Wouldn’t it be great if that vanilla-scented air freshener you hang from your car’s rear-view mirror was actually scented with real vanilla? Or if the citrus room deodorizer you use to freshen up your house contained real citrus extracts? Chances are, they don’t contain any natural fragrances. They are most likely scented with a chemical concoction that could be making you or your family sick. Some of these concoctions can contain hundreds of harmful ingredients—just to create that one vanilla or citrus scent.
It’s hard and pretty much impossible to stay away from artificial scents completely, because they are all around us at all times, but thankfully, there are ways to decrease your exposure to them. Here’s what you need to know:
Unfortunately, the ingredients that go into making up artificial scents are a closely guarded secret because the recipes are proprietary to the companies that create them, so we have no clue what they contain. What we do know is that many of the chemicals used to make up artificial scents can trigger allergic reactions and asthma. We also know that up to 95% of the chemicals used in creating artificial fragrances are petroleum based and contain phthalates.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are harmful to both us and the environment. It’s wise to stay away from them because they are carcinogens and they are linked to hormone disruption, infertility, birth defects, insulin resistance and genetic abnormalities. Phthalates are used in fragrances because they cling to the skin or hair giving the scent staying power.
Most mainstream shampoos, conditioners, perfumes, lotions, hair products, body washes, makeup, candles, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, deodorants, household cleaning products, and a whole lot more contain phthalates.
(Note: Phthalates have many other uses outside of artificial fragrances—we’ll talk about those in another post)
Artificial fragrances have several different names. When reading your ingredient list, if you see the words: artificial fragrance, fragrance, parfum, or fragrance oil, your product contains artificial fragrance.
It’s important to not confuse fragrance oils, which are not natural, with essential oils—100% essential oils ARE natural and safe.
Buying “unscented” or “fragrance-free” products does not mean that your product is free from artificial fragrances. You still need to pay attention to the ingredient lists because they may contain masking chemicals to cover up their scent to make them seem unscented.
If a product is not certified organic, there is a good chance that it is scented artificially. But, there are some cases where a scented product may not be certified organic and is scented naturally. This is usually the case with smaller manufacturers. If you aren’t sure, go to the source. Ask the retailer you are buying from or ask the manufacturer directly if their product is scented with synthetics.
Do artificial fragrances cause you to have a reaction? Do you already avoid artificial fragrances?
In my last post, I wrote about films that played a part in changing the way I eat, and even though I’ve cut out certain things from my diet, I still eat amazing foods that are ridiculously delicious. Most of these foods just happen to now be plant-based, even the desserts—like this dairy-free, refined sugar-free, chocolate-avocado pudding.
But I know—avocados in a dessert? Yes—avocados in a dessert. Seriously.
The key to this recipe being a success is the size of the avocado. They have to be medium-sized. They cannot be really large or the flavours will not balance correctly and you’ll end up with a pudding that tastes like sweetened, chocolaty avocado. Not good. If you follow this recipe exactly, the outcome will be a dessert that has no hint of avocado flavour—that is how you’ll know you’ve nailed it.
So don't be scared. Make it, and you will fool everyone you serve it to into thinking they are eating a not-so-healthy, sinful dessert when in fact, it’s truly healthy and not sinful in the least.
2 medium-sized ripe avocados (see note above)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup almond milk (any type of milk will work)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cacao nibs or fresh strawberries/raspberries to garnish (optional)
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth
Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour
Separate into individual bowls, garnish with cacao nibs or berries (if using)
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Adapted from Forgiving Martha
In April 2010, I stopped eating meat. The first question I get when someone learns this about me is why? There wasn’t one event in particular that made me change—it was really a culmination of things that led me to make the decision. The fact that I never really liked meat played a big part. The fact that there is a lot of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in my family was another. The fact that I had recently watched the documentary Food. Inc. also played a role.
Since I made that decision almost three years ago, I have gone back to eating the occasional seafood dish, but other than that, today, my diet is about 90% plant based. I feel great, I’m healthy, I’m happy, and it just works for me. And the answer to the second most asked question I get: No, I don’t miss eating meat one bit.
Now, I realize that eating less meat is not for everyone, and I’m cool with that. No one should ever judge anyone for what she chooses to eat or not eat. Though, I do believe that everyone should see the following documentaries (which are not all about cutting meat out of your diet!) because the info affects all of us in some way, no matter what kind of diet you follow. They may not change the way you eat, but at least you will have the knowledge, and to me, knowledge is power and something you can never have enough of.
And speaking of knowledge, did you know that going meatless (even part-time) and making small changes when doing your groceries contributes to your eco-friendliness? So while you are keeping your body healthy, you are also helping to keep the planet healthy, which to me is win-win.
It’s important to note that all of these documentaries are American, so everything you see may not reflect what is happening here in Canada.
Oscar nominated Food, Inc. is probably the most popular of all the recent food documentaries. It sheds light on how factory farming practices are harmful for the environment and for the safety of our food and how some of these farms mistreat their animals and employees. The economics of eating real food vs. processed food is also discussed, which is a topic that will most likely surprise you. Food, Inc. also delves into the fast-food industry and the truth about what goes into your drive-thru favourites.
Vegucated follows three omnivores who take part in an experiment to go vegan for six weeks. For the duration of the experiment, they fully convert into living a vegan lifestyle, and learn exactly how the foods they are used to eating is affecting their health and how those foods actually made it to their plates. Will they remain vegans in the end? You'll have to watch to find out!
Just a warning about this film—when factory farming practices are discussed, there are some extremely graphic and disturbing scenes.
Forks Over Knives
The message behind Forks Over Knives is “food over medicine.” It explains and shows us how a diet filled with whole, unprocessed foods (REAL food) over one filled with processed junk food can improve anyone’s health.
Other eye-opening food documentaries to check out:
Have you seen any of these documentaries? What did you think?