• stevia to taste

Steps:

1. Soak the walnuts for at least eight hours. Drain walnuts and let air dry.

2. Pulse walnuts in a food processor until resembling tiny pebbles.

3. Add in dates and cacao powder and pulse until combined.

4. Place ‘dough’ between two sheets of parchment paper and flatten until you have a sheet approximately 1/4” thick.

5. Using a small cookie cutter, cut out cookies (I used the plastic top off of an Organic Avenue juice bottle). This should yield around 24 Oreo-sized cookies. Optional: place ‘dough’ in the freezer for an hour to make it easier to work with.

6. Mix filling ingredients with a fork. Add enough stevia so that this mixture is almost too sweet — just like the filling of a real Oreo.

7. Sandwich the filling between two cookies and twist to seal.

You can store these healthy Oreos in the fridge or wrap them up and give them out as gifts to your friends. And just like real Oreos, these wash down wonderfully with milk; Cashew Hemp Mylk, of course!

>3 Unexpected Foods to Keep Your Skin Healthy In Autumn

As the seasons change, our bodies require new forms of nourishment and our skin often suffers the most as the air gets dryer and colder. Skin conditions can flare up and the signs of aging can become more prevalent. Luckily nature provides new seasonal foods to feed us with the nutrients we need.

Here are three of our favorite unexpected Autumnal skin foods.

 

brussels sprouts with fork

Brussel Sprouts

Every kid’s enemy and every adult’s not-so-secret vegetable favorite is chock full of skin-beautifying antioxidants like leutine, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C. These antioxidants help prevent free radical damage to the skin caused by the Sun’s UV rays.

At Organic Avenue, fall is a time for our delicious and healthy Brussel Sprouts to come back. We prepare ours simply with a pinch of thyme which is antibacterial and may help fight acne.

 

Beets

Root vegetables help get us grounded and ready for the colder months ahead. At Organic Avenue we use root vegetables in everything from sides and soups to salads and juices. We hate to play favorites, but beets are just a cut above the rest.

Beets contain betaine which helps our bodies fight inflammation that can flare up skin conditions that keep us from looking and feeling our best.

Beets also contain a healthy dose of folate that can help prevent your chances of getting skin cancer from UV damage.

 

Pumpkin seeds

Around fall we tend to overdose on Pumpkin Spice everything! Did you know our delicious and subtly sweet green tea smoothie, Matcha Chia Glo, has a base of raw pumpkin seeds? These seeds are high in zinc that is shown to prevent acne and acne scars.

Zinc is also being used in studies to treat skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and even burns.

Indulging in the flavors of the fall doesn’t have to mean going home with a belly ache. You can join in the seasonal fun and get your glow on while you’re at it!

>5 Simple Swaps for Healthier Meals

Deciding to try out a healthier diet can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! An easy way to get started is making simple ingredient swaps in meals you already know and love. Here are five of my personal favorite healthy swaps.

Organic Avenue Coconut Water

Coconut Water instead of OJ

Coconut Water is sweet like Orange Juice but it’s very low in fructose. Coconut Water is high in minerals like potassium and electrolytes that can fuel a strenuous workout or workday. It is nature’s perfect sports drink that will help you stay effectively hydrated throughout the day.

Pro Tip: Drop in a lemon shot for a healthy alkalizing take on lemonade.

Swap Avocados for Butter

Avocados make a healthier replacement to acid forming butters that contain lactose, hormones, salt and preservatives. Butter and nut butters alike can be hard to digest, especially when combined with starchy foods like bread.

Avocados are rich, creamy, and unprocessed. They can easily be added to a salad, sandwich, smoothie or just eaten whole.

Pro Tip: For a quick breakfast, toast up some organic bread and smear on half an avocado. Top with a pinch of Himalayan salt and chili flakes for a spicy kick!

Make Your Coffee Organic

Swapping in a high quality organic coffee for your daily cup (or two) is extremely important. Coffee beans are one of the most pesticide-laden crops out there so drinking a cleaner, organic version will help you feel better in the long run.

At Organic Avenue, we use triple certified — organic, free-trade, shade grown – single origin Sumatra coffee. We also provide you with healthier ways to customize your cup like coconut sugar and Cashew Hemp Mylk.

Pro Tip: Try drinking your first cup of coffee later in the day (around 11am) and instead hydrate with fresh water earlier in the morning. You’ll hang on to more energy when you need it most.

Pasta Substitute

Have a favorite pasta dish that the whole family loves? No need to reinvent the wheel, simply replace your pasta base with protein and fiber-packed quinoa.

Quinoa is a high-protein seed that cooks up much like a fluffy couscous. It’s a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.

Pro tip: Cook a big batch of quinoa in a rice cooker at the beginning of the week. It is so versatile you can use this as a salad topper, a pasta-inspired dish, and a sweet porridge base on different days of the week.

Step away from the Brotein

Whey protein powder is a highly processed supplement that is not regulated by the FDA and often contains added preservatives, stabilizers, and sugars. Not only does whey protein create acidity in our bodies, much of the advertised protein content is not even absorbed but passed through the body and eliminated in our urine.

At OA we offer many unexpected food-based, protein-rich items. Since these are food-based, our bodies can digest and assimilate the macronutrient content with more ease.

Pro-tip: Want a protein-packed lunch? Grab a Kale Quinoa Salad and Power House Smoothie for a whopping total 38 grams of healthy protein power!

>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