Archive for the ‘Health Tips’ Category

Is Your Mani/Pedi Toxic?

Are you bothered by the sickening smell in the nail salon when you go for a relaxing manicure? Have you ever wondered why the manicurists wear facemasks? Those potent fumes are from chemicals in the nail polish and remover and are not good for us. According to a NY Times report on toxic nail products, “The prevalence of respiratory and skin ailments among nail salon workers is widely acknowledged. More uncertain, however, is their risk for direr medical issues.”

Nail products contain three chemicals of concern:

  • Toulene, (produces the smooth finish) is a chemical known to cause reproductive harm and dizziness. Also found in gasoline, the CDC warns that it can cause central nervous system problems.
  • Formaldehyde (hardener) is a known carcinogen found in many nail polishes and used for preserving dead animals. It has strict warnings to avoid inhalation or skin contact.
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)(flexibility and moisturizing sheen) is banned in Europe and known to cause reproductive problems, especially in boys. The Environmental Working Group classifies this chemical as the highest danger level and warns that it can cause organ problems and endocrine disruption.

Research is limited in this largely unregulated industry, especially with salon workers, but a number of studies have found that cosmetologists have elevated rates of death from Hodgkin’s disease, of low birth-weight babies and of multiple myeloma, a type of cancer. Research is showing a link between the chemicals in nail products and serious health issues.

Succumbing to pressure from environmental groups and European lawmakers, several cosmetics makers are removing one of the chemicals in nail polish that is possibly linked to interference with the endocrine system. It has always shocked me why companies sell nail polish without these harmful chemicals in their European market and the same polish with chemicals in the American market! European laws are obviously stricter.

With sandal season coming, it’s nice to have polished nails, so what can you do? As with processed food or cleaning and personal care products, always read the labels – the fewer the ingredients the better, and beware of names that are hard to pronounce – and use a low toxicity or non-toxic polish, which are now more available. If you want to check the toxicity level of your nail products, visit safecosmetics.org or download the app Think Dirty, which rates the safety of specific products and provides cleaner solutions.

 

 

Information compiled from Sarah Maslin Nir, May 8, 2015 New York Times and safecosmetics.org

 For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Intentions the Green Way

I like the idea of New Year’s intentions as opposed to resolutions. The dictionary definition of a resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something” and an intention is “a thing intended; an aim or plan”. An intention seems gentler and more doable. You aim to get there.

One of the best intentions you can adopt in 2016 is to follow a more plant-based diet. The obvious benefits of a plant-based diet are:

Chickpea and Cavatelli Soup

  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Have better blood sugar
  • Lower your chance of getting cancer
  • Lose weight
  • Be a healthier you

But there are just as important environmental reasons as well! With a plant-based diet you can:

  • Reduce greenhouse gases – According to Assya Barrette of mindbodygreen.com, “Animal agriculture is estimated to produce more greenhouse gases than the whole of the transportation industry combined.” Methane gas is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the US and cows and other grazing animals emit lots of methane.
  • Reduce animal cruelty – millions of cattle and poultry are raised in overcrowded factory farms where animals are often given antibiotics, growth hormones and treated inhumanely. (Watch the movie Food, Inc. and you’ll definitely cut back your meat consumption!)
  • Help save the Amazon, the Earth’s lungs – The Amazon is being deforested at an alarming rate, the majority of which is for animal agriculture.

 

Another benefit? Your grocery bill will definitely drop. Beef and chicken are expensive; beans and legumes are much cheaper! And there are lots of delicious and creative plant-based recipes on line, which even the most ardent meat eaters will enjoy!

Addiction to processed or refined foods and high fat animal products is real, but can be reversed like any habit after a period of time. An intention to eat less meat and more plant-based meals will have a huge impact on climate change and your health. Remember, what’s good for you is good for the earth, and what’s good for the earth is good for you.

What intentions have you set for 2016? Happy New Year!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from: Why 2016 Is Your Year To Go Plant-Based”, Tracie Hines,11 Great Reasons To Eat Less Meat (Even If You’re Not Ready To Go Vegan”, Assya Barrette, http://animals.howstuffworks.com/, www3.epa.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire Cider to the Rescue!

If you haven’t already discovered Fire Cider, winter’s cold and flu season is the time. This potent and fiery tonic contains “powerful immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, decongestant and spicy circulatory movers….” and has been used as a daily supplement by New Englanders for generations. Herbalists recommend it to help prevent colds and flu symptoms or shorten their duration if you already have one. The basic ingredients are apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, and hot peppers, fresh herbs and spices, but folk remedy recipes vary depending on what’s growing in the garden and you can add whatever you like.

I’ve been using Fire Cider for a couple of years to ward off colds and other bugs and find it really works. After making a batch of Fire Cider, I now understand why this magical concoction is so potent! As I was cutting up 3 entire heads of garlic, hot peppers, onions, horseradish, oranges and lemons, and lots of herbs and spices, I thought there’s no way drinking a teaspoon of this a day wouldn’t kill bugs and germs! A swig of Fire Cider on a cold winter’s day works wonders to warm you up too!

Boost your immunity this cold season with Fire Cider! You can find it at some farmer’s markets or at on line.

It’s also easy to make. Here is a recipe.

Fire Cider

Makes 1 pint or more

1/2 cup peeled and diced horseradish
1/2 cup peeled and diced garlic
1/2 cup peeled and diced onion
1/4 cup peeled and diced ginger
1/4 cup peeled and diced turmeric
1 habanero chile, split in half
1 orange, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 lemon, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 to 3 cups raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
1/4 cup raw honey, or more to taste

Place all of the vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices in a clean 1-quart jar. Fill the jar with vinegar, covering all the ingredients and making sure there are no air bubbles. Cap the jar. If using a metal lid, place a piece of parchment or wax paper between the jar and the lid to prevent corrosion from the vinegar. Shake well.

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Let the jar sit for 3 to 6 weeks, shaking daily (or as often as you remember).

Strain the vinegar into a clean jar. Add honey to taste. Refrigerate and use within a year.

A few serving suggestions:

  • Straight up: Rosemary Gladstar, a well-known herbalist, recommends taking 1 to 2 tablespoons at the first sign of a cold, and then repeating every 3 to 4 hours until symptoms subside. Some people also take fire cider as a preventative during cold and flu season.
  • Mix with lemonade or orange juice
  • Mix with hot water and extra honey to make a tea
  • Use in place of vinegar in salad dressings and condiments (fire cider honey mustard at Salt+Fat+Whiskey)
  • Drizzle on steamed vegetables or sautéed greens
  • Use in marinades for meat, tofu, and tempeh
  • Add to soups and chilis
  • Try a couple of dashes in a cocktail, such as a Bloody Mary

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-fire-cider-recipes-from-the-kitchn-199972

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-fire-cider-recipes-from-the-kitchn-199972, http://www.mommypotamus.com/fire-cider-recipe/, and firecider.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn and the Harvest

Cranberry Harvest – Image by Tony Libby

Autumn’s crisp blue sky and the brilliant reds, yellows and oranges of the trees make it a special time of year.  Fall is also harvest time when the growing season ends and mature crops are gathered.  The cranberry harvests on Cape Cod are a sight to behold. CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and Farmer’s Markets are winding down and farmers put their fields to bed and get some much-needed rest from the busy season.

 

 

This year, think about eating locally as much as possible throughout the fall and winter.  Stock up on fresh fruitsand vegetables at the Farmer’s Markets, mostly root vegetables, apples and cranberries in New England,  and store them in your basement or cold storage area.

Canning and freezing are great ways to extend the life of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have a garden, you probably already know how to make and can fresh tomato sauce, applesauce, jellies and jams with the abundance of summer fruits. Herbs freeze well too, so gather some before the first frost. “Fresh” herbs are a welcome surprise to winter dishes.

Eating locally all yearlong is getting easier with winter CSAs and winter Farmer’s Markets.  Many communities now offer them.

Eating organic food grown locally is important for many reasons – its fresher, more nutritious, supports local farmers and requires less oil because it is not transported far and grown organically.  As Barbara Kingsolver says in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, (a wonderful book about her family’s experience eating only seasonal and local food for one year – I highly recommend it.),  “If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. …  Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast.”

Celebrate autumn and the harvest this year and enjoy great food all year-long.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Join the Blue Zones!

Have you ever wondered why some people live well into their 90’s and even 100’s with their mind and body relatively intact? Well, Dan Buettner of the National Geographic did too and in 2004, he identified five areas of the world, which he calls Blue Zones, where people reached age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.

  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica

Dan and his team of scientists studied the lifestyle that explained their longevity and well-being and found 9 shared characteristics. According to the Blue Zone project, the 9 Blue Zone lessons, or Power 9®, are:

  1.  “Move Naturally – The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron or run marathons. Instead, their environments    nudge them into moving without thinking about it.
  2.  Purpose– Why do you wake up in the morning? Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life         expectancy.
  3. Down Shift– Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. The world’s longest-lived people have routines to shed that stress.
  4. 80% Rule“Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawans say this mantra before meals as a reminder to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full.
  5. Plant Slant– The cornerstone of most centenarian diets? Beans. They typically eat meat—mostly pork—only five times per month.
  6. Wine @ 5– Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers, especially if they share those drinks with friends. Moderate drinking is one per day for women and two per day for men.
  7. Belong– Attending faith-based services four times per month – no matter the denomination – adds up to 14 years of life expectancy.
  8. Loved Ones First – Centenarians put their families first. They keep aging parents and grandparents nearby, commit to a life partner and invest in their children.
  9. Right Tribe– The world’s longest lived people chose or were born into social circles that support healthy behaviors.”

Simply put, they eat primarily a plant-based diet, get regular gentle exercise including walking, fishing, gardening, have the support of a close group of friends and/or family, and have a strong sense of faith and purpose in their lives.

I recently attended a Blue Zone cooking class.  Beans are the basis of each of the Blue Zones, so for dinner I made the typical Costa Rican diet most consumed by centenarians – black beans, brown basamati rice, squash and avocado, which I doctored up with spices, shallots and Ponzu sauce (recipe below). This easy, healthy and delicious meal offers all that you need – complete protein, high fiber, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Even my meat-eating husband enjoyed it!

Ponzu Sauce – 1/3 cup organic tamari, 1/3 cup lemon and 1/3 cup mirin (rice cooking wine) with a dollop of honey. Use to liven up anything!

Visit the Blue Zone website for more information and take the vitality quiz to calculate your healthy life expectancy!

The Blue Zone project has the right recipe for a long and healthy life!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

Break The Plastic Wrap Habit!

Plastic wrap is convenient, inexpensive and deeply ingrained as the way to cover and store food. According to Earth911.com, “we use enough plastic wrap every year to shrink-wrap the entire state of Texas.”  Yikes! Plastic wrap is also non-biodegradable, rarely recycled, a derivative of petroleum, and can leach chemicals into the food especially when heated. With a little knowledge and some imagination, you can cover and store your food far more safely and just as conveniently without plastic. Here are some ideas:

  • Glass storage containers like Pyrex, which are stackable, sturdy and microwave safe are a good solution. You can buy them new at any kitchen or home goods store, or take a trip down memory lane and look for the colored pyrex dishes from the 1950’s found at flea markets or consignment shops.  
  • Reusable silicone lids that fit most bowls are another good solution.  They are 100% airtight and are dishwasher and microwave safe.  They come in a variety of sizes and are even sold in the shape of lily pads. You can find them at most kitchen shops.  
  • Bee’s Wrap is a clever new product made from organic cotton muslin infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. The anti-bacterial properties of beeswax and jojoba oil keep the food fresh and allow the wraps to be used over and over. Bee’s Wrap comes in 5 sizes and can be found at most specialty kitchen stores or on line.  
  • If you need to cover food after preparing but before serving, why not simply place a dishcloth over it? No need to waste plastic wrap.
  • When transporting a salad or a dish to a friend’s house, cover the bowl with a lovely dinner plate. It makes a much more impressive presentation than plastic wrap!

The challenge is breaking the plastic wrap habit! It’s easy if you remember that food and plastic don’t go together. I’d love to know your ideas for alternatives to plastic wrap. Email me!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 Some information compiled from http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401234/Is-Plastic-Wrap-Safe.html, earth911.com.

Safe Cosmetics

You might not realize that the make up we put on our faces or the hair and body products, sunscreens, and nail polish we use on a daily basis have a host of dangerous chemicals, endocrine disruptors and allergens like mercury, lead, parabans, pthalates, and others.   According to watchdog organization, Environmental Working Group, “On average, a woman puts 168 chemicals on her body each day.” In addition to the many known hazardous chemicals, there are many other synthetic compounds, like fragrances, without enough information to know whether they are safe or not because federal legislation regarding product safety hasn’t been updated in 75 years. The Environmental Working Group estimates that of the more than 10,000 chemical ingredients in personal care products, 89 percent have not undergone safety testing.

Are these chemicals necessary?

Given the known and unknown dangers of all these chemical additives, I think not! Who needs cherry-scented rubbing alcohol? Some American cosmetic companies sell the same products in Europe without the chemical additives. That’s because the European Union strictly regulates the extremely hazardous chemicals found in everyday products in the United States and has banned about 1,100 chemicals, while the FDA has banned only ten!

Safe Alternatives? Of course!

The average woman “eats” more than 6 pounds of lipstick over a lifetime, just one of many cosmetics used.  Fortunately now there are many lines of organic personal care products. Whole Foods Markets and independent natural food stores carry several, like Dr. Hauschka, Mychelle, Badger, Burt’s Bees.  Local farmer’s markets often sell homemade and all natural insect repellant, body scrubs and soaps.  CVS also carries Burt’s Bees.

Be sure to read the labels however, some products are “cleaner” than others and be wary of names too long to pronounce.  A knowledgeable sales person will be able to help you find the safest products.

Organic cosmetics and personal care products are not only better for your health, but better for the earth too!  When discarding them, fewer chemicals will go down the drain or in the trash, seeping into our valuable water supply and landfills.

For more information or to rate the toxicity of your personal care products, visit www.safecosmetics.org, which does an online safety assessment of 75,223 products.

 

Information from ewg.org and ecosalon.com.  

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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