Friday, October 17, 2014

Stop Dry-Skin Season Before It Starts!

As warm summer temps give way to brisk wind and lower humidity, your skin usually starts feeling as dry as the falling leaves. Don’t let that happen this year! Instead, get a jump on dry skin by treating it to a delightful DIY moisturizer. I’ve got a bunch of them in my bag of beauty tricks. But this nifty night cream is my favorite for fall:

STEP 1. Gather your supplies. You’ll need an apple (any kind will do), 1 cup of olive oil, and 1 cup of rose water, along with a blender or food processor, and a double boiler.

STEP 2. Wash and dry the apple thoroughly (don’t peel it!), then cut it in half, removing the core, seeds, and stem. Cut the fruit into small pieces, and toss them into the blender or food processor.

STEP 3. Start the blender and slowly add the olive oil until a paste forms.

STEP 4. Put tap water in the bottom of the double boiler and the apple-oil mixture in the top part; heat it until it’s just lukewarm. (If you don’t have a double boiler, substitute a saucepan and a heat-proof bowl.) Don’t let the apple cook — if it does, the key ingredient (malic acid) will dissipate.

STEP 5. Set the mixture aside until it cools to room temperature, then add the rose water and stir until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Store the cream in a plastic jar in the fridge, where it will keep for up to six days. Use it every night before you go to bed, and by the time your first batch is gone, you’ll see softer, more supple skin.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Microbead Madness!

Do you think you can’t live without the dead-skin-sloughing microbeads in your favorite body wash or facial cleanser? Well, it looks like pretty soon you’re going to have to. It turns out that those tiny beads (a typical bottle of exfoliating facial cleanser contains 300,000 of them) are causing big trouble — they’re showing up on the surface of the Great Lakes, and in the bellies of fish that mistake them for food.

In the wake of the discovery that microbeads are too small to be filtered out by sewage treatment facilities, several manufacturers have pledged to remove the sloughing agents from their products and replace them with natural exfoliants like ground nutshells, salt, and sugar. You can even have your skin exfoliated professionally with diamond crystals if you want!

When you purchase a commercial body wash, there’s no telling what might be in it. But this Sugar and Spice Scrub is so safe, you could eat it!


1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of white sugar
¾ cup of almond or coconut oil
2 tsp. of cinnamon
2 tsp. of ground ginger
2 tsp. of nutmeg

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, and transfer the mixture to a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. At bath or shower time, scoop out a small handful of the blend, and massage it all over your damp body. Then rinse with warm water.

And you couldn’t ask for a better facial cleanser than this one: In a bowl, mix ⅛ cup of finely ground sea salt and 1 to 2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh mint. Drizzle in just enough unfiltered apple cider vinegar to make a thick paste. (An eyedropper is ideal for this job.) Gently massage the mixture onto your face and neck, and rinse well with warm water. Refrigerate any leftover formula, and use it within three days. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pumpkin—for a limited time only? No way!

I’ve been seeing lots of ads in the paper and signs in the coffee shop for pumpkin-flavored drinks and snacks. Even Pringles® came out with a pumpkin spice flavored chip! (Not sure about that one… and pumpkin-flavored vodka? Yuck!) And all of them urge you to buy them NOW! because they’re only available for a limited time.

Don’t be fooled by the dazzling ad copy folks. Pumpkins — fresh and canned — can be purchased year-round. And the taste of the real deal beats the artificially flavored powders and syrups you’ll find in your beloved pumpkin spice latte, hands down!

In fact, pumpkin is packed with carotenes (three whole days’ worth!), vitamin E, copper, iron, magnesium, and potassium. It’s as potent a vegetable as you’ll find anywhere. Pick up a fresh one at the farmers’ market this weekend, and then serve it as a side dish for Sunday dinner. Here’s how:

1.Choose a pumpkin that’s small, flat, and red-orange.
2.When you get home, place the washed pumpkin on a sturdy cutting board, and cut it in half with a large, sharp knife.
3.Scoop out the seeds and set them aside to toast later.
4.Cut your pumpkin into chunks and put the pieces on a well-greased baking sheet. Bake at 325°F for an hour. Scrape the pulp from the shell, then toss ‘em into your food processor to puree.

Now you’re ready to enjoy your pumpkin in these smashing ways:

Make mashed pumpkin. Warm pureed pumpkin with a little margarine, ground cinnamon, and skim milk. Serve like mashed sweet potatoes.

Serve saucy pumpkin. Add a little salt and pepper to pureed pumpkin, then use as “gravy” with lean pot roast.

Choose chunky pumpkin. Reheat pumpkin chunks in the microwave. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice and chopped toasted pecans. Serve as a side dish with pork tenderloin.

Slurp soupy pumpkin. Stir pumpkin chunks into canned soup for a flavor and nutrient boost.

Savor smooth pumpkin. Take the shortcut. Get your pumpkin from a can. Season with ground ginger, stir in some raisins or dried cherries, and microwave until warm. It’s great with baked chicken. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Calling All Couch Potatoes!

There are few events in life that will cost you more recovery time than a stroke. So get up already — and get moving! The more you move your body, the stronger your cardiovascular system gets, and the less likely you are to have a stroke. If you can’t even remember the last time you did anything more strenuous than stroll to the kitchen to make a sandwich, start by getting a clean bill of health from your doctor. Then take off by going for a walk every day. It doesn’t have to be fast or far — a moderately brisk walk to the corner and back will do for starters. Gradually increase your time, speed, and distance until you’re really exercising — walking, running, biking, swimming, even dancing — for 15 to 20 minutes each and every day.

If you’ve already had a stroke or know someone who has, this news will be music to your ears: The journal Nutrition Neuroscience reported the results of a study involving 26 volunteers who had recently suffered a stroke. Half of the folks were given 20 milligrams of zinc each day for a month, while the rest took no supplements. At the end of the 30 days, the zinc takers had a 30 percent greater recovery in brain function than those who had not taken the mineral. And here’s even better news: You don’t have to take zinc supplements to get your brain-boosting quota. You can easily get 20 milligrams or more simply by eating plenty of zinc-rich foods like plain yogurt, lean meat, oysters, crabs, lentils, and the dark meat of turkey and chicken.

And for a quick breakfast on the go, this Fresh and Fruity Smoothie is just what the doctor ordered. It’s chock-full of anti-stroke superstars, including vitamin B, vitamin C, and potassium. What’s more, it’s just about as delicious as a drink can get.

1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 frozen banana, peeled and chopped
½ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup of milk

Combine the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour into a chilled glass, and drink up!

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.