Organic – what is it and is it worth it?

Gone are the days when we had to go to a fancy market or boutique grocery store to find organic foods.  Organic food can now be found in any mainstream grocery chain, it’s even popping up at Walmart.  But, do you even KNOW what organic means, what is makes it “organic” and is it worth the extra money?

Any food with a USDA organic seal is required to be grown, harvested, and processed according to national standards that include restrictions on amounts and residues of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.  In addition, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “organic” foods cannot be treated with any synthetic pesticides, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. They may only use pesticides derived from a natural source.

Foods labeled as “free-range,” hormone free” or “natural” are not considered “organic and these terms are not regulated by law.

Organic labeling guidelines:

  • 100% organic – no synthetic ingredients and can be labeled with the USDA organic seal.
  • Organic – 95% of ingredients are organic and can be labeled with the USDA organic seal.
  • Made with organic ingredients – 70% of ingredients must be organic, cannot legally bear the USDA organic seal.
  • Any meat, eggs, poultry or dairy must come from animals who have never been treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.

Organic foods can be pricey, 50-100% more than non-organic foods.  The main reasons for the price difference is, organic foods are more labor-intensive and do not last as long as their non-organic counterparts.

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., recommends going organic on the “dirty dozen” — types of produce that are most susceptible to pesticide residue:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

These items are listed as probably not worth the extra money.

  • Papayas
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Bananas
  • Kiwifruit
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet corn (frozen)
  • Avocadoes
  • Onions

Your choice – if it’s important to you and in your budget, buy organic.  If not, there are still some things you can do to reduce the pesticide residue on your foods.

  • Wash and scrub produce under running water to remove dirt, bacteria and surface pesticide residues, even produce with inedible skins such as cantaloupe. Do not use soap.
  • Remove the peel from fruits and vegetables.
  • Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables.
  • Trim fat and skin from meat and poultry, pesticide residues can collect in fat.
  • Eat a variety of foods from different sources.

Organic or not, fruits and vegetables are probably the most important foods we consume,  do your best to rid them from residue and then chow down!

 

 

 

Does size matter?

NO!  The answer is no, a million times no – and here’s why.

Many people are obsessed with fitting into a particular size, whether it’s the size they wore in high school, the size Hollywood tells us we should be or the size the skinny girl in the office says SHE wears.  It becomes an unhealthy focus and can lead to serious self-esteem issues and/or eating disorders.

Let’s talk about the numbers on that tiny piece of material attached to your jeans and why they don’t matter.

  1. It’s a game!  Designers know that people, especially women, will buy a garment that has a size 4 label, over one that has a size 8 label, every time.  So while your TRUE size might be 8, you’re going to buy the brand that tells you that you’re a size 4.  In the end, the designer who tells you what you want to hear (read), wins.
  2. Individuals of the same height and weight can wear very different sizes.  You can have a “pear shaped” woman who weighs 150 lbs, she may wear a size 12 in jeans, while a 150 lb, top-heavy woman who is slimmer through the hips may wear a size 6.
  3. Brands and styles have very different cuts.  Have you ever noticed that a particular store who caters to a younger crowd, carries pants that are longer and slimmer?  These stores are targeting individuals who have a particular body shape.   Someone with a more “mature” body shape, who usually wears a size 4 will not be able to pull this store’s size 4 pants up over her thighs. The clothing in this store is not made with a her body shape in mind.
  4. Many of us are not one uniform size.  Some may have a small waist and carry weight through the hips and thighs, others may have a wide waist and very thin legs.  While there are some people who slide right into those pants, the rest of us need a good tailor.

In the end, who, besides you, really knows what that tag says – or cares for that matter?  I don’t think anyone really knows what a true size 0,2,4,6,8……is anymore.

Why do we let that number bother us so much?  Does it determine our value as a human being?  Does it make us a better person?

The best fashion advice I’ve ever received was, buy for the largest part of your body and have the rest tailored.  A nice, tailored, put together look beats squeezing yourself into something that makes you look and feel like a Vienna sausage, just because the tag, that no one can see says “4”.

 

Sahaswara, The Seventh Chakra

Sahaswara, also known as the “crown chakra” is the center for trust, devotion, inspiration, happiness, and positivity. It’s also the center for deeper connection with ourselves and deeper connection with a force of life that is greater than ourselves.

Sahaswara is referred to as the thousand-petal lotus chakra.  The lotus flower is a symbol in both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. It is nurtured, grows, and emerges in muddy waters. It blooms where there is no clarity.

There are many ways to help open the “crown chakra”.

  1. Get inspired – find something that helps you feel inspired, uplifted, positive and open.  Anything that brings you inspiration will help open this chakra.  Find what inspires you an reflect on it daily.
  2. Practice affirmations – practice positive affirmations throughout the day to help keep this chakra open.  Ex. “I am open and expanded”.
  3. Visualize – imagine the top of the head being open and expanded, connected to a force greater than yourself.

Several asanas can also help open this chakra.

Half Lotus Pose

Image result for image for half lotus pose

Tree Pose

Corpse Pose

Supported headstand

Opening this chakra leads to a feeling of calm, positivity and well-being,  I believe most of us need to deliberately work on opening the crown chakra, it does not come easily in the beginning.

A Yummy Win!

In the 1980’s, Professor Ancel Keys published the results of his investigation into cardiovascular death rates in different countries. He found death rates were low in Greece, southern Italy and Japan, and relatively high in the USA and Finland.

The Mediterranean Diet has certain types and amounts of food. If eaten consistently, it has been shown to reduce the risks of developing heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Following the diet has also been linked with a reduced risk of early death and has proven success for healthy weight reduction.

The Mediterranean Diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, peas and beans (legumes) and grains. It also contains moderate amounts of chicken and fish.  There is little red meat and most fat is unsaturated and comes from olive oil and nuts. Along with moderate exercise and not smoking, the Mediterranean Diet is a scientifically researched, affordable, balanced, and healthy lifestyle choice.

See the Mediterranean Food Pyramid below.

Mediterranean diet pyramid

The power of food is amazing, what a yummy way to help stay healthy!

Ajna – trust it!

Ajna, is the sixth chakra, also known as the third eye.  The Anja is the second spiritual chakra, it means “beyond wisdom”, this is the center of your intuition.  This chakra is located between the eyebrows, the pituitary glands, eyes, lower part of the brain and head are ruled by this chakra.    Opening this chakra allows lucid dreaming, telepathy, wide imagination and visualization.

Ajna is also referred to as our “sixth sense”.  We are taught to rely on our five senses, sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.  While each of these senses are important, when rely solely on what we can see, hear, taste, smell and touch, we limit our awareness.  Long ago, humans had to rely on intuition, over the years we’ve lost trust in our intuition and rely on what we “know”.

This chakra is best balanced through meditation and breathing or pranayama.  A tingling sensation after mediation is a sign that this chakra is beginning to open.  A breathing technique called “bee breath” can help balance this chakra.  This technique is done by closing the eyes and placing the middle fingers over the eyes, the pointer fingers over the eyebrows and pinkies fall at the cheekbones.  Inhale deeply, as you exhale make the sound “AUM”, emphasizing the “M” and making the sound like a bee buzzing.  This technique is typically done for about two minutes and can help alleviate headaches as well.

Yoga poses in which the forehead is pressed down also helps to balance the Ajna.  Practice the poses below to help open and balance your third eye, and trust your intuition!

Childs Pose

Dolphin Pose

Head to Knee Pose

 

Celebrate in style, a healthy style!

Yea!   Who doesn’t love a long holiday weekend?  Parties, BBQs and fireworks, they’re all part of our Independence Day celebrations.  Using the holiday as an excuse for a “pass” on you healthy habits will only lead to guilt, bloat, sluggishness and poor sleep.  Good news, you can have your cake and eat it too – well kind of………..

The first thing you need to do is to make a plan.  If you have a celebration to host or attend this weekend, make sure you have healthy choices available for the rest of the day.  Fill up on water and clean, whole foods, with lots of bulk.

When you arrive, greet your hosts and other guests and then check out the buffet.  Take it all in, making mental notes of the things you’d really like to try and the things you can do without.  Try to stay away from the snacky stuff, save your calories for the meal.  When it’s time to eat, choose 3-4 things that really interest you or that are your favs, take about half of what you think you’ll eat, grab a bottle of water, sit down and eat slowly – really enjoy the wonderful foods you may not get to eat often.  If you feel like you want a second serving, wait 20 minutes, get up and move around, if you’re still thinking about going back, go back and serve yourself small portions of 2 items and then resolve yourself to being finished.

OK, let’s move on to cocktails!  If you like to have alcoholic beverages on special occasions, go for it – but be smart about it!   I’ve mentioned it before – there  is a reason they call it a beer belly!  However, if beer is your drink of choice, try to choose a “low carb” brand.  The average number of calories in 1 bottle of beer is 154 – these add up quickly!  If wine is your  thing, think about making a refreshing wine spritzer.  A glass of white wine has 120 calories, if you top off 4 oz of wine with some club soda you’re looking at 80 calories – you just saved yourself 40 calories!  Red wine offers up 125 calories.  If you’re into mixed drinks – stick with light liquors rather than dark and watch your mixers!  Regular sodas and juices can jack up the calorie count – try to stick with water or club soda, or a little bit of both.  Frozen drinks are down right dangerous – 1, 12 oz Margarita hits you with 540 calories!  My point is, liquid calories can sneak up on us.  Know how many calories you’re pouring down your throat and remember moderation is key.  Not only can liquid calories add up fast, we tend to make poor choices when we’ve had too much, maybe not knowing when to stop or eating more food to help balance the blood sugar that is on a roller coaster.  I recommend alternating alcoholic beverages with water – this will help with hangovers as well:)

I’ve posted some recipes below that would be great to serve or bring to share, I hope you find something that looks good to you!

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/dinner/healthy-grilling-recipes/

I made these kabobs on Memorial Day – they were a huge hit!  Even with my 8 year old🙂

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/guy-fieri/jerked-chicken-kabobs-recipe.html

http://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/low-calorie-pasta-salads

I love berries with a little cool whip for dessert, but here are some good looking sweet treats!

http://www.delish.com/cooking/nutrition/g2615/low-calorie-dessert-recipes/

Have a great holiday!

 

 

Fiber – it does more than help you p**p!

Dietary fiber is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But foods containing fiber can provide other health benefits as well, such as helping to maintain a healthy weight, lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Dietary fiber includes the parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Unlike the other components of foods, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates — which your body breaks down and absorbs — fiber isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it passes intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body.

Fiber is usually classified as soluble, which dissolves in water, or insoluble, which doesn’t dissolve.

  • Soluble fiber – This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
  • Insoluble fiber – This type of fiber helps food move through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, basically it helps you poop. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Benefits of a high fiber diet:

  • Normalizes and helps maintain bowel health – A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease). Some fiber is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels- Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that high-fiber foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Helps control blood sugar levels –  Soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels in diabetics. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Helps achieve and maintain a healthy weight – High-fiber foods tend to be more filling than low-fiber foods, so you’re likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer. And high-fiber foods tend to take longer to eat and to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.

It’s always best to get nutrients and dietary needs from whole foods.  Some people may benefits from supplements if they are constipated, however these supplements do not have any dietary nutrients.  Fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, whole grains and nuts/seeds are all good sources of fiber.

While high fiber foods are healthy, it is best to increase fiber intake gradually to avoid bloating, cramping and gas.  Don’t forget to drink up, fiber works best when it absorbs water.