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]