Earlier in the week we had the heat on. I was even wearing long sleeves to bed. Over an 18-hour period we went from the low 40s to 99 degrees. Talk about insanity. That heat wave got me to thinking that it’s just about lemonade season and if it’s one thing you need to know about me, besides the fact that I believe that bacon is the answer to every question, it’s that I looove lemons. This means I love lemonade. I can’t get enough of the stuff.
Each summer before I started learning about GMOs and Real Food I used to buy several containers of Minute Maid frozen concentrated lemonade. That stuff was loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup, and GMOs. It certainly wasn’t Real Food, but I loved lemonade so I bought it. Want to know something sad? It made me sicker than a dog, but for years I put up with it because I loved lemonade. Years later I learned that HFCS can lead to violent and painful intestinal issues, and I’ve never met a GMO-Free HFCS so my guess is that the GMOs were making me as sick as the HFCS itself.
In preparation for this post I looked up the nutrition information on Minute Maid Frozen Concentrate Lemonade. Are you ready for the cold, hard hand of reality to smack ya in the face? Yeah, me neither, but sometimes the ugly truth shakes us into making changes, so put on your big girl/boy panties and let’s do some learnin’.
The ingredients from a 12-ounce can of frozen concentrated Minute Maid Lemonade are as follows:
High Fructose Corn Syrup, Filtered Water, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Lemon Pulp, and Natural Flavors
The label also says that it contains 15% lemon juice. Which after using only 5 small, organic lemons to make a gallon of lemonade today, I am not entirely surprised by that low number. 100% lemon juice would be so sour that it would make you suck your entire face up into your skull and push back out through the back of your head, while simultaneously causing your toes to rise up inside your body and pop out your mouth. Yeah, it’s *that* sour. I would not try that at home if I were you.
Now while I didn’t figure out the exact percentage of juice to water ratio, I can tell you that my recipe is loads healthier because it’s Real Food Lemonade and it is much tastier than the Minute Maid brand AND, it won’t make you sick. Cross my heart!
Let’s dig into the ingredients for just a moment. The very FIRST ingredient listed which means there is more of that ingredient than any other ingredient happens to be High Fructose Corn Syrup. Wrap your mind around that for a minute. There is MORE sugar than there is water in this beverage. My inner Valley Girl is screaming, “Like Oh Muh Gawd, Like, ya know, like how can that like be? Like that is totally bogus!!”
This lemonade recipe uses 1/2 to 3/4’s of a cup of organic cane sugar, and the rest is lemons and water (and strawberries). I’d say I end up with no more than 2 cups of fruit juice/puree from the lemons and berries, leaving the rest of that gallon container for water. I simply cannot comprehend why they would need that much HFCS. Are they using old, or moldy or rotten fruit? Rotten, old, moldy lemons might explain why they would need to cover it up with sugar, and not just any sugar, but high fructose corn syrup High Fructose Corn Syrup is 75% sweeter than regular sugar–those must be some nasty lemons. Sorry, I just still don’t get why there is that much HFCS in their lemonade. What’s worse is that we blindly consume this garbage and we also give it to our children because it’s juice after all and fruit juice is healthy, right?
I’ll Take Mercury for $1000, Alex
An article from The Environmental Health Journal states that most HFCS is produced with a product called Mercury cell chlor-alkali. I won’t bore you with all the research jargon, so you may read more about it HERE. A quick summary of the research article shows that there are traces of mercury in HFCS. They weren’t able to detect mercury in all HFCS samples taken, but there were enough samples in which mercury was detected and that is one too many samples containing mercury for me, so no thank you, I’ll pass on the HFCS. I used to work in an Electronics Recycling Plant and know all too well the dangers of mercury. I don’t need it in my food, regardless of whether or not the FDA tells me it is GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). I don’t trust the FDA nor do I have any faith in them to do the right thing as far as Americans are concerned.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is also linked to obesity and insulin resistance. The problem is that scientists assume that American’s are consuming one amount when it’s obvious we’re consuming much more than that or we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic on our hands.
When I cut HFCS from my diet I went from taking 1 to 2 extra-strength Zantac and a Prilosec OTC every day, down to needing one or the other maybe once a week. HFCS creates a very acidic environment in your body which makes you inflamed, inflammation causes disease, and a high-acid environment can cause Reflux and Heartburn among other things. Inflammation is bad. And consuming too many processed foods creates an environment for your body to become excessively inflamed and inflammation causes disease. I can’t say it enough.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, (he is an osteopathic physician, also known as a DO, who uses a whole person approach to medicine and nutrition) an industry expert on Real, whole food, health, wellness and nutrition, talks about the link of HFCS, weight gain and insulin resistance/diabetes in THIS article.
I could write a 25-page report on HFCS alone, but this is more about why you should make your own lemonade than it is about HFCS, even though HFCS is basically the reason you should make your own. And then write Minute Maid a nice letter telling them to stick it.
There’s Nothing Natural about Natural Flavors
The other ingredient that concerns me, and that should concern you is Natural Flavors. An article by Natural News discusses the 411 on Natural Flavors.
In this article, which is titled: “Health Basics – What’s really behind the ingredient ‘Natural Flavors?‘” S. D. Wells writes:
First of all, regulations for the word “natural” only apply to flavors; anywhere else you find it on food packaging means absolutely nothing regarding quality. Secondly, the FDA definition of “natural flavors” and “natural flavoring” allows for the substance to be extracted from plant or animal “matter.” So when you buy something that’s organic, vegetarian, or vegan, and it has “natural flavoring,” you could be eating a pig, cow, turkey, chicken, or lamb which was shot up with growth hormones, fed GMO pesticide-laden corn and grain – probably mixed with other animals of its same breed, then shot up with antibiotics due to infections and diseases from living in confined quarters on slats covered in feces.
Natural Flavors also most likely means the presence of MSG. I’ve shared in other posts that MSG is an excitotoxin which over-excites your brain cells and they die from being over stimulated. Remember that commercial with the egg that hits the screaming hot sauté pan and the voice says “This is your brain”… “This is your brain on drugs”…”Any questions?”… Well, that’s also your brain on MSG instead of frying, it just jumps around like a 3-year-old on a wicked sugar high until it just up and dies. Kind of sad.
I have a friend named Sara who I’ve known since I was 10 years old. We connected through Facebook after being out of touch for a few decades. Her father was the Pastor of my childhood church. Sara was someone I always looked up to. When we connected on FB, she was always sharing recipes and talking about food. Being a Foodie, I found myself gravitating towards her recipes and noticed that most of what she was posting fell into the Real Food category. Whether Sara realizes this or not, she’s one of the reasons behind Real Food Girl: Unmodified. She made me see that it really didn’t take any more effort than I was already putting into cooking from scratch to add more Real and Whole foods to my diet.
I tell you about Sara because this is her lemonade recipe. I don’t remember the exact post but when she shared how she made this I knew I had to give it a try because juicing 27 lemons to get a decent tasting gallon of lemonade just wasn’t my idea of a good time in the kitchen. Maybe for Alton Brown, but certainly not for me.
After making this lemonade once, I’ve since blended in several different berry purees. I’ve done a blueberry ginger lemonade, a blueberry one without ginger, a blackberry lemonade, a raspberry lemonade and lastly a strawberry lemonade and a plain lemonade with mint leaves. You can use honey, liquid organic Stevia, or organic cane sugar to sweeten this lemonade. It’s really up to you. If you guys knew how many times in one week I screw up a meal or component of a meal while experimenting in the kitchen or while making dinner you’d be surprised. My reason for sharing this is to let you know that sometimes you have to go out on a limb and try things in the kitchen. You will never know if something does or doesn’t work unless you try it. Don’t be afraid to try. Trying/experimenting is exactly why I always have at least one organic frozen pizza and salad fixings in my freezer and fridge. If something goes horribly wrong, then out comes the Trader Joseff’s Organic Cheese Pizza and a honkin’ chef’s salad!
I typically make this in my Food Processor, but since not everyone owns one, I gave this recipe a go with my $30.00 Oster blender that has seen better days and that little Oster did a fantastic job. I think I can safely leave my Food Processor packed up for our impending move in 3 months.
Once you try this Real Food Lemonade, you guys are going to make this your go-to summer beverage. It’s really that tasty. Oh, one last thing; when you add in the pureed berries, it makes this juice a little thicker than a typical lemonade. Just an FYI- it’s not really noticeable to me as I like to drink unfiltered juices (which means more of the fruit gets into the juice) but you may notice a difference.
Real Food Strawberry LemonadeRecipe by: Sara A. Makes: 1 Gallon Time: 15 minutes
As always, please use organic and non-GMO ingredients when possible
NOTE: Because the size of lemons and your desired sweetness level varies greatly, I’ll be giving ranges for these ingredients. I always start on the low-end and add more if needed. It’s easier to add than to remove once added.
- 3-5 organic lemons (I started with 3 small lemons and used 5 total)
- 2 cups organic strawberries (I’ve only used fresh, but you could certainly try thawed, frozen fruits- the finished product will slightly different tasting.)
- 1/2-3/4 cup organic cane sugar (or other sweetener of choice, honey works well)
- Wooden spoon or silicon spatula
- Fine mesh strainer
- Gallon-sized container with lid
- Wash whole lemons in a sink full of cold water with 1/4 cup of vinegar. Drain and rinse lemons.
- Cut off the stem tip of the lemon and then cut the lemons in half and cut each half into quarters.
- Put the lemons and 2 cups of cold water into your blender. Blend on high-speed until the lemons are pulverized, about 60-90 seconds. Yes that’s right. Put the WHOLE lemon, seeds, skin, rind and all into the blender after you cut them up.
- Using a fine mesh strainer, pour in the lemon mixture to within 1 inch of the rim of the strainer placed over the opening of a bowl or your gallon-sized container. Using a small wooden spoon or a flexible silicone spatula gently press and move the lemon puree mixture around and work the juice through the strainer and into the bowl/container. This takes a bit of patience. Continue pressing and stirring until you end up with no more liquid and a nice glob of lemon “paste”. Continue until the rest of the liquid from the blender has been strained into your bowl/container.
- I use the “lemon guts” to freshen my garbage disposal–if you figure out another great use for the guts, knock yourself out and make sure to come back and let me know! Seriously!
- Add enough water to your gallon container to equal 3 quarts. Give it a taste. Start adding sugar (or whichever sweetener you prefer). Keep in mind the strawberries will add more sweetness and once you add that puree, you’ll top off the container with more water to equal a gallon of lemonade.
- Give the blender carafe and mesh strainer a quick rinse, then add 1-2 cups of fresh, organic strawberries (stems removed) and 1/2-1 cup water into the carafe of the blender. Blend at medium-high until a nice puree is formed, about 30 seconds.
- As with the lemon puree mixture, strain the strawberry puree mixture through the strainer into a separate container and then add slowly to the lemonade to your specific tastes. I like to taste the strawberries so I use a full 2 cups of berries.
- Once your strawberry (or other berry) puree has been added, stir to combine and taste. Add more sweetener if necessary and more water to equal a gallon. It should not taste diluted. If it does, puree another lemon or two.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last for about 5-7 days. It never lasts that long in our house.
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