Thursday, April 16, 2015

Simple, All-Natural Homemade Toothpaste


We all know about eating healthy and as organically as we can, but now I am concerned about a new issue. It seems some studies claim fluoride, when taken daily, can be toxic. Since most of us receive fluoride unwillingly and unknowingly in our water supply, having it in our toothpastes can lead to overexposure. It is not a nutrient, therefore our bodies do not require it.  Dr. Joseph Mercola has found that too much fluoride affects children's IQ, causes thyroid issues, and can even cause cancer. Most of Europe -- 97% -- has banned it from their water supply, and the claims that it fights tooth decay are also being questioned.

These concerns led me to create my own toothpaste, which tastes just as good as the commercial brands. I make the paste with coconut oil, which is known to be antibacterial and helps guard against tooth decay. If you want more of a whitening paste, add a drop of hydrogen peroxide.

Here is the recipe. It's great fun to make with the sprites!

Ingredients:
  • 3 tbs Organic Baking Soda
  • 3 tbs Coconut Oil
  • 20 drops of peppermint or cinnamon oil
  • 2 tsp glycerin
  • a few drops of stevia or one packet of xylitol (which also fights tooth decay)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What to Do When Organic Isn't an Option

Whether you're stuck in a food desert or have a tight food budget, you don't need to be exposed to dangerous pesticides.


Despite the fact that organic food is your healthiest option, buying it isn't always feasible. A recent study conducted by the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center found that, overall, organic foods cost 47 percent more. And if cost isn't a limiting factor, not everyone has equal access to fresh produce (let alone organic produce), such as those living in food deserts.

Organic trumps all, since it's better for you and the environment, but the Consumer Reports study points out that eating conventionally grown produce is still better than not eating any fruits and vegetables. Here are five ways to protect yourself if conventional produce is your only option.

#1. Look for Country of Origin
Knowing where your food comes from matters. If you're stuck buying conventional produce, aim for these very-low-risk options, according to Consumer Reports:

• Asparagus grown in Mexico
• Avocado grown in Chile, Mexico, or Peru
• Blueberries grown in Uruguay
• Broccoli grown in America
• Cabbage grown in Canada, Mexico, or America
• Cantaloupe from Honduras or Mexico. Avoid those grown in America
Celery grown in Mexico
• Cilantro grown in America
• Eggplant grown in Honduras
• Green onions grown in Mexico
• Mangoes from Mexico
• Mushrooms grown in Canada
• Onions grown in Peru or America
• Papaya grown in Belize, Brazil, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, or America
• Pineapples grown in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, or America
• Prunes grown in America
• Spinach grown in Mexico
• Sweet corn grown in Mexico or America
• Watermelon grown in Guatemala
• Winter squash grown in Guatemala, but not America

#2. Avoid the Worst Offenders
The Environmental Working Group identifies the most pesticide-laden produce on the market, naming it the Dirty Dozen list. Limit eating these foods whenever organic options aren't available.

To add to this list, Consumer Reports says high-risk produce (in terms of pesticides) include peaches, tangerines, plums (from Chile, but not America), apples (from America, but not New Zealand), green beans, bell peppers, hot peppers, and sweet potatoes.

#3. Clean Your Produce
Thoroughly washing your produce can help clean off the pesticides. Researchers at Consumer Reports recommend washing fruits and vegetables for 30 seconds to a minute, using a produce brush when possible. They even suggest washing foods that you're going to peel to help avoid contaminating your clean food with pesticides.

Consider making your own produce wash.

#4. Grow Your Own
Don't want pesticides in your food? You can choose not to put them there if you grow your own food. You'd be surprised what you can grow, even in a small space.

#5. Don't Rely on Organic Canned Foods
Organic canned foods sounds like a great way to eat organic on the cheap, but you're just swapping out one evil (pesticides) for another (BPA). The only organic canned-food brand that does not contain BPA or harmful BPA replacements is Eden Organics. Opt for frozen or dried organic foods, instead. Dried organic beans are not expensive, and Consumer Reports found that frozen organic foods are sometimes cheaper than conventionally grown ones.

Why You Should Never Eat Nonorganic Green Beans

For real. You definitely don't want these on your plate, Consumer Reports finds out.


Sometimes organic just isn't available. So is it safe to go the nonorganic route if there's no other feasible option? While organic is always best if you're trying to protect your family from chemicals linked to breast cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, ADHD, thyroid problems, and other ills, Consumer Reports recently released a super-handy report that helps you figure out which veggies are riskier choices than others whenever you're in a position where organic isn't an option.

For instance, researchers found nonorganic green beans to be among the riskiest produce picks you could eat.

In the report, veteran researcher Charles Benbrook, PhD, a collaborator on the Consumer Reports report and leader of the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, had this to say: "Acephate, and its breakdown product methamidophos, on green beans was the No. 1 risk driver in 2013. That use accounted for around one-half of total risk across all pesticides and food."

Because of this, green beans fall into the report's "very high risk" category. And the thing about green beans is that they are consistently contaminated with toxic pesticides. Looking at the measure of both the amount of pesticide residues found on the beans and the chemicals' toxicity, green beans have landed on the very-high-risk category nearly every year since testing began in 1992.

The Consumer Reports' From Crop to Table Pesticide Use in Produce explains that the organophosphate chemical acephate is among the most concerning chemicals showing up on green beans, despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency canceled its use in 2009. (Organophosphate bug-killing chemicals are associated with brain damage in people. That makes sense, since they are designed to scramble a pest's nervous system.)

The Environmental Working Group recently also came out with its list of pesticide-laden produce, calling it the 2015 Dirty Dozen list. To add to this body of research, Consumer Reports' report on green beans and other high-risk produce (in terms of pesticides)—including peaches, tangerines, plums (from Chile, but not America), apples (from America, but not New Zealand), green beans, bell peppers, hot peppers, and sweet potatoes—makes it easier for you to make smarter choices while shopping for produce. (Be empowered by this knowledge; don't shy away from eating produce, since eating more veggies has consistently been shown to help you live longer.)

If you find it's difficult to get your hands on organic produce, use these 5 great tips on what to do if organic isn't available.
[via Rodale News]

12 Fruits and Veggies You Should Avoid (If Buying Non-Organic)

Contrary to the old adage, an apple a day may not keep the doctor away. According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, apples topped the list as the most pesticide-contaminated produce for the fifth year in a row. Peaches and nectarines round out the top three “dirtiest” foods while avocados, sweet corn and pineapples are among the cleanest. EWG’s annual Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists rank fruits and vegetables according to pesticide residue levels reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).


Despite growing consumer demand for pesticide-free fruits and vegetables evident in increased organic food sales, pesticides were found on nearly two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the USDA, even in some cases after they had been washed and peeled.

“The bottom line is people do not want to eat pesticides with their fruits and vegetables,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s president and cofounder. “That’s why we will continue telling shoppers about agricultural chemicals that turn up on their produce, and we hope we will inform, and ultimately, empower them to eat cleaner.”

165 different pesticides were identified on the USDA food samples with 99 percent of apples, 98 percent of peaches and 97 percent of nectarines testing positive for at least one residue. Cherry tomatoes, grapes, snap peas and potatoes were also among the most contaminated with potatoes averaging more pesticides by weight than any other produce. For the third year in a row, EWG also expanded the Dirty Dozen list with a Plus category to include hot peppers and leafy greens that contain trace amounts of highly hazardous pesticides, including organophosphate and carbamate insecticides. Acephate, chlorpyrifos and oxamyl (highly toxic insecticides) are banned on some crops but still permitted on hot peppers. And although pesticides DDE and dieldrin were banned years ago, residue from agricultural soils is still found on leafy greens grown today.

Pesticides have been linked to a number of negative impacts on the environment and human health, including depression and suicide in farmers, decreasing bee populations and increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. A recent study found lower pesticide levels in people who eat organic food, and EWG confirms that the best way for consumers to avoid pesticides in food is to purchase organic produce if possible. If food accessibility or financial restrictions limit access to organic foods, the Clean 15 list highlights produce with the lowest levels of pesticide exposure and is also a good option.

“We are saying, eat your fruits and vegetables,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst. “But know which ones have the highest amounts of pesticides so you can opt for the organic versions, if available and affordable, or grab a snack off the Clean Fifteen.”
[via EcoWatch]

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

7 Egg Label Claims You Need to Know


For the first time in more than 50 years, eggs could be sold in a new healthy light and not with a cholesterol warning. This all depends if the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee files its springtime report with USDA and HHS (after the public comment period), and sticks to its decision to no longer caution against eating foods that contain cholesterol.

Either way, eggs are great any time of the day; for breakfast, lunch or dinner or even a quick snack, they provide a ton of nutrition for low cost, and they don’t take long to prepare. So what kinds of eggs should you choose? Here are some of the different ways eggs are marketed in the US:
  • Cage-free or free-roaming: Over 90 percent of hens are raised in cages that are between 48 and 68 square inches. Birds that are cage-free or free-roaming are not caged; however, they likely were still raised within the confines of a small building and generally do not have access to the outdoors. So this is a distinction without much of a difference.
  • Certified humane: For a farm to make this claim, it must meet specific criteria: The hens may not be caged; their feed must be vegetarian and contain no antibiotics; and the birds need to live in a natural environment that allows for behaviors like preening and scratching.
  • Fertile: These are eggs that, when incubated, will develop into chicks. They are no more nutritious than other eggs and are usually priced higher than others. Usually fertile eggs are cage free and come from hen houses where roosters roam as well; some consumers believe this is a more natural habitat.
  • Grass-fed/Pastured: There is no USDA-approved definition of this term when it comes to hens. Farms touting grass-fed egg laying hens claim their hens are as close to being “wild” as possible. Grass-fed hens are usually allowed to roam freely and so they eat a variety of things found in their natural habitat: grass, bugs, and whatever animals they might catch and kill. All of these (individually and together) contain adequate protein. (Including vegetation) Because this term is not USDA regulated, if you are interested in purchasing grass-fed eggs it may be best to get to know your farmer and their farming practices.
  • Hormone free: The use of hormones in poultry has been banned since the 1960s. So by law, all eggs are hormone-free. If a carton offers this claim alone, it’s a waste of money if it costs more.
  • Natural: This is another meaningless term. According to regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, no additives or colors can ever be added to eggs.
  • USDA-certified organic: This means that the hens have eaten only organic feed and grain grown without fungicides, herbicides, commercial fertilizers, and pesticides and that their diet hasn’t contained any animal or poultry by-products. The hens also have not been given any antibiotics or growth hormones, and they’ve been allowed access to the outdoor.
So what are the best eggs for your nutrition buck? Look for pastured eggs or those that have access to the outdoors (although this is no guarantee); also get to know your local farmers and find out how their chickens are raised – this is your best bet for the best nutrition and for supporting your local economy and community.

According to Mother Earth News, one (of many) study demonstrated that free-range or pasture-raised chicken eggs have four to six times more vitamin D (one of the only natural sources), three times more vitamin E, two-thirds more vitamin A, one third less cholesterol, and seven times more beta carotene. They also have two times more omega-3 essential fatty acids, and some would say a better taste. Buying eggs from a local farmer also ensures their freshness, you know they were produced only days before.

In any case, eggs are a great all day long and all year round!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

7 Natural and Healthy Foods To Boost Your Mood

We did a little research and compared recent studies in order to build the ultimate list of healthy foods, which can help in our constant fight against stress, anxiety and depression. Feel free to browse through the pages and see which healthy foods to eat in order to feel happier.

Dark Chocolate

It's no surprise that chocolate is first on our list, but it's good to know that there is a little science behind the theory that eating chocolate makes us happy. Consuming dark chocolate every day for two weeks (1.4 ounces of it) will reduce the stress hormones, cortisol included. According to the experts we have to thank the antioxidants in chocolate. Just stick to those 1.4 ounces or you may find yourself in a world of stress when you see some extra pounds in the mirror.


Carbs

Many believe that carbs make you fat. Well they don't, in fact they can be a great mood buster. According to a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who followed a very-low-carbohydrate diet – felt victims to depression, anger, bad mood and anxiety than those who followed a low-fat, high-carb diet, focused on low-fat dairy, whole grains, beans and fruits.

Carbs stimulate the production of serotonin – a feel-good brain chemical.


Fruits and Vegetables

In order to eat healthy we must turn our attention to foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible. We stumbled upon a recent study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, that evolved around 3.500 people eating a whole foods diet rich program. The results have show that they were less likely to feel depressed than those who ate fried foods, processed meats and other high fat refined dairy products.

Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables as well as omega -3 fatty acids are always associated with good mood. Folate (a Vitamin B) found in dark green vegetables like spinach or in beans and citrus affects the neurotransmitters that are in charge of our mood.

Fish

Omega 3 is a key mood-boosting nutrient found in oily, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and rainbow trout. They alter the brain chemicals (dopamine and serotonin) which are directly linked with our mood. Dopamine is a rewarding chemical released by the brain as a reaction to pleasurable experiences, while the lack of serotonin is associated with aggression, depression and suicidal tendencies.

Saffron

There are many evidences from earlier studies that support the claim that saffron helps decline mood swings and depression. In fact this plant has the same antidepressant effect as the antidepressants fluoxetine (Prozac) and imipramine (Tofranil). It works by the same principal as Prozac, transmitting more feel good serotonin to the brain.

Coconut

Did you know that only the scent of coconut may blunt your natural response to “flight or fight” by slowing the heart rate? A small pilot research done by the Colombia University has shown that coconut fragrance recovers the blood pressure more quickly. Inhaling a pleasant scent may enhance awareness by relieving the reaction to stress.

Tea

According to The Journal of Nutrition, drinking green, caffeinated or oolong tea may evoke a more active state of mind. When we drink these types of tea – an amino acid called theanine is working synergistically with caffeine to improve awareness and focus. The same study suggest drinking at least 5 to 6 cups of tea daily.


Monday, March 2, 2015

10 Natural Tips To Beat Chronic Stress


"If you really knew what was happening to you when you are stressed, you would freak out. It's not pretty," I said during the 2013 Third Metric women's conference.

I wasn't exaggerating. Chronic stress has become epidemic in our society, where faster seems better and we pack more obligations into our ever-expanding schedules.

Research has confirmed the havoc stress can wreak, with one meta-analysis involving 300 studies finding that chronic stress could damage immunity. Another study found stressed-out women had significantly higher waist circumference compared to non-stressed women.

Experts have connected stress with blood sugar and belly fat. Chronic stress raises insulin, driving relentless metabolic dysfunction that becomes weight gain, insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes.

Insulin isn't the only hormone that becomes out of balance with stress. Your adrenal glands release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that flood your system, raising your heart rate, increasing your blood pressure, making your blood more likely to clot, damaging your brain's memory center, increasing belly fat storage, and generally doing damage to your body.

Want to reduce stress? Start with your diet.

The right diet can do wonders to reduce stress's impact. When you eat whole, real foods, you restore balance to insulin, cortisol, and other hormones.

Eliminating mind-robbing molecules like caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars and eating regularly can help you avoid the short-term stress of starvation on your body. You maintain an even-keeled mindset throughout the day, even when things get hectic.

You'll replace those foods with clean protein, healthy fats, leafy and cruciferous vegetables, berries and non-gluten grains. Food is information that controls your gene expression, hormones and metabolism. When you eat the right foods, you balance blood sugar, restore hormonal balance and reduce stress's damaging impact.

Reconsidering Stress

Stress is a thought, a perception of a threat, even if it isn't real. That's it. No more, no less. If that's true, then we have complete control over stress, because it's not something that happens to us but something that happens in us.

Here's where it become interesting. Stressors can be real or perceived. You might imagine your spouse is angry with you. Whether or not they are, you raise stress levels. Real or imagined, when you perceive something as stressful, it creates the same response in the body.

Fortunately, a wide variety of techniques and tools can help effectively manage stress. Among them, these 10 are most beneficial:

1. Address the underlying biological causes of stress.

Find the biological causes of problems with the mind including mercury toxicity, magnesium and vitamin B12 deficiencies, and gluten allergies. Changing your body can change your mind.

2. Begin actively relaxing.

Humans remain primed to always do something. Even when we're not working, our mind is on work. To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, you must do something relaxing. You can't just sit there watching television or drinking beer. Whether that means deep breathing or a simple leisurely walk, find active relaxation that works for you and do it.

3. Learn new skills.

Try learning new skills such as yoga, biofeedback, and progressive muscle relaxation or take a hot bath, make love, get a massage, watch a sunset, or walk in the woods or on the beach.

4. Make movement your drug.

Exercise is a powerful, well-studied way to burn off stress chemicals and heal the mind. Studies show exercise works better than or equal to pharmaceutical drugs for treating depression. Try interval training if you're short on time but want a powerful, intense workout.

5. Supplement.

Take a multivitamin and nutrients to help balance the stress response, such as vitamin C; the B-complex vitamins, including B6 and B5 or pantothenic acid; zinc; and most important, magnesium, the relaxation mineral.

6. Reframe your point of view.

Challenge your beliefs, attitudes, and responses to common situations and reframe your point of view to reduce stress.

7. Find a community.

Consciously build your network of friends, family and community. They're your most powerful allies in achieving long-term health.

8. Take care of your vagus nerve by using deep breaths.

Most of us hold our breath often or breathe swallow, anxious breaths. Deep, slow, full breaths have a profound affect on resetting the stress response, because the relaxation nerve (or vagus nerve) goes through your diaphragm and is activated with every deep breath. Take five deep breaths now. See how differently you feel?

9. Meditate.

No matter how much or little time you have to commit, find a practice that works for you.

10. Sleep.

Lack of sleep increases stress hormones. Get your eight hours no matter what. Take a nap if you missed sleep. Prioritize it, and if you feel like you're not getting high-quality shut-eye, find strategies to improve it.