Friday, July 31, 2009

Ten Synthetic Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid And Why

I don't know if you struggle like I do to read ingredient decks of beauty products. Most of the ingredients are written in Greek and even completely natural ingredients have some sort of 20 letter scientific name that sounds ominous. I found a great list of the top 10 synthetic cosmetic ingredients to avoid and why to avoid them. Check the products you use at home already and print off a handy list to take with you shopping to make choosing the right products simpler.

  1. Methyl, Propyl, Butly, and Ethyl Paraben (or the ugly paraben sisters): These are used to inhibit microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products. At the very least they cause many allergic reactions and skin rashes. Even more concerning, studies are showing that they are weakly estrogenic and could be carcinogenic.

  2. Diethanolamine (DEA), Trethanolamine (TEA): These chemicals emulsify or cause a product like shampoo or soap to foam. Unfortunately they also cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and dryness of hair and skin. DEA and TEA are "amines" (ammonia compounds) and can form cancer-causing nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. They are especially toxic when absorbed into the body over a long period of time.

  3. Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea: These chemicals are used as preservatives. The American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be a primary cause of contact dermatitis. Both of these chemicals release formaldehyde which can be toxic

  4. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate: This is a cheap, harsh detergent used in shampoos for its cleansing and foam-building properties. It is often derived from petroleum. These chemicals are known to cause eye irritation, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, skin rashes and other allergic reactions.

  5. Petrolatum: Another name for this is petroleum jelly. This mineral oil is used for it's emollient properties in cosmetics and because it's extremely cheap to use as opposed to vegetable based plant oils which actually contain some nutritive value for the skin. The problem is that it can interfere with the bodies own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness and chapping - the very conditions it's supposed to correct.

  6. Propylene Glycol: Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural. More often though it's a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives, and eczema. Also watch out for PEG (polyethlyene glycol) or PPG (polypropylene glycol).

  7. PVP/VA Copolymer: A petroleum-derived chemical used in hairsprays, styling aids and other cosmetics. It can be considered toxic, since inhaled particles can damage the lungs of sensitive persons.

  8. Stearalkonium Chloride: A quaternary ammonium compound used in hair conditioners and creams. Developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, it is a lot cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or herbals, which are beneficial to the hair. This chemical is toxic and causes allergic reactions.

  9. Synthetic Colors: These are labeled with FD&C or D&C followed by a color and a number. Many synthetic colors can be carcinogenic.

  10. Synthetic Fragrances: When you see "Fragrance" listed on an ingredient deck, it can contain as many as 200 ingredients. There is no way to know what the chemicals you are being exposed too. Many report symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation, and etc, after using products with synthetic fragrances.

I hope this list is helpful as you try to weed out the harmful chemicals from your skin and beauty products.

Does anyone have a favorite brand of natural beauty product they want to share? Give our readers some ideas of brands to try.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You Are What You Eat

I watch Good Morning America (GMA) most mornings. If you do too you may have already heard this story, so sorry.

A few weeks back, Good Morning America did a segment on how a high fat restaurant meal immediately affects your body and the fat present in your bloodstream. I have to say I was somewhat disgusted.

ABC News producer Jon Garcia and reporter Yunji de Nies went to the University of Maryland Medical Center to put an appetizer, entree and dessert to the test.

Before they ate, researchers took blood samples and gauged the health of their arteries with an ultrasound. They both passed the tests and were deemed perfectly healthy.

The three-course meal: an appetizer (deep fried macaroni and cheese), entree (quesadilla burger) and dessert (mega-sized deep dish sundae) packed 6,190 calories and 187 grams of saturated fat. The USDA recommends that adults our age eat roughly 2,000 calories per day, and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat. This means this single meal packed more than three times the daily recommended calories, and nearly 10 times the saturated fat suggested by federal guidelines.

Neither could finish the massive portions. They both felt tired and sluggish after eating. Jon even got a severe headache.

They waited two hours and got new blood tests. Jon's blood samples showed an obvious, significant difference. While his pre-meal blood sample was relatively clear, his post-meal sample was extremely cloudy -- you could literally see the fat that was now flooding his system.

de Nies's blood also showed a difference, though not nearly as dramatic as Jon's. On the other hand, an ultrasound revealed a startling change. A large dose of saturated fat causes a chemical reaction, wherein the arteries narrow and do not dilate properly. This means the heart must work harder to pump blood through the arteries. In de Nies's case, her heart was working so intensely to pump blood through my narrowed arteries, you could actually hear the difference in my blood flow.

Today GMA aired a segment suggested by a viewer (not me) who asked how your body reacts to a healthy meal. The results were encouraging. The meal of soybeans, salmon, veggies, rice and a shared dessert of apple pie. Not only did the fat levels within the bloodstream not increase like they did with the fatty meal, they actually created positive cardiovascular results.

Watch entire video here.

I was much more motivated by seeing what a healthy meal could do for me that what a nasty one does to hurt my body. I can't really explain why other than I prefer to focus on the bright side and am more motivated by positive reinforcement than the negative.

Once again this proves what we all know... you are what you eat!

Source: Good Morning America

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'm Back, a New Herbal Tea, and Some Fun News

Hello all! I am back from the Outer Banks. We had a fabulous vacation with family and friends. I just love the ocean and there you are literally surrounded by it! I'm already planning and looking forward to going back next year!

I wanted to share a really great new herbal tea with you all. It's a Nourishment Tea from Aviva Romm's book The Natural Pregnancy Book. It has so many great herbs in it. Here is how you make it

2 parts red raspberry leaf

2 parts nettle

1 part oat straw

1/2 part alfalfa

1/2 part rose hips

1/4 part red clover

1/4 part spearmint leaf

Mix all the dried herbs together and store in an air tight container away from heat and light. You can then prepare a tea or a decoction from the herbs. Aviva recommends steeping for at least 30 minutes but no longer than 2 hours. You can drink 1 to 4 cups of this tea daily.

Why is this particular blend of tea so great? Check out all the benefits in one cup of tea...

  • Red Raspberry Leaf - very rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron. It contains fragarine which is thought to tone and strengthen uterine muscles.

  • Nettle - Also very high in vitamins and minerals. This herb promotes good kidney function and also prevents hemorrhaging and anemia.

  • Oat straw - very rich in calcium and magnesium. This herb promotes relaxed nerves, healthy muscle functioning, and prevents insomnia and cramps.

  • Alfalfa - This lowly herb often grown only for a cover crop has phenomenal nutritive value. It has a high count of protein, Vitamin A, D, E, B6, and K. Minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, trace minerals and digestive enzymes. It is a great source of chlorophyll and is high in carotene's.

  • Rose Hips - A very good source of Vitamin C.

  • Red Clover - Great blood purifier. Check out a recent post on this one.

  • Spearmint Leaf - also a great source of Vitamin C.

(By the way, I purchased all these herbs for this mix from Mountain Rose Herbs. I really love their stuff!)

The Fun News... Anyone wondering why I'm drinking a tea recommended for pregnant mothers? We are expecting another little one this coming February. I'm 10 weeks along now. I'm so excited and nervous. This will be #3. There was a time in my life when I didn't imagine that I would have children and now to be looking toward a third is both exciting and daunting.

So, do any of you have any tips or advice for holistic pregnancies you would like to share? Love to hear from you!


Monday, July 27, 2009

Organic Wine

I must admit that I enjoy a glass or two of wine every once in a while, but I have not quite taken the leap into "organic" wines. I am interested in learning more though and I hope some of you are too. Here is some of an article I came across at EatingWell, a website I like to visit for healthy recipes.

Once a funky duckling, “organic” is suddenly the prize golden goose of food and beverage marketing, so it comes as no surprise to find environment-conscious labels in every aisle of the supermarket. In the wine section, the new designations range from “sustainably farmed,” “biodynamic” and “responsibly grown” to “environmentally friendly.” What’s a “green” enophile to do?

Certainly, some of these terms are bottle-dressing only, but it is clear that there is a groundswell of change in the world of winemaking, with what many feel are positive adjustments in viticulture practices.

The informed consumer should know, however, that there is only one term that guarantees that some sort of standards—federally mandated ones—have been applied: “Organic.”

Behind the Label
“Organic” means that a product has been certified by a licensed third-party organization and has been grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, then harvested, processed and packaged according to rigorous standards. The other “green” labels, nice as they sound, are not regulated.

Organic viticulturists focus on improving the health of their soil so that the entire vineyard ecosystem benefits and vines are less likely to fall victim to diseases or pests. Farmers plant cover crops to fix nitrogen, increase beneficial bacteria and aerate the soil. “Good” bugs like ladybugs and spiders boom as soil health improves. Bird boxes placed around vineyards foster hawk and owl populations, which help keep gophers to a minimum. Compost, often made of grape skins, is added to increase nutrients.

Interestingly, some wineries that employ organic practices are opting to forgo organic labeling entirely. For example, all the vineyards of Rubicon Estate (formerly Niebaum-Coppola) are certified organic, but you won’t find that anywhere on its bottles. Rubicon says the vineyard uses “organic” not as a marketing tool, but to promote “good stewardship” of the land. Fetzer, Frog’s Leap, Kenwood and all the Foster Wine Estates, including the giant Beringer, are among the growing number of California wineries that have committed to sustainable farming techniques, but are not moving toward full “organic” certification.

To understand why, it helps to know that growing grapes organically is just one piece of the puzzle; wine also has to be produced and bottled to organic standards. This leads directly to the question of sulfites, the traditional preservatives used to prolong the life and taste of wines (and of many dried fruits).

Sulfites, in fact, occur naturally in wine (they are a by-product of fermentation). Conventional winemakers also add small amounts to prevent oxidation and thus preserve the wine. More specifically, sulfites bind natural chemical components that could otherwise produce unappealing aromas. By law, any wine sold as “certified organic” cannot contain added sulfites.

Many environmentally aware vintners still feel strongly that they need to add a controlled amount of sulfites to produce a consistent, shelf-stable product, so they are opting for this designation: “Made with organically grown grapes.”

The Taste Test
The EatingWell wine panel waded into this fray with a tasting of wines labeled “organic” as well as “made with organically grown grapes.” We were pleasantly surprised to find organic wines widely available, at big supermarket chains as well as local natural-foods stores. But we approached our task with some skepticism; not only is the category small, it has been plagued with a reputation for wines of questionable quality. Our skepticism was justified; there were fewer wines that wowed us than is usual at our tastings. As it turned out, all our picks were “made with organically grown grapes.”

Our conclusion? This category may need a few more years to mature and consistently produce high-quality wines. For now, however, here are some ready for prime time, especially if you want to cast a pro-environment vote when you raise a glass of wine.

The article goes on to list the authors' organic picks. Read more...

I will also try to do some taste testing myself and let you know what I think. After all, just as I try to support environmentally conscious, organic meat, dairy and produce farmers, I should be doing the same with my wine.



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Meat Free Mondays

I ran across this article by Elaina de Meyere in my Food Matters e-newsletter and thought it was worth sharing.

Sir Paul McCartney is the new face of the Meat Free Mondays (MFM) movement, which on Monday, June 15th, launched an ambitious campaign with the goal of, you guessed it, making Mondays meat free.

The central purpose of the MFM campaign is for participants to go one day per week without eating meat (including fish) in order to slow the onset of global climate change by reducing the amount of CO2 generated through industrial meat production. Alleviating global hunger and improving domestic animal welfare are also at the heart of this campaign, as both are detrimentally impacted by the voracious appetite of the western world. It's a simple concept - grain that could otherwise be sent to the third world is instead being gobbled up by our cows, pigs, and chickens. Decreased demand for meat would result in decreased livestock and poultry populations, and, consequently, the availability of more grain supplies for human consumption. Factory farms, notorious for the deplorable conditions in which they keep animals, would become less congested as a result of decreased demand, allowing penned animals a better quality of life simply through the provision of more space.

"If Americans were to reduce their meat consumption by only 10 percent, it would free over 12 million tons of grain annually for human consumption. That, all by itself, would be enough to adequately feed every one of the 60 million human beings who will starve to death on the planet this year."
John Robbins, Diet For A New AmericaMaintaining one's health is also a focal point of the campaign.

Myriad studies have linked diets rich in meat and dairy to ailments such as heart disease and obesity, and even certain types of cancers. By reducing our intake of meats, we lessen our chances of developing any of these devastating illnesses.

These are all compelling reasons to observe a meat free day every week. But how can we convince our carnivorous friends and family members to make such a commitment, which might seem impossible or at the very least undesirable upon first hearing? Maybe a history lesson will do the trick.

Going meat free one day per week is not a novel concept. In fact, as a nationwide initiative, it's one whose origins extend back to World War I. Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays were part of a national campaign run by the U.S. Food Administration that encouraged Americans to voluntarily reduce their consumption of meat (cattle, hog, and sheep), wheat, sugar, and fat, in an effort to feed Allied Europe and the American soldiers fighting there. Central to the success of the campaign was the education of American housewives in the art of food substitution without compromising taste or nutritional benefits. Federal and state level home economists, predominantly women, bolstered the campaign through the creation of innovative recipes and educational programs that saw even school aged children versed in the importance of food substitution, food preservation, and the folly of food waste.

Spurred on by the campaign slogan "Food Will Win the War" the campaign brought about a 15% reduction in domestic food consumption without rationing, and saw 18,500,000 tons of food sent to Europe between 1918 and 1919.

What the success of Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays proved was that the simple act of abstaining from meat and wheat one day per week made a huge difference to the outcome of the war. Who's to say that by doing the same now, we won't make a similar difference in the fight against climate change, world hunger, the demand for animal rights, and the health of our nation? Ninety years ago, Americans were willing to voluntarily alter their lifestyles if it meant contributing to the greater good. Is it possible that we're capable of the same level of personal sacrifice in this day and age?

The MFM campaign is off and running. So, let's get on board and Help! each other out by making the world a better, healthier place to live.

For more information visit Support Meat Free Mondays.

Sources: Food Matters

Monday, July 20, 2009

Healthy Dining Finder

Regardless of how healthy we are at home, most of us are faced with a meal out at least every now and then. And aside from a lack of information on a restaurant menu like how much fat and salt they are using, it is really easy to be swayed by delicious sounding specials or appetizing pictures. Perhaps it would be easier to make your decisions about where to eat and what to eat before you get to the restaurant.

There is a great site called Healthy Dining Finder which allows you to punch in your zip code and a price range to find healthy restaurant options. What I like most is that they not only name the restaurant but most times suggest a healthy entree. This way you could have your mind made up before you even get there, thus avoiding temptation.

The Healthy Dining Program has been around since the early '90s and is run by health professionals, researchers and registered dieticians. The Healthy Dining Finder website was launched in 2007. Restaurants featured on this site - from the nation’s largest chains to small independents, from fast food to upscale dining have joined the Healthy Dining Program because they have a sincere interest in offering their customers healthier choices.

In addition to finding healthier dining choices, the Healthy Dining Finder houses a wealth of nutritional information including a blog that explores a specific subject like whole grains for example and then gives some restaurant and meal suggestions to address that subject. Take some time to check out all of the info.

So your family is like mine and enjoys a break from cooking and cleaning up each week, the Healthy Dining Finder can help keep you stay on track away from home.

- Shannan

Friday, July 17, 2009

Packing A Homeopathic First Aid Kit

I'm very excited today as I'm packing to head to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We took a family vacation there last year and I fell in love with it. It is so beautiful there and truly one of the most relaxing vacations.
I'm putting together a first aid kit and had to laugh at myself. Where in the past I would have grabbed the neosporin, Tylenol and ibuprofen - my bag looks very different this year. Here's a little summary of what I'm taking.
  • Band aids - of course - that hasn't changed much! :)
  • Hydrogen peroxide for immediate cleaning of any beach wounds from shells or ghost crabs.
  • Colloidal Silver for disinfection. I will take both a gel to apply to any wounds and a tincture in case anyone starts to feel a little ill.
  • Tea Tree Oil - also a great wound disinfectant and great for bug bites.
  • Arnica - a great homeopathic that helps ease the pain from any bumps or bruises.
  • Apis Mellifica - another great homeopathic to help with allergic reactions to bug bites, food, etc.

Well there you have it! My new and improved first aid kit!

What natural remedies do you like to take on vacation with you? Quick - I leave tomorrow! :)


Thursday, July 16, 2009


I don't know about you, but cherries are one of my favorite summer treats. I literally eat them like candy. Luckily they are better for me than that!

Cherries are an excellent source of potassium and manganese. It is a very good source of magnesium and copper. Good amounts of iron and phosphorous are found in cherries. Other minerals present in cheries include calcium and potassium, which are present only in trace amounts.

Vitamin Content: Cherry is an excellent source of vitamin c, vitamin k and is a very good source of thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and pantothenic acid. It also contains traces of niacin, folate and vitamin A.

Calorie Content: 100g of cherries contain 63 calories. It is also a good source of dietary fiber. This food is primarily made up of water and carbohydrates ad is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

Health Benefits of Cherries: Cherry can reduce the pain of arthritis, gout and headaches. Cherry contains anthocyanin, a red pigment, which acts as an antioxidant. The plant pigment along with vitamin C strengthens collagen. Cherry juice contains melatonin, which is important for the function of the immune system.

Cherries are used as a sedative in nausea and vomiting. Wild cherry bark is an important cough remedy. Cherry is also beneficial in treating bronchitis, asthma and chronic diarrhea. It has been found that cherries can reduce the risk of heart attack and the risk of cancer by fifty percent.

For more information on the health benefits of cherries along with some great recipes visit Cherries.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Super Simple Body Butter

I recently got this great body butter recipe from a friend and love it. It is so easy; great for your skin; inexpensive; and completely natural. Try it for yourself.

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (I purchased mine from Wilderness Family Naturals or Tropical Traditions). Click here to find out all the great health benefits of coconut oil.
  • 1/4 cup cocoa butter (I purchased this from Mountain Rose Herbs) Cocoa butter is a very stable fat containing natural antioxidants that prevent rancidity and giving it a storage life of two to five years. The moisturizing abilities of cocoa butter are frequently recommended for prevention of stretch marks in pregnant women, treatment of chapped skin and lips, and as a daily moisturizer to prevent dry, itchy skin.
  • Add your favorite essential oil until you get the desired strength. (I used lavender...I love lavender).

This is such a great moisturizer. I use it on myself and my kids after their baths and it feels so clean and safe!

What is your favorite essential oil and why?


Monday, July 13, 2009

Getting Back on Track

I think I am writing this post more for myself today than anyone else...well not really, I hope there is somebody out there feeling the same way and maybe I can help. :)

I have written posts in the past about changing your eating habits and adopting a healthier whole foods and even more Raw approach to eating. This I truly believe in so I am here to say that we all get off track. Today, I am recommitting to the healthy eating habits I believe in and that make me feel good.

After over a week of having my husband home on vacation, working in the yard (finally got our backyard landscaped the way we wanted it) and a mini-vacation which included tons of eating out, I am ready to feel healthy and vibrant instead of tired and sluggish. I can truly tell the difference when I am not eating right. My husband even expressed his love for our home-cooked/grilled meals in the midst of our weekend in the city.

You would think that summer would automatically lend itself to healthy, fresh and even Raw eating, but the lack of routine throws me off. As of today, I am recommitting to my green smoothies, green juice, healthy homemade meals and yummy granola.

In a few days, I know my energy will have increased and I will simply feel lighter, both physically and mentally. So what is on the agenda today?
  • One large strawberry-banana smoothie for breakfast

  • A trip out to the farm to pick up my CSA veggies

  • A trip to Whole Foods for more bulk seeds and oats to make a huge batch of granola

  • Plan the menu for this week's dinners

  • A nice long run to clear the mind

I hope you have a healthy and happy week!

- Shannan

Friday, July 10, 2009

Treating Those Annoying Summer Bug Bites

I really love summer and my kids would probably live outside this time of year if I let them; but mosquitoes bites and other pests...come on! My 4 year-old-niece recently told my sister-in-law that she really thought God should not have created mosquitoes. While I hate to doubt His infinite wisdom...I have to agree with her.
Here are a few remedies (that actually work) to help naturally relieve the sting and itch associated with insect bites.
  1. Always start by washing the area with a gentle non-toxic soap.
  2. Purchase a homeopathic by the name of Apis Mellifica. This is helpful for any type of allergic reaction whether to a bug bite or otherwise. Taking a few doses throughout the day will help your body systemically clear itself of the toxins of a bug bite and reduce swelling.
  3. Make a paste with baking soda and a few drops of water and slather it on the swollen bug bite area.
  4. Apply tea tree oil to the area or add the tea tree oil to your baking soda paste. Tea tree oil is also an excellent insect repellent as well as counter-irritant. Other great oils and ointments include cedar, calendula, and eucalyptus.
  5. Apple-cider vinegar diluted with water in a one to one ratio can reduce skin irritations from insect bites.

Here's hoping you can successfully avoid the pests out there this summer, but if not, stock up on some simple remedies to get rid of those pesky bug bites.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Snacks that Travel

Sorry, but this is going to be my shortest post ever. We are literally packing up the car and heading out for the weekend as soon as I finish writing this.

With a five hour car ride ahead of us and two continuously snacking five-year-olds in tow, I thought I would run through our list of munchies for the ride. Rather than picking up a bunch of prepackaged snack foods which on the surface may seem more convenient, I have chosen some quick and easy fresh (whole) foods.

Carrot sticks
Sliced Red Pepper
Cheese and crackers
We also packed some granola bars and graham crackers as a treat.

I have filled reusable bottles with water for each of us. As far as I am concerned carbonated, sugary and caffenated drinks only make a car ride more uncomfortable and who needs all the calories and artificial stuff anyway!

So here we go, the car is packed and we are ready for some fun. Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cooking with Wheat Berries

Most of you know my pledge awhile back to cook more with whole grains and beans and less with milled and processed carbohydrates. I'm going to do a series of posts showing my experiences and giving a few recipes. Remember, whole grains and beans retain all of their nutrition when in a dormant seed state. The clock starts ticking when grains are milled or come into contact with moisture.

I thought I would start with a big one - wheat berries. Wheat is probably one of the most consumed grains out there with the popularity of whole wheat bread as a nutrition staple. Few realize though that wheat berries can be purchased and made into a variety of tasty dishes.

Wheat has been cultivated worldwide for centuries. It is believed that it was first cultivated in Western Asia, but has been found in early artifacts from China, Egypt, and Rome. Egypt provided the wheat for most of the Roman Empire which eventually led to the spread of wheat to Europe, Great Britain and the Orient. When ships from Spain came to the New World in the 16th century, seeds of wheat were on them, and thus began it's cultivation in North and South America.

A good quality wheat is remarkably well-balanced. It can be nearly one-fourth protein and rich in many other nutrients. These include Vitamin E and B vitamins. This is important for those who are cutting back or eliminating altogether their meat consumption.

There are two main types of wheat berries available and it's important to know what they are used for.
  • Hard Red which is high in protein and used for bread making.
  • Soft white which is higher in starch and used for pastries, cakes and such.

Here are a couple of recipes to try.

Wheat Berry Breakfast Cereal

2 cups of whole wheat berries

4 cups of water

Pinch of sea salt

Soak wheat berries in water the night before. Drain. Add 2 cups of water and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 2 hours until wheat berries are tender.

Alternately you can soak the berries for 8-10 hours. Drain. Put wheat berries in a 1 quart thermos. Boil 2 cups of water and add to the thermos. Cap and lay thermos on it's side. Leave overnight.

Serve wheat berries like porridge, with milk, maple syrup, or honey.

Wheat Berry Tomato Salad

2 cups cooked and cooled wheat berries (see above)

2 cups chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped red onion (or substitute green onions or leeks for different flavor)

1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

1/2 clove garlic, minced

Add salt or pepper to taste - or not at all. This salad has tons of flavor.

In a large bowl, toss together the wheat berries, tomatoes, and onion. Put the basil, oils, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper into a blender container. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour dressing over salad and toss.

I get my wheat berries (and many other whole grains) from Hampshire Farms here in Michigan. They sell beautiful, organic, grains at a great price. Google to find a place near you! Or scope out your local farmer's markets to find a source.

For more reading on whole grains check out this post.



Monday, July 6, 2009


I have heard a lot about walking lately. Most of us can do it, but don't think much about it. Walking is an important form of exercise and all you need to do is find 30 minutes per day to reap the benefits.

Here is a great article about the benefits of walking...

If a daily fitness walk could be put in a pill, it would be one of the most popular prescriptions in the world. It has so many health benefits. Walking can reduce the risk of many diseases — from heart attack and stroke to hip fracture and glaucoma. These may sound like claims on a bottle of snake oil, but they're backed by major research. Walking requires no prescription, the risk of side effects is very low, and the benefits are numerous:

Managing your weight. Combined with healthy eating, physical activity is key to any plan for long-lasting weight control. Keeping your weight within healthy limits can lower your risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis.

Controlling your blood pressure. Physical activity strengthens the heart so it can pump more blood with less effort and with less pressure on the arteries. Staying fit is just as effective as some medications in keeping down blood pressure levels.

Decreasing your risk of heart attack. Exercise such as brisk walking for three hours a week — or just half an hour a day — is associated with a 30% to 40% lower risk of heart disease in women. (Based on the 20-year Nurses' Health Study of 72,000 female nurses.)

Boosting "good" cholesterol – the level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Physical activity helps reduce low-density lipoproteins (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) in the blood, which can cause plaque buildup along the artery walls — a major cause of heart attacks.

Lowering your risk of stroke. Regular, moderate exercise equivalent to brisk walking for an hour a day, five days a week, can cut the risk of stroke in half, according to a Harvard study of more than 11,000 men.

Reducing your risk of breast cancer and type 2 diabetes. The Nurses' Health Study also links regular activity to risk reductions for both these diseases. In another study, people at high risk of diabetes cut their risk in half by combining consistent exercise like walking with lower fat intake and a 5% to 7% weight loss.

Avoiding your need for gallstone surgery. Regular walking or other physical activity lowers the risk of needing gallstone surgery by 20% to 31%, found a Harvard study of more than 60,000 women ages 40 to 65.

Protecting against hip fracture. Consistent activity diminishes the risk of hip fracture, concludes a study of more than 30,000 men and women ages 20 to 93.

The list goes on and on. Many other studies indicate a daily brisk walk also can help:

Prevent depression, colon cancer, constipation, osteoporosis, and impotence
Lengthen lifespan
Lower stress levels
Relieve arthritis and back pain
Strengthen muscles, bones, and joints
Improve sleep
Elevate overall mood and sense of well-being.

Keep it Steady
A steady routine is the most important factor in getting the most out of your exercise program. Walking for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week is recommended.

Use these tips to keep you on track:

During your walks, you should be able to maintain a conversation. If you're breathing too lightly, increase your pace. If you can't catch your breath, slow it down.

Walk around the local area after lunch or dedicate 15 minutes to walking up and down stairs. Climbing is an excellent way to strengthen your heart.

At night, trade a half hour of TV for a brisk stroll around the block. Take a friend with you for company or get the whole family involved.

The Best Medicine
Any amount of walking is good, but for the best health results, set a brisk pace and walk for 30 minutes at least 5 times a week. Be sure to check with your doctor on the level of exercise that's best for you.

Enjoy your walk!
- Shannan


Friday, July 3, 2009

The Value of Organics

Do you ever ask yourself if it's worth it to purchase organic. I know I take a lot of good natured teasing about choosing food that is a little more expensive than conventionally grown. Here is an excellent essay by Dr. Alan Greene that may help you decide if it's really worth it or not. I thoroughly enjoyed his insight. As a physician, father, and husband of a breast cancer survivor he has a very unique insight and perspective. Take a few minutes to read. In the mean time - here are a few interesting facts you may be unaware of...

  • Did you know that farmers who use pesticides have a much higher incidence of leukemia's, lymphomas, myelomas, brain cancers, cancers of the lips, stomach, skin and prostate.

  • The children of farmers who use pesticides have a much higher incidence of leukemia, reproductive tumors, brain, kidney and bone cancers.

  • Children who ate conventionally grown vegetables had a urine pesticide level that was 9 times higher than those children who ate mainly organically grown fruits and vegetables.

  • Antioxidant levels are an average of 30% higher in organically grown produce. For the value, maybe they aren't really all that more expensive.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Veggie of the Month - Asparagus

On the eve of yet another holiday weekend full of parties and grilling I started planning my menu. I have to say that asparagus is a family favorite around here. It compliments just about any meal and it is great finger food for kids.

Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence. It leads nearly all produce items in the wide array of nutrients it supplies in significant amounts for a healthy diet.

Asparagus is the leading supplier among vegetables of folic acid. A 5.3 ounce serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folacin which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease. Folacin has been shown to play a significant role in the prevention of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, that cause paralysis and death in 2,500 babies each year. Its wealth of nutrients, fiber and very low sodium and calorie content make asparagus a nutritionally wise choice for today's health-conscious consumer.

Asparagus is:
Low in calories, only 20 per 5.3 oz. serving, less than 4 calories per spear.
Contains no fat or cholesterol.
Very low in sodium.
A good source of potassium.
A source of fiber (3 grams per 5.3 oz. serving).
An excellent source of folacin.
A significant source of thiamin.
A significant source of vitamin B6.
One of the richest sources of rutin, a compound which strengthens capillary walls.
Contains glutathione (GSH).*

*Glutathione (GSH) is one of the most potent anticarcinogens and antioxidants found within the body. GSH is used to detoxify carcinogenic electrophiles and protect cells from oxidative damage, thereby preventing damage to DNA and other macromolecules. Thus, GSH acts as an initial and primary defense against chemicals that can cause cell transformation and/or cell death. Asparagus had the highest GSH content of the several foods tested.

Find a quick and easy grilled asparagus recipe here.

Happy 4th of July!

- Shannan

Sources: maab
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog is intended to replace the advice of a physician. We recommend consulting a physician before embarking on diet changes or a fitness routine. In addition, we recommend that you thoroughly research alternate points of view and make your own decisions as an informed consumer. You are ultimately responsible for your health.