Category: Lifestyle

Decoding egg carton labels

Shopping for eggs can be confusing when cartons are plastered with marketing jargon. Cage-free? Organic? Brown or white? We have decoded egg carton labels for you and have compiled some tips on what really matters and what doesn’t, when it comes to buying eggs.

The label: Conventional eggs (Grade AA, A, B)

What it means: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a rating system for eggs that is based on quality factors including freshness, defects and shell attributes. Eggs are given grades:

  • Grade AA have thick, firm whites and are best for frying
  • Grade A are similar to AA eggs, except the whites are slightly less firm
  • Grade B usually have thinner whites and are ideal for omelettes and cake mixes

These are eggs originate from “commercially farmed” chickens that are typically housed in dark, enclosed spaces with no access to the outdoors.

The label: Cage-free

What it means: Cage-free eggs are laid by hens that are free to roam in an open space. This term is deceiving because they are not completely free-roaming hens – the “open space” is typically inside a barn or poultry house without access to the outdoors. Organic and regular hens can be cage-free.

The label: Free-Range

What it means: Free-range eggs are one step up from cage-free eggs. The hens have access to the outdoors, though the duration or quality of time spent outdoors is unclear. These are better than regular eggs because of the superior treatment of the animal.

The label: Certified organic

What it means: USDA organic certified eggs means the hens receive organic feed that does not contain toxic pesticides or herbicides. These hens are never caged and must have access to the outdoors (free-range).

The label: Omega-3 enriched

What it means: Omega-3 enriched eggs come from hens whose feed is enriched with healthy fatty acids, typically in the form of flaxseed. If your diet contains oily fish (such as salmon, trout and sardines) or you take fish-oil supplements, consuming Omega-3 enriched eggs may not have a huge impact on your diet.

The label: Pasture-raised 

What it means: Pasture-raised eggs are laid by hens that are free to roam on fresh pasture. Their diet is organic. The colour of the egg yolk will be bright orange, in comparison to egg yolks from caged hens that tend to be dull and pale yellow. You can find these at a Farmer’s market or your local farmer.

Source: Jules
Source: Jules

Tips:

  •  Terms such as “Natural” or “hormone-free” shouldn’t be a determining factor in your decision making. According to the USDA, these term mean that nothing was added to the egg. All eggs satisfy this criteria
  • Colour: Eggs typically come in brown or white. The difference in colour is due to the breed of the chicken. A brown egg is no healthier than a white egg – there is no difference in nutritional benefits
  • General rule of thumb: the more expensive the egg, the better quality it is
  • Choose organic eggs if you eat eggs regularly
  • When it comes to size, Extra Large, Large and Medium are commonly found in stores. Larger sized eggs will contain more protein
  • For further reading, see the University of Berkeley’s Supermarket Buying Guide on eggs

6 health boosting smoothie additions

Smoothies can be a nutritional powerhouse if they are created with health-boosting bonus ingredients. Aside from fresh fruits and vegetables, adding some powerful powders and seeds to your blended beverage is a simple way to include more vitamins and minerals in your diet. Here’s a list of some of our favourite options:

1. Cacao powder and cacao nibs

Zebra-Organics-Cacao-11 copyNaturally loaded with antioxidants, cacao can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, which can translate to a healthier heart. Cacao can help trigger the release of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins. Instead of a chocolate milkshake, add cacao powder or cacao nibs to your smoothie. They blend well with banana and almond butter.

Here’s a delicious recipe that includes a raw cacao blend called Anandamide: Blissful Anandamide: Tonic Recipe for Beginners

2. Maca powder

coffee-powder-263355_1280

Originating from the Peruvian Andes mountains, maca is believed to enhance your mood, reduce stress and assist in easing tension, while boosting energy. Made from the maca root, maca has a distinct caramel or malt-like flavour that will give you smoothie a hint of sweetness and a touch of bitterness. Try adding a hint of cinnamon with maca.

If you’re a fan of nut milk-based smoothies, try adding maca to your next smoothie. Here’s how to make Homemade Nut Milk.

3. Bee pollen

bee-pollen

The packed pollen ball found in pellets inside bee hives is a highly nutritious food according to a study. It contains a balance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and essential amino acids. It may help foster digestive and immune system function and support the cardiovascular system.

Commonly used by herbalists as a holistic remedy, high-quality, fresh bee pollen granules will be soft and fragrant. The tiny yellow, orange or brown granules can be added directly to your smoothie (if you haven’t tried them before, don’t be afraid to chew on some granules). Note that natural honey does not contain bee pollen.

4. Chia seeds

Source: Stacy Spensely
Source: Stacy Spensely

When exposed to liquid chia seeds form a gelatinous, sticky coating that helps them act as a bonding agent to foster digestion. Rich in fibre, chia seeds contain more healthy Omega-3 fatty acids than flax seeds and other grains, according to Harvard Medical School.

Adding a table spoon of chia seeds to your smoothie will give it a nutritious boost. Two varieties of chia are most commonly found in health food stores and supermarkets; white and gray-black seeds, which can be used interchangeably.

5. Hemp seeds

Source: Ruby Ran (this image has been modified)
Source: Ruby Ran (this image has been modified)

Containing protein and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, hemp seeds are soft and very easy to digest. Adding a tablespoon to your smoothie will give it a slightly nutty and earthy taste. The seeds are small and blend well, so it’s likely you won’t even notice them in your smoothie.

Further reading: Health Benefits of Hempseed

6. Matcha (Green tea powder)

Source: Mattie Hagedorn
Source: Mattie Hagedorn

Originating from Japan, this concentrated powdered form of green tea contains 137 times more antioxidants than brewed green tea, according to research. Although matcha contains caffeine, it also contains a substance that unlike coffee, slows the release of caffeine into the bloodstream, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Matcha has a noble aroma and will add a hint of sweetness to your smoothie, along with a deep vegetal taste. Its fresh taste awakens the senses.

Making your own smoothie is the best way to know exactly what ingredients it contains. Smoothies can be water or milk-based. They are quick and easy to prepare, taste great, and are a fantastic way to help achieve your daily recommended serving amount of fruits and vegetables.

Top 4 Reasons to Eat Slower

Today our pace of life is faster than ever. Many of us find ourselves with little time in our daily lives for anything and operate with a sense of urgency. When we do find the time to eat, we we gobble down our food. This lifestyle is concerning because it’s stressful and unhealthy.

The simple act of eating slower can bring positive change to your lifestyle immediately. Next time you eat, we suggest clearing your mind and drawing attention to your food. Focus on taking smaller bites and chewing each bite more times, to stretch out the amount of time you enjoy your meal. It will add on a few extra minutes, but the effects will be profound.

The Slow Food Movement was launched in Italy in 1986 in response to the growth of fast food companies. It was an attempt to salvage the slower-paced lifestyle that was historically more common and involved eating food in a more relaxed and social way.

Noodles-chopsticks

If find you’re always the first one to finish your meal, here are some reasons why you should consider slowing down your consumption:

1. Maximize enjoyment of food

Eating slowly allows you to experience the flavours, textures and smells of what you’re eating. You might find that you do eat slower when you’re consuming a meal you value more than your typical meal. Learn to savour every meal and enhance the pleasure of eating by chewing food slowly – this means 10-20 chews per bite.

2. Improve digestion

A smooth and complete digestion involves chewing thoroughly. As digestion begins in the mouth, you have the ability to kick off your body’s natural digestion process by eating slowly. An uncomfortable feeling in your stomach after a meal is an indication that you may be experiencing indigestion from eating too fast.

3. Reduce stress

“Mindful eating” in a calm and relaxed environment can reduce stress and increase satisfaction. Be in the moment and give your food your undivided attention, instead of rushing through a meal and thinking about what you’re going to do next.

According to the New York Times, mindful eating “Involves becoming aware of that reflexive urge to plow through your meal like Cookie Monster on a shortbread bender. Resist it. Leave the fork on the table. Chew slowly. Stop talking. Tune in to the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.”

4. Assists with weight control

Many sources suggest that eating slowly will lead to you eating less food than if you ate quickly and hence, consuming fewer calories. It takes approximately 20 minutes for the brain to tell your body that you’re full. If you’re a fast eater, you’re more likely to eat past the point where you’re full. Harvard Medical School has addressed this: Why eating slowly may help you feel full faster. In addition, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that eating slowly reduces energy intake between meals.

This is way of life that requires sure and steady support. Here are some additional tips for slower eating:

  • Place utensils down between bites
  •  Make conversation at the dinner table
  • Use different utensils such as chopsticks
  • Set aside time to eat. Make an appointment to refuel your body
  • Create a pleasant eating environment with relaxing music

7 Scents that Foster your Wellbeing

As one of the five ways in which we connect with the world around us, smell is a powerful trigger of memories, moreso than any of our other senses. We’ve all smelt something that has transported us back in time, experiencing vivid emotions as they were back then. When you get a whiff of pine trees, you’re reminded of summer camp. When you smell freshly baked muffins, you may think of baking in your mom’s kitchen. It is no coincidence smell is intimately linked with memory; there is science backing why we treasure these aromas.

The part of our brain that processes smell, the olfactory bulb, is directly linked to the emotional centre of our brain, creating a sense of nostalgia with a simple sniff. Scents, unlike taste or touch, are directly correlated with past experiences.

Memory-inducing powers aside, aromas have a significant impact on our mind and body. We’ve highlighted 7 scents that boost wellbeing through aromatherapy.

1. Lavender can help you sleep

Well-known for its calming and soothing effects upon inhaling, lavender has been used as a remedy for an array of ailments, including anxiety, depression, and fatigue. It has been added to baths historically to help purify the body and spirit. Perhaps its most powerful feature is that it’s able to help treat insomnia. In folklore, restless sleepers stuffed their pillows with lavender flowers. This would slow down nervous system activity, enhance sleep quality, promote relaxation, and improve mood in those suffering from sleep disorders – and this is backed by science. Try adding a couple of drops to your pillow before you go sleep.

Further reading: 9 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

lavender

2. Cinnamon boosts brain function

As one of the world’s most popular spices, cinnamon has some fantastic health benefits when consumed and inhaled. When consumed, it’s been found to help lower blood sugar and ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Aside from consuming cinnamon, the aroma of cinnamon fosters brain function.

One study found that chewing cinnamon flavoured gum improved cognitive processing in participants. Compared to peppermint and jasmine, cinnamon significantly produced positive effects on brain function specifically related to attention processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory and visual-motor speed. Try keeping a bottle of cinnamon oil on your desk to help boost concentration at work or home.

Zebra-Organics-Cinnamon

3. Pine can reduce stress

Known for its strong, woody, fresh, coniferous scent, pine refreshes the mind and soothes emotions. Pine as a stress management tool helps reduce anxiety. See our blog post 9 Natural Remedies for Anxiety to learn what participants in a Japanese study experienced as they walked through a pine forest.

pine-forest

4. Citrus boosts energy levels and alertness

Instead of a cup of coffee, opt for citrus as a pick-you-up. The invigorating smell of lemon and orange scents help boost energy and alertness. According to a study conducted at a University in Holland, citrus aroma was found to increase physical activity, reduce response times in young participants and diminish negative emotions.

lemon

5. Vanilla can lift your mood

Medical studies have revealed that the scent of vanilla decreases stress and anxiety. Cancer patients that underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a diagnostic procedure known to be stressful, described a huge 63 per cent less anxiety when heliotropin (a vanilla fragrance) was administered during the procedure.

Another study published in Chemical Senses Journal revealed that taking a whiff of vanilla bean amplified participants’ feelings of joy and relaxation. The results were presented on a mood map, which measures emotions ranging from happy and relaxed to depressed and apathetic.

Source: Ted Major
Source: Ted Major. This image has not been modified.

6. Peppermint may enhance concentration

Peppermint is commonly known for its cooling and relaxing effects, and because it’s an effective relaxant it is often used to treat sufferers of stress, anxiety, and restlessness. 

A study at the University of Cincinnati showed that test subjects who were exposed to the aroma of peppermint demonstrated increased performance on tasks requiring ongoing focus. Further research may be required to confirm this as “hard science”. Skeptics argue that peppermint is more likely to enhance performance in common tasks.

7. Jasmine helps with restful sleep

Considered to be one of the most exotic scents, jasmine has been described as smelling heavenly, sensuously rich, intense, sweet and warm with fruity undertones. Like lavender, drops of jasmine oil can also be applied to your pillow before going to bed if you have trouble sleeping. In fact, one study revealed that compared to the scent of lavender, inhaling jasmine resulted in greater sleep efficiency and reduced sleep movement. Another 2010 study found that not only does the scent of jasmine enhance alertness, it can also be a way to help aid the relief depression by uplifting mood.

jasmine

For quick reference here’s a list of essential oils and their suggests uses:

Calming: Lavender, vanilla, sandalwood
Waking up: Peppermint, rosemary, lemon or orange peels
Soothing: Ginger, pine needles

We encourage you to introduce these aromas into your life and to monitor how you feel to determine positive change.

5 Tips for a Healthy Christmas

We often get swept up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas time and sometimes we put our health on the back burner. During this busy season, it’s important to take time for yourself. Be mindful of the following tips to help you feel your best while you’re shopping for gifts, enjoying good food and perhaps indulging slightly more than usual.

1. Make a list and check it twice

Lists can be a powerful tool that help keep the mind calm, relaxed and focused. Keep track of groceries, gift ideas and errands and you’ll be more organized and less likely to stress out over last-minute Christmas shopping.

2. Don’t forget about your greens

During the holiday feasting month of December, try your hardest to include greens in your diet and eat sensibly. Parties and functions leading up to Christmas can create opportunities for unnecessary weight gain, with carb-loaded dishes and irresistible sweet treats often being served up. Try to maintain reasonable portion sizes while indulging and
don’t forget that your body is still craving nutritious, healthy foods such as fruits, veggies, lean meats and grains.

healthy-salad

3. Choose healthy sweets

Those with a sweet tooth can opt for healthy, lighter alternatives that still taste great.

  • For Christmas baking, choose almond or oat flours instead of refined white flour
  • Coconut sugar or maple syrup is a great alternative to refined white sugar
  • Avocado puree has nearly the same consistency at room temperature as butter. Its subtle flavour and creaminess lends it to be a suitable substitute for butter in brownie recipes
  • Mashed, ripe banana has a creamy, thickening power and can be used instead of butter or oil in some recipes, such as muffins

If you need something sweet after dinner and want to serve up healthy options for your friends and family, consider the chocolate dipped strawberry or chocolate-coated frozen banana. A yogurt parfait with nuts, fruit and chocolate shavings is another great, simple option. Use the healthier dark chocolate instead of milk or white.

chocolate-bananas

4. Limit alcohol consumption

If you drink, keep it moderate. Be mindful that some drinks are more than one standard drink. You may choose to avoid top-ups so that you can better keep track of your drink count. Alcohol is a diuretic that encourages fluid loss from the body, so remember to alternate alcoholic beverages with glasses of water to maintain hydration. Coconut water is also a great way to rapidly restore electrolytes.

5. Exercise

Whether you hit the gym for a workout or head outdoors for a stroll with family or friends, adding some physical activity to your daily routine during the festive season is a fantastic way to keep your body and mind feeling fresh. Enjoying the outdoors can break up the day and you’ll find that the fresh air will leave you feeling rejuvenated.

6. Spend quality time with family and friends

The most important part of the festive season is spending time with loved ones. Remembering this may help reduce the stresses associated with this time of year and distance you from the commercial side of the holiday. Be sure to remind the special people in your life how much they mean to you.

Photo_FamilyFun

Blessings,
The Team at Zebra Organics

Top 3 Sources of Vitamin D

According to Harvard School of Public Health, an estimated one billion people of all ages and ethnicities have insufficient levels of vitamin D, ‘the sunshine vitamin’, in their blood.

When our skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, it triggers a chemical reaction that produces vitamin D3. There are many factors that influence the amount of sunlight that reaches the skin and its effectiveness. The time of day, season, altitude, clothing, sunscreen use, pigmentation and age are some of these factors. Even those that reside in a sunny climate can be deficient in vitamin D due to cultural traditions and/or dress (National Institute of Health). If you don’t get out for a 15-minute walk in the sunlight every day, the odds are you’re deficient.

In a nutshell, we need this vitamin to:

  • Promote calcium absorption
  • Bone and muscle strength

A vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis, some cancers and multiple sclerosis, as well as contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and even the seasonal flu (Harvard School of Public Health).

Sources of Vitamin D

Dairy products and fatty fish

The few foods that vitamin D is naturally present in includes the flesh of fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, tuna and mackerel. Beef liver, cheese and egg yolks contain small amounts. Breakfast cereals are manufactured to contain added vitamin D, along with some brands of yogurt, orange juice and other food products (National Institute of Health).

The New England Journal of Medicine has a great table lists how much of this vitamin occurs in natural foods, fortified foods and supplements (page 270).

salmon-plate

Supplements

Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods so one of the best sources of it is supplements. The level in most multivitamins is too low (400 IU). You want at least 600 IU, which is more commonly found as a separate supplement. The National Institute of Health outlines how much Vitamin D and calcium is recommended depending on age. You can view the table here. This recommendation has sparked some controversy and is argued by one of the leading vitamin D researchers, Michael F. Holick, among others, that we should be consuming a lot more than we are now, with 800 to 1,000 IU per day being the minimum and more than 2,000 IU per day being ideal (see VITAMIN D: A D-LIGHTFUL SOLUTION FOR HEALTH).

Cod Liver Oil

By the late 1930s the use of Cod Liver Oil was widespread and was successful in eradicating significant health problems, including rickets. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Cod Liver Oil contains between 400 – 1,000 IU of vitamin D3.

In his paper Sunlight, vitamin D and Health: A D-lightful story, Michael F. Holick says;

“Cod liver oil is an excellent source whereas the flesh of cod and salted cod is not” – Michael F. Holick

Because Vitamin D is concentrated in the liver of the fish, it is abundant in cod liver oil. Fish oil on the other hand, is made from the whole body of the fish and has inferior levels of this vitamin.

You can learn more about cod liver oil in our post Sources of vitamin D for mood support.

Sunlight and Your Health: An EnLIGHTening Perspective

Check out this energetic talk on the positive impacts of sunlight on your health by Michael F. Holick, PhD MD, of Boston University Medical Center.

If you think you may be deficient in vitamin D, consider taking a supplement and including more foods that are rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.

Sea Salt vs Table Salt: Is there a difference?

Salt plays a very important role in human history and its use dates back thousands of years. It is vital to human existence and without it, life would be much different. It has been critisized in modern history, mostly because it is misunderstood.

Sodium chloride, also known as table salt, is what most of us are familiar with but sea salt can now typically be found beside table salt on supermarket shelves. So which type should you choose? The biggest difference between them is taste, texture and processing.

You don’t need to have a trained palate to detect the subtle differences in taste between sea  and table salt. Sea salt has a course, crunchy texture and a strong flavour. Unprocessed or undergoing minimal processing, it is obtained through the evaporation of seawater and therefore retains traces of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and other nutrients. Table salt is mined from salt deposits and processed to produce a fine texture.

“It’s very important for people to be aware that sea salt often has as much sodium as table salt” – Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., an American Heart Association spokeswoman and the Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont

According to the American Heart Association, both types of salt often contain the same amount of sodium. If you’re consuming more sea salt because you think it contains less sodium, you may be at risk of developing high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease.

Taste is the main reason for choosing between the two varieties of salt. Sea salt flakes are great for all kind of savoury cooking. Try sprinkling it over meats and poultry.

sea-salt

Salt helps control fluid balance and the way our muscles and nerves function. Our bodies possess the natural ability to scavenge salt from what we eat and drink so it’s rare for people to have low levels of salt in the body based on diet alone. A common problem facing Canadians and Americans alike is too much salt intake. When cooking meals at home, use salt in moderation and outside the house, be aware of its content of the foods you’re eating. High sodium levels can have a negative impact on your heath.

Types of Sea Salt

Some different brands of sea salt to choose from are Celtic and Himalayan Sea Salt.

Himalayan Sea Salt offers a sweetness and rounded flavor which enhances but  doesn’t overpower food. It is made up of fine ground 250 million year old salt crystals that are hand mined in the sacred Himalayan mountain range in India.

Himalayan salt is an excellent additive to a bath. Research show that adding some of it to a bath can stimulate circulation, ease muscle cramps, help relieve stiffness in joints, aid with arthritis or back pain, and soothe achy, overworked legs and feet. It also helps cleanse and detoxify the largest organ in the body, your skin and enhances skin hydration.

Celtic Sea Salt is hand-harvested from the salt marshes of Guérande, France where the harvesters adhere to strict standards and practices that are 2,000 years old. It is the number one recommended salt for use in these Diets : Paleo Diet, Body Ecology Diet, Water Cures Diet, Westin A. Price Diet, Master Cleanse Diet.

Did you know? Salt was so important to humans that it was once used as a currency. The word “salary” originated from the word “salt”. The ancient Romans paid their soliders with it and their custom of salting leafy greens and veggies led to the creation of the word “salad”.

Sources of vitamin D for mood support

Cod Liver Oil and Vitamin D will help support mood, especially during winter months. Cod Liver Oil is one of those time-tested remedies, that your parents and grandparents may have talked about. It has been used as a food and medicine for centuries. Reports indicate ancient Vikings would store cod livers in caskets to ferment.

The first official medical documented use of Cod Liver Oil was in 1789 when a doctor in Manchester, England, used it to treat rheumatism. In the following centuries doctors began to use Cod Liver Oil to treat rickets; a disease linked with vitamin D deficiencies. The use of Cod Liver Oil for this condition and related conditions continued into the 20th century.

 Vitamin D and Fatty Acids for mood support

Only in the last 15 years or so has the idea of a vitamin D deficiency became more apparent. Researchers have discovered that this deficiency is far more common than previously thought. An area of concern regarding this is in depression. Studies indicate that  approximately 63% of women and 35% will experience clinical depression at some point in their life.

Research from Oregon State University shows that low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with significant clinical symptoms of depression in otherwise healthy individuals. Receptor sites for vitamin D are located in the same part of the brain that processes emotions. Exhibiting some similar symptoms to depression, evidence exists that suggests Seasonal Affective Disorder is linked to the level of vitamin D in the blood.

So how can vitamin D support mood? A supplement can help regulate the production of key brain chemicals, such as serotonin, that are involved in the regulation of mood. Vitamin D also dampens the inflammatory response in the brain, which is key in influencing mood by activating the stress response.

Fish oil supplement

In addition to supplementing with vitamin D, adding a fish oil supplement such as Fermented Cod Liver Oil to your diet can help counter a deficinecy. Studies have also reported that there is a correlation between countries with high rates of fish oil consumption and low rates of depression. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fermented cod liver oil improve cell membrane and nerve function, which is critical to the richest source of fats in the body, the brain.

The bottom line is that fish oils rich in fatty acids provide powerful nutritional support for brain health and a positive mood. Cod liver oil is a rich source of fatty acids and vitamins A & D. To starve off mood disorders, it is recommended to supplement with vitamin D and fish oil.

5 Tips for Natural Skin Care

The skin is our largest organ and it’s important to care for it. Who doesn’t want a radiant complexion? When it comes to skin care, take the same approach as you would for your diet. The products you apply to your body are like edible treats for the skin. Fresh, natural, minimally processed ingredients will have a better impact on your body than processed, unnatural products.

What we apply to our skin is absorbed by the body and when we use products that contain harmful artificial ingredients, the body and immune system is burdened unnecessarily by a detoxification processes. Some chemicals remain in the body for many months or sometimes years before they are completely removed. Here are 5 things you need to know about natural skin care.

 

1. Simple is best

If a product contains a super long ingredient list, chances are it only contains small amounts of each ingredient. Even if they have great properties, minuscule amounts won’t work as well as larger quantities. When it comes to choosing a product, the fewer ingredients, the better.

 

2. Look for natural products

Ingredients in natural and organic products are pure, as they originate from nature. This means there’s a reduced risk of your skin reacting negatively and suffering from skin irritations or allergies.

Natural or organic products are significantly less, or completely free of, potentially toxic ingredients that may harm you or the environment. They do not contain artificial colours and fragrances, and their colour and aroma originates from natural sources such as coconut oil, mango, lemon or mandarin oils.

Unfortunately the USDA does not regulate the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ when it comes to skin care. If a product is associated with these terms, study the ingredient list. Is this list long? Are natural ingredients that you recognise at the start of the list? The David Suzuki Foundation has a great list of 12 chemicals linked to health and environmental concerns, from cancer and reproductive disorders, to asthma and severe allergies. Check the ingredient list and be sure to avoid products that contain these ingredients.

Our recommendation: Sea Chi Organics‘ team of herbalists and aromatherapists handcraft  skin care products using organic raw materials. They offer a ton of botanical products, from body oils and washes, to peppermint shampoo. Soignée Botanicals is another great all-natural brand.

 

3. Explore the values of the skin care company

A skincare company’s philosophy and values can help guide you towards healthy skin care products. Check out their website: is it committed to reducing environmental impact? Does it test on animals?

Juniper Ridge is a great example of a company that utilises sustainable harvesting practices to wildcraft their products. They’re also the only US company to donate 10% of their profits to wilderness conservation groups each year.

Image_Juniper Natural

4. Say No to Fragrance

According to a study by Environmental Defence Canada 17 brand name fragrances (some of them big names that you’ll recognise) were found to contain sensitising chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions. Canadian and American fragrance manufacturers don’t have to test their personal care products for safety. The report says;

“People using perfume, cologne, body spray and other scented cosmetics, such as lotion and aftershave, are unknowingly exposed to chemicals that may increase their risk for certain health problems.”

The reports notes that fragrance is considered among the top 5 allergens in North America and European countries and is linked to an array of skin, eye and respiratory reactions. Be mindful of the health effects products that list ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ on ingredients labels can pose.
Here’s a great video that features Dr. Anne Steinemann of the University of Washington, discussing toxic chemicals that are released by laundry products, air fresheners, cleaners, lotions and other fragranced consumer products.

5. Follow a healthy lifestyle

A good diet and exercise regimen will support healthy, glowing skin. Eat a balanced diet that’s abundant in fresh, nutritious foods drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is a great way to help flush toxins out of the body.

More and more of us are starting to catch onto the benefits of organic products. According to Transparency Market Research the global organic personal care products market is growing at 9.3% between 2014-2020. It’s market value in the United States is expected to almost double from 2013 to 2020.

DIY natural skin care treatments

You can’t go past making your own skin care treatments to know exactly what’s in them. Coconut Oil has been shown to be great for the skin.You can rub it on your skin as a moisturiser to prevent dryness. Check out our blog post Health Benefits of Coconut Oil. Honey mixed with coconut oil make for a good facial cleanser that’s easily spreadable and helps unclog pores. Rinse with warm water.

Keep these tips in mind to care for your skin and care for your body.

How to Choose the Right Cooking Oil: Top 4 Healthiest Options

Why choosing the right cooking oil is important

There are an array of options when it comes to cooking oil. What is the best and healthiest oil? One of the most important factors that needs to be considered when choosing a cooking oil is its resistance to oxidation at both low and high heat. When oils are heated they undergo oxidation, which changes their molecular structure and could turn them into harmful compounds that are dangerous for consumption. You want to cook with oils that are stable and don’t oxidise or go rancid easily. Being aware of the smoke point of an oil will help you determine whether it’s more suitable for cooking on low or high temperatures. As a rule of thumb, the more refined the oil, the higher the smoke point.

Fats and oils that are rich in monounsaturated and saturated fats are much more stable when heated, compared to polyunsaturated fats (source). Here’s what made our top 4 healthiest oils list:

Coconut Oil

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Complementing sweet baked dishes and some savoury dishes (such as Thai food), coconut oils offers great health benefits and can liven up a dish with a strong coconutty flavour. In contrast, its flavours can also be masked by other dominating flavours in a dish. Coconut oil is easy to digest, enhances energy, increases metabolism and more. Read more about it in our post Health Benefits of Coconut Oil. 

Coconut oil is approximately 90% saturated fat (which is higher than butter, which is about 64% saturated fat). Harvard Medical School has pointed out that a diet containing too much saturated fat is unhealthy because it increases “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, which raises the risk of heart disease. They recommend using it occasionally.

Refined coconut oil is suitable for occasional high heat cooking such as frying, as it has a higher smoke point, while raw virgin coconut oil is more appropriate for low temperature cooking or baking.

Olive Oil

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Olive oil is good for low-heat cooking but it also contains enough flavour to be enjoyed uncooked, drizzled over a salad, as a condiment or as a dip for bread. Olive oil is abundant in antioxidants, supports heart health and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory characteristics.

Olives and olive oil offer virtually the same health benefits. The biggest difference is that olive oil is 100% fat, while olives contain only 20% fat. Both offer fantastic health benefits that you can read about in our post Origins of the Olive Tree.

Tip: Olive oil should be stored in a dark, cool place away from the stove, as light and heat are detrimental to it. Look for “100% olive oil” on labels to ensure it hasn’t been combined with cheap vegetable oil. We recommend a high quality Peruvian olive oil here.

Avocado Oil

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Avocado is a great oil to use for frying because of its high heat tolerance. With a mild, clean flavour and a slight hint of nuttiness, avocado oil doesn’t taste like the fruit. Smooth and light in texture, it also does very well as a salad dressing.

Ghee

Traditionally used in India for ayurvedic cooking, ghee is basically butter cleared of milk solids. Golden in colour with a nutty, savoury flavour, ghee has a high smoking point and can be used to cook at high heat. The preferred cooking oil in ancient India, ghee was traditionally considered to be the healthiest source of edible fat. Ayurveda says ghee promotes longevity and protects the body from an array of diseases. It improves absorption and memory and supports the functioning of the brain and nervous system (source).

If you’re wondering why you shouldn’t just use butter, removing the milk solids from ghee almost entirely removes the carbohydrates and lactose that people are sensitive to. This is the reason why it has a high smoke point, so it can be used for stir frying, deep frying and sautéing.

We encourage you use these oils to cook healthy, nutritional dishes to benefit your health and wellbeing.