Homemade Nut Milk

Nut milks are a fantastic daily-free substitute for cow’s milk. If you don’t tolerate dairy well or are looking for a tasty alternative, this will be perfect for you. This recipe only requires three simple ingredients; water, a nut of your choice, and an optional sweetener.

Store-bought nut milk isn’t as fresh and contains questionable additives and chemicals. Homemade nut milks not only taste great, but they are easily digested, easy to make, and affordable.

If you’re concerned about switching to nut milk and losing the calcium that cow’s milk provides, think again. Calcium is present in a lot of plant-based foods, including broccoli, kale and figs. Harvard’s School of Public Health suggests you look beyond the dairy aisle for sources of calcium.

Enjoy nut milk with smoothies, cereal, in baking, or simply pour yourself a glass.

Ingredients (serves 3):

For unsweetened:

  • 1 cup soaked nuts (8+ hours almonds or other nuts, 6+ hours cashews)
  • 3 cups filtered water

To sweeten add:

  • 1 raw vanilla bean pod
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3-4 dates or 3 tbsp of agave, honey, or sweetener of choice

Directions:

  1. Soak nuts for at least six hours in water and cover them with a cloth, then rinse. Soaking then nuts makes them easier to digest and improves their flavour.
  2. Add all ingredients to a Vitamix or high powered blender. Blend for one and a half minutes until the texture is smooth and consistent.
  3. Pour the blended beverage into a nut milk bag, holding it over a bowl. This straining method will catch any pulp or solids present in the mixture.
  4. Once all the liquid has been strained, squeeze the pulp in the cloth until it is free of liquid. The nut milk will remain in the bowl.
  5. Serve chilled and enjoy.
Image_Nut milk straining
Photo source: Mattie Hagedorn

Tips:

The nuts have to be soaked for at least six hours and ideally overnight, so plan ahead.

Nut milk bags are commonly made of very finely weaved cheesecloth. If you don’t have this on hand, you can drape a good quality cheesecloth over a colander. If you’re using cashews, they blend well and typically don’t need to be strained.

Store the nut milk in the refrigerator after making and consume within 2-3 days, as it does not contain any preservatives. It should be stored in an air-tight jar or pitcher.

If you’re wondering what to do with the pulp that’s left over, you don’t have to throw it away. You can make nut flour out of it by dehydrating it. To do this, spread the pulp evenly over a cookie tray and dry the mixture for two hours in an oven at 200 degrees F. If you pinch the flour and it leaves moisture on your fingertips or forms a ball, allow it to dehydrate a little longer. Once fully dehydrated, store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator to maintain freshness. Nut flour can be used in gluten-free recipes.

Photo source for feature image: Flickr.

Simple Green Smoothie

This quick and easy to prepare smoothie is delicious and will give you the energizing boost you need to start your day. Packed with an array of ingredients, this smoothie is highly nutritious and in one sitting you will receive vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes. It’s a fast and easy way to include vegetables in your diet.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 bananas
  • 4 celery sticks
  • 3 large leaves of (purple) kale
  • 3 medjool dates
  • 1 inch raw organic ginger
  • 1 tbs spirulina powder
  • 5 chocolate stevia drops
  • 1 tbs anandamide powder (we like Sun Potion’s)

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a Vitamix and fill almost to the top with water. Blend on high for one minute. Serve and add ice to cool.

Tips:

If you don’t have a high-powered blender, we recommend chopping up the ingredients into small pieces to encourage smooth blending in a regular blender. If you don’t have dates or stevia drops on hand, honey is a good substitute that will add a touch of sweetness (try our Zebra Organics raw honey). Anandamide powder is raw cacao blend that will add a bit of a bite to the beverage. For a similar taste you can use cinnamon.

For extra nutrients, add 1-2 tbl spoons of rhodiola powder. Rhodiola powder is a plant extract that has a sweet and slightly bitter taste that is masked when incorporated with other ingredients. It’s known to reduce fatigue, relieve stress and improve overall health.

Photo_Dan_Smoothie3

Featured Image Source: Flickr. The photo was not modified in any way.

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.

9 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Anxiety has the potential to interfere with our daily lives. We are all prone to experiencing feelings of worry, nervousness or uneasiness at times. Consider these simple lifestyle changes that are natural remedies for these symptoms.

1. Drink Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea has been used for thousands of years as a herbal medicine to calm anxiety and help people sleep. Its medicinal properties come from the terpenoids and flavonoids in the dried flowers. According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, chamomile extracts reduced anxiety symptoms significantly compared to placebo.

Image_Chamomile

2. Inhale lavender

Studies have proved the calming, soothing and sedative effects of breathing in lavender oil. It has been found to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature significantly. Test subjects in studies were found to be more energised and felt fresher after inhaling lavender oil. Try rubbing 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your cupped palms and inhaling deeply. It can also be rubbed onto your temples and wrists and at night, and you can also put a few drops onto your pillow to help you sleep.

lavender

3. Consume 1-3 grams of omega-3s per day

A new study has revealed that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils may help reduce anxiety (and inflammation) in young healthy adults. Ohio State University conducted the 12-week study and found that symptoms of anxiety in the bloodstream of test subjects was 20 per cent lower during higher stress periods after consuming omega-3s.

Eating omega-3 fatty acids at least twice per week may provide the body with these healthy oils and lift your mood. Omega-3 is found in fish, including salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafoods including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils. You may also consider a fish oil supplement.

The National Institutes of Health recommends that at least two per cent of your total daily calories are consumed as omega-3 fats. Thus a person consuming 2,000 calories daily would need to eat at least two grams of omega-3 fats.

salmon-salad

4. Spend 15 minutes a day in the sun

Soaking up 15 minutes of sun each day is the best way for the body to naturally absorb vitamin D and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Take a 15 minute break to de-stress and enjoy some outdoor activity.

In a 2007 study, researchers at Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Medicine discovered the calming, psychological affects associated with taking a walk through a forest: “Forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress. Forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.” If you’re in an urban area, lower your stress hormone by taking a walk through a nearby park or tree-lined street.

Further reading: Top 3 Sources of Vitamin D

hands-hand-book-reading

5. Yoga/Meditation/Deep breathing exercises

Many studies support the improvement of anxiety through breathing exercises in yoga and meditation, by lowering heart rate. One study conducted in India involved test subjects participating in an integrated lifestyle program over ten days. Subjects had an array of conditions, from diabetes and hypertension to depression and anxiety. Subjects had significantly alleviated their anxiety within ten days as a result of practising relaxation techniques such as shavasana and meditation.

Dr Andrew Weil recommends three breathing exercises, from stimulating breath, to relaxing breath and breath counting. You can read more about them here. You don’t have to be in a yoga class to breathe deeply; try it from your couch or office.

Photo_Maui

6. Reduce caffeine consumption

A stimulant that raises your heart rate and your muscle’s ability to relax, caffeine boosts energy levels and can make you anxious and jittery. Try cutting down your caffeine intake and you may notice small improvements in your mood and more frequent moments of calm. Remember that caffeine is found in an array of foods, including chocolate, tea and soda. If your caffeine intake comes from coffee, try switching to a drink with less caffeine such as green tea, which has more health benefits.

Further reading about green tea: Health Lessons From International Cuisines – China

water-flowers-drink-pot

7. Exercise for 10 minutes daily

Exercise has been found to improve mental health by assisting the brain in coping with stress. Some studies have revealed that exercise has the power to immediately lift mood in depressed people. Though the effects are temporary, a brisk walk or other simple activity has been shown to provide several hours of relief. Exercize floods your body with endorphins to make you feel good. Evidence also exists to support that those who exercise regularly and vigorously are 25 per cent less likely to develop depression or anxiety disorders. People who are fit an active also generally have lower rates of anxiety and depression, compared to sedentary people (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).

girl-forest

9. Assess your diet for anxiety-aggravators 

 The link between stress/anxiety and nutrition is not new. For many people, making food changes is enough to eliminate anxiety. Certain foods that have been found to trigger and aggravate stress/anxiety include;

  • Tea, coffee, cocoa, energy drinks
  • Butter, cheese
  • Fried foods and foods high in saturated fat
  • Processed meat and shellfish
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol, soda and chocolate drinks
  • Almonds, macadamias and other nuts

Make yourself aware of these and note that you don’t have to avoid them completely, but consume them in moderation to relieve anxiety (Stress Management Society).

Foods for anxiety relief include fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and yogurt. Make sure these are abundant in your diet and drink plenty of water.

“Bring a spirit of exploration to how you eat, learning new recipes and food preparation techniques, trying new foods and finding enjoyment in shopping, cooking and eating. If you simply start eating real, whole, good quality foods, you’ll notice how much better you start to feel mood-wise, and you’ll probably start to sleep better and have fewer cravings.” – Trudy Scott, author, The anti-anxiety food solution

If you experience anxiety, be mindful of these ideas and pay close attention how you feel when you make these dietary and lifestyle changes. Some of these tips will provide temporary relief, while others are geared toward alleviating anxiety long term. It may take some time to learn what works for you in reducing anxiety.

arame-sea-vegetable

Guide to Sea vegetables

Sea vegetables are packed with a broad range of minerals (particularly iodine), making them a great addition to a healthy diet. As many of us are unfamiliar with these nutrient-loaded foods, we’ve compiled a guide that sheds some light on how to add some commonly consumed sea vegetables to your diet.

Widely consumed since ancient times in Asian countries including Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia, sea vegetables are also prominent in most countries located by water, including Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, the Pacific Islands and coastal South American countries. Sea vegetables have a long history and have been consumed by Japanese people for more than 10,000 years and makes up more than 10 per cent of their diet today. Honoured guests and royalty in ancient China were served sea vegetables as a special delicacy.

While land plants tend to be brittle and often have rigid stalks and leaves from growing in soil, sea vegetables are soft and flexible. A simple, flavourful addition to vegetable dishes, salads and soups, sea vegetables don’t require cooking.

The World’s Healthiest Foods recommends 1 tsp of sea vegetables per day. They are the highest known source of iodine and also contain vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B2. They are also a good source of vitamin A and copper, protein, pantothenic acid, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B1. (Read more at World’s Healthiest Foods).

Kelp

The most readily available type of edible seaweed, kelp is generally found in dried form and can be eaten right out of the bag. It can be soaked for several minutes in warm water and added to vegetable stir-fries, bean stews, soups, cooked grains or simple noodle dishes. It complements carrots, onions, kale, cabbage and other greens well. It will add a salty flavour to dishes.

Kelp is a very sustainable plant that grows exceptionally fast and can grow back fully within ten days of being harvested.

A study by the University of Berkeley’s School of Public Health found that kelp can reduce the level of hormone related to breast cancer risk.

Kelp noodle salad
Kelp noodle salad

Kombu

A member of the kelp family, kombu is a thick, dark green algae. Commonly eaten in Japan, it comes dried and is used to make dashi, the essential broth used to make soup and noodle dishes. It’s cooked until soft and used to make salads. It can be roasted until crisp, then crumbled and used as a substitute for salt. It is known to help release toxins from the body and strengthen the blood (The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health).

If you’re not well acquainted with sea vegetables, try kombu egg soup. Its flavour is fairly mild and it requires minimal ingredients. You can find a great recipe here.

Photo by Annabelle Orozco
Photo by Annabelle Orozco

Wakame

Closely related to kombu, wakame is commonly used to make seafood salad and miso soup (it will often be floating on top in thin strips). It can be purchased dry or fresh and is available in powder form. When cooked, it turns a translucent green colour. Restaurants in Japan and Korea will often toss wakame with sesame oil over a bed of lettuce. The chewy seaweed complements the delicate lettuce well. Wakame helps protect against high blood pressure. tumours and infection (The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health).

Source: Weddingraphy Studio
Source: Weddingraphy Studio

Arame

A brown kelp commonly used in Japan, China and Korea, arame is characterized by a sweet, mild taste and delicate texture. Ready to eat after a brief soak in water (for at least five minutes), it turns dark brown when cooked and is a great addition to soups and salads and complements other vegetables well. Try sautéing soaked, drained arame with garlic and onions, red pepper, sweet corn. You can follow the recipe here.

Packed with iron and calcium, arame strengthens teeth and bones and enhances circulation (The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health).

Dulse flakes

Dulse does not require cooking and can be eaten right out of the bag as a snack. They are a great, healthy substitute for corn chips or potato flakes as they have a crunchy, salty flavour. A red seaweed originating from the waters of the Atlantic Coast of Canada and the shores of Ireland and Norway, dulse flakes can be eaten raw, roasted, fried, dried or can be used to thicken soups. They are excellent for sprinkling onto salads, soups or other favourite dishes. Keep on the dinner table for seasoning foods instead of using table salt.

Source: Steph
Source: Stacy

Nori

If you’ve eaten sushi rolls before, you’ve eaten nori. Thin and crispy, nori is the mildest form of seaweed and is generally found roasted in sheets. It can be eaten plain as a healthy snack, or you can try wrapping up gobs of tuna tossed with olive oil. Rich in protein, iron and calcium, nori fosters kidney and urinary function and helps improve circulation and reduce cholesterol. Try brewing a carrot daikon tea with nori to cleanse the body and help foster digestion. You can try this recipe.

Source: Paul Downey
Source: Paul Downey

When purchasing sea vegetables, look for tightly sealed packages. Available in different forms, choose ones that best fit your culinary needs. Sea vegetables should be stored in tightly sealed containers at room temperature, to maintain freshness and prolong shelf life for at least several months.

There is ongoing debate concerning the possibility of sea vegetables being contaminated with toxic or heavy metals. Considering their excellent ability to act like a sponge and absorb all the beneficial minerals in sea water, it seems plausible that they would also absorb all the negative compounds, such as mercury, lead and arsenic. Many studies have revealed the low probability of health risks from heavy metals via sea vegetable consumption. Only one type, Hijiki, is considered to be high-risk when it comes to arsenic exposure. Based on numerous studies, we recommend avoidance of hijiki unless available it’s certified organic (read more here).

Naturopathic physician Dr. Paul Gannon reveals how healthy, easy and delicious Asian cuisine is. Watch the video below to learn how to make a wakame (seafood) salad that your family and friends will enjoy.

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.