And Men Have Lost Their Reason

Yesterday, March 26, while I was happily biking to my local farmers’ market to buy dinner ingredients from local organic vendors, Obama signed into law bill H.R. 933, which contained the rider known as the Monsanto Protection Act.  This bill gives Monsanto and other biotech companies complete immunity to any safety act in place on either the federal or state level.  It grants the Department of Agriculture the ability to veto any judicial ruling that halts the planting or sale of GM seeds due to safety concerns, effectively overturning the principles of judicial review and check and balances.   Hoping to avoid the furor it knew would arise, Big Ag quietly attached the rider to a budget legislation meant to prevent a government shutdown when the previous budget expired.  Faced with the coming budget crisis, the legislation was certain to pass, along with any riders attached, and Monsanto took advantage of that fact.  Despite a petition circulated by Food Democracy Now that garnered over 200,000 signatures, Obama failed to veto the rider when he signed bill H.R. 933 into law.  Obama, who promised during his first campaign to label GMOs, whose wife is a health food activist, who eats from his very own organic garden on the White House grounds, has given Monsanto dominion over his countrymen and their food.

The news is even worse for Marylanders.  The rider was introduced anonymously while the bill was under review by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by our own Senator, Democrat Barbara Mikulski.  Instead of forwarding the rider to the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees, whose branches are directly affected by its contents, Mikulski allowed it to slip through without even reviewing its language or provisions.  It’s easy to criticize the president, so far away behind his white walls and bodyguards.  Betrayal from your home state is harder to ignore, and wounds much more deeply.

What does this mean for us, the people?  It means that the purses of biotech companies like Monsanto, Dow, and DuPont are more important to our government than our safety.  It means that not only are we denied the right to know what’s in our food, we are denied the assurance of that said food is safe to eat.  It means that eating organic is more important now than ever.  Most importantly, it means it’s time to get angry, get active, and get LABELED.

Food Democracy Now has started another petition expressing their outrage at Obama’s betrayal and demanding that he protect his constituents by labeling GMOs.  While I’ve lost any trust in our government that remained in my being, I can’t give up hope yet.  This country was built on the will of the common people; if one revolution can start a country, surely another can save it.  If not, well, I hear the waves are great in Australia – and so are the labeling laws.  Maybe I’ll learn to surf.


Blame it on the Groundhog

It seems that mother nature has forgotten about the east coast in her yearly springtime fashion show.  Instead of flowers, we get snow.  Instead of bright mornings with birds singing, we get snow.  Instead of colorful skirts and light jackets, we get… snow.  Sigh.  Shiver.

For those of you who suffer from asthma, you probably dread cold weather as much as I do.  And with the bizarre, frigid weather we’ve been having lately, your snow days probably haven’t been anymore fun than mine.  Cold weather, as well as allergens like pet dander, dust, pollen, and harsh chemicals, can trigger an asthma attack that can leave you breathless in seconds.  I’ve had several pretty terrible ones in the past few days, and while I told you in an earlier post that my Earth Solutions aromatherapy inhaler works well for small issues, it was simply no match for the kind of problems I’ve been facing.

Then, lo and behold, Natural News came to my rescue.  I found an article on their site this morning about 10 superfoods that help keep asthma symptoms at bay.  These shouldn’t be used in place of a rescue inhaler, but eaten daily, then can help reduce your risk of having an attack.

Natural News’ List of Breath-Friendly Foods:

images1) Avocado. The fruit with the highest known concentration of L-glutathione; avocado is an excellent anti-asthma food that helps protect cells against free radical damage and detoxify the body of pollutants and other harmful substances. Widely recognized as the “master” antioxidant, enabling all other antioxidants to function, the L-glutathione in avocados helps quells inflammation systemically and repair damaged gut health, a process that in turn helps prevent triggers of asthma from engaging.

kale-bunch-lg2) Kale. An excellent source of all-natural vitamin C; kale possesses a unique ability to block the free radicals responsible for causing contractions of smooth muscles in airway passages. Kale is also a great source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant phytochemical capable of both alleviating existing asthma symptoms and preventing future ones from forming.  [Really, though, who needs yet another excuse to eat kale?  It’s so delish!]

images23) Spinach. A study involving 68,535 female participants found that high intake of spinach is directly correlated with a lowered risk of asthma. This may be due to the fact that spinach is high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is prevalent among people with asthma, and emergency intravenous (IV) treatments with magnesium have been shown to help halt an asthma attack. Spinach is also high in potassium, a deficiency of which is also said to exacerbate asthma symptoms.

images34) Banana. A banana a day could keep asthma away, according to a 2011 study out of the U.K. Researchers from Imperial College London found that children who eat just one banana a day reduce their risk of developing asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing by about 34 percent. Bananas are also naturally high in fiber, which can help prevent respiratory conditions like asthma from developing.

images45) Water. For many of the people diagnosed with asthma, dehydration is the true cause of their asthma symptoms. In fact, according to water expert Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, the set of symptoms commonly labeled as asthma is actually just the body crying out for more water. So unless you have aquagenic urticaria, also known as water allergy, it is definitely worth your while to drink more clean, fluoride-free water every day to avoid developing asthma symptoms.

images56) Ginger. Loaded with anti-inflammatory nutrients that pervade the entire body; ginger root is another powerful anti-asthma herb that some people say works better than antihistamine drugs like Benadryl at clearing up airways and stopping inflammation. And the best part about ginger root is that it does not cause harmful side effects, which means you can safely add it to everyday foods and beverages for good health.

images67) Turmeric. The inflammation responsible for swelling the lungs and constricting breathing passages during an asthma attack is no match for turmeric, the active ingredient of which is proving to be one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients in existence. Because it helps dilate blood vessels and relax muscles, turmeric is a powerful weapon in keeping asthma symptoms at bay.

images78) Elderberry. One of the richest plant-based sources of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant compound, elderberry is an incredible immune-boosting fruit that helps fight colds, flu, and respiratory illnesses like asthma. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), quercetin is particularly effective at blocking the release of histamines and other allergic and inflammatory chemicals in the body, including those associated with asthma.

images89) Apple. Similarly high in quercetin; apples have been shown to provide powerful protection against asthma. A study out of Europe found that pregnant women who ate at least four apples per week were 53 percent less likely to bear a child with doctor-confirmed asthma. And the same study that linked banana consumption to lowered asthma symptoms also found that children who drink apple juice are about 50 percent less likely to develop asthma symptoms.

images010) Chia seed. A powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and quercetin, chia seeds are another excellent addition to your anti-asthma diet. The omega-3s in chia seeds are known to help decrease inflammation in both children and adults, as well as restore natural balance to the lipid walls of cell membranes. A study involving the long-term use of omega-3 supplements in asthmatics has also confirmed that the nutrient can lead to a significant reduction is asthma symptoms, particularly in those suffering from allergy-related asthma.

I use most of these ingredients daily in my juicer, and my asthma most definitely has less of a choke hold on my life than it did before I discovered fresh veggies.  But as I’ve recently found out, there are still times when I need my inhaler.  If, like me, you threw yours out in your quest to rid yourself of pharmaceuticals, severe attacks can be pretty scary.  I’ve learned two tricks that can help: coffee and magnesium.  During the worst of my recent attacks, I frantically scoured the interwebs for any home remedies that sounded promising.  All the sites I visited agreed on one thing, and that was caffeine.  Countless asthma sufferers touted the benefits of a strong cup of coffee during the attack, as the caffeine helps relax the inflamed muscled in your airway.  (Sounds counter-intuitive, no?)  So there I sat, gulping down air and extra dark java, and within minutes I noticed the vice on my chest starting to loosen its grip.  I haven’t tried the magnesium trick yet, though I have Natural Calm mag powder and Ancient Minerals mag gel on hand for the next time the cold gets its icy claws onto my lungs.

Maybe Mother Nature needs some caffeine.  Or maybe we need to teach this groundhog a lesson, because his penchant for extending winter is not cool.  Watch out, Puxatony Phil.  We’re onto you.


My Diet Needs to Go On a Diet

Heidi Klum - Sports Illustrated

Heidi Klum – Sports Illustrated

While sleepy-eyed March is one of my favorite times of year, with the earth waking up from its winter snooze, it’s also one of the most stressful.  Spring means that summer’s on its way, and with summer comes (dun dun dun…) the dreaded bathing suit. This spring is going to be extra frantic for me because not only do I have a beach wedding to attend in April and a Baltimore wedding in which I’m a bridesmaid in May, but I have my own wedding at the end of May.  Eeek!!  So many dresses to fit into!

Since most of us put on a few pounds in the winter (after the first dozen Christmas cookies, there’s just no going back) spring is the season for dieting.  I’m not going to be prancing around wearing only paint like Heidi here, I’d just like to have the option to prance nude should the opportunity arise.  But there are so many diets out there, how is a girl to tell which one works for her?  So I decided to dig into some of the most popular diets and get the skinny on them.

This isn’t what I would consider a diet, more like a lifestyle choice, though some people do use vegetarianism/veganism as part of a health plan.  I’ve been a vegetarian for twelve years now, and while I didn’t choose this for nutritional reasons, it was definitely the push I needed to start down the path to good health.  Very few people realize how complex this lifestyle can be when they begin it, however, so I wanted to give some basic guidelines.

There are several different levels of vegetarianism, depending on what animal products you include in your diet.  Pescatarians include fish, and ovo-lacto vegetarians include eggs and dairy.  Vegans consume no animal products (that includes honey!) and use no animal byproducts, like leather, wool, and fur.  The depth to which you take vegetarian/veganism is totally up to you because, as I said, it gets a little complex.  Many foods have hidden animal products that some choose to avoid, such as gelatin (made from livestock bones & found in anything that gels, like pudding, Jello, gummy bears, etc.) and rennet (made from livestock intestines and used in cheeses).  Fun vegetarian fact: white sugar is white because it’s processed with bone char, so white sugar is off limits for anyone strictly avoiding animal products.  And think about how many products contain white sugar…  Bye bye candy aisle, see ya next lifetime!

While I’ll admit that I’ve never felt healthier since becoming a vegetarian, there are a lot of serious health risks associated with this lifestyle.  When I worked at a health food store, I saw my fair share of unhealthy, skeletal-looking vegans, and so I would never recommend that diet to anyone unless it’s serving a specific health purpose.  Removing meat removes a huge chunk of your protein, good fat, and nutrient intake, and removing all animal products pretty much ensures that unless you’re taking supplements, you’re depriving your body of everything it needs to thrive.  Our bodies were created to eat meat; everything from out teeth to our gut to our brain is built to run on both meat and plants, and I’m a firm believer that mother earth knew what she was doing when she created the world.  I therefore supplement my diet with B vitamins, protein powder, fish oil capsules, and superfoods like spirulina.  Yes, it can get pretty expensive buying supplements on top of food, but vegetarianism for me it a spiritual rather than nutritional choice, and this is how I’ve found my balance.

Veg links:
101 Cookbooks – This isn’t a completely vegetarian/vegan site, but there are some great recipes, including a vegan peanut butter cookie recipe that is banging!
The Vegetarian Myth – I’m sure you’re all sick of having this book thrown in your face, but it really is an important resource for anyone considering choosing a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.  Lierre Keith examines the political, environmental, and nutritional reasons why people go veg, and then explains why those reasons are unfounded.

caveman-cookingThe Paleo Diet
Pretty much the opposite of the veg diet, the paleo diet is, well, paleo.  You eat what your Paleolithic ancestors ate, what your body was meant to eat.  The paleo diet limits you to meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungus, roots, and nuts.  That means no grain, dairy, potatoes, or processed foods.  Produce should be organic and meat must be grass-fed to get closest to how cavemen really ate, though I’m sure not everyone follows this rule.  From what I know of holistic health, this diet seems to be the best overall.  Grains and dairy come with their own health risks, and we all know by now that processed foods offer very little nutrition.  Say goodbye to chocolates though, unless you make your own!

Paleo links:
The Paleo Diet – A great place to get started, though you do have to subscribe to get all the good info.
PaleOMG – This site has some excellent paleo-approved recipes.  I made the blueberry chocolate chip cookies last night and they’re pretty good for being gluten-free.

raw-food-intro-400x400Raw Food Diet
The next step after the paleo diet would be the raw food diet, in which you eat only uncooked, unprocessed foods.  This is perhaps the only diet I could never do, because I simply cannot understand how one lives without a warm dinner on a cold night.  I do incorporate elements of this diet into my life, though, such as juicing.  Heat destroys the nutrients in produce, so the more you cook your kale, the less good it will do you.  Juicing fruits and veggies is a great way to start your day – and a great way to incorporate things like spirulina or flax seeds that taste like butt by themselves.  Dehydrating foods is another way around cooking them.  I haven’t invested in a dehydrator yet, so I can’t say yay or nay to its cooking skills.  With a raw diet, it’s your choice whether or not to include animal products, though I can’t imagine a raw steak is very tasty…

Raw Food links:The Best of Raw Food – A good website to get you started, it gives you a lot of pointers and even a shopping list!
Raw Food Life – Excellent source of information and articles on the raw food diet.
Sunfood Superfoods – A good (if slightly overpriced) shopping site for the raw food lifestyle.

blood_typesThe Blood Type Diet
If you’ve never heard of Dr. D’Adamo’s book Eat Right For Your Type, I highly suggest you check it out.  While I’m not a fan of diets that place everyone into a category based on only one or two criteria, this diet can be highly beneficial when used in conjunction with other healthy eating habits.  D’Adamo’s premise is that each blood type stemmed from different regions where different foods were available and therefore adapted to its surroundings.  His book has lists of beneficial, neutral, and detrimental foods for each blood type, as well as lifestyle recommendations.  Type O is the hunter and should eat a high protein, meat-based diet for maximum health.  Type A is the farmer and should eat a primarily vegetarian diet.  Type B is the nomad who can eat most anything, and they thrive on dairy products.  Type AB is a mix of A & B and should eat accordingly.  Blood plays a vital role in our bodies, so I can’t completely dismiss this diet, but I would argue that because it does not take into account things like gender, age, and overall health, it can’t accurately generate a diet plan.

Blood Type Diet links:
D’Adamo’s website – See what he has to say about his diet.

Notice that I did not include things like Weight Watchers and Atkins in my list.  That’s because these are not real diets.  They’re money-making gimmicks that may help you lose weight in the short term, but don’t give any thought to nutrition or helping you build good lifestyle habits to prevent you from putting the weight back on.  The bottom line is that eating right, drinking plenty of water (half your weight in ounces per day is a good guideline), and exercising is the key to any good weight loss program.  Just find out what kind of foods your body likes and feed it!

My goal?  To fit into this FABULOUS Star Wars bathing suit this summer!!Untitled


Have You Had Your Daily Dose of Cancer Today?

My Facebook is full of cancer.  Cancer talk, that is.  If you follow any natural living websites or Facebook pages, I’m sure you’ve noticed that cancer has been the topic of choice lately.  So many new studies have been published recently linking this ingredient or that chemical to cancer that it’s hard to keep up with what you should and should not buy. To make matters worse, I recently stumbled across a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information on environmental and genetic risk factors for cancer.  Their conclusion?

Only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity. The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants etc.

You can blame your mother for giving you small boobs, but not breast cancer.

The good news, folks, is that cancer should not be as scary as doctors make it out to be.  If we can’t blame our genetics for this disease, that only leaves ourselves – and that’s something we have control over.  We can eat healthy, live healthy, and think healthy.  We can let mother earth nourish and protect us instead of filling our bodies with toxic chemicals and synthetic foods.  I found a wonderfully simple 10-step guide to preventing cancer on the Alternative Health Solutions Facebook page.  Obviously, the road to perfect health is never straight and easy, nor can two people take the same route.  But this list is a great basis for any health plan, whether or not you’re worried about cancer.

1.  Eat organic!  Yes, I remember last year’s study, the Dr. Oz article, and all the hype surrounding California’s Prop 37.  But there really is no way to deny it; if you’re eating conventional fruits and veggies, you’re eating chemicals meant to make bugs’ stomachs explode.  Literally.  Sounds tasty, no?  Or perhaps you’d like to eat corn with fish genes?  (Are frankenfoods still considered vegetarian?  Because when I swore off meat products, I’m pretty sure that included their DNA…)  And don’t forget to JUICE your organic produce!  The best source of vitamins and minerals will always be wholesome, healthy foods.  And since cooking veggies (even with things other than a microwave) destroys some of their nutrient content, juicing raw vegetables and herbs is definitely the way to go.
2.  Avoid conventional animal products.  This is so important, especially for anyone who has had or is especially at risk for reproductive cancers.  Livestock raised the conventional way are given regular doses of antibiotics, steroids, and growth hormones, and they are fed GMO grains instead of their natural diets.  Those things aren’t any better for the animals than they are for us, so meat raised in those conditions is nutritionally inferior – and full of pharmaceutical leftovers.  Synthetic hormones throw our hormones out of balance, leaving our bodies open to reproductive an organ cancers.  Like all brothers, Big Pharma and Big Ag are constantly in competition to see who can pump the most chemicals into our bodies.
3.  Do not use microwaves.  Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to stand in front of the microwave while your Spaghetti-Os were cooking?  Have you ever heard the urban legend of the serial killer whose signature was putting the family chihuahua in the microwave?  There’s a reason microwaves have a bad rap, and that’s because the emit… microwaves.  Shocking, I know.  But seriously, microwaves should have their own list, because that’s how bad they are.  They emit radiation, and while it’s not the same kind that turned Dr. Banner into the Hulk, it still wreaks havoc on the body all the way down to the DNA.  Because they use radiation to heat your food rather than actual heat, they destroy almost all the nutrients in your food – up to 90%.  And, let’s face it, they simply do not know how to cook.  Leftover pizza tastes more like cardboard after being microwaved.
4.  Filter your tap and shower water.  This is probably the most important rule of all.  Water is essential to all life, and ingesting water loaded with pollutants, chlorine, fluoride, and synthetic minerals is the fastest way to poor health.  But don’t be fooled by all those cheap tap filters like Brita and Pur.  They remove barely half of the contaminants in ordinary tap water.  The best filtration system is a Reverse Osmosis (RO) system, but they are expensive to install in a home.  Many local health food or grocery stores have RO machines for customers to refill their water jugs.  But if you aren’t excited about hauling gallons of water home each week, invest in some quality home filtration systems.  And don’t think that the shower is safe simply because you don’t drink from it.  Anything that touches our skin is absorbed into our bodies, so each minute you spend in the shower is another gulp of toxic chemicals.  ZeroWater  and New Wave Enviro have great products for both the kitchen and bathroom (and you can find most of their products on Amazon, which is always a plus!).
5.  Use only natural skin care products.  Name brand lotions, soaps, and hair care products are loaded with chemicals: parabens, sulfates, and dozens of other carcinogens.  My favorite brand of natural body care products is Shikai (their Reflect line of color-enhancing shampoos is awesome!!) and I mentioned a few others in my last post.  Deodorant falls into this category, and seeing as how most deodorants for women are also antiperspirants and therefore contain aluminum, I’d say start here!  Natural deodorants are not only free of heavy metals, but cause a LOT less skin irritation, which I always had a problem with in that area.  They’re also super easy to make yourself, and I’ll tell you how in the next post!
6.  Use fluoride free toothpaste. 
I’ve been wanting to write a post on fluoride for a while, but there is so much information on it that it’s hard to figure out where to start.  So let me just say here that it is bad, especially if you love your thyroid.  If you can’t wait for me to get myself together and write about it, check out the short documentary The Fluoride Deception.  Scary stuff, man.  I stick to brands like Tom’s of Maine or Spry, and I’ve started oil pulling with coconut oil.  Oil pulling helps remove unwanted buildup from your mouth, upper respiratory tract, and sinuses, and coconut oil is antibacterial, so put the two together and you get an amazing grime-fighting duo.
7.  Avoid using pharmaceuticals and synthetic supplements as much as possible. 
I want to take this moment to share with you my favorite post from my favorite website, like, ever, The Holy Kale.  Her series on supplements called Dirty Little Supplements is the best resource for anyone who has ever questioned which brand to buy.  Her message is simple: not all supplements are created equal, and if you’re going to invest money in them, you might as well make it worth it.
8.  Limit your use of plastics. 
 Plastic contains harmful chemicals like BPA and phthalates that interfere with your body’s natural hormone balance.  These chemicals are released when plastics are heated, so never ever cook with plastics or put plastics in the microwave.  But these sneaky devils can also seep out into food and liquids even in the fridge, so it’s best to cut plastics out of the kitchen completely.  Use wooden spoons for cooking, ceramic plates and bowls, and glass containers to hold your leftovers.  I wash and save jars – pasta sauce, peanut butter, salsa, anything with a wide mouth – and use those as tupperware.  I also use a mason jar as a water bottle because water is simply too important to compromise on.  The documentary Bag It is a great one on plastics, especially if you or anyone you know has kids; the part on plastics for kids will make you sick.
9.  Avoid artificial sweeteners, food colorings, and processed sugars and grains. 
If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume you have a basic knowledge of holistic health and already know that these things are bad, bad, bad.
10.  Use only nontoxic household products.
  Some of the best ways are the old ways, and baking soda and vinegar are still king and queen of the household clean team.  There are definitely green products out there, but it’s so easy to make your own that it’s almost a shame to pay for them.  Water and vinegar are best for streak-free windows, baking soda is awesome for cleaning the bathroom, and together they can double team a clogged sink like Drain-O never could.  I use Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps as laundry detergent (as well as body wash for the family, including the dog).  Remember, anything you can smell is entering your body via your lungs, so keep it clean!

Not such a hard task list, right?  Unfortunately, while these things are easy to change, there are some factors that are out of our control, like air quality, product availability, restaurant foods, budget, and other people (because you can’t stop your landlord from spraying Round Up on your lawn or tell your roommate to stop filling your house with the smell of Windex).  Fortunately, there are dozens of proven methods to heal cancer naturally, some of which Big Pharma has even succeeded in banning to keep the chemo patients rolling in.  (Case in point: apricot kernels were outlawed by the FDA in the 1970s because they are the best source of B17, the miracle cancer-fighting vitamin.  Seriously.  Apricot seeds are illegal because they cure cancer.)  The website that provided the above list is also a great resource for natural cancer-fighting strategies.  Tamara, the author of Alternative Health Solutions, healed her own breast cancer without Big Pharma and has since compiled a wealth of information on the topic.  I highly suggest you check it out if you or anyone you know is dealing with this disease.

Now get going, you’ve got some homework to do!


You Can Now Feel Slightly Less Guilty About Putting It In You

gatoradeWhenever I see the Gatorade marketing slogan “Is it in you?” I have an overwhelming urge to scream, “NO!”  Energy and sports drinks are some of the most unhealthy things you can drink, but these companies trick health enthusiasts with claims of “all natural energy boosts” and “electrolytes.”  While there are indeed B vitamins and electrolytes in some of these drinks, they’re usually hidden beneath a long list of toxic additives.  But thanks to a petition posted on Change.org by fifteen-year-old Sarah Kavanagh, PepsiCola is removing one of its harmful ingredients, brominated vegetable oil.

Never heard of it?  It’s a flame retardant used as an emulsifier in sports and soft drinks to keep the water and flavoring oils from separating.  It’s banned in Japan and the EU due to its pesky penchant for causing such health problems as reproductive and organ cancers, autoimmune diseases, thyroid problems, fertility issues and birth defects, behavioral problems in children, and schizophrenia, to name a few.  But though PepsiCola is removing BVO from Gatorade, there are dozens of other soft drinks out there that are swimming with this stuff.  Be sure to read labels – or just avoid them altogether.  They’re nothing but empty calories and sugar anyway.

GatoradeAnd don’t think this makes Gatorade the perfect sports drink.  It’s still jam packed with sugars – two kinds, actually, sucrose and dextrose (another name for glucose) – as well as neurologically harmful artificial colors (made from petroleum, yumm!) and wood.

Wait, what?  Wood?

Yep.  The second to last ingredient in Gatorade (right before BVO) is Ester of Rosin.  Which is essentially processed pine sap, and it’s used as another emulsifier.  There’s not a lot of research out on it but I’ve read a few accounts of people who are allergic to evergreens having a reaction to this ingredient.  So… My advice?  Skip the Gatorade and grab some coconut water instead.  You’ll get all the electrolytes and none of the additives.  Or wood.


Cuckoo for Coconut Oil

imagesI used to hate coconut growing up, which led me to miss out on so many delicious treats (namely Samoas – oh, how many Girl Scout cookie seasons did I waste!).  Then one day, my parents came home from a wedding with a giant piece of coconut creme cake, and I was instantly hooked.  It was like crack.  Nutritious crack.  Only I didn’t know it at the time.

A few years ago, my former boss introduced me to the book The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith.  I highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in nutrition; this book changed my life, setting me down the path of amateur investigative health journalism.  It also reintroduced me to coconut; or rather, introduced me to coconut’s healthy side.

In her book, Keith addresses many of the nutritional lies Big Ag has spread to nourish America’s reliance on cheap, processed foods.  One of which is the Lipid Hypothesis, or the claim that saturated fats lead to high blood pressure which leads to heart disease.  Fats are actually an extremely important part of your diet, but only the good fats.  And, despite the claims of Big Ag’s health experts, saturated fats are on that list, along with monounsaturated fats – both of which are found in abundance in coconut oil.  It’s the polyunsaturated fats you have to look out for; those pesky vegetable oils that are touted as “heart healthy” actually cause a world of problems – including heart disease.  Keith breaks down the science of fats in her book (starting on page 179 for those interested) but here’s the quick version: fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached.  Saturated fats, like butter, coconut oil, and palm oil, have a hydrogen in every available bond, so they form a straight line and are stable at all temperatures; monounsaturated fats, like olive, avocado, or peanut oil, are missing two hydrogens, so they have a slight bend but are still stable; and polyunsaturated fats, which come from vegetable oils coconut-oil-DSC_1718like corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, and canola, are missing four or more hydrogens and are extremely unstable, meaning they go rancid when heated.  These PUFAs contribute to a long, long list of health issues, including many types of cancer, organ damage, heart disease, immune system deterioration, neurological disorders, and digestive problems.  So… why do we cook with them?

Keith cites several studies done by Weston Price and other researchers on the diets and overall health of indigenous peoples.  All of these peoples – including Eskimos, Aborigines, African tribes, and other peoples whose diets had not been contaminated by modern processed foods – had little to no instances of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, or other “diseases of civilization.”  Their diets comprised of animal products, some vegetables, very few if any grains, and lots of saturated fats.  Say hello to the original Paleo Diet.

One ounce of coconut oil contains about 24g of saturated fats, 1.5g of monounsaturated fats, and .5g of polyunsaturated fats; among those goods fats is a large amount of lauric acid, which has powerful antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.  In addition to not causing a laundry list of health problems, these good fats can do a lot of, well, good.  The antiviral and antibacterial properties of lauric acid help fight infections and diseases, and its high concentration of good fats helps fight many neurological and degenerative diseases.  The Coconut Research Center lists the many benefits of coconut oil, but here are a few:
-used topically to cure skin problems such as acne, psoriasis, dry skin, dandruff, and wounds
-great for the hair as well (I use it as a deep conditioning treatment about once a month or so)
-its antibacterial properties make it a great deodorant (you can easily make your own with it, or use coconut oil-based products like Truly’s, which is what I use)
-helps reduce the risk and symptoms of diabetes and heart disease
-has recently been shown to stop and even reverse Alzheimers by feeding the brain with its good fats
-fights viruses that cause influenza, STDs, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, the flu and other illnesses
-gives you a great, healthy energy boost when added to smoothies, tea, etc. (I always add a tablespoon or so to my hot chocolate or coffee to make it extra rich and creamy)
-controls hunger and boosts metabolism, so it’s a great tool to use in any diet plan, plus it improves digestion, helping you absorb more nutrients
-when used for oil pulling, it detoxes your body of harmful bacteria and improves oral health (I started oil pulling a few days ago, and I will let you know how it goes soon!)

CIMG2799So next time you have stir fry or curry for dinner, use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.  (Also, use some of Pappardelle’s Spicy Thai pasta – it’s fabulous!)  It won’t give you cancer, and it will make your food taste fabulous.  After all, why coat your delicious, nutritious veggies with tasteless, toxic vegetable oil?

Oh, and check out Delicious Obsessions’ 122 uses for coconut oil.  There are indeed some downright odd uses for nature’s miracle oil, including using it to clean showers and heal new tattoos.


Health Food Advice From the Queen of the Underworld

persephoneWhen the Greek goddess Persephone was abducted by Hades, lord of the Underworld, she doomed herself to half a life of darkness by eating six pomegranate seeds from his platter.  Even after her rescue, those seeds left their mark on her spirit, and for six months of the year she was bound to return to Hades as his queen.  Persephone’s mother, the nature goddess Demeter, spent those lonely months in mourning, allowing no crops or flowers to grow while her daughter was kept out of the sunlight.  We know this time as winter, the time of rest for the land, the barren months that give mother earth time to gather her strength for spring.

Persephone probably doesn’t eat pomegranates anymore.  But you should.  Because actually, pomegranates can help keep you out of the underworld – or whatever place/state of being you believe follows death.  They have some of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits, including the super potent flavonoids and polyphenols.  These phytochemicals have potent anticarcinogen properties,  and they stimulate estrogen production, increasing bone mass and preventing osteoporosis.  They are also amazingly beneficial to heart health.  Poms contain phytochemicals called punicalagins, and studies have shown that these compounds can not only significantly lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels, but they actually help break down the plaque that causes dangerous heart and artery blockages.

images3When we visited my (actively anti-holistic health) family for Christmas, we spent the first half hour or so listening to my relatives compare the side effects of their blood pressure meds – this one caused a bad cough, this one caused insomnia, this one caused muscle pains but hey, as long as The Doc says it’s ok…  The best part about using pomegranates for heart health: zero side effects.

Actually, poms have the exact opposite effect as pharmaceuticals.  One of the benefits of the wide array of phytochemicals is an increase in serotonin, which improves mood.  Imagine that, something that tastes good, keeps you healthy, AND makes you happy – without crappy side effects!  Beat that, Big Pharma!

Pomegranates can be somewhat of a pain in the butt to eat, what with the tough skin and the billions of seeds you have to dig out (think of it as buried pirate treasure – it helps), but pom juice is a delish and healthy alternative.  However, Dr. Mercola cautions against drinking too much fruit juice.  It’s high in fructose, which is naturally occurring in fruits but which triggers the release of large amounts of insulin when not tempered by the nutrients and fibers found in the fruit flesh.  Dr. Mercola recommends choosing brands that contain only 100% juice, lots of pulp, and only dark, anti-oxidant rich fruits like pomegranates, blueberries, and cranberries.  After all, what’s the sense in protecting your heart while giving yourself diabetes?