Friday, September 19, 2014

3 Alarming Reasons to Go Anti-Antibacterial

You see the word “antibacterial” on everything from soaps and hand sanitizers to laundry detergents, shower curtains, and even clothing. Well, do yourself and your fellow humans a big favor and leave those products right on the store shelves. Why? For three reasons:

1. Triclosan, the active ingredient in bacteria-killing products, is increasingly being linked to serious health problems like hormone disruption and immune system impairment.

2. The chemical assault on bacteria is fueling the rise of supergerms that stand up and say “Boo!” to everything medical science can throw at them. That’s because those clever little germs are able to mutate, which allows them to survive exposure to triclosan.

3. According to medical pros, soaps and hand sanitizers don’t need any antibacterial ingredients. While soap or sanitizer will help remove surface dirt, the simple act of rubbing your hands together destroys any germs on your skin.

You say you want to give up using your hand sanitizer, but you’ll miss its convenience and portability? No problem! Whip up a batch of this simple — and safe — DIY spray:

Mix ¼ cup of vodka, ¼ cup of water, and 20 drops each of lavender essential oil and tea tree oil. Pour the potion into two 2-ounce bottles. Tuck one into your pocket or purse, and spritz the liquid onto your hands as you would any other sanitizer.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Scented Candles May Deliver Diabetes!

If you’re anything like me, you like to light a few candles to set a certain mood every now and then. But you’re not going to believe what recent studies show: Exposure to phthalates — chemicals used in synthetic fragrances, as well as in many plastics — can actually double your risk for contracting diabetes. The jury is still out on exactly how the process works, but scientists figure that phthalates disrupt your hormones in a way that hinders your body’s ability to metabolize and regulate fat. Even at low levels, these substances promote weight gain, thereby making you a prime candidate for trouble.

While phthalates floating in your household air may not directly cause diabetes, they dramatically increase the chance that you and your family will get the disease. So, especially if you have risk factors that can’t be eliminated, or you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, strengthen your defenses with these 3 simple measures:

1. Send scented candles packing — and air fresheners, too, including sprays, gels, and plug-ins. Instead, burn beeswax candles that produce air-cleaning negative ions. If you like pleasant aromas drifting through the air, bring in fresh, fragrant flowers, or make herbal potpourris.

2. Choose unscented versions of laundry and household cleaning products. You’ll find them in your local supermarket right next to the odiferous kinds.

3. As much as possible, shun products that are made of flexible plastic and vinyl. Phthalates are used in the manufacture of household staples ranging from shower curtains, wallpaper, and vinyl mini-blinds to food packaging and plastic wrap, as well as pet toys and beds. (Yes, these hormone-disrupting demons are just as dangerous for Fido and Fluffy as they are for you.)

To scent the air in your home without the dangerous chemicals found in commercial products, whip up your own aromatic blend. Simply combine 13 cups of your favorite dried herbs and/or flowers with 1 ounce each of orrisroot and sweet flag powder (all available at herbal-supply and craft shops and online at sites that specialize in herbal products). Then fill bowls or baskets with the mixture, and set them out wherever you like. Pour any extra blend into glass jars with tight-fitting lids, and store the containers in a cool, dark place.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Doggone Purrfect Secret to a Healthy Heart

I was walking my dog in our neighborhood the other day when I ran into my friend Jill. I see her frequently on my walks, but this day was different, because Jill — who has never been a pet owner — had an adorable puppy with her!

I stooped down to pet the lively mutt (and my dog gave him a special canine greeting, too). “So you finally decided to get a dog,” I said to Jill. “What changed your mind?”

“Heart disease runs in my family,” she said. “And I want to stay healthy!”

It makes sense. Over the years, scientific research has shown that, by and large, pet owners are happier and healthier than folks who do not share their homes with furry companions. And now, after examining scads of studies, the American Heart Association has issued a statement saying that owning a pet can reduce your danger of cardiovascular disease and improve your odds of surviving a heart attack. There are four reasons:

Increased movement. Dog owners who walk and play with their pets are 54 percent more likely to get the level of physical activity recommended for good heart health. Having a cat also demands that you get up off the couch and move your body around — and every step counts.

Lowered key numbers. Owning a pet has been directly linked to lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and a lower likelihood of obesity — thereby mitigating three major risk factors for heart disease.

Reduced stress. Research shows that simply looking at a beloved pet calms you down in two ways: Your body releases a powerful feel-good chemical called oxytocin and, at the same time, decreases its output of the stress hormone cortisol.

Social interaction. This is an especially important factor if you live alone because study after study has found that interacting with animals (just as with people) leads to better health — including a stronger heart — and a longer life. Plus, when you have a dog, in addition to benefiting from his companionship at home, you get daily opportunities to boost your social time by taking Fido out to mix and mingle with human neighbors, like my lovely friend Jill. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Five-Minute All-Star Marinade

Did you have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it summer like I did? It’s hard to believe that Labor Day weekend is already here, but I’m looking forward to spending the day with family and friends. I’ve already pulled out all of my favorite recipes so we can enjoy our summer stockpile of garden-fresh veggies.

And in case you’re wondering what I’ll be serving alongside our delicious tomatoes, asparagus, and peppers — it won’t be unhealthy hotdogs for us! Instead, I’ll be marinating chicken with a delicious marinade that not only enhances the flavor of the meat, but also delivers powerful health benefits.

Here’s the recipe:

½ cup of red-wine vinegar
2 tbsp. of chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp. of chopped fresh rosemary
2 tbsp. of olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients in a shallow bowl, and pour over your meat or poultry. Let the meat sit, covered, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to eight hours. Then carry on with your usual grilling routine.
(Yield: Enough for 1½ to 2 pounds of meat or poultry.)


Friday, August 22, 2014

It’s Apple-Picking Time!

I just heard through the grapevine that the cider mill in our town is getting ready to open its doors for the season. Their cider is delicious, of course. But my favorite part of going there is that I can fill a whole bushel with freshly picked apples.

According to the folks who study food consumption, the average American eats approximately 45 pounds of apples each year, which makes them number one on the list of our most consumed fruits. What’s not to love?
  • They’re sturdy and easily portable — just the ticket for tucking into a lunchbox or tote bag.
  • They provide satisfying bulk at a low calorie count (roughly 80 calories for a medium-size apple).
  • Their content is 85 to 95 percent water, so they quench your thirst as well as fill your tummy.
  • They’re versatile. Apples pack the same healthy wallop whether you eat them fresh, dried, frozen, or cooked — or drink them in the form of 100 percent apple juice or cider.

Whether you buy your apples in the supermarket or from a farm stand, these tips will help you find the best-tasting and longest-lasting fruit:

Think firm. Hold the fruit in your hand and give it a gentle squeeze with your fingers. If your digits make dents, it means the apple has passed its peak of freshness.

Think small. Some varieties of apples are naturally bigger than others, but within categories, the smaller the apple, the tastier it’ll be.

Think pretty. Choose apples that have nice color for their type, tight skins, and no cuts or bruises.

Store them right. As soon as you get your apples home, stash them in the fridge, where they’ll keep for up to six weeks. If you leave them out at room temperature, they’ll go downhill fast.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Treat Yourself to 5 Healthy Eats

Are you heading to the farmers’ market this weekend? Lucky you! Keep a lookout for these five feel-good finds that are at their peak of perfection right now:

Raspberries. You can take your pick of healthy benefits these bright red beauties provide. They battle allergies, high cholesterol, and even cancer! And their fruitful fiber wards off constipation. Bring ‘em home, rinse ‘em off, and pop ‘em in your mouth.

Tomatoes. Give these farmers’ market favorites top billing on your menu with this tomato-cucumber salad: 2/3 cup of chopped tomatoes with 1/3 cup of chopped cucumber tossed in Italian dressing. Tomatoes protect you from heart disease, and protect your skin from acne and sunburn.

Green beans. They’re loaded with fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamins A and C, and you can eat as many as you want — each 1/2-cup serving has only 22 calories. Swap greasy French fries for baked green beans that you’ve seasoned with salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.

Melon. This time of year, spoonfuls of melon practically melt in your mouth. And the vitamin A makes your skin glow. Make a melon kebab by using a large melon baller to form cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon balls. Thread the balls on bamboo skewers and serve them to your picnicking pals.

Pears. I wait all year for pears to be in season, and then I just can’t get enough of their juicy goodness! They’re delicious to the core, but almost all of their healthy plant compounds lie in their skin. So bite right in—no peeling required.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bypass the Drive-Through Brain Drain

Fast food can bust your mood. And not just by eating it. It’s no secret that the crud in fast food is as bad for your brain as it is for your body. Well, researchers now tell us that just looking at a fast-food restaurant or its associated icons — like that grinning little girl with the pigtails, or the ubiquitous golden arches — can put a serious damper on your spirits.

How so? Think about it: The avowed mission of fast-food chains is to get you in the door and out again in a flash. So those big corporations spend millions of dollars quizzing focus groups and developing graphics, symbols, and architectural elements that convey a “Gotta hurry!” message to your subconscious mind. And boy, do they work!

Studies have found that living in an area that has a lot of fast-food restaurants can actually impair your ability to slow down and savor such simple joys as a beautiful sunset or a fragrant flower. That, in turn, can lead to unhappiness, stress, and anxiety — real fast.

So what’s the solution if you’re driving through a commercial zone that’s riddled with fast-food symbols? Turn your radio to an oldies station and belt out all the words to those old familiar songs. You’ll improve your mood, and before you know it, you’ll be out of brain-draining danger.

Then, when you get home, whip up this Marvelous Multi-Nutrient Smoothie. This tasty beverage delivers almost all of the vitamins and minerals that you need each day for tip-top health.

1 banana
1 cup of green grapes
1 cup of vanilla yogurt
½ apple, chopped (but not peeled)
1½ cups of fresh spinach
1 tbsp. of flaxseeds
1 cup of ice cubes

Add all of the ingredients to a blender in the order listed, and blend for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the contents are thoroughly liquefied and freely circulating. Then drink up, or pour the mixture into a travel cup and take it with you.