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31 Unexpected Ways You Can Use Coconut Oil

  
  
  

coconut treesCoconut oil’s been getting a lot of press lately, from natural news websites to the mainstream media. People have been using coconut oil for thousands of years for just as many purposes, and the good news is, it’s far more palatable than many other essential oils!

Maybe you’ve been tempted to buy some coconut oil recently or perhaps you’ve got a bottle sitting around and you’re just not sure what to do with it. Here are 31 ways to use coconut oil that you may not even have considered!

1. Moisturize dry skin: Particularly on your face! The greasy feeling will fade quickly to soft, supple skin.
2. Deep condition your hair: Brush through hair, wrap tight, then leave in overnight for soft, shiny locks.
3. Remove stains: Mix a bit of coconut oil with baking soda and rub on upholstery stains to loosen them.
4. Oil “pulling”: Swish the oil around in your mouth each night to loosen stains and release toxins (but be sure to spit in the trash can, not the sink!).
5. Season pans: Rub onto cast-iron pans to season them for future use.Ziggy Marley coconut Oil
6. Lighten spots: Age spots may be lightened by rubbing coconut oil directly onto your skin (stay out of the sun when applied).
7. Yeast infections: Apply topically to lessen the effects of a painful, itchy yeast infection.
8. Vegetable oil substitute: Switch out equal parts coconut oil and vegetable oil to include more healthy fats and a delicious coconutty taste to any recipe!
9. Soothe itches: Got poison ivy or chicken pox? Coconut oil is said to relieve the annoying itch reaction.
10. Deodorant: Some people use it as a natural deodorant. Though remember, it won’t stop sweating, just the unpleasant body odor.
11. Add to smoothie: Give your smoothie a nutritional boost with a spoonful of MCT-rich coconut oil.
12. Diaper rash: Mothers swear by the all-natural effects of coconut oil to remove diaper rash and generally improve the quality of their baby’s skin.
13. Stretch marks: And on that note, the oil has been used as a topical solution to stretch marks for decades!
14. Make toothpaste: Mix coconut oil, baking soda, and your favorite essential oil for a natural homemade toothpaste.
15. Energize your day: Mix the oil with chia seeds and eat in the morning to give yourself a boost all day.
16. Stop shedding: Two teaspoons of coconut oil a day in your pet’s food can help alleviate some of their shedding and keep their coat looking shiny.
17. Shaving lotion: Try it in place of shaving cream for an unbelievably smooth shave.
18. High-heat cooking: Coconut oil can be heated to a very high heat! You can even fry with the stuff.
19. Cold sores: Some people swear by applying coconut oil topically for cold sore treatment.
20. Coffee sweetener: Add to your morning coffee in place of milk AND sugar!Virgin Coconut Oil
21. Makeup remover: Coconut oil is a great way to remove your makeup without drying the skin (but be careful to avoid your eyes!)
22. Arthritis soother: Since it’s an anti-inflammatory, use it to lessen the painful effects of arthritis in your joints.
23. Digestion aid: Anecdotal evidence suggests it can kill parasites and ease indigestion when taken with food.
24. Feed vegans: Got vegan friends? Substitute coconut oil in place of animal fat to richen a dish or make baked goods lights and fluffy.
25. Nipple cream: Hungry infants can leave nipples chapped and raw but coconut oil may help – and it’s safe for baby to ingest, too!
26. Eczema treatment: Topical use for eczema and psoriasis may alleviate redness and flakiness.
27. Natural sunscreen: Sure, it’s only SPF 4 but if you’re only going to be outside for a really short bit it’s a good way to get some sun at least a little more safely!
28. Alleviate frizz: A tiny dab on your hands can smooth hair frizz in no time.
29. Allergy combatant: Some folks rub coconut oil inside their nose during allergy season.
30. Varicose veins: Rubbing it regularly on your skin may reduce the appearance of veins.
31: Popcorn topping: Yum! Melt some coconut oil over popcorn and sprinkle with sea salt.

How do you use your coconut oil? Try some of these homemade remedies and let us know your results in the comments below!

Myrrh Can Have a Positive Effect on Your Whole Body

  
  
  

MyrrhMyrrh…myrrh…myrrh…where have we heard that before? Wasn’t it in, like, Biblical times?

Yup. Myrrh’s been around since Ancient Egypt, used by plebs and royalty alike as highly-effective natural remedy. Back then, myrrh oil was used to deter fleas and mosquitoes and as an antiseptic and the ingenious folks even wore little myrrh hats to prevent sunburn!

The stuff was so prized it became as valuable as gold and was fabled to have been given to Jesus as a gift from the three wise men, alongside Frankincense and gold itself. The good news is, now you can, you know, order myrrh online.

What’s myrrh got to do with it? (Got to do with it?)

Grown in arid, hot climates like Africa and Arabia, there are dozens of species of myrrh available and you should always be careful you’re not inadvertently buying the synthetic stuff.Myrrh Oil It’s actually made from the resin of the “myrrh” plant and bottled, sometimes mixed with water or oil for viscosity.

Fun fact: Myrrh is called “myrrh” after being derived from the Arabic word “murr” which means bitter. Its essential oils give off a warm, woody smell when diffused which most people find really pleasant.

What are the health benefits of myrrh?

A better question is, what aren’t the health benefits of myrrh? Myrrh oil has been around for millennia for good reason and there are many documented, clinically-proven benefits to your health that come from taking the stuff:

• It’s an anti-inflammatory used for gum, mouth, and throat disease
• It can be used to stop swelling and speed healing in infections and when you have a cold
• As an expectorant, myrrh is great for relieving congestion and expelling mucus
• It’s an astringent that’s helpful for relieving dry, red, swollen tissues all over the body

Myrrh Saav

And those are just the proven benefits of myrrh. In addition to the dozens of ways you can actually see myrrh working in your body, more than a little anecdotal evidence suggests the oil is more powerful than initially believe.

The Ancients used it to prevent herpes and clean battle wounds, and even to alleviate theeffects of hay fever. Here’s just a short list of some of the ailments people are currently deploying myrrh to treat:

- Asthma
- Cough
- Indigestion
- Hemorrhoids
- Joint Pain
- Skin Conditions
- Fungal Infections
- Diarrhea

In fact, a 2001 Rutgers University study actually showed that certain compounds contained in myrrh actually kill cancer cells. Today plenty of conventional medical doctors are considering myrrh to treat malignant brain tumors and to help in the prevention of prostate and breast cancer, too. Powerful stuff.

Spiritual and Mental Benefits of Myrrh

Aside from all the physical benefits of myrrh, it also may be helpful for mood and mental disorders. It’s chock full of sesquiterpene compounds that stimulate the emotional centers of the brain, and it’s also helpful for some disorders of the hypothalamus which produces many mood-balancing hormones.

Myrrh has been used in spiritual ceremonies for over 5,000 years, and plenty of alternative medicine practitioners believe in its holistic healing powers. It’s said to connect to the “solar plexus and heart chakras.”

How to Use Myrrh

You can order natural myrrh oil online, but be sure you’re steering clear of synthetics. You can use the oil in several ways: apply a few drops directly to the skin, directly inhale it, diffuse in a diffuser, or even mix with water and use as a dietary supplement.

Since myrrh is extremely potent, always start off with small doses. Pregnant women and children should be particularly cautious of using myrrh without first consulting their doctor. And though the ancients relied on myrrh to treat infection, it’s probably a good idea to avoid relying on myrrh as a complete antibiotic unless absolutely necessary.

So, is myrrh the greatest essential oil you’ve (barely) heard of? The compound was mentioned an astounding 156 times in the Bible and it’s listed in one of the oldest recorded medical texts on the planet, too. If you haven’t given myrrh oil a shot, it may be time to do so.

 

It's Easy to Explain Your Organic Food Decision

  
  
  
Organic Couple Shopping

Deciding to go organic is a very personal decision. There are hundreds of reasons you may decide to start incorporating more organic food and products into your daily life and your motivations will likely change from year to year. And that’s okay!

Things get more complicated when it comes time to explain to skeptical friends and family why you’ve chosen to go organic.

In the last 20 years, the U.S. organic industry has grown from a $1 billion a year industry to over $30 billion a year, a sign more and more people are making the choice every single day. Over 4.5 million acres of American land is now organic farmland. Even with the great strides organic food and products are making in the marketplace it’s impossible to deny that some people just don’t “buy the hype.”

While you may be tempted to tell them, “Your loss!” and simply eat your way to better health, why not have a thoughtful conversation with folks about what being an organic consumer means to you? It isn't necessary to be strident or confrontational. Truth is, you know organic is better for your body, your mind, and the environment – so why not share the good news with people you love?

First and foremost, have a clear stance on what drew you to organic in the first place. Did you have a health scare? A child with allergies? Here are a few of the more common reasons people go organic:

• Greater focus on dietary chemicals due to health issues like cancer
• Becoming a new parent for the first time
• Attention to physical health, whether it’s for exercise, a race, or general well-being
• Conscious commitment to the environment and more sustainable living

Do you fit into any of those categories? Knowing where you stand will make it much easier to answer questions once you’re mid-conversation. Realize you’re probably going to get a lot of skepticism from friends and family members who aren’t all that concerned about eating healthily in the first place. Remember it’s not your job to convince them of the benefits of organic! You should focus on the ways in which your switch has impacted your health and overall wellness. It’s hard to argue with personal results.

It may make sense to share a few of the most eye-opening statistics about organic eating and living during your discussion.

  • The average American consuming conventional produce (and products made from produce such as corn) eats upwards of 16 pounds of chemical pesticide residue a year

  • Estimates suggest less than 1% of pesticides ever reach the produce they’re meant to protect; the other 99% is absorbed into the soil, streams, and the environmentCrop Duster

  • Organic food is more likely to be free of untested or uncertain GMOs, hormone-laden antibiotics, and byproducts which makes it a more “natural” choice any way you slice it

Again, it’s important to remember your priorities aren’t going to be the same as your loved ones’! They may care far more about the fact that organic farming more directly supports local farmers than conventional farming than that the apples they’re eating might contain GMOs.

Knowing where someone is in their life is critical in reaching common ground. Maybe your mom thinks it’s silly you care so much about eating organic…but might she change her mind when you tell her you’re trying to conceive? Perhaps your college buddies think it’s a waste of time and money to prepare your own organic meals…but maybe they’d be more apt to listen if you tell them how much better your workouts have become.

Going organic means totally different things to different people, and it’s all relative. You may not be able to convince someone it’s smart to start buying all organic clothes, food, and products, but what if you encourage them to make a small change instead? Getting your aunt to switch out her BPA-laden water bottle for something more natural is a great start, and hey, maybe your dad really loves chia seeds and he just doesn’t know it yet.

There’s no reason to evangelize when it comes to touting the benefits of organic. The research speaks for itself. Live your life, make smart choices for your own family, and be prepared to talk about your smart decision to go organic when you’re asked.

9 Foods You Need to Eat TODAY!

  
  
  

9 Foods You Need to EatIt’s that time of year…everyone’s more or less given up on their resolutions and desperately trying to fit into a swimsuit or a wedding dress or a new pair of jeans. The good news is it’s not too late to start living a healthier, more wholesome life.

And, no, you don’t ever have to utter the word “cleanse.”

If you’re looking to improve your overall health, incorporate better nutrition into your daily life, and generally just feel better, here are nine foods you need to start eating immediately.

1. Kale
Kale has come full circle. It was too high-brow to be accessible for a while and since the Delicious Kalemania’s started to calm down, everyone’s realizing this superfood is seriously unparalleled in terms of nutrition. It’s a cancer-fighting cruciferous veggie with fiber and Vitamin K, essential for cell growth. Wilt it, juice it, or shred it into a salad.

2. Lentils
No, seriously, you need to be eating more lentils. Dried lentils keep for months and they cook up relatively quickly. They’re a great source of protein and fiber and can help you cut you dependence on meat. They’ve got lots of iron, too, and none of the sulfur that regular beans have so they’re less likely to upset your stomach.

3. Steel-Cut Oatmeal
Don’t fall for the “instant” heavily-sugared stuff – to get the benefit oatmeal offers you need to go low and slow. Oatmeal is incredibly heart-healthy and full of fiber which helps keep you full, and also contains lots of antioxidants and B-vitamins that give you energy throughout the day. Buy wholesome oatmeal in bulk and make a batch at the beginning of each week.

4. Kidney Beans
These Mexican-food staples are actually one of the most antioxidant-rich foods as tested by the USDA. They’ve got potassium and magnesium (great for blood pressure) and high fiber to fight off high cholesterol. With tons of iron and protein, too, they’re a must for vegetarians and vegans – but meat eaters love their meat-like texture and taste, too!

5. Flaxseeds
Maybe you always assumed flaxseeds were too hippy-dippy for your lifestyle but there are few foods that offer bigger nutritional bang for the buck. These little crunchies are shelf stableBob's Red Mill Flaxseed and chock full of omega-3 vitamins, making them a smart choice for vegetarians. Be sure to grind them up before sprinkling over oatmeal, in sauces, or in baked goods.

6. Purslane
Never heard of Purslane? It’s incredibly popular in countries like Greece and China and it has the highest level of healthy Omega-3 fats of any edible plant. Not only that, but it’s chock full of melatonin which is a great mood stabilizer and cancer retardant. Some specialty stores and local farms sell the stuff ready to go for salads, smoothies, and more. You can also find it in natural vitamins and supplements.

7. Cinnamon
Okay, so you’re probably already eating cinnamon but you should be eating more of it! And not just in donuts! It’s helpful for controlling blood sugar which can stave off and/or stabilize Type-2 Diabetes and it’s also got all kinds of triglyceride-healthy components that help keep your LDL cholesterol in check. Plus, you know, it’s tasty.

8. Tempeh
Tempeh is essentially fermented soybeans but, hey, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! The stuff absorbs flavors easily and it’s really great for your gut thanks to all the probiotics it contains.Tempeh Not only should eating tempeh help with digestive issues you can count on it to provide B-12 and other essential antioxidants to your diet.

9. Avocado Oil
Avocados can be really hard to get if you live in a cold climate and they’re often over or under-ripe even if you can find them. It’s time you started incorporating more of the avocado’s monosaturated fats and Vitamin E into your diet via easy-to-find avocado oil. It’s got a high smoke point so you can heat the stuff way up, and it retains the delicious flavor of fresh Hass avocados. Yum.

Isn’t it time you spring cleaned your diet? Don’t get stuck in a nutritional rut – there are so many great foods out there just waiting to become a part of your family’s regular meals! Of course, you don’t need to eat all these foods every single day but trying to fit them in once a week each is a good start to healthier living. Enjoy!

Food Labels and Terms That Have Lost All Meaning

  
  
  

Free Range ChickensPeople love to talk about food. Whether it’s “organic” or “locavore” or “single-origin” there are lots of words in the food culture’s vernacular that have been batted around so often they barely mean anything anymore.

And don’t even get us started on “Foodie.”

So, which words really need a rest? These seven food terms should probably be retired, at least for a while, until they start to have any semblance of usefulness again. Who knows how long that could take?

1. Artisanal
Saying something was Artisanal used to mean it was hand-crafted, carefully constructed, and “artistically” made in a way few other foods were. While this term previously described a food product like jam or pickles that was lovingly transformed and nurtured, it’s now used to sell everything from canned soup or commercial bread to hipsters and urbanites nationwide. We've got Burger King’s artisan bun, Domino’s Artisan Pizzas, Starbucks’ Artisan Breakfast Sandwiches, Tostitos Artisan Recipes Tortilla Chips, and Wendy's Artisan Egg Sandwich. Unless you have any idea who the artisan behind a food is, take the moniker with a grain of salt.

2. Farm-to-Table
There’s nothing wrong with the driving idea behind “farm-to-table.” Restaurants that source local ingredients for their fresh-made dishes are great! But…that’s not always the case anymore. Technically, anything containing produce (including ground wheat and corn by-products) is farm-to-table and you shouldn’t rely on this term as an indicator of freshness, necessarily. It’s probably smart to question whether a restaurant’s resting on empty promises when they overuse this term.

3. All Natural
Ugh. Of course, “natural” food is great when the term refers to something organic, homegrown, or un-fooled around with. In commercial production, however, the term generally means little to nothing and is often used to cover up the less than desirable production practices and products used behind the scenes. As a general rule, never assume somethingUSDA Certified Organic that’s labeled or claims to be All Natural is healthy, green, or, well, natural. If you want products that haven’t been tampered with you should choose “Organic” or “100% Organic” labels.

4. Lightly Sweetened
This term’s most often found on processed foods. Many consumers assume it means there’s very little sugar used in production but in fact, there’s no science or metrics behind “lightly sweetened.” It can essentially mean whatever food makers want it to mean and it has no implication on the use of artificial sweeteners, sugar-substitutes, or even natural sweeteners like honey. The best way to tell how much sugar something contains is to look at the nutrition information and avoid any ingredient that ends in “-ose.”

5. Deconstructed
We get it. There are only so many ways to make a chicken salad sandwich and the trend nowadays leans towards classic food “reimagined” in a new way. But the word “deconstructed” is really just another way to say “difficult to eat” and you shouldn’t pay it much mind when choosing off a menu. The types of chefs who make a lot of “deconstructed” food typically hire “mixologists” for the bar and have an over-arching “slow food” concept.

6. Free Range
We all like to think when we buy eggs or poultry (the only USDA-approved “free range” ingredients) we’re paying more for happy, totally-carefree animal products. Not so fast. The term itself only requires farmers to give poultry access to the outside but there’s no specification for size, ratio, or number of animals allowed in any particular space. If you trulyQuality Cereal desire eggs or other poultry products that are hormone-free and as fresh from the farm as possible, choose organic as certified by the USDA.

7. Whole Grain
Everyone should be eating whole grains but unfortunately, mass commercial food processors are taking advantage of the public demand for higher-grain products. In order for something to legally be labeled “whole grain” it only needs to contain a tiny amount of whole wheat. That means everything from sugary cereals to fat-laden breads may be misconstrued as healthy by contentious shoppers. In general, “whole grain”, “multi-grain”, and “made with whole grains” shouldn’t be taken all that seriously and as a consumer you should focus most on the carb count and grams of fiber to get you best nutritional value.

It’s easy to be confused by food labels thanks to the tricky, sometimes outright deceptive ways marketers aim to sway consumers. In general, eating organic is always best and of course you should always check the nutritional labels on all food products just to be sure you’re eating what you think you are. The more you know the easier it is to see past the smoke and mirrors. 

Is Oil of Oregano Destined to be the Next “Superfood?”

  
  
  

Origanum vulgareHave you heard of oil of oregano?
If not, you will.

This nutrient-rich powerhouse is poised to become the next big superfood and for good reason. Few other oil extracts are as undeniably good for you as oil of oregano and the good news is, it’s tasty, too. Take that, wheat grass!

So, why are people so pumped about incorporating oil of oregano in their diet? What are the oil of oregano benefits? Here are just a few of the purported health benefits of this natural-foodie darling:

  • Just a few drops can relieve a sore throat or help clear a stuffy head when vaporized 

  • Because of its anti-fungal properties, oil of oregano has been shown in some cases to help alleviate gastrointestinal distress 

  • Got cold sores, a skin rash, or dandruff? Rub a little oil of oregano on them for quick relief

  • Some studies show the stuff is effective against certain strains of staph infection and taking more of it could help us all become less antibiotic-resistant 

  • Not into DEET? Oil of Oregano is a natural insect repellent

For hundreds of years people have been using steam to extract the oil from one of the 40 or so species of oregano (scientific name Origanum vulgare). The stuff is potent, to say theoil of oregano least, so it really always needs to be diluted before any type of use. Of course, that could always mean mixing it with a little bit of water but another great way to get the maximum benefit out of the oil is to mix it with a carrier like Jojoba or Grapeseed oil.

And of course, you can always put a few drops in a humidifier or even a steam cleaner to get the respiratory benefits you’re looking for.

One thing to be aware of is that oil of oregano doesn’t taste like deliciously subtle Greek food. It’s really, really strong and for some, an acquired taste, but since it’s naturally flavored with sweet oregano you can pretty easily incorporate it into food if need be. It’s all about personal preference.

Why is oil of oregano just now gaining prominence among foodies? In a surprising turn of events, so-called Doomsday Preppers have recently put this extract on the culinary map. Why in the world would preppers be so interested in an oil extract? Here are a few reasons.Jojoba Oil

Spoilage: Because it’s derived from a plant instead of a seed, oil of oregano doesn’t really go bad. It can lose its potency and flavor over time if not sealed tight but it won’t go rancid the way olive oil will.

Wound Treatment: Since the oil’s been shown in several studies to have some effects on fungus and even viral diseases, preppers love the idea of keeping this natural medicinal around just in case.

Bacteria: Oil of oregano, unlike antibiotics, actually block bacteria’s breathing capacity, helping sanitize food and skin. Since it’s a natural insect repellent, too, it’s a smart thing to have around.

Okay, aside from tossing a bottle of oil of oregano in your End of the World Preparedness Kit, what are you supposed to do with the stuff?

We recommend mixing some in with homemade pizza or in pasta dishes at least once a week to stave off any lingering GI issues as well as to potentially benefit your liver and your colon.Grapeseed Oil If you’ve got a chronic breathing condition like asthma you may want to consider vaporizing oil of oregano in your home a few times a week to breathe in its benefits. And, of course, if you prefer natural skin care medicinals, just rub the oil directly on your skin where you notice fungus, dryness, or rash.

Like any essential oil or natural remedy it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before changing your diet or regimen drastically. Because it’s so strong, oil of oregano isn’t recommended for use by pregnant women or on infants, and (like any plant) some people can be allergic to oregano! It’s rare, though, so start slowly and increase your intake if you notice no adverse side effects.

Opa!

5 Foods You Should Never, Ever Eat

  
  
  

Happy CowWe all know what we should be eating. We even know which foods should be “once in a while” treats, and which should be reserved for holidays or occasions where there’s literally no other choice. Few of us think about the foods that should never, under any circumstances, be consumed.

But they’re out there!

These “foods,” if you can call them that, don’t just offer negligible nutritional value, they actually contain more harmful ingredients than good. They’re more detrimental to your body than they’re worth, even if you only come across them once a month, year, or decade.

To avoid a Sophie’s Choice situation the next time you come face to face with these frankenfoods be sure to carry some high-fiber, high-protein snacks with you wherever you go. Nuts and protein bars are a fabulous choice.

Diet Soda
Diet soda has become ubiquitous. Many people (especially women) now eschew coffee in favor of a carbonated shot of caffeine for a pick me up. In reality, diet sodas aren’t real food, they’re laboratory concoctions that are about as far removed from natural as you can get. Chock full of artificial sweeteners like stevia and aspartame which can actually make youOrganic Coffee fatter, screw up your hormone levels, and some say even give you cancer. There is zero nutrition in a diet soda. Make the switch to water, which we all know is great, and coffee, which is actually good for you.

Swordfish
It lives in the sea, it’s naturally “organic” and it’s protein-rich…what could be so bad about swordfish? Well, it can cause more harm than good since swordfish has higher mercury levels than almost any other fish which makes it particularly dangerous for reproductive-aged women. Not only that, but swordfish is grossly overharvested and the net mechanisms used for catching it causes harm to dolphins and other endangered aquatic species. Avoid swordfish (even if it’s on sale!) and stick to wild-caught salmon instead.

Conventional Milk
What happened to milk? It used to be the flagship food of a nutritionally-dense, well-rounded diet. How many of us grew up drinking a glass with every meal? Today’s conventional milk is too often full of antibiotic residue, hormones, and other unsavory things fed to the mass-grown cattle. Organic milk has been scientifically proven to have higher levels of heart-healthy Omega-6 fatty acids and in some cases more calcium. If you’re worried about GMOs, and you should be, conventional milk is the #1 food you should avoid. Stick to organic dairy milk, or one of the many delicious milk alternatives.

Regular Soy Sauce
Soy sauce has been a staple of the Asian diet for millennia, and that’s ok! When used as a supplement to a protein rich, vegetable laden Japanese-style diet, real soy sauce provides the body with needed sodium. The problem is, Americans typically wayyy overuse the stuff andNama Shoyu we’re actually buying a lot of “artificial” soy sauce. Soy sauce’s labels aren’t regulated and in America, many knock-offs are little more than soybean extract, additives, and chemical colorings. Who wants that? It’s best to stick to the low-calorie, low-sodium type and to buy the most authentic, naturally-brewed soy sauce you can afford (such as those made from raw, organic whole soybeans), even if it means seeking out a specialty store.

Margarine
Butter’s gotten a bad rap but thankfully, the more natural, organic stuff is coming back in vogue. For too long, home chefs rallied around “margarine” as a healthy alternative to the churned stuff when it was anything but. Margarine, made from vegetable oil extract, is one of the more processed foods on the market, facing everything from chemicals to deodorizing between farm and table. Not only that, but after the heart-busting vegetable oil is extracted from plant matter it must be “hydrogenated” to become solid, spreadable margarine. Welcome, trans-fats. Seriously, don’t eat this stuff under any circumstances and do not use it to bake. Try organic, fresh-churned butter or coconut oil instead.

Unfortunately, many of the foods that are most convenient to us are also the worst for our bodies. In general, the more steps something has to go through in order to become “food” the less nutritional value is has to offer. Stock up on organic snacks, whole grains, and of course, fresh produce to ensure you’re eating what you need for good nutrition. And whatever you do, don’t eat these five nasty food-imposters.

 

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Turmeric Powder is the Healthiest Spice You Aren’t Eating

  
  
  

Chef Cooking with Tumeric Powder

 

Turmeric isn’t a super-common American staple but all around the world people have been using it for millennia to combat all kinds of health issues. If you live in India, for example, you’ve probably (literally) been eating turmeric since you were a baby.

You’ve likely had turmeric before even if you don’t realize it – it’s the main component in most curry powder. It’s usually yellow in color and has a strong sweet scent and it tastes great in a variety of applications, particularly mixed with coconut milk or when used to season meat.

So, what the heck is turmeric and why is it so good for you?

Turmeric can be found as ingredients in many foods, as a tasty powder or spice, as a food supplement or even in capsule form. It is harvested from the underground stems of the (duh) turmeric plant which grows best in tropical climates. The plant itself is a relative of the ginger family and it can actually be eaten raw or dried and ground, as it’s most commonly used. The turmeric root is gray colored and the internal part has a slight aromatic smell. 

Turmeric root

The chemical component of the turmeric plant that’s so darn good for you is actually called “curcumin.” Curcumin has literally been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, particularly in east Asia, and is said to do everything from lessening inflammation to fighting cancer.

Here are a few of the purported curcumin and tumeric benefits:

    • It’s a natural steroid that helps reduce inflammation due to arthritis
    • May be used as a pain killer for some minor aches and pains
    • Curcumin may thin the blood which is useful for preventing plaque buildup in the arteries
    • The antioxidant properties are said to be useful in preventing and treating various cancers
    • May help prevent digestive issues by adding to the solubility of bile
    • The spice may prevent amyloid proteins from building up in the brain which can lead to Alzheimer’s
    • Aids in sleep and may treat chronic insomnia
    • May enhance serotonin in the brain, leading to improved overall mood

And that’s just the beginning.

It's been used to treat headaches and bronchitis. People have long rubbed curcumin on cuts and bruises as an antibacterial and even snorted it to open the sinuses (don’t do this). The oil is used in perfumes, and its resin in  There are a number of clinical, scientific trials going on right this minute studying the long-lasting effects of turmeric and curcumin on the body, particularly its applications as a cancer-fighting agent.

Although nothing’s been scientifically proven yet there are some basic studies that show promising results when the spice was used to disrupt the cancer cycle. Curcumin appears to have at least some effect on the “natural suicide” receptors in cancer cells, causing them to wither and die.

So, how do you get your daily dose of these fabulous spices without eating curry for every meal? Well, some doctors recommend purchasing curcumin or turmeric extract rather than using turmeric powder as it’s more concentrated and less pungent.

Of course, you should always talk to a doctor before beginning a curcumin regimen, especially if you are pregnant or breast feeding because doing so in medicinal form is a bad idea. Otherwise, it’s perfectly fine to start adding the extract to your daily diet as a preventative measure in small doses. Curcumin and turmeric are absorbed best by the body when consumed with a “good” fat like the aforementioned coconut oil/milk or olive oil, and there are suggestions that black pepper also aids in human cell receptors taking in the most curcumin.

Are turmeric and, more specifically, curcumin miracle spices? Maybe. They certainly can’t hurt to try and hey, curry is delicious! At the very least, incorporating more of these extracts and spices into your daily routine will help round out an already well-balanced diet.

8 Winter Superfoods to Eat Before They’re Gone

  
  
  

Winter PineappleThe cold weather’s (finally) winding down but there are still a few weeks left to procure some of winter’s best spoils. Winter season foods are packed with vitamins and have a longer-than-average shelf life because they’ve adapted to weathering harsh conditions for months on end.

As Spring approaches and other warm weather foods become available (Tomatoes! Watermelon!) don’t hesitate to mix and match for unexpected flavor combinations that are great for you, too. Here are eight great winter-weather superfoods to eat before they’re gone until next year.

Pineapple
Yes, pineapple is a common winter crop! Although Hawaiian pineapples are delicious, and famous, and with a peak season between April and May, most pineapples sold in the US are are imported from Costa Rica. Their harvest season is usually December thru February and August thru September. Pineapples are packed to the gills with Vitamin C and they’ve actually got a few hard-to-find health benefits, too. Pineapple contains manganese and bromelain, both of which are said to help fight inflammation. The perfect pineapple will be yellow around the bottom and smell fragrantly like, well, pineapple!

Wheat Germ
To be fair, you can get dried wheat germ anytime of year but it’s best in winter when you can find it fresh (try your local farmer’s market.) It’s got all kinds of great stuff: Vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, and iron and you can actually find it as what germ oil if need be. The nutty, crunchy stuff works in bread, casseroles, or even sprinkled over oatmeal!

Fennel
Fennel is a criminally-underused crop. It’s got a fresh licorice tang and it peaks during the coldest months. Most people don’t realize you can eat it raw or cooked! It’s high in the phytonutrient anethole which is said to boost the immune system (cold season’s not quite over yet) and it’s packed with vitamin C like its cousin parsley.

Cauliflower
Similar to its winter-weather peer broccoli, cauliflower is cruciferous (so called because theCauliflower plant's four flower pedals resemble a cross) and packed with filling fiber. It’s got tons of Vitamin K and is an excellent stand-in for starches like potatoes. Cauliflower is great steamed like rice or mashed up with organic soy milk, like mashed potatoes.

Avocado
Avocados probably conjure thoughts of guacamole by the pool but they are, in fact, a winter fruit. Packed with tons of “good” fats that help block cholesterol and aid in the absorption of other vital nutrients, avocado should be eaten a little at a time. Slice it up on sandwiches or smear it on whole grain toast for breakfast.

Pomegranate
There are few fruits more nutritionally dense than the winter-weather pomegranate. Nearly at the end of availability, pomegranates have flavonoids and polyphenols as well as a plethora of Pomegranateantioxidants. Think they’re a pain to eat? Simply cut the fruit in half, hold upside-down over a large bowl, then bang the skin with a wooden spoon. All the tasty nuggets of goodness will fall right out!

Winter Squash
Vibrantly colored winter squash is hearty enough to withstand cooking and dry storage and they’ve all got lots of Vitamin C. Most varieties (such as butternut squash) also have a day’s worth of beta carotene which is good for your peepers, too.

Legumes
Fair enough, you can buy dried legumes anytime but why not eat them in the winter when they’re fresh? Or even buy your own fresh now and dry them yourself for use throughout the year? Chick peas, lentils, and beans are not only a fantastic source of fiber and non-animal protein (making it especially appealing to your vegetarian friends), but are loaded with iron, potassium, and folate too.

Keep your body and mind in tip-top shape with these winter winners in your kitchen. Incorporate these superfoods into your daily diet and feel yourself getting healthier, leaner, and more energized! Warm weather foods will be here in no time so enjoy the cold-weather bounty while you can.

Sick of Rice? Alternative Grains to Consider

  
  
  

Young Chef Preparing Rice and VeggiesWe love brown rice as much as the next guy but man, we’re stuck in a rice rut. If you’re like us and always on the hunt for healthy, organic-friendly sides that don’t require a special trip to the store you’ll love this collection of alternative grains. Grain goodness is where it’s at!

Why should you eat more whole grains? Other than the fact that they’re delicious, grains offer tons of good-for-you benefits:

• Whole grains and sprouted grains are naturally low in fat and a good source of complex carbohydrates
• They’ve been linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers
• Many whole grains are naturally gluten free!

Here are a few alternative whole grains to consider adding to your diet. You won’t even miss rice, we promise!

Barley
Barley is incredibly hearty and filling and it’s one of the oldest grains on the planet. It’s got ridiculously-high levels of fiber and has been shown to be more effective than oats at lowering bad cholesterol, too. Barley is a pretty easy swap for brown rice but another fun way to use it is to switch it out for oats, too. Cook barley with some water or soy milk until soft then add honey or fruit for a breakfast alternative to oatmeal!

Quinoa
Quinoa is the Kim Kardashian of alternative grains. It’s everywhere in the media but at least in this case, it’s all for good reason! It’s a bonafide “superfood” that’s rich in amino acidsQuinoa (protein), manganese, iron, and phosphorous. It's also light and fluffy like rice or couscous. Use it anywhere you’d normally use rice, or as a topper for a green salad. Quinoa takes flavors and spices very well as it cooks, so season liberally.

Bulgur
Bulger is actually made from durum wheat and it’s extremely popular in the Middle East. It’s super high in fiber, doesn’t take long to cook, and is typically included in most pre-mixed tabbouleh blends. You can actually bake bulgur right into baked goods (especially when ground up like whole wheat flour) and it can be mixed into everything from hummus to pilafs.

Rye
The flavor of rye is a love it or hate it kind of taste but it’s unmistakable, to say the least. Some studies have shown that rye eaters actually lose weight faster than simple whole wheat eaters and it’s helpful for lowering cholesterol, too. Rye is easiest to eat in cracker form (and rye crackers are more common than you think) and it’s a pretty important part of the Kosher diet, too.

Flax
You’ll find flax sold as seeds but it’s important to note they have to be ground up before they’ll do you any good (your body can’t break them down whole.) They’re great sprinkled over yogurt, in cereal, or dough but you can also find flax in liquid form. With so many omega-3s and purported cancer-fighting properties it’s no wonder flax seeds are a favorite of the celebrity set.

Spelt
Spelt is a cousin of wheat that has been cultivated for more than 9,000 years. It was one of the main grains that fed ancient Europe. Since it’s so hearty it lends itself really well toSpelt pesticide-free, organic growing practices and it holds up well in dishes like pasta, in pizza dough, and in cracker form. You can use spelt in sauces and pestos, too, to get a little more vitamin B2, manganese, and niacin in your diet. Rest easy knowing it’s truly one of the most ancient grains!

There are lots of grain alternatives out there that technically aren’t grains at all (think amaranth and buckwheat) but have many of the same properties. Be sure to check for allergens and cook time before you get to work with a new grain or grain alternative because they’re all unique! Best of all, chow down feeling confident you’re doing good things for your body by eating more whole grains.

 

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