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June 1st, 2015

6 Tips for Finding a Safe Multivitamin

6 Tips for Finding a Safe Multivitamin Groovy Green Livin

I have to admit that I’m not very good about taking a multivitamin. I’ve tried on and off over the years, but I never seem to stick to it. Right now I’m taking a Vitamin D supplement and that’s it. As an aside, I found an amazing sugar-free Vitamin D gummy that I really like. Yes, it’s a gummy, but I rarely miss a day.

When it comes to multivitamins there are plenty to choose from. Just walk up and down the aisles of any supermarket or health food store. It can be overwhelming.

If you’re in the market for a multivitamin there are a few things to think about before investing in a particular brand. 

1. Look for simple and few ingredients

When I’m buying any processed food, including a multivitamin, I look for a short ingredient list filled with ingredients I’m mostly familiar with and ingredient names I can pronounce.

2. Avoid Added Sweeteners

Read the ingredient list. Children’s vitamins are often the worst-all those gummy multivitamins are often loaded with sugar. Look for anything ending in -ose and steer clear. More often than not these are a form of sugar: sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, galactose, lactose,  glucose solids, cellulose and sucrose, Also, sugar, Xylitol, high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin. There are plenty of multivitamins on the market without added sweeteners.

3. Watchout for GMOs

Genetically Modified Organisms (also called GM, GE or GMOs) refers to crop plants that are consumed by animals and/or humans that have been tweaked or modified in a lab to boost desired traits such as: the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide, disease resistance and improved nutritional value. We want to avoid these in our food (including multivitamins) whenever possible. Watch for multivitamins with added soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash (zucchini  and yellow).

4. Skip the Artificial Dyes

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest artificial food dyes are many times made from petroleum and possess a “rainbow of risks to children.” Those risks include hyperactivity in children, cancer (in animal studies), and allergic reactions.

In America all food labels must spell out which artificial food dyes are used in a product. Read your labels very carefully so you can make an educated decision about the multivitamin you buy. 

5. Natural Ingredients Not Synthetic

Finding a multivitamin with natural ingredients v. synthetic isn’t always easy to detect. Look for something on the label that says “whole food multivitamin or all ingredients derived from whole foods”. Also read the ingredient list to see where the ingredients come from-do they come from plants and other natural sources?

6. When Possible Look for Organic

There are a quite a few organic multivitamins on the market.

In a nutshell, products with an organic certification are made without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or ionizing radiation.

USDA certified products cannot intentionally contain GMOs.  The USDA does not require testing for GMOs, so accidental contamination may occur.

Do you take a multivitamin? What’s your favorite?


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Please be sure to contact your physician before taking any multivitamins

photo credit: Pills 3 via photopin (license)

January 12th, 2015

The Scary Truth About Red Dye No. 40

The Scary Truth About Red Dye No. 40 Groovy Green Livin

I went to the movies with my 11 year old last night. Just the two of us. We went to one of our favorite movie theaters-where the seats reclined and the arm rests were incredibly wide and comfortable.

Before the movie started we waited in line for candy. When we reached the counter my son had a hard time deciding what to get. I tried really hard not to interject (although I was dying to tell him to skip all the candy!). Instead we ended up having a lengthy discussion about which candy was better for you. Seems like a strange conversation to have, but it brought up some real issues. He held up a box of chocolate covered raisins and Sour Patch Kids and we compared ingredients.

The Sour Patch Kids contained:

Sugar, corn syrup, modified corn starch, citric acid, tartaric acid, natural and artificial flavors, yellow 5, yellow 6, red dye no. 40, blue 1

Not much by way of real food in those little candies. When we checked the ingredient list on the chocolate covered raisins this is what we found: No artificial food dyes.

Dark Chocolate (Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Nonfat Milk, Lactose, Artificial & Natural Flavors), Raisins, Sugar, Tapioca Dextrin, Confectioner’s Glaze (Lac-Resin), Alkalized Cocoa

The raisins won the “better for you” contest, although I’m not sure either one truly belongs in this category.

The Scary Truth About Red Dye No. 40

Red food Dye No. 40 was listed on almost every candy package we looked at. Turns out it’s the most commonly used dye in the United States. Red Dye No. 40 or FD&C Red Dye #40, is widely used in the foods and drugs that we consume on a daily basis. It’s been approved by the FDA for use in food products and must be listed as an ingredient on labels.

And it’s not only found in candy. Red Dye No. 40 can be found in soda, salad dressings, toothpaste, mouthwash, and even medicine (think about the lovely pink hue of your antibiotics).

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest the Red 40 is made from petroleum and possesses a “rainbow of risks to children.” Those risks include hyperactivity in children, cancer (in animal studies), and allergic reactions.

Here’s the crazy part.

Many candy companies in the U.S. use artificial food coloring for the candy they sell and distribute in the United States, but that same candy sold in Europe gets its coloring from natural sources. Food and other products containing artificial food coloring and sold is Europe would have a warning label in that would say:  “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” We have no warning label in the US.

Red Dye No. 40 Dangers Groovy Green Livin

What continues to amaze me is that these companies are clearly able to remove dangerous artificial food dyes from their products and have done so in other countries, yet they’re not willing to remove them from products sold in America.

What does this say about how these companies value the lives of American children? Seems pretty apparent that they’re less concerned with health than they are with their bottom line.

What you can do about Red Dye No. 40

  • READ LABELS: In America all food labels must spell out which artificial food dyes are used in a product. If you see Red 40 listed (or any other color with a number after it) steer clear. Read your labels very carefully so you can make an educated decision about the food you buy. I think you’ll be amazed at how many times Red Dye No. 40 shows up on a label.
  • SUPPORT COMPANIES that don’t use artificial food dyes. Let your dollars do the talking!

Do you try to avoid Red Dye No. 40 or other artificial food dyes?

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

 

photo credit: Special via photopin cc

September 9th, 2014

The Truth About Candy Sold in America

Groovy Green Livin Candy

 

Wondering why the candy in America might seem just a bit brighter in color than it’s sweet cousin in Europe? The answer might surprise you.  Many candy companies in the US use artificial food coloring for the candy they sell and distribute in the United States, but that same candy sold in Europe gets its coloring from natural sources.

I have to admit, peanut M&M’s are my weakness. Especially frozen. But after looking at the long list of artificial food dyes in those delicious candies I’m ready to take my indulgence elsewhere: COLORING (INCLUDES BLUE 1 LAKE, RED 40, YELLOW 6, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1, RED 40 LAKE, BLUE 2 LAKE, YELLOW 6 LAKE, YELLOW 5 LAKE, BLUE 2).

You won’t find those color additives in European M&M’s.

Why are companies selling safer candy in Europe than they are in the US?

According to Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of The Center for Science in the Public Interest:

“There’s been evidence for almost 40 years that food dyes trigger hyperactivity or inattention in children. About six years ago, the British government sponsored studies that found exactly that, so they urged food companies in Britain to replace synthetic dyes with natural colorings or no added colorings, and many British companies switched over. And then the European Union passed a law requiring that any food that contained the dyes used in those two British studies would have to put a warning notice on, warning consumers that the dyes might trigger hyperactivity. And so with the threat of a warning label, it’s really hard to find these synthetic dyes.”

Here’s what a warning label in Europe would say:  “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” We have no such warning label in the US.

What’s shocking to me is that these companies are clearly able to remove dangerous artificial food dyes from their products and have done so in other countries, yet they’re not willing to remove them from products sold in America. What does this say about how they value the lives of American children?

The FDA isn’t helping either. They continue to take the position that more research is needed before they make any decisions about artificial food dyes.

What you can do

  • READ LABELS: In America all food labels must spell out which artificial food dyes are used in a product. If you see ingredients such as Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1 (or any other color with a number after it) steer clear. Read your labels very carefully so you can make an educated decision about the food you buy. 
  • SUPPORT COMPANIES that don’t use artificial food dye. Let your dollars do the talking!
  • SIGN THIS PETITION on Change.org asking Mars, the maker of M&M’s candies, to stop coloring its products with petroleum-based artificial food dyes.

How do you feel about companies selling products in America with harmful ingredients that they’ve voluntarily removed in other countries? 

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

photo credit: SlipStreamJC via photopin cc

October 22nd, 2012

How to Choose a Healthy Breakfast Cereal

How to Choose a Healthy Breakfast Cereal Groovy Green Livin

We eat a lot of cereal in the morning. My oldest son lives for his morning cereal. It’s sort of like coffee for a 12 year old.  Call it habit or routine-it gets ugly around here if we run out of cereal. As a mom who cares about what her kids eat (just like many of you) I know the importance of making sure the cereal is healthy and packed with as much nutritional value as possible.

A few of the same cereals have been filling my cabinet shelves for many years and truthfully I have become complacent with my cereal choices and forgot to  heed my own advice: not everything you buy at a health food store is healthy. After posting a photo of my cereal cabinet on Facebook my lovely Facebook community was quick to point out that some of the cereals in my cabinet are loaded with pesticides and GMO’s. Not good.

How to Choose a Healthy Breakfast Cereal Groovy Green Livin

Now we are on  a mission to find new and improved cereals. There are a few simple rules that I’m determined to follow.

Watch out for GMOs (genetically modified organisms) 

Did you know that 61 other countries require that their genetically modified foods be labeled? The US isn’t one of those countries. Most consumers want to know what going into their food. Yet in the US the FDA doesn’t require the labeling of GMOs in food ingredient lists. California is paving the way for change with Prop. 37 and although it’s a California initiative, if passed in November it will hopefully have positive national implications on the requirement of labeling GMOs on all food products. For now finding food that doesn’t contain GMOs can get tricky. Just because a product is organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s GMO free. Look for food labels that say “non-GMO” or “GMO free”. There seem to be more and more companies willing to label their products, although not required.

Steer clear of artificial colors

With childhood cancers on the rise (A report from the National Cancer Institute showed a 9.4% increase in childhood cancer between 1992 and 2007) it’s mind boggling to me that artificial food dyes are still used in food- in everything from M&Ms and Fruit Loops to Kraft Mac n Cheese and Kellogg’s Fruit Snacks—when it’s been shown that these dyes pose risks of cancer, hyperactivity in children, and allergies. Artificial food dyes don’t belong in our food. Period.

Added sugar v. natural sugar

To figure out whether or not sugar has been added to your breakfast cereal requires a little detective work. The front of the cereal box can be deceptive with claims of “little sugar” or “slightly sweetened” so head over to the Nutrition Facts panel on the side of the cereal box. Find the line item which lists the grams of sugar in the cereal. Then take a look at the serving size at the top of the panel. If the cereal says it has 15 grams of sugar and has a serving size of 30 grams that’s a lot of sugar! Remember food makers are required to list all the ingredients in a product in descending order by weight. So if an ingredient is at the top of the list there’s a lot of it in the product! HERE’s a list of different names for sugar that could be hidden on the label.

Look for whole grains

Remember food makers are required to list all the ingredients in a product in descending order by weight. So one of the first ingredients should be a whole grain. The ingredient list must include the word WHOLE.  Don’t be fooled by the wording “unbleached wheat flour”, “wheat flour” or “stoned wheat”.  These are not whole grains.  Also a product might claim “made with whole wheat” or “made with whole grains”. If the whole grain is way down the ingredient list there isn’t much of it in the product.

Avoid rice products

New tests by Consumer Reports have found that organic rice baby cereal, rice breakfast cereals, brown rice, white rice and other types of rice products on grocery shelves contain arsenic, many at worrisome levels. Unfortunately, it’s pretty challenging to avoid rice products in breakfast cereal-they’re everywhere. Best thing to do is read the labels and try to vary the grains in your cereal. There are also several ways to eat rice safely.

Buy in bulk

Head to the bulk bins at your local grocery store and create your own fabulous breakfast cereal. Mix together organic, non-GMO grains, nuts, raisins and your cereal creation will be unique and much less expensive than the boxes in the cereal aisle.

 

Let’s see if we can make a list of healthy and safe cereals. What are your favorite brands? 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


photo credit: Breakfast via photopin (license)

July 27th, 2012

Ecocentric Mom {Review}

Groovy Green Livin Ecocentric Mom

When I returned from vacation this week a box from Ecocentric Mom was waiting for me. As much as I love opening presents, my kids get beyond excited so this turned into a joint effort. We opened the box together and found an assortment of eco-friendly goodies -some perfect for me and some just right for my kids.

What is Ecocentric Mom?

Groovy Green Livin Ecocentric MomI introduced you to Ecocentric Mom a few months ago. Ecocentric Mom is a monthly product subscription service. Each month a box is sent your way containing healthy, natural and organic products exclusively for moms, moms-to-be and babies. Finding safe, eco-friendly products can be overwhelming, costly and time consuming. Ecocentric Mom allows you to try out green, non-toxic products before heading to the store to invest in them.  The monthly box is packed with natural and eco-friendly goodies from businesses that care for the planet and our health. The best part-I was introduced to new brands that I had never heard of!

What was in this months box?

Groovy Green Livin Ecocentric box

Tree Hugger Bubble Gum-This gum is gluten free, nut free and dairy free, kosher and doesn’t contain any artificial food dyes.  I’m a bit skeptical of chewing gum in general, but if you or your kids are going to chew gum this is a good alternative.  It does contain sugar and corn syrup.

Orgain Creamy Chocolate Fudge Nutritional Shake-This product holds itself out as  a  certified organic meal replacement. I’m not sure I would use it for that. It contains 10 servings of fruit and veggies including beets, kale, spinach,carrots and tomatoes. If your kids are begging for chocolate milk this would be a great alternative.

Natural Vitality Cherry Calm Plus Calcium– Natural CALM(R) is a gluten-free, vegan and non-GMO magnesium powder that you can mix easily for quick supplementation. Just add hot water and enjoy this anti-stress drink like hot tea. I received the organic cherry flavor which has no wheat, yeast, soy or dairy. There area no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. It’s also gluten free, vegan and non-GMO.

Greenbody Green Planet shampoo and conditioner-I’m always searching for new shampoos and conditioners that are free of toxins. When I’m testing out a new personal care product I always turn first to Skin Deep to see how the product rates. All Greenbody products scored very as very low (1-2) hazard. I’m sold!

Vaska Laundry Detergent– I had never heard of this brand before. This liquid laundry detergent uses real lavender and potent botanical cleaning agents to clean, but without harmful chemicals. It’s available in Light Lavender or Scent Free.

Naturally It’s Clean Floor Cleaner-I’m very excited about this product. It cleans hardwood, ceramic, stone, cork, bamboo, laminate linoleum and vinyl. The ingredients are completely non-toxic with a delicious orange scent.

Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Lip Glaze-The company’s motto is “Healthy enough to eat!” so I had to again turn to Skin Deep to check on the ingredients in this product. All Lauren Brooke’s products scored very low (1-2) on the hazard scale. I have a love of lipstick and lip gloss so it’s nice to find a product that’s non-toxic. I took a look at the site and the other products look fantastic. Might have to go shopping soon.

Eat Cleaner Fruit & Vegetable Wipes-I generally use water to wash my fruit and vegetables, but this wipe claims to remove pesticide residue and way that water can’t. The ingredient list was short and non-toxic.

The box was filled with coupons for all the product samples included along with a cotton Ecocentric Mom Sport Pack.

Membership

Ecocentric Mom has 3 membership boxes to choose from, the mom, mom-to-be or baby box. Your box will be delivered in chic eco-friendly packaging and the products inside will be a surprise until they arrive at your door.

A monthly subscription costs $17 and there are a few deals if you sign up for multiple months. If interested, you can sign up for your very own Ecocentric Mom subscription HERE.

 

Disclosure: Ecocentric Mom send me one box for review. The opinions expressed here are my very own.

 

 

March 6th, 2012

Campbell’s Goes BPA-Free

Campbell's Soup isn't non-toxic

I remember the Campbell’s soup jingle all too well- remember  “soup is good food”? Well it turns out that Campbell’s soup doesn’t really fall into the “good food” catagory–it’s cans are laden with bisphenol A (BPA).  In September of 2011 a report was released by the Breast Cancer Fund that found Campell’s soup to have some of the highest BPA levels among a variety of canned foods it tested. Campbell’s Disney Princess and Toy Story soups tested the highest.

BPA is a nasty chemical

According to the Breast Cancer Fund-

Exposure to BPA, used to make the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans, has been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Childhood exposure is of concern because this endocrine-disrupting chemical can affect children’s hormonal systems during development and set the stage for later‐life diseases.

Bye bye BPA

After months of pressure from many concerned parents and other advocacy groups, including Healthy Child Healthy World, Campbell’s Soup Company announced that it will phase out the use of the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in its can linings.

Campbell’s made the first move, just as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is about to decide by the end of March whether to ban the chemical’s use in all food and beverage packaging.

Once again, the US is lagging behind

The United States is so far behind on the BPA issue (and many other issues like artificial food dye and flame retardant in your soda). Canada, the European Union and Turkey have banned BPA in baby bottles. Japan has replaced BPA in all can liners. France voted in late February to uphold a ban on the use of BPA in all packaged foods.

Alternatives to BPA can be just as scary

While it’s a fantastic first step, we aren’t home free yet. Campbell’s didn’t give a timeline or identify what alternative can-lining materials it will use.

For years many of us have been purchasing products labeled BPA free thinking we were safe. A study was released where more than 450 plastic products, including many labeled BPA free, were tested. They found that more than 90 percent of the plastics (even those that were BPA free) released chemicals that mimic estrogen (the same claims against BPA).  They found that sometimes the BPA free products released chemicals having more estrogen activity than BPA-containing products.

What’s the solution?

Campbell’s has taken the lead and hopefully many other food and beverage manufacturers follow. Gretchen Lee Salter, Policy Manager at the Breast Cancer Fund said “To truly be an industry leader, the company (Campbell’s) now needs to fully disclose the timeline for the phase-out and the alternatives that will be used.”

Salter goes on to say:

Consumers aren’t just concerned about BPA. They are becoming increasingly savvy about the chemicals used in their food packaging and are demanding transparency from manufacturers. We want to make sure that any alternatives that are being used are actually safer for consumers, and the best way to ensure that safety is through full disclosure.

Take Action

Our voices have been heard. We CAN make a difference by signing petitions and banding together on issues that affect us all.

HERE’s a petition you can sign asking Campbell’s to tell us more about their plans to phase out BPA. Thanks to Alicia from The Soft Landing for sharing the petition with me.

What do you do to avoid BPA?

[Photo used under Creative Commons from Antonio CE/Flickr]

December 15th, 2011

There’s Flame Retardant in Your Soda

Mountain Dew

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of hearing about all the toxic stuff that’s in our food. A while back I wrote about how artificial food dyes in are found in our food.  A report, issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, showed food dyes—used in everything from M&Ms and Fruit Loops to Kraft Mac n Cheese—pose risks of cancer, hyperactivity in children, and allergies, and concluded that synthetic food dye should be banned. But it’s not.

The piece that I find very disturbing is that artificial dyes are used in the US, but not in other countries. Why? Because other countries seem to get it, while the US continues to place cost before the likely health dangers to a human being.

BVO in soda

The US continues to make headlines, this time for allowing another questionable synthetic chemical in soda. Mountain Dew, Fanta Orange and other citrus-flavored drinks have an added synthetic chemical called brominated vegetable oil, or BVO. BVO has been patented as a flame retardant and many of our children (and adults) are drinking it.

Which sodas contain BVO?

According to Environmental Health News the following drinks contain BVO:

  • Mountain Dew
  • Squirt
  • Fanta Orange
  • Sunkist Pineapple
  • Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange
  • Powerade Strawberry Lemonade
  • Fresca Original Citrus

Why is it in soda?

BVO is used in citrus flavored soda to keep the fruity flavors mixed in. It gives the soda a cloudy appearance.  BVO isn’t a new addition to soda-it’s been added for decades.

What are the risks of BVO?

In the United States, 85 percent of kids drink a beverage containing sugar or artificial sweetener at least once per week.

According to The Huffington Post:

After a few extreme soda binges — not too far from what many gamers regularly consume — a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine.

Here’s the kicker: BVO is one of a class of chemicals that are banned in the European Union and Japan and under close scrutiny even in the U.S. for building up in human tissue and breast milk.

However, the soda companies have been using a safe alternative to BVO in other countries for years. Seems like it would be a simple switch in the US-so why hasn’t it happened? The answer is probably cost.

BVO is now joining BPA in the growing list of scary chemicals found in our food. Here we go again-placing cost above our children’s health. Our chemical system is clearly broken.

What you can do?

  • Support the Safe Chemicals Act so that chemicals are proven safe before being added to our homes, schools, and places of work.
  • Talk with your pocket book. Don’t buy these products.
  • Talk with your children. Explain to them the risks and talk about safer alternatives (how about water?).
  • Talk with your schools. Make sure soda containing BVO isn’t offered in the cafeteria or vending machines.
  • Talk with the soda companies. Send an email or a tweet. Let them know that BVO doesn’t belong in our soft drinks.

What else can we do to get this toxic substance out of soda?

To read more about the brominated battle take a look at the full report from Environmental Health News.

[Photo used under Creative Commons from Ben Husmann/Flickr]

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, writer, mom of three boys and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Join me as we work together to make the world a safer place for all.

Click HERE to contact Lori

Lori on ABC World News

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