Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Battle of the Frozen Treats: Sorbet vs. Ice Cream vs. Gelato vs. Fro-yo

If you’re going to splurge on a sweet frozen treat, which is your best option: sorbet, ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato? And what are the differences anyway? Let’s break it down and end the battle of which frozen treat is healthiest, shall we?


Sorbet is made up of fruit juices, syrup and water. One cup of an all-fruit sorbet has 184 calories, 34 grams of sugar, 46.2 grams of carbohydrates and no fat. While no fat is good, sorbet is high in sugar and doesn’t have any calcium, like milk-based frozen treats do.

Ice Cream

Ice cream is made from milk, cream, sugar and egg yolk. One cup of vanilla ice cream, on average, has 267 calories, 32.5 grams of carbohydrates and 14.3 grams of fat. That mixture of cream and sugar makes this treat high in calories and fat. To put things in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that total fat intake should be no more than 25% to 35% of one’s daily calories. Saturated fat should be limited to less than 7% of daily calories, and trans fat should be less than 1%.


Gelato consists of milk, egg yolk and sugar. The lack of cream that is in ice cream means that gelato can have less bad fats. However, what it lacks in fats, it makes up for in added sugar. A half cup of vanilla bean gelato, which is the recommended serving size for the treat, contains 204 calories, 9 grams of fat, 25 grams of carbohydrates and 25 grams of sugar.

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt consists of yogurt instead of cream, which lowers its fat when compared to ice cream. While frozen yogurt is low in fat, the calories and sugar can be a problem. One cup of low-fat plain frozen yogurt is 214 calories, 2.9 grams of fat, 38.1 grams of sugar and 39.2 grams of carbohydrates. A cup of soft-serve fro-yo yields 235 calories and one cup of chocolate is 230 calories. Don’t forget that those calories don’t include toppings, which can range from the healthier, such as fruit, to the not-so-healthy, like cookie dough.

Women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, while men shouldn’t have more than nine. To put that into perspective, a can of soda contains around 8 teaspoons of sugar.


Low-calorie, fat-free and offering at least some "good" sugars from the fruit juice, sorbet is a tasty way to cool down in the summer. Just eat in moderation and look out for that sugar!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

6 Disturbing Side Effects of Chewing Gum

By Dr. Mercola

The US is among the top three countries with the highest rates of chewing gum consumption worldwide. In the US, 59 percent of people chew gum, surpassed only by Iran (82 percent) and Saudi Arabia (79 percent) (a primary reason why the Middle East may have more gum chewers than the US is because chewing gum is often given out by merchants in place of small change).

In the US, many people chew gum as a snack simply because they like the flavor or the distraction it provides. Some use it for stress relief or even a tool for reducing food cravings (this typically doesn't work, as I'll explain shortly).

But if you're a regular gum chewer, there's compelling evidence that this is one habit you're better off without. From its questionable ingredients to its impact on your teeth and digestion, chewing gum belongs right in the trash – not in your mouth.

Side Effects of Chewing Gum

Before you reach for another stick of gum, consider these rather disturbing side effects that gum chewing can cause.

1. Chewing Gum May Increase Your Junk-Food Intake

Many people chew on a stick of gum to reduce food cravings and, theoretically, help them avoid eating unhealthy foods. However, while research shows that chewing gum reduces your motivation to eat, your hunger and how much you end up eating, gum chewers' meals end up being less nutritious than those eaten by non-gum-chewers.

For instance, people who chewed gum were less likely to eat fruit and instead were more motivated to eat junk food like potato chips and candy. This is likely because the minty flavor in the gum makes fruits and vegetables taste bitter.

2. It May Trigger TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) in Your Jaw

Chewing gum can cause jaw muscle imbalance (if you chew on one side more than the other) and even TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder in your jaw, which can be a painful chronic condition. Anytime you overuse a certain set of muscles, it can lead to contracted muscles and related pain, including headaches, earaches, and toothaches over time.

3. Gastrointestinal Problems

Chewing gum causes you to swallow excess air, which can contribute to abdominal pain and bloating seen with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Further, when you chew gum you send your body physical signals that food is about to enter your body. The enzymes and acids that are activated when you chew gum are therefore released, but without the food they're intended to digest.

This can cause bloating, an overproduction of stomach acid, and can compromise your ability to produce sufficient digestive secretions when you actually do eat food. Some people may also have adverse gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, from the artificial sweeteners that are commonly found in chewing gum.

4. Tooth Damage – Even from Sugar-Free Gum

If your chewing gum contains sugar, you're essentially "bathing" your teeth in sugar while you chew away. This can contribute to tooth decay. Even if you chew sugar-free gum, there are still risks to your teeth because sugar-free gum often contains acidic flavorings and preservatives that may in fact lead to dental erosion, even if it contains cavity-fighting xylitol. Unlike cavities, dental erosion is a process of incremental decalcification, which, over time, literally dissolves your teeth.

5. Sheep Byproducts

Chewing gum often contains lanolin, a waxy substance that's derived from sheep wool, to help it stay soft. While not necessarily dangerous to your health, chewing on lanolin is not exactly appetizing.

6. Release Mercury From Your Fillings

If you have mercury fillings, you should know that chewing gum may cause this known neurotoxin to release from the fillings into your body. According to one study.

"…chewing gum has been shown to increase the release rate of mercury vapor from dental amalgam fillings… The impact of excessive chewing on mercury levels was considerable."

Every time you chew, mercury vapor is released and quickly finds its way into your bloodstream, where it causes oxidative processes in your tissues. If you chew gum, you're going to be chewing often, which is why it's particularly problematic for those with mercury fillings.

Chewing Gum Linked to Headaches in Teens

Teenagers are notorious for gum chewing and popping. If your child is a frequent gum chewer and suffers from headaches, you should know that a link has recently been established.

One study involved 30 daily gum chewers between the ages of six and 19 years. Each suffered from chronic migraine or tension headaches. After quitting gum chewing for one month, 19 of them had their headaches go away completely while another seven had a reduction in headache frequency and severity. Twenty-six of the children then started chewing gum again, only to have their headaches return within days.

The researchers believe the headaches may be linked to chewing-gum-induced TMJ, which may cause headaches. Past research has also suggested chewing gum may cause headaches via aspartame exposure.

Most Chewing Gum Contains Artificial Sweeteners

You might not pay much attention to the ingredients in chewing gum because, after all, it's not actually swallowed. But the ingredients, many of which are potentially dangerous, do enter your body, directly through the walls of your mouth.

As with the toxic ingredients in personal care products like lotion, which are absorbed directly through your skin and into your bloodstream, the ingredients in gum also get absorbed by your body quickly and directly, bypassing the digestive system that would ordinarily help to filter some of the toxins away.

One such type of harmful chemicals is artificial sweeteners, which are ubiquitous in chewing gum. Many people choose sugar-free gum on purpose, believing it to be healthier than other varieties. But even non-sugar-free brands may contain some sort of artificial sweetener. It is very unusual for them not to.

One of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners in chewing gum is aspartame. Aspartame is metabolized inside your body into both wood alcohol (a poison) and formaldehyde (which is a carcinogen used as embalming fluid and is not eliminated from your body through the normal waste filtering done by your liver and kidneys). It's been linked to birth defects, cancers, brain tumors, and weight gain.

Sucralose (Splenda), another common artificial sweetener used in chewing gum, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on only two human studies, the longest of which lasted only four days – even though animal studies found the sweetener was associated with decreased red blood cells (a sign of anemia), male infertility, enlarged kidneys, spontaneous abortions, and an increased death rate. You might also be surprised to learn that consuming artificial sweeteners can cause distortions in your biochemistry that may actually make you gain weight.

Studies looking at this issue show very clearly that artificial sweeteners may actually cause greater weight gain than sugar by stimulating your appetite, increasing carbohydrate cravings, and stimulating fat storage. Several years ago, I wrote a book called Sweet Deception, in which I expose the many concerns related to the consumption of artificial sweeteners. If you want to learn more, this book is an excellent place to start – especially if you're in the habit of chewing sugar-free gum.

Chewing Gum Ingredients to Avoid

Artificial sweeteners are only one reason to avoid chewing gum. Most brands also contain additional chemical ingredients that do not belong in your body. There are natural chewing gum brands on the market that do not contain these questionable ingredients, so if you must chew gum, look for these. However, keep in mind that even natural chewing gum will pose risks from excess chewing, including TMJ, digestive issues, and more.

1. BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)

BHT is so toxic it's already been banned in many other countries. In the US, it's often used as a preservative in chewing gum and other processed foods. BHT has been linked to organ system toxicity, including kidney and liver damage, hyperactivity in children, and may be carcinogenic.

2. Calcium Casein Peptone (Calcium Phosphate)

Found primarily in Trident gum, it's thought this ingredient may be used as a whitening agent or texturizer. As a highly processed milk derivative, little is known about its long-term ingestion, although casein was previously linked to baby formula poisonings in China and is a well-recognized trigger of autoimmunity.

3. Gum Base

It's quite a mystery what "gum base" is actually made out of, but the investigators found it's usually a blend of elastomers, resins, plasticizers, and fillers. Most manufacturers do not reveal more specifics than this. After all, why would they want you to know that you're potentially chewing on petroleum-derived paraffin wax, polyvinyl acetate (carpenter's glue) and talc, all of which are linked to cancer.

4. Titanium Dioxide

Titanium dioxide is often used as a whitening agent in chewing gum, but it's been linked to autoimmune disorders, asthma, and Crohn's disease and is potentially carcinogenic – especially in its nanoparticle form. One study found children are highly exposed to titanium dioxide in confections, with chewing gum containing the highest levels.

Why Are You Chewing Gum?

I generally recommend that you shouldn't chew gum or if you do use gum, use it very rarely or right before a meal when the acid and enzyme stimulation may actually be beneficial. If you'd like to give up gum chewing but are finding it difficult, consider why you're doing it. Below are several common reasons why people chew gum, along with alternative options to help you kick the habit.
  • For stress relief: Try these eight stress-relief tips instead, along with the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible pathways known as meridians. EFT stimulates different energy meridian points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations.
  • To freshen your breath: Carry a toothbrush and toothpaste with you so you can brush your teeth even when you're on the go. A natural breath spray also works well for this purpose.
  • To overcome food cravings: The tapping and positive affirmations of EFT are frequently effective at reducing food cravings.
  • For the flavor: If you're chewing gum because you're hooked on the flavor, remember that both artificial and natural flavors are trying to simulate the flavors that nature readily provides. For healthier flavorful options, try sipping on a glass of water infused with fresh mint leaves, cinnamon, or citrus fruit.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How to Start an Organic Garden in 9 Easy Steps

The Benefits of Organic Gardening

You've been trying to eat more organic foods, both to decrease the amount of pesticides you and your family consume, and to help protect the environment from overloading with toxic chemicals. But organics can get a bit expensive, we know. Luckily, there's a way to grow your own delicious, fresh produce, while having fun and learning at the same time: organic gardening!

Don't know where to start? It is possible to hire someone to install and maintain a beautiful organic garden for you. But most of us can roll up our sleeves with a surprisingly small amount of effort. Remember, you can start small, even with just a single plant or two. Don't worry if things aren't perfect right away.

Organic gardening means you won't be using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, but that doesn't mean your plants are left to fend for themselves. There are an array of tools you can use to bolster plant health and ward off pests. Organic gardening also isn't just about what you don't do, it's about trying to foster a more holistic, natural ecosystem. Read on for specific tips, taken from The Daily Green's expert garden blogger, Leslie Land, her New York Times book 1000 Gardening Questions & Answers and other sources.

Preparing the Soil

In order to get the best results with your new organic garden, you'll want to make sure the soil is properly conditioned. You have to eat, and so do plants, so make sure your veggies get lots of fresh nutrients. Good healthy soil helps build up strong, productive plants. Chemical soil treatments can not only seep into your food, but they can also harm the beneficial bacteria, worms and other microbes in the soil.

The best way to gauge the quality of your soil is to get it tested. You can get a home testing kit, or better, send a sample to your local agricultural extension office. For a modest fee you'll get a complete breakdown of pH and nutrient levels, as well as treatment recommendations (be sure to tell them you're going organic). That way you can tailor your gardening program. Typically, it's best to test in the fall, and apply any organic nutrients before winter.

Even if you don't have time for testing, you'll want to make sure your soil has plenty of humus -- the organic matter, not the similarly named Mediterranean spread. According to 1000 Gardening Questions & Answers, you'll want to mix in compost, leaf and grass clippings and manure. Manure should be composted, unless you aren't going to harvest or plant anything for two months after application. Preferably, get your manure from local livestock that have been organically and humanely raised -- and never use manure from animals that eat meat.

How to Make Good Compost

All gardens benefit from compost -- and preferably you can make your own on site. Hey, it's free! Compost feeds plants, helps conserve water, cuts down on weeds, and keeps food and yard waste out of landfills (where it produces methane), instead turning garbage into "black gold." Spread compost around plants, mix with potting soil, use to bolster struggling plants…it's hard to use too much!

The best compost forms from the right ratio of nitrogen- and carbon-rich organic waste, mixed with soil, water and air. It might sound like complicated chemistry, but don't worry too much if you don't have time to make perfect compost. Even a minimally tended pile will still yield decent results.
  1. To get started, measure out a space at least three feet square. Your compost heap can be a simple pile or contained within a custom pen or bin (some can be rotated, to improve results).
  2. Add alternating layers of carbon (or brown) material -- leaves and garden trimmings -- and nitrogen (or green) material -- such as kitchen scraps and manure, with a thin layer of soil in between.
  3. Top off the pile with four to six inches of soil. Turn the pile as new layers are added and water to keep (barely) moist, in order to foster microbe action. You should get good compost in as little as two months (longer if it's cold).
  4. A properly maintained compost pile shouldn't smell. But if it does add more dry carbon material (leaves, straw, or sawdust) and turn it more frequently.
  5. Even if you live in a city, you can do some composting under your counter with a tidy worm kit, or partner with a community garden.

Choose the Right Plants

It really pays to select plants that will thrive in your specific micro-conditions. As a general guide don't forget to check the USDA's Hardiness Zones (which have recently been updated by the National Arbor Day Foundation due to climate change). Choose plants that will be well adjusted to each spot, in terms of light, moisture, drainage and soil quality. Most gardens have gradations in these variables. The happier your plants are, the more resistant they'll be to attackers.

If you're buying seedlings, look for plants raised without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. A great place to look is at your local farmers' market, which may also have native plants and varieties well suited to your area. It's better to buy stocky seedlings with few, if any blooms yet, and with roots that don't look overcrowded.

Many things are best grown from seed, including sunflowers, annual poppies, evening-scented stock (Matthiola bicornis), coriander, dill, annual phlox (Phlox drummondii), larkspur, annual lupine, morning glories, sweet peas, squash and cucumbers.

Plant Crops in Wide Beds

Plants that you will be harvesting, such as vegetables or cutting flowers, should be grouped tightly in beds that you don't walk on (raised beds work great). Grouping reduces weeding and water waste, and helps you target compost and nutrients. Easier path maintenance helps lead to healthy soil. Ample space between rows helps promote air circulation, which repels fungal attacks.

Remember that seedlings won't always stay diminutive, and you do want to try to limit over shadowing. It's a good idea to thin crops based on nursery suggestions.

According to Leslie Land, if you have limited space and time, and want the highest returns of fresh organic produce, these plants are typically winners:

1. Indeterminate Tomatoes. So named because the vines keep getting bigger and producing new fruit until they are felled by frost.

2. Non-Hybrid (Old-Fashioned) Pole Beans. They keep growing and producing 'til frost -- assuming you keep them picked.

3. Zucchini. Everything they say about avalanches of zucchini is true, especially of hybrid varieties.

4. Swiss Chard. You can keep breaking off outer leaves for months, and every picking will be tender as long as plants get enough water.

5. Tall Snow Peas and Sugarsnaps. They grow readily and produce delicious rewards.

Proper Watering

The best time to water plants is usually in the morning. Why? Mornings tend to be cool and without strong winds, so the amount of water lost to evaporation is reduced. If you water in the evening plants stay damp over night, making them more likely to be damaged by fungal and bacterial diseases.

Ideally, you want to water the roots, not the greenery, which is easily damaged. A drip or soak system can work great, or just carefully water the bases of plants by hand.

Most experts recommend substantial, infrequent watering for established plants, typically a total of about one inch of water per week (including rain). One or two applications a week encourages deeper rooting, which promotes stronger plants. To avoid shocking tender greenery, try to use water at or near air temperature (collected rainwater is best).

With population growth and climate change putting increasing pressure on our precious freshwater supplies, it is becoming more important than ever to save water.


Ah weeding. Even if you live in the Biosphere, you'll still get weeds, since their tiny seeds are pervasive. Pulling weeds by hand may sound like hard work -- and it can be -- but it also can be good exercise, and gets you outside in the fresh air. You don't want to pour toxic chemicals on your food, or where your children and pets play, right?

Reduce the number of weeds you have to contend with by applying mulch (which also helps protect the soil). According to Leslie Land, organic mulch that will rot down into the soil is almost always preferable to landscape fabric, although burlap and other materials can work in a pinch. Straw is cheap but doesn't last long. Wood chips are nice, but can get pricey. Many people opt to use lawn clippings, although it should be noted that because they are high in nitrogen, clippings should only be used on plants that need a lot of the nutrient, such as squash and lettuce.

If you get tired of weeding or aren't able to bend over, consider hiring some neighborhood kids. It's a good way to get to know others in your community. Remember too that raised beds can be made wheelchair accessible, and others can take advantage of wheeled stools, arthritis-friendly gardening tools and other equipment.

Protect Plants Without Toxic Pesticides

If your plants are being assaulted by pests, it may be a sign of other problems, so the first thing you should do is make sure they are getting enough light, nutrients and moisture. Also remember that a diverse garden helps prevent pests, by limiting the amount of one type of plant offered up to enemies, and boosting biodiversity.

It's a good thing to foster natural predators in your garden, such as frogs, toads, lizards, birds, and even bats. Beneficial insects can be your best friends, especially lady bugs (many nurseries even sell cans of them, though it's true there's a high probability they won't stick around). Leave a small source of water out to attract friendly predators. It's also a good idea to grow plants with small blossoms, such as sweet alyssum and dill, which attract predatory insects. Nets and row covers can also work.

It may sound surprising, but homeowners use more pesticides on their lawns and gardens than farmers do, acre for acre, according to EPA data. But there are organic alternatives that are much safer for you and our environment. Find out what problem you have (an agricultural extension service can help), then look for alternatives.

Organic weapons include Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacteria that disrupts the digestion of caterpillars and other leaf-eaters. You can also use horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps and garlic and/or hot pepper sprays.


Don't forget to harvest the fruits of your labor! Fresh organic produce also makes great gifts, educating your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Generally, the more you harvest, the more your plants will produce for you.

During peak harvest season, you'll likely find that it's best to check your garden every day. Got herbs? If you use them fresh pick them right before you need them. But if you'll be drying and storing them, it's best to wait until just before they flower, since they'll have the most flavor. Gather all herbs except basil in mid morning, shortly after dew has dried. Harvest basil in the late afternoon, since it will last longer after some time in the sun. It's best not to wash herbs before you dry or use them, since that can leach flaor (extra incentive for growing organic!).

When harvesting leafy greens pick sporadically from the entire crop, a little from each plant. For broccoli, wait until the central head is as large as it will get, before sending off buds for flowering. Cut it off right above the leaf node, and you'll likely get better production from the rest of the plant. In general, it's best to cut produce off with a sharp knife or scissors, versus ripping with your fingers, which can cause more damage to plant tissue.

If you get too much bounty, remember you can also freeze, store some types of produce in a root cellar, or take up canning. Enjoy!


If you have sick plants to remove, either during the season or at the end of the year, make sure you pull up the entire organism. Don't forget to rake up underneath, since diseased leaves can harbor problems for a long time. Put all infected material deep in the woods, in the ground at least a foot deep, or on the bonfire.

Most healthy or expired plants can actually be left in place over winter. You'll provide some food and habitat for birds and other wildlife, and plant cover can help protect your soil from eroding. It's better to chop off annuals then yank them out, because that way you'll leave soil intact, and help prevent weeds from gaining a foothold.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chickpeas are Chock Full of Antioxidants

Chickpeas or Garbanzo Beans are a legume many of us are familiar with, in fact they are the most widely consumed legume in the world, but do you know the many nutritional benefits they have?

Originating in the Middle East, chickpeas have a firm texture with a flavor somewhere between chestnuts and walnuts. Like most beans, they are rich in fiber; both soluble fiber, which helps to eliminate cholesterol from the body, and insoluble which acts like a “broom” in the intestinal tract (more on insoluble fiber later). They are a rich source of folate, vitamin E, potassium, iron, manganese, tryptophan, copper, zinc and calcium. As a high-potassium, low-sodium food they may help reduce blood pressure.

Chickpeas are the basis for hummus, the bean spread spiked with garlic and olive oil, great for a healthy satisfying snack. They're an imperfect round, and beige in color, and give a nut-like flavor and firm texture. More on health...

Full of Fiber!
Recent studies have demonstrated that the fiber in chickpeas can be metabolized by bacteria in the colon to produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs provide fuel to the cells that line your intestinal wall, helping to lower your risk of colon problems, including possibly lowering your risk of colon cancer. The soluble fiber in garbanzo beans also helps with blood fat regulation, including lower levels of LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. Two cups provide nearly 25 grams of fiber! Introducing new fiber rich foods to your diet can cause gas and bloating, so start off slow!

Curb your appetite: a recent study reported more satisfaction with foods when garbanzo beans were included; less calories and processed foods were also consumed.

Full of Antioxidants!
Researchers have recently found that many of the antioxidants present in garbanzo beans are especially concentrated in the outer seed coat that gives the beans their distinctive color. Darker-colored "desi-type" garbanzo beans appear to have greater concentrations of antioxidants than the cream-colored garbanzos, the "kabuli-type" that are regularly found at salad bars and in canned products. Antioxidants are found in both types as well as many minerals and other health promoting nutrients mentioned above. If you have previously stayed away from darker-colored or irregularly-shaped garbanzo beans, now’s the time to try them!

Garbanzo beans can be purchased dried or canned and sometimes fresh. Always rinse canned beans before using and dried beans should be soaked for at least 4 hours before cooking. Read package specific labeling for further details. There are also chickpea snacks on the market, that will leave you feeling full and satisfied – check labels for allergens, etc.

Go Vegetarian, Live Longer

There's plenty of evidence showing that vegetarian diets are great for your heart and waistline and even protect against cancer. But a new study of more than 73,000 Americans showed that it can help you live longer too. People with a plant-based diet in the study had a 20 percent lower mortality rate than meat eaters.

This study is one of the first to look at data from a living population of such a big size and to analyze the participants' eating patterns so meticulously. The researchers also controlled for lifestyle factors that could undermine health and lifespan, such as obesity, smoking, drinking, lack of exercise, poor sleep patterns, and age. Even despite all of these, the vegetarians and semi-vegetarians (one serving of meat per week max) lived longer, healthier lives than those who ate meat even a few times a week.

"Based on this study and other recent research, on average, vegetarians and semi-vegetarians tend to add about 10 years to their lives," says Sam Soret, coauthor of the study and associate dean of Loma Linda University School of Public Health. "This doesn't mean that every individual can automatically extend his life by going vegetarian because, besides diet, the genetic lottery plays a role in longevity. But having these results from such a huge group of people makes it undeniable that diet is a critical component impacting [lifespan]."

What makes a plant-based diet such a life saver? "It seems that there are fundamentally two factors at play," Soret says. "One is that the more plant foods you eat, the less meat you tend to consume. Meat has detrimental effects in its own right, which we know from evidence accumulated over the last century linking it to heart disease and cancer. So the more meat you eat, the more you expose yourself to these negative factors."

Secondly, plant foods provide their own health perks. "We also have important evidence that proves plants contain protective elements such as phytonutrients," Soret says. "Even semi-vegetarians, who eat some meat but still consume a lot of plant foods, minimize their exposure to the bad stuff in meat while upping their exposure to protective stuff in plants. It's a double whammy."

– Melaina Juntti

Monday, July 21, 2014

6 Healthy Easy-to-Make Beverages At Home

In our ever busy days, eating and drinking something nutritious may not be on our top priority. Constraint of time and energy is probably one of the top reasons why we eat so much fast food and processed/frozen food and drinks. Even an extra step of transferring food onto a plate or washing the dishes become a painful chore, let alone cooking from scratch. The food industry has caught on to this and now they offer healthier versions of packaged foods and drinks, boasting that they are healthy with labels like "zero calorie," "low fat," "no MSG," etc. Just remember that as much as you think they are healthy, they can't be as healthy as they are fresh.

If cooking food is too much hassle, try making homemade beverages. It's much simpler, requires minimal cleaning, and a step further towards healthy living. Homemade food and drinks are best because we know exactly when we make it (freshness), how they are made (think about cross contamination), and what we put in it (no funny and harmful ingredients). So let's try one of these to start with:

1. Wheatgrass Juice

Early in the morning, increase our well being and boost our immune system by getting rid of toxins from our body with fresh Wheatgrass Juice. It's rich in chlorophyll, a pigment that helps to detoxify our body, treats bad breath, and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help fight infections.

2. Coconut-Chia Energy Drink

To boost energy and keep you hydrated, try this Coconut-Chia Energy Drink that is packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants, and electrolytes.

3. Almond Milk

For those who are on gluten-free diet and allergic to cow's milk but needs an extra dose of calcium, vitamin E, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron, try making homemade Almond Milk. This can keep in the fridge for up to five days, so you can make it ahead of time on your less busy days.

4. Water Kefir and Milk Kefir

A healthy gut is one of the cornerstones for a healthy body. Our body needs more probiotics (good bacteria) more than ever before because of all the processed food and drinks we consume and the overuse of antibiotics. This easy to make Water Kefir and Milk Kefir are natural probiotic beverages that can help you balance your gut flora and improve your digestion. It takes only a few minutes to put together, let them ferment for a day or two, and you can enjoy this probiotic-rich drinks anytime at home. Make one big batch and you are set for the week.

5. Fruits and Herbs-Infused Flavored Water

Throughout the day, keep a big bottle of Fruits and Herbs-Infused Flavored Water to keep you motivated to drink and your body hydrated, while reaping the benefits of the vitamins and minerals that are infused into your water from the fresh fruits and herbs.

6. Lemon, Garlic, Ginger, and Honey Tea

When you don't feel well or down with a flu, warm your body with homemade Lemon, Garlic, Ginger, and Honey Tea. Each ingredient provides unique power to fight off infections, balances the body's pH and, speeds up circulation, and boosts our immune system.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ten Great Health Benefits of Eating Cherries

Cherries are a nutritional powerhouse fruit with so many incredible health benefits. One cup of raw cherries has 87 calories, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Enjoy them now while they are at their peak because their season is way too short.  Read on for some of the great health benefits of eating cherries.

Ten Great Health Benefits of Eating Cherries
  1. Cherries, known as a “super-fruit”, are packed with antioxidants called anthocyanins which aid in the reduction of heart disease and cancer.
  2. Cherries are one of the few food sources that contain melatonin, an antioxidant that helps regulate heart rhythms and the body’s sleep cycles.
  3. Cherries are an excellent source of beta carotene (vitamin A). In fact they contain 19 times more beta carotene than blueberries and strawberries.
  4. Cherries are rich in vitamins C, E, potassium, magnesium, iron, folate and fiber.
  5. Cherries are referred to as “brain food”, aiding in brain health and in the prevention of memory loss.
  6. Because cherries contain anthocyanins, they can reduce inflammation and symptoms of arthritis and gout.
  7. Eating cherries reduces the risk of diabetes.
  8. Cherries are a good source of fiber which is important for digestive health.
  9. Cherries are a great snack or dessert choice important for weight-maintenance.
  10. Because of their powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, cherries are said to reduce pain and joint soreness for runners and athletes after workouts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Are Organic Vegetables More Nutritious After All?

There may never be an end to arguments over whether organic food is more nutritious. But a new study is the most ambitious attempt so far to resolve the issue — and it concludes that organic fruit and vegetables offer a key benefit.

It's a scientific reply to an analysis that some researchers at Stanford University published two years ago. That paper, which generated lots of media coverage and much controversy, reviewed more than 200 studies of organic and conventional food, and concluded that organic foods do not really offer any significant nutritional benefit.

This new analysis, from a group of scientists mostly based in Europe, crunched data from an even bigger pile of studies: 343 of them, carried out over the past several decades. It will be published Monday in the British Journal of Nutrition.

The new analysis repeats some of the Stanford group's findings. It finds that organic and conventional vegetables offer similar levels of many nutrients, including minerals, vitamin C and vitamin E. Conventional crops are higher in protein. And there are fewer pesticide residues on organic foods, as you'd expect.

But the group found a significant difference in the levels of special compounds called antioxidants. "Across the important antioxidant compounds in fruits and vegetables, organic fruits and vegetables deliver between 20 and 40 percent higher antioxidant activity," says Charles Benbrook, from Washington State University's Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, a co-author of the study.

These antioxidant compounds, which go by names like flavonoids and carotenoids, are getting a lot of attention lately. Their effects remain somewhat murky, but scientists say they can protect cells from the effects of aging, or from the sort of damage that can lead to cancer.

Benbrook says this is a big reason why public health experts want us all to eat more fruits and vegetables: They deliver a good dose of antioxidants. And if organic produce provides more of them, he says, "we think that's a big deal."

Benbrook thinks there are a couple of reasons why they're seeing this result.

First, plants make these compounds to protect themselves when they run into challenges like insects or diseases. And organic crops, because they aren't protected by as many chemical pesticides, have to fight off more hungry bugs. "Plants in an organic field are getting chewed on," he says.

The second reason, Benbrook says, is that organic crops aren't getting as much fertilizer. More heavily fertilized conventional crops may grow faster and get bigger, but as a result, their nutrients may get diluted.

"That's why when you buy these great big juicy apples that are just sweet as sin, it's that extra moisture and carbohydrate that dilutes the vitamin C and the anthocyanins," he says.

This analysis, however, probably isn't the end of this debate.

Jeffrey Blumberg, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University, says attempts to draw conclusions from collections of hundreds of different studies, each one comparing organic and conventional food, are beset by a host of methodological problems. For one thing, there's no single "organic" or "conventional" production system.

Some organic crops get lots of organic fertilizer; some don't. Some are protected with lots of natural pesticides; some are not. Conventional practices vary widely, too. So it's difficult to know, in the end, what you really are comparing. And food that's compared in these studies may not be the same as the food you're buying in the store.

In any case, Blumberg says, the difference in nutritional quality between organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables really isn't that big — especially when you consider the gap between what Americans should eat, and what they really consume.

"Most Americans are getting only a couple of servings of fruits and vegetables every day," he says. "We're recommending that they get up to nine servings."

What really will make a difference in people's health, he says, is just eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If you eat plenty of these foods — whether they're organic or not — you'll get plenty of antioxidants.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

20 Foods to Help You Stay Hydrated this Summer

For most of us, summertime is synonymous with long days, warm evenings, visits to the pool, and, above all, sunshine. But when that glorious yellow orb is warming and lighting the world, it can be easy to forget to stay hydrated. This is problematic, because poor hydration can lead to a host of short and long-term health problems, including constipation, nose bleeds, headaches, coughing, fatigue, acne, and unwanted weight gain. But staying hydrated when it’s hot outside doesn’t have to be a difficult chore; by including certain foods in your diet, you can help your body stay happy and hydrated while you beat the heat.

Here are 20 foods to stay hydrated with, so keep them on your menu when the days start to grow long and hot.

1. Watermelonwater content: 92%

Watermelon is a cherished summer treat, and for good reason—it’s tasty, fun to eat, and undeniably refreshing. Of course, it’s no secret that watermelon is loaded with water; after all, it’s even in the name. However, it also contains lycopene, which is an antioxidant believed to help fight cancer.

2. Strawberries,  water content: 92%

Another summer favorite, strawberries are as water-rich as watermelons, but thanks to their small size, they are a bit easier to eat while on the go. They may also promote bone health, boost short-term memory, and even help burn stored fat.

3. Apricotswater content: 86%

Generally only available fresh through the beginning of summer (due to the fact that they bloom early, have little tolerance to extreme heat, and are difficult to ship), fresh apricots are nonetheless widely popular. In addition to having a high water content, they are also rich in antioxidants, fiber, and beta carotene.

4. Iceberg Lettucewater content: 96%

Although you’re probably less-likely to grab a handful of lettuce to take along on your summer walk or July beach-trip, one of the things that makes lettuce such a wonderful food is that it’s easy to incorporate into other meals. A healthy salad or fresh sandwich can be a great way to get the hydrating benefits of lettuce—as well as the other nutritional advantages—while still enjoying a delicious meal.

5. Spinach,  water content: 92%

Spinach doesn’t have quite as much water in it as iceberg lettuce, but it is a bit more nutritious overall. However, the calcium and iron in raw spinach are often unprocessable by the human body, because of a compound called oxalic acid that is also present in spinach. This problem can be solved by simply cooking the spinach, blending it in a smoothie, or by pairing it with foods rich in vitamin C.

6. Grapefruit,  water content: 91%

Tart and tangy, grapefruits are loaded with mouth-watering citrus juice. They’re also suspected to help burn unwanted fat, while reducing cravings and boosting the immune system. For added nutrients and hydration, consider peeling the grapefruit and eating it like an orange, rather than cutting it.

7. Sweet Peppers,  water content: 92%

Sweet peppers are large, mild peppers which have a subtle sweet flavor and are generally very crisp. They come in a variety of colors, but all of them have a high water content. They are often used in salads and main dishes, but when sliced into smaller sections, they can make a great mid-day treat that’s high in vitamins C, E, B6, and helpful enzymes, and low in calories.

8. Tomatoeswater content: 94%

We’ve come a long way in the last 200 hundred or so years, when the prevailing British and American belief was that tomatoes were poisonous (despite the fact that they were eaten regularly in Spain and Italy). These days, tomatoes are found in dishes around the world, and are considered by many to be world’s most popular (and possibly most nutritious) fruit.

9. Radishes,  water content: 95%

Often overlooked as a standalone vegetable, radishes are nevertheless a slightly spicy treat that can also help keep you hydrated and healthy. This is because radishes contain vitamin C, zinc, and phosphorus, which all play a part in keeping you feeling your best during the hot months.

10. Cauliflower,  water content: 92%

Although you may not realize it, cauliflower actually has as high of a percentage of water as strawberries—this helps contribute to the crispiness for which cauliflower is known. It also contains sulforaphane (which is believed to kill cancer stem cells), is loaded with vitamins, and helps to regulate digestion.

11. Broccoli,  water content: 91%

Similar to cauliflower in many respects, broccoli is likewise full of vitamins and sulforaphane, and contains a high amount of water. It is best for the body when eaten raw.

12. Carrots,  water content: 87%

Carrots are best known for their bright orange color and their sometimes-debated ability to improve vision. What they’re not as well known for is their water content. However, carrots are easy to pack along for snacks, and can help keep the body hydrated.

13. Cantaloupe,  water content: 90%

Cantaloupe is another great summer treat that will keep you hydrated. As summer-season fruits, they are available fresh all the way through to the end of August. They are nutritious and low in calories, and have a unique musky flavor. Consider giving it a sour-tasting flavor boost by eating it with a dash of lime or lemon juice.

14. Zucchini,  water content: 95%

Although green squash such as zucchini may not sound like the perfect summer snack, it is loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin (which promote healthy vision), manganese (which protects tissue from damage caused by free radicals), and massive amounts of vitamin C. Zucchini also has a very high water content, and is the perfect addition to your summer diet.

15. Celery,  water content: 95%

Celery is a perfect food for satisfying cravings and promoting weight loss, all thanks to its high water and fiber content, and its absurdly low calorie count. At the same time, celery contains vitamins A, C, and K, making it nutritious as well as filling and thirst quenching.

16. Pineapple,  water content: 87%

One of the most popular tropical fruits, pineapples are extremely rich in vitamin C. In fact, 1 cup of fresh pineapple contains over 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Pineapple is also high in manganese, making it a healthy and energy-rich fruit that will also keep you hydrated.

17. Peaches,  water content: 88%

Another fruit which is great by itself or as a part of a larger meal, peaches are also known to calm upset stomachs and even relieve anxiety (they’re known as the “Fruit of Calmness” in Hungary). Their juicy flesh contains significant amounts of water, and makes a great snack.

18. Cranberries,  water content: 87%

The health benefits of cranberries are widely recognized, which is one of the reasons that cranberry juice is so often mixed with other juices. Cranberries contain vitamin C, fiber, and more antioxidants than almost any other fruit or vegetable. Their high water content makes them a must for those who want to eat healthy and keep hydrated.

19. Blueberries,  water content: 85%

These small, dark berries are often added to other dishes, and are known to help lower cholesterol, and also decrease the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Much like cranberries, they contain incredibly high amounts of antioxidants. And, also like cranberries, blueberries contain a high percentage of water.

20. Cucumberwater content: 96%

If cucumbers contained any more water, they’d probably be a soup. Suffice it to say that cucumbers contain more water than almost any other solid food. And, thanks to their high levels of vitamins, their ability to help flush toxins from the human body, and their usefulness in controlling blood pressure, cucumbers are actually one of the most nutritious foods available.

So, don’t let the summer heat dry you up; grab a few of your favorite hydrating ingredients and make a summer smoothie that will not only quench your thirst, but also nourish your body in the process. Now get out there and enjoy that sun!

[via The Blend]

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Homemade Sunscreen Recipe

Most sunscreens contain toxic ingredients or endocrine disrupting chemicals that in many cases may actually promote skin cancer growth and free radical production in the body. In fact, in the years since sunscreen use began, skin cancer rates have actually risen, and a 2007 document from the FDA stated that: “The FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer” In fact, many reports show that most sunscreens actually raise skin cancer risk.

Even natural, commercially available sunscreens often have toxic ingredients! Check out your brand here!

Considering many people these days are actually Vitamin D deficient, I consider lack of sun exposure to be a much bigger problem than too much exposure. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many types of cancers including the most deadly types of breast cancer. Lack of Vitamin D has also been linked to problems during pregnancy including pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, premature labor, and more.

As a society, we’ve literally cut off our nose to spite our face when it comes to sun exposure. To avoid skin cancer, we’ve shunned the sun and the Vitamin D our bodies produce with sun exposure.

On top of that, sun exposure itself is not the only factor linked to skin cancer, and many other factors, such as Omega-6 Vegetable Oil consumption can have a big impact on skin health!

In most cases, my approach to sun exposure is to get adequate daily exposure, without getting close to the point of burning. Since most of us don’t work outside these days, it actually takes effort to get daily sun, rather than to avoid it.

In the event that I’m going to be out in the sun for much longer than my skin is used to, it is often easy enough to just put on a hat or shirt to shield my skin.

If none of these options are available, for instance, on a day at the beach in early summer before I’ve been in the sun much, I will very occasionally use natural sunscreen. I’m yet to use it this year, and hope not to at all, but I wanted to share my recipe so that if you are in the sun for extended periods of time this summer, you have a natural option.

This would also be a more natural alternative for really young children, those taking medication that increases sun burn risk, or those who burn very easily.

Just to clarify, even though this natural sunscreen smells great and is naturally moisturizing, I don’t recommend using it daily since the Vitamin D you get from the sun will be more beneficial in the long run!

Many of the ingredients in this recipe have a natural SPF but since this is a natural recipe and has not been tested by a regulatory organization, I can’t make any claims or even guesses as to the combined SPF. The individual ingredients that are naturally SPF are:
  • Almond Oil- SPF around 5
  • Coconut Oil- SPF 4-6
  • Zinc Oxide SPF 2-20 depending on how much used
  • Red Raspberry Seed Oil SPF 25-50
  • Carrot Seed Oil –  SPF 35-40
  • Shea Butter – SPF 4-6
The final version will have a varied sun protective ability depending on the amount of each ingredient used. For a simple version, even just coconut oil and shea butter with a little Raspberry Seed and Carrot Seed Oil or some Zinc oxide will work for moderate exposure.

As always check with your doctor or dermatologist before using any new products.

NOTE: This is an improved recipe since many people were having trouble getting the temperatures exactly right to get the lotion to emulsify (as per the comments below). This recipe will not have any of those issues!

Natural Homemade Sunscreen Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almond or olive oil (can infuse with herbs first if desired)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (natural SPF 4)
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • 2 Tablespoons Zinc Oxide (This is a non-nano version that won’t be absorbed into the skin. Be careful not to inhale the powder). This makes a natural SPF of 20+ or more can be added.)
  • Optional: up to 1 teaspoon Red Raspberry Seed Oil
  • Optional: up to 1 teaspoon Carrot Seed Oil
  • Optional: up to 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Shea Butter (natural SPF 4-5)
  • Optional: Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other natural extracts to suit your preference

How to Make Natural Sunscreen:

  1. Combine ingredients except zinc oxide in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives, or other foods.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
  3. Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, add the zinc oxide, stir in well and pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (pint size) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
  5. Stir a few times as it cools to make sure zinc oxide is incorporated.
  6. Use as you would regular sunscreen. Best if used within six months.
Additional Notes:
  • This sunscreen is somewhat, but not completely, waterproof and will need to be reapplied after sweating or swimming
  • Make sure not to inhale the Zinc Oxide- use a mask if necessary!
  • This recipe has an SPF of about 20, though adding more Zinc Oxide will increase the SPF
  • Add more beeswax to make thicker sunscreen, less to make smooth sunscreen
  • I recommend coconut or vanilla extract or lavender essential oils for fragrance
  • Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge
  • I prefer to store in a small canning jar and apply like a body butter. It will be thicker, especially if you use coconut oil in the recipe.
  • Remove the Zinc Oxide and this makes an excellent lotion recipe!

An Even Faster Way To Make Sunscreen:

  • Get a bottle of your favorite lotion (that doesn’t contain citrus oils!)
  • Add a couple Tablespoons of non-nano Zinc Oxide
  • Mix well
  • Use as Sunscreen

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

6 Vegetables You Can Grow Indoors

Ah, summer. You are the most popular season. You’re the time that everyone spends outside on their porches, watching the sun go down. Which is really the only comfortable time to be outside, since daytime consists of 95% humidity and nighttime is a swarm of mosquitos. As a result, gardening can be a bit of a challenge.

Of course, just because July and August may not be the best time to be outside doesn’t mean you need to give up on your gardening dreams. You may need to do a little bit of prep work, of course, but an indoor garden can turn your home into an oasis in the summer, and a tropical wonderland in winter. If you’d like your indoor garden close to where you’ll be cooking, you’ll need quite a bit of light.


Pretty much any variety of tomato plant will grow well in a container. Of course, tomatoes are heavy, and they’ll need some support, but you’d have to do a trellis outside as well. Cherry tomatoes will spawn the biggest yield as far as sheer numbers go, and they’re wonderful if you have a few smaller helpers. Children are much more likely to enjoy cherry tomatoes, since they’re just their size. Plus, the weight of the fruit is less likely to break the stems.


Root vegetables are surprisingly simple to grow inside. Plus, carrots can be used in almost any recipe, so you don’t have to worry about a surplus. Round carrot varieties or a deep window box will allow you to grow your carrots indoors. Most of the time, it’s easiest to find them as seeds (your local grocery store will probably have them). When grown inside, carrots don’t have much of a season. Therefore, if you harvest one crop, you can simply plant the next batch and expect fresh carrots year-round.


Another root, garlic has some huge health benefits. However, it also grows with almost no help. Ever gotten too many garlic cloves and seen them sprout? That’s just from sitting around! Imagine how well they can do with a little soil and water to help them out. By simply planting whole cloves of garlic (instead of adding them to the spaghetti sauce), you can end up with a whole plethora! In order to make it edible, the new garlic cloves will need to be dried and stored. Luckily, all that is easily accomplished in a basement or storage shed.

Salad Greens

The only warning I would give with growing salad greens is to keep an eye on the kind you choose. Some of these lettuces can get pretty big, and unless you have a rabbit, you may find that you’ve planted too much to make use of. Greens also need plenty of space in the pot, so once they begin sprouting, pull out all but the healthiest ones. This will ensure that you have a good crop, and that you don’t end up overcrowding them. Then just lop off what you need for salads!


Pretty much the only plant that you can water and literally toss in a dark closet, mushrooms are ideal for a beginning, or lazy, gardener. You can buy a bag of compost and some spores, water them, and then toss them in a closet or cupboard somewhere. A few weeks later, they’ll be ready to harvest. Since mushrooms are delicious but deadly to get wrong, this is a much safer option than trying to learn how to gather them on your own.


Ok, so herbs aren’t technically a vegetable. However, they are excellent to grow indoors, you can use them year-round, and they’ll make your home smell amazing. Mint is a great one for indoor growing. Outside, mint likes to take over, and your herb garden may easily become a mint problem. Keeping them in pots prevents this.

Oregano, thyme, verbena and rosemary also grow well inside. Individual planter boxes are the best ways to keep them separate, but some varieties will do quite well together. Figure out what you’d most like to have first, then decide how to plant them. Ones that like similar amounts of water and sun (and won’t crowd each other out) are best to combine.

If you’ve decided to start an indoor garden, you’ve chosen one hobby that’s sure to get some attention. There's not many people who have fresh vegetables in the middle of winter, or who manage to bring in the harvest without breaking a sweat. So roll up your sleeves, get the brightest areas of the kitchen set, and start looking forward to fresh produce, and a lower grocery bill.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Red, White and GREEN - 7 Tips to an Earth-Friendly Independence Day

The Fourth of July is a great time to get some sun, have a little fun and forget about the daily grind as we celebrate our nation's birthday. But just because it's an excuse to party hardy, we shouldn't forget that keeping things green and protecting our environment over the holiday is just as important as making the perfect apple pie or lighting up the barbecue. With this in mind, here are seven ways you can add a little bit of green to your patriotic party and still have plenty of fun - read on!

Tip 1: Ditch the Plastics

Disposable plates/utensils/cups may be convenient for you, but not Mama Earth. You could have a ‘bring your own plate/cup’ theme where the most unusual/fun, different categories of plates could win a prize. You could even have a dish/cup swap. You start with one, but go home with something completely different. If you must, reach for biodegradable plates, try these bamboo products by Bambu when you’re out shopping for your soirĂ©e this week.

Tip 2: Buy Local and Organic Food

Who wants to worry about pesticides on this day of patriotism? We recommend steering clear of foods produced on factory farms — instead look for locally-grown and/or organic produce and meats for you grill. Buying locally is a great way to better educate yourself on what you’re putting into your mouth and it supports your local economy. And if you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact even further by going all-veggie, there are some delish animal-free selections out there, including the classic veggie burger and tofu-pups. These tasty vegetarian dishes avoid the pitfalls of industrial meat production, which contributes to much of the world’s water use, emissions, land use and oil consumption.

Tip 3: Grill Green

With over 60 million barbecues lighting up this Fourth of July, choosing the right grill and grilling accessories can do a lot to help the earth breathe easier. There are a variety of sustainably produced charcoal briquettes out there – including Wicked Good Charcoal, which is made from industrial scrap wood. Propane is also another good option as it produces close to half the emissions of generic charcoals. If you’re looking to save space in your backyard, try out Black+Blum’s Hot-Pot BBQ, which is cleverly disguised as a planter!

Tip 4: Make Your Own Healthy Sweet Treats

Did someone say POPSICLES? Sure store-bought cakes and pie are an age-old favorite, but they’re also laden with refined sugars and fat. So say poo poo the pie and whip up some fabulous popsicles instead! Homemade ice pops are the perfect way to cool down and to satiate a sweet tooth. You can prep and stock up on the pops in the freezer the day before your party, or for those on the go try a cooler filled with these frozen treats. One nifty design that caught our eye recently is the Zoku Quick Pop, which whips up popsicles in just under 7 minutes!

Tip 5: Switch on the Solar Light

If you plan on partying into the night, a great way to add some ambiance without impacting your electricity bill is with solar lamps and lanterns. Just set them out in the sun for the day and when dusk falls, voila – you’ve got yourself the perfect setting for an impromptu dance party or a romantic Independence night with your loved one.

Tip 6: Go for Green Fireworks

It’s hardly a Fourth of July without fireworks. Fireworks however don’t fare well when it comes to their green cred, but thankfully there are some companies out these putting out some alternatives that sparkle just as bright! Some sweet options we’ve seen include perchlorate-free fireworks and Chris Burton’s Sky Orbs. These colorful lamps can be lit to light up the night, but are also made from biodegradable and environmentally safe materials.

Tip 7: Pick up your waste and RECYCLE!

After this Fourth of July there are bound to be plenty of stray cans, bottles, streamers, plates, and forks littering streets and parks. Do yourself, your community, and the environment a favor by picking up all the leftover traces of your party and properly dispose of them, recycling all that you can. It’s an obvious tip, but it doesn’t hurt repeating.

[via Inhabitat]