Wednesday, November 27, 2013

10 Tips for the Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Creamy, pumpkin-y goodness and a buttery, flaky crust all topped with whipped cream. If there is one dessert that you can't have Thanksgiving without, it's pumpkin pie. With these 10 tips you will have no problem perfecting this holiday staple!

1. Use freshly grated nutmeg

The little jar of "Pumpkin Pie Spice" is easy and convenient, but a few extra moments of measuring fresh spices will make all the difference. Cinnamon, all spice, ginger and cloves are all key, but the real secret is freshly grated nutmeg.

2. Make your own crust

You can't rival a homemade crust. Find a trusted recipe (like this vegan one here) and get our your pastry cutter.

3. Don't forget the egg wash

To get a golden brown shine on your pumpkin pie crust, don't forget the egg wash. Whisk an egg with a pinch of salt and lightly brush the crust with it for a perfect crust.

4. Pre-bake the crust

Before pouring in the pie filling, bake the crust for a few minutes in a pre-heated oven. This will help avoid ending up with a soggy crust.

5. Use part dark brown sugar

Brown sugar has a more intense flavor than white sugar, so if you like a richer pie try using half white and half brown sugar.

6. Roast and puree your own pumpkin

Making your own pumpkin puree is a little time consuming, but totally worth it. Some recipes call for steaming or baking the pumpkin, but we prefer roasting. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables and leaves the pumpkin with less water content - making a concentrated and flavorful puree.

7. Strain your filling

For a creamy and smooth texture, run the filling through a fine mesh strainer.

8. Don't Use Pumpkin

Let's be honest, on its own, pumpkin isn't the most flavorful vegetable out there. Try substituting a third to half of the pumpkin for candied yams, butternut squash, or sweet potato for a sweeter and more flavorful pie.

9. Always preheat the oven

For an evenly cooked pie with a flaky crust and good texture, always preheat your oven before baking!

10. Use real whipped cream

Do you know what the ingredients are in non-dairy whipped cream? Water, hydrogenated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, skim milk, light cream, sodium caseinate, polysorbate 60 and sorbitan monostearate are all ingredients in store-bought whipped topping. The ingredients in homemade whipped cream? Cream, sugar.

Just do it.
[via Plated]

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

9 Reasons to Think Twice About Your Holiday Turkey

With Thanksgiving days away, U.S. turkey growers are probably relieved that no arsenic, salmonella or cruelty stories have surfaced like they have other years. But that doesn't mean the turkey on your holiday table is exactly wholesome. In fact, the chemicals, food additives and extreme production methods used to deliver the nation's plump, affordable turkeys just in time for Thanksgiving are enough to make you lose your appetite.

Resistant Salmonella and Other Superbugs

Two years ago, huge recalls of salmonella-contaminated ground turkey from Cargill and Jennie-O/Hormel sickened many, and one person died. While the food giants say they have cleaned up their acts, that's not what Consumer Reports found in March. Five percent of 257 samples of raw ground turkey that was bought at grocery stores around the country and tested harbored salmonella, 67 percent of which was resistant to more than one antibiotic. The government itself admitted that 81 percent of ground turkey it tested is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The superbugs result from the routine use of human antibiotics on commercial U.S. farms so operators can grow the animals faster and with less feed. Seventy percent of the farm antibiotics are not for sick animals but to maximize profits and prevent infections.


The U.S. turkey industry doesn't try to hide the stew of antibiotics it depends on for cheap turkeys -- it brags about them. "The increased costs to raise turkeys without antibiotics is real," said the National Turkey Federation's Michael Rybolt at Capitol Hill antibiotics hearings in 2008. "Today at retail outlets here in the D.C. market, a conventionally-raised turkey costs $1.29 per pound. A similar whole turkey that was produced without antibiotics costs $2.29 per pound. With the average consumer purchasing a 15-pound whole turkey, that would mean there would be $15 tacked on to their grocery bill." Antibiotics are also green. Without them, more land would be needed to grow crops because the birds would eat more -- requiring 175,550 more tons of feed and causing "an increase in manure," said Rybolt. More land would also be required from the "decrease in density" because the birds couldn't be squeezed together the way they are now.

Clostridium difficile or "C Diff"

Have you ever heard of C. difficile? If not, you're lucky. It is an intestinal bacteria that it increasingly antibiotic-resistant, consigning thousands of Americans in health care settings and the community to a life or chronic pain, diarrhea and expensive treatments. (C. Diff is why "fecal transplants" are in the news these days. They are thought to replenish intestinal bacteria.) Glenn Songer, Ph.D., of Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ames, says 40 percent of beef, pork and turkey products tested had the C. diff strains found in humans, raising the possibility of a food-borne source for human illnesses. C. Diff "has been isolated from retail pork, turkey and beef products and reported associated with human illness," says an February article in the Journal of Food Protection. It was found in 44 percent of U.S. turkey products tested, says Food Poison Journal.

Human Drugs... and Drinks

This month the Associated Press reported that some U.S. turkeys are being fed beer to make them "fatter, more flavorful and juicier." After drinking the alcohol, one bird "appeared rather dazed, with eyes narrowed to slits and beer dribbling out of its beak," reported AP. Imbibing birds may sound innocuous or funny, but other human fare turkeys are given is not as amusing. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Arizona State University examined feather meal from U.S. chickens and turkeys and found traces of the pain reliever acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol), the antihistamine diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl) and the antidepressant fluoxetine (the active ingredient in Prozac). Turkey producers are even looking at giving turkeys statins like Zocor.

Arsenic and Other Feed Additives

Like antibiotics, arsenic has been routinely used in turkey and other livestock feed to prevent disease, increase feed efficiency and promote growth. Last month, the FDA announced it was rescinding three of four arsenic products that few knew were used in turkey production anyway. One drug, Nitarsone, is still in use, though, for the "first six weeks of a turkey's 20-week life span" says the National Turkey Federation, to treat a disease called histomoniasis. In fact, the Code of Federal Regulations for turkey drugs reveals a long list of permitted drugs with long names that don't make you want to reach for the cranberry sauce. Halofuginone, given to turkeys to kill pathogens, "is toxic to fish and aquatic life" and "an irritant to eyes and skin," says the Federal Code. "Avoid contact with skin, eyes, or clothing" and "Keep out of lakes, ponds, and streams." Bon appetit.

Diseases From Fast Growth Production

Food risks in turkey don't just happen. They come from drugs and contaminants used by turkey growers to produce the maximum amount of fat turkeys with as little feed as possible in as little time as possible. The chemically-induced fast growth puts turkeys at risk for "sudden death from cardiac problems and aortic rupture," (diagnosed by the presence of large clots of blood around the turkey's lungs) hypertensive angiopathy and pulmonary edema. Growth drugs in turkeys may also "result in leg weakness or paralysis," says the Federal Code, a side effect that a turkey slaughterhouse worker at the House of Raeford, in Raeford, NC reported firsthand. Turkeys arrive with legs broken, dislocated and limp, he told the press. Slowing the rapid growth by reducing the excessive energy and protein in the turkeys' diets strengthens their bones, say poultry scientists -- something most turkey growers don't want to hear or do.

More Diseases From Fast Growth Production

Turkeys do not just arrive at the slaughterhouse with broken legs. According to veterinary journals, they are also likely to arrive with painful footpad lesions, swelling and dermatitis, deviated toes, arthritis, feathering picking and breast blisters. "Overcrowding, aggressive birds, poor-wet litter, decreased down time, a contaminated environment including feed and water, poor hygienic conditions, and contaminated vaccines and vaccine equipment" also produce the new emerging turkey diseases of Clostridial dermatitis and cellulitis.

"The disease is characterized by reddish to dark or greenish discoloration of the skin around the thighs, abdomen, keel, tail region, back, and wings," says another veterinary journal.

"The lesions can extend into the underlying muscles, and there can be gas bubbles under the skin which result in crepitation. Some cases present with dead birds having 'bubbly tail,' fluid-filled blisters associated with broken feather follicles around the base of the tail."

Pass the gravy.

Degraded Meat Quality From Fast Growth Production

"In response to high consumer demand, turkeys have been intensively selected for rapid growth rate and breast muscle mass and conformation," begins another disturbing article in a veterinary journal. "The success in breeding selection has coincided with an increasing incidence of pale, soft and exudative (PSE) meat defect, especially in response to heat stress." (A similar defect called PSE, Pale, Soft, Exudative, is seen in mass produced pork which affects marketability.) Ractopamine, the asthma-like growth enhancer marketed as Topmax in turkey, also changes the quality of meat, according to its manufacturer's own data. Turkey meat produced with ractopamine has "alterations" in muscle such as a "mononuclear cell infiltrate and myofiber degeneration," says drug information from Elanco, on which the drug was approved. There was "an increase in the incidence of cysts," and differences, some "significant," in the weight of organs like hearts, kidneys and livers. Yum.


If you think of Butterball as a trusted name that operates a help line for Thanksgiving Day cooks, then the turkey giant has succeeded at its PR job. Less than a year ago, workers at Butterball turkey operations in North Carolina were videotaped kicking and stomping birds, dragging them by their wings and necks and slamming them into tiny transport crates. It was a year after Butterball workers were charged with criminal cruelty for the same actions! Who can say incorrigible? Butterball is "taking steps to help ensure that all new and existing associates have a clear understanding of our animal well-being policies," said Butterball CEO Rod Brenneman after the first offenses. Maybe employees don't know they aren't supposed to kick, drag and bash birds. After the second offenses, Butterball launched a audacious radio campaign about its convenient holiday help line with no mention of the criminal abuse. Twenty percent of U.S. turkeys on the Thanksgiving table come from Butterball, but it is hardly the only abuser. Shocking cruelty has also been documented at Aviagen Turkeys in West Virginia and House of Raeford in North Carolina.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Sweet & Salty Spiced Pecan Crust (Gluten-free)

Absolutely worth every calorie and then some! It’s a bit sweet, buttery, lightly spiced with cinnamon, and enhanced with a bit of salt to bring out the flavors. This crust goes so nicely with the pumpkin pie filling! This crust is very sensitive to changes, so I caution against changing things in the recipe.

Ingredients: (for 9 inch pie)
  • 1 cup GF certified rolled oats, processed into a fine flour OR 1 cup GF oat flour
  • 2 cups raw pecans
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp ground flax
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup (acts as the binder, honey may work if you prefer that)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or Melt Buttery Spread
For the directions and to print the full recipe (including filling) recipe, click here.

The pecans need to be ground very finely until they release their oils and start sticking to the side of the machine (this took me 35 secs exactly in my processor, fyi). You should be able to form a ball with the pecans. If you don’t process the pecans enough the crust will be too dry. With that being said, you don’t want to make pecan butter either!

After mixing all the ingredients, the dough should be a bit sticky like this:

You should be able to form a big ball with it. If it’s too dry, add a touch more melted Melt Buttery Spread, a teaspoon at a time.

Crumble it into a greased pie dish:

Press down and outward to form the crust (press firmly!) and pre-bake for 10-12 mins at 350F. Cool for 10 mins before scooping in filling and baking. Make sure you let the pie chill for at least a few hours in the fridge before carefully slicing with a sharp knife.

This pie crust also makes the house smell divine. Mmm. For the full recipe (including filling) to print, click here.

The Best Times to Take Vitamins and Supplements [infographic] lot of people understand the crucial role of vitamins and minerals play in helping the body work properly, but did you know timing can boost or diminish their effectiveness?  

Research from Healthspan, a UK vitamins and supplements supplier, makes a compelling case for paying attention to the clock when crafting your supplement routine. The company brought together a number of studies to produce this go-to guide on the best times to take certain vitamins and supplements throughout the day.  

When You Should Take Your Vitamins and Supplements?

Highlights of the research includes that there are some vitamins for which bedtime is a perfect time. For instance, calcium is a perfect example. Calcium is utilized by the body at night, and is a natural muscle relaxant thought to promote sleep. Research shows low calcium levels are associated with disturbed sleep patterns, including the lack of a deep REM sleep phase. Calcium works hand-in-hand with magnesium, which also has a calming effect on both the muscles and nervous system, and may therefore be beneficial in getting a good night’s sleep. I personally don’t use calcium and don’t really recommend you take it if you’re already eating a well-rounded diet. But magnesium is important, and you should take it before bed.

Probiotics are another supplement that can be taken as part of a bedtime regime. These ideally  need to be taken away from food to avoid interference with digestive enzymes and stomach acid. I personally don’t use probiotics unless I’m traveling, since I tend to eat lots of fermented foods when I’m at home.

For many supplements, a meal is necessary for adequate uptake by the body, and this is why you will see “take with food” on many labels. There are a group of vitamins called fat-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E & K – these are the type of fats I personally get through using a fat-vitamin packed fish liver oil called “SuperEssentials“. These need fat in order to be absorbed, and therefore should be taken with meals that contain dietary fat.

B vitamins and vitamin C are recommended to be taken with food; in some individuals they can cause stomach acidity and mild nausea if taken on an empty stomach. B vitamins are important for the conversion of food into energy and are therefore best taken early in the day. Typically, if I need a bit of an extra kick or immune system boost during the day, I use a combination of B & C called “Lifeshotz“, and take it about an hour after breakfast.

Iron should ideally be taken on an empty stomach for maximum absorption, and away from other supplements that may affect its absorption such as calcium and vitamin E. First thing in the morning is therefore the best time. Iron supplements can cause stomach upsets in some individuals, in which case it should be taken with a light meal.


In conclusion, you can see that the timing of when you take your supplements can significantly affect the way in which your body can absorb and utilize your nutrients. While bedtime may be the most convenient option, it may be worth setting some reminders on your phone (e.g. using a Vitamin Reminder phone app) or refrigerator to ensure that you get the full benefits from your supplements throughout the day.

What are your thoughts? What supplements do you take? Do you have questions about my daily supplement protocol? Do you think supplements are a waste of time? Leave your questions, comments and feedback below the infographic!

[via New Hope 360 and Ben Greenfield Fitness]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Your Organic Thanksgiving

Truly appreciate the earth’s bounty this year: Make your meal organic.

Thanksgiving began as a harvest festival—a celebration and appreciation of the earth's bounty. 
Now it's easier than ever to honor that tradition with an organic, authentic, and delicious Thanksgiving feast.

Look for local sources for your ingredients.

Go to farmers' markets and farm stands, or at least a grocer that buys from local farmers. 
When you buy from a local producer, you get the freshest food, which tastes best and is most nutritious. 
And buying locally saves on energy (less used to package and transport the food to you). 
Last but not least, when you support your local farmers you help them to stay in business, preserving invaluable open spaces in your area.
 To find local resources nearest you, visit the All Organic Links and you can search by category.

Eat what's in season where you live.

The original Thanksgiving feast included some of the foods we eat today, like pumpkins and turkey (or at least wild fowl of various kinds), because they were abundant and in season in New England at that time. 
Try to include in your Thanksgiving feast what's in season where you live. 
The freshest and best-tasting food always is what's in season. 
The Natural Resources Defense Council has created a handy look-up so you can see what's in season in your state.

Ask for an organic or free-range turkey.

Most of us today eat farm-raised rather than wild turkey on Thanksgiving. 
Get an organic turkey, which is raised with access to fresh air and fed a healthy, all-natural diet, which the latest research shows make them more nutritious than factory-raised meat. 
You can get organic or free-range turkeys from local farmers and at many grocery stores. 
If you can't find one, you still have time to buy one online and have it shipped to you.

Try these sources:

Jaindl's Farms

Diamond Organics
Applegate Farms

Use nondisposable or compostable dishes.

When it comes to dishes and utensils, the most eco-friendly are those you can wash and reuse when the feast is done. 
But if you must use disposable ones, look for those made of recycled or biodegradable materials, like corn or sugarcane, rather than one-time-use plastic.

Give thanks.

We have so much to be thankful for in this country, especially for the abundance of food and the chance to choose where and how we get it. 
You can show your gratitude and enjoy your best and most satisfying Thanksgiving ever when you buy organic and local.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Countless Uses for Coconut Oil – The Simple, the Strange, and the Downright Odd

Coconut oil has been a dietary and beauty staple for millennia. It’s a powerful destroyer of all kinds of microbes, from viruses to bacteria to protozoa, many of which can be harmful, and provides your body with high-quality fat that is critical for optimal health.

Around 50 percent of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is rarely found in nature. In fact, coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on Earth.

Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, a monoglyceride that can actually destroy lipid-coated viruses such as HIV and herpes, influenza, measles, gram-negative bacteria, and protozoa such as giardia lamblia.

This is undoubtedly part of what makes it so medicinally useful—both when taken internally and applied externally.

Coconut oil is comprised of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are easily digested and readily cross cell membranes. MCFAs are immediately converted by your liver into energy rather than being stored as fat. This is in part why I recommend coconut oil as an ideal replacement for non-vegetable carbohydrates.

Coconut oil is easy on your digestive system and does not produce an insulin spike in your bloodstream, so for a quick energy boost, you could simply eat a spoonful of coconut oil, or add it to your food. In the video above, I also share my recipe for a scrumptious yet healthful chocolate treat, courtesy of the healthy fat from coconut oil.

To get more coconut oil into your diet, you can add it to your tea or coffee, in lieu of a sweetener. It will also help improve absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, so taking a spoonful of coconut oil along with your daily vitamins may help boost their effectiveness.

Coconut oil is ideal for all sorts of cooking and baking, as it can withstand higher temperatures without being damaged like many other oils (olive oil, for example, should not be used for cooking for this reason).

Furthermore, coconut oil does not go rancid, which is a huge boon when you’re making homemade concoctions. Coconut oil that has been kept at room temperature for a year has been tested for rancidity, and showed no evidence of it. Since you would expect the small percentage of unsaturated oils naturally contained in coconut oil to become rancid, it seems that the other (saturated) oils have a powerful antioxidant effect.

General Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

In all, coconut oil offers a truly impressive array of health benefits when included in your daily diet. In addition to its antimicrobial properties, coconut oil is beneficial for:
  • Promoting heart health
  • Supporting proper thyroid function
  • Promoting healthy brain function
  • Strengthening your immune system
  • Providing an excellent “fuel” for your body and supporting a strong metabolism that can aid in weight loss
  • Maintaining healthy and youthful looking skin
While coconut oil is an ideal food for fostering health and beauty from the inside out, it also has a staggering number of other uses, from topical beauty applications to first aid treatments, to general household cleaning. Once you’re done reading through this article, you’ll probably be inspired to stock up for all eventualities!

Coconut Oil Can Replace Dozens of Beauty and Personal Care Products

One of the best personal care products you’ll ever find may be sitting in your kitchen cupboard right now. These videos, featuring HolisticHabits3 blogger and coconut oil aficionado Sarah, recounts many of its beauty uses and also includes a recipe making your own coconut oil-based deodorant. A previous article by Delicious Obsessions also lists no less than 122 creative uses for this household staple, including 21 DIY coconut oil skin care recipes. For example, coconut oil can be used to replace the following personal care and beauty products.
  • Makeup remover: Swipe on with a moist cotton ball. Wipe off with clean cotton ball or wet washcloth.
  • Facial cleanser: Massage a dollop of coconut oil onto face and neck. Wash off with wet washcloth and pat dry.
  • Body scrub: Mix equal parts coconut oil with organic cane sugar in a glass jar. Use the scrub on dry skin prior to your shower or bath.
  • Facial scrub: Instead of sugar, mix coconut oil with baking soda, or oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon, for a gentle facial scrub.
  • Shaving lotion: Apply a thin layer of coconut oil on area to be shaved, and shave as usual. The lauric acid in the coconut oil will also serve as an antiseptic for cuts that result from shaving.
  • Face and body moisturizer: You can use it either by itself, or add your favorite essential oil. (Make sure you’re using a high quality essential oil that is safe for topical application). The featured article also suggests whipping the coconut oil with an electric mixer to produce a fluffy moisturizer that stays soft and spreadable even in cooler temperatures. When applied topically, coconut oil helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by helping to keep your connective tissues strong and supple, and aids in exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin cells, making your skin smoother.
  • Eye cream: Apply a thin layer of coconut oil around your eyes to soften wrinkles and counteract thinning, sagging skin.
  • Cuticle cream: Simply rub a small amount of coconut oil around your cuticles to soften dry areas.
  • Deodorant: Applying a small amount of coconut oil directly onto your armpits can help keep odors at bay, courtesy of the oil’s antibacterial properties. If you prefer, you can add a small amount of baking soda, or make a homemade deodorant using coconut oil, baking soda and arrow root powder. For directions, click here. also lists additional deodorant recipes using coconut oil as the base.
  • Bath soak: Adding coconut oil to your bath can help moisturize dry itchy skin (Make sure to scrub your tub afterward to prevent slipping!). Make sure the water is warmer than 76 degrees Fahrenheit though, otherwise the oil will turn to a solid.
  • Soap: Coconut oil is one of the base ingredients in many homemade soap recipes, such as this one by
  • Lip balm: You can either apply a small amount of coconut oil, as is, or make your own lip balm using coconut oil as one of the base ingredients. You can find all sorts of recipes online, but here’s one by The Liberated Kitchen.
  • Toothpaste: Mixed with baking soda, coconut oil can replace your regular toothpaste. The baking soda will gently cleanse while the coconut oil’s antibacterial action may help keep harmful bacteria in check. For recipes using essential oils to spruce up your toothpaste, see
  • Insect repellent: Mixing coconut oil with high-quality essential oils may help keep biting insects at bay when applied to exposed skin. Effective choices include: peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, tea tree oil, neem, citronella (Java Citronella), geraniol, catnip oil (according to one study,11 catnip oil is 10 times more effective than DEET), and/or clear vanilla extract 

Hair’s Best Friend

Coconut oil is also known for its hair benefits. Most women seem to prefer using it as a pre-shampoo conditioner. Simply massage the coconut oil onto dry hair and leave on for about an hour or longer. You could even leave it on overnight. Just wear a shower cap to protect your pillow. Then, wash and style as usual.

When applied in this manner, the coconut oil inhibits the penetration of water into the hair strands, which would otherwise cause the cuticle, or surface of the hair shaft, to rise, making it prone to damage and breakage. Furthermore, when applied as a pre-wash treatment, a small amount of the coconut oil is able to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft during the wash, when the hair fiber swells slightly.

This can also explain why so many rave about the oil’s ability to prevent “the frizzies” in humid weather—this is another feature of its hydrophobic activity. More porous types of hair may find coconut oil particularly beneficial, such as African and chemically treated hair, as well as those suffering with any type of scalp problems, including dandruff.

Oral Health Benefits

Coconut oil mixed with baking soda makes for very simple and inexpensive, yet effective, toothpaste. It’s also a great alternative if you want a fluoride-free toothpaste but don’t want to spend the extra money, since they tend to cost more than most regular, fluoridated toothpaste brands.

Another oral health technique where I believe coconut oil can be quite beneficial is oil pulling. This technique has significantly reduced my plaque buildup, allowing me to go longer between visits to the dental hygienist. (Adding fermented vegetables to my diet has been another game-changer in my oral health.)

Oil pulling is a practice dating back thousands of years, having originated with Ayurvedic medicine. When oil pulling is combined with the antimicrobial power of coconut oil, I believe it can be a very powerful health tool. Sesame oil is traditionally recommended, but it has relatively high concentration of omega-6 oils. Therefore, I believe coconut oil is far superior, and, in my mind, it tastes better. But from a mechanical and biophysical perspective, it is likely that both work.

Oil pulling involves rinsing your mouth with the oil, much like you would with a mouthwash. The oil is “worked” around your mouth by pushing, pulling, and drawing it through your teeth for a period of 15 minutes. If you are obsessive like me and want even better results, you can go for 30-45 minutes. This process allows the oil to “pull out” bacteria, viruses, fungi and other debris. The best time is in the morning before eating breakfast, but it can be done at any time. I try to do it twice a day if my schedule allows. When done, spit out the oil and rinse your mouth with water. Avoid swallowing the oil as it will be loaded with bacteria and whatever potential toxins and debris it has pulled out.

When done correctly, oil pulling has a significant cleansing, detoxifying and healing affect, not only for your mouth and sinuses but for the rest of your body as well. Candida and Streptococcus are common residents in your mouth, and these germs and their toxic waste products can contribute to plaque accumulation and tooth decay, in addition to secondary infections and chronic inflammation throughout your body. Oil pulling may help lessen the overall toxic burden on your immune system by preventing the spread of these organisms from your mouth to the rest of your body, by way of your bloodstream.

Coconut Oil to the Rescue

Besides its usefulness in the kitchen and bathroom, coconut oil deserves a place in your medicine cabinet as well—again courtesy of its antimicrobial and anti-viral activity. For example, coconut oil may be helpful in the treatment of:
  • Ear infections: Place a couple of drops into each ear canal. If the coconut oil has solidified, you can easily liquefy it by placing a small amount in a shot glass or other small container and placing it into a cup of hot water
  • Fungal and/or yeast infections, such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. For fungal infections, you can mix in a small amount of oregano oil or tea tree oil
  • Cold sores: mix in a small amount of oregano oil, and apply at the first signs
  • Thrush
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Skin rashes and irritations, including chicken pox and shingles: Simply apply a small amount to the affected area
  • Bug bites and bee stings
  • Frequent nosebleeds may be improved by regularly applying a small amount to the inside of your nostrils
  • Hemorrhoids and piles: You may add a small amount of lavender essential oil for added healing power
  • Perineal massage: Expectant mothers can use it to massage the perineum daily, starting about a month or so before your due date, to help reduce your chances of tearing and/or the need for an episiotomy

Coconut Oil—More Effective Than Permethrin for Head Lice

According to research published in the European Journal of Pediatrics, 14 a combination of coconut oil and anise was found to be nearly twice as effective as the commonly prescribed permethrin lotion for the treatment of head lice. According to the authors:
“We designed a randomized, controlled, parallel group trial involving 100 participants with active head louse infestation to investigate the activity of a coconut and anise spray and to see whether permethrin lotion is still effective, using two applications of product 9 days apart. The spray was significantly more successful (41/50, 82.0%) cures compared with permethrin (21/50, 42.0%…). Per-protocol success was 83.3% and 44.7%, respectively. Thirty-three people reported irritant reactions following alcohol contact with excoriated skin. We concluded that, although permethrin lotion is still effective for some people, the coconut and anise spray can be a significantly more effective alternative treatment.” [Emphasis mine]
Isn’t it wonderful to see how nature provides us with so many effective solutions to so many of our ills? And does so in a way that is oftentimes more effective than our chemical drug concoctions! Another anecdotal Hawaiian head lice treatment is to first soak your hair in vinegar and leave it in to dry (don’t rinse). Next, coat your hair with coconut oil over night. I’d recommend sleeping with a shower cap to protect your bedding. The following day, the nits reportedly comb out easily.

14 Surprising Uses for Coconut Oil Around the House

Last but not least, coconut oil can be used for a number of household tasks otherwise relegated to more costly, and potentially toxic, alternatives. Following are 14 creative yet practical uses for this fantastic oil:
  1. Clean, condition and sanitize your wooden cutting board. Use whenever the wood starts to look dry.
  2. Use when making compost tea for your garden to reduce foam.
  3. Use as a metal polish. Make sure to test a small area first.
  4. Moisturize and soften leather goods as you would using other leather conditioners.
  5. Season your cast iron pots and pans using coconut oil in lieu of lard or corn oil.
  6. Lubricate squeaky hinges and sticky mechanisms with coconut oil instead of WD-40.
  7. Clean and condition wooden furniture in lieu of furniture polish. Make sure to test a small area first.
  8. Lubricate your guitar strings.
  9. Clean soap scum from your shower using a small dollop of coconut oil on a damp cloth. Spray the area with white vinegar and wipe dry with a lint-free cloth.
  10. Clean your hands and paint brushes with coconut oil after using oil-based paints, in lieu of mineral spirits.
  11. Clean and condition the inside of your car by adding a small amount to a soft lint-free cloth. Rub in and wipe off excess.
  12. Clean and sanitize your mouth guard by applying a thin layer of coconut oil. Leave the coconut oil on when not in use. Rinse before using.
  13. Cleanse and add a glossy finish to indoor plants by wiping the leaves with a small amount of coconut oil on a lint-free cloth.
  14. Remove chewing gum from virtually any area, including carpets and hair.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Your Top 10 Superfoods

When it comes to ditching unwanted pounds, these key ingredients are as powerful as they are tasty. Add them to your plate to lose weight!

Wild Salmon

Slimming superpowers: The fish's omega-3 fatty acids could help you fight flab more effectively. They alter the expression of certain genes, shifting your body to burn fat rather than store it.

The amazing proof: In a study analyzing the diets of 35,000 women, published in Public Health Nutrition, those subjects who ate oily fish such as salmon two to four times per week had the lowest basal metabolic indexes, a common measure of body fat.


Slimming superpowers: This fruit's 4 to 5 grams of fiber not only are filling but also help ferry out some of the fat and calories you take in from other foods.

The amazing proof: People who ate an apple 15 minutes before lunching on cheese tortellini consumed 187 fewer calories in total than those who snacked on nothing beforehand, a study from Penn State University in University Park determines. How about them apples?


Slimming superpowers: A complete protein, quinoa has all the essential amino acids needed to build metabolism-revving muscle.

The amazing proof: Reduced-calorie dieters eating about 115 g of protein daily lost 22 percent more fat after four months than those who ate 70 g per day, The Journal of Nutrition reports.


Slimming superpowers: These legumes are rich in resistant starch (RS), a carbohydrate that may encourage fat burning and shrink fat cells.

The amazing proof: When study participants enjoyed a meal with 5 g of RS—about what you get from 3/4 cup cooked lentils—they burned 23 percent more fat over 24 hours than when they had a meal without the starch, researchers at the University of Colorado in Denver say.

Olive Oil

Slimming superpowers: Healthful monounsaturated fats found in olive oil could potentially switch on genes related to fat burning and storage.

The amazing proof: Dieters on a low-cal plan emphasizing monounsaturated fats, protein and complex carbs lost almost double the weight that dieters who ate the same calories but less total fat and protein and more carbs lost, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals.


Slimming superpowers: The breakfast staple is loaded with choline, a compound known to help block fat absorption.

The amazing proof: After eight weeks, dieters who ate two eggs, toast and jelly for breakfast five days a week lost 65 percent more weight than those who had a same-calorie bagel breakfast without eggs, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity.


Slimming superpowers: Lowfat and nonfat Greek and regular yogurts contain 20 percent or more of your daily calcium needs. The mineral slows production of cortisol, a hormone that encourages belly-flab buildup.

The amazing proof: People on a low-cal diet that included yogurt lost 81 percent more belly fat than those on a similar but no-yogurt plan, a study from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville concludes. This dairy is a must-do.

Sweet Potatoes

Slimming superpowers: These spuds have RS, the same carbs found in lentils that may turn up the body's fat-scorching furnace. RS may also increase production of peptide hormone compounds that signal the brain to stop eating.

The amazing proof: After a breakfast and a lunch containing RS, subjects ate about 10 percent fewer calories over the next 24 hours compared with when they had similar meals with a placebo, research from the University of Surrey indicates.


Slimming superpowers: A large kiwi has 84 milligrams of vitamin C—more than a day's quota. C helps form carnitine, a compound that transports fat into cell mitochondria, where it's burned for energy during exercise.

The amazing proof: People with low blood levels of C burned 10 percent less fat per pound of body weight while walking than did those with normal levels of C, a study at Arizona State University in Mesa shows. But when subjects got a dose of C, their fat burning increased fourfold.


Slimming superpowers: The green soybeans supply 17 g of protein per cup, and your body torches more calories digesting protein than it does processing carbs and fat.

The amazing proof: Researchers from the Federal University of Vicosa found that people burned about 70 more calories per day when their A.M. meal contained soy protein versus other types of protein. Cool beans!
[via Self]

Monday, November 18, 2013

What is Permaculture?


This is a very hard question to answer concisely. Put 10 permaculturalists in a room and you’ll come out with 20 definitions of permaculture. Here are a few.

The word permaculture was coined in the mid-1970′s by David Holmgren, a systems ecologist and Bill Mollisonand, a researcher, author, teacher and naturalist, as a combination of the words “permanent” and “agriculture”. This signified their work to establish principles of land use and human organization in providing for human needs that were sustainable indefinitely, given the reliance of the dominant status quo on non-renewable fuels and ecologically degrading practices. The evolution of the term to encompass aspects beyond agriculture, such as energy flows and social systems, led to the adaptation of permaculture as “permanent culture”.

David Holgmren defines permaculture in his book “Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainabilty” as “consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fiber and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways they organize themselves are central to permaculture“.

Bill Mollison writes that “Permaculture is about designing sustainable human settlements.  It is a philosophy and an approach to land use which weaves together microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soil, water management, and human needs into intricately connected, productive communities”.

Author Michael Feingold writes that “Permaculture is revolution disguised as gardening“.  I like that one.

Permaculture is in part a design science rooted in 3 ethical principles:
  1. Care for the Earth
  2. Care for People
  3. Share the Surplus
The three guiding ethical principles remind us that the Earth and it’s natural cycles provide the basis for life; that people are a contributing member to the community of life and have needs for food, water, shelter, community and sense of self that we must attend to providing; and that we are provided with times of abundance which enable us to share with others, connecting us to a community that supports us when we experience times of less.

Following from these ethics are 12 principles of permaculture design, best explained by David Holmgren.  Click here for his explanation of these Permaculture Principles

Tips to Freeze What You Grow

With plenty of gardening comes plenty of produce, but what can you do with all of it? You certainly can’t eat it all at once, and canning everything is a pain in the neck. However, your freezer might give you another option. Saving produce by freezing it is often very efficient, fast and easy to do. Most vegetables and fruits can be frozen without any loss of flavor. Plus by preparing it ahead of time you can make your meals faster and easier than ever. Here are some tips for freezing your produce:

Cut it Up

The first step to freezing your produce is preparation. You should cut the fruits and vegetables into the sizes you will use for meals. For example I peel and slice my peaches for use in pies and smoothies before I freeze them. I also shell my peas, dice my bell peppers, and shred my zucchini. By having the produce all ready to go it not only makes my meal preparation faster but makes it easier to freeze them. Keep in mind that some produce needs to be blanched before freezing to preserve the flavor and color.

Lay It Out

After the produce is prepared, it is time to freeze it. Although you can toss it all in a freezer bag and throw it in the freezer it is a lot harder to use it that way. It also takes up more room in your freezer. Instead, take a cue from the professionals and lay out your produce before freezing it. Get a large cookie sheet and line it. Then spread out the prepared produce in a single layer and freeze it. After it is frozen you can easily pour it into a container and it will be much easier to manipulate and defrost later. For liquids, like pureed produce and herbs, you have two options. You can pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze before putting the cubes in a bag. Or you can lay the bag on its side and freeze in a thin layer that is very easy to store.

Package It Well

Keep in mind that your produce will only stay fresh if you package it well. A regular sandwich bag will not do the trick. Instead make sure you use bags especially made for freezing or other methods that will keep your produce fresh. Vacuum sealing is a great way to keep produce fresh in the freezer for over a year!

Invest in a Good Freezer

Last but not least, you should invest in a good freezer to keep your produce lasting longer. The one that comes with your refrigerator is okay for short term storage, like a month or two, but for longer periods an independent freezer is much better at preserving foods. Just think about how much money you are saving on produce year round and it will make the investment of a freezer seem less overwhelming.

As you can see, freezing your produce is a great, easy way to make the most of your garden. Do not throw away rotten produce because you can’t eat it fast enough. Instead save it for up to a year or more in your freezer and have great fruits and vegetables any time of year that are tasty and homegrown.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Best and Worst Nuts for Your Health

Should you go nuts?

Nuts are nature's way of showing us that good things come in small packages. These bite-size nutritional powerhouses are packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Here's a look at the pros and cons of different nuts, as well as the best and worst products on supermarket shelves today. Of course, you can get too much of these good things: Nuts are high in fat and calories, so while a handful can hold you over until dinner, a few more handfuls can ruin your appetite altogether. And although nuts are a healthy choice by themselves, they'll quickly become detrimental to any diet when paired with sugary or salty toppings or mixes.

Best nuts for your diet

Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios

All nuts are about equal in terms of calories per ounce, and in moderation, are all healthy additions to any diet. "Their mix of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber will help you feel full and suppress your appetite," says Judy Caplan, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The lowest-calorie nuts at 160 per ounce are almonds (23 nuts; 6 grams protein, 14 grams fat); cashews (16 to 18 nuts; 5 grams protein, 13 grams fat); and pistachios (49 nuts; 6 grams protein, 13 grams fat). Avoid nuts packaged or roasted in oil; instead, eat them raw or dry roasted, says Caplan. (Roasted nuts may have been heated in hydrogenated or omega-6 unhealthy fats, she adds, or to high temperatures that can destroy their nutrients.)

Worst nuts for your diet

Macadamia Nuts, Pecans

Ounce for ounce, macadamia nuts (10 to 12 nuts; 2 grams protein, 21 grams fat) and pecans (18 to 20 halves; 3 grams protein, 20 grams fat) have the most calories—200 each—along with the lowest amounts of protein and the highest amounts of fats.

However, they're still good nuts: The difference between these and the lowest calorie nuts is only 40 calories an ounce. As long as you're practicing proper portion control and not downing handfuls at a time, says Caplan, any kind of raw, plain nut will give you a good dose of healthy fats and nutrients.

Best nuts for your heart


While all nuts contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats, walnuts (14 halves contain 185 calories, 18 grams fat, 4 grams protein) have high amounts of alpha linoleic acid (ALA). Research has suggested that ALA may help heart arrhythmias, and a 2006 Spanish study suggested that walnuts were as effective as olive oil at reducing inflammation and oxidation in the arteries after eating a fatty meal. The authors of this study, funded in part by the California Walnut Commission, recommended eating around eight walnuts a day to achieve similar benefits.

Best nuts for your brain


Technically legumes but generally referred to as nuts, peanuts are high in folate—a mineral essential for brain development that may protect against cognitive decline. (It also makes peanuts a great choice for vegetarians, who can come up short on folate, and pregnant women, who need folate to protect their unborn babies from birth defects, says Caplan.) Like most other nuts, peanuts are also full of brain-boosting healthy fats and vitamin E, as well. One ounce of peanuts (about 28 unshelled nuts) contains about 170 calories, 7 grams protein, and 14 grams fat.

Best nuts for men

Brazil Nuts, Pecans

Creamy Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, a mineral that may protect against prostate cancer and other diseases. Just one nut contains more than a day's worth, so eat these sparingly: Recent research has hinted that too much selenium may be linked to type 2 diabetes risk. One ounce of Brazil nuts (6 nuts) contains about 190 calories, 19 grams fat, and 4 grams protein.

Pecans are also good for men's health: They're loaded with beta-sitosterol, a plant steroid that may help relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate. One ounce of pecans (18 to 20 halves) contains about 200 calories, 21 grams fat, and 3 grams protein.

Best nuts for disease prevention


Relatively low in calories, almonds have more calcium than any other nut, making them a great food for overall health. Plus, they are rich in fiber and vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps fight dangerous inflammation and possibly health conditions such as lung cancer and age-related cognitive decline.

Because they're so versatile, almonds are often a favorite among nut eaters: You can buy them raw, toasted, slivered, or coated with a variety of fun flavors, from Wasabi & Soy Sauce to Lime 'n Chili.

Best snack packaging for nuts

Choose 100- to 200-calorie packs

Because nuts are so high in calories (and so tasty, to boot!), it's important to practice portion control when eating them as a snack. We love Blue Diamond Almonds 100-calorie snack packs, available in six flavors, including Cinnamon Brown Sugar and Dark Chocolate. Want more variety? Pick up Planters Nutrition Wholesome Nut Mix on-the-go packs, each containing a 200-calorie mix of cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts.

Worst snack packaging for nuts

Avoid anything in a tub

We're all for buying in bulk to save money and packaging, but it's important not to snack straight from the box (or in this case, the giant tub) when a craving hits. Beer Nuts' "original" formula—peanuts coated with a sweet and salty glaze—aren't a bad choice themselves (170 calories, 14 grams fat, and 2 grams sugar per ounce), but if you're munching on them at a party or during a "long day of game watching," as the company's website suggests, you'll likely be eating more than the recommended serving size. Not to mention, the Party Mix variety also includes M&Ms and sugary yogurt-covered raisins, for an extra calorie boost. A better bet is Beer Nuts' Original Teaser Peanut Sized bags, each containing just half an ounce of nuts.

Best nuts for chocolate lovers

Go for cocoa-dusted almonds

Rather than hiding your nuts under a thick layer of sugary chocolate candy—think Jordan almonds or peanut M&Ms—keep it simple with Emerald's Cocoa Roast Almonds. These nuts are lightly dusted with cocoa powder and sweetened with Sucralose, and have 150 calories, 13 grams fat, and 1 gram of sugar per ounce.

We'd give you a "worst" nuts for chocolate lovers, but the possibilities are practically endless. Just think of it this way, says Caplan: Anything that's more chocolate than nut really should be considered candy—not as a way to get your daily quota of healthy fats.

Best nuts for your sweet tooth

Try all-natural glazed nuts

Want something sweet and satisfying but without the extra calories and high-fructose corn syrup? Look no further than Sahale Snacks glazed nuts, in flavors like Almonds with Cranberries, Honey, and Sea Salt (160 calories, 11 grams fat, 5 grams protein per ounce) or Cashews with Pomegranate and Vanilla (150 calories, 10 grams fat, 4 grams protein per ounce). They're sweetened with organic cane juice and tapioca syrup, and each contains only 6 grams of sugar per ounce. Just be careful not to eat the whole bag!

Worst nuts for your sweet tooth

Check labels for sugar content

Just because something has nuts in it doesn't make it good for you, says Caplan: "Don't justify eating a Snickers because it's got peanuts in it." Anything coated with or tucked inside layers of sugar, toffee, chocolate, or ice cream isn't going to give you much nutritional benefit, and the calories can quickly add up, she says.

It's not just candy, though: Beware of seemingly healthful varieties, like Planters Sweet 'N Crunchy Peanuts. Although they still have just 140 calories and 8 grams fat per ounce, the second and third ingredients after peanuts are sugar and butter. In fact, one ounce contains 13 grams of sugar (in just a 28-gram serving size). Considering peanuts only have about 2 grams of sugar naturally, that's 11 grams of added sugar in just one handful, out of a recommended 25 for the whole day!

Best nuts for a salt craving

Look for 'lightly salted'

If you don't have high blood pressure or haven't been warned away from salt by your doctor for other reasons, a handful or two of salted nuts a day won't hurt you, says Caplan, who has a private nutrition practice in Vienna, Va.

Nuts are, of course, available unsalted. But to satisfy a salty craving without going overboard, look for in-between varieties like Planters Lightly Salted peanuts, almonds, and cashews (45-55 mg sodium), or Wonderful Pistachios Lightly Salted (80 mg). Check ingredient labels, too: Some brands, like Back to Nature Salted Almonds (75 mg sodium), contain less salt than others.

Worst nuts for a salt craving

Steer clear of BBQ or boiled nuts

If you're watching your sodium intake, watch out for hot and spicy or barbecue flavors too. Kar's Nuts Blazin' Hot Peanuts, for example, contain 370 mg of sodium per ounce (along with 160 calories and 14 grams fat)—a whopping 15% of your daily recommended value, in just one handful!

Beware boiled peanuts, as well: This Southern treat is made by soaking fresh, raw peanuts, in their shells, in a salty brine. Sodium amounts will vary based on the exact preparation, but Margaret Holmes Peanut Patch boiled peanuts, for example, contain 390 mg per ounce. 

Best trail mix

Raw nuts, seeds, and dried fruit

Trail mix is available in countless varieties and from countless brands. "Look for trail mix with raw nuts," suggests Caplan. "Or if the nuts are roasted, look for the words 'dry roasted' rather than 'oil roasted.'"

Nuts pair great with fruit, seeds, and perhaps even a little dark chocolate, Caplan adds; just pay attention to the calorie count and serving size. We love Eden Foods' "All Mixed Up" blend (160 calories, 12 grams fat, 8 grams protein per ounce) of organic almonds, pumpkin seeds, and dried tart cherries. If you're more of a granola guy or gal, treat yourself to a quarter cup of Bear Naked's Banana Nut mix (140 calories, 7 grams fat, 3 grams protein) with almonds and walnuts.

Worst trail mix

Save high-calorie mixes for the trail

High-calorie trail mix is fine when you've got a long hike ahead of you, but too often we eat these store-bought blends while sitting at our desks or driving in our cars. Don't make that mistake with Planter's Energy Go-Packs, a 1.5-ounce mix of nuts, semisweet chocolate, oil roasted soynuts, and sesame seeds: With 250 calories and 20 grams of fat a pop, they fall slightly above our healthy snacking guidelines.

Also check labels for sky-high sugar contents: Some trail mixes—especially those with raisins, dried cranberries, and/or candy-covered chocolate pieces—can contain up to 18 grams of sugar per serving.

Best nut butter

Keep ingredients simple

When choosing a nut butter, look for spreads with the fewest ingredients possible: Just nuts (and salt, if you want). Arrowhead Mills Organic Peanut Butter, for example, contains 100% dry-roasted peanuts, and has 190 calories, 17 grams fat, and 8 grams protein per 2 tbsp serving. (We also like their creamy cashew and almond butters, which do contain some natural canola oil.) Keep natural peanut butter in the fridge, advises Caplan, to keep it from going rancid and to prevent oily separation.

Worst nut butter

Skip added oils and sugars

Major brands have eliminated trans fats from their nut butters, but most still contain hydrogenated oils (high in saturated fat) to increase spreadability and prevent separation. Some "natural" product lines swap hydrogenated oils for palm oil, also high in saturated fat. Skippy Natural with Honey, for example, contains 200 calories, 16 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated), and 5 grams sugar per 2-tablespoon serving.

Nutella's creamy chocolate-hazelnut combo is terrific for an occasional treat—but it's hardly part of a "balanced breakfast," as its commercials say. Two tablespoons contain just 200 calories, yes, but 21 grams of sugar. In fact, sugar and palm oil are the product's first ingredients, even before hazelnuts.

Best way to eat nuts

Pair them with a healthy carb

Now you know all about which nuts are good for what—but to get the most health benefits, it's also important to pay attention to how you eat them. "Nuts are a great thing to eat when you're having a carbohydrate like fruit or juice, because it helps slow down digestion and the breakdown of sugar," says Caplan.

A few winning nut-and-carb combos: Sprinkle them on salads, add them to low- or nonfat yogurt, or spread nut butter on slices of apple or pear. On the go? Pick up a 150-calorie pack of Earthbound Farms Dippin' Doubles Apples & Peanut Butter (11 grams fat, 5 grams protein).

Best nuts overall

A mixed bag!

So which is the healthiest nut overall? A 2004 review in the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide tackled this tough question. Luckily, they concluded, we don't have to pick just one. Mixed nuts, ideally raw and unsalted, provide the best variety of nutrients and antioxidants.