Thursday, April 30, 2009

Meal Planning


I am beginning to think I am either a terrible time manager or a completely unorganized person. I think it is probably a little of both. So, in an attempt to get more organized and actually get some new projects done around the house instead of spinning my wheels everyday, I have identified an area of my life that could use huge improvement. You guessed it, meal planning.

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? Once I began paying attention to how my frazzled mornings were going, I realized that I was having to run to the grocery store several times per week because I didn't have something for a recipe I wanted to make, had run out of a staple or two, had nothing to pack in the girl's school lunches or simply had not thought about dinner for the day.

So what did I do to correct this situation and add some time to my day?

1. I signed up for Door to Door Organics and began getting my veggies and fruits delivered to my door each week. It turns out that a medium box is pretty perfect for my whole food eating family of four. I will be putting this service on hold for the summer when my CSA share begins. This means that I will have to pick-up my box from the farm instead.

2. I began stocking up on staples. For instance, I made sure I had plenty of flour, sugar, olive oil, oatmeal, pasta, cinnamon, butter, ground flaxseed, wheat germ and even milk. The organic milk at Costco comes in a box of three half gallons that last for up to a month according to the expiration date. We are not huge milk drinkers so this lasts us for quite a while. Only you know what you really use most, but in case you need a little reminder, check out this list of staples you may want to have in your pantry.

3. We generally go out to eat twice a week, once during the week and once on the weekend. Keeping that in mind, I have started going through our plans for the other five days and identifying which nights we will be eating dinner as a family and which nights my husband might have a work event. I usually cook a little lighter for the girls and I on those nights. The simple step of figuring out which days I will be cooking has made me stop and think about what we will be eating too.

If you need help getting organized like I do, check out Meals Matter. This site offers healthy meal planning tools, and recipes. You can actually look up recipes based on a specific ingredients, meal type, prep time, nutrient content (great if you are, for example, watching your sodium), special features (like vegetarian meals), etc. and build your shopping list for the week. They also have a cookbook tool where you can enter and save your favorite recipes to share with your family and friends.

Another note re: meal planning. Whether you are on a weight loss plan, medical diet or simply trying to feed your family and yourself healthy whole foods, planning is a must. In addition to adding stress to your life, the lack of planning can enable poor choices. You are much more likely to pick up a not-so-healthy snack or fast food if you haven't surrounded yourself with good food. Don't let your lack of planning knock you or your family off track.

I have learned my lesson. One big trip to the grocery store is definitely better than five small trips in so many ways.

Shannan

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Benefits of Yoga

I have done yoga on a not very regular basis for the past couple of years at my gym. And, although I always end up feeling relaxed after spending a couple minutes still on the floor at the end of class, I can't say I really ever "got" the whole concept. This is until I attended a class at my local lululemon athletica store a couple weeks ago. I am not sure if it was because I was in a room full of strangers, in a retail store as people were walking by and didn't want to look like a fool, but I was really able to concentrate and focus on myself for a change. I didn't watch what others were doing. I simply listened to the instructor, who was very non-judgemental, slow and deliberate in his direction, and blocked out the world around me. It was amazing how the movements/poses were easier for me than they ever had been and my mind cleared itself of all of its stresses and thoughts. This is something rare for me and probably most busy moms.

I tried to duplicate the experience last weekend at my gym. I am sad to say it wasn't quite the same. I guess that is why they call it " yoga practice" though. You really do have to work not only on the physical part, but also on the mental part. Clearing my mind of all thoughts and truly being in the moment is one of the most difficult things for me. And, as it was explained to me by another yoga instructor, the physical part of yoga gives you something to do with your body as you work on clearing your thoughts. Make sense to you? It did to me.


Now that is not to say that there aren't tons of great physical benefits to practicing yoga as well. I am just not so sure which is more important sometimes... So whether you are addicted to yoga or are just thinking of trying it, here is a great list of the health benefits of yoga, both physical and mental. (sorry it is so long but it covers all the bases so well I had to share)


By the way, after reading this list you are anxious to take a class, check to see if you have a lululemon store near you. Many, if not all, offer free yoga classes at their stores taught by yoga instructors from local studios. It is a great way to try it out!

77 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga

Over the past several years, yoga has experienced an upsurge in popularity in the western world. While many associate yoga with new age mysticism or the latest fad at the gym, yoga is actually an ancient practice that connects the mind, body, and spirit through body poses, controlled breathing, and meditation. The practice of yoga has many health benefits associated with it, so read below to discover 77 benefits to be gained.

Health Benefits Within
From lowering blood pressure to increasing pain tolerance, the following health benefits can all be discovered within the body.

1. Blood pressure. A consistent yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body. These two exercises can help lower blood pressure.
2. Pulse rate. A slower pulse rate indicates that your heart is strong enough to pump more blood with fewer beats. Regularly practicing yoga provides a lower pulse rate.
3. Circulation. Yoga improves blood circulation. By transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, yoga practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain.
4. Respiratory. Like the circulatory system, a lower respiratory rate indicates that the lungs are working more efficiently. Yoga decreases the respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness.
5. Cardiovascular endurance. A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body (both benefits of yoga) results in higher cardiovascular endurance.
6. Organs. Yoga practice massages internal organs, thus improving the ability of the body to prevent disease. Additionally, an experienced yoga practitioner becomes better attuned to her body to know at first sign if something isn’t functioning properly, thereby allowing for quicker response to head off disease.
7. Gastrointestinal. Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga.
8. Immunity. Yoga practice has frequently been correlated with a stronger immune system. Read this article for more on the immune system and yoga, including some poses that specifically work on areas of immunity.
9. Pain. Pain tolerance is much higher among those who practice yoga regularly. In addition to pain tolerance, some instances of chronic pain, such as back pain, are lessened or eliminated through yoga (see below for more on back pain).
10. Metabolism. Having a balanced metabolism results in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling hunger. Consistent yoga practice helps find the balance and creates a more efficient metabolism.

Health Benefits Without
Just as many health benefits occur within the body, there are many benefits that can actually be experienced from without the body. From better sleep to more energy and strength, this list provides several benefits found on the outside of the body.

11. Aging. Yoga stimulates the detoxification process within the body. Detoxification has been shown to delay aging, among many other health benefits.
12. Posture. The very nature of yoga teaches the practitioner how to hold and control one’s body in a more healthful position. Through consistent practice, your posture will improve so that you look more confident and healthy.
13. Strength. One of the premises of yoga is that you are using the weight of your own body for overall strength. Find out more about how yoga works as an excellent method of strength training in this article.
14. Energy. Regular yoga practice provides consistent energy. In fact, most yogis state that when you perform your yoga correctly, you will feel energized after your yoga session rather than tired.
15. Weight. The benefits of a better metabolism along with the exercise of yoga work to keep your weight in check. Additionally, the stretching of muscles longwise helps to reduce the amount of cellulite that can build around muscles.
16. Sleep. Because of the many benefits to both body and mind that a yoga routine can provide, many find that their sleep is much better. Read here for more on sleep and yoga, as well as some positions for helping induce sleep.
17. Balance. An integral part of the yoga practice is balance and control over your body. With a consistent practice, you will find that your overall balance will improve outside the yoga class.
18. Integrated function of the body. Yoga is derived from Sanskrit and means "to join together and direct one’s attention." This is exactly what happens to your body after you start practicing yoga. Yogis find that their body works together much better, resulting in more graceful and efficient body movements.
19. Body Awareness: Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.
20. Core strength. With a strong body core, you receive better posture and overall body strength. A strong core helps heal and reduce injuries. This is why a lot of athletes do yoga as cross training (boxers, MMA fighters, etc). Read how this swimmer uses yoga to strengthen her core and improve her swimming.
21. Sexuality. Yoga can improve your sexuality through better control, more relaxation, and more self-confidence. Read more about the yoga and sexuality connection here.

Emotional Health Benefits
Due to the strong mind-body connection of yoga, there are many emotional benefits to be gained from a consistent yoga practice. Find out how yoga can help improve emotional health with this list.

22. Mood. Overall well-being improves with yoga practice. The combination of creating a strong mind-body connection, creating a healthy body, and focusing inward can all lead to improvement in your mood.
23. Stress Reduction. The concentration required during yoga practice tends to focus your attention on the matter at hand, thereby reducing the emphasis you may have been putting on the stress in your life. Read more about yoga and stress management here.
24. Anxiety. One benefit to the controlled breathing used in yoga is a reduction in anxiety. Learn more about how you can use yoga breathing to reduce your anxiety.
25. Depression. Some believe the negative feelings that you may be repressing are brought to the surface during some types of yoga exercise. When this happens, the negative energy is no longer stuck within you, but released through exercise. Regularly releasing this negativity leads to a reduction of depression in many people.
26. Self-acceptance. Focusing inward and realizing through your yoga practice that perfection is not the goal, self-acceptance begins to take over. This post describes how success is not measured by perfectionism in yoga.
27. Self-control. The controlled movements of yoga teach you how to translate that self-control to all aspects of your life.
28. Mind-body connection. Few other exercises offer the same mind-body connection that yoga does. As you match your controlled breathing with the movements of your body, you retrain your mind to find that place of calm and peace that long-time yogis know.
29. Positive outlook on life. Continued practice of yoga results in a balance of many hormones and nervous system, which brings about a more stable, positive approach to life.
30. Hostility. Most yogis report a huge reduction in the amount of hostility they feel as well as a sense of control when anger flares. This calm effect is likely from the relaxation and meditation that is incorporated in their yoga practice that leads to an overall calming of the nervous system. Less hostility means lower blood pressure and stress and a healthier approach to life.
31. Concentration. Researchers have shown that as little as eight weeks of yoga practice can result in better concentration and more motivation.
32. Memory. Improved blood circulation to the brain as well as the reduction in stress and improved focus results in a better memory.
33. Attention. The attention required in yoga to maintain the structured breathing in conjunction with yoga poses sharpens the ability to keep a sharp focus on tasks.
34. Social skills. In yoga, you learn the interconnectedness of all of life. Your yoga practice soon evolves from a personal journey to one connecting to to the community at large where your social skills improve along with your yoga practice.
35. Calmness. Concentrating so intently on what your body is doing has the effect of bringing calmness. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as watching how you breathe and disengagement from your thoughts, which help calm the mind.

Body Chemistry
Several aspects of body chemistry such as glucose levels and red blood cells are affected by yoga. Learn how you can improve your body chemistry through yoga.

36. Cholesterol. Yoga practice lowers cholesterol through increased blood circulation and burning fat. Yoga practice is a great tool to fight against harmful cholesterol levels.
37. Lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system boosts your immunity and reduces toxins in your body. The only way to get your lymphatic system flowing well is by movement. The specific movements involved in yoga are particularly well-suited for promoting a strong lymphatic system.
38. Glucose. There is evidence to suggest that yoga may lower blood glucose levels.
39. Sodium. As does any good exercise program, yoga reduces the sodium levels in your body. In today’s world of processed and fast foods that are full of sodium, lessening these levels is a great idea.
40. Endocrine functions. Practicing yoga helps to regulate and control hormone secretion. An improved endocrine system keeps hormones in balance and promotes better overall physical and emotional health.
41. Triglycerides. Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat in the blood, and elevated levels can indicate a risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. A recent study shows that yoga can lead to "significantly lower" levels of triglycerides. Read more about the results of that study here.
42. Red blood cells. Yoga has been shown to increase the level of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood, and too few can result in anemia and low energy.
43. Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps boost immunity, helps produce collagen, and is a powerful antioxidant; and a yoga regimen can increase the vitamin C in your body.

Exercise Health Benefits
As a form of exercise, yoga offers benefits that are sometimes not easily found among other exercise regimens. All of the following gains are benefits to practicing yoga.

44. Low risk of injury. Due to the low impact of yoga and the controlled aspect of the motions, there is a very low risk of injury during yoga practice compared to other forms of exercise.
45. Parasympathetic Nervous System. In many forms of exercise, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, providing you with that fight-or-flight sensation. Yoga does the opposite and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system lowers blood pressure and slows the pace of your breathing, which allows relaxation and healing.
46. Muscle tone. Consistently practicing yoga leads to better muscle tone.
47. Subcortex. Subcortical regions of brain are associated with well-being, and yoga is thought to dominate the subcortex rather than the cortex (where most exercise dominates).
48. Reduced oxygen consumption. Yoga consumes less oxygen than traditional exercise routines, thereby allowing the body to work more efficiently.
49. Breathing. With yoga, breathing is more natural and controlled during exercise. This type of breathing provides more oxygen-rich air for your body and also provides more energy with less fatigue.
50. Balanced workout of opposing muscle groups. As with all of yoga, balance is key. If a muscle group is worked in one direction, it will also be worked in the opposite direction to maintain balance. This balance results in a better overall workout for the body.
51. Non-competitive. The introspective and self-building nature of yoga removes any need of competition in the exercise regimen. With the lack of competition, the yogi is free to work slowly to avoid any undue injury as well as promote a more balanced and stress-free workout.
52. Joint range of motion. A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine indicated that joint range of motion was improved by participants who practiced yoga.
53. Eye-hand coordination. Without practice, eye-hand coordination diminishes. Yoga maintains and improves eye-hand coordination.
54. Dexterity. The strong mind-body connection and flexibility gained from yoga leads to grace and skill.
55. Reaction time. Research done in India shows that reaction time can be improved with specific yoga breathing exercises in conjunction with an already established yoga practice. The improvement was attributed to the faster rate of processing and improved concentration gained from yoga.
56. Endurance. Working the entire body, yoga improves endurance and is frequently used by endurance athletes as a supplement to their sport-specific training.
57. Depth perception. Becoming aware of your body and how it moves, as one does in yoga practice, leads to increased depth perception.

Disease Prevention
Studies indicate that following a consistent yoga practice can help prevent the following diseases.

58. Heart disease. Yoga reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, keeps off weight, and improves cardiovascular health, all of which lead to reducing your risk of heart disease.
59. Osteoporosis. It is well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Additionally, yoga’s ability to lower levels of cortisol may help keep calcium in the bones.
60. Alzheimer’s. A new study indicates that yoga can help elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels. Low GABA levels are associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s. Meditation like that practiced in yoga has also been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
61. Type II diabetes. In addition to the glucose reducing capabilities of yoga, it is also an excellent source of physical exercise and stress reduction that, along with the potential for yoga to encourage insulin production in the pancreas, can serve as an excellent preventative for type II diabetes.

Symptom Reduction or Alleviation
While this list is not comprehensive, the following diseases or disorders can all be helped by maintaining a yoga practice.

62. Carpal tunnel syndrome. Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome who practiced yoga showed greater improvement than those who wore a splint or received no treatment at all. Researchers saw improved grip strength and reduction of pain in the study participants.
63. Asthma. There is some evidence to show that reducing symptoms of asthma and even reduction in asthma medication are the result of regular yoga.
64. Arthritis. The slow, deliberate movement of yoga poses coupled with the gentle pressure exerted on the joints provides an excellent exercise to relieve arthritis symptoms. Also, the stress relief associated with yoga loosens muscles that tighten joints.
65. Multiple sclerosis. According to this article, "yoga is now recognized as an excellent means of MS management." Additionally, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is funding a clinical trial of yoga for treating multiple sclerosis.
66. Cancer. Those fighting or recovering from cancer frequently take advantage of the benefits that yoga provides. Cancer patients who practice yoga gain strength, raise red blood cells, experience less nausea during chemotherapy, and have a better overall well-being.
67. Muscular dystrophy. Using yoga in the early stages of muscular dystrophy can help return some physical functions. The practice of Pranayam yoga helped one teen regain many of his abilities lost to muscular dystrophy. Learn more in this article.
68. Migraines. Regular yoga practice has been shown to reduce the number of migraines in chronic migraine sufferers. This post describes how yoga can reduce migraines.
69. Scoliosis. Yoga can straighten the curvature of the spine associated with scoliosis. Find out how this yogi cured her scoliosis and continues to help others as well.
70. Chronic bronchitis. Exercise that does not elevate respiration, yet increase oxygen levels in the body is ideal for treating chronic bronchitis. Luckily, yoga can do this, as well as aerate the lungs and provide energy.
71. Epilepsy. Focusing on stress reduction, breathing, and restoring overall balance in the body are the focus of how yoga can help prevent epileptic seizures.
72. Sciatica. The intense pain associated with sciatica can be alleviated with specific yoga poses. Here are 10 great ones to help relieve pain.
73. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Studies of people with OCD have shown that practicing yoga has lead to a reduction in symptoms–resulting in less medication or medication no longer needed.
74. Constipation. Due to the practice of yoga and overall better posture, the digestive and elimination systems work more efficiently. If the practitioner also has a healthy diet, any constipation will be eliminated through yoga.
75. Allergies. Using a neti pot to clear the sinuses is an ancient form of yoga to help reduce or eliminate allergy symptoms. Certain types of breathing can also help clear the nasal passages.
76. Menopause. Yoga practice can help control some of the side effects of menopause. Learn how the bridge pose can help reduce hot flashes here.
77. Back pain. Yoga reduces spinal compression and helps overall body alignment to reduce back pain. Find a yoga pose to help lessen back pain here.

Namaste, Shannan


Monday, April 27, 2009

Lobelia


Lobelia is a native herb to North America. The North American Indian tribes used this herb as an emetic, purgative and of all things tobacco substitute. In fact the other name for Lobelia is Indian Tobacco. Lobelia is a healing herb.

Nutrients: This herb is particularly high in manganese, vitamin A, and vitamin C, but has a very full nutrient deck with most vitamins and minerals present.

Nutritional Healing

  • This herb is great for lung and pulmonary complaints and has been used for asthma, whooping cough, laryngitis, pneumonia, and bronchitis.

  • Great for healing bruises, skin ulcers, inflammations, sprains, swelling insect bites and poison ivy symptoms.

  • For a 5 week pre-parturition herbal medicant (medication to ease labor and delivery) combine lobelia with black cohosh, raspberry leaves, penny royal, squaw vine, and blessed thistle. Start with 2 oz of each herb and encapsulate in .05 gelatin capsules. Take 1 each day for 31 days.

Ways to Use

This herb like most will lend itself to an infusion or to a standard decoction if necessary, but to be honest it's bitter quality makes it very difficult to drink in large quantities. I prefer to use this herb in a tincture or you could even encapsulate it. Check out my recent post on tinctures - it's really very easy.

My husband had a very rough winter with several bouts of bronchitis that led to pneumonia. I'm not entirely sure why his lungs are so weak - he has never smoked or worked around terribly harsh chemicals. I'm starting now to prepare him for next winter by making tinctures with lobelia and with other great healing/lung herbs (mullein, comfrey and thyme). My hope is that over the summer his lungs will both cleanse and heal and he will experience less difficulty next winter. Let me know if you would like some tips on doing the same!

Take care and enjoy this crazy spring weather!

Karla

Friday, April 24, 2009

Raw Cranberry Relish and a Spinach Salad

It's been a good week with lots going on here at Living A Whole Life and I wanted to close out the week with a couple of yummy recipes I've been enjoying lately. The first one a Warm Spinach Salad with Scrambled Egg and Potato I found in a Whole Foods brochure. The combination sounds a little funny at first, but this has become one of my favorite comfort food recipes and I can make a whole meal of just this salad. The recipe calls for spinach, but I end up using whatever lettuce I have on hand that week from my Door to Door Organics delivery.


Warm Spinach Salad with Scrambled Egg and Potato

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 baking potatoes (about 1 pound total), scrubbed and cut into 1/4" cubes
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
2 bunches flat-leaf spinach (2 lbs total), thick stems removed, leaves washed well and roughly torn
2 ounces Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler
4 large eggs

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add potatoes and cook, tossing occasionally, until potatoes are tender and browned, 12 to 14 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil with vinegar, mustard, and shallot; season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add spinach and Parmesan (do not toss); set aside.

When potatoes are done cooking, immediately transfer to bowl with spinach and dressing (reserve skillet). Toss salad until spinach is slightly wilted.

Heat skillet over medium and scramble eggs, toss into salad and serve immediately.





Delicious Raw Cranberry Relish


2 cups fresh (or frozen - thawed) cranberries

2-3 oranges, peeled, pith removed, seeded and sectioned

1 kiwi, peeled and diced

1/3 cup agave nectar, or more to taste (I've also used honey and maple syrup)

2 tablespoons green onion, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled, and grated.

Process the cranberries and oranges in a food processor, fitted with the "S" blade, briefly. Transfer to a bowl and add the other ingredients. Stir by hand.
This recipe is from Kristen's Raw. There is so much flavor in this recipe - you are guaranteed to love it. I usually make a double batch and then freeze some of it in little jars for when I need a delicious and nutritious snack.
Have a wonderful weekend whatever you are doing!
Karla

Thursday, April 23, 2009

National Healthy School Day

What you can do to make sure no child’s health is left behind
Guest post by Janelle Sorensen


When my husband and I first toured schools to find the one we wanted to enroll our daughter in, I’m sure I was silently voted one of the strangest parents ever. Why do I feel I was secretly endowed with this title? Because every room and hallway we were taken through, I sniffed. A lot. And, according to my husband, I wasn’t terribly discreet.

I didn’t have a cold or postnasal drip. And, I’m not part bloodhound. I was simply concerned about the indoor air quality. My daughter was (and still is) prone to respiratory illnesses and I wanted to be sure the school she would be attending would support and protect her growing lungs (in addition to her brain). For many air quality issues, your nose knows, so I was using the easiest tool I had to gauge how healthy the environment was.

While air quality is a significant issue in schools (the EPA estimates that at least half of our nation’s 120,000 schools have problems), parents are also increasingly concerned about other school health issues like nutrition and the use of toxic pesticides. Many schools are making the switch to healthier and more sustainable practices like green cleaning, least toxic pest management, and even school gardening. What they’re finding is that greening their school improves the health and performance of students and personnel, saves money (from using less energy, buying fewer products, and having fewer worker injuries among other things), and also helps protect the planet. It’s truly win, win, win.

To highlight the issue, the Healthy Schools Network (http://www.healthyschools.org/index.html) coordinates National Healthy Schools Day. (http://www.nationalhealthyschoolsday.org/) This year, over three dozen events will be held across the country (and more in Canada) on April 27th to promote and celebrate healthy school environments.

What can you do? Healthy Schools Network recommends simple activities such as:
· Adopting Guiding Principles of School Environmental Quality (http://www.nationalhealthyschoolsday.org/event_guidelines_and_examples.pdf) as a policy for your School;
· Distributing information related to Green Cleaning (http://www.cleaningforhealthyschools.org/) or Indoor Air Quality (IAQ); http://www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/
· Writing a letter or visiting your Principal or Facility Director to ask about cleaning products or pest control products;
· Walking around your school: looking for water stains, cracks in outside walls, broken windows or steps, and overflowing dumpsters that are health & safety problems that need attention. Use this checklist. http://www.greenflagschools.org/checklist.pdf
· Writing a Letter to the Editor of your local paper on the importance of a healthy school to all children and personnel.

You can also help support the efforts of states trying to pass policies requiring schools to use safer cleaners. (Or, initiate your own effort!) There are good bills pending in Connecticut, Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon. According to Claire Barnett, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network, the key pieces to promote on green cleaning in schools are:
Not being fooled by ‘green washing’ claims—commercial products must be third-party certified as green (to verify claims);
Understanding that green products are cost-neutral and they work; and,
Learning that “Clean doesn’t have an odor.”

She encourages parents and personnel to tune into one of the archived webinars on green cleaning (like the first module for general audiences) at http://www.cleaningforhealthyschools.org/.

The fact of the matter is that whether you’re concerned about the quality of food, cleaning chemicals, recycling, or energy use – schools need our help and support. Instead of complaining about what’s wrong, it’s time to help do what’s right – for our children, our schools, and our planet.

What are you going to do? There are so many ideas and resources. Find your passion and get active on April 27th – National Healthy Schools Day.

Additional Resources:

· Creating Healthy Environments for Children (DVD): A short video with easy tips for schools and a variety of handouts to download and print. http://healthychild.org/live-healthy/hchw_products/creating_healthy_environments_for_children/
· Getting Your Child’s School to Clean Green: A blog I wrote last year with advice based on my experience working with schools. http://healthychild.org/blog/comments/getting_your_childs_school_or_child_care_center_to_clean_green/
· Healthy Community Toolkit: Healthy Child Healthy World’s tips and tools for being a successful community advocate and some of our favorite organizations working on improving child care and school environments and beyond. http://healthychild.org/issues/policies/
· The Everything Green Classroom Book: The ultimate guide to teaching and living green and healthy. http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Green-Classroom-Book-conservation/dp/1605503517




Janelle Sorensen is the Senior Writer and Health Consultant for Healthy Child Healthy World (www.healthychild.org). You can also find her on Twitter as @greenandhealthy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!


Just a few random Earth Day tidbits I have run across this week...thought I would pass them along.

Here is a great article about school lunches I ran across on the Earth Day Network site about making school lunches healthier. http://earthday.net/node/40

Walmart is encouraging people to submit their eco-friendly ideas and/or vote for the ones you like. Check it out. You may come across something you had never thought of before. One of my favorites is using your own travel coffee mug when you go to your favorite coffee shop instead of using their paper cups.

Marcal Small Steps is a company that uses recycled materials to make paper towel, saving millions of trees in the process. If your local grocery store doesn't carry Marcal, ask them to!


What are you doing to make your life a little greener?

I am proud to say I have finally made a habit of actually taking my reusable grocery bags into the store with me instead of leaving them at home or in the back of the car. Baby steps...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Join Your Local Chapter of the Holistic Mom's Network


Humans, I believe, were created to live in community. Life is always better shared with those who have similar values and goals. We find friends who share our similar paths, we go to church to deepen and encourage our faith, and we become friends with other mothers who have "been there". A support network is invaluable for anything we set out to do.

When I started to study nutrition and naturopathy, I was very lucky to find a supportive and active food coop that provided me with great resources and tons of information. Not long ago, while reading a Livingston Parents brochure, I read about a group called the Holistic Mom's Network that met monthly and thought I would check it out. Little did I know at the time, one of the leaders of my local chapter of the Holistic Mom's Network is in my food coop and the director has also recently joined my food coop. Andrea and Daedra are wonderful leaders in the Detroit Chapter of the Holistic Mom's Network. Andrea Stevens started the Detroit chapter in August of 2008. She came across the Holistic Mom's Network online while searching for a natural remedy. Disappointed at not finding a local Michigan chapter she applied to start one. Thanks Andrea for being so proactive!

The Holistic Mom's Network is a "national, non-profit support and resource organization for parents with an interest in natural living and mindful parenting." They "encourage natural, mindful parenting and support parents in their efforts to raise their children holistically." They "welcome all individuals and families interested in natural living, health and wellness, mindful parenting, a sustainable environment and better balance in life." They were started in 2002 by a group of mom's "who were parenting to a different beat and yearned for the support and friendship of others who shared their viewpoints."

9 Great Reasons to Join the Holistic Mom's Network
  1. Great Monthly Meetings. We meet monthly (at the Plymouth Library for you local folks) and get great speakers on a variety of topics. In the past we've had nutritionists, chiropractors, naturopaths talking about a wide variety of topics in the field of natural health. I asked Andrea for a sneak peek of what is coming up and listen to the great stuff planned: simple ways to go green around the house; organic gardening and composting; healthy nutrition for your family; homeopathy; thermography; and holistic options for detecting cancer. I'm pretty much interested in all of those topics and can't wait to hear more!


  2. Thursday morning playgroups. I haven't been able to avail myself of this great resource yet (my kids are in preschool on Thursday mornings), but summer is coming and it will be fun to get my kids together to play with other kids while being able to talk to a few of the other moms!


  3. Mom's night out events. Every so often HMN plans an activity that is just for mom's to get out and do something fun together. One night it was working on glass blowing with Daedra.
  4. Family Outings


  5. Lending Library. As you can imagine, these mom's are great resources of information and HMN has started to organize a lending library to pool books and resources.


  6. HMN Detroit is on Facebook. :) Andrea has organized a page and will send you invitations and updates on things going on in the group. I love these reminders and love to see who else will be attending. (Besides who doesn't love Facebook)


  7. National and Local Email loops. Once you join the loops on Yahoo there is no end to the discussions you can join. Or if your child wakes up at 2AM with some sort of malady, you literally have 100's of mothers at your fingertips and chances are at least one of them has a great remedy they could recommend to you. The loops are fun to sit are read when you have time.

  8. Newsletter. Each member receives a subscription to The Wise Mom, HMN's informative, electronic newsletter featuring articles on holistic living and conscious parenting.
  9. Fantastic Cookbooks! For a $15.00 fee you can purchase a great cookbook with tons of holistic and nutritional recipes to make for your family. Pick up a copy at the next meeting or at the Green Street Fair (see below). Proceeds go to support the Holistic Mom's Network.

If you live in the Detroit area, join the Detroit Chapter of the Holistic Mom's Network at the Green Street Fair in Downtown Plymouth. The Green Street Fair will be held May 1st (noon to 7pm), 2nd (10am to 7pm), and 3rd (10am to 5pm). Come say hello and get more info on membership and meetings.

There are Holistic Mom's Network Chapters all across the country. Click here to see if there is a chapter near you. It is so nice to learn from other mom's who have the same interests and values.

Karla

Monday, April 20, 2009

Natural Sunscreen

Call it wishful thinking, but according to my predictions the sun should be finding its way to Michigan soon for the summer. Besides all the fun that goes along with that, it brings to mind our daily need for sun protection. As usual, this got me thinking about natural alternatives to the traditional commerical sunscreens.

Keep in mind that 15 - 20 minutes 2 - 3 days per week of unprotected sun exposure is actually good for us. But, once you are done soaking up a dose of vitamin D, you and your kids will definitely want to be safe in the sun. This means more than just slathering on any old sunscreen you find in the drugstore.

Your first line of defense...

  • Try to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. when sunburn and sun damage is most likely to occur.

  • Wear sun protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat.

  • Try to eat plenty of dark green, red and yellow fruits and vegetables, to keep your skin healthy and less prone to skin damage. There is some evidence that nutritional protection against sun damage is possible.
  • There is also some evidence that coconut oil works as a sunscreen. No matter what, your skin can benefit from both the ingestion and topical use of coconut oil. If you do get a sunburn, try a little coconut oil to help soothe and heal your skin.

And when it comes to sunscreen, keep it "natural". Lucky for us, many of the companies that specialize in non-toxic body care products are now producing sunscreen with fewer harmful ingredients. Chemicals to be avoided include: parabens, which have been outed as estrogen mimics and endocrine disruptors, and other commonly used ingredients like benzophenone (onxybenzone), octinoxate, cinnamates and homosalate were found guilty of increasing the risk of cancer.

The two active sun protective ingredients that you will find even in "natural" sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. According to everything I have read, these ingredients are considered fairly safe unless processed into nano-particles. Companies that produce sunscreens use processed titanium dioxide and zinc oxide so that their product will be transparent. As you know, if you were to apply pure titanium or zinc to your face it would be an opaque white color. This is great for protecting your skin from harmful rays, but doesn't look so hot. The issue with nano-particles is that they can enter the body through the skin potentially causing harm.

So what alternatives do you have? Check out SafeMama's Safer Sunscreen Cheat Sheet for some brands to try. You may also want to take a look at The Environmental Working Group's Sunscreen Database. This list has a hazard rating for each sunscreen and provides a comprehensive list of ingredients for each product.

I will certainly be reading labels and checking out the natural products this summer. Please let us know if you already have a favorite!

Shannan

Friday, April 17, 2009

Making Your Own Household Cleaners

In one of our very first posts, Shannan and I asked you for your favorite all-natural cleaning products. We got such a great response from that post and since then I've slowly but surely tried out a few of your suggestions. I'm particularly fond of a couple of very simple, make at home recipes. I can't believe how inexpensive these are and well, they actually work! I will share a couple with you today.

All-Purpose Spray and Window Cleaner

In a spray bottle, mix 1/2 distilled white vinegar and 1/2 distilled water with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon all-natural liquid soap. Add 15-20 drops lavender essential oil and/or 5-10 drops of tea tree oil. We talked about tea tree oil's antiseptic properties in a recent post, but lavender oil can also be antiseptic. I also just love the relaxing scent of lavender.

When I first tried this surface/window cleaner, I was a little skeptical that it could actually clean streak free. It does! The other thing I noticed...my nose didn't get all stuffed up during cleaning like it used to. Effective and safe!

Why vinegar? Vinegar is completely safe for humans. We can get it on our skin, ingest it, cook with it, and etc. Because of it's level of acidity vinegar kills most mold, bacteria and germs.

Heavy Duty Cleaner

In a bucket of warm water, add 1/4 cup of all-natural soap, 1/2 cup baking soda, 15-20 drops of lavendar oil, and 15-20 drops of tea tree oil. Mix well in the water and this should tackle tougher jobs like floors or walls. Baking soda causes dirt and grease to dissolve in water.

I just love the simplicity and safety of these cleaners. With just a few basic ingredients you keep on hand, you can clean pretty much everything in your home. No worries about your kids or pets getting into products. These are really so inexpensive as well - you can't beat the price. The other day while doing some spring cleaning my 3-year-old came into the room and asked me "what smells so good mommy?" It was the Heavy Duty Cleaner I was cleaning with.

Karla

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Almost Wheat Pancakes and Beet Salad

You may have noticed that Karla and I have started passing along recipes that we have tried and enjoyed. I hope you will like them too...


I am just finishing up my Children's Nutrition course. Both of the required course books included lots of great kid friendly, healthy recipes. So, since my husband and the girls are all fans of a big breakfast on the weekends that always includes pancakes, here is an easy more nutritious alternative to a box mix that my kids loved.

Almost Wheat Cakes

INGREDIENTS
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons baking powder (non-aluminum may be purchased in natural food store)
2 cups nonfat milk (or 1 cup nonfat milk and 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
1. Mix first four ingredients together
2. Combine milk, egg, oil and vanilla and blend well.
3. Stir lightly or put in blender (do not overmix; mixture should be slightly lumpy)
4. Lightly grease a pan or griddle with canola oil (I used a little coconut oil)
5. Drop mixture by spoonfuls and turn when surface bubbles and bottom side is brown.
6. Serve with pure maple syrup, honey, sugarless jam, fresh fruit mixed with plain nonfat yogurt or fruit-flavored yogurt (without sugar), apple butter or unsweetened applesauce.


When a couple of golden beets showed up in my box of organic fruits and vegetables two weeks ago, I have to say, I didn't really know what I was going to do with them. I like beets, but had never cooked them myself. My friend C. was industrious enough to look up a recipe using the beets when she received her Door to Door Organics order and passed this salad recipe along. I tried it myself and loved it so much I had it for dinner and then lunch the next day.



Beet Salad

INGREDIENTS
4 bunches fresh small beets, stems removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 medium heads Belgian endive
1 pound spring lettuce mix
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
Coat beets lightly with oil and roast for approximately 45 minutes, or until tender. Allow to cool thoroughly, then peel and dice.

For the dressing, place lemon, vinegar, honey, mustard, and thyme in a blender. While blender is running, gradually add 1/2 cup of oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place spring lettuce mix in a salad bowl, pour desired amount of dressing over greens, and toss to coat.Rinse endive, tear off whole leaves, and pat dry. Arrange 3 leaves on each plate. Divide dressed salad greens among them, and top with diced beets and feta cheese.

Note: I didn't bother with the endive. I just put the spring mix on my plate, topped with the feta and beets and added the dressing.

Shannan

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chlorine the Cleansing Mineral

No today's post isn't about whether or not to swim in a chlorinated pool. It's not even about whether or not to use chlorine bleach as a home cleaning product. Organic chlorine is a mineral that our bodies need to function properly and oddly enough much like it's evil twin inorganic chlorine, it serves a cleansing function in the body.

Functions of Chlorine: In the body, chlorine is known as the great "cleanser" as it expels waste matter, helps to clean the blood, and keeps the joints and tendons supple.

  • Organic sodium chloride (not table salt) reduces acidity and enhances circulation by regulating how much water is taken into the blood stream. It regulates the concentration of your blood.

  • Increases osmosis - the ability of nutrients to get in cells and waste to get out.

  • Important for efficient digestion. Chloride is a large component of hydrochloric acid which your stomach uses in digestion.
  • Decreases nerve pain (analgesics). Chlorine will actually reduce excess conduction of nerve messages reducing pain symptoms. This mineral could have something to do with "pain tolerance".

  • Most concentrated in blood, lymph and pancreatic fluids

  • Fights germs and bacteria

  • Combats odors

  • Removes impurities

Signs of Chlorine Deficiency

  • Depression, irritability, gloom, and poor outlook on life;

  • Sensation of head pressure and weight

  • Glandular swelling

  • Excess mucous formation
  • Inflammation and pain

  • Restlessness and anxiety

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Sluggish liver

  • Poor appetite and metabolism

  • Painful urination

  • Muscular spasms and cramps

Best chlorine sources: Fish, raw goat milk, asparagus, avocados, bananas, beans, beets, blackberries, brazilnuts, brussel sprouts, cabbage (red, common, savoy), carrots, cauliflower, celery, cheeses (Danish bleu, Italian, Roquefort, Swiss), chicory, chickpeas, chives, coconut, corn, cucumbers, dandelion greens, dates, dock (sorrel), eggplant, endive, figs, filberts, guava, horseradish (raw), kale, kelp, kohlrabi, lean meat, leeks, lentils, lettuce (leaf and sea), mangoes, oats, onions, parsnips, peaches, peas, pineapple, potatoes with skins, radishes, raisins, red raspberries, rutabaga, sauerkraut, spinach, strawberries, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, watercress, watermelon, and white beans.




As always there are so many great whole food ways to supplement our bodies with the minerals it needs. Try a few new foods from the list and enjoy!


Karla

Monday, April 13, 2009

Phosphate-Free Detergents


In the news last week there was a story about how people in Spokane, Washington have been crossing state lines to buy conventional dishwasher detergent now that phosphates have been banned in Spokane County. The argument is that the phosphate-free or more eco-friendly detergents do not work as well.

The reality is that by Summer 2010 all of us living in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington will be required to buy phosphate-free detergent.

So what is the big deal with phosphates anyway? Phosphates are great at binding with food particles to keep them suspended in water. This way the food left on your plate doesn't end up on a glass or fork in your dishwasher. Unfortunately, phosphates cause algae blooms that can suck oxygen out of the water and cause toxins to be released into streams and lakes putting fish at risk.

Those already dealing with phosphate-free detergents complain that they don't work well if you have hard water. Industry experts admit that they do not have powerful enough detergents yet, but the Soap and Detergent Association has supported the 2010 date and are working on more better alternatives.

Keep in mind that phosphates were no longer included in laundry detergent as of 1993. It has taken a little longer to figure out how to remove them from dishwasher detergent and still provide a satisfactory cleanser, but we will all get used to it. In the long run cutting down on chemicals like phosphates will help us all, but change is difficult for some.

According to the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, Palmolive has a non-phosphate gel while Cascade and other manufacturers are close. Of course there are eco-friendly manufacturers like Seventh Generation, Method, Ecover, Shaklee and more that offer phosphate-free detergents.

Now would be a great time to start experimenting with green household cleaners and detergents if you haven't already. It is definitely the wave of the future so spend some time trying out different brands. You will surely find something that works for you and knowing that the industry is working to make safer, more effective detergents gives us something to look forward to as well.

Please let us know if you have a favorite eco-friendly dishwasher detergent. I am interested and I know the rest of our readers will be as well.

Shannan


Source: ABCNews.com

Saturday, April 11, 2009

And the winner is...

I am pleased to announce the winner of the Terra Firma Cosmetics Dream Kit giveaway is Jennifer (@helloveggie)!

Jennifer, please e-mail us at hhnnmail@gmail.com with your full name and address so the kind ladies at Terra Firma Cosmetics can mail you your great prize.

Thanks again to Terra Firma for working with us on this and I hope everyone who checked out their site and products will give them a try.

P.S. The drawing was unbiasly conducted by K and A, my 5-year-old girls. K folded all of the entries and mixed them up in the bowl, then A closed her eyes and drew the winning name.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Make Time to try Sprouting


I've been wanting to research sprouting and try it for myself and I recently found some time to do this. The kids and I tried our hand at sprouting some buckwheat I had in the pantry. I have to tell you that I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was and the kids thought it was great to watch the seeds turn to sprouts almost right before their eyes.

Nutritional Value of Sprouts


Although it was relatively easy to sprout the buckwheat, I wanted to know what the nutritional value of sprouts is and why one should spend the time preparing sprouts (or purchasing them at the grocery store). I was actually astounded at the nutritional value in these little sprouts. Sprouts are one of the most complete and nutritional of all foods tested. Check out a few of these interesting facts.
  • One sprouted Mung Bean has a carbohydrate content of a melon, vitamin A of a lemon, thiamine of an avocado, riboflavin of a dry apple, niacin of a banana, and ascorbic acid of a loganberry. Wow!

  • The sprouting process creates chlorophyll and chlorophyll has been shown to be effective in overcoming protein deficiency anemia.

  • Sprouts have a regenerating effect on the human body because of their high concentration of RNA, DNA, protein and essential nutrients which can be found only in living cells.

  • The chemical changes that occur in the sprouting seed result in a powerful enzyme activation. Such an infusion of active enzymes can heighten enzyme activity in your metabolism and lead to regeneration of the bloodstream.

  • Some vitamins increase during sprouting by 500%. For example, in wheat, vitamin B-12 quadruples, other B vitamins increase 3 to 12 times, vitamin E triples, and the fiber content increases 3-4 times that of whole wheat bread.

  • Dry seeds, grains, and legumes contain no vitamin C. After sprouting, they contain around 20 milligrams per 3.5 ounces of sprouts. Keep in mind that sprouts are in a pre-digested, enzyme rich state which means that the 20 mg is much easier to absorb than 20 mg in a lifeless vitamin C tablet.
Steps to grow your own sprouts

You can make growing your own sprouts as simple as soaking a few seeds on a plate on the kitchen counter or as complicated a purchasing growing trays, bags, growing mediums, etc. It really depends on what you want to do and how much time you have. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Pick a seed, nut or whole grain to start with. I recommend organic, untreated seeds. Sort through the seeds and discard any dirty or damaged seeds.
  2. Place the remainder in a large wide mouth glass jar, cover the top with mesh or thin cloth, seal with a heavy rubber band or ring lid and rinse until clean. Rinse the seeds well and cover with warm water.
  3. After 8-12 hours, drain the water and then rinse the seeds well. Cover the jar loosely or set it in a dark, ventilated place such as a cupboard. Seeds must be rinsed and drained daily. Most seeds do well with once a day rinsing, but some like alfalfa must be rinsed twice a day. Soybeans need to be rinsed every three or four hours to prevent their spoiling.
  4. After three to four days of germination, leafy sprouts like alfalfa require exposure to indirect sunlight for several hours a day. This greening process allows the chlorophyll to develop in the leaves and increases vitamin C and flavor. Others, when clean and dry and after hulling (when necessary) can be directly refrigerated in a covered jar. Once a seed has reached its nutritional peak, allowing it to mature further will ruin it. Harvest ripe sprouts and continue to sprout unripe ones. Keep your ripe sprouts in the refrigerator, rinse them daily, and use them in about 4 days.
In review, sprouts need 6 basic things to thrive and grow
  • Air - keep them in a container that is covered with cloth or screen. Do not keep them in sealed containers.

  • Water - after a good soaking, sprouts need water every 12 hours at least and more if its hot. In your efforts to keep them watered, don't drown them, they must be allowed to freely drain or they will rot.

  • Warmth - sprouts need to be kept warm to germinate and grow. Optimum temperatures vary, but 70-75 degrees is a good start. Don't let them get too hot or they'll wilt, lose vitality and die. Colder temperatures will slow growth and are good for storage, but don't freeze them.

  • Space - for best results, give your sprouts some room. Some sprouts can increase up to 3 times their size. Cramming them in a jar or overfilling a tray will force them to compete for light and air, with inevitable casualties. Spread only a thin layer of seeds in trays, keep them mobile in bags and jars and remember they get bigger.

  • Light - Most sprouts can't use light in the first few days of growth, and many never need it. However, any that produce leaves will eventually need light to 'green up'. Direct sunlight should be avoided unless it's cold, as it can overheat your crop. Most sprouts will be fine if they get indirect natural light, there is no need to keep them dark.

  • Nutrients - adding liquid plant nutrients to the soak water will give the sprouts an extra boost that you will later enjoy. It is not necessary, but will increase their health, longevity and nutritional value. You can also mist the sprouts with a dilute solution after rinsing. Use a few drops of liquid kelp in water, or another organic plant feed.

Different Containers to Grow Sprouts

  • Jars - Use them for sprouts that don't need light, as sprouts in the middle rarely get enough. Avoid overfilling them and don't use a lid. Cover them with cloth and invert the jar to drain.

  • Trays - arguably the best way to grow sprouts especially those that need light. They have a large surface area to soak up more light, can be stacked easily to save space and most importantly, allow the sprouts to grow naturally upwards.

  • Bags - these are best for beans and grains which don't need light. They allow air to the sprouts, are impossible to break, take up less space than jars and are easier to rinse and drain. Just dip and hang. You can even make your own drawstring bag out of any material that allows water and air to move freely but holds the sprouts, the best are hemp or linen as they still breathe when wet and don't dry their contents too quickly. Put pre-soaked seeds into a moistened bag, dip in rinse water for a minute and hang to dry away from drafts. On each subsequent rinsing, move the sprouts around in the bag to stop them from rooting into the fabric. Grains and beans expand by about 3 times from dry, so don't overfill.
Lastly, Enjoy Your Sprouts!
  • eat them right off the tray - that's what my son did :)
  • throw a small handful in a green smoothie
  • serve raw in fresh green salads
  • lightly steamed or cooked in a stir-fry
  • saute sprouts with onion, mushrooms and spices for a tasty side dish
  • add sprouts whole or ground to breads, cereals, soups, casseroles, stuffings, dinner loaves, sandwiches or veggie burgers

Karla

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Veggie of the Month - Celery

A while back, when I was first becoming interested in nutrition and raw eating, I began looking up the nutritional value of different vegetables. Celery was one that surprised me. I guess I have always thought of celery as sort of a kid's veggie - just something that you throw in soup for no apparent reason or put peanut butter or cream cheese on so that a kid will eat at least some kind of vegetable. Of course I was surprised once I learned the really story.

Vitamin C - Celery is actually an excellent source of vitamin C. As we all know, vitamin C helps support the immune system and may help reduce symptoms of the common cold or the severity of cold symptoms. Vitamin C is also known to reduce the severity of inflammatory conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin C is beneficial as it promotes cardiovascular health by fighting free radicals that can oxidize cholesterol and lead to plaques that may rupture causing heart attacks or stroke.

Potential blood pressure benefits - Celery's potential for reducing high blood pressure has long been recognized by Chinese medicine practitioners. Celery contains active compounds called phthalides, which can help relax the muscles around arteries and allow those vessels to dilate. With more space inside the arteries, the blood can flow at a lower pressure. Phthalides also reduce stress hormones, one of whose effects is to cause blood vessels to constrict.

Reduces cholesterol - In studies of animals specially bred to have high cholesterol, celery's cholesterol-lowering activity has been demonstrated. After only 8 weeks of consuming celery juice, these animals showed significantly lower total cholesterol by increasing bile acid secretion.

Good antiseptic - Celery seeds help in uric acid elimination. So, celery is good for people with bladder disorders, kidney problems, cystitis etc. Celery seeds also assist in avoiding urinary tract infection in women.

Healthy joints - Celery is good for people suffering from arthritis, rheumatism and gout. Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce swelling and pain around the joints. Celery sticks contain a diuretic substance, which help to remove uric acid crystals that build around joints.

Prevents cancer - Celery contains phthalides and polyacetylenes. These anti-cancer components detoxify carcinogens. Celery also contains coumarins that enhance the activity of certain white blood cells.

Diuretic activity - Celery is rich in both sodium and potassium. These minerals help in regulating fluid balance.

Relief from migraine - Presence of coumarins gives relief from migraines.

Appetite suppressant - For those who are trying to reduce their weight, drink celery juice before meals. It will help to suppress the appetite.

Choose celery that looks crisp and snaps easily when pulled apart. It should be relatively tight and compact and not have stalks that splay out. The leaves should be pale to bright green in color and free from yellow or brown patches.

To store celery, place it in a sealed container or wrap it in a plastic bag or damp cloth and store it in the refrigerator. If you are storing cut or peeled celery, ensure that it is dry and free from water residue, as this can drain some of its nutrients. Freezing will make celery wilt and should be avoided unless you will be using it in a future cooked recipe.

I highly recommend adding celery to your favorite juice recipe. It's high water content makes it ideal and you can drink a lot more celery than you will probably ever eat!


Don't forget about our great Terra Firma Cosmetic giveaway! You have until 11:59 pm EST today to enter.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dulse (Palmaria palmata)


I'm trying out a new herb right now and am quite impressed with what I've learned about it. I also like that I can use this one as a seasoning for a lot of different foods.


Dulse belongs to the class of herbs known as sea vegetables. It is a red seaweed that is harvested in the cool waters along the Atlantic coast of Canada and along the shores of Ireland and Norway. It's fronds grown in tidal areas on rocks, shells, and on larger seaweeds.




Nutrients: Here's an astounding fact - sea vegetables including dulse contain all 56 minerals and trace elements in proportions greatly exceeding land plants. I'm not sure I've run into anything in nature that can make that claim.


  • Dulse is high in iodine and one of the best natural forms of bio molecular dietary iodine. Just as a form of comparison, you would have to eat about 40 pounds of fresh land vegetables and/or fruits to get as much iodine as you get from one gram of most sea vegetables. Iodine is the main component of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland, which regulates our metabolism - thyroid hormone accelerates cellular reactions, increases oxygen consumption and basal metabolism, and influences growth and development, energy metabolism, differentiation and protein synthesis.


  • Dulse is also high in B-vitamins. Some varieties will provide more than 100% of the RDA of vitamin B6 and about 66% of the RDA of vitamin B12.


  • The protein content of dulse is around 16% to 28%. The amino acid composition of these sea veggie proteins is generally well balanced and contains all or most of the essential amino acids (the ones your body can't produce by itself). Thus the sea veggies provide higher quality protein than certain grains and beans that are lacking one or two essential amino acids, although the sea vegetables provide less quantity per serving. (Example: A serving of Dulse would yield about 1 1/2 g of high quality protein). One of the more important amino acids found in most sea vegetables is glutamic acid, the basis for synthetic MSG. This amino acid naturally enhances flavors and tenderizes high protein foods like beans while aiding in their digestion. Glutamic acid also improves mental and nervous system activity; provides energy, and is thought to help control alcoholism, schizophrenia and the craving for sugar.


Therapeutic Uses

  • Awesome source of nutrition as mentioned above.


  • In traditional European herbal medicine, dulse was used to remove parasites, to relieve constipation, and as a treatment for scurvy.


  • Dulse is a superior source of phytochemicals the body needs to make thyroid hormones that affect weight and metabolic rate.


  • Dulse is also affective as a gentle alternative to Psyllium or Senna for the treatment of constipation. It's very high in fiber.

How to Use

  • There are several ways to purchase dulse including the whole plant or ground fine as flakes. I'm trying out the flakes right now.


  • Use as a tea, decoction, or tincture: Warning - if very concentrated it will taste a little fishy. Adding some cinnamon and honey may help if this taste bothers you.


  • Add to smoothies


  • Sprinkle for a nice flavor over a salad. When added to a salad or dish - dulse adds a really naturally salty flavor. It's all those awesome organic minerals that our bodies need and can easily digest.


  • Add to soups, chowders, sandwiches, or add to bread/pizza dough

Pick up a little of this herb, balance your thyroid, and feed your body with one of nature's most complete herbs.
Karla

P.S. Don't forget about our great Terra Firma Cosmetic giveaway! You have until Thursday to enter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Terra Firma Cosmetics Giveaway


I am so excited to be able to bring you another great giveaway! You know how much we like natural skincare around here and thanks to Terra Firma Cosmetics we are able to offer our readers a chance to win a 6 Piece HydraSilk Dream Kit (Retail Value $64.95).

Terra Firma offers mineral cosmetics manufactured with a focus on safe, natural and healthy ingredients. You won't find any petrochemicals, synthetic fragrances, parabens, synthetic pigments or dyes in any of their products and the minerals used are uncoated (no silicones like Dimethicone or Cyclomethicone are used) and kept as close to nature as possible.

In addition, these cosmetics include sun protection (very important) which comes from a fine grade of Tytanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide that is considered non-carcinogenic due to its inability to penetrate the healthy layers of your skin. The mineral make-up is also water resistant.

The 6 piece HydraSilk Dream Kit includes: HydraSilk" Foundation - 50g (vol), "Airbrush" Prime/Set Powder - 30g (vol), "Radiance" Blush - 20g (vol), "Enhance" Bronzer - 20g (vol) and "Eliminate" Concealer - 10g (vol).

Now how do you enter to win this great prize? There are several ways...

1. Visit the Terra Firma Cosmetics site and leave us a comment about a product you like, something interesting you learned or a product you would love to try.

- OR -

2. Leave a comment on why you would like to win this great prize.

- OR -

3. Tweet about this giveaway: "I just entered to win a Terra Firma Cosmetics Dream Kit at http://www.livingawholelife.blogspot.com/. You can too!"
(Then leave us a comment that you tweeted please.)

Entries will be accepted through Thursday, April 9th at 11:59 p.m. EST. The winner will be announced Saturday, April 10th.

Good luck!

Follow us on Twitter! wholemom, karlaheaman, momogirl
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.