Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spa Girl asks...Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious?

Whenever possible I tend to by organic because I believe it is better for me and I find, especially with chicken, it tastes better.  But I have always wondered, is my believe true?  After a fair bit of research I found the best information from the staff of the Mayo Clinic.

You're in a bit of a dilemma standing in front of the produce section of your local supermarket. In one hand, you're holding a conventionally grown Granny Smith apple. In your other hand, you have one that's labeled organically grown. Both apples are firm, shiny and green. Both provide vitamins and fiber, and both are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol.

The conventionally grown apple costs less and is a proven family favorite. But the organic apple has a label that says "USDA Organic." Does that mean it's better? Safer? More nutritious? Several differences between organic and nonorganic foods exist. Become a better informed consumer for your next trip to the supermarket.

Conventional vs. organic farming

The word "organic" refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don't use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers may conduct sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.

Here are other differences between conventional farming and organic farming:

Conventional farmers Organic farmers

Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth. Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.

Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease. Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.

Use chemical herbicides to manage weeds. Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.

Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth. Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

Organic or not? Check the label

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed. Any farmer or food manufacturer who labels and sells a product as organic must be USDA certified as meeting these standards. Only producers who sell less than $5,000 a year in organic foods are exempt from this certification; however, they must follow the same government standards to label their foods as organic.

If a food bears a USDA Organic label, it means it's produced and processed according to the USDA standards and that at least 95 percent of the food's ingredients are organically produced. The seal is voluntary, but many organic producers use it.

Products certified 95 percent or more organic display this USDA seal.

Products that are completely organic — such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single-ingredient foods — are labeled 100 percent organic and can carry a small USDA seal. Foods that have more than one ingredient, such as breakfast cereal, can use the USDA organic seal or the following wording on their package labels, depending on the number of organic ingredients:

  • 100 percent organic. Products that are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.
  • Organic. Products that are at least 95 percent organic.
  • Made with organic ingredients. These are products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The organic seal can't be used on these packages.
Foods containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients can't use the organic seal or the word "organic" on their product label. They can include the organic items in their ingredient list, however.

You may see other terms on food labels, such as "all-natural," "free-range" or "hormone-free." These descriptions may be important to you, but don't confuse them with the term "organic." Only those foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic.

Organic food: Buy or bypass?

Many factors may influence your decision to buy — or not buy — organic food. Consider these factors:

Nutrition. No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA — even though it certifies organic food — doesn't claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.

Quality and appearance. Organic foods meet the same quality and safety standards as conventional foods. The difference lies in how the food is produced, processed and handled. You may find that organic fruits and vegetables spoil faster because they aren't treated with waxes or preservatives. Also, expect less-than-perfect appearances in some organic produce — odd shapes, varying colors and perhaps smaller sizes. In most cases, however, organic foods look identical to their conventional counterparts.

Pesticides. Conventional growers use pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. When farmers spray pesticides, this can leave residue on produce. Some people buy organic food to limit their exposure to these residues. Most experts agree, however, that the amount of pesticides found on fruits and vegetables poses a very small health risk.

Environment. Some people buy organic food for environmental reasons. Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil.

Cost. Most organic food costs more than conventional food products. Higher prices are due to more expensive farming practices, tighter government regulations and lower crop yields. Because organic farmers don't use herbicides or pesticides, many management tools that control weeds and pests are labor intensive. For example, organic growers may hand weed vegetables to control weeds, and you may end up paying more for these vegetables.

Taste. Some people say they can taste the difference between organic and nonorganic food. Others say they find no difference. Taste is a subjective and personal consideration, so decide for yourself. But whether you buy organic or not, finding the freshest foods available may have the biggest impact on taste.

Buying tips

Whether you're already a fan of organic foods or you just want to shop wisely and handle your food safely, consider these tips:

  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season to ensure the highest quality. Also, try to buy your produce the day it's delivered to market to ensure that you're buying the freshest food possible. Ask your grocer what day new produce arrives.
  • Read food labels carefully. Just because a product says it's organic or contains organic ingredients doesn't necessarily mean it's a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.
  • Don't confuse natural foods with organic foods. Only those products with the "USDA Organic" label have met USDA standards.
  • Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running water to reduce the amount of dirt and bacteria. If appropriate, use a small scrub brush — for example, before eating apples, potatoes, cucumbers or other produce in which you eat the outer skin.
  • If you're concerned about pesticides, peel your fruits and vegetables and trim outer leaves of leafy vegetables in addition to washing them thoroughly. Keep in mind that peeling your fruits and vegetables may also reduce the amount of nutrients and fiber. Some pesticide residue also collects in fat, so remove fat from meat and the skin from poultry and fish

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spa Girl says What? Uncorking Vinotherapy

Who doesn’t like the idea of sampling a great wine with some incredible food? Wine just by itself while relaxing on a hot sunny day is delish, or how about sipping your favourite blend with a good book beside the fire. Or beside your computer while writing your favourite blog! (Sandhill pinot gris)

Wine continues to gain popularity but I was intrigued when I discovered Spa’s, especially those in wine country are now practicing wine therapy of a different kind! That’s right, healing the body with wine is gaining popularity and it has a name—Vinotheraphy!

As described by Carole Tessier, a freelance writer specializing in the beauty and spa industry.

Scientific research has proven that grape seeds, skin and stems are rich in phytophenols and resveratrol. Polyphenols (taken from the grape seeds) is a type of flavonoid with potent antioxidant abilities that protect the body from free radicals, while resveratrol, (a polyphenolic compound obtained from the grape skins) slows the aging process, spurs new cell growth and firms up skin.
Fittingly, the origins of vinotherapy can be traced back to France. It was in 1970 that pharmacologist Joseph Vercauteron discovered that grapes were rich in polyphenol and had beneficial effects on the skin.
Since then, wine has been recognized to not only please our palates, but our pores as well. And the popularity of wine therapy keeps growing, making it one of the hottest trends in the spa industry.

But wine spa treatments are one thing; travelling to wine country to have them is another. Wine enthusiasts are treating themselves to the ultimate “vino” experience by coupling wine tasting with vinotherapy. What could be better than basking in fountains of health and longevity at chic wine spa hotels and estates – and then enjoying samplings of fine wines from its beautiful countryside!

Carole Tessier, founder of Le Spa Promotions - publisher of Le Spa Book, a spa discount book offering hundreds of promotions in spas across Western Quebec and Eastern Ontario.

Recently Spa Girl had the pleasure to attend several events at the Kamloops Wine Festival, a fundraising event for the Kamloops Art Gallery and discovered wine therapy of the eatable kind from specialist Kristy Koehler a Kamloops sommelier.

Enjoy these scrumptious pairings then head off to the spa and ask for a Merlot wrap, or a Sauvignon massage, Chardonnay scrubs, or soak in wine-laced bath. Indeed, decadent and delectable!

Wine & Desserts
Jackson-Triggs Riesling Ice Wine with Almond Blackberry Cake with Vanilla Bavarian Cream
See Yah Later Ranch Ehrenfelser Ice Wine with Chocolate Orange Baked Mousse with Pistachio Royaltine and Mandarin Orange Segments
Sumac Ridge Gewurtztraminer Ice Wine with Mango Pavlova with Coconut Tuile
2002 Haine Vineyards Late Harvest with Baklava with Candied Pecans
Mission Hill Late Harvest Reserve Riesling with Tuxedo Strawberries

Wine &Cheeses
Aged 12 Year Old Cheddar with Stags Hollow Cabernet Sauvignon
Parmesan Reggiano with Stonehill Cabernet Sauvignon
Brie with Mistral Estates Chardonnay
Goat Cheese with Thornhaven Pinot Gris
Asiago with Lang Vineyards Pinot Noir
Cumin Spiced Gouda with Lang Vineyards Gewurtztraminer

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spa Girl agrees, Look for homes to become simpler, greener and more spa-like!

KITCHEN Entertaining in the kitchen Quartz counter tops Espresso-colored cabinets Secondary refrigerators as beverage centers Homework/computers in the kitchen BATHROOM Transformed into spas Whirlpools Multiple body sprays in showers Glass tiles as accents (blues/greens) Lighter colors in general COLORS Softer, neutral colors that signal comfort Grays, oatmeal, stone Citron, orange and purples as accents (Bolder colors are for times when people have more money… "If I don’t like it, I can change it…”)

FABRICS Chenilles, tapestries and woven fabrics Comfort Microfiber and leather HOUSE STYLE Complex roof lines Clapboard with stone or brick Open floor plans Two master bedroom suites Multiple fireplaces Media room for movies (people not traveling as much) Three-car garages Elevators (people are aging) REMODELING (more popular than buying) Remove walls for a more open floor plan Adding windows Expanding rooms Adding media rooms GARDEN Planting fruit trees and vegetable gardens GREEN DESIGN More energy efficient Solar panels Sustainably forested furniture Carpets made from recycled bottles Linoleum making a comeback because it is natural – also mamoleum.'s%20Spa%20Blog)&utm_content=Google%20Reader

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spa Girl fondly remembers how she fell in love with Spa Life

Recently a friend asked me how my passion for spa life came about and I would have to say it came from my mother.

My mother was a professional woman, a careerist who knew the value of taking care of yourself.  She also taught her children to be adventurous. She would ensure, despite her busy schedule, that we all ate well, slept well, including after lunch naps during the summer at the cottage, something I always found difficult as I would have rather been on the beach or in the water. She encouraged us to get involved in sports, to be diligent students and responsible for our actions. All four of us developed her work ethic. My mother also encourage us to appreciate the arts an appreciation I have to this day, a passion really!

It was during high school on a family trip that I first experienced the joys of spa life and I have never looked back. That adventurous spirit has allowed me to try all sorts of spa treatments and be open minded when it came to considering new modalities; everything from the Japanese art of Shiatsu (指圧 to Watsu.

But unlike my mother who juggled family obligations, a career and an active social life I often get to busy to be diligent about taking care of all aspects of my life so being a spa girl is one of the many joys where I can truly step back, relax and rejuvenate. Ironically it is a proactive activity which places my well-being temporarily in someone else’s hands.

Thanks mom!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spa Girl says An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Apples have the combined properties that no other fruits have. You will be able to get the benefits of these properties individually with other fruits, but an apple combines everything and makes it simpler. 

The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family Rosaceae. It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. The tree originated from Central Asia, where its wild ancestor is still found today. There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples resulting in a range of desired characteristics.

At least 55 million tons of apples were grown worldwide (2005) with a value of about $10 billion. China produced about 35% of this total. The United States is the second leading producer, with more than 7.5% of world production. Iran is third followed by Turkey, Russia, Italy and India.

Here are nine great reasons to eat an apple a day!

1-Apple contains Vitamin C which helps your immune system.
2-Apples are rich in flavonoid which is good heart food. Flavonoids are also known for their antioxidant effects.

3-Low in calories. A regular size apple has between 70-100 calories. Eating an apple when craving for candy or chocolate can make the desire disappear since apple in itself contains sugar, but gives you only ¼ of the calories.

4-Apples contain phenols, which help to reduce bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol.

5-The juice of the apples has properties that can kill up to 80% of bacteria and prevent tooth decay. 
6-Apples contain phytonutrients, which help protect the brain.
7-Research at the University of Nottingham indicates that people who eat 5 apples or more per week have lower respiratory problems, including asthma.

8-They taste great!
9-Apple is also great for your face, try this amazing Apple toner: 1 apple; 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar; 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Roughly chop apple and place in saucepan with vinegar over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the apple has begun to turn into applesauce, press mixture through a sieve then strain into clean bottle. Keep unused portion in refrigerator for several days.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spa Girls says congratulations to Jamie Oliver 2010 TED Prize Winner "Teach every child about food"

Jamie Oliver has won the 2010 Ted Prize with his dream to teach every child about food! 

Spa Girl has posted a number of stories on the importance of good food and how spa's are playing a role in this food revolution.

"Jamie Oliver has been drawn to the restaurant kitchen since he was seven or eight. First working in his father’s pub-restaurant and then training in England and France, he not only displayed incredible culinary talent, but also a passion for creating fresh, honest and delicious food. Although he is now one of the world’s top celebrity chefs, his commitment to simple, unpretentious food remains, and with it, his drive to break people’s unhealthy eating habits and get them cooking again."

Spa Girl, Pedicures, Willow Stream, check it out!

Pedicures give you a lot more than pretty feet. They can give you healthy feet with benefits like better circulation, reduced whole body tension, prevention of many foot problems like ingrown nails and athlete’s foot, plus your feet look and feel so great.

The US Surgeon General wants us to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. For many of us, walking is a great way to do that. 30 minutes of brisk walking is about two and a half miles, about 4,000 steps. Add all those steps to your daily walking around and you’ve got some serious wear and tear on your feet.

Many of our regular Willow Stream guests have learned that the best thing they can do about wear and tear on their feet is to visit a Willow Stream Spa for a pedicure. Next best is a do-it-yourself home pedicure, Willow Stream style.

Spa Girl is considering Rolfing

Being a big fan of massage, and having tried a number of different techniques, I have decided to consider a series of myofascial massages known as Rolfing, although I understand Rolfers prefer to call it “movement education”. I did some research, talked to a few people who have used this technique and it all sounds fascinating. If you have undergone Rolfing, I would love to hear what you have to say!

Rolfing is a massage technique developed by biochemist turned physical therapist Ida P. Rolf (1896-1979) who spent a good part of the 1930s studying osteopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic, yoga, the Alexander technique, and Korzybski’s work on states of consciousness. She authored several books on the relationship of form and structure in the human body, including Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures (New York: Harper and Row, 1977). Rolfing is a sensitive hands on reading of tissue texture in order to determine imbalance which is then massaged to separate fascial tissue that has been pulled out of position by strain or injury.

Rolfers believe there is a correlation between muscular tension and pent-up emotions and that physical and emotional health depend on parts of the body being properly aligned--head, ankles, hips, thorax, pelvis, knees, shoulders, ears, etc., or problems of gravity will be felt.

Rolfers make use of fingers and in some cases, even an elbow to move the fascia, in order to stretch it and bring back its elasticity. Generally ten sessions are required for the three-stage treatment. The first step involves palpation, where the fascia tissues are closely examined by the therapist. In the second step, the therapist separates the fascia layers, which adhere to the muscles and during the final stage, the therapist brings physical balance to the gravitational field.

So if you are interested in pampering your senses, improving your balance, range of motion and posture, Rolfers say try Rolfing massage therapy to reorganize the entire body.