Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DIY - Popcorn

I know, it’s fast, it’s easy, and it tastes good. All of these things may be true, but they don’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. I’m talking about microwave popcorn. There are two health concerns surrounding microwave popcorn that you should be aware of.

First involves a compound called diacetyl that was originally used to flavor artificial butter. Diacetyl can be inhaled from the steam that escapes when a bag of freshly-popped popcorn is opened. Evidently it has been replaced, but the replacement is something very similar. This chemical is particularly hazardous for workers in popcorn factories and can lead to the lung disease bronchitis obliterans, which is incurable.

The second is the manmade chemical Perfluorooctanoic Acid, or PFOA (also known as C8). It is used in the manufacturing of non-stick cookware and it it’s in the lining of microwave popcorn bags. It’s also been found in the blood of 95% of the people tested for it, which has raised some concerns. Although it is currently unclear whether it poses a health threat to humans, it has been shown to induce DNA damage in cells, act as an endocrine disruptor, and be developmentally toxic in mice. It has also been implicated in several types of cancer in animals.

Rather than take the risk, I would rather take a few extra minutes to make my organic popcorn on the stove. I usually buy the kernels in bulk. Add a few tablespoons of grapeseed or coconut oil to a large pot and place on medium high heat. Drop a few kernels inside the pot. When one pops, add about ½ cup of kernels and swirl the pan to distribute them. It should be enough to evenly cover the bottom of the pot. Shake the pot back and forth to prevent burning. When the kernels begin to pop, put the lid on, but let the air escape frequently to prevent the popcorn from getting tough. This is actually fun to watch with a glass top : ) Once the popping slows down to one every few seconds, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the popped corn to a large bowl.

The fun part is that you can now season it however you want. Last night, I made cheesey popcorn with nutritional yeast and a little ground pepper. Try sea salt and garlic powder, or curry and cumin, or paprika and cayenne pepper. There are lots of possibilities.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Gaining Control

You might think you’re eating healthy when you grab that container of yogurt and you wouldn’t necessarily think of yogurt as processed food, but from the list of ingredients, you’d be surprised. A typical 6 oz. “fruit on the bottom” cup of yogurt can contain 150 calories, and 25g of sugar, much of which comes from fructose syrup, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. That’s actually more sugar than is found in 6 oz. of soda and most of you wouldn’t even consider drinking soda for breakfast.

To cut back on the sugar and to make it a healthier choice, buy plain, unsweetened yogurt and customize it with nuts, seeds, chopped or dried fruit and spices like cinnamon. Then add a bit of natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup. One teaspoon will go a long way here versus the 4 teaspoons or more of the sugars you may not want to be eating in the example above.

And if you’re really adventurous, you can make your own yogurt. I like to do this using my friend Claire's method with the organic milk from a nearby farm. Slowly heat a quart of milk in a pan until it almost reaches boiling. Remove it from the stove and allow it to cool to the point where your (clean) finger can stay in it comfortably for several seconds.

Mix one cup of the milk with a cup of plain yogurt then pour the mixture into the pot of milk and stir. Transfer the culture into a clean glass container (I put it back into the milk bottle), cover lightly and let it sit undisturbed in a warm, dark place for at least 8 hours. The longer it incubates, the thicker it will get. When it reaches the consistency you want, refrigerate it. Use it in your cereal or granola, in a smoothie, or as a snack.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Digest for Week-ending 28 May 2011

This week, it’s all about eating in season, which is a great way to ensure we’re getting the freshest produce with the highest nutrient content. On a health and energetic level, eating in season also naturally gives our bodies what they need to adapt to the seasons’ changing temperatures. Here are some vegetables in the spotlight right now!


Best when eaten just-picked, their true season is short and it’s here for you to take advantage of.


Abundant and powerful, the many types of greens are perfect for detoxing after a long Winter!


Pungent radishes work to help cleanse the liver as well and are high in a key protective vitamin.


Hands down my favorite vegetable that makes its way into both raw and cooked dishes!


Packed with fiber and nutrients, these are a little work, but totally worth the effort!

Vidalia Onions

Both sweet AND healthy, these sweet onions can accompany just about any meal and help you to pass on dessert.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What's in Season? - Vidalia Onions

I love the sweetness and depth of flavor that onions add to a dish and sweet Vidalia onions are in season right now. When I cook, onions are usually the first thing that goes into the pot or pan. Who doesn’t love the smell of sautéing onions?

Onions are a member of the Allium family that includes garlic and leeks. In addition to their vitamin and mineral content, which includes fair amounts of vitamins C and B6, folate, potassium, and manganese, onions are a rich source sulfur containing compounds that combat inflammation, positively influence our cardiovascular systems by lowering triglycerides and cholesterol, and inhibiting the aggregation platelets in the blood. They may provide benefits to our highly sulfated connective tissues and bones.

Onions are rich in the antioxidant quercetin that targets inflammation in the body and has antibacterial properties as well. Onions also offer protection from some forms of cancer when eaten in moderation. I have no problem eating onions on a regular basis though!

Something, I’ve just discovered as well is that the health-promoting benefits of onions are concentrated in the outermost layers, so try to peel away as few layers as possible when preparing your onions. Onions are not part of the Dirty Dozen list of vegetables that are best purchased organic, so conventional is OK.

Add them to salads, soups, grain dishes, eggs, sandwiches and wraps, and guacamole. Skewer them with other vegetables and grill them or sautee them in vegetable broth and serve them as a side dish. There is not limit to the number of ways onions can be eaten.

Do you eat onions and what is your favorite way to cook them??

Friday, May 27, 2011

What's in Season? - Artichokes

Although you might be able to find these year-round in the grocery stores, artichoke season begins in Spring and continues through Fall. I confess that I don’t have a lot of experience with this vegetable aside from already-prepared, marinated artichoke hearts from a jar, but after learning about what they’ve got to offer, I’ve decided that I’m going to give them the consideration they deserve.

Their nutritional content is impressive! A large artichoke has about 60 calories, is high in fiber and vitamins such as C, K, B vitamins (especially folate) and packs a wealth of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese.

Similar to many of the Spring vegetables I’ve featured this week, artichokes are great for helping the liver detoxify and the ancient Egyptians prized them as a health food.

When eaten small, the entire artichoke is edible, however when they get larger, like the size of a softball, the choke becomes surrounded by a hairy layer that needs to be removed to get to the heart and their outer leaves become tough. The inner surface of the leaves remains tender and can be scraped off with the teeth, which is typically the way they’re eaten (after they’re dipped into something tasty, of course!).

Some traditional ways to prepare them include stuffing them with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese then steaming or boiling them. The hearts can also be chopped and added to sauces, dressings, grain dishes and stuffings.

What’s your favorite way to eat artichokes??

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's in Season? - Beets

Is there anyone out there that loves beets as much as me?! They’ve become one of my favorite vegetables and this time of year, they’re particularly valuable for cleansing the body. Beets are a member of the Chenopod family that includes chard, spinach, and quinoa.

The effective nutrients found in beets include some powerful phytonutrients called betalains that function during detoxification in a pathway that involves the superstar antioxidant glutathione.

Betalains also work in the body as antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, betanin, has been shown to inhibit tumor cells growth by combating inflammation in a number of studies using cells from the colon, stomach, nerve, lung, breast, and prostate.

Beets provide carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin which is where they get their red pigment and they support eye and nerve tissue health. The nutrition data for beets can be found here. They are high in vitamin C, folate, potassium, and manganese. To maintain the quality of the nutrients found in beets, it’s best to eat them raw or lightly cooked.

Here’s a quick and easy beet and jicama salad that I prepare often. It’s light and refreshing. Beets are a colorful addition to green salads too and they add natural sweetness to fresh juices. This is a red juice I like to prepare.

What’s your favorite way to eat beets?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What's in Season? - Radishes

Here’s another vegetable that’s perfect for this time of year – radishes. It’s a member of the Brassica family – something I didn’t know until recently. Members of this family of vegetables contain glucosinolates that can protect against carcinogens and induce detoxification enzymes in the liver. Therefore, they can have a cleansing effect in the body, which is what our bodies naturally want to accomplish this time of year.

They’re crunchy juicy, low in calories, full of fiber, and the kick to their flavor makes them great for cleansing the palate. Radishes are a good source of vitamin C, B complex vitamins including folate, K, and calcium. They’re typically added to salads, will spice up a wrap, and make a nice complement to cool dips like hummus. They can also be added to soups.

If you buy them with the green tops attached, you can add these to salads and wraps, as they can actually contain up to six times as much vitamin C as the root! The best way to take advantage of their vitamin C and to preserve its content is to eat both the leaves and roots raw. I’m thinking they’d make a nice addition to pesto and even cold cucumber soups.

What about you? How do you feel about radishes? Are they a regular part of your diet?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What's in Season? - Greens

Isn’t it wonderful that nature provides for us the things we need to stay health and adapt to the seasons? Spring, for example, is the perfect time for fresh greens. It’s their season and the season that is most associated with their cleansing effects and our detoxification organ, the liver. Their color is also associated with Spring, which is a time to renew and refresh vital energy.

Greens aid in purifying the blood, strengthening the immune system, improving liver, gall bladder and kidney function, fighting depression, clearing congestion, improving circulation and keeping your skin clear and blemish free. Members of this family include kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens, arugula, dandelion greens, broccoli rabe, watercress, beet greens, bok choy, napa cabbage, green cabbage, spinach and broccoli.

They are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous and zinc, and are a powerhouse for vitamins A, C, E and K. They are crammed full of fiber, folic acid (derived from the word foliage), chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals.

You may be surprised to know that greens are also high in protein, relatively speaking. In Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live, he outlines the protein and nutritional content in 100 calories of sirloin steak versus that of broccoli, romaine lettuce, and kale.

Food - Protein (g)

Sirloin - 5.4
Broccoli - 11.2
Romaine lettuce - 11.6
Kale - 9.5

Of course you would have to eat 15 – 30 times in weight the amount of vegetables to get the same amount of protein in the meat, but this is a good thing because loading up on vegetables will help fill us up and keep our digestion running smoothly.

So eat them raw in salads, sauté them, add them to soups, stews, and smoothies, and juice them. Get them any way you can think of this time of year and you’ll be doing your body good!

What’s your favorite green vegetable and how do you like to prepare it??

Picture of beautiful dinosaur kale courtesy of Bonnie Rogers.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's in Season? - Asparagus

This week, it’s all about eating in season, which is a great way to ensure we’re getting the freshest produce with the highest nutrient content. On a health and energetic level, eating in season also naturally gives our bodies what they need to adapt to the seasons’ changing temperatures.

One of my favorite vegetables is in season right now and it’s an interesting one: asparagus. While reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I learned about the interesting life of an asparagus plant. Unlike many vegetable plants, asparagus is a perennial, meaning that it grows back every season – for several seasons anyway.

What’s fascinating, though, is that the edible portion that we see only looks that way for about a day. If it’s not cut from the ground, the stalk will grow into a tree about 4 feet tall with lots of branches and needles. Depending on where you're living, asparagus season may have passed or you may still be seeing it.

Interesting as well is that once the stalks are cut from the ground, they begin to decompose as they use its own sugars to try to keep growing. This means that asparagus is best eaten on the day it’s picked, so if you can find it at a roadside stand or a farmer’s market, it’s probably your best bet for tasty spears.

I love it sautéed and sprinkled with lemon juice, fresh garlic and sea salt then added to a salad. It’s also great in egg dishes like frittatas and it makes an amazing creamy soup with sweet potato and onion. And if you want to see the wealth of nutrients in this veggie, look here.

How do you like your asparagus?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Digest for Week-ending 21 May 2011

This week’s posts were all about our trips to the grocery store and how they can keep us on track to healthy eating rather than sabotage our efforts:

Keeping it Real

In general, the healthiest and best food choices don’t come with these and look like what?

A Box in My Shopping Cart

Here is one of the few boxes I put in my cart on my shopping trips and why.

Keeping it Simple

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated and having a few staples on hand will ensure that you’re always making good choices.

What in Your Grocery Bag?

If you’re taking reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, that’s great. Just be aware that you may be taking home more than you think on your trips.

How Organic is That?

What exactly does the USDA Organic label mean and what are other clues that something is organic versus conventionally produced?

A Successful Shopping Trip

How and when to shop make all the difference with our diets. Do you follow these few simple rules?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Successful Shopping Trip

All this week, I talked about what we buy at the grocery store and how it doesn’t take much to have a healthy, delicious meal. But when we enter those four walls packed with tens of thousands of items to choose from, what’s the best way to navigate our way through to get the most success out of our shopping trip?

Don’t shop for groceries when you’re hungry. We all know what happens when we go shopping on an empty stomach. We over fill our carts and bring home items that we’ll more than likely regret eating later on. One of the best ways to prevent ourselves from eating something is to simply not bring it home.

Make a list and stick to it. This takes discipline, especially when you’re faced with the monumental choices on the shelves, but when you realize that the majority of the processed food items in the store are made from depleted/highly processed wheat, corn, soy, and sugar, they may seem less appealing. It also helps if you follow rule number 1 above.

Stick with the perimeter of the store. Most of the healthiest foods are located along the walls of the store in coolers. This can be a good thing if we can avoid walking through the aisles. However, if you’re just running in for milk or eggs, which are normally in the back of the store, you may be tempted to cut through the cookie aisle. I am thankfully at the point that I can look and not touch (if we touch it, we’re more likely to buy it), but for those of you who are not, maybe choose the canned veggie aisle to get to the eggs.

I have noticed, however, that some of the larger chains are working around the perimeter shopping idea. The other day, I was looking for frozen berries and found them in a freezer in the middle of the store. Either way, if you are “going in” for frozen berries or even coconut milk or beans, try to keep it quick.

Even with produce, choose whole, unprocessed over prepared. Peeled and chopped butternut squash may be a time saver, but it can cost several times more than the same amount of whole butternut squash. The same with chopped carrots, broccoli, shredded cheese, etc. The one thing I sometimes find with these conveniences as well is that they become dry and can go bad more quickly. So, for less money, buy the whole food and spend a couple of extra minutes peeling and chopping. Besides, it’s a great way to get an upper body workout! My arms were burning last night after shredding a beet–no weights necessary : )

Friday, May 20, 2011

How Organic is That?

We’re told these days that we should buy and eat organic as much as possible, especially when eating from the dirty dozen. But how do we differentiate between organic and conventionally-grown produce in the market when it’s not advertised as either?

The best way to tell is from the label on the produce. An organic item will have a 5 digit number beginning with a “9” and a non-organic fruit or vegetable will have a 4 digit number. For example, I just bought organic granny smith apples with the item number 94017 and conventional avocados numbered 4225. So that seems simple enough.

But what about processed, packaged foods, like cereals or crackers, that claim to be organic? There are three ways to tell “how” organic an item is. If the front of the package carries the USDA Organic label like the one above, then that the item is made with 95% organic ingredients. The food in the picture above is actually packaged lettuce and it therefore carries the label.

Some labels may say Made with 70% Organic Ingredients, which means exactly what it says. And if the package does not say organic on the front, then read the ingredient list to find out if the item contains any organic ingredients. Anna Lappe explains this in the video below:

Are there certain foods that you consistently buy organic? Or maybe some that you don’t? What are they?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What's in Your Grocery Bag?

We’re all encouraged these days to take reusable grocery bags with us to the market to reduce the amount of plastic we use and throw away. This has become a habit for me–in fact, I try to leave the bags in my car at all times so that I have no excuse not to use them.

However, many people don’t realize that it’s very important to regularly wash cloth shopping bags to prevent cross contamination of foods that lead to food-borne illness that can occur due to bacteria left behind from previous uses. For example, carrying raw meat in a bag and then using it for raw vegetables during the next shopping trip.

A study performed by The School of Public Health at The University of Arizona in Tuscon tested 84 reusable shopping bags collected from people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Tucson. A number of coliform bacteria were detected in half of the bags tested, with E. coli found in 12% of the bags. In addition, they infected empty reusable bags with Salmonella and placed them in warm car trunks and found that the bacteria increased in numbers 10-fold within 2 hours. This means if you're storing your bags in your car, like me, it's even more important to keep them clean.

Thankfully, washing the bags, even in the absence of bleach, reduced the bacteria to undetectable levels, indicating that washing alone is an effective cleaning method. If your bags are plastic-lined or laminated, a disinfectant spray can be used between uses. Even a wipe down with warm, soapy water and drying them well would be better than not washing them at all.

Are you washing your reusable bags???

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Keeping it Simple

I’m big on simplifying things and I’ve written before about ways to do that, with personal care products, for example. This can also apply to food and our diets and is a particularly good idea if we want to maintain healthy eating habits in the midst of overwhelming schedules.

So how do we do this? Well, we plan and cook ahead. Here’s one example. Last week, I made a large batch of plain quinoa that I kept in the fridge. And then it became the focus of several very simple meals.

For lunch one day, I mixed it with avocado, organic strawberries, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. And that was lunch. It was simple and delicious. I also mixed it with warm nut milk, nuts, seeds, and cinnamon for a hearty breakfast. Then I combined it with leftover butternut squash, chopped kale, bit of vegetable broth and some seasonings for a warm dish.

Keep a few healthy staples on hand and ready to eat and you’ll never have an excuse to eat poorly. It’s also better for the digestion and less likely that you’ll over eat when you keep your meals simple. Ever eaten a dozen different dishes from a buffet and felt awful afterwards? I’ve been there and the aftermath is no fun.

What are some of your favorite simple meals? Share them here!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Box in My Shopping Cart

OK, after going on yesterday about how much better it is to buy whole, natural foods that don’t come in packages or with labels, I’m going to confess here that there was a box of something in my grocery cart today: Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal. This is one of my few exceptions. It’s similar to Grape Nuts in texture (do you remember Euell Gibbons?), yet it has some very distinctive and special features:

It is made without flour of any kind. Rather than ground flour that is stripped of vital nutrients, the cereal is made from sprouted grains and legumes. The sprouting process amplifies the nutritional value and makes the proteins and carbohydrates more easily digestible.

It is slowly baked to preserve as much of the healthy goodness as possible. Why go to the trouble of sprouting if you’re going to kill all the beneficial enzymes and nutrients? The gentle baking process helps to maintain the value of the ingredients.

It’s simple. There are no added preservatives, no refined sugar, and nothing artificial. It’s not even supplemented with vitamins or minerals. Since the grains and legumes are whole (actually better than whole after sprouting), there’s no need for fortification. The only added ingredients are water during the sprouting process and sea salt. It’s that simple.

It’s a complete protein source. The combination of grains and legumes provides all the essential amino acids we need in our diets.

To eat it, I’ll usually add almond or hemp milk, nuts, seeds, and sometimes a little dried fruit. I’ll have it cold or lightly warmed. It fills me up and keeps me satisfied for several hours.

What’s in your favorite “healthy” box? I’d love to know…

Monday, May 16, 2011

Keeping it Real

What does the inside of your shopping cart look like? Is it filled with boxes and cans and jars and bags that have been transformed into things that carry health claims on the label? Or, does it contain items that look like something that may have been grown or raised, that don’t have a label, or that have only one ingredient on them.

Isn’t it ironic, but the foods that offer the most authentic and powerful health benefits don’t say it on them? When you pick up a bunch of broccoli, you don’t see a label that says, “contains 100% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C”, or “contains 6 grams of fiber per serving”, or “part of a heart healthy diet”. Yet, the bunch of broccoli provides things such as these and more.

To keep it real and healthy, buy as many foods as possible that don’t carry a label or that are still in their natural state. This will provide you and your family with the most nutrition and variety, the least amount of unwanted and unhealthy ingredients, and the least amount of waste from packaging–if you haven’t guessed, I’m all about reducing the amount of waste we produce.

What are some of the packaged foods you buy that you’d like to eliminate from your diet?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Digest for Week-ending 14 May 2011

Last week, I wrote about items in the kitchen or household that could double as personal care products. Using them for these purposes ultimately saves money, space, our bodies, and the environment. What could be better than that?

The Beauty of Baking Soda

Baking soda has hundreds of household uses. Well, here are my three favorite “body” uses for baking soda that I practice all the time.

A Tropical Experience

Coconut oil is a great source of fat in the diet, but it also makes a versatile and effective beauty product.

An Edible Face Scrub/Mask

Three simple ingredients make a gentle and delicious mask that leaves your skin dewy and soft.

A Milky Hair Mask

This quick and easy milk mask will leave your hair SHINY!!

Soothing Relief

How do you relieve puffy eyes after a long, sleepless night? Try these simple and proven remedies.

Drink Your Aloe Vera

Although aloe vera is typically known for its skin soothing properties, it provides health benefits when taken internally.

Drink Your Aloe Vera

When we think of aloe vera, we think of a topical gel that is used to treat dry skin, sunburn, bug bites, and skin irritation. Yet, aloe vera juice can also be taken internally as it provides many health-promoting qualities. Here are just a few:

- It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties and can help cleanse the colon.
- It contains mono- and polysaccharides, which can boost the immune system.
- It’s a source of anti-oxidants that help to fight free-radical damage.
- It contains MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, a powerful anti-inflammatory that helps to dissolve calcified deposits in the body and make them soluble so that they can be excreted.
- It is a source of eight essential (and many non-essential) amino acids and a number of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, C, E, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, calcium.

You can buy aloe vera already extracted from the aloe vera plant, or if you juice fruits and vegetables, pass the leaves through a juicer. The picture above shows a juice combination that I like to drink often. I use a large chunk of the leaf for each drink. Alternatively, peel the leaf and blend the flesh into a smoothie.

Have you ever tried aloe vera juice? Please share your experience with it here!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Soothing Relief

You stayed up late, or you were crying, or you ate a salty meal. Either way, you woke up with puffy eyes. There are two very common ways to remedy that situation that you may have heard of:

Tea bags – Steep two black tea bags in hot water then drain and let cool before lying down and applying to eyes for 10-15 minutes. Maybe have a nice cup of tea while they cool : )

Cucumber slices – apply cool cucumber slices to the eyes while lying down.

Both work because of their astringent properties that actually shrink the skin in the eye area. The high water content in the cucumber is also cooling and can reduce the swelling. In fact, anything cool, such as two chilled spoons placed over the eyes will also work. Combine that with drinking lots of water to flush out any excess salt, and you’ll relieve the puffiness naturally. Maybe even add a couple of cucumber slices to your water too for a refreshing taste.

What's your trick for naturally reducing puffy eyes or dark circles?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Milky Hair Mask

Here’s a quick tip for using the milk you may have in your fridge. I haven’t drank cow’s milk in a very long time but I learned this trick many years ago that uses milk for having shiny hair:

Shampoo your hair, then before rinsing out the suds, pour on a cup of milk (preferably organic) and work it in for a few minutes. Rinse and then style as usual.

When I first tried this, I was shocked at how shiny my hair was. It also made it feel fuller, with no chemicals or artificial ingredients that can get absorbed into the skin or swallowed or washed down the drain.

I’ve found lots of other uses for milk online, such as in the bath or as a face wash, but I’ve never tried them. If you have, I’d love to hear your experiences!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Edible Face Scrub/Mask

Today’s post is about a very simple exfoliating scrub/face mask I’ve been making for years with ingredients from the kitchen. Here are some of the things I love about it:

  • It’s made fresh so there’s no need for preservatives
  • It’s made fresh so it doesn’t take up space in the bathroom
  • It costs pennies to make
  • There's no waste
  • It uses edible ingredients so there’s no need to worry about ingesting it
  • It’s safe to wash down the drain
  • It’s hydrating so it leaves the skin dewy

1 teaspoon raw honey

1 teaspoon coconut oil

½ teaspoon ground flax seeds

Mix the three ingredients together. Work it into dry skin; if the skin is too wet, the mixture will become very runny. Rinse with warm water immediately or allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes, then rinse.

It never fails, my skin is glowing after using this mask. If you don’t have flax seeds, try almond meal or even ground oatmeal. Anything that will add a fine grit will work OK.

Have a glowing day!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Tropical Experience

Coconut oil is a good oil for cooking foods at high heat because it has a high smoking point and won’t break down as easily as olive oil. I like the combination of coconut oil with sautéed greens and in soups that I’m adding in coconut milk. I’ve also used it to make organic popcorn on the stovetop and for baking.

Yet, I find that more and more I use it as a personal care product more than as food. It has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties that make it a good choice for the skin. Here are some of the ways I like to use it:

As a skin moisturizer – It makes a great total body moisturizer that’s simple and free from synthetic or toxic ingredients.

A deep conditioner for hair – Work a bit of coconut oil into the hair and cover your head in a warm towel for a deep condition. I like to add a bit into my hair before my hot yoga class and let the heat of the room work its magic in it. Apply shampoo to the hair before adding too much water for best results in getting the oil out afterwards.

Lip Balm – Just rub it in for soft, supple lips. Again, because it’s something edible, you’re not ingesting compounds that might otherwise be found in other lip balms.

Personal Lubricant - It's a simple and effective product to use for intimacy with your partner and free of added anything that may cause sensitivities or allergic reactions.

Oil Pulling – This is an Ayurveda practice that involves swishing oil in your mouth for 10 – 20 minutes, first thing in the morning before consuming food or liquids. Spit the oil out, then follow with a saltwater rinse and/or brushing the teeth with a natural toothpaste. In his book Perfect Health, Deepak Chopra explains that oil pulling can be done “to purify the taste-buds and the entire system.” At first it may sound unappealing, but there are believed to be many benefits to doing this. Here a just a few:

  • It moisturizes and strengthens the gums
  • Removes unwanted bacteria from the mouth
  • It is said to draw toxins out of the body
  • It whitens the teeth naturally

It can also be done with sesame or sunflower oil, or whatever healthy oil you have on hand.

Have you ever tried coconut oil? What are some of your favorite ways to use it?

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Beauty of Baking Soda

This week, I’m devoting my posts to common household items and their not-so-common uses. There are lots of reasons why I love this topic:

  • The items are food-based which means that they are generally safe, non-toxic, and biodegradeable;
  • They’re usually on hand and can be used at a moment’s notice;
  • They help simplify and save space in our cabinets and closets by allowing us to buy less “stuff”;
  • They save us money since we can use them to replace other, often much more expensive, products.

One of my favorite multi-use items from the kitchen is baking soda. Over the years I’ve come to use it for so many things and lately as a simple but effective personal care tool. Here are some of the ways I use it:

To brush my teeth. I’ll either use it alone, or dip my toothpaste into it and gently brush to remove stains. Incidentally, years ago I mentioned to my dentist that my back teeth were sensitive when I would eat tart apples. He said to try brushing with baking soda first to see if it would help. It did, and the sensitivity is actually gone. I’m not sure if it’s the baking soda that did it, but it did help with isolated incidents.

To clarify my hair. Even without using lots of gels and crèmes and mousses in my hair, every few weeks I like to strip my hair of the residue that builds up from shampoos, conditioners, and the environment. I add a teaspoon of baking soda to the shampoo in my hand and mix it together. Then I apply it to my hair and wash as usual. It works just as well if not better than clarifying shampoos and costs much less.

As a exfoliating face wash. You’re probably thinking, what? Well, I wanted to exfoliate one day and decided to put some baking soda into my face wash, similar to what I do for my hair. The result was glowing skin that wasn’t dry. I sometimes use it alone to wash my face as well. It has a very fine abrasive texture that is gentle on the skin, unlike some scrubs on the market that contain, for example, crushed nut shells. And once again, I no longer feel the need to buy a face scrub.

There are hundreds of uses for baking soda, but I’d love to know if and how you use it in your beauty routine? Please share it here!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Digest for Week-ending 7 May 2011

This week’s posts were all about the liquid in our diets because although we may not think too much about them, they make a significant contribution to the total calories and overall nutritional content we feed our bodies.

A Steaming Cup of Teeccino

Trying to reduce the amount of coffee (caffeine) you consume? Try a delicious cup of Teeccino.

An Alternative to Dairy – Almond Milk

For those of you who are lactose intolerant or suffer from milk allergies, almond milk and other nut milks are great substitutes. Here’s a recipe for making it at home.

Upgrade Your Daily Beverages

If you normally reach for a soda or juice drink with your meals, the empty calories and sugar will add up. Here are some drinks to try instead.

Simply Rehydrate

Are you’re using sugary sports drinks to recover after a workout? Here are a few alternatives with less sugar and calories.

Liquid Diet

As a base for soups, stews, and grain dishes, this is one of my favorite products on the market today.

How do You Down Your Breakfast?

If the thought of “eating” in the morning doesn’t appeal to you, why not try a smoothie for the nourishment you need to start your day right?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How Do Your Down Your Breakfast?

I’ve heard so many people say that they just can’t seem to eat breakfast in the morning because they’re simply not ready to eat that early, yet many of them have no problem drinking a cup of coffee.

OK, so if you’re not ready to chew on a piece of toast, scrambled eggs, or a bowl of oatmeal, how about drinking your meal? What if you could get the necessary protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats needed to fuel your body and brain after your overnight fast (i.e., break the fast), would you do it?

If so, then try a smoothie for breakfast. They’re quick to whip up, can be concocted in an infinite number of ways, and are portable too. So if your other “reason” for not eating breakfast is time, you can quickly prepare it and take it with you.

Here’s one “high energy” protein smoothie that will get me through a long morning or I like after a tough workout:

A scoop of whey or hemp protein powder

1.5 c milk (whatever milk you’re drinking. I like hemp and almond), or water

½ frozen banana

½ c frozen blueberries or other berry

1 T nut butter or ground flax seeds

heaping spoon of yogurt or small chunk of avocado

1 t honey or real maple syrup

sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cardamom

For a green smoothie, add a handful of baby greens like spinach, lettuce, or even kale. You can also reduce the amount of protein powder if you’re adding the milk, nut butter and/or yogurt. Whip it all up in the blender, then transfer it into your travel mug or bottle (I like my LifeFactory glass bottle because it has a wide mouth that works well with thicker beverages like smoothies), and go.

What’s in your smoothie?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Liquid Diet

This entire week, I’ve been talking about liquids in the diet. Mostly because many of us tend to forget about or discount the impact that the liquids we choose have on our waistline, mood, and health. It’s almost like they don’t count.

I frequently make soups or use broths for cooking grains or sauces and there are lots of choices out there. There are ready-made broths in cans and cartons, bouillon cubes and granules or powders. Ideally, a home-made stock is the best option, but we don't always have the time for that.

One of the products I’ve come to love is something called Better Than Bouillon. It’s an organic, concentrated vegetable paste that is free from some of the ingredients found in many powdered and cube broth concentrates, such as:

  • partially hydrogenated oils
  • monosodium glutamate
  • disodium inositate
  • corn starch
  • corn syrup solids
  • artificial caramel color
  • TBHQ

They are made primarily from meat, seafood, or vegetables that gives them a rich, savory flavor. The bases also come in a glass jar so there’s no BPA to worry about from a can and they take up less space than cans. Just one teaspoon of the concentrated paste equals one bouillon cube or one 8 oz. can of broth.

I will say that it is still high in sodium but still lower than canned. For example, a teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon has ~700 mg sodium and a can of 50% less sodium chicken broth has 900 mg. Relative to full-sodium broth, then, Better Than Bouillon’s sodium content is much lower.

Try it in soups, stews, grain dishes, gravies, and sauces. I’ve even used it as a savory drink instead of tea (not full-strength, though). It's one of my favorite products out there and I hope you get an opportunity to try it!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Simply Rehydrate

Does your sports drink glow in the dark? Does it come in as many colors as M & Ms? Does it contain high fructose corn syrup? If so, it might be time to try some alternative beverages for rehydrating after a strenuous workout. Here are a few to consider:

Water – I’ve mentioned plain, filtered water many times here for good reason. It’s the most inexpensive and most practical drink to reach for and the best source for hydration available. If you have a filtering system at home, you can get it right from the tap and keep it in a plastic-free water bottle.

Salt Water – We do lose electrolytes when we sweat and if this is a concern for you (e.g., do you experience muscle cramps during your workout?), try adding a pinch of Himalayan or Celtic Sea salt to your water. Both contain minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and sodium that we can lose during strenuous exercise.

Coconut Water – This is a fun drink that has gained in popularity, especially among the Bikram yoga crowd. It’s high in electrolytes, especially potassium with magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and sodium too. It does contain natural sugars, so drink this in moderation and also check the labels for added sugar, which is found in some brands.

What’s your favorite way to rehydrate? I’d love to know…

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Upgrade Your Daily Beverages

Are you a soda or a juice fanatic? Do you have at least one sugary soft drink per day? If so, consider this. Just one 12 oz bottle of cola contains 39 grams of sugar (actually high fructose corn syrup). That’s over 9 teaspoons of sugar – over ½ a pound of sugar per week, 31 pounds per year.

According to the USDA, a typical American is consuming ~131 pounds of sugar per year, with the majority of that coming from soft drinks and sweetened, processed foods.

Would you put 9 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee? I’m guessing no. Yet, this is what we’re consuming when we rely on sweetened drinks for hydration, which, by the way, do a terrible job of hydrating the body. All that sugar puts us on a roller coaster ride with our energy and blood sugar levels and becomes a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break free from.

So what are some alternatives to your daily carbonated, sugary beverage?

Water, of course. Not so interesting or fun, but the best form of hydration you can choose. We should be getting half of our body weight in ounces per day of water. How can we make water more interesting? By adding a shot of something tasty, like pomegranate or cranberry juice, a squeeze of lemon or cucumber slices. They all add a refreshing flavor to water without adding much if any sugar or added calories.

Herbal teas. Hot or cold, herbal teas like rooibos, jasmine, chamomile, mint, honeybush all have lots of flavor with little or no calories. Add a touch of honey for a bit of sweetness.

If it‘s the carbonation you’re after, try flavored, sparkling water or add your own flavor as above with a shot of juice. Another alternative is Kombucha, a fermented tea with a refreshing tanginess that comes in many flavors. There are many brands out there to try. It can also be cultured at home using a starter culture.

What’s your favorite healthy, hydrating beverage? Share it here!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Alternative to Dairy - Almond Milk

For those of you that are lactose intolerant or perhaps vegan, there are lots of alternative milk products on the market that contain no dairy. Over the last few years, I’ve cut back on dairy considerably and I’ve tried many different milk-like drinks including rice, hemp seed, and almond milks.

Many are good, but can often contain added, unnecessary ingredients or sugars that I would rather not consume on a daily basis. So to get around this, I’ve been making my own fresh almond milk at home. It’s very easy, requires only a few ingredients and can be tailored to your taste preferences. There are several variations online to the recipe I use below. I've also made a video to illustrate the process:

Almond Milk

1 cup shelled, raw almonds

3-4 cups filtered water

¼ tsp sea salt

4 medjool dates, or other sweetener (can add more if a sweeter milk is desired)

Soak the almonds for several hours or overnight in filtered water in a glass jar in the fridge. Change the water once or twice during that time.

Drain the almonds and place into a blender. Add enough water to bring the volume up to 4 cups, then add, sea salt, and pitted dates.

Blend on high for one to two minutes. Strain the milk using a fine strainer. Add cinnamon or other spices if desired.

Store the milk in an airtight container in the refrigerator and shake well before use. The leftover almond pulp can also be used as an addition to a variety of dishes or recipes including pancake or muffin batters, dips, spreads, stuffings, smoothies, oatmeal and yogurt.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Steaming Cup of Teeccino

I have been drinking coffee for many years and it’s somewhat of a ritual. The smell of fresh-brewed coffee is one of the most familiar and inviting of aromas. I almost like it better than the actual taste. Yet, I’ve noticed that as my diet has gotten cleaner, I’ve developed more of a sensitivity to the caffeine in coffee. Sometimes it’s the jittery, wired feeling, and sometimes it’s irritating to my stomach so I’ve cut back dramatically and instead will drink green or herbal teas.

Still, I’m in love with the whole steaming-cup-of-coffee experience which is why I was so excited when a friend turned me on to Teeccino. It’s an herbal drink that looks, smells, and tastes a lot like coffee, yet it’s caffeine free and made with ingredients such as carob, barley, chicory, dates, almonds, and figs. It is non-acidic and contains the soluble fiber inulin from chicory that supports healthy gut bacteria and helps to lower total cholesterol. It is also a source of potassium.

When I first tried it, I was surprised and delighted at how similar to coffee it tasted. It has that full-bodied flavor that I enjoy so much about coffee with a slight hint of sweetness. I’ve been drinking it almost daily ever since discovering it. It comes ground in different flavors and can be prepared the same way as coffee. It can also be purchased in “tea” bags, which are great for traveling. I’m also starting to see it in most major grocery stores, so you may not have to go far to find it.

So if you're thinking about giving yourself a break from coffee, then give Teeccino a try. You may just like it… : )