Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Make 2015 an Organic Year

2014 was the year of science supporting the benefits of organic food and farming: for human health, pollinator health, and the health of the environment.

To help you ring in the new year and truly turn over a new healthy leaf, The Organic Center has transformed the top ten studies of 2014 into New Year's resolutions that show how to improve the state of your diet and the state of our planet by choosing organic.

1. Be Health-Minded,  Eat Organic

A review of the latest research on the effects of organic agriculture and crops on public health found a clear health advantage in consuming organically produced food instead of conventionally produced. Published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the findings concluded the lower pesticide residue levels in organic produce were a significant factor in helping account for these benefits.

2. Get Pesticides Out of Your Life

Pesticides, linked to numerous health problems, are still found on conventional produce in the grocery store. A study showed that eating an organic diet for just seven days can significantly reduce your exposure to pesticides. The research found pesticide metabolite levels in a group of individuals who ate a diet of at least 80 percent organic for a week were cut by up to 96 percent.

3. Load Up on Antioxidant-Rich Foods

A key study of 2014 showed organic fruits and vegetables have higher levels of antioxidants.  Researchers found that if you choose organic rather than conventional fruits and vegetables, you can get an average of 20-40 percent increase in antioxidants!  Antioxidants protect our cells against the effects of free radicals, which can damage cells in the body and trigger disease.

4. Bee Concerned

Commercial beekeepers are losing an average of 30 percent of their colonies each winter. This is  a problem for bee-pollinated crops such as almonds, apples, cucumbers, avocados, oranges, and berries. One of the major contributors to bee deaths is exposure to pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids. In 2014, a study published by Harvard researchers supported and strengthened research in 2012 that found a link between neonicotinoid use and colony collapse disorder.

5. Save Organic Citrus

A disease called citrus greening has devastated thousands of acres of citrus trees in the United States, and may even cause domestic citrus to disappear altogether. Research on controlling this disease focuses on toxic pesticide sprays and the development of GMO citrus varieties. The Organic Center has teamed up with professors at universities, industry members, and organic growers to launch a large-scale study looking at organic solutions to citrus greening. Visit the Organic Center Citrus Greening page.

6. Do Your Part. Help Slow Down Climate Change

Research shows good news for climate change mitigation: organically managed soils could reverse the trend of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere! Conducted by the Rodale Institute, the research looks in-depth at how farming systems affect greenhouse gas emission, and illustrates the ability of soil to mitigate climate change when managed organically.

7. The More the Merrier! Support Biodiversity

A study in the Journal of Applied Ecology found that organic farms support more species than conventional farms. On average, organic farms support 34 percent more plant, insect, and animal species than conventional farms. When the researchers looked at pollinators such as bees individually, they found that organic farms had 50 percent higher species diversity.

8. Focus on Soil Health

A study on healthy soil biodiversity published in Agronomy for Sustainable Development found that conservation and organic farming techniques boost the number of soil organisms when compared to conventional farming. The researchers measured soil life over a period of 14 years and found that versus conventional systems, organic and conservation agriculture systems had more earthworms in the soil, 30 -70% more microorganisms, and improved bacterial pathways.

9. Listen to the Birds

Research shows that organic farming is healthier for birds. Songbirds are especially sensitive, because conventional farms can reduce food supplies for young songbirds unable to leave their nests. An article in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment compared availability of "nestling" food on organic and conventional farms. Because organic farming does not use synthetic pesticides and has longer, more diverse crop rotations, organic farms were found to provide more available nestling food than conventional farms.

10. Keep Away From Toxins

Avoiding pesticides is even more important than previously thought. A study led by Organic Center Science Advisory Board member Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini showed that major pesticides are more toxic to humans than suggested by their active ingredients. Pesticides contain a mix of "inert" ingredients. These "inerts" are not taken into account in safety test trials, and the active ingredients are tested in isolation. This research looked at the toxicity of herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides when all ingredients were included, and found that eight out of nine pesticide formulations were up to one thousand times more toxic than their active ingredients.

Bonus: Spread the Word

Help make 2015 an organic year for your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues. Sign up for The Organic Center newsletter, and follow them on Facebook for the latest research on the science behind the benefits of organic year round. Stay informed…and pass your knowledge on!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Aloe Vera: Natural Magic Bullet

Aloe Vera is one of the most famous plants in the world. It is considered as a miracle plant because of its amazing healing health benefits. The aloe vera leaf is filled with gel and it is rich in vitamins like B1,B2,B6,B12,A, C and E, Niacin, Folic Acid.The Aloe Vera plant is easy to grow even in cold climates and many people grow it as a house plant.

Health Benefits and uses of Aloe vera juice

Increase Immune system

Drinking aloe juice regularly replenishes the amino acid deficiency in your body. The high vitamin content in it boosts up your body’s immune system and self-defense mechanism.

Control Many Diseases

Drinking aloe vera juice help ease congestion, stomach ulcers, colitis, hemorrhoids, urinary tract infections and prostate problems.

Skin Care

Brighten skin. Aloe can decrease pigmentation and dark spots. Make skin new again with an exfoliating, organic sugar scrub by mixing together two tbsp. of aloe vera, 2 tbsp. of organic brown sugar and 1 tsp. of organic lemon juice.

Weight Loss

You must have taken slimming tablets or tried all the exercises and diets to lose weight. However, you didn’t get the desired results. Do you want to lose weight naturally? Aloe vera juice is the easy and natural weight loss solution. It reduces weight by stabilizing the metabolic rate, reducing lipid levels and helping burn fat.

Control Diabetes

Aloe Vera is good for diabetes patients because it helps to regulate the blood sugar levels when consumed regularly. However, consult your doctor before you start consuming the aloe juice.You need to have the dose prescribed by doctor so that it doesn’t interfere with the medicines you are having to curb blood sugar. Aloe vera plant is considered to be a miracle plant because of its too many curative and healing health benefits.

Hair Care

Speed up hair growth by massaging aloe into the scalp, letting it sit for 30 minutes, and rinsing. Reduce hair dandruff by mixing aloe vera juice with coconut milk and wheat germ oil. Massage into scalp and rinse.

Stimulates Metabolism

Aloe vera juice also increases energy level and helps to maintain a healthy body weight. Drinking aloe vera juice regularly stimulates the metabolism and helps the body to burn calories more quickly. So aloe vera keeps you slim naturally.

Help in Reproduction

Aloe vera tonic is wonderful for the female reproductive system. It helps to rejuvenate the uterus. It is very beneficial to drink aloe vera juice if you are experiencing painful menstrual cycle.

Use as Shaving Cream

In-the-know beauty buffs swear by pure aloe as the perfect shaving cream: It’s antibacterial, which is great for nicks; it’s slippery, allowing for a nice close shave; and it moisturizes, too. You can use it on its own, or combine with other nourishing ingredients for a more luxe (but still DIY) product.

As Face Wash

Mix 1 Tbsp aloe vera gel with 1 tsp almond milk, and 1 tsp lemon, wash and let sit for a few minutes before rinsing. Since some minerals found in aloe are antibacterial, this face wash is ideal for sensitive skin, breakouts, and rosacea, says Pekar. Need an anti-aging boost? Mix 1 Tbsp aloe with 1 tsp 100% raw organic coconut oil, massage into hands until the contents are warm, then wash and rinse.

Control Bad Breath

Come a little closer…no, actually—don’t. When bad breath hits, drink up to 1/4 cup pure aloe vera gel dissolved in a 1/2 cup of water or apple juice, suggests herbalist Letha Hadady, author of Healthy Beauty. Aloe vera contains an anti-inflammatory compound called B-sitosterol that soothes acid indigestion, a common cause of bad breath. But resist the urge to chug; in large doses, aloe vera can work like a laxative.

Wrinkle Repair

Skin loves Vitamins C and E which are present in Aloe, helping to improve skins firmness and keep it hydrated. Combining virgin coconut oil can make a creamier way to supplement nutrients, essential fats and moisture. Aloe Vera gel penetrates skin almost four times faster than water, and its super emollient qualities help it moisturize the under layers of skin.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

For gastrointestinal disorders like indigestion, heartburn, stomach ulcers, haemorrhoids, congestion, urinary infections, colitis, prostate problems, rheumatism pain and arthritis, aloe vera juice can be taken orally. It helps in comforting these disorders.


Aloe vera juice can be a great natural option for detoxing. Because of the way we live including stress, pollution and junk food, we need to occasionally cleanse our systems. Aloe vera juice is an ideal way to do this because it contains many trace elements, vitamins and minerals that can help the body deal with daily stresses and strains.

Cardiovascular Health

Some research has shown that when doctors inject aloe vera extract into the blood, it drastically multiplies the diffusion abilities of red blood cells as well as the oxygen transportation. It contains nutrients that can regulate blood pressure, improve blood oxidation and circulation, lower cholesterol and make blood less sticky.

Get Rid of Eczema

Aloe vera can be applied topically to minimize inflammation, puffiness, and also itching onto the skin by using a lotion, cream, gel or shampoo. It is also available in tablet form, as a juice and a few other forms for the patients who wish to consume it orally.

Repair Damaged Tissue

Minimize damaged tissues because of frostbite. Try natural aloe gel from a bottle or perhaps straight from a plant’s stem on to the infected place two times a day.

Vitamin and Mineral Source

Every day our body needs to ingest several vitamin and minerals and aloe vera juice contains a great deal of these. It includes vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin and folic acid. In addition to these, it also contains chromium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, potassium, iron, sodium, calcium and others.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Prep Guide for Eco-Lovers: Festive and Green Home Decor

Do you love the holidays, but also the environment? There are plenty of festive ways to incorporate your green lifestyle into your home for the holidays. The first thing to always keep in mind is to simplify. Making things simple reduces costs, stress, and waste, and also gives us the time to slow down and really connect with others, which is what the holiday season is really all about anyway. Deck the halls with these stylish and eco-friendly ideas!

Christmas Tree Alternatives

You don’t have to go with a traditional tree to pack in the holiday cheer. For an easy to assemble/disassemble option, go with a recycled cardboard Christmas tree, such as this Moderno Christmas tree, this year. They’re attractive right out of the box, but can also be decorated with paper, paint or crayons, and can be displayed in clusters for a unique look. Cardboard trees also cut down on storage space, and are made from strong, 100% recycled material that can be recycled later as well.

Not into the cardboard look? You could also try a potted, living trees, such as an edible one made out of rosemary. These fragrant trees allow you to decorate without killing trees and double as herb gardens to spice up your holiday meals!

Tree Decor

Use recycled ornaments, such as those passed down in the family, or use old light bulbs to create new decorations this year using these three creative ideas. Ideas abound for decorating old bulbs of all shapes and sizes. With a little paint and/or glitter coating the bulbs, your tree will really shine!

And remember that less is more! To cut down on your energy use (and bill), you can use tinsel instead of lights to maximize the shine. But if you’re going to string lights around your tree and home this year, make sure they’re LED lights, which come in a variety of styles and colors and use 90-95% less energy than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs and shine for 200,000 hours of use. While you’re at it, set them on a timer, so they’re only used when you need them. It’s an efficient way to save money and the planet!

Homemade Wreaths

Not all wreaths require cutting branches off of trees, and Inhabitat’s DIY wreath created from recycled fabric scraps is a great example of a more eco-friendly alternative. Follow their easy guide to get started on your own!

Pillows and Other Decor

There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest for home decor, which can be quite overwhelming! But we’ve focused on a couple simple options for your home that won’t break the bank.

Create and toss these festive DIY throw pillows out of old sweaters on your sofa, chair or even in the bedroom for a quick holiday decor staple you can use for years.

For some table topper or bookshelf decor, try upcycling some wine bottles with metallic paint or create winter vases with some dollar store finds for a very cool look that will carry into the new year.

Set the Stage for Dining

Dress up your dining room for sit-down gatherings!

For a simple, yet stunning way to show off your holiday place settings, wrap each set with a wide, pretty ribbon. Save the ribbon for another party or to wrap presents later!

For a festive centerpiece display, use a cylindrical glass vase to display a tall pillar candle and holder surrounded by fruits and nuts, such as a colorful combination of walnuts, cranberries, and kumquats. For a vintage look, you can also create your own table runners and candle holders like these pretty candle holders by wrapping lace around Mason jars.

Besides the obvious use of menorahs that have been passed down for generations, buying or creating your own menorahs made out of reclaimed wood, metal, or glass is another stylish, eco-friendly look. Latkes taste so much better by the glow of the menorah, so light up your living space with these toxin-free, 100% beeswax, hand-dipped Hannukah candles.

During the busy holiday season we need some fast projects, and this DIY table runner requires only a great piece of fabric and some thread. But the best kind might be the “no-sew” variety, and HGTV has rounded up a few awesome table runner options that require zero sewing skills.

Hopefully, these ideas have sparked your imagination for even more eco-friendly possibilities for decorating your home this festive season.

5 Studies That Link Science Behind the Benefits of Organic

Benefits to Public Health

A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that eating an organic diet can contribute to human well-being. The research was led by Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences-based Dr. Jan Johansson, who reviewed current research on the effect of organic agriculture and crops on public health.

Finding a clear health advantage of consuming organic, her team states that "both animal studies and in vitro studies clearly indicate the benefits of consumption of organically produced food instead of that conventionally produced."

The increased phenolic compounds and lower pesticide residues found in organic produce could partially account for these benefits, but the study also points out that the significant advantages of organic cannot be explained by these variables alone. Researchers suggest that synergistic effects between various constituents within organic food are likely to be part of the reason it's more beneficial to public health than conventional products.

Reduced Pesticide Exposure

A new study published in the journal Environmental Research found that eating an organic diet for a week can reduce a person's pesticide exposure. The research was led by Dr. Liza Oates, who examined pesticide metabolites in the urine of 13 individuals who consumed a diet of at least 80 percent organic over seven days, and conventional food for seven days.

Dr. Oates’ team found that the total pesticide metabolite levels were reduced by as much as 96 percent by eating organic, with an average reduction of 50 percent. This study shows that eating an organic diet can reduce exposure to chemicals that have been associated with health risks. As stated by Dr. Oates, “Recent studies have raised concerns for the health effects of these chemicals even at relatively low levels.”

It’s nice to see a study showing that choosing organic can make a significant difference in your exposure levels.

Nutritional Benefits

A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition shows conclusive evidence that organic crops, and the food made from them, are healthier than their conventional counterparts. In this study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis on 342 peer-reviewed publications looking at the health benefits of organic agriculture and found that organic crops have higher antioxidant levels, lower cadmium levels and less pesticide residues than non-organic crops. They found that organic crops had significantly higher levels of antioxidants that have been linked to decreases in chronic disease risks such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers.

The study also found fewer pesticide residues and lower toxic metal levels in organic versus conventional food, and organic crops had on average 48 percent lower cadmium levels than conventional crops. Cadmium is a highly toxic metal that can cause kidney failure, bone softening and liver damage. It can accumulate in the body, so even at low levels chronic exposure is dangerous. The findings of this study strongly support the health benefits of organic food.

Neonicotinoid Pesticides Linked to Honeybee Die-Off

A new study published in the Bulletin of Insectology by Harvard researchers found further evidence of the link between neonicotinoid use and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which bees abandon their hives over the winter and eventually die.

This study was led by Professor Chensheng (Alex) Lu, an advisory board member for The Organic Center and associate professor of Environmental Exposure Biology at the Harvard School of Public Health. It supports his previous research, which found that 94 percent of hives exposed to low levels of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid died within 23 weeks of exposure. The new study added a second neonicotinoid called clothianidin to their observations. The researchers found that the same negative effects were associated with bee exposure to clothianidin as with imidacloprid. “We demonstrated again in this study that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD in honeybee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter,” said Dr. Lu.

Organically Managed Soils Could Reverse Effects of Climate Change

The Rodale Institute has done some amazing science supporting the benefits of organic agriculture, and its new report, entitled “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change,” maintains this high quality of investigation. The report takes an in-depth look at how farming systems affect greenhouse gas emission and illustrates the benefits that organic agriculture can have on climate change. Specifically, the publication focuses on the ability of soil to mitigate climate change when managed organically.

Findings include a decrease of annual greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent if management of all current cropland transitioned to regenerative organic agriculture. Transitioning global pasture would add to carbon sequestration by 71 percent. “We could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices,” the report states.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reducing Food Waste Takes More Than Finishing Your Plate

In southeast Costa Rica near the Panamanian border, there’s a group of farmers growing bananas and cocoa without pesticides. Two indigenous groups work communally owned land in the buffer zone surrounding La Amistad National Park. Their cooperative is called the Talamanca Small Farmers Association.

But Talamanca’s growers face the same discouraging problem year after year: They work in a rural area. Some farmers transport their bananas for an hour by boat, and then another three hours by truck, to a processing plant owned by a Chiquita subsidiary. Often, the bananas have to wait for the truck, and they rot. It rains a lot there — the roads frequently flood in the wet season — and sometimes the farmers lose whole truckloads of bananas waiting for the waters to recede. The estimated losses are 40 percent of the crop, said Stephanie Daniels of the Sustainable Food Lab, which has been working with Talamanca to solve the problem of spoilage.

Between 30 and 40 percent of the food grown around the world is lost: spoiled, wasted, or eaten by vermin. Saving even a portion of that could make a huge difference for poor farmers and the environment. Combine a reduction in food waste with increases in farm yields and better livelihoods for the poorest, and we’d have a realistic scenario in which we could improve overall human health and happiness without expanding our agricultural footprint.

As the example of Talamanca illustrates, solving the waste problem can make more food available to eaters while enriching the farmers. (Feeding the world is really a problem of enriching the poor, as grist has written about here. If you want to catch up on the theory and background, here’s the full series.)
The banana fields of Talamanca by: Stephanie Daniels

As Daniels explained it, solving the waste problem is an important step forward to the larger goal of plugging small farmers into the world market. There are people all around the world who want what these Costa Rican farmers grow and are willing to pay a premium for it. Stonyfield Farms buys their bananas to mix with yogurt. People in Switzerland eat their unusual fruits. Basically, there’s a lot of wealth that wants to go to rural Costa Rica in exchange for the stuff that’s already growing there — but instead, a lot of that stuff is rotting on the ground.

And so Talamanca is working on a solution. With money from the government, from Stonyfield, and from the Danone Ecosystem Fund, it’s investigating building a small-scale processor: A machine to peel the bananas, squish them, and aseptically seal them into shelf-stable bags. Today, the farmers depend on Chiquita’s machinery; if they had the food processing technology, they would make a lot more money — and have a lot more control over their destiny.

Around The World

The farmers of Costa Rica aren’t alone. This year the Rockefeller Foundation and the Global Knowledge Initiative produced an in-depth report on food waste in Africa, which showcased dozens of Talamanca-like stories. When farmers simply have airtight bags for their beans, cowpeas, and corn, the lack of oxygen kills insects inside, resulting in millions of dollars in savings. Farmers are using cassava graters and solar driers to process crops that rot easily. They are tapping into the world market with cellphones.

This is a systems-based report, looking at the entire network of farmers, buyers, agricultural educators, and technological capacity. As I read it, it became clear that reducing food waste is not necessarily an end unto itself, but something that comes naturally if you are trying to help poor farmers sell their food and earn a living wage.

North America

Food waste, however, looks very different depending where on Earth you stand. In poorer countries, the bulk of food waste is due to lack of technology and the inability of farmers to sell their goods. In the richer countries, food waste is all about culture.

World Resources Institute

“It truly is wasted in this country,” said Dana Gunders of the NRDC, the author of this landmark report. “If we took someone out of Cambodia — or their consumer expectations for food — and combined that with the U.S. technology for preserving food, realistically we could cut a lot of our food waste.”

People often come to Gunders to ask if they should go ahead and eat moldy bread. But she said that sort of thing is a tiny part of the problem.

“It is about eating carrot tops, in a way — but it’s really about having 4,000 sandwiches left over at a conference. It’s about plowing under an entire field because the market shifted.” And it’s about throwing away tons of produce because it doesn’t fit the exacting standards of size and aesthetics that we’ve come to expect and enshrined in our regulations.

Cutting post-harvest waste can be a huge boon to small farmers. But in this country, where a large share of the waste occurs at the consumer level, the impact is a little less clear. Perhaps having more food around would mean fewer farms; that could be good for the environment or bad, depending on what replaced them.

But Gunders thinks that food waste won’t decrease so fast that it dramatically outstrips the rising demand. If we are able to cut waste in this country, that would probably mean that more food produced in the U.S. might be exported as animal feed, as rising affluence increases the demand for meat. Or the land might increase biofuel production. Neither of these outcomes gets environmentalists too excited, but both would reduce the pressure to expand farmland in more sensitive areas.

The Takeaway

If we continue business as usual, we’re going to need a lot more food by 2050. This is what food futurists have been calling “the food gap.” The World Resources Institute has suggested that a reasonable goal might be cutting our current food waste in half. Just doing that would take care of a fifth of the food gap.

When we talk about food waste in richer countries, we are mostly talking about consumer waste — reducing that is important for cutting the food gap. But when we talk about food waste in poorer countries we are talking about losses (the yellow and red bars on the graph above) that take money out of farmers’ pockets. And there, the potential in reducing waste is even greater: By enriching small farmers, it would reduce poverty — which is the ultimate goal, and the root cause of hunger.

[part of the Hungry, Hungry Humans series on grist]

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ditch Refined Sugar Now!

Christmas is right around the corner, and that means loads of cookies to be eaten!

Did you know refined sugar is the devil? Always avoid it whenever possible and that means in my cabinets too. I don’t buy white sugar EVER. The closest thing I get to white sugar is sucanat or organic evaporated cane juice and even then I don’t really use much of that stuff either. You see – there is little to no nutritional value in these refined sugars. Eating refined sugar is addictive, makes you fat, tired, depressed, age faster, makes your skin dull, weakens immunity and when consumed in excess causes all sorts of diseases… No thanks.

So how do you sweeten my desserts without the use of refined sugars and with nutrition?

Here’s three of Food Babe's favorite ways to sugar your sweets that won’t wreak havoc on your health…

Organic Coconut Palm Sugar – This type of sugar is a perfect 1:1 substitute for any recipe that calls for regular old sugar. One of the big pluses of coconut palm sugar – it’s completely unrefined and not bleached like typical refined white sugar, helping to preserve all of its teeming vitamins and minerals. It is naturally high in amino acids – has 10,000 times more potassium, 20 times more magnesium and 20 times more iron than conventional sugar. Converting to this type of sugar could also, lower your risk of developing diabetes because it’s glycemic index is half of that compared to sugar.

The flavor is more like brown sugar and it definitely adds a nice touch of richness to cookies and cakes.

Date Sugar – Produced by grinding dried dates into a powder, it is completely raw and unrefined. Date sugar is equal parts sucrose, glucose and fructose and much higher in vitamins and minerals than refined sugar. For instance it has more than twice the amount of magnesium, iron and potassium. Date sugar doesn’t dissolve so it’s perfect for sprinkling on top of baked goods in the place of regular old powdered sugar. It won’t be as sweet but will give you that sugary boost you need to make desserts worth while.

Food Babe’s Sweet Blend – Obviously this is my favorite way to sweeten cookies and cakes. One of the first steps I do in any cookie or cake recipe is to blend the sugar component with the fat component. For my special sweet blend, I like to use organic raw pitted dates, prunes, bananas and sometimes apple sauce or maple syrup together in the blender along with some fat – either organic coconut oil or melted organic butter. This kills two birds with one stone – all you have to do is add vanilla (or other flavorings) and the dry ingredients to make the most deliciously sweet cookies or cakes… I highly recommend this blend as much as possible when baking because it uses 100% whole organic ingredients – no processing and all nutrition.

So the next time you are itching to bake and make something sweet think about how many nutrients you can pack into your bite! Imagine your body enjoying all the minerals and vitamins it is receiving instead of attacking itself destroying your immune system and causing disease. Ditch the refined sugar – you have no excuses.

Ok off to make more cookies!
[via Food Babe]

Friday, December 5, 2014

Five of the Healthiest and Most Affordable Foods Available

By Dr. Mercola

Processed foods may be convenient, but they will not necessarily save you money—especially not if you count the cost of added healthcare expenses down the road when poor diet starts catching up with you.

In terms of long-term disease-prevention, cooking from scratch using fresh unprocessed ingredients is perhaps your best guarantee.  Recent research 1, 2 on healthy eating suggests that home cooking tends to result in reduced calorie consumption. People who ate the most home-cooked meals wound up consuming about 130 fewer calories daily, on average.

The authors also noted that: “If a person—or someone in their household—cooks dinner frequently, regardless of whether or not they are trying to lose weight, diet quality improves.”

Contrary to popular belief, healthy unadulterated foods also do not necessarily have to cost you a lot more than processed fare. There are in fact many examples of exceptionally affordable health foods. Following are five examples that are frequently overlooked.

#1: Homemade Bone Broth

Homemade bone broth is a true staple that can go a long way toward improving your diet and health. It’s excellent for speeding healing and recuperation from illness, and it contains many valuable vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that support your immune function.

These includes calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, trace minerals, and compounds like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, which are sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

Other health benefits of good-old-fashioned bone broth include:
  • Helps heal and seal your gut, and promotes healthy digestion: The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion    
  • Inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses, etc.: A study published over a decade ago found that chicken soup indeed has medicinal qualities, significantly mitigating infection
  • Reduces joint pain and inflammation, courtesy of chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage    
  • Fights inflammation: Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis (whole-body inflammation).
  • Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better
  • Promotes strong, healthy bones: As mentioned above, bone broth contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation    
  • Promotes healthy hair and nail growth, thanks to the gelatin in the broth
Making your own bone broth is extremely cost effective, as you can make use of leftover carcass bones that would otherwise be thrown away. And while the thought of making your own broth may seem intimidating at first, it's actually quite easy. For instructions and a sample bone broth recipe, please see this previous article.

#2: Homegrown Vegetables and Sprouts

Growing your own food is a great way to lower your food costs, improve your health, and help build a more sustainable food system. Homegrown vegetables are fresher, taste better, and are oftentimes more nutritious than store-bought food that has traveled thousands of miles—and you certainly cannot beat the price!

Whole, organically grown plants are a rich source of natural medicine. Even our DNA contains much of the same material found in the plant world, which gives new meaning to the idea of healing plants.

Even if you only have access to a patio, you can still grow some of your own veggies using containers. Tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, lettuce, and peppers are examples of plants that thrive in containers. You can also use hanging baskets to utilize your lateral space.

To learn more, please see this article on creating edible gardens in small spaces. We’ve also written about how you can garden during the winter. This clearly requires a bit more dedication and planning, but it can be done if you have the will.

If, for whatever reason, you are unable to garden or prefer not to, then you can still access healthy vegetables grown locally by supporting local farmer's markets.

One of the easiest plants to grow at home, even if you’re new to gardening and have limited space is sprouts. It’s also an excellent choice during winter months, when outdoor gardening is limited or ruled out.

A concentrated source of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals, sprouted seeds are a true superfood that many overlook. In fact, the protein, vitamin, and mineral content of many sprouted seeds far surpass that of organic homegrown vegetables!

An added boon is that they grow really quickly. You can have homegrown sprouts ready to harvest in a matter of days, which you can then add to salads, soups, or fresh vegetable juice.

Some of my favorites include watercress, broccoli, and sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds can provide you with 30 times the nutrient content of organic vegetables, and sprouts in general also contain up to 100 times more enzymes than raw fruits and vegetables. These enzymes are important as they allow your body to absorb and use the nutrients of other foods you eat as well.

Broccoli sprouts, specifically, have been shown to help detoxify a number of environmental pollutants, including carcinogens like benzene and acroleine. They’re also an excellent alternative if you don't like the taste or smell of broccoli, which has well-established anti-cancer properties.

Studies suggest that watercress may have cancer-suppressing activity resembling that of broccoli sprouts, and its overall nutritional profile surpasses most other sprouted seeds, including sunflower seeds.

I started sprouting seeds in Ball jars about 20 years ago. Now I grow them in them in trays using soil instead, as it’s far easier and produces more nutritious and abundant food. For directions, see my previous article, “How to Grow Your Own Food in Small Spaces.”

#3: Fermented Vegetables

Once you’re growing your own vegetables, fermenting them will allow you to eliminate waste and provide you with healthy food during the non-growing season. Fermented vegetables are teeming with essential enzymes and beneficial bacteria needed for optimal gut health and digestion, and they are easier to digest than raw or cooked vegetables.

When your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is not working well, a wide range of health problems can appear, including allergies and autoimmune diseases. If fermented with a special starter culture, they can also provide high levels of vitamin K2.

If you suffer from any major illness, it is important to “heal and seal" your gut in order to fully recuperate. Fermented foods are a cornerstone for maintaining a healthy gut.

Just one quarter to one half cup of fermented food, eaten with one to three meals per day, can have a dramatically beneficial impact on your health. Fermented vegetables and other cultured foods also offer a multitude of medicinal rewards by:

Strengthening immunity with increased antibodies that fight off infectious disease
  • Helping pregnant and nursing mothers transfer beneficial bacteria to their infants
  • Beneficially impacting the behavior of children with autism, ADD, and ADHD
  • Regulating weight and appetite by reducing cravings for sugar, soft drinks, bread, and pasta -- all foods I strongly advise against
  • Helping your body detoxify a variety of environmental toxins, including pesticides and heavy metals
Ideally, you'll want to include a variety of cultured and fermented foods in your diet, as each provides different beneficial bacteria. Besides fermented vegetables, other cultured foods include kefir and yogurt, ideally made from raw organic milk. To make it yourself, all you need is one-half packet of kefir starter granules in a quart of raw milk, which you leave at room temperature overnight. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days. 

#4: Canned Wild Alaskan Salmon

So far, we’ve talked mainly about home-grown foods. Avoiding processed and pre-packaged foods is key for optimal health, but there are a few exceptions. One canned food I do recommend is canned wild-caught Alaskan salmon. It’s inexpensive, selling for around a dollar or two in many places, and, in my view, the high amounts of healthy fats and lower contamination levels found in wild-caught salmon outweighs the risks of it being sold in a can. Some brands also offer BPA-free cans, which is well worth looking for. Rising pollution levels have contaminated most fish to the point of being potentially hazardous, especially for children and pregnant women, if eaten too frequently, or in too high amounts.

The key to eating fish these days is to choose fish that are high in healthy omega-3 fats, and low in hazardous contaminants. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon (NOT farmed salmon such as Atlantic salmon) fits this description, and is one of the few types of fish I still recommend eating. Fresh or frozen Alaskan salmon tend to be pricier, so canned salmon can be a thrifty alternative. Just make sure it's labeled "Alaskan Salmon," as it is not allowed to be farmed. Sockeye salmon is another healthy option that cannot be farmed. Sockeye salmon has the added advantage of having one of the highest concentrations of astaxanthin of any food. Other canned fish that are in the safer category (having lower contamination risk and higher nutritional value) are sardines, anchovies, and pickled herring—all of which also contain higher amounts of healthy fats such as omega-3.

#5: Organic, Free-Range or Pastured Eggs

Organically raised free-range or "pastured" eggs are another excellent source of high-quality nutrients, especially high-quality protein and fat. Proteins are essential to the building, maintenance, and repair of your body tissues. Proteins are also major components of your immune system and hormones. While found in many types of food, only foods from animal sources, such as meat and eggs, contain "complete proteins," meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids. Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health, choline for your brain, nervous and cardiovascular systems, and naturally occurring B12.

The key to healthy eggs is making sure they come from chickens that have been allowed to range free on pasture. The nutritional differences between true free-ranging chicken eggs and commercially farmed eggs are a result of the different diets eaten by the two groups of chickens. You can tell the eggs are free range or pastured by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you're getting eggs from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.

Your best source for fresh eggs is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. The following organizations can also help you locate not only farm-fresh eggs but also other organic and locally produced foods, including many of those discussed above.
  • Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce and grass-fed meats.
  • Eat Wild: With more than 1,400 pasture-based farms, Eatwild's Directory of Farms is one of the most comprehensive sources for pastured foods in the United States and Canada.
  • Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
  • Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
  • FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
[via Mercola]

How To Use Himalayan Salt Crystals For Healing

Your skin is an excretory organ that mirrors the condition of your intestines. When you take a salt water (brine) bath, the salt minerals penetrate your skin in form of ions. This stimulation will cause natural cell growth in your living cell layers. Bio-energetic weak points will be balanced and your body's energy flow will be activated. While anyone can benefit from a brine bath, it is particularly soothing for those with:
  • Various skin diseases
  • Rheumatism and joint diseases
  • A post-operative care regimen
  • Gynecological diseases
  • Recurring infections
  • Severe insect bites, blisters or wounds
  • Skin irritations from poison oak, ivy or sumac
The detoxifying effect of a brine bath can be compared to a 3-day fast. Since salt is also a disinfectant, several people can safely use the same water. To get the full benefits of a therapeutic natural crystal salt bath, the right salt concentration is critical. The salt concentration has to be at least the same as the one of your body fluids (approximately 1%) to activate the osmotic exchange ratio. The formula for a 1% solution is 1.28 ounces of salt per gallon of water. Since a full tub normally takes from 100 to 120 liters (27 - 32 gallons) of water, at least 1.2 kg. (2.6 pounds) of natural salt is required. To avoid using body energy to balance the temperature, the water should be approximately 37° Celsius (97° Fahrenheit). Your bath will remain at a constant temperature because the biophysical composition of the salt is so strong - it causes the molecules to move in a constant rhythm.

Do not use any bath additives, soaps, or oils. Your bath should last 20 to 30 minutes. During this time, the temperature and the makeup of the brine bath is comparable to the amniotic fluid in which the embryo floats in the prenatal state. Do not shower off, simply dry off with a towel. After your brine bath, you should rest for at least 30 minutes.

WARNING: While brine baths have a positive effect on many ailments, they are also demanding on your circulatory system. If you suffer from weak or poor heart circulation, always consult your doctor first.

To use the Himalayan Bath Salt for therapies you can follow these steps:
  • Loosely fill a closable glass container (Mason jar) with several crystal salt stones. Add natural spring water or purified water, completely filling the container.
  • After approximately 24 hours, look to see if the salt crystals have completely dissolved. If so, add a few more crystals. When the water can no longer dissolve any more salt, the salt crystals will sit at the bottom of the jar without dissolving. At this point the solution will have become saturated at 26%, and is ready for use.
  • The glass can be refilled again and again with water and salt, continuing this process. This brine solution is completely sterile and germ-free allowing it to be stored for years in a closed glass container without changing or decomposing.
  • There are many ways to directly experience the natural medicinal potency of brine including drinking it and seasoning your favorite foods with it, bathing in the brine solution, and inhaling steam from brine. You can also use the Himalayan Crystal Salt to substitute for cooking salt, but it should not be heated over 42º Celsius.
While you will certainly find many other beneficial uses for sole (brine) made from Himalayan Crystal Salt, here are some common problems that the sole may help with:
  • Acne - Try a brine face wash, or the Himalayan Crystal Salt mixed with fragrance free, natural soap as a face or body scrub.
  • Ear Infections- Use the brine as eardrops for ear infection.
  • Foot Fungus- Soothe your feet with a brine foot soak.
  • Motion Sickness - Try wearing salt in a pouch around your neck for its energetic balancing properties.
  • Nasal Congestion - Try a nasal wash with a few grains of crystal salt in ¼ cup of warm water.
  • Psoriasis - Rub brine directly on the affected skin and let dry.
  • Sore Throats - Gargle with warm brine solution, but don't swallow.
[via Food Matters]

Friday, November 28, 2014

Health Benefits of Raw Honey

Honey is one of nature’s premier superfoods. Not only does honey taste good in tea, yogurt, baked goods etc. but it has been a staple anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory since ancient times. Even modern practitioners swear by its miraculous healing properties.

Top 5 Health Benefits of Raw Organic Honey 

1. Honey Kills Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria 

In the world of medicine, few things can be scarier than bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, but that’s exactly the problem that modern medicine faces. Over the past fifty years, over-use of anti-bacterial drugs, like Azithromycin, have encouraged harmful bacteria to evolve and become stronger. But there’s no bacterium anywhere that’s resistant to honey! That’s right, honey can kill even antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Ancient people applied it to wounds, infections, and abscesses to great effect. Just make sure you use raw organic honey, which doesn’t include high-fructose corn syrup or white sugar that lower its quality and beneficial effects.

2. Soothes Coughs 

In addition to killing bacteria, honey can reduce the severity of coughs and sore throats more safely than over-the-counter medications. This is another example of a traditional remedy that turns out to be more effective than mass-produced drugs by pharmaceutical companies. While adult cough medicines might be dangerous for children to take, raw honey helps lessen the frequency and intensity of a child’s cough, letting parents and kids alike get more sleep during cold season.

3. Boosts Wound and Burn Healing 

Believe it or not, honey sterilizes and heals burns in half the time than its over-the-counter antibiotic competitor silver sulfadiazine. It can disinfect wounds the same way, allowing your body to regenerate faster and with less risk of infection or scarring. If you receive an injury, smear honey on the affected area immediately. Don’t worry about using too much, because with honey, there’s no such thing. When you’re done, apply a bandage over your wound. Repeat this procedure at least once every 48 hours to make sure that you’re not getting an infection (though odds are good that you won’t.)

4. Provides Many Nutrients

Unsurprisingly, honey offers a staggering amount of nutritional value. (Remember, this is the stuff that bees build their entire colonies upon!) Aside from various nutrients, like riboflavin, folate, betaine, manganese, potassium, copper, zinc, calcium, magnesium, selenium, fluoride and phosphorus, honey is loaded with antioxidants, which can lessen the risk of cancer. It also lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and generally reduces inflammation. Of course, if you have a sweet tooth, one benefit trumps all the others on this list…

5. Raw Organic Honey is the Perfect Sugar Substitute 

As if the health benefits of honey weren’t enough on their own. Honey can play another important part in your well-being by sweetening your tea, cookies, pancakes and other baked goods you prepare. Though honey itself is made of fructose, it raises blood sugar far lesser than similar-tasting substances, like sucrose and dextrose. Honey has a healthy Glycemic Index, which means its sugars can be gradually absorbed into the blood stream to result in better digestion. Best of all, you can keep honey on the shelf forever, because it never spoils. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s pretty sweet.

Raw Honey Has Many Health Benefits 

There’s a lot that honey can do to improve your active life and diet. It’s a great pre-exercise food, for example, because it’ll give you the power you need and you won’t crash in the middle of your training session. The healing powers of honey don’t just apply to skin wounds – they can help heal painful stomach ulcers, too! Fans of probiotics love honey because it hosts good bacteria, including lactobacilli, which help us digest food. There’s even evidence that honey consumption boosts memory in menopausal women and increase the body’s ability to recover from drunkenness. Old time medical practitioners knew the secrets of honey before science discovered them. Today, there are many good reasons to add this incredible food to your diet!

Monday, November 24, 2014

10 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for many. It's a time to eat, indulge and spend uninterrupted time with family. It's also a time for reflection. A time to think about what we're thankful for and a time to think about how the choices we make impact our families and the planet.

Although every day provides an opportunity for reflection and change, Thanksgiving stands out as the perfect day to kick off a few new habits that will effect the longevity of our planet. If each of us revamped our consumption and waste habits by slightly adjusting what's already in place, the overall impact could be huge.

Here are a few tips for the Thanksgiving holiday that will reduce our carbon footprint and help keep the planet healthy for generations to come.

1. Shop Local

Shop locally this Thanksgiving and lend your support to the little local business rather than the big box stores. Go for holiday supplies that don't need to travel far to get to your Thanksgiving table.

2. Buy Organic

Organic food typically requires 30-50 percent less energy during production than its conventional counterpart. Make the shift this Thanksgiving to a table with more organic food choices. Knowing that your food isn't sprayed with pesticides, chemicals or GMOs is enough reason to incorporate organic foods into your menu.

3. Turn the Heat Down

Watch your home heat up on its own as your Thanksgiving guests arrive and as the oven is turned on to warm the food. Rather than opening windows to cool off the space, remember to set the thermostat a few degrees lower before the celebration begins.

4. Don't Use Disposables

Make the switch to reusable napkins, skip the paper towels and pull out the good dishes this Thanksgiving. It's a bit more effort at the end of the evening, but it's worth it. Each person in the United States uses 749 pounds (340kg) of paper every year. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the pulp and paper industry may contribute to more global and local environmental problems than any other industry in the world. The industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution.

5. Reduce the Amount You Buy

Reducing is the first of the 3 Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. When planning your Thanksgiving celebration, try making some slight alterations to your shopping list. Give some extra thought as to whether or not you truly need those items on your list and reduce the amount of food and decorations if possible.

6. Compost Table Scraps

Did you know that a typical household throws away an estimated 474 pounds of food waste each year? That means about 1.5 lbs. per person a day in the United States. Food scraps generated by all households in the U.S. could be piled on a football field more than five miles (26,400 feet) high. Compost those vegetable scraps and watch your garden thrive.

7. Fill Your Dishwasher Before Running

Fill your dishwasher to capacity before running a cycle. You'll end up saving water, energy and detergent.

8. Green Your Turkey

A Cornell study shows it takes 14 units of fossil fuel to produce a serving of turkey. If you're planning to have turkey, try to make it a little greener by purchasing it from a local market or farm. If the turkey is traveling a long distance to get to your table, that's adding to your carbon footprint. Best option -- skip the turkey!

9. Clean with Non-Toxic Cleaners

Make the switch to non-toxic cleaning products. When making the switch to green cleaning products, replace products you're currently using as they run out with a safer version. Take the time to research safer, non-toxic products and then make the switch.

10. Stay Local

According to USA Today, it's predicted that 24.6 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines domestically and internationally between November 21 and December 2 this year. That's a 1.5 percent increase from last year, or 31,000 more passengers on average a day. For many of us, traveling is a long-standing tradition and needed to visit with our family. Use this handy calculator from The Nature Conservancy to help you calculate the amount of carbon you emit and offer ways of offsetting those emissions.

If your plan is to drive, make sure your tires are fully inflated and your car has been properly serviced. This will help reduce your carbon emissions and improve your gas mileage.

10 Reasons To Eat Sprouts Daily & How To Grow Your Own

Sprouts are an amazing little nutrient dense, powerhouse superfood. Sprouts are shoots from a plant seed. They come in many different varieties and lucky for us a whole bunch of these are edible! Green, red leaf, alfalfa, radish, broccoli, and clover are a few different varieties of sprouts, but did you know that you can also sprout chickpeas, quinoa, lentils and even almonds?

There are many reasons why sprouting is a good idea: it is extremely economical, you can ensure that you are getting extremely fresh, organic, local food into your diet daily and you can do it from home all winter long. I don’t think there is one good reason not to sprout. Here are the top 10 reasons to eat sprouts daily.

1. Enzymes

It has been estimated that there can be up to 100 times more enzymes in sprouts than in uncooked fruits and vegetables. Enzymes are types of proteins that act as catalysts for all of your bodily functions. Enzymes extract more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids from the foods that you eat and ensures your body has the nutritional building blocks to ensure every process works as effectively as possible.

 2. More Fiber

Fiber is an extremely important factor in any diet, did you know it actually binds to fats and toxins within our bodies and helps us eliminate them? It also ensures that any fat our bodies break down is moved through the body before it has a chance to reabsorb through the walls of the intestines.

3. Higher Vitamin Content

The vitamin content from certain seeds, grains, beans and nuts actually increases by up to 20 times the original value after only a few days of sprouting. Mung beansprouts, for example, increase in vitamin B1 by up to 285 percent, vitamin B2 by up to 515 percent and niacin by up to 256 percent.

4. Your Body Can Easily Utilize Sprouts

During the sprouting process, minerals bind to the proteins in the seeds, nuts or grains making them more useable in the body. This is true especially for more alkalizing minerals such as calcium and magnesium, they help us balance our body chemistry for potential weight loss and better health.

5. Sprouts Have The Highest Concentration Of Phytonutrients Of Any Food

That is a pretty bold statement, but according to this study from the Journal of Applied Science it is true. Phytonutrients play an active role in the amendment of disease.

6. Research Shows Sprouts May Prevent Cancer

There have been numerous studies done to show that the consumption of sprouts can actually prevent various forms of cancer. One study in particular that was led by scientists from John Hopkins, found that a highly concentrated source of sulforaphane, a compound they identified in 1992 that helps mobilize the body’s natural cancer-fighting resources and reduces the risk of developing cancer. Broccoli sprouts, contain unusually high levels of glucoraphanin, the naturally-occurring precursor of sulforaphane.

7. Sprouts Can Help Alkalize Your Body

Sprouts themselves are quite alkaline, eating them can directly help maintain the acid alkaline balance within the body, which ultimately leads to good health overall. Nobel Prize winner Otto Heinrich Warburgh stated:
“Cancer cannot exist in an alkaline oxygen rich environment.”

8. Energizing

The energy contained in the little seed, nut, bean, or grain is ignited through the soaking and sprouting process.

9. Extremely Economical

Sprouting is extremely cheap! Sure you can buy little plastic containers at the store for around $2-$4 for conventional and $3-$5 for organic. Or you could save your money, save the environment, save the trip to the store and sprout your own for just pennies a batch!

10. Sprouts Are Extremely Easy To Grow Yourself Anytime Of The Year

Sprouts are grown indoors, most varieties need only water, and many don’t even need sunlight. All you need is a jar, a piece of mesh or old pantyhose, water and sprout seeds!

Bonus: Sprouts are extremely tasty! I like to eat them sprinkled in salads, on sandwiches, and on flatbread type crackers with Vegenaise and tomato slices. Mmm mm good!

How To Sprout Your Own Sprouts

What You Need:
  • A thoroughly cleaned mason jar
  • A piece of fine mesh or a piece from an old pair of pantyhose big enough to cover the top of the jar (cheesecloth doesn’t work very well for this because sometimes the seeds get caught in the material.)
  • Sprouting seeds
  • Water
  1. Put between 2 and 4 Tablespoons of any kind of sprout seeds you choose. I really like Mumm’s brand seeds. They are organic and they also have a variety of many yummy sprout combinations. My favorite is the “sandwich booster” blend. Sometimes I add a little “crunchy bean mix” and sprout these together. Its very simple.
  2. Cover the seeds with filtered water, let seeds soak for 8 hours or over night.
  3. Cover the top of the jar with the mesh or pantyhose and secure with either the ring only for the top of the jar or a tightly wrapped elastic band.  Drain the water.
  4. Pour some more water over the seeds, then swirl the jar around to rinse them, then discard the water.
  5. Put the jar in a bowl or container so that it can sit downwards at about a 45-degree angle, so the water can drain out.
  6. Place the jar in a dark area, or in a cupboard. Rinse the sprouts and replace them in the downward position twice daily.
  7. Your sprouts should be ready in about 3-5 days, enjoy!
You can also buy nifty little sprouting devices in the form of jars or trays, but this isn’t really necessary. The method above has worked very well for me over the years. Happy sprouting!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

8 High Protein Foods to Add to Your Daily Diet

Protein plays an important role in a well balanced diet, it is essential for the body. The key parts in our bodies would not hold together properly without it. Protein is also essential for metabolism, immune system function and regulatory hormones.

Here is a list of 8 High Protein Foods to add to your daily diet:

1. Hemp Hearts

Hemp seeds are a high, whole food protein source containing all nine essential amino acids.  They also include essential fats, Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA), fiber, iron, zinc, carotene, B-Vitamins (1, 2, and 6), Vitamin D, Vitamin E, calcium, copper, potassium, chlorophyll, enzymes and more. Hemp seeds taste incredible! They have a creamy texture and a rich, earthy flavor.  Hemp seeds can be blended into shakes, nut milks, nut butters, smoothies, and ice cream for a creamy taste and consistency.  They can be sprinkled on top of food such as yogurt, salads, granola, etc. Hemp seeds can also be used in baking, sauces and spreads!

2. Pumpkin Seeds

Raw pumpkin seeds are truly a superfood! Among the many benefits, they are high in protein, zinc, iron, magnesium and omega-3s. By sourcing living seeds, we preserve their inherent nutrients and enzymes, providing your body with healthy fuel!

3. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are exceptionally nutritious. They have high amounts of protein, fiber and many other essential minerals. They are also high in Omega-3, antioxidants, B-Vitamins, calcium, and boron. Chia seeds are a great food for runners.  Because they absorb ten times their weight in water as they expand, the water will then be released slowly and evenly into your system. This allows for maximum hydration, which is key when running long distances, during marathons or especially in high heat, where runners lose more and more fluids through their sweat.

4. Bee Pollen

Bee pollen is very good source of protein, 20-40%. It can rapidly pass directly into blood from stomach in about 2 hours after ingesting. Bee Pollen has been considered to be one of the most nutrient packed foods in the world, often called “nature’s perfect food”.  It is an alkaline food, loaded with minerals, antioxidants, micro-nutrients, trace elements and enzymes.  Consuming bee pollen is an incredible way to balance an over acidic system.  Bee pollen contains 18-22 amino acids including tryptophan, lysine and methionine.  Amino acids nourish the brain, protect the body against disease, and play a critical role in metabolizing nutrients. Bee pollen also has an expansive array of Vitamin B complexes, Vitamins A, C, and E.

5. Mesquite Powder

Mesquite powder is high in protein, low on the glycemic index, and rich in vitamins and minerals such as: iron, zinc, calcium, lysine, potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber. It digests slowly and does not cause spikes in blood sugar, making it a great choice for diabetics.

6. Spirulina

Spirulina contains over 60% complete protein (almost three times as much as that found in beef!), it has high concentrations of many other important vitamins and minerals, such as B complex vitamins, vitamin E, carotenoids, iodine, iron, manganese, zinc, essential fatty acids such as gamma linolenic acid (which is only otherwise found in mother’s milk), and more beta carotene than you can find in carrots! Spirulina is also one of the few plant sources of vitamin B12, which is essential for healthy nerves and tissues.

7. Cashew Nuts

Cashews are an incredible superfood providing the body with essential vitamins and minerals! Cashews are a great source of plant-based protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and trace minerals. Cashews have a mild, creamy flavor and smooth texture. They can be enjoyed plain as a healthy snack, or used to make nut milk or cream, dairy-free sauces & dips, and are a wonderful addition to smoothies, salads, stir fries, and trail mixes.

8. Goji Berries

Goji berries are  packed full of natural protein, trace minerals, essential fatty-acids, amino acids, antioxidants, and over 20 different vitamins and minerals. For thousands of years, traditional Chinese Medicine has used this revered fruit to enhance the immune system and treat more than 100 different ailments. The delightful, ruby colored Goji Berries are an excellent, healthy, high energy snack. These dried goodies give a vibrant burst of nutrients and flavor to any meal or snack. You can add them to smoothies, tea, cereals, salads or desserts.

Phthalates in Food: 7 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure

You probably know that some plastic toys—like the now infamous rubber ducky—contain the hormone-disrupting, birth-defect-causing, probably-carcinogenic plasticizers known as phthalates. You may have even heard that this group of chemicals is also found in the fragrance of your favorite personal care products.

Most of my clients are surprised to learn, though, that the single largest source of phthalate exposure comes from our food and water supply—and this is not just true for people eating microwaved meals from plastic trays. Almost all of us have phthalates in our systems, and a recent study showed that when fasting, people’s phthalate levels dropped by five to ten times within the first 24 hours without food. This is not to say we should stop eating–but we should get phthalates out of what we eat!

Until phthalates are banned for good, we can take matters into our own hands in several ways.  Here’s how:
  1. Avoid putting your food in or on plastic. Even BPA- or phthalate-free plastic may leach harmful chemicals, and it’s impossible to know for sure which containers, wraps, or baggies may contain phthalates without testing. Opt for glass food storage containers, and choose bottles and sippy cups that are made of stainless steel, silicone, or glass. Try zippered cloth bags instead of plastic food storage bags, and try to source meats and cheeses that come wrapped in paper whenever possible.
  2. If you must use plastic, keep it out of the microwave and dishwasher. When plastic is heated, it leaches more chemicals, and phthalates are no exception. Even the hot water of the dishwasher causes plastic to degrade and release toxins, so if you do use plastic food-storage containers, replace them often.
  3. Eat more plants. People who eat diets rich in plant foods—fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds—have lower levels of phthalates in their blood than do people who eat more animal foods. Substituting out just a few meat- and dairy-heavy meals a week with vegan ones can lower your family’s phthalate levels. If you’re worried about protein, try beans. For fats, add nuts or avocado. For calcium, choose kale or collard greens.
  4. Eat organic and grass-fed produce, meat, and dairy. Phthalates are used in pesticides and herbicides, neither of which is permitted on certified organic produce. Pesticide-treated animal feeds are not allowed in organic meat and dairy production. Ideally, you’ll eat dairy and meat from grass-fed cows, pigs, and chickens, since phthalates may contaminate animal feed stored in plastic containers (even if that feed is organic).
  5. Choose low-fat meat and dairy. I don’t love giving this advice, because I generally am not a fan of low-fat dairy products, always opting for whole milk and full-fat yogurt for my family. Unfortunately, foods that are higher in fat are particularly prone to chemical leaching. Most farms use plastic tubing to milk their cows, which likely introduces phthalates at the start of the production process, and the chemicals then hang out in the fattiest part of the milk. In light of this, you might want to consider buying lower fat cheeses or taking the skin off of chicken.
  6. Invest in a water filter. If your water supply is tainted by industrial waste, phthalates may show up in your drinking glass. Granular activated carbon filters should remove DEHP, which is the type of phthalate used in water pipes. A nano-filtration system is more expensive but possibly even more effective way to filter out phthalates.
  7. Avoid processed foods. Phthalate contamination is yet another reason to stick to whole foods as much as possible. The more opportunity your food has had to come in contact with plastic throughout the production process, the greater the chance that it will be tainted with phthalates.

Monday, November 17, 2014

22 Delicious Meatless Main Dishes To Make For Thanksgiving

1. Stuffed Butternut Squash


With a simple and nourishing ingredient list, this dish manages to be packed with flavor (one of the many benefits of eating in-season). It also happens to be a very pretty dish that would make a deliciously satisfying addition to your Thanksgiving table. Recipe here.

2. Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes


The concept is simple:

Baked sweet potatoes – cut in half to shorten cooking time
Seasoned, roasted chickpeas
Garlic-herb sauce
Parsley-tomato salad for garnish

The result is a 30-minute lunch or dinner that’s both satisfying, savory and sweet, and seriously healthy. Grab the recipe here and if you already have sweet potatoes on the menu? Make something similar with eggplant.

3. Grilled Chipotle Lime Cauliflower Steaks


These cauliflower "steaks" demonstrate that more than almost anything else we've grilled; their tongue-in-cheek name is a good indicator of how satisfying a centerpiece they make on any table. They're smoky and spicy, with a squirt of lime and flurry of cilantro. Get the spicy recipe here.

4. Potato and Green Garlic Crustless Quiche with Goat Cheese, Gruyère, and Chives


The quiche recipe is quite simple: cook up some vegetables, whip up a batter of eggs, milk, and flour, combine the two and add some cheese, bake, and voilà. Brunch. (Or lunch. Or dinner. Or all of the above.) Try the recipe yourself here.

5. Roasted Vegetable Galette


This savory galette is a wonderful lunch or snack for those who still wait for warm days. It's full of flavors and vitamins that we so much need during a long cold winter. Find the recipe here.

6. Roasted Fall Vegetable and Ricotta Pizza


Such an inventive way to get nutrients without feeling deprived! Also a great day-after-Thanksgiving treat. Snag the delicious, easy recipe here.

7. Acorn Squash with Walnuts & Cranberry


What says “fall” better than pumpkins and squash? They come in such a huge variety of colors, shapes and flavors these days! The addition of walnuts gives you an added boost of healthy oils, which are good for your cardiac health and help you lower cholesterol. Seriously, do you need more convincing? Try the recipe out here.

8. Roasted Cauliflower, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quiche with Quinoa Crust

The cauliflower and mushroom combo works amazingly well in this quiche and now you can enjoy the favorite combo for breakfast lunch and dinner! Enjoy the recipe here.

9. Chili Polenta Pie


Do you need a "pot pie challenge"? Cause this is the recipe for you.

10. Vegan Mushroom, Chestnut & Cranberry Tart


This tart is perfect for holidays – make it the day before and heat through once dinner’s nearly ready. If you can’t get wild mushrooms, use more chestnut ones. Try it out this year!

11. Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Crispy Baked Tofu with Honey-Sesame Glaze


Tender, caramelized brussels sprouts with extra crispy tofu and brown rice, topped with an irresistible sweet-and-spicy glaze. This meal requires some prep work, but once you're ready, you can cook the rice, sprouts and tofu in about 30 minutes, while making the glaze in the meantime. For a simple side dish, roast 2+ pounds of sprouts and skip the rice and tofu. Find the recipe here.

12. “Ricotta” Stuffed Cabbage


This is the gluten free solution stuffed shells. You’ll notice this recipe also pasta-free but trust me – this “cheesy” cashew filling – tastes just as indulgent.

13. Roasted Eggplant with Cilantro-Almond Salsa

Serve this amazing eggplant with couscous, topped with a dollop of yogurt and a spoonful of salsa. Yummmmm! Try this recipe here.

14. Vegan Lentil & Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie


Forget the traditional style shepherd's pie and instead opt for this recipe on stuffed with deliciously seasoned lentils and veggies, and topped with a gorgeous, vitamin-packed sweet potato mash. It’s every bit as delicious as the original, but low in fat and high in protein, fiber, and nutrients. This shepherd’s pie is the perfect simple, economical, hearty dinner that the whole family will love.

15. Butternut Squash Alfredo Baked Shells


This Butternut Squash Alfredo Stuffed Shells recipe is made with a lighter alfredo sauce, and is perfectly sweet, savory, and delicious!

16. Autumn Root Vegetable Gratin with Herbs and Cheese

This classic dish, other than its near universal appeal, is that it is deceptively simple to make relative to its beauty. Plus, you can probably make it with what you have in your fridge and pantry right now. Try it out now!

17. Mushroom, Spinach and Scallion Tart

This vibrant recipe includes spinach leaves intermingle with roasted mushrooms in a light-as-air (and easy-to-assemble) phyllo shell. The custard-like filling comes together quickly in a blender.

18. Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Crispy Goat Cheese


The portobellos are lightly grilled and topped with a chunky homemade tomato sauce, sautéed spinach and shallot mixture, soft goat cheese, and topped with a crispy breadcrumb topping. They're hearty enough to be served on their own, with a simple salad or grain (such as quinoa or pasta!), or as a side dish. Try serving this recipe at the table.

19. Vegetarian Wellington with Seitan, Roasted Mushroom & Kale


Make this vegetarian wellington recipe for Thanksgiving and the turkeys of America will love you! And so will your guests. This welling is a puff pastry wrapping, stuffed with orange and fennel seed braised seitan, thyme roasted mushrooms and kale. All served with the best vegetarian gravy ever! 

20. Butternut Squash-Kale Tart


Embrace the flavor of a sweet butternut squash with open arms and into a delicious tart mixed with kale and grated Gruyere. Try this recipe out this Thanksgiving.

21. Provolone and Mushroom Gratin


Cheesy potatoes get a whole new look with the addition of Provolone cheese, Portobello mushrooms and fresh thyme. Find the recipe here.

22. Roasted Sweet Potato & Black Lentil Salad

This roasted sweet potato and black lentil salad recipe is something easy to nosh throughout a meal or even while cooking! It's great served at room temperature and it’s vegan, simple and with the addition of scallions for sharpness and celery for crunch it makes a dish everyone will love.
[via BuzzFeed]