Why You Should ALWAYS drink Organic Wine

Have you ever heard that cheap wine gives you headaches and hangovers? Well, it might be an old wives tale, but it has some actual legitimacy for a very simple reason: Sulfites.

What are sulfites?

Sulfites are chemical compounds of sulfur. They are used as food preservatives and have antioxidant and preservative properties 1. They are used on fruits and vegetables to prevent browning, on shrimp and lobster to prevent melanosis or brown spots, wines to prevent bacterial growth, in dough as a conditioner, and to bleach food starches and cherries. They are also used in pharmaceuticals to preserve stability and potency of certain medications.

Please note: Sulfites are different from sulfur.

Sulfur can be a naturally occurring and essential element for humans found around volcanoes and hot springs. “Elemental sulfur was once extracted from salt domes where it sometimes occurs in nearly pure form, but this method has been obsolete since the late 20th century. Today, almost all elemental sulfur is produced as a byproduct of removing sulfur-containing contaminants from natural gas and petroleum” 2.

While Sulfur has been used in winemaking for centuries, sulfites recently became a major ingredient in wine as an additive to stop bacteria oxidation a.k.a. a preservative and as a sterilization tool.

Sulfites absorb oxygen and prevent aerobic bacterial growth that would otherwise convert ethanol into acetic acid, souring the wine.

While some sulfties naturally occur in the fermentation process, added sulfites used in winemaking are a residue of natural gas and petroleum crude 3.

Okay, so drinking natural gas sounds gross, but is it bad for you?

Sulfites have been used as a food additive since 1664. The problem? Sulfites, in many cases, are used excessively and are known to have adverse health consequences. It has been suspected that a percentage of the population has a sulfite sensitivity that can induce reactions that range from mild to severe 4.

The FDA estimates that 1 out of 100 Americans or around 3,139,000 people are sulfite sensitive and that 5 out of 100 asthmatics are sulfite sensitive.

Sensitivity to sulfites can develop at any time during a person’s lifespan with some reactions being delayed and not showing up until a person’s forties or fifties. Sulfite sensitivity can manifest in many forms including dermatolical, pulmonary, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular symptoms 5.

Is sulfite usage regulated?

The legal maximum sulfite level for U.S. wines is 350 ppm, with most wines averaging about 125 ppm. Naturally occurring levels of sulfur dioxide in a wine, without chemical additives, would weigh in at around 10-20 ppm.

On July 8, 1986 the FDA banned the use of sulfite preservatives in fresh vegetables and fruits that were intended to be served raw because they were linked to deaths and many illnesses 6. Additionally, Sulfites cannot be used in
products such as meats that serve as a good source of vitamin B1 because sulfites can scavenge that vitamin from foods.

Since 1987, the FDA has required that sulfites must be declared in cases when concentrations exceed 10ppm 7. According to the International Center for Alcohol Policies, the USA is required to disclose or declare sulfites in alcohol 8.

(They are also required to do the same for aspartame, a known carcinogen, which I didn’t even know was in alcohol).

Food products that contain undeclared sulfites above 10 ppm will be subject to the following potential recall actions 9:

Class I (greater than or equal to 10mg) recalls are the most serious and involve situations where there is a reasonable probability that exposure to the violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or deaths. FDA is aware of deaths occurring among sulfite-sensitive asthmatics

Class II (3.7 -9.9 mg) recalls include situations where exposure to the violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is rare

Class III (less than 3.7mg) recalls includes situations where exposure to the violative product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences.recalls includes situations where exposure to the violative product is not likely to cause adverse health consequences

Is one wine safer than another?

Sweet white dessert wines contain the most sulfites, then blush wines and semi-sweet white wines coming in at a close second. The middle ground is a dry white wine. Dry red wines have the lowest sulfite levels. Additionally beer, cocktail mixes, and wine coolers also may contain sulfites.

My advice, avoid anything with sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, or sodium sulfite on the label and go with Organic. Organic wines, by definition, do not have any added chemicals, including sulfites so you can rest assured that you are not drinking natural gas or putting yourself at potential risk of sulfite induced illness.

*NOTE: The FDA regulates the use of sulfites in drugs and food, while the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the use of sulfites in meat and poultry. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) regulates the use of sulfites in alcoholic beverages and the use of sulfur dioxide as a fungicide on grapes comes under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

*NOTE: When you try to SEARCH sulfite on the ATF website, nothing comes up.

*NOTE NOTE: On the FDA Food Additivies and Ingredients list, food starches contain sulfur dioxide, sodium metabisulfite is found in fruit
jellies, sodium sulfite is is also used as a boiler additive.


The Healing Properties of Plants

When was the last time you ate because of a specific food’s nutrients or properties? Some greens when you were on a diet, some ginger when your stomach hurt, some meat because you felt that you were protein deprived? In my last post I talked about the types of vitamins that we need every day and listed a few foods that provided them. But now I think it is important to be able to preventatively eat, meaning choosing certain foods because they will heal you, prevent you from becoming sick, and keep you energized.

Here it is, my long list of foods and why they are good for you:

Aloe: Antibiotic, antibacterial and anti-fungal. Used externally to treat burns, abrasions and other minor skin injuries and also aids in digestion.

Apple: Stimulates appetite, cleansing, benefits the effects of radiation and mercury level in the body.

Almond Butter: Rich in vitamin E, benefiting skin and hair, anti oxidant, contains copper and iron, increases blood flow and bone mineral density.

Avocado: Contains copper, vitamin E and protein.

Beet: Benefits the heart, circulation, purifies blood, cleans intestines, anti-parasitic.

Bok Choy: Low in calories. Rich source of Vitamin C.

Bee Pollen: Astringent, detoxifiying, aids alcoholism and hypertension and contains potassium

Bell Pepper (green and red): Improve appetite, aid circulation, contains vitamin C

Blueberry: Source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese

Carrot: Contains beta carotene, benefits lungs, spleen, pancreas, assimilation and digestion, anti parasitic

Cabbage: Cleansing, benefits skin, digestion, stomach and intestines, contains vitamin C, vitamin E, iodine and calcium

Celery: Detoxifying, aids hypertension, contains silicon, benefits lungs, liver, spleen, pancreas, assimilation, digestion, anti-parasitic

Collard Green: Contains vitamin A and chlorophyll

Coconut: Potassium, magnesium

Cucumber: Detoxifying, benefits heart, blood, skin, stomach, pancreas, large intestine, spleen, and aids hydration

Daikon: Cleansing, detoxifying, anti-parasitic

Dandelion: Used internally for dyspepsia, loss of appetite, flatulence, and as a diuretic

Fennel: Aids stomach and gas build-up

Flax Oil: Rich source of omega fatty acids, lignans, protein and fiber, beneficial for women’s hormone balance, aids weight management, improves immune function

Garlic: Cleansing, anti-parasitic and pungent, aids digestion, colds, circulation and healthy intestinal bacteria

Goji Berry: Cleanses blood, boost immunity, anti-oxidant, helps detoxing, aids weight loss, strengthens the heart

Ginger: Used internally to treat nausea, motion sickness, vomiting

Green Chard: Vitamin A

Kale: Aids congestion, contains chlorophyll, beta-carotene, calcium and iron

Lecithin: Brain food, contains omega fatty acids, phosphorus and vitamin B

Lemon: Astringent, anti-septic and anti-microbial, aids circulation and hypertension

Mango: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidants, rich in vitamin A, E, and mineral selenium, alkalizing, improves digestion

Parsley: Contains beta-carotene, chlorophyll, sodium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, aids digestion

Peanut Butter: Rich in vitamin E, anti-oxidant, fiber, coenzyme Q-10, calcium, iron, niacin, and protein

Pineapple: High in vitamin C, anti-oxidants and fiber, benefits elasticity of skin and eyesight

Red Leaf Lettuce: Detoxifying, contains vitamins A and C, chlorophyll and iron

Romaine Lettuce: Detoxifying, contains chlorophyll, vitamins A and C

Strawberry: Anti-oxidant, detoxifying, high in folate, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium and some B vitamins

Sweet Potato: Detoxifying, contains vitamin A, benefit blood

Spinach: Laxative, removes toxins, aids digestion, contains chlorophyll, vitamin A, iron and calcium

Tomato: Detoxifying, benefits hydration, stomach, blood and digestion

Turmeric Root: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, improves circulation, boost immunity, contains essential minerals and amino acids, supports liver health and a number of women’s health issues

Wheatgrass: Acne, aging, arthritis, asthma, bladder, blood pressure, bones, bronchitis, cancer, circulation, diabetes, eyes, fatigue, hair, heart disease, kidney, liver, lung, skin,weight loss, nervous disorder, ulcers


Eating a Balanced Diet

I have been thinking a lot about the foods that I eat in terms of buying Organic, local, and sustainable foods but like many I am a creature of habit and tend to stick with the same things. Sure, I eat healthy foods, but am I eating balanced meals?

Here is the breakdown of what an adult eating a 2000 calorie diet needs per day.
WATER: 3 liters/day
Total Fat: 65 grams
Saturated Fatty Acids: 20 grams
Cholesterol: 300 milligrams
Sodium: 2400 milligrams
Potassium: 3500 milligrams
Total Carbohydrate: 300 grams
Fiber: 25 grams (barley, legumes, bulgur)
Protein: 50 grams (legumes, quinoa, nuts, seeds, fruits, milk)

Vitamin A (growth and development, immune system): 5000 IU (carrots, pumpkin, egg yolk)
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) (cellular restoration): 1.5 mg (oatmeal, brown rice, oranges, eggs, kale)
Vitamin B6 (amino acid metabolism): 2.0 mg (chickpeas, supplements)
Vitamin B12 (metabolism of every cell in the human body): 6 micrograms (egg yolk, supplements)
Vitamin C (collagen synthesis): 60 milligrams (orange, grapefruit, peach, kiwi, bell peppers)
Vitamin D (enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate): 400 IU (mushrooms)
Vitamin E (a-tocopherol) (antioxidant): 30 IU (tomato, sunflower seeds)
Riboflavin (energy metabolism, metabolism of fats, carbs & proteins): 1.7 mg (almonds, sesame seeds)
Niacin (digestion, nerve function): 20 mg (avocado, dates, leafy greens, carrots, broccoli)
Calcium (signal for cellular processes): 1 g (collards, broccoli, beans, almonds, milk, figs, orange)
Iron (oxygen transport, cellular respiration): 18 mg (walnuts, dark chocolate, cast iron pan)
Folic Acid (aids rapid cell division): .4 mg
Phosphorus (essential for molecule building): 1 g (cornmeal, brown rice, rolled oats, milk)
Iodine (constituent of thyroid hormones): 150 mcg (iodized salt, kelp)
Magnesium (catalysts for synthesizing ATP): 400 mg (buckwheat, rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice)
Zinc (metabolism of DNA and RNA): 15 mg (nuts, beans)
Copper (electron and oxygen transportation): 2mg (sunflower seeds, cashews, dark chocolate)
Biotin (synthesis of fatty acids): .3 mg (whole grains, almonds, peanuts, eggs)

According to the Harvard School of Public Health a healthy plate should look like my picture above:

  • 1/2 of your plate should be vegetables and fruits
  • 1/4 of your plate should be whole rains such as brown rice
  • 1/4 of your plate should be a healthy protein such as beans, nuts, or egg

This food should be consumed with a glass of water and cooked by steaming or with a healthy plant oil such as olive, sunflower, or coconut oil.

Since I make and eat most of my food at home except for the occasional restaurant outing, sticking to a healthy diet is easy and it is really evident to me what I am lacking by just looking at the foods that I don’t eat. For instance, I am a vegetarian which means I probably do not get enough B, which is why I take B12, also, I am probably a little deficient in copper, and Vitamin C.

I realized, after reading the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that many adults lack Calcium, Fiber, Magnesium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C,  Vitamin A, and Potassium. All of these are very easy to fix! My next post will talk about all of the healing properties of different plants so that you can choose foods that will benefit you the most and provide you with all of the essential nutrients you need.


Wild Wineberries

When your family calls you to come upstate because it is berry week, you go. There is one week out of the entire year that the town I grew up in is overflowing with wild berries that are so sweet and delicious! I spent the afternoon picking them with my sisters and the early evening making my first pie (I am more of a crisp type of girl) and it was delicious!

Similarly to my post on edible plants, foraging for food is extremely sustainable if done responsibly. These berries are wild, abundant, and delicious. They can be used for anything any other berry can be used for AND they are totally free!


Edible Plants

Have you ever been walking in a park, looked at a leaf, and wondered, “what do you taste like?” and wanted to take a nibble?

Well… that is what I spent my day doing yesterday, eating park plants.

I know that sounds dangerous, gross, and unsafe, however, rest assured that it was an edible plant walk in Prospect Park coodinated by the Organic cotton clothing company Loomstate. I came out unscathed except for a few huge mosquito bites. Luckily I have a great remedy for that thanks to Rhett Godfrey, Loomstate’s Sustainability Director.

If can’t think of anything more Zero Waste than responsible, sustainable eating from nature!

I learned from Rhett that there are three main types of wild plants: edible, medicinal or magical (which he called old school medicinal). You will see a few examples of all of them below. 

STOP! Safety first. Before eating any wild plants it is really important to make sure you will not have a bad allergic reaction to any of them. To test for this first take the plant you are about to eat and rub a bit of it on the soft part of your inner elbow. Wait a few minutes and look for a rash or irritation. If you are all clear, take a bit of the plant and rub it right on your lip. If again, no rash forms, go ahead and eat! Also, be sure to look out for poison ivy (above).  Young poison ivy has a shiny leaf where as the darker green tends to be more matte. It has two ears and a nose meaning to straight leaves and one leaf pointing down.

Ok… on to the fun stuff.

1) Yellow Wood Sorrel. (Edible) This plant, often referred to as clover, is insanely delicious. It has three leaves that are shaped like hearts as opposed to clover which has tear shaped leaves. It also has a standing fruit that looks like mini okra. When eaten, the seeds inside the fruit will explode in your mouth and fill it with a bright, sweet, lemony flavor. You can eat the flower, fruit, and stems!

2) White Pine. (Edible) White pine can be identified by its almost white appearance. It is really amazing because there is really nothing on a white pine tree that isn’t edible. Even the sap! Its needles are clustered in groups of five on one base. I ate the base of the needles, the light green part, which was sweet and woody and had such a great aftertaste! In the spring when new needles form, you can eat more of the needle. They can also be cleaned, cut up, and steeped for a nice pine tea!

3) Lady’s Thumb (E): Lady’s thumb has a long leaf with a pointed tip. To identify it, it has very small pink clustered seeds and the leaf, if you look closely, has a darker green mark on it almost like a lady’s thumb print! It is mucilaginous which means that it has a gelatinous quality that prevents it from burning in the sun. It is a great source of potassium, iron and niacin.

4) Honewort (E): It can be identified because it has stems of three and leaves of three. You can pick it, dry it, and use it like chervil. It has flavors of parsley, carrot top, or chervil. 

5) Mugwort (Magical): This can be used for people to remember their dreams. You take the mug wart, rub it up in your hands, and put it next to your pillow. It contains small amounts of thujone (or the chemical found in absinthe). It smells great, almost like a poultry spice. In asia it is used to season goose. Two ways to identify it are to look underneath for a white color, or to rub it and smell. Women use this leaf to make tea to treat PMS. 

6) Sassafras (E,Med): Sassafras is amazing. It requires a ton of light to grow and drops its seed close to the parent plant so you can see groups of it. The leaves come in a few different shapes, a trident, dinosaur foot, flame, or average leaf shape. It is dried and ground to be used as a thickener for gumbo and the native americans would use it as a liver tonic in the spring after they sustained themselves on salted fish and meats throughout the winter. It has a bubble gum orangey flavor. You can pull out the root and expose the inner white bark which is full of safrole, the main ingredient of root beer. You take the root, cut about a three inch piece, and steep it in boiling water for 20-25 minutes. It smells EXACTLY like root beer! 

7) Wine Berry (E): These berries are sweet and tart and have long sticky stems. The underside is a different color than the top leaf.

8) Plantain Weed (E): This plant is also known as the white mans footprint because when the white man was in America in the 1500’s their horses would create muddy tracks in the soil where the plant would grow. They have unique parallel veins and can be identified because all of the leaves grow out of the same place. The stalk can be used as a digestive and the leaves contain allantoin which promotes skin healing. It also helps take the itch away from mosquito bites and seriously works if you just rub it on your skin or put it on and adhere with a bandage. 

9) Burdock (not edible): this is the plant that inspired velcro- it sticks to EVERYTHING! 

It was an incredible day and I learned SO MUCH! Stay tuned for some more wild edibles this week! Thanks Loomstate!


How to Store Your Vegetables Without Waste

I used to bring produce home from the market and throw it in my refrigerator unwashed. Unfortunately, after one day, ready to eat a salad, I would pull my lettuce, kale, or spinach out and it would be wilted and crunch-less. The technique I am about to show you keeps my leafy greens fresh and crunchy longer than any other storage method I have tried and it is completely waste free!

Step 1: Wash your greens and leave them to dry in a colander 
Step 2: Lay out a cotton/linen napkin and put your greens in the bottom right corner
Step 3: Fold the bottom right corner of the napkin and tuck the greens in
Step 4: Begin to roll the greens towards the top right corner
Step 5: Roll until you meet the top left corner of the napkin and put the corner on top
Step 6: take the two outer edges and bring to the center
Step 7: Knot the outer edges of the napkin and pull tight and you are done!
Storage Option 1: Store on your shelf in the refrigerator
Storage Option 2: Store in your humidity controlled crisper drawer


A Week of Organic Food for Under $40.00

I have made a decision to only bring Organic, fresh food products into my home to decrease the amount of synthetic pesticides and herbicides and plastic I am exposed to in my daily life. Many people get the impression that comes with a very high price tag, especially in New York City. However, with some preparation, some kitchen staples, a good market, and a little bit of effort you can easily feed yourself for the week without draining your bank account.

**Please note, I am a vegetarian which cuts my grocery costs exponentially**

Here is what I recommend as Kitchen staples:

  • Bulk Brown Rice. There are lots of different shapes and sizes, I like short grain sweet
  • Bulk Quinoa 
  • Bulk Beans: black beans are my favorite
  • Olive Oil 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar 
  • Salt (I buy this in bulk too)
  • Pepper (I buy this in bulk and put it in a grinder)
  • Eggs – good protein, perfect for breakfast!

Kitchen Luxuries (but staples for my home):

  • Bulk Coffee- I love Equal Exchange
  • Bulk Tea- I use chamomile
  • Bulk Sugar
  • Honey- while not necessary, I think it adds something extra special to salad dressing

This is what I bought this week:

  • Kale– Lacinato
  • Kale– Green
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Avocados (3) 
  • Carrots 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Green Beans
  • Apples
  • Bananas 
  • Grapes
  • Ginger
  • Dried Cranberries 
  • Almod Butter 
  • Bread
  • Garlic (left over from my dad’s house!) 

Watch throughout the week as I transform these ingredients into my daily meals!

***Note: I saved $3.53 because of a student discount that the store I shop at offers***