Archive | March, 2015

The Food Artisans Next Door Homemade Delicacies, Direct from Our Neighbors by Lisa Kivirist and John Ivank

Posted on 31 March 2015 by Jason

The locavore movement of eating locally produced foods continues to expand, thanks to 42 states passing cottage food laws that permit community members to make certain foods at home to sell to neighbors. Some enterprises use a contract packer to deliver on a scale not possible domestically, or even operate from a commercially licensed production facility.

 

From sauerkraut and distinctive jams and organic jellies to gluten- or peanut-free cakes and regional artisanal breads, some of the most flavorful products are being produced with no chemical preservatives, artificial colors or other laboratory ingredients. Nearly all are made in small batches, and usually by the owner. Many source local ingredients or serve special dietary needs largely underserved or ignored by larger food businesses.

 

“In a sharing economy, individuals look less to big chain stores for their food needs and more to each other, making fresher, tastier and often healthier foods more accessible,” explains Janelle Orsi, co-founder of the Oakland, California, Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), citing its Policies for Shareable Cities report partnered with Shareable.

 

The Specialty Food Association reports that sales of specialty foods—primarily at grocery retailers, but also cottage operators via farmers’ markets and direct orders when allowed by their state—grew 22 percent from 2010 to 2012, topping $85 billion.

 

Healthy as It Comes

 

“All of our products are made by hand and in small batches daily,” says Ruth Wardein, co-owner, with Andrew Amick, of Epiphany Gluten Free Bakery, in Naples, Florida, which she launched from her home kitchen. Besides gluten-free cookies, cakes and breads, she’s always “perfecting” her Paleo cookies, brownies and pancake mix.

 

Paleo recipes contain no grains, dairy, yeast or refined sugars, explains Wardein. “They require nut and seed flours, coconut oil and natural sugars like honey or maple syrup. So they are naturally higher in protein and fiber and lower in carbs than the average gluten-free recipe.”

 

“We’re experimenting with the community supported agriculture model with local fruit,” says Erin Schneider. She and her husband, Rob McClure, operate Hilltop Community Farm, in LaValle, Wisconsin, which produces value-added products with organically grown crops. “We have salsas, spreads, pickles and jams. Our black currant and honey jam is sold before they’re made. Rob’s garlic dills have their own following.” Wisconsin’s cottage food law restricts sales to high-acid foods.

 

Quality over Quantity

 

In Royal Oaks, California, Garden Variety Cheese owner, cheese maker and shepherd Rebecca King feeds her 100 milking ewes organically raised, irrigated pasture grass and brewer’s grain to yield award-winning farmstead easier-to-digest sheep cheeses from her Monkeyflower Ranch. “Many first-time customers like my story as a small producer and want to buy direct from the farm. They keep buying because of the taste,” adds King.

 

“My marinara and pizza sauces are made in small batches by hand in a home kitchen, enabling us to hot pack them to retain the ingredients’ natural favors,” says Liz James, owner of The Happy Tomato, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her sauces are also low in sodium and contain no sugar, saturated fat or gluten. James’ production is facilitated by Virginia’s home food processor license, which lets her work from home and sell wholesale. Whole Foods Market is among her major retail accounts.

 

When home-based cottage food businesses are spurred into expansion to keep up with demand, a situation sometimes complicated by state limits on sales volume, many opt for renting space in the growing number of incubator, or community, kitchens nationwide. “We did farmers’ markets for three years and went from seven customers to thousands,” says Wardein, who now rents a commercial kitchen space. “Returning customers are the momentum that has pushed us forward.”

 

“By growing food in and around our own neighborhoods and cities, we decrease our dependence on an oftentimes unjust and ecologically destructive global food system and build stronger, more connected and resilient communities,” affirms Yassi Eskandari-Qajar, director of SELC’s City Policies program.

 

“We think it’s important to produce what grows well on our soil and then sell it, so that ecology drives economics, rather than vice versa,” says Schneider. “Random things prosper in our area, like paprika peppers, elderberries, hardy kiwi, garlic, pears and currants. It’s our job as ecologically minded farmers to show how delicious these foods can be.”

 

Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko are co-authors of the new book Homemade for Sale, a guide for launching a food business from a home kitchen, plus ECOpreneuring, Farmstead Chef and Rural Renaissance. Learn more at HomemadeForSale.com.

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Holistic is Best Natural Care for a Sick Pet by Dr. Shawn Messonnier

Posted on 04 March 2015 by Jason

The best course of action for any pet that appears to be sick is to see a holistic vet early, before a disease can progress or before the pet has been made even more ill by improper conventional treatment.

Downsides of Conventional Treatment

Many sick pets brought to a holistic vet’s office may not have been formally diagnosed, even if they’ve been receiving medical treatment by a conventional doctor for weeks or even months. In most cases, the standard blanket prescriptions of antibiotics and corticosteroids—regardless of the cause of illness—have failed to produce positive results. Worse, such drugs carry side effects that can make the pet even sicker; indiscriminate use of antibiotics, for example, has led to antibiotic resistance in bacteria, making it harder to treat serious infections when antibiotics are the only viable treatment option.

So by the time the holistic doctor sees them, the condition of these pets may have worsened. The good news is that with precise diagnosis of the underlying issues, most sickly pets can be treated with good success. Because a holistic approach to health care relies on individual factors, the exact treatment will vary according to the patient and situation. A cookie-cutter treatment will not be very helpful.

Holistic Nutrition Therapy Helps

Owners can take several steps to provide relief for a suffering pet right away, while awaiting the results of proper diagnostic tests. In my practice, three vet-supervised nutrition therapies have been shown to be effective in stabilizing a sick pet for the 24 to 48 hours needed to return test results before the appropriate treatment can be initiated. Ask the attending veterinarian for other safe, comforting measures he or she likes to recommend.

First, most sick pets benefit from receiving fluid therapy (intravenous or subcutaneous) in a veterinary hospital. The fluids rehydrate and help detoxify the pet by causing increased urination that flushes out cellular toxins.

Second, injectable vitamins C and B complex added to the fluids often have a temporary pick-me-up effect, reducing lethargy and improving appetite.

Third, using supplements selected to restore homeostasis also helps make the pet feel better and encourages healthy eating. I like to use a natural immunity support I developed called Healthy Chi, which contains amino acids, potassium, green tea, ginseng, gotu kola and the herb astragalus. Homeopathic combinations also can be useful; I’ve developed a natural remedy combining gallium, colchicum, hydrastis, anthraquinone and glyoxal.

Case Studies Exemplify Success

Two recent cases illustrate the benefit of an informed holistic approach. Gus, a 7-year-old male standard poodle, had a history of inflammatory bowel disease and gastrointestinal cancer. He did well immediately following cancer surgery, but then became lethargic and showed a disinterest in food. So, we conducted a fecal analysis and complete blood profile. While awaiting test results, I prescribed the recommended nutrition therapies, along with a special diet. The next morning, the owner reported that Gus was feeling and acting much better including showing more interest in eating. His owner was pleased with this rapid response and relieved to avoid unnecessary medication.

A young Persian cat arrived in our office with a chronic herpes virus infection. Percy’s owner made an appointment because the feline had a congested nose and wasn’t eating as much as normal. Natural treatment for the herpes virus began with the amino acid lysine and the herb echinacea, both also helpful in preventing cold and flu. Supportive care for the general malaise and lack of appetite relied on the same recommended nutrition therapies and again resulted in overnight improvements in the cat’s attitude and appetite; the nasal congestion left during the following week.

While antibiotics and corticosteroids can be helpful in properly diagnosed cases, using natural therapies can provide quick relief without the harmful side effects often seen from the use of conventional medications.

Shawn Messonier, a doctor of veterinary medicine practicing in Plano, TX, is the award-winning author of The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats and Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets. Visit PetCareNaturally.com.

 

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Fitness Myths Debunked 10 Vital Truths by Lynda Bassett

Posted on 04 March 2015 by Jason

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has concluded that more than a third of Americans today are overweight. Yet it also reports that at least 30 percent of us don’t exercise at all, perhaps partly due to persistent fitness myths.

Myth 1: Lack of Opportunity

Even the busiest person can fit in some exercise by making simple changes in their daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, do squats while watching television, deliver a message in person instead of via email, take a desk break to stretch or stand while talking on the phone. Even fidgeting is beneficial. The point is to be as active as possible during otherwise sedentary hours.

Myth 2: No Time

The CDC recommends that each week, adults should exercise 150 minutes—the average duration of a movie—but not all at once. To make it easy, break it up into various exercise activities in daily, vigorous, 10-minute chunks.

Myth 2: Unaffordable

Activities like walking, bicycling and even jumping rope can be done virtually anywhere, anytime. Individuals can create a basic home fitness center with a jump rope, set of dumbbells and not much more. Borrow an exercise video or DVD from the library or follow one of the many television fitness shows. “People can save thousands of dollars by combining five to ten exercises into a burst-training workout routine,” which will burn calories and increase muscle mass, says Joe Vennare, co-founder of the Hybrid Athlete, a fitness website.

Myth 3: Too Late to Start

Many people feel they are too old or out-of-shape to even begin to exercise, or are intimidated by the idea of stepping into a yoga studio or gym. “Stop wasting time reading diet books and use that time to go for a walk,” advises Exercise Physiologist Jason Karp, Ph.D., author of Running for Women and Running a Marathon for Dummies. “In other words, get moving any way you can.”

Myth 4: No Pain, No Gain

Suffering isn’t required. In fact, feeling pain can indicate possible injury or burnout. Still, consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program. “Do not hurt yourself,” says Charla McMillian, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, attorney and president of FitBoot – Basic Training for Professionals, in San Francisco. “Rather, aim for a point of gentle discomfort,” she advises.

Myth 5: Must Break a Sweat

Perspiring is related to the duration and intensity of the exercise, but some people just sweat more than others. “How much (or little) you sweat does not correlate with how many calories you are expending,” assures Jessica Matthews, an experienced registered yoga teacher and an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise.

Myth 6: Dieting is Enough

Women especially fall prey to the myth that they don’t need to exercise if they are a certain dress size. Even those at a healthy weight can be in greater danger of contracting disease and shortened lifespan than obese individuals that regularly participate in physical activity, according to a recent study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, in Bethesda, Maryland.

Health experts recommend combining regular activity with consuming lean proteins, healthy fats, limited starches and no added sugars.

Myth 7: Stretch Before Exercising

New research from the American Council on Exercise recommends stretching at the end of a workout. “It is safer and more effective to stretch muscles that are properly warmed and more pliable,” says Matthews, who also recommends beginning a workout with simple movements such as arm circles and leg swings. She notes, “Stretching can help to improve posture and flexibility, plus reduce overall stress.”

 Myth 8: Crunches Cut Belly Fat

There’s no such thing as spot reducing. While crunches strengthen abdominal muscles, they will not shrink your waistline, says Karp. Instead, try exercises such as squats, lunges and yoga plank holds or kettlebell repetitions to lose stubborn belly fat.

 Myth 9: Women Using Weights Get Bulky

The truth is that most weightlifting women won’t end up with a big, bulky physique, because they have less testosterone, are smaller in size and have less muscle tissue than men, says Matthews. “Any kind of strength training will help improve bone density, increase muscle mass and decrease body fat in both men and women.”

 Myth 10: Exercise is Hard

Physical activity should be fun. It’s best to start simply, add a variety of physical activities and challenges and keep at it. Schedule time for exercise and treat it like any other daily appointment; don’t cancel it. Alexander Cortes, a nationally certified strength and conditioning coach with Ultimate Fighting Championship Gym, in Corona, California, concludes, “When health is a priority, exercise is the most important appointment you can keep.”

Lynda Bassett is a freelance writer near Boston, MA. Connect at LyndaBassett.com.

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The Better Brain Diet Eat Right to Stay Sharp by Lisa Marshall

Posted on 04 March 2015 by Jason

With 5.4 million Americans already living with Alzheimer’s disease, one in five suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and the 2012 failure of several targeted pharmaceutical drug trials, many brain health experts are now focusing on food as a critical defense against dementia.

“Over the past several years, there have been many well-designed scientific studies that show you are what you eat when it comes to preserving and improving memory,” says Dr. Richard Isaacson, associate professor of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and author of The Alzheimer’s Diet.

In recent years, studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and Archives of Neurology have shown that people on a Mediterranean-type diet—high in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fatty fish, and low in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats—tend to fend off cognitive decline longer and be less prone to developing full-blown Alzheimer’s. Several small, but promising clinical trials further suggest that even people that have already begun to suffer memory loss may be able to slow or mildly reverse it via nutritional changes. Here’s how.

 Switch to slow-burning carbs: Mounting evidence indicates that the constant insulin spikes from eating refined carbohydrates like white bread or sugar-sweetened sodas can eventually impair the metabolization of sugar (similar to Type 2 diabetes), effecting blood vessel damage and hastened aging. A high-carb diet has also been linked to increased levels of beta-amyloid, a fibrous plaque that harms brain cells.

A 2012 Mayo Clinic study of 1,230 people ages 70 to 89 found that those that ate the most carbs had four times the risk of developing MCI than those that ate the least. Inversely, a small study by University of Cincinnati researchers found that when adults with MCI were placed on a low-carb diet for six weeks, their memory improved.

Isaacson recommends switching to slow-burning, low-glycemic index carbohydrates, which keep blood sugars at bay. Substitute whole grains and vegetables for white rice, pastas and sugary fruits. Water down juices or forego them altogether.

 Choose fats wisely: Arizona neurologist Dr. Marwan Sabbagh, co-author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook, points to numerous studies suggesting a link between saturated fat in butter, cooking oil, cheese and processed meats and increased risk of Alzheimer’s. “In animals, it seems to promote amyloid production in the brain,” he says.

In contrast, those that eat more fatty fish such as herring, halibut and wild-caught salmon that are rich in the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid DHA, are at lower risk. Sabbagh notes that DHA, when it’s a steady part of the diet, plays a critical role in forming the protective “skin of the brain” known as the bilipid membrane, and may possibly offset production of plaque in the brain, thus slowing its progression during the earliest stages of dementia. Aim for three weekly servings of fatty fish. Vegetarians can alternatively consider supplementing meals with 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams daily of DHA, says Isaacson.

 Eat more berries and kale: In general, antioxidant-rich fruits (especially berries) and vegetables are major preventers of oxidative stress—the cell-damaging process that occurs naturally in the brain as we age.

One recent study published in the Annals of Neurology found that women eating high amounts of blueberries and strawberries were able to stave off cognitive decline 2.5 years longer than those that did not. Rich in antioxidant flavonoids, blueberries may even have what Sabbagh terms, “specific anti-Alzheimer’s and cell-saving properties.”

Isaacson highlights the helpfulness of kale and green leafy vegetables, which are loaded with antioxidants and brain-boosting B vitamins. One recent University of Oxford study in the UK of 266 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment found that those taking a blend of vitamins B12, B6 and folate daily showed significantly less brain shrinkage over a two-year period than those that did not.

Spice up: Sabbagh notes that India has some of the lowest worldwide rates of Alzheimer’s. One possible reason is the population’s love of curry. Curcumin, a compound found in the curry-flavoring spice turmeric, is another potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

He recommends sprinkling one teaspoon of curcumin on our food every day and cooking with antioxidant-rich cloves, oregano, thyme, rosemary and cinnamon. A 2011 Israeli study at Tel Aviv University found that plaque deposits dissolved and memory and learning behaviors improved in animals given a potent cinnamon extract.

Begin a brain-healthy diet as early as possible. “Brain changes can start 25 years before the onset of dementia symptoms,” says Sabbagh. “It’s the end result of a long process, so don’t wait. Start your prevention plan today.”

Lisa Marshall is a freelance health writer headquartered near Boulder, CO. Connect at Lisa@LisaAnnMarshall.com.

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Recycling Everyday Refuse What Happens after the Blue Bin is Emptied by Avery Mack

Posted on 04 March 2015 by Jason

Each blue recycle bin filled with plastic, aluminum, glass, paper and cardboard helps the environment, because it reduces landfill, takes less energy to repurpose materials than to make new ones and gently reminds us that thoughtful consumption is healthier for people and the planet. But what do all those recyclables turn into?

 

Repurposed Plastics

 

Plastic milk jugs turn into colorful toys at Green Toys, of Mill Valley, California. Repurposing one pound of recycled milk jugs instead of making new plastic saves enough energy to run a computer for a month. All packaging is made from recycled content and printed with soy ink so it can go into the blue bin again. GreenToys.com’s online counter shows the number of containers recycled—more than 10 million to date.

 

Fila Golf’s Principal Designer Nancy Robitaille says, “Recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate), a core Fila cooling fabric, is used throughout our collection. Each fully recycled PET garment reuses about two-and-a-half 20-ounce plastic pop bottles.”

 

Patagonia customers are encouraged to return their old coat when buying a new one. Coats in good condition are given to people in need; the PET fleece lining from retired coats is sent to ReFleece, in Somerville, Massachusetts, where it is cleaned and turned into recyclable protective cases for iPads, e-readers and cell phones.

 

“We expect to make 10,000 cases this year from 2,000 jackets,” says Jennifer Fellers, ReFleece’s CEO. “We use low heat to press the cases into shape.”

 

Vancouver, Canada, which plans to be the greenest city in the world by 2020, includes recycled plastic from bags and water bottles in laying down warm asphalt mix for roads because it uses less fuel to keep the tar at a pourable temperature. Switching from traditional hot asphalt technology also reduces emissions.

 

Transforming Aluminum and Glass

 

In 2012, Do Something.org partnered with Alcoa to challenge teens to recycle aluminum cans. For every 50 cans collected during a two-month period, they were awarded a chance to win a $5,000 scholarship. The sponsors note that recycling one can saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours. The final total was 1,152,569 cans kept out of landfills.

“Aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times,” says Beth Schmitt, director of recycling programs for Alcoa, which has centers nationwide and cash-back programs for community fundraisers. “We re-melt the collected cans, then roll out coils of new can sheets. This process can be repeated without any loss of strength—that’s why we call aluminum the ‘miracle metal.’ If every American recycled just one more can per week, we would remove 17 billion cans from landfills each year.”

 

Wine bottles become designer drinking glasses at Rolf Glass, in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. “Our designs give used bottles a second life,” says owner Rolf Poeting. Refresh Glass, of Phoenix, Arizona, salvages and preps the bottles. “Then, our glass cutting and diamond-wheel engraving technology transforms them into sophisticated Glacier Glass,” continues Poeting. “This seems to be a trend in many industries, to find additional uses for another company’s recycled products.”

 

Rewined, of Charleston, South Carolina, also exemplifies this principle. It uses wine bottles to hold their soy-based, cotton-wicked candles, which provide 60 to 80 hours of wine-scented burn.

 

Second Life for Paper

 

Purina’s Yesterday’s News and Second Nature litter for cats and dogs, respectively, is made from recycled paper and absorbs waste upward from the bottom of the litter box for easier cleaning. The unscented litter pellets are three times as absorbent as clay, non-toxic and nearly dust-free. Hedgehogs, mice, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and reptiles also like Yesterday’s News for bedding. On average, 44 million pounds of paper is recycled into Yesterday’s News each year.

 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States annually generates 11 million tons of asphalt shingle waste, mostly from re-roofing tear-offs and new installation scrap, comprising 8 percent of construction waste. Each recycled ton saves a barrel of oil. OFIC North America, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, creates its Ondura corrugated roofing from old newspapers or magazines and cardboard, made durable by infusing it with asphalt. It’s placed atop existing roofs, which means no discarded shingles. Each day, 40 to 50 tons of recycled paper goods find new life in Ondura products, available at most home improvement stores.

 

Sound inside Buick Lacrosse and Verano vehicles is dampened via a ceiling material made partly from reused cardboard shipping boxes. Paint sludge from General Motors’ Lansing, Michigan, Grand River assembly plant becomes durable plastic shipping containers for Chevrolet Volt and Cruze engine components. Some 200 miles of absorbent polypropylene sleeves, used to soak up an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, were converted into air deflectors for the Volt, preventing 212,500 pounds of waste from entering landfills.

 

As part of its community outreach, 250 shipping crates from GM’s Orion assembly plant became raised garden beds for a Southwest Detroit community garden. A local entrepreneur turned donated sound absorption material into coats that also serve as sleeping bags for the homeless.

 

Old Tires Transformed

 

The Rubber Manufacturers Association reports that Americans discard 300 million tires each year, each one having consumed about seven gallons of oil in its manufacture and poised to add to Earth’s landfills. Lehigh Technologies’ micronized rubber powders (MRP), made by freeze-drying discarded tires and pulverizing them into a fine powder, change the equation. MRP is now used in many items, from new tires, roads and building materials to shoes.

 

It feels good to place used items in the blue bin instead of the trash, knowing that more and more companies are helping to put these resources to good use.

 

Connect with freelance writer Avery Mack at AveryMack@mindspring.com.

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Beyond Cholesterol How Triglycerides Take a Toll by James Occhiogrosso

Posted on 04 March 2015 by Jason

For many adults, an annual physical involves routine blood tests, followed by a discussion of cholesterol and blood pressure numbers, along with prescribed treatment ranging from improved nutrition and exercise to drugs. Triglycerides tend to be relegated to a minor mention—if they are discussed at all, yet regulating triglyceride levels can improve health.

Why Triglycerides Count

“High triglyceride levels usually accompany low HDL (good) cholesterol levels and often accompany tendencies toward high blood pressure and central (abdominal) obesity. These are the markers of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, very common disorders underlying obesity and increased risks of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes,” explains Dr. Andrew Weil, on his website.

While high triglyceride levels are not conclusively linked to the development of any specific disease, they are associated with narrowing of arteries and impaired blood flow associated with cardiovascular disease. (Impaired blood flow also effects male erectile function). Several recent studies, including one in the Annals of Internal Medicine, also suggest they could instigate the metabolic syndrome associated with the onset of diabetes and atherosclerosis, which can lead to stroke and cardiovascular disease.

What Causes Triglycerides?

Triglycerides, a normal component of blood, are introduced into the body by the fat in foods. Some are produced in the liver as the body’s response to a diet high in simple sugars or carbohydrates—especially hydrogenated oils and trans-fats.

Evidence reported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests that very high intakes of carbohydrates are accompanied by a rise in triglycerides, noting that, “Carbohydrate intakes should be limited to 60 percent of total calories.”

Many research scientists agree that the main cause for high triglyceride levels is the Standard American Diet, notoriously high in sugars and simple carbohydrates, trans-fats, saturated animal fats, and far too low in complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals; specifically, vitamins A, B, C, D and especially E, plus the minerals selenium, magnesium, silicon and chromium. Sugars added to soft drinks and food products, especially those containing high-fructose corn syrup, also raise triglyceride levels significantly.

Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! and national medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, observes, “The average American gets about 150 pounds of sugar added to his/her diet each year from processed food, causing fatigue, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and a host of other problems.”

Animal fats, like those in farm-raised red meats, typically contain a skewed ratio of the fats known as omega-3 and omega-6, with the latter dominating by nearly 20:1; a ratio also found in commercial packaged foods and baked goods. Many studies show such a high omega-6/omega -3 ratio tends to promote disease. Eating oily fish and healthy plant oils such as cold-pressed virgin olive and coconut oil, nuts, seeds and minimally prepared foods provides a more balanced ratio of omega fatty acids.

Lowering Triglyceride Levels

Part of today’s medical paradigm focuses on lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. As a result, many patients and doctors worry about cholesterol levels but ignore triglycerides. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a triglyceride level of 100 milligrams per deciliter or less; about one-third of the population currently exceeds this. While drugs can help, the AHA does not recommend drug therapy except for people that have severe levels (more than 500mg/dL), which can increase the risk of acute pancreatitis. For those with high, but not severe levels, dietary and other lifestyle changes can be effective in lowering triglyceride levels.

Logically, reducing consumption of red meat and processed foods, especially those containing trans-fats, and increasing consumption of complex carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, is recommended. AHA studies further show that daily supplementation of fish oil and full-spectrum vitamin E can reduce serum triglyceride levels significantly. In one study, fish oil containing at least 1,000 to 3,000 mg of omega-3 decreased such concentrations by 25 to 30 percent.

In a 2009 study of a nationally representative group of 5,610 people published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Dr. Earl S. Ford, of the Centers for Disease Control, found that about one-third had triglyceride levels above 150 mg/dL—considered somewhat high—while nearly another 20 percent had high levels of 200-plus mg/dL.

Always consult a knowledgeable health practitioner prior to beginning a new regimen. Just as with managing any aspect of health, care is required and knowledge is power.

James Occhiogrosso, a natural health practitioner and master herbalist, specializes in salivary hormone testing and natural hormone balancing. His latest book is Your Prostate, Your Libido, Your Life. Find relevant articles at HealthNaturallyToday.com. Connect at 239-498-1547 or DrJim@HealthNaturallyToday.com.

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Feeding Ourselves Well Urban Gardening Takes Root by John D. Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist

Posted on 04 March 2015 by Jason

“In just one-twelfth of an acre, including lots of paths and a compost heap, our family grows the vast majority of the fresh vegetables we need, plus a decent chunk of our fruit and berries,” says Erica Strauss. “It’s not a huge garden, but we still feel nearly overwhelmed with the harvest in late August.” Her family of four tends a diversity of edibles on their urban lot in a suburb of Seattle, Washington.

 

Word has spread because Strauss blogs about her experiences via Northwest Edible Life, a blog about food growing, cooking and urban homesteading. “Every kid on the block has picked an Asian pear off my espalier and munched on raw green beans,” she notes. “Even picky eaters seem pretty interested when they can pick tasty treats right from the tree or vine.”

 

We don’t need to live in a rural area or on a farm to grow our own food. By the close of World War II, nearly 40 percent of all fruits and vegetables supplying Americans stateside were grown in victory gardens in the communities in which they were consumed.

 

Today, these small plots are often termed kitchen gardens, comprising parts of household lawns, schoolyards, balconies, patios and rooftops. Fresh taste and the security of local food supplies in case of manmade or natural upheavals are drawing more people to gardening.

 

Garden Cities

 

“Urbanization, a major demographic trend, has implications for how we grow and consume food,” observes Roger Doiron, founder of Kitchen Gardeners International. “If we agree that feeding more people fresh, local foods is a priority, we’re going to need to landscape and, in many cases, retrofit urban and suburban areas for increased food production.”

 

Millions of Americans now participate in growing mainstay foods. According to a 2009 study by the National Gardening Association, 31 percent of all U.S. households grew food for their family in 2008, and more have since the economic downturn. Bruce Butterfield, the association’s research director, estimates that nearly 70 percent of these gardens are in urban or suburban areas.

 

“We’re seeing a new crop of farmers that defy stereotypes,” observes David Tracey, owner of EcoUrbanist environmental design in Vancouver, Canada, and author of Urban Agriculture. “Some are office workers leaving unsatisfying jobs, techie types learning the trade in universities and back-to-the-land folks that happen to live in the city. Others are activists taking on the industrial farm system, folks adopting trends or entrepreneurs that see opportunities in the rising prices of quality food and the proximity of millions of customers.”

 

Opportunities and Pitfalls

 

Urban gardening has unexpected advantages in using organic waste like coffee grounds from a local coffee house and rainwater from area rooftops. Converting lawns at schools, churches and empty city lots into community gardens fosters community connections, improves access to nutritious affordable foods and creates employment opportunities.

 

A widespread challenge to the trend is dealing with the quality of urban soil and testing for possible toxins. Often, urban soil must be improved using compost and other nutrients before plants can prosper. A nearby irrigation source is also required.

 

“One potential problem for urban gardeners may be the community reaction to an edible landscape,” admits Strauss. “In some cities, edible gardens in the front yard or even the common parking strip are celebrated and even officially encouraged. But in communities where lawn is still king and city codes regarding vegetation are vague and open to interpretation, one complaint from an anonymous neighbor can become an exhausting political and legal fight.”

 

Feeding Community

 

Community gardens often transform vacant lots and other marginal land into green growing places. In Chicago, The Peterson Garden Project, an award-winning nonprofit program, has been turning unsightly empty lots into raised-bed areas for area residents to learn to grow their own food since 2010.

 

“Nationally, it’s been found that having a community garden on unused land increases property values, decreases crime and promotes a sense of unity with neighbors and others,” explains LaManda Joy, president and founder of the project. “We work with property owners on the short-term use of their land to enhance the community in which they eventually plan to develop.”

 

“Participating in a community garden serves up a lot of individual victories,” says Joy. “Improved health and nutrition, learning a new skill, teaching kids where food comes from, productive exercise, mental well-being, connecting with others and saving money―community gardens help make all of this possible.”

 

Being Prepared

 

“How many recalls have we seen because some food item has been contaminated and people have suffered or died as a result? I am concerned about the safety and security of our food supply,” says Wendy Brown, whose family tends a quarter-acre garden wrapped around their home in a beach resort suburb of Portland, Maine, within raised and landscaped beds and containers plus an onsite greenhouse. “As a mother, it concerns me that I might feed my children something that will hurt them. High-fructose corn syrup, genetically engineered crops and BPA-lined cans are all making headlines. It just seems smarter to grow it myself; that way, we have more control over what our family is eating.”

 

Brown is one of more than 3 million Americans that are following FEMA recommendations in preparing for any event that might disrupt food supplies. Her book, Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs, shares everything her family has done to safeguard themselves, including growing produce, caring for animals and canning, freezing, drying, cold storage or fermenting foods for later use.

 

“For me, it’s more about being prepared for the everyday things that are happening, like increases in food and fuel prices or a loss of family income,” Brown says. “If we’re growing at least some of our own food, I have a lot less to worry about when such things happen.”

 

The family also has rabbits and ducks, plus egg-laying and meat-providing chickens that can total 40 animals in the summer at their “nanofarm”. These also supply natural fertilizer for the crops. Nearby beehives provide 20 pounds of honey each year. Because the foods they produce are solely for their personal use, the Browns are exempt from regulatory restrictions.

 

“Our neighbors love what we’re doing,” says Brown, whose house is close enough they can chat across their front porches. “One says our initiative reminds him of growing up in Maine, pretty much self-sufficient. The other tells friends and coworkers they aren’t worried if things really go bad because they have us as neighbors.”

 

Growing Green Thumbs

 

“With some effort, urban gardeners can grow great vegetables anyplace that affords enough light and warmth,” advises Strauss, who gardens primarily in raised beds in her front and back yards. “I garden on the scale I do because I love it. It’s both relaxing and challenging, and we eat well.”

 

Urban gardening methods are as diverse as the growing conditions, space limitations and financial resources of the gardener.

 

“Lasagna” gardening―layering newspaper or cardboard and other organic materials on top― can be effective in urban areas because it involves no digging or tilling. Just as with making compost, alternate between brown and green layers. Once the materials break down, add plants to the newly created growing bed.

 

Urban dwellers with limited space may employ square-foot gardening, intensively growing plants in raised beds using a growing medium of vermiculite, peat moss and compost. This method can yield fewer weeds and is easier on the back. “It’s an easy concept to grasp for new gardeners,” remarks Joy. “We use it to both maximize output in a small area and ensure healthy, organic, contaminant-free soil.”

 

Rooftop gardens are becoming more common as larger agricultural operations use them to grow income crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers anyone that sells more than $1,000 of produce to neighbors or area restaurants a farmer, rather than a gardener, so regulations may apply.

 

For renters, just a few tomato plants in a well-maintained container on a patio or deck can yield as much as 50 pounds of tomatoes by taking advantage of its microclimate, influenced by wind blocks, heated surfaces and reflected light from windows.

 

Urban gardening is also thriving indoors in terrariums, window boxes and small greenhouses. Even partially lit rooms can support certain vegetables or herbs with grow lights. Aquaponic gardening, a closed-loop system that involves both fish and vegetables, expands the self-sufficient possibilities of a hydroponic system of growing plants fed by liquid nutrients.

 

Feeding Ourselves

 

With more than 80 percent of Americans currently living in urban and suburban areas, the questionable nutrition of many mass-produced foods, increasing pesticide and herbicide use by non-organic farmers, greenhouse gas emissions from food transport, and weather patterns altered by climate change, it’s past time to take back some control. Operating our own gardens and preparing our own meals turns us back into producers, not merely consumers.

 

“For the most part, we’re just average suburbanites,” concludes Brown. “We just choose to have less lawn and more garden. A huge benefit is that we need less income because we’re buying less at the grocery store. We goal to semi-retire in our mid-50s—not because we’ve made a bunch of money, but because we’ve needed less money to live along the way.”

 

John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist, co-authors of Farmstead Chef (FarmsteadChef.com), ECOpreneuring and Rural Renaissance, operate the award-winning Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast, in Browntown, WI. They grow 70 percent of their organic food; the cost savings helped them become mortgage-free in their mid-40s.

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It’s Easy to Create a Backyard Garden Retreat

Posted on 04 March 2015 by Jason

Gardens are not only beautiful, they enrich our lives. Color theorists say green makes us feel calm, and hospitals find patients with garden views heal more quickly. Studies show marked reductions in stress, depression, anger, anxiety and sleeplessness.
It’s easy to create a small oasis in our own backyard. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but simply offer sanctuary from our stressful lives. No electronics or other distractions; a shady tree overhead; water and layers of plants to draw the birds; a boulder or meditative sculpture for focus; a place to sit, enjoy the scene and feed our soul is all that is needed.
Include many shades of green with a variety of textures, and incorporate evergreens for winter interest and structure. Add compost to feed the living soil, allow the fall leaves to remain as a winter blanket, provide moisture in summer and deepen the connection to your own nature.

Contact Plan-it Earth Design for help creating your garden retreat. $25 off initial consultation. Plan-it-EarthDesign.com.

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Yin Yoga Helps Reduce Stress

Posted on 04 March 2015 by Jason

In this fast-paced world, it’s important for us to find maintained balance through what life constantly throws at us; and as we move through our days and weeks, setting aside time that’s dedicated just for you is an important component in finding that balance. Along with the stress that’s paired with our busy schedules, physical and emotional tension manifest in our bodies and can sometimes cause more stress and even injury. That’s where Yin Yoga comes in.
Yin Yoga is considered a practice that helps counter an active lifestyle. It complements our busy schedules by presenting more restorative postures that confront the deep tissues and fascial networks in the areas of our body that particularly respond harshly to stress. Yin is a yoga practice that is done all on the mat without any standing poses, and is supported with props to allow the individual to relax into each stretch that releases bound-up tension. This practice allows one to be completely present and supports restoration in the body and mind, finding a stronger connection to one’s higher self.
Acknowledging the fact that there are so many body types, each pose can be modified to support the individual’s physical needs by using props or modifying in some capacity, something with which the instructor will help. Take an hour to slow down and give Yin Yoga a chance in your journey of self-care.

A great way to start the week, Nourish Northwest offers Yin Yoga every Sunday from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. NourishNorthwest.com.

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Reset Your Health

Posted on 04 March 2015 by Jason

Be strong, clear and happy this spring. Developing daily routines, like appropriate exercise and regular meal times, can bring out our most enlightened self. Discover how to live in harmony with Ayurveda, an ancient healing system from India.
“Spring is a time when the earth stirs and plants prepare for the rising of the reinvigorating sap. The same stirrings happen within us, as we move into a time of renewed energy and vitality,” says Katrina Svoboda Johnson, Ayurvedic Practitioner at PranaMAMA.biz.
Kapha, the Sanskrit word for spring, is comprised of the water and earth elements. Its qualities are cool, heavy and wet. Spring can exacerbate laziness and low energy, excess weight gain and accumulation of mucus.
“Spring is about new growth. In Ayurveda we recommend our cleansing program to rid our bodies of toxins. Cleansing will bring renewed health and vitality,” says Michelle Magid, Ayurvedic practitioner with Ahara Rasa.
To restore balance at this time of year, prefer all that is warm, dry and light. Catabolic foods like pomegranate and rhubarb are beneficial. Choose grains and legumes such as millet, lentils and buckwheat to help weight melt away. Add heating spices such as ginger, cardamom, clove, mustard seed and pepper. Susan Bass, Ayurvedic practitioner with The Art of Digestion, recommends bitter roots, sprouts and leafy greens in spring. “Nature is an aspect of the divine. When we eat what is in season, we connect with the divine.”

 

Learn more about Ayurveda and yourself April 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the free Ayurvedic Health Fair. See AyurvedaPdx.com for more information.

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