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Updated: 1 hour 14 min ago

Keeping Control of Cholesterol Naturopathically

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 10:01

The cold weather months bring about sluggishness and not want to venture outside as often as you would during warmer times of the year. This can put a damper on your personal fitness program and to your health.

The problem (perhaps antithetically speaking) is not cholesterol. Believe it or not, cholesterol is very vital to your body. It is important for your hair and skin, and if you’re a man who lifts or exercises, it is vital…a precursor to testosterone, that crucial hormone so short in the “soy boy” population.

Too much of anything is not good, and the reason we’re highlighting cholesterol is that the majority of people (for one reason or another) do not lift or perform strenuous physical exercise. This article also will help those who are elderly, or on a fixed income, or on such a rigorous work schedule that they cannot find the time to exercise at all.

The problems arise with cholesterol when you are not exerting enough physical energy or metabolic activity to effectively eliminate it or convert it from your body. The cholesterol is an LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) that starts out as a “gluey” substance that adheres to the walls of your arteries. With time this substance hardens and forms arterial “plaques” that lead to high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks. A stroke is caused by a blood vessel in your brain being blocked, to put it simply. A heart attack is the result of the coronary arteries (the ones that supply the heart itself with blood, and therefore oxygen) being blocked.

There are a few herbs and foods for starters that you can supplement your diet with that will help you with cholesterol. Let’s cover a few of them.

  1. Garlic. Yes, garlic. It actually reduces LDL’s and triglycerides. It also lowers the blood pressure and will help with the peripheral arteries of the legs (reducing leg cramps. Garlic is not expensive and is best consumed raw in the form of the cloves. I’ve written extensively on it, and you can peruse the articles in the archives to go into more detail. You can also buy it in pill or capsule form at your friendly neighborhood big-box store. One precaution is to stop taking it prior to surgery, as it thins the blood and reduces clotting ability.
  2. Cayenne Pepper. Oh yeah, ba-by!  The peppers contain a high amount of Vitamin C, and the capsaicin in it helps prevent blood clotting and the hardening of the arteries. Cayenne pepper also increases heartbeat strength and efficiency.  Those with digestive problems need to limit the amount they ingest. It is best taken with your food, as the food buffers the lining of your stomach. Don’t ever take it by itself.
  3. Black Pepper. Who doesn’t like black pepper? Well, certainly somebody. All the same, it increases blood circulation and helps with blood pressure. Although it doesn’t directly attack cholesterol, it affects the vessels and helps them to prevent cholesterol’s harmful effects. Also, taking it with Turmeric/curcumin potentiates the effects of piperine, an active ingredient of the pepper.
  4. Hawthorn. Comes from a berry. Hawthorn is an adaptogenic herb. Check this out. If you have high blood pressure, hawthorn will lower it. If you have low blood pressure, Hawthorn will raise it. It directly reduces the levels of unhealthy cholesterol in your system. Heart patients or those using heart medications check with your happy doctor prior to taking the hawthorn.
  5. Legumes. Yes, that’s beans!  The consumption of kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, and so forth directly reduces cholesterol levels. Just don’t mix them up with bacon or cook them with something that defeats the purpose!
  6. Oatmeal. The good old bowl of oatmeal in the morning will actually help you to lower your cholesterol.

So, we have started out with some basics, and now it is up to you to incorporate those basics into your routine. The best overall thing you can do (besides put down the fork) is to tailor-make a good, solid exercise program coupled with a healthy diet. Your goal is not to eliminate cholesterol from your diet. Your goal is to take in a healthy amount of it and maintain yourself so that the healthy level does not climb to a level that is excessive and harmful.  JJ out!

 

How To Survive the Financial Cost of a Medical Emergency

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 09:43

Medical emergencies often come out of the blue and have the potential to be devastating to not only your mental well-being but your finances. Because of the nature of these unexpected burdens, we’ve put together some steps that can be taken to survive the financial strain of an unforeseen medical emergency.

Studies have shown that medical emergencies are often an enormous burden on so many families.  With 78% of Americans already living paycheck to paycheck, a medical expense that’s large and unexpected could destroy a family’s financial stability.  In fact, about 2/3 of all bankruptcies in the United States are due to medical expenses. Often the cost is much more than families could ever hope to repay in a lifetime.

MEDICAL BILLS ARE LEADING CAUSE OF BANKRUPTCIES

The study we’re referring to was led by Dr. David Himmelstein, Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Hunter College and Lecturer at Harvard Medical School. It indicated that about 530,000 families each year are financially ruined by medical bills and sicknesses, according to the website, Study Finds. It’s the first research of its kind to link medical expenses and bankruptcy since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010.

In a press release by the Physicians for a National Health Program, Himmelstein said of his findings, “unless you’re Bill Gates, you’re just one illness away from bankruptcy.” He added, “for middle-class Americans, health insurance offers little protection. Most of us have policies with so many loopholes, copayments, and deductibles that illness can put you in the poorhouse. Even the best job-based health insurance often vanishes when prolonged illness causes job loss – just when families need it most. Private health insurance is a defective product, akin to an umbrella that melts in the rain,” says Himmelstein.

The research also shows that The Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare has done nothing to alleviate the medical pressure on families. There was very little difference in the proportion of bankruptcy filings related to medical expenses since the ACA passed. In all, 67.5% of debtors said medical costs contributed to their bankruptcy in the first three years from the start of the law, compared to 65.5% prior to its passing.

AVERAGE COST OF A MEDICAL EMERGENCY

The average price of a medical emergency can cost some as much as one average mortgage payment. Findings from the John Hopkins School of Medicine suggest emergency room (ER) service charges can exceed Medicare rates for the same services sometimes by as much as 13 times the Medicare cost. When an emergency hits, people want the care immediately and hospitals are aware of this, making it much easier to take advantage of people and their insurance company financially. There is little one can do to stop ER departments from attempting to charge exorbitant prices for services. For those who don’t have insurance coverage, the rates can be even higher.

Once it’s all said and done, the timeframe for paying off the medical services used could be pretty long. But there are some “tricks of the trade” so to speak, to help you out. Depending on your scenario, there are multiple options at your disposal. The first and most obvious route to choose is to pay it off all at once.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR A MEDICAL EMERGENCY

If you have the means, pay off the entire balance at once and the hospital will give you a huge discount. This will save you money, often tens of thousands of dollars in the long run! You could also offer a large chunk of money upfront, which will help keep your costs down. But in order to do that, you’ll need to prepare for a medical emergency before it happens by setting up an emergency fund and stashing away some cash. Read the article below for some tips to begin saving:

5 Simple Ways to Grow an Emergency Fund

You could also make sure your debts are minimal, or nonexistent before an emergency hits. This is difficult for so many because Americans, in general, have taken on historic levels of debt. But try paying off your debts then start using the money you were putting toward debt repayment to boost your emergency fund.  Fewer payments going out every month most likely means you’ll have more money immediately at your disposal for your emergency fund. It also means you are more likely to be able to come up with cash to pay off the debt right away. (Remember, this could save you tons of money!) Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of knowing what it’s like to NOT live paycheck to paycheck. Just that added security could help relieve the mental stress of a medical emergency.

If you don’t have enough to pay cash for the services, you could always set up a payment plan.  Keep in mind, the more disposable income you have (fewer debt payments, like car loans and credit cards) the higher monthly payment you can make getting you out from under the medical bills quicker. Because of interest, it is not recommended to make payments unless you have to and you can get payments set up interest-free.

Consider negotiating your payment plan, interest rate, and the overall cost of the medical services on your own. If you make it known that you’re going to have trouble paying back the cost, most hospitals will agree to work with you and your income.

21 Healthy Meat-Free Ways You Can Add Protein To Your Diet

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 06:15

Every living cell in your body uses protein for structural and functional purposes. It is important to get enough in your diet for that reason.

Protein is made up of amino acids, which are building blocks for our bodies. There are 20-plus amino acids, and they help form thousands of different proteins (there are at least 10,000!) in the body. Because we don’t store amino acids, our bodies make them in two different ways: either from scratch or by modifying others. There are nine amino acids that are known as essential amino acids because they must come from food. They are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Dietary protein is one of three macronutrients that make up our diets (the other two are carbohydrates and fat). Of those, protein is the most satiating – that, is, it is the most filling.

If we consume excess protein in our diets, our bodies will usually find a way to use it – we don’t store a lot of extra amino acids like we do extra carbohydrates and fat.

Because we either use or excrete extra protein, we need to replenish it through our diets.

How much dietary protein do you need?

Daily protein needs vary among individuals. Body composition, activity level, and overall health are factors that need to be considered when calculating or estimating protein needs.

A VERY general guideline is one gram of protein per pound of body weight for healthy adults. Muscle maintenance (having a good amount of muscle makes losing fat easier) requires adequate protein in your diet.

I don’t mean that you need to become a bodybuilder, so don’t worry. Having a healthy amount of muscle is important for everyone because it makes everyday tasks easier, helps boost your metabolism, reduces your risk of injury, improves your posture, helps prevent (and reduce) chronic back pain, and contributes to overall health and longevity. As we age, we naturally lose some muscle mass (this is called sarcopenia), but the good news is that we can prevent it with adequate protein consumption and regular exercise, especially strength training.

It is important to remember that eating protein in itself will not help you gain muscle, but it may help you keep what you already have.

When you eat too little calories for an extended period of time, your precious muscle is one of the things that your body will start to get rid of! Your body needs enough calories for energy and will break down your muscle tissue and use it for energy if you aren’t eating enough.

This protein calculator will help you calculate your needs.

Is too much protein bad for health?

Common myths about high protein intake persist, despite the fact that there really isn’t any evidence to support them. Protein does not “leach” calcium from your bones and causes osteoporosis, and it does not cause kidney damage (UNLESS you have existing kidney disease – in that case, please ask your physician for guidance).

What is a “complete” protein?

Some proteins found in food are “complete”, meaning that they contain all of the 20-plus amino acids the body needs. Animal-based sources of protein tend to be complete, while plant-based sources tend to lack one or more essential amino acid. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, be sure to eat a wide variety of protein-containing plant foods every day to make sure you get all of the amino acids your body needs.

All protein sources are not created equal.

People tend to think of animal products when considering protein sources. But, some of them come with possible health risks that are worth keeping in mind. Ideally, you will get your protein from a wide variety of foods.

Diets high in red meat have been linked with a higher risk of developing certain diseases, including cancer.

A large body of scientific evidence shows that eating healthy protein sources like beans, nuts, fish, or poultry in place of red meat and processed meat can lower the risk of several diseases and premature death. There are more than 100 published epidemiological studies that show a relationship between eating meat and cancer risk. However, researchers still aren’t sure if meat itself can lead to the development of cancer, or if the problem is related to the fact that meat eaters tend to eat less healthy food overall. The increased disease risk may actually be because people who consume a lot of meat are eating a diet high in calories and saturated fat and low in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. In other words, there is an association with red meat and cancer, but causation has not been established. If you eat red meat and want to know how to make it healthier, please see this resource from Examine.com.

Even if you are not interested in cutting red meat from your diet, eating less and adding more plant-based sources of protein is a good idea.

Plant-based eating can save you money.

Buying good quality meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can be quite expensive. Free-range, cage-free, pastured, grass-fed, organic – animal products that are produced with those standards are generally better for health, the environment, and of course, better for the animals, but buying them regularly can really add up and is not affordable for many.

Plant-based sources of protein, on the other hand, tend to be quite affordable. And, many of them have a much longer shelf life than animal sources. Yes, there are many expensive plant-based foods on the market, like fake “meat” products, veggie burgers, and coconut milk dairy substitutions. Thankfully, none of those items are necessary. Instead, focus on adding fresh, minimally processed, nutrient-rich, plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes to your diet. All of these items are affordable for most people.

Raising animals for food may be harming the environment.

Evidence suggests that raising livestock (particularly factory farming) and industrial fishing has ecological impacts. And, food production places an enormous demand upon our natural resources, as agriculture is a major contributor to deforestation, species extinction, and freshwater depletion, and contamination. Eating plants are more environmentally sustainable.

Here’s a big list of plant-based sources of protein.
  1. Wild rice: 7 grams protein per cup (cooked)
  2. Quinoa: 9 gr per cup
  3. Amaranth: 8 gr per cup (cooked)
  4. Buckwheat: 13 gr protein for a 100-gram serving
  5. Beans: about 15 gr per cup, depending on the variety
  6. Lentils: 18 grams per cup
  7. Nuts and nut butter: 5-9 gr protein per ounce, generally.
  8. Seeds: varies, but here are a few high-protein examples – pumpkin seeds (4 gr for 1 ounce), sunflower seeds (7 gr for 1/4 cup), chia (6 gr for 2 tablespoons)
  9. Green peas: 9 gr per cup (cooked)
  10. Hemp – protein powder (about 15 gr per serving), hemp seeds, also called Hemp Hearts (10 grams in 3 tablespoons)
  11. Edamame: 17 grams per cup
  12. Tofu: 9 grams in a 3-ounce serving
  13. Tempeh: 16 grams in 1/2 cup
  14. Textured vegetable protein (TVP): 12 gr in 1/4 cup
  15. Seitan: 25 grams in 3.5-ounce serving (This is wheat gluten, so avoid this if you have Celiac disease or can’t tolerate gluten)
  16. Nutritional yeast:  14 gr per ounce
  17. Spelt and teff: about 10 gr per cup (cooked)
  18. Spirulina: 8 gr in two tablespoons
  19. Sprouted grain breads: varies
  20. Oatmeal: 6 grams per cup (cooked)
  21. Protein-rich fruits and vegetables: broccoli (6 gr per cup), spinach (5 gr per cup), and 4-5 gr protein per cooked cup of asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Fresh fruits generally have a lower protein content than vegetables. Those containing the most include guava, cherimoyas, mulberries, blackberries, nectarines and bananas, which have about 2–4 grams of protein per cup.
There are a few special concerns to keep in mind about plant-based protein sources.

Lectins

Lectins are a type of carbohydrate-binding protein that sticks to cell membranes in the digestive tract. They are sometimes are referred to as “anti-nutrients,” and are found in most plant and animal foods. However, they’re found in the highest amounts in beans, legumes, nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant), dairy products, peanuts, chickpeas, and all grains. Some types of lectins, like ricin, are toxic, but others are not.

Entirely avoiding lectins is difficult and requires following a very restrictive diet.

In What is a Lectin-Free Diet? Healthline explains that people who have food sensitivities or are prone to gastrointestinal problems may feel better on a low (or no) lectin diet:

Eating large amounts of food containing lectin may cause gas or gastric distress in some people. Lectin is not digestible. It binds to cell membranes lining the digestive tract. There, it may disrupt metabolism and cause damage.

***

Some research notes that lectin can disrupt digestion and cause intestinal damage if eaten in large quantities over a prolonged period of time.

You can destroy most lectin in foods by cooking them, as Healthline explains:

It is important to avoid raw, soaked, or undercooked beans, such as kidney beans, which have been found to be toxic to people due to their lectin levels. According to one study reported in the South African Medical Journal, soaking beans is not enough to remove lectin content.

“Fermenting, as well as soaking and sprouting high-lectin foods, can drastically reduce the lectin content, making them safe to eat for most people,” as Dr. Brian Mowll explains in What Are Lectins And Why Should You Care?

Arsenic

Arsenic, a toxic trace element that has been linked to health problems, has been found in all types of rice, but wild rice and brown rice are particularly susceptible to contamination.  Arsenic can accumulate in the bran of rice crops grown in polluted areas. In an article titled Arsenic In Rice: How Concerned Should You Be? Food Revolution Network shared some startling information:

Consumer Reports tested 223 samples of rice products and found significant levels of arsenic in almost all of them, including white, brown, parboiled, jasmine, basmati, and other types of rice.

You can see the full results of the brands they tested and the results here.

Arsenic was found in rice whether it was organic or conventional — and from all regions of the world.

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the arsenic in rice:

To some extent, arsenic can be washed off. Arsenic is water soluble.

Published studies indicate that cooking rice in excess water (from six to 10 parts water to one part rice), and draining the excess water, can reduce 40 to 60% of the inorganic arsenic content, depending on the type of rice.

And a 2015 study published in PLOS ONE, found a cooking method that reduced arsenic by 85%. They used a filter coffee maker to pass the hot water through the rice as it cooked. (source)

Rinse rice thoroughly before cooking it, or better yet –  soak it for 48 hours before cooking. Pour off the water and rinse the rice every 8 to 12 hours (like soaking beans). If you want to try using a coffee maker to reduce the arsenic content in your rice, here’s how to do that. Whichever method you choose, be sure to use filtered water – because water is often contaminated with arsenic too.

As you can see, eating a wide variety of foods is important, not only to ensure that you get a lot of nutrients but also to help you avoid toxins associated with high consumption of certain foods.

And, no matter which protein sources you choose, consider growing your own food or buying locally when possible.

Be well!

 

Juicing and Blending: Two Easy Ways To Get Your Health On!

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 08:06

Are you getting enough servings of fruits and vegetables every day?

Chances are, like most people – you could do a little better when it comes to regular intake. A recent study found the greatest health benefits come from eating 10 portions a day.

Researchers from Imperial College London analyzed 95 studies on fruit and vegetable intake. The meta-analysis included 2 million people from populations worldwide and assessed up to 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, 112,000 cancer cases, and 94,000 deaths. The results were published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2017.

Fruit and vegetable intakes were associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality. These results support public health recommendations to increase fruit and vegetable intake for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature mortality.

Ten servings a day may seem like a lot, but thankfully, there are two easy ways to get them in: juicing and blending. Both methods are also great ways to get kids who are picky eaters (and adults who are picky eaters!) to get more nutrients in every day.

What is juicing?

Juicing is a process where the liquid part of the fruit or vegetable is separated from the pulp or fiber. You get a thin and concentrated liquid product that contains vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients, which are bioactive plant-derived compounds associated with positive health benefits.

You probably have noticed juice products in your local stores. They tend to be quite expensive (a case of Naked Juice is $40 on Amazon). Making your own juice will save you money, and juice made at home will be a lot more fresh than bottled juices that are sold in stores. The fresher the juice, the more nutritious.

To make juice at home, you’ll need a juicer. There are many different kinds on the market at different price points, but here we will discuss two main types: Centrifugal and masticating.

Centrifugal Juicers

As you feed produce through the chute of a centrifugal juicer, it makes direct contact with a blade that shreds it. The juice from the fruits and vegetables is thrown by the centrifugal force of the spinning basket toward the sides of the basket and pushed through it into a container.

Masticating Juicers

This type of juicer uses a single auger (gear) that’s spiral in shape to press and chew (masticate) fruits and vegetables as they’re fed into the tube. Masticating juicers slowly extract juice and collect it in a container, and the pulp is continuously ejected at the end of the gear shaft into a pulp container. While these machines take longer to produce juice, they extract more juice from produce. Some claim this kind of juicing retains more nutrients than centrifugal juicers.

Steam Juicers

Steam juicers allow you to extract the juice from high liquid fruits and vegetables with the power of steam. To use, boil water in the bottom pan and place your fruit in the top colander. As the water boils, steam rises and concentrated juice drips into the center juice kettle. Wash your fruit before placing it in the steamer. Remove stems, leaves, and pits from fruit, and cut larger pieces (apples, pears, peaches, etc) into halves or quarters before steaming. Steam juicers like this one are versatile and can also be used as a vegetable steamer, a roaster, and a colander. While this method takes longer to create juice, it allows you to juice fruits that don’t do well via other methods, and you can make a lot more juice at once.

However, you decide to make your juice, be sure to drink it (or freeze it) immediately. The antioxidants and other phytonutrients start to break down almost immediately once they are exposed to light and air.

Because juicing can be time-consuming and quite messy, if you’d like to drink homemade juice on a regular basis, you could try making bigger batches and freezing it. It might not be quite as nutritious as fresh juice. But, we do know that frozen fruits and vegetables tend to retain nutrients – and in some cases, are even more nutritious than fruits and vegetables that have been sitting in the refrigerator for a few days. Freeze juice in wide-mouth jars

Benefits of juicing

Juicing provides an easy way for you to consume fruits and vegetables you normally would not eat because you don’t like the taste or texture. You can blend bitter vegetables with a little fruit to mask the taste, for example.

And, it is one way to consume a wider variety of fruits and vegetables than you (or your children) might usually eat.

In addition, there is some evidence that certain nutrients, especially those in the carotenoid family, seem to be better absorbed from the juice. Carotenoids are found in carrots, tomatoes, spinach, apricots, melons, peppers, and lots of other brightly-colored fruits and vegetables. This class of nutrients seems to play a big role in preventing cancer.

Berries, cherries, and grapes can’t be juiced in a centrifugal juicer. You’ll need a masticating juicer for those. Or, you can try using a steam juicer instead.

What is blending?

With blending, the whole fruit or vegetable is used – what you put in the blender is what you consume. The volume of the drink, which is often called a smoothie, will be much greater than that of a juice made from the same amount of fruits or vegetables. You can use anything from a standard blender to higher-end products like a Vitamix. I’ve had my Vitamix for about 16 years and it was worth the investment. I use it regularly and it is still going strong.

If you don’t have a juicer, you can use a blender to make juice out of high-water-content fruits and vegetables, but you’ll have to remove the pulp with a strainer (unless you like VERY pulpy juice!). You’ll also need to add some water to make the juice drinkable.

Which is better – juicing or blending?

Both are great ways to get a lot of nutrients into your family’s diet.

But, there are pros and cons to each, which is why doing a bit of both is ideal.

Juice is less filling. Smoothies are more filling and you can add things in that can’t be juiced, like nuts, seeds, oats, and protein powder. Some fruits – like avocados and bananas – can’t be juiced because their water content is too low, so try blending them instead.

You may have heard that juicing removes fiber, so blending is better. And, you may have heard that juicing is better because it makes nutrients easier to absorb.

According to Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, both of those claims may be true, but it probably doesn’t matter much in the scope of things:

“Blending or juicing foods can make certain nutrients more absorbable. It may decrease the effectiveness of some fibers but increase the effectiveness of others. Honestly, I think this falls into the (rather large) category of things that probably aren’t worth worrying about. If you enjoy smoothies or fresh juice, feel free to include them in the rotation. They can be a good source of nutrition.”

You can get the best of both worlds by making your own juice and then adding it to a smoothie made in a blender.

One benefit of adding your fresh juice to smoothies is that you can add protein powder and healthy fat. Juice itself is not a suitable meal replacement because it lacks those macronutrients.

To do this, make a little juice, and then put it in your blender with whole fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients to make a smoothie. This method will save you money, too – one downside of juicing can be the expense of having to buy so much fresh produce. Of course, growing your own can help you save a lot of money, and you’ll always have fresh produce available.

You can put whole leafy greens in a juicer or a blender – they blend well with fruits and other vegetables and their flavor is masked (a benefit for those who find them unpleasant on their own). Lemon and lime juice can help reduce the bitterness of greens and both are very low in sugar.

Juicing will leave you with a lot of leftover pulp. The good news is that you don’t have to toss it out – you can use the pulp for at least 20 different things.

Which fruits and vegetables can be used?

Some fruits and vegetables are better for juicing, some are better for steam juicing, and some are better for blending. And, some are great for all three methods.

Here are some fruits and vegetables that are great for juicing:

  • apples
  • oranges
  • pears
  • pineapple
  • leafy greens (examples: kale, spinach, Swiss chard)
  • cucumber
  • fennel
  • tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • sweet potato
  • cabbage
  • celery (the flavor can be overpowering, so don’t use too much)
  • kohlrabi

Cherries can be tricky to juice because their pits need to be removed first, and it take a lot of cherries to make juice. Steam juicing or blending works best for cherries. You can buy frozen pitted cherries, which can save you all the time that would be involved in removing the pits by other methods.I buy pitted frozen cherries to use in smoothies.

Peaches, apricots, plums, and nectarines also contain pits (also known as stones or kernels) that need to be removed prior to using in juices and smoothies. Removing seeds from apples prior to juicing is a good idea, too.

Wash all produce before juicing or blending. Remove stems, leaves, pits, and seeds.

Here’s how to add flavor and other nutrients to your juices and smoothies.

Experiment with different fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices to see what you like.

My personal favorite juice is orange, apple and carrot with ginger and my favorite smoothie contain juice made with leafy greens blended with frozen berries, half of a banana, almond butter, chia seeds, ground flax, hemp protein powder, and water in my Vitamix.

You can add herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, mint, parsley,

Try adding some of these to smoothies: nuts, nut butter, Greek yogurt (the plain variety with no sugar or sweetener added), protein powder, chia seeds, flax, oats, dark chocolate.

Of course, options are only limited to your imagination – try adding a wide variety of different fruits, vegetables, and add-ins to your juices and smoothies. You’ll get a wide range of nutrients and won’t get bored.

While juicing and blending are good ways to add nutrients to your diet, it is possible to overdo it.

Whichever method you choose (or if you do a bit of both), be mindful of the ingredients you choose, watch your portion sizes, and watch your frequency of consumption. While a great source of nutrients, some juices and smoothies can end up being filled with calories and sugar as well.

Sugar from fruits and vegetables is generally okay, but you can overdo it – especially if you have Type 2 diabetes. A big glass of fresh juice can cause a sudden sharp rise in your blood sugar, which in turn provokes a big release of insulin from the pancreas, which then causes a quick drop in blood sugar. To prevent this from happening, make sure at least 80 percent of your juice comes from vegetables – green leafy veggies are ideal.

Another possible concern regarding juicing is high vitamin K content, as Everyday Health explains:

The high vitamin K content in a spinach-kale smoothie, for example, can be life-threatening if you take blood-thinning medications, like warfarin. Such anticoagulants often are prescribed after a stroke, deep vein thrombosis or other circulatory conditions.

Kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, parsley and mustard greens – green juicers’ favorites – contain up to 550 micrograms of vitamin K per cup, which can lower the drugs’ anti-clotting activity.

If you take anticoagulants,limit your leafy green intake to a half-cup a day, unless your healthcare provider gives you the green light to add more. Big changes in vitamin K intake could lead to a blood clot, and a stroke or death.

If you have kidney problems, be careful with fruit and vegetable juices that contain high amounts of potassium.

Everyday Health elaborates:

Adults need 4,700 mg of potassium daily to keep the heart and muscles working. In healthy people, the kidneys generally excrete the excess.

But that doesn’t happen in people with compromised kidneys: Potassium builds in their blood, raising the risk of a heart attack and stroke, according to the National Kidney Foundation. They should limit their intake of potassium to 1,500 -2,000 mg per day.

If you have kidney disease, consult with your healthcare provider for guidance before adding juice to your diet.

Do you juice or make smoothies? What do you put in yours?

Let us know in the comments!

Be well!

 

Homemade Elderberry Extract and 3 Ways To Use It

Thu, 03/14/2019 - 05:04

Elderberries have long been touted for their amazing health benefits. They are widely used in natural medicines and food. Elderberries are the rich, dark purple fruit of the elderberry shrub and have high levels of antioxidants making them perfect to help support the body through some ailments, such as the common cold.

Many of elderberry’s health benefits can be attributed to anthocyanin, the aforementioned antioxidant. As an antioxidant, anthocyanin works by clearing the body of free radicals that damage cells at the DNA level. It also has antiviral properties that may prevent or reduce the severity of certain common infections making it one of the best cold and flu fighters out there. Elderberry also exerts anti-inflammatory effects which help to reduce swelling and can reduce pain by tempering the body’s immune response.

COMMON COLDS

There have actually been studies helping to support elderberry’s efficacy in the natural treatment of the common cold. A 2016 study from Australia reported that among 312 long-haul airline passengers, those who used elderberry extract 10 days before and five days after their flight had 50 percent fewer sick days from the cold than those who did not. Elderberry, however, did not reduce the risk of catching a cold, it only reduced the severity of symptoms and length of time spent ill from the common viral infection.

PAIN RELIEF

It should stand to reason that because elderberry is an anti-inflammatory, it might also be a helpful natural pain reliever. Although there are few and limited studies showing whether or not elderberry’s anthocyanins actually reduce any pain, or provide any relief, the anthocyanins are, in fact, known to reduce inflammation –  a leading cause of chronic disease. Those antioxidants in elderberry do so by inhibiting the production of nitrous oxide by the body’s immune cells. Nitrous oxide serves as a signaling molecule that triggers inflammation in response to injury or disease. By tempering this response, pain and swelling may also be relieved.

CONSTIPATION

Drinking an elderberry tea could help relieve the discomfort of constipation. This laxative effect is attributed to a compound in elderberry known as anthraquinone, which is also found in rhubarb and senna. Anthraquinone inhibits the absorption of water in the intestines which increased intestinal pressure stimulating muscle contractions to help aid in evacuating the bowels. Although there is little medical literature related to elderberry’s laxative properties, Very Well Health says that it is generally accepted that the effects are mild and safe when used to treat occasional, uncomplicated constipation.

SIDE EFFECTS

Because of elderberry’s laxative properties, there are a few side effects. The overconsumption of elderberries may cause diarrhea, stomach ache, and abdominal cramping thanks to these laxative effects. If elderberry is used for medicine, only ripe or dried berries should be used. It is also important to note that certain parts of the elderberry plant (including the leaves, root, bark, and stems) contain a type of poison known as “cyanogenic glycoside.” Even unripe berries contain trace amounts of this poison, which, if chewed, can release cyanide into the body. Elderberry is not recommended for children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. While no adverse events have been reported in these groups, there is not enough data to confirm that it is safe over the long term. Seek medical attention immediately if you use elderberry and experience any symptoms of poisoning.

Those with autoimmune diseases should also steer clear of elderberry.  Elderberry makes the immune system more active, meaning it can interact with the drugs used to suppress the immune systems of those with an autoimmune disease.

Recipe for Elderberry Extract:
  • 4oz of dried elderberries
  • 1-quart bottle of cheap vodka or brandy
  • 1-quart jar with lid
  1. Each day, shake the jar and during the first week, make sure that the alcohol you’ve chosen still covers the berries. Add more vodka or brandy if necessary.
  2. After 6-8 weeks or longer, remove the berries by straining them through the colander. The extract will remain potent for 1-2 years if kept in a cool dark place.

Note: This is extract, and it will taste like an extract. It needs to be added to other things such as tea, seltzer, or water to make it more palatable. It still has all the wonderful properties, maybe even more so than the syrup recipe, however. Serving 20 drops for adults and 10 drops for kids once a day for prevention and 3 or 4 times per day if one is sick with the flu or cold.

There are a few other ways an elderberry extract can be used as well.

  1. Throat Lozenges (cough drops) – A great recipe can be found here, at Tasty Ever After.
  2. Added to an immune boosting tea for immune boosting properties:

Immune Support Loose Tea Blend for Cold and Flu Season (4oz)

  1. Add to warm or sparkling water for a health tonic.

WebMD suggests that elderberry is possibly safe to take for up to 12 weeks but it isn’t known what the long term side effects could be. As with any medicine, natural or otherwise, it’s better to err on the safe side, especially until you know what your body is capable of handling.  Don’t hesitate to speak to a healthcare provider if you feel the need to do so. Take the time to research and note the possible side effects so that you are well prepared in advance.

*This article is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to treat, cure, or diagnose any medical or health condition.  Please seek help from a medical professional if you have any questions or concerns.

 

Natural Remedies You Can Use To Help with Workouts

Tue, 03/12/2019 - 06:39

We have covered articles in the past that detail the use of Nervines regarding herbal and naturopathic foods. To review, Nervines are substances that affect (either in a stimulatory or a calming perspective) the nervous system of the human body (Examples of this are Chamomile, Peppermint, and Valerian).  What about training?

Well, while you’re exercising, you can utilize herbal nervines that are excitatory or stimulatory. This is to effect an increase in circulating blood volume, concentration, and also to “fire up” the neurosynaptic nerve junctions so crucial to the interactions of neuromuscular functions.

Seriously, herbs such as Guarana and substances such as coffee (the caffeine) can have very positive effects on stimulating the circulation. Things to gauge are also the time of the day (morning, afternoon, or evening) you will exercise, and what you have eaten before the workout. A cup of coffee (depending on the type and the strength) averages anywhere from 100 to 165 mg of caffeine, with a max daily limit, advised of 400 mg. Now I’m here to tell you (and you guys and gals know how much I love coffee), this “ceiling” leaves some “wiggle room,” as caffeine is something your system builds up a tolerance to…with diuretic effects declining after you’ve been drinking it over a period of time.

Be advised: caffeine will have “synergistic effects” with other stimulatory herbs and foods.  This means that combining it with other stimulatory substances will potentiate (add to or increase) its own effects. Guarana is taken to increase athletic performance, to increase cognition and energy, and for the libido. Guarana is a plant from South America whose seeds contain caffeine. It stimulates the CNS (Central Nervous System), and the heart, and contains both theobromine and theophylline, that mimic the effect of caffeine. It is very “powerful,” and must be used wisely in order to prevent taking in too much.

Taurine is an organic compound that can help the neurotransmitter system of the human body. It directly crosses the BBB (Blood-Brain Barrier) and is essential for cardiovascular and muscular function and development. It also keeps Magnesium and Potassium inside of cells and keeps Sodium out. A normal supplementation of this is safe at a dosage of 3 grams (g) per day.

These are supplements you can use prior to the workout, and then afterward. Calmative nervines, such as your herbal teas (Chamomile, Catnip, Peppermint, and Valerian are all relaxing herbs that can help you in your recovery time. Peppermint is very high in potassium, helps relax muscles, and is a crucial electrolyte that we utilize when conducting physical exercise or athletic activities. Please also refer to the article that I wrote on recovery post-workout, and you can utilize these tisanes (teas, if you wish) to help in that recovery process.

To summarize, there is no “quick fix” for your physical conditioning, but proper diet, exercise, and recovery will give you the start on the path toward wellness. Herbal supplements and nutritional aids such as those mentioned are “starters” for your consideration both pre and post workout and to help you recover, as well as maintain what you have.  Stay in that good fight!  JJ out!

 

 

11 (More) Weight Loss Myths That Are Keeping You Overweight

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 06:10

Article originally published on All About Habits

Chances are, you believe many things about weight loss that simply aren’t true.

It isn’t your fault: there’s a lot of terrible information out there.

Some advice is outdated, some is overly complicated, and some is just downright outrageous (tapeworm diets, balloons that inflate in your stomach to make you feel full, and the “cotton ball diet” are just a few examples – yes, those are all actual “diet plans” – and are really dangerous!).

In a previous article, I covered 15 Weight Loss Myths That Are Keeping You Overweight.

Here are 11 more.

Myth: Diet pills can help you lose weight.

Truth: Maybe trying the next “miracle” weight loss pill or potion will help you lose a little bit of weight, but at what cost? The weight loss is usually minimal and temporary, and most diet pills carry significant health risks. Dr. Melinda Manore of Oregon State University conducted a research review of a couple hundred studies investigating hundreds of weight-loss supplements in 2012. She found no evidence that using any product results in significant weight loss – and found that many may actually be dangerous. Manore explained her findings to Breaking Muscle:

“For most people, unless you alter your diet and get daily exercise, no supplement is going to have a big impact. I don’t know how you eliminate exercise from the equation. The data is very strong that exercise is crucial to not only losing weight and preserving muscle mass, but keeping the weight off.”

“What people want is to lose weight and maintain or increase lean tissue mass,” Manore said. “There is no evidence that any one supplement does this. And some have side effects ranging from the unpleasant, such as bloating and gas, to very serious issues such as strokes and heart problems.”

For more on why diet pills are usually a bad idea, give this no-nonsense report a read: No Gimmicks: Why Diet Pills Don’t Work.

What DOES work? Mostly, eating healthfully – and tracking your calorie and/or macronutrient intake. For details on how to do that, see 15 Weight Loss Myths That Are Keeping You Overweight.

Also, consistency. Choose a goal (like eating more protein, or drinking less soda), make it a regular habit, and move on to the next goal…that is the way to make lasting changes.

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Myth: Eating fat makes you fat.

Truth: By now, you likely know that low-fat diets are not ideal for most people. The low-fat trend that (unfortunately) lasted decades has really come back to haunt us. The truth is – we need some fat in our diets, as I explained in detail in an article appropriately named…You NEED Fat in Your Diet – Here’s Why:

1) Absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K: These vitamins are fat-soluble, which means that the body needs dietary fat to absorb them.

2) Omega-3s and omega-6s play roles in mood and behavior. They are the precursor to many hormones and chemicals produced in the brain.

3) Brain health. Your brain uses fat to make cell membranes and the protective myelin sheath that insulates your neurons.

4) Trans fats are pretty bad for your cardiovascular system, but monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats prevent heart attack and stroke. Good sources of monounsaturated fats are avocados, olives, almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanut butter, and olive and sesame oils.

5) Not all saturated fats are bad for you. One beneficial (and super yummy) saturated fat is coconut oil, which has scientifically demonstrated health benefits, including healthy support for your heart and brain, skin, immune system, and thyroid. In fact, coconut oil has some very special properties, in addition to being a source of healthful fat.

6) Fat is filling and provides a pleasant texture to food. Remember when I mentioned low-fat and no-fat cookies that taste like cardboard? Take the fat out, and that’s what you get. Have you ever noticed that when you eat a high-carb, low-fat meal, you are hungry an hour later? It is hard to overeat on a moderate fat, high-protein, low-carb diet.

All that being said – a word of caution: You CAN eat too much fat. If you consistently consume more calories than your body uses – even when those calories are from fat – you will likely have trouble with weight loss…and may even gain weight. And, to date, there haven’t been any long-term studies conducted on the use of high-fat diets for weight loss. Perhaps it is better to err on the side of caution and aim for moderation.

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Myth: Eating carbohydrates will make you fat.

Truth: Sweet potatoes, bananas, oranges, berries, oats, apples, beans, quinoa, and chickpeas are all high in carbohydrates. Do you think eating these foods will make you gain weight if they are consumed as part of an overall healthful diet?

While it is true that your body can run just fine on a low-carb diet (and even on a very low carb diet) you don’t NEED to drastically restrict carbs to lose weight. In fact, strictly reducing carbs can cause you to become deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. And, for some people, grouchiness, fatigue, and constipation are unwelcome side effects of going very low-carb.

However…low-carb (25 to 150 grams of carbs per day) and ketogenic (50 grams or less per day) diets can be beneficial for people with certain brain disorders, including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. Some people use them to help manage conditions like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. And, they do often produce rapid weight loss…for a little while, at least.

The results of a large (year-long, 600+ participants) randomized clinical trial that compared low fat vs low carb diets for weight loss were published earlier this year. Here’s a summary of the findings, from Examine.com:

No significant weight-loss differences were seen between the low-fat and low-carb groups, and neither genetics nor insulin production could predict weight-loss success on either diet. There were also no significant differences between groups for most other health markers tested.

The results of this study contribute to a large body of evidence indicating that, for weight loss, neither low-fat nor low-carb is superior (as long as there’s no difference in caloric intake or protein intake).

What does this mean for you? Well – what works best FOR YOU? What is sustainable FOR YOU?

The answers to those questions are what matters. I personally go a bit batty and get really bored if I restrict carbs too much. But you may feel satisfied on a low-carb diet. Figure out what works for you, and be consistent about it.

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Myth: If your weight loss progress slows, you need to eat less.

Truth: The answer to this is quite complicated.

First, be honest with yourself:  Have you been sticking to your eating plan? Or is it possible that treats here and there are sneaking up on you? A cookie here, some French fries there…the rest of your child’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich…all those things add up. Are you tracking your food intake? If so, be sure to include every bite and every sip – it all counts.

If you are not wildly going off plan, there are some possible causes of stalled weight loss.

As you lose weight, your energy needs (calories) may decrease, depending on how physically active you are. Metabolism is complex, and many factors influence weight loss, including your age, genetics, your body fat level, certain medications you may be taking, your gut health, hormonal imbalances, and other things that are beyond the scope of this article.

Are you super stressed? Elevated levels of cortisol – a stress hormone – can interfere with weight loss.

If you’d like to learn more about metabolism and how it is impacted by weight loss, here’s a great report to check out: Can eating too little actually damage your metabolism?

Are you only tracking your progress by weighing yourself? The scale isn’t the best measure of success, because it only tells you your overall body weight – and there are many components involved there. Your body is composed of two kinds of mass – lean mass (bone, water, muscle, and tissues) and fat mass (the squishy stuff). If you are exercising regularly (weight training, especially), it is possible you are losing fat, but gaining a bit of lean mass. This means the scale won’t reflect much change. For a more in-depth explanation on this (and better ways to track progress), please see Why You Should Ditch Your Scale.

If you think you are consistently doing everything right, but your weight loss isn’t progressing as you’d like, it may be time to consider hiring a coach (like me) to guide you.

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Myth: You can spot reduce and lose fat from certain areas by doing specific exercises.

Truth: You can do sit-ups til the cows come home, but they won’t do you a bit of good unless your diet is right – abs are made in the kitchen!

Fat distribution varies per individual. Some of us carry more fat in our abdominal areas, for example, and some of us carry more in our hips and thighs (thanks a lot, genetics!).

Yale Scientific explains why “spot reduction” doesn’t work:

It turns out that there are a few basic physiological reasons why targeted fat loss does not work. The fat contained in fat cells exists in a form known as triglycerides. Muscle cells, however, cannot directly use triglycerides as fuel; it would be analogous to trying to run a car on crude oil. Instead, the fat must be broken down into glycerol and free fatty acids, which then enter the bloodstream. As a result, the fat broken down to be used as fuel during prolonged exercise can come from anywhere in your body, not just the part that is being worked the most.

Weight training can help you dramatically change the shape of your body. Muscle weight is a good weight to have because it helps you look firmer and more fit. It’s also more metabolically active, so having more muscle can boost your metabolism and help you stay lean.

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Myth: Weight loss diets are boring, I’m always going to be hungry, and I’m going to suffer the entire time.

Truth: If you are miserable and feel deprived when you are trying to lose weight, you are doing things wrong. Very wrong. There’s no reason at all to feel that way! Surely there are healthful foods you enjoy. Make a list of them. Get creative. Visit sites like Pinterest and collect recipes that appeal to you. Variety is the spice of life, right? Play around with seasonings. Make colorful salads with fun toppings like almonds, seeds, and dried fruit. Commit to trying a new vegetable every week.

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Myth: I can eat what I want – even sugary, low-nutrient foods – as long as I do it in moderation.

Truth: This is a controversial topic. While many would argue that totally eliminating certain foods is a bad idea, I’m not so sure. Are there treats that you are prone to binging on? I know I can’t keep chocolate around – especially salted caramels – because I’ll inhale the entire bag in a few days. If a food is a trigger for you, it might be best to avoid it. Also, some foods DO have more nutritive value than others. That’s a fact, whether we like it or not. Fill your diet with a variety of flavorful, nutrient-packed foods and chances are, over time, your cravings for the other stuff will diminish.

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Myth: If I cut gluten out of my diet, I will lose weight.

Truth: Going gluten-free does NOT guarantee weight loss – in fact, it wouldn’t be hard to GAIN weight while following a gluten-free diet if you consume gluten-free junk foods like cookies, cakes, crackers, and bread. No substitutions for gluten-containing products are necessary, as those foods are usually highly processed anyway. Beware of the “gluten-free” labels that are popping up on products all over stores – many of those products are junk foods, loaded with sugar and other things you don’t need in your diet. For more on gluten and possible reasons to avoid it, please see Everything You Need to Know About Gluten.

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Myth: Drinking diet soda is fine and will make weight loss easier.

Truth: Diet sodas have actually been shown to increase cravings and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Some studies have shown a possible link between diet soda consumption and weight gain. There are several possible reasons, as I explained in Do You Need a Reason to Stop Drinking Soda? Here It Is.

Regular sugar triggers satiety (a sense of fullness or satisfaction), but artificial sweeteners do not – they confuse our bodies and weaken the link in our brains between sweetness and calories, which can lead to weight gain and cravings for sweeter and sweeter treats.

And, it is possible that yet another mechanism is involved. One study showed that artificial sweeteners actually changed the gut bacteria of mice in ways that made them vulnerable to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance – both of which can lead to weight gain. And other research suggests that artificial sweeteners are associated with a drop in the appetite-regulating hormone leptin, which is a hormone that inhibits hunger.

Other studies have also linked the consumption of artificial sweeteners to diabetes and gut microbe balance.

If you have a soda or sugary drink habit (regular, or diet/reduced calorie) and want to kick it, you’ll find tips and tricks to make the process much easier here: Think Sugary Drinks Are Safe If You Are Not Obese? Think Again.

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Myth: Losing weight is hard and I’m too stressed out to deal with it right now. I’ll do it later, when I’m ready.

Truth: Hmm, is it possible that your desire to lose weight and improve your health is one of the things that is causing you stress? There is never going to be a “right time” to get started. How many times have you told yourself you’ll wait to start a plan until ___ or ___ happens?

Just do it. Start now. Three months from now, where you will you be? Still waiting for “the right time”? Or… 15-30 pounds lighter, more energetic, and much happier than you are now?

One day…or, day one? It’s up to you.

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Myth: Being too ambitious is detrimental – you will become frustrated and give up.

Truth: There is nothing wrong with setting high goals for yourself. But, be realistic about the time and effort it will take to achieve them. Losing body fat isn’t necessarily difficult – it just requires consistency. That’s what trips a lot of people up. We tend to be all-or-nothing beings. One slip-up, and we give up…instead of immediately getting back on track. Focus on the things you are doing right and the “non-scale victories” – all the positive changes you have made so far that have nothing to do with what you weigh. Are you eating more veggies? Drinking more water? Sleeping better? Is your energy level increasing?

For a lot more on setting goals and changing habits, see Five Powerful Ways to Change Your Thoughts and Habits and Reach Your Goals and Stoicism: How This Ancient Philosophy Can Empower You to Improve Your Health and Your Life.

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Read more:  15 Weight Loss Myths That Are Keeping You Overweight

Want to hire me to help you lose weight? Here’s where to get info on what I offer: Nutrition and Weight Loss Coaching

Or, buy my e-book: The Secrets of Weight Loss

 

Article originally published on All About Habits

A Few Tips To Grow A Juicy Crop Of Cantaloupe Melons From Seed

Sat, 03/09/2019 - 06:08

A bite of sweet cantaloupe is a summer treat!  The delicious melon is full of vitamin A and antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin. That means it can help with protection against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. So why not try growing some of this delicious and popular melon in your garden?

*Did you know that the commonly known “cantaloupe” is not really a cantaloupe? The melon that’s most widely recognized as cantaloupe in the United States is actually a “reticulated muskmelon.” This North American muskmelon is distinguished by its netted skin and strong scent. Its European counterpart, which is the true cantaloupe, has ribbed pale green skin and looks very different from our cantaloupe.  But, for all intents and purposes, we’ll still refer to the reticulated muskmelon as cantaloupe in this article because that’s what we know it as!

There are a few things to take note of before you begin:

  • Growing the vines in raised rows, known as hills, ensures good drainage and will hold the sun’s heat longer.
  • If you are in a cooler zone, start seeds indoors about a month before transplanting. Cantaloupe vines are very tender and should not be transplanted until all danger of frost has passed.
  • If you live in warmer climes, you can direct sow seeds outdoors, but wait until the soil temperature warms to at least 65 degrees to avoid poor germination.
  • If you have limited space, cantaloupe vines can be trained to a support, such as a trellis.
  • While melon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Water in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves. Reduce watering once the fruit begins growing. Also, dry weather produces the sweetest flavored melon! If you’ve had an exceptional amount of rainfall during the ripening stage, this could cause bland fruit.

PLANTING

  • Amend soil with aged manure or compost before planting. Cantaloupe likes loamy, well-drained soil.  Add a lot of compost to the area before and after planting either seeds or transplants.
  • Plant your seeds one inch deep, 18 inches apart, in hills about 3 feet apart. Handle the plants gently when you transplant.
  • Fertilize when vines start growing.
  • Employ row covers in order to keep pests at bay.
  • Mulching with black plastic will also help serve multiple purposes: it will warm the soil, hinder weed growth, and keep any of the developing fruits clean.
  • Once the fruit begins to grow, prune end buds off of the vines. Your plants may produce fewer melons, but they will be larger and of better quality.
  • Vines will produce both male and female flowers separately on the same plant. They often begin producing male flowers several weeks before the female flowers appear. Don’t be discouraged when the first blooms do not produce fruit!

HELPFUL HINT: Cantaloupe blossoms require pollination to set fruit, so be kind to any bees!

TROUBLESHOOTING

Fusarium Wilt: Fusarium wilt is a common vascular wilt fungal disease. It is a soil-borne pathogen that enters the plant through the roots and will inhibit the water-conducting vessels of the plant. Mycostop is a biological fungicide that will safely protect crops against wilt caused by the Fusarium fungus. Approved for use in organic crop production, it can be applied as a soil spray or drench (1-2 gm/ 100 sq ft) to seedlings, ornamentals, and vegetables. Apply sufficient water during application to move Mycostop into the root zone.

Aphids: Aphids are tiny (adults are under ¼-inch), and often nearly invisible to the naked eye. Look for misshapen, curling, stunted, or yellowing leaves. Be sure to check the undersides of leaves; aphids love to hide there. If the leaves or stems are covered with a sticky substance, that is a sign that aphids may have been sipping sap.  Buy some ladybugs to help cure the aphid problem.  They are a natural predator to the destructive aphid. You can also try spraying cold water on the leaves of the plants.

Cucumber Beetles: If you find that the stems of your seedlings are being eaten off, leaves are yellowing and wilting, and holes are appearing, you may have a striped or spotted cucumber beetle problem. Cucumber beetles can also carry bacterial diseases and viruses from plant to plant, such as bacterial wilt and mosaic virus.

HARVEST & STORAGE

  • When the rinds begin to change from green to tan or yellow, the melon is probably ripe, but be careful not to pick too early. Another sign of ripeness is a crack in the stem where the melon attaches to the fruit. The fruit should be easy to separate from the vine. If they fall off by themselves they are usually overripe. The vine will naturally slip from the fruit when it’s harvest time. You may also notice that the skin will turn creamy-beige under the “netted” pattern on the melon.
  • Harvest your melons when the vines are dry and be careful not to damage them. They will soften after harvesting, but will not continue to sweeten off the vine.
  • Cantaloupe can be stored uncut for 5 or 6 days. If cut, they can last in the refrigerator for about 3 days, wrapped tightly in plastic.

Fun Fact: Christopher Columbus brought some muskmelon (cantaloupe) seeds on his voyage to the Americas, spreading cantaloupe cultivation to our side of the pond.  A medium-sized melon also only has 100 calories, so eating them is “waist-friendly.” Try Hales Best Cantaloupe! It produces the sweetest, most fragrant and juiciest melons you’ll ever have the pleasure of tasting. These award-winning cantaloupes average between three and five pounds each when fully ripened. Now that’s a seriously jumbo cantaloupe melon!

Hales Best Cantaloupe

 

 

 

Homemade Slippery Elm Cough Elixir

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 06:48

Coughs, colds, sore throat, congestion, runny noses. Lately, it seems you can’t go anywhere without running into someone who isn’t feeling well. To boost my family’s immune system, we have a few natural remedy staples that we try to have on hand to boost the immune system and soothe those uncomfortable symptoms.

Made from all natural ingredients, slippery elm cough elixir is easy to make, tastes good, and gets to the heart of a sore throat or cough. Slippery Elm bark was a natural remedy used by Native American mainly because of its many treatment uses. It’s moistening properties reduce inflammation, help with congestion, and coat the throat to help with dry coughs. In addition, it settles acidity and treats inflammation in the bladder, colon, kidneys, lungs, and stomach.

This soothing cough elixir is sweet and natural homemade goodness that heals and quiets that pesky cough.

Health Benefits

Slippery Elm root This herb is a demulcent that coats and protects an irritated throat, as well as, reduces coughing and congestion. A  study which examined slippery elm bark’s use in people with laryngitis or throat inflammation and voice problems has also shown potential soothing effects.

Marshmallow root soothes dry coughs by coating the throat. Further, it soothes mucous membranes of the respiratory tracts. The high mucilaginous content of marshmallow root may make it a useful remedy for treating coughs and colds. A small study from 2005 found that an herbal cough syrup containing marshmallow root was effective in relieving coughs due to colds, bronchitis, or respiratory tract diseases with the formation of mucus. Source

Cinnamon, ginger, and orange are the perfect warming spice combination. When combined together, these possess potent natural medicinal properties. As well, all are immune-boosting, antimicrobial, and are extremely high in antioxidants. Cinnamon adds a “sweet and spicy” flavor and is also a highly effective antiviral for fighting infection. Ginger helps to increase circulation which is helpful in healing but also warms a chilled body. Ginger is also a potent diaphoretic, meaning it helps us to sweat, which helps speed recovery. Orange slices are a good source of vitamin C and provides a level of flavor.

Honey is a time-honored remedy used for thousands of years to treat a host of ailments including help soothe sore throats and used as an effective cough suppressant. The darker the honey, the better for you. Try buckwheat honey in this cough elixir, if you have it. Buckwheat honey is a darker variety with more antioxidant properties than lighter honey. Researchers from Ethiopa’s College of Medicine at the University of Gondar have determined that a combination of honey and ginger extract powder will inhibit the growth of superbugs such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae  – some of the most lethal ‘superbugs’ known.

Slippery Elm Cough Elixir Recipe
  • 3 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons slippery elm bark
  • 1 tablespoon marshmallow root
  • 2 tablespoons ginger root
  • 1/2 organic orange – sliced
  • 2-3 inch piece cinnamon bark
  • 1/2 cup local honey
  • *1/3 cup elderberry for added immune boosting properties
  1. Combine all dry herbal ingredients to the water and heat over medium heat (excluding orange slices and honey)
  2. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half.
  3. Remove the mixture from heat and allow to thoroughly cool.
  4. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain liquid into a wide-mouth jar before stirring in honey.
  5. Pack with orange slices and store in the fridge for up to one month.

* A dose is 2 teaspoons up to 4 times a day.

Alternatively, if you want to make a tea made from slippery elm bark, pour 2 cups of boiling water over roughly 2 tablespoons of the powder and steep for a few minutes to help ease cough and sore throat.

Feel Better!

 

Try our other medicinal recipes:

Honey, Lemon, Ginger Syrup for boosting the immune system

Horehound Cough Drops a natural remedy to soothe a cough and boost the immune system

Elderberry Elixir is the ultimate flu-fighter

 

How the Right Music Enhances Your Workouts

Tue, 03/05/2019 - 06:27

Music is a great tool to be able to work out, to “move steel,” “pump iron,” or push yourself.  Music has a physiological effect that you need to know about. When you listen to music that is pleasing to your ears, it stimulates the production of Dopamine, the “feel good/good mood” chemical. Outside of the nervous system, it inhibits the release of norepinephrine and acts as a vasodilator. Norepinephrine prepares the brain and body to perform a task and to act, especially during times of stress or danger…tied to the “fight-or-flight” response. Now, vasodilatory action of Dopamine simply means that the blood vessels are dilated, or enlarged…and this increases blood flow…therefore increasing rate of oxygenation to your tissues.

Yeah. Music does this, and more: it also “synchronizes” the brain within the rhythm, and helps you to perform repetitive motions (such as push-ups, or sets of bench presses) with more fluidity, increased smoothness. Age is not a factor regarding the positive effects here: younger athletes or older people who exercise derive benefit from the factors just mentioned.

Music playlists are often used with tempo and pace coordinations that are synchronized in both research facilities and medical therapies administered to patients with varying degrees of condition and different age groups. The physical activity time limit is generally increased by about 37 minutes per day. Cyclists and runners are prime candidates for such increases in performance generated by this synchronicity in rhythm. Although I have not tried it personally with running or cycling, I have done it with long walks or marches with the rucksack and it does help take your mind off of the task at hand and make it more fluid.

Faster paced music helps to motivate a person to work out longer and at a higher intensity: it distracts you from tiring or wanting to quit early. That pace is within reason, and also to the taste of the individual. Obviously, Benny Goodman may be considered “fast-paced” to someone 75 years of age, whereas a 20-year-old could not stand it. Watch out for your volume, though: you should listen to headphones at the 80 for 90 rule…meaning at 80% of the maximum level for no more than 90 minutes a day, so as not to either overdo it on the ears or injure them. It usually requires about 16 to 18 hours to recover from any short-term ear “overloads” you may sustain.

50 to 60% is just as effective, and probably easier on the ears. Also, try and remember to keep those workouts to about an hour, unless you’re breaking it into (2) workouts per day. There are a lot of positive effects on coordinating your activities and synchronizing with music that you listen to simultaneously. It helps you to control cardiac activity and to “pace” yourself, falling into a rhythm.

I listen to some really hard stuff that gets the blood moving while I’m moving the steel. It provides a big psychological “edge,” as you immerse yourself in the tunes and concentrate on the rhythm of your lifting…the breathing and repetitions. After the workout is over, I like to listen to soft, relaxing music that will help me in the “cool-down” period to slow down my breathing and heart rates…light classical as well as some sounds of nature CDs that are very calming. These are very beneficial to recovery, as the recovery process begins the minute you’re done. All of this after throwing down a shake, mind you and then giving yourself 15 to 30 minutes to unwind, depending on your time constraints.

I’d like to hear from all of you about what music helps you to carry out whatever type of exercise regimen you follow after. To summarize, you have to find the best mix of whatever it is that stimulates you to get through your workout program, and then to “cool down” and begin recovery and relaxation. Music is very beneficial as a tool to help you accomplish these things more effectively and certainly inexpensively…as you work toward physical fitness and good health.  JJ out!

 

Stoicism: How This Ancient Philosophy Can Empower You to Improve Your Health and Your Life

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 07:07

This article originally posted on All About Habits

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive– to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

There is an ancient philosophy that can help you find the strength and stamina to gracefully handle the challenges of everyday life, improve your health, and experience true happiness.

This philosophy is called Stoicism. It is an eudaimonic philosophy. Eudaimonia is a term that means a life worth living, often translated as “happiness” in the broad sense, or more appropriately, flourishing.

I’ve only recently started learning about Stoicism. I wish I’d known about it years ago. In the short period of time I’ve been studying it and applying its teachings, I’ve made significant positive changes in my life…changes in the way I think, in the way I handle setbacks and obstacles, and in the way I manage stress and anxiety.

My study of the philosophy began when I came across this quote somewhere on the Internet:

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way. – Marcus Aurelius

How profound.

Recognizing the obstacles before you, assessing them, and preparing to overcome them…well, there’s power in that.

Every challenge we overcome makes meeting the next one with grace and determination easier because our self-confidence is strengthened.

Here is the full quote from Marcus Aurelius:

Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Epictetus wrote,

In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.

Stoicism teaches us to embrace problems, accept them, prepare to challenge them, and take action to overcome them.

***

You might be wondering what Stoicism has to do with nutrition or health or weight loss and why you are reading about it here.

The answer is…it has everything to do with those things. 

Consider this passage from professor William B. Irvine’s article entitled The Stoic Two-Step Program for Better Living:

People who lack a philosophy for living will, after all, make very little progress in life. One day they will try to achieve one goal, and the next they will abandon it in favor of some other goal. They will be like a ship captain who randomly changes his course every hour. He is unlikely ever to reach land. He will instead spend his life literally at sea, which is the metaphorical fate of anyone who tries to go through life without a philosophy for living.

This is why it is important for you, whatever your age and your station in life may be, to spend time and energy choosing a philosophy for living — and to spend that time now, so that you can benefit from your philosophy in the days of life remaining to you. Wouldn’t it be tragic if, on your deathbed, you finally figured out the point to living?

***

Now, let’s explore Stoicism a bit more.

We will begin with an overview from Philosophy Basics.

Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy (developed by Zeno of Citium around 300 B.C.) which teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions.

It does not seek to extinguish emotions completely, but rather seeks to transform them by a resolute Asceticism (a voluntary abstinence from worldly pleasures), which enables a person to develop clear judgment, inner calm, and freedom from suffering (which it considers the ultimate goal).

Stoicism is not just a set of beliefs or ethical claims, but rather a way of life, involving constant practice and training, and incorporating the practice of logic, Socratic dialogue and self-dialogue, contemplation of death, and a kind of meditation aimed at training one’s attention to remain in the present moment.

Please do not confuse Stoicism with stoicism (in the common sense of the word). Stoics do not seek to be unaffected by emotions, as philosophy professor Dr. Massimo Pigliucci explains:

…the Stoics do not seek to be impervious to emotions. Rather, they work toward improving their judgments about externals, in order to re-align their emotional spectrum, de-emphasizing unhealthy emotions and nurturing and developing healthy ones.

In this video, Dr. Pigliucci provides an entertaining overview of Stoicism.

 Stoicism is a vibrant, action-oriented, paradigm-shifting way of living. It is an ideal philosophy for those seeking the Good Life.

Living life mindfully and deliberately.

Being clear about our intentions, thoughtful in our choices, simple in our desires and content in our days.

Resisting the expectation of being comfortable all the time…

…those are some of the goals of Stoics.

Can you accept forgoing pleasure to a certain point in order to avoid feeling entitled to it all the time? How can you embrace cultivating mental strength and physical resilience?

“Food is the best test of self-control and temperance because it’s presented to us every single day and in the modern world at any hour of the day,” writes Philip Ghezelbash in The Philosophy Of Stoicism: Five Lessons from Seneca, Musonius Rufus, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Zeno of Citium:

Musonius Rufus was a Roman Stoic philosopher who in his two part discourse on food said:

“That God who made man provided him food and drink for the sake of preserving his life and not for giving him pleasure, one can see very well from this: when food is performing its real function, it does not produce pleasure for man, that is in the process of digestion and assimilation.”

Although the pleasure of food is experienced on the tongue, it’s clear that the purpose of food is revealed when it assimilates with the body through digestion.

The lesson here is similar to what Socrates once said which is that we should eat to live rather than live to eat.

Because anxiety and fear can significantly influence our eating habits and weight loss, let’s explore how Stoicism can help us improve our mental outlook.

In the article Stoicism, the Original Cognitive Therapy, Jules Evans explains how Stoicism helped him overcome anxiety and panic attacks:

But what finally helped me return to health and happiness was not a lifetime of anti-depressants or expensive treatments, but a 2,000-year-old philosophy called Stoicism, which forms the basis of cognitive behavioural theory today.

This philosophy first emerged around 350 BC in Athens where the Stoic philosophers would teach (among the Stoa, or colonnades of the marketplace). Their immensely practical teachings aimed to cure the soul of emotional suffering. When we think of being stoic today, we think of stiff upper lips and emotional avoidance, but the philosophical truth is different.

Stoicism is about learning to understand and control our emotions, rather than simply stifling them. It is about learning to feel in control again, when our negative emotions seem to overpower us.

Dr. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joywrites that CBT is the branch of psychology that is most in tune with the advice on living given by the ancient Stoics.

He explains how psychologist Albert Ellis, a pioneer in CBT, used it to overcome his fear of women:

He conquered this fear by giving himself the assignment of hanging out at the Bronx Botanical Garden and introducing himself to a hundred of the women he encountered there. No lasting relationship resulted from this experience, but he overcame his fear of talking to women. He taught himself that being rebuffed by a woman isn’t the end of the world.

That approach can help people overcome other fears. Dr. Irvine provides an example:

A fear of public speaking can be overcome with a similar strategy. You start out by offering a few words before a small and friendly group. Thus emboldened, you move on to bigger audiences. Then the day comes when, as you are speaking before a large and important audience, you realize, much to your amazement, that you are not afraid! (This, at any rate, was my experience.)

He adds:

In some cases, we fear something because we fear for our health or life. In other cases, what we fear is failure. It is a fear that many people are haunted by, and it is a fear that can severely limit their ability to succeed in life.

People often make the mistake of thinking that successful individuals owe their success to their ability to avoid failure, when in fact the opposite is usually the case: successful people succeed because they do not fear failure and therefore can embrace it. In other words, it is their tolerance for failure that enables them to succeed.

***

If your endeavors never fail, it could be because you are very good at what you do. It is much more likely, though, that the reason for your “success” is that you are afraid to fail and are therefore systematically avoiding doing difficult things.

Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of missing out, emotional eating, lack of self-control…these things can be resolved (or at least, reduced) with the consistent practice of Stoic philosophy.

Stoicism provides far more than “life hacks” because it is a coherent philosophy for living, Irvine says:

Rather than spending their time thinking about how to improve aspects of their life, the Stoics were interested in figuring out how to improve their life itself. To this end, they came up with the following two-step program:

Step #1: Figure out what in life is worth having.

Step #2: Devise an effective strategy for attaining that thing.

“The Stoics concluded that tranquility (by which they mean the absence of negative emotions; they have nothing against positive emotions such as joy) is the thing in life most worth having,” Irvine writes. “Stoics recommend, for example, that we practice negative visualization: we should allow ourselves to have flickering thoughts about how our life could be worse.”

Negative visualization sounds like, well…a negative thing to do, but it is actually an intellectual exercise, as NJlifehacks explains:

Negative visualization is a thought exercise. We imagine bad things to happen so that we’ll be better prepared for them when they actually occur. It’s important to remember that for the Stoics external misfortunes were not actually negative but indifferent. And only their reaction to the events could be good or bad. They trained themselves mentally to be able to respond well when adversity hit them. Thinking about negative scenarios does not make you pessimistic, but rather optimistic. You will appreciate the things you have much more when regularly imagine bad things to happen.

***

If you would like to learn more about Stoicism, I highly recommend the website Daily Stoic, and the accompanying book, The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living.

For various exercises that you can do to develop a Stoic outlook on life, please check out 10 Insanely Useful Stoic Exercises by Emanuele Faja. All of these exercises have been around for thousands of years and the reason that they are still applicable today is that they are grounded in common experience and in common sense. In other words, they work.

And, for more on how to use Stoic principles to improve your life, please see Five Powerful Ways to Change Your Thoughts and Habits and Reach Your Goals.

***

I’ll leave you with a compilation of quotes from Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca.

Quotes from Epictetus

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ”

“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.”

“First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do.”

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”

“Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.”

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the views, they take of them.”

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. ”

“The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. ”

“Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer. Put your principles into practice – now. Stop the excuses and procrastination. This is your life! You aren’t a child anymore. The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be. The longer you wait, the more you’ll be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better. From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.”

Quotes from Marcus Aurelius

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.”

Quotes from Seneca

“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.”

“It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.”

“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”

“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”

“He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.”

“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.”

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

“We are more often frightened than hurt, and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”

“To wish to be well is a part of becoming well.”

***

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Read more articles at All About Habits 

A Gardening Guide For Growing Hulless Oats

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 07:07

Hulless oats are whole oats grown without the exterior hull, which means they require less processing after harvest and can be rolled or ground into flour.  They also provide a quick and healthy breakfast.  In our ongoing quest to become more self-sustaining, why we’ve put together this “seed to table” growing guide so you can try to grow your own hulless oats.

Regular oats have a hard shell that is rather difficult to remove. Unless you have a mechanical way of removing this hard shell, you are better off growing some hulless oats (also dubbed “naked oats”) because they have a paper skin rather than a shell that is incredibly easy to remove. Hulless oats are also low in cholesterol and full of iron and fiber, this superfood provides 9 grams of protein per serving. Hulless oats are also a very good source of manganese, selenium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.

Helpful tip: Though oats and other small grains are definitely suitable for the home gardeners, you will need to have more space for them than you do for other fruits or vegetables. That doesn’t mean that you need acres to dedicate to your oats in order to get a useful crop.

PLANTING

  • Oats should be planted as early in the spring as you can get them out. Plant in early spring for grain, or in early fall to produce a heavy mulch right where the plants grew.
  • As winter frosts kill the plants, and rain or snow knocks them down, producing a thick mulch all ready to be planted into in spring.
  • To help reduce the weed levels in your field, you should try to do a cultivation in the fall, to bring up any seeds to the surface for the winter cold to kill. Dig again in the spring closer to when you’re going to do your planting.
  • You should plant your oats in a sunny location where it will be easy to access water for them. Oats need more water than most other grains, and you will probably have to water them if there are too many days between rainstorms. Although they like moisture, oats will not grow well in low-lying areas where water accumulates. The soil needs to be well draining.
  • To sow your seeds, you just broadcast them out over the soil. For a small area (like a quarter acre or less), you can just do it by hand. Try to get the seeds evenly distributed.
  •  Cover all that seed once you’re done. If you leave it all on the surface, you will surely lose most of it to the birds. Go over the entire area with a rake and turn over the soil to get the seeds at least an inch under the surface.
  • Consider covering the oat beds with pine needles.  This will help keep the seeds nice and moist and kept the weeds at bay.

Helpful Tip: Another helpful trick is to do your seeding right before an expected heavy rain. The water will beat the seeds into the wet soil, and do a pretty good job of covering without any more effort on your part.

TROUBLESHOOTING

Other than the birds and rodents stealing your grain, there are few pests to worry about when growing oats. But there are some rust fungi that can attack your oats, particularly if the weather is very humid. You will see patches or streaks of rust on the leaves and stalks of your oats. There are fungicide products you can use, as long as you aren’t spraying right before harvest time.

HARVEST & STORAGE

Harvest and Storage

  • Oats will be between 2 and 5 feet tall when they are mature. The leaves should be starting to turn brown, and the oat kernels should be in what is called the “dough” stage. When you squeeze a kernel, there should be no milky fluid left (its still in the milk stage then). The kernels should be soft and can be dented with a fingernail. If you wait until they are hard (also called “dead ripe”, you will likely lose a lot of grain with all the handling during harvest.
  • To harvest your oats, just cut the seed heads from the stalks. You can cut the stalks anywhere along the length, but the higher up you cut, the less straw you’ll have to deal with when you are threshing. A sharp knife or garden sickle will work fine.
  • Once the seed heads are harvested, you will need to let them cure. How long this takes will really depend on the weather, and it can be several days up to several weeks.
  • Store your cut oats outside if it’s not expecting to rain, or indoors where it is warm and dry. When the kernels are dead ripe, you can start to thresh out the oats.
  • You can actually thresh your wheat with a meat grinder with great success. The design of the latest harvesters uses the same principle of a turning screw to thresh the grain. If you’d like to make one improvement to the hand-cranked grinder, attach a drill to drive the auger. It makes the job a bit smoother. Leave the blades of the meat grinder on and run the oats through!
  • Store whole oats in an air-tight container away from the light. They should last up to 3 months. Their high-fat content keeps them from storing longer, and they will go rancid.

Before using your oats, soak them to ensure the skin is gone (it should float to the surface while any pebbles that may have gotten through will fall to the bottom). Once soaked, hulless oats can be sprouted because they are a healthy living grain, unlike common oats that are de‐hulled by a heat process that actually damages the whole grain. Sprouting oats will change their nutrient content, improving it! The carbohydrate content will decrease and the vitamin count will increase as the sprouts take energy from the seed to create a sprout. Not only that, but our human bodies respond to the sprout in a more healthy way; acting as if we are eating a plant as opposed to grain.

For full directions on how to sprout your hulless oats at home in a jar, please click here. 

Use oat sprouts in salads or in your sandwiches! They also go great on soups or as a garnish for dips.

Hulless Oats

 

Why You Should Walk 10,000 Steps Per Day, and How to Do It

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 06:23

We often hear that we should walk 10,000 steps a day for good health and for weight loss. But where did that recommendation originate?

You may be surprised to learn how that guideline became so popular. It wasn’t based on research – it was created as a promotion by a pedometer company in Japan in the 1960s. The idea became more widespread as walking clubs adopted it as a goal.

That being said – it isn’t a bad goal to work toward. Any physical activity is beneficial, and the more steps you get in each day, the better.

Let’s take a look at what research does tell us about walking.

How fast you walk appears to matter quite a bit.

An analysis of more than 50,000 walkers conducted by the University of Sydney in 2018 found that walking pace matters. The researchers found that walking at an average pace was associated with a 20 percent risk reduction for all-cause mortality, compared with walking at a slow pace. Walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24 percent. Older age groups saw a pronounced protective effect. People 60 years of age and over who walked at an average pace experienced a 46 percent reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes. Fast-pace walkers experienced a 53 percent reduction, according to the study’s press release. How do you know if you are walking fast enough to reap these benefits? A good indicator is to walk at a pace that makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty when that pace is sustained, said lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis.

“Especially in situations when walking more isn’t possible due to time pressures or a less walking-friendly environment, walking faster may be a good option to get the heart rate up – one that most people can easily incorporate into their lives,” Professor Stamatakis explained.

A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in 2018 also found that pace matters. For the study, researchers followed 1,078 hypertensive patients, of whom 85% also had coronary heart disease and 15% also had valve disease. They recorded the number of all-cause hospitalizations and length of stay over the next three years. During the three year period, 182 of the slow walkers (51%) had at least one hospitalization, compared to 160 (44%) of the intermediate walkers, and 110 (31%) of the fast walkers. The press release elaborates on the findings:

The slow, intermediate and fast walking groups spent a total of 4,186, 2,240, and 990 days in the hospital over the three years, respectively.

The average length of hospital stay for each patient was 23, 14, and 9 days for the slow, intermediate and fast walkers, respectively. Each 1 km/hour increase in walking speed resulted in a 19% reduction in the likelihood of being hospitalized during the three-year period. Compared to the slow walkers, fast walkers had a 37% lower likelihood of hospitalization in three years.

Another study published in 2018 found that walking for at least 40 minutes several times per week at an average to fast pace is associated with a near 25 percent drop in the risk of heart failure among post-menopausal women. The researchers found the benefit appears to be consistent regardless of a woman’s body weight or whether she engages in other forms of exercise besides walking. This study analyzed walking behavior and health outcomes in 89,000 women during a 10-year period. According to a press release published by the American College of Cardiology, this study is the first to examine the benefits of walking by parsing the effects of walking frequency, duration, and speed. It is also the first to specifically focus on the risk of heart failure among women over age 50.

Dr. Somwail Rasla, a cardiology fellow at Saint Vincent Hospital who conducted the study during his residency at Brown University, said of the findings:

“We actually looked at women with four different categories of body mass index (BMI) and found the same inverse relationship between walking behavior and the risk of heart failure. The results show that even obese and overweight women can still benefit from walking to decrease their risk of heart failure.”

Even lower intensity walking provides benefits.

study conducted in Sweden found that there are considerable health benefits to be gained not only from moderate or intense physical activity but also from low-intensity (everyday) activity. Researchers analyzed how different levels of physical activity in 1,200 people across Sweden affected the mortality rate due to cardiovascular disease (among other causes) 15 years later.

Replacing half an hour’s sedentariness a day with low-level activity can reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by an estimated 24 percent, the researchers found. While lower intensity exercise was shown to provide benefits, this study also found that replacing sedentariness with physical activity of at least moderate level equivalent to a brisk walk or higher intensity training had an even greater effect on cardiovascular-related mortality. “Ten minutes of moderate to intense activity a day reduced the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease by 38 percent, 30 minutes a day by a full 77 percent, according to their calculations,” the press release reports.

In 2017, researchers looked at data from nearly 140,000 participants in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort and found that walking has the potential to significantly improve health. The team found that regular walking, even if not meeting the minimum recommended levels, is associated with lower mortality compared to inactivity. Walking for less than 2 hours per week was associated with lower all-cause mortality compared to no activity. “Meeting 1 to 2 times the minimum recommendation (2.5-5 hours/week) through walking-only was associated with 20% lower mortality risk. Results for those exceeding recommendations through walking-only were similar to those who met recommendations,” a press release reported.

Research has found several ways to stay motivated and to track progress.

Join a walking group and track your steps with a pedometer.

People may be more likely to stick to taking exercise if they walk in groups, according to a study published in January 2018. The research, led by Anglia Ruskin University, also found that group walking plays a part in improved physical activity and better quality of life. Researchers analyzed 18 studies of physically healthy adults who walked in groups compared with those who walked alone (or not at all). They found that people who participated in group walking were more likely to have kept up the exercise by the end of the study, which was an average of six months later.

Researchers at the University of St George’s London found that people who use pedometers to count their steps as part of a 12-week walking program had a healthier, more active lifestyle three to four years later.

If you’d like to use a device to count your steps, you have a lot of options, including basic pedometers, fitness trackers, waterproof fitness watches, and more sophisticated trackers like FitBit Smart Fitness watches with heart rate monitors and GPS and the Apple Watch (this one even has an Emergency SOS feature). (ALL of those are Amazon links)

No pedometer? No problem – you can still estimate your steps.

If you do not have a pedometer and do not want to use complex calculations to figure out your walking intensity, you can measure your walking cadence instead, according to research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Catrine Tudor-Locke, professor of kinesiology, and postdoctoral researchers Elroy Aguiar and Scott Ducharme concluded that for adults, age 21-40, walking about 100 steps per minute constitutes moderate intensity, while vigorous walking begins at about 130 steps per minute. To use this method, count your steps for 15 seconds and multiply by four to determine steps per minute.

In a press release, the researchers elaborated on their findings:

Aguiar said that the natural walking pace of 90 percent of the study participants was above the moderate-pace threshold. “If you just tell people to walk at their normal speed, they probably are going to walk above 100 steps per minute. Asking people to walk for exercise is a low-cost, low-skill, feasible activity choice which has the potential to drastically improve people’s health,” he says.

The research suggests a simple but powerful public health message: Just walk, as much as possible. “Our society has engineered movement out of our life,” Aguiar says. “We have TVs, we have cars, we have remotes. It’s clear that you can achieve the public health guidelines for physical activity through walking.”

How many steps per day is ideal?

Public health organizations typically offer recommendations for physical activity in general, not for walking specifically. Of course, walking IS physical activity, so let’s take a look at what general guidelines for that say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommends the following:

For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.

How do we translate those guidelines into steps?

The time it takes to reach 10,000 steps depends on intensity of your steps. For moderate intensity, take 100 steps per minute, and for vigorous intensity, take 130 steps per minute.

If your walking pace is moderate in intensity, it would take you 100 minutes to reach 10,000 steps. If you do this every day, you’ll get a little over 11 hours of walking in each week.

If your pace is vigorous in intensity, it would take you 77 minutes to reach 10,000 steps. If you do this every day, you’ll get close to 9 hours of walking in each week.

As you can see, walking at a moderate to vigorous intensity every day (or nearly every day) exceeds general recommendations for physical activity.

If you want to think in terms of distance, 2,000 steps is about a mile, and 10,000 steps equals roughly 5 miles.

Do you need reasons to start a walking routine? Here are a bunch!

The American Heart Association’s guidelines match those of the CDC. The organization’s website provides an excellent summary of the benefits of physical activity:

  • Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s, several types of cancer, and some complications of pregnancy
  • Better sleep, including improvements in insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea
  • Improved cognition, including memory, attention and processing speed
  • Less weight gain, obesity and related chronic health conditions
  • Better bone health and balance, with less risk of injury from falls
  • Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Better quality of life and sense of overall well-being

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) reports that regular physical activity:

  • Improves good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Lowers blood pressure (it is recommended to shoot for a top number (systolic) of 120 mm Hg or lower)
  • Aids in weight management
  • Reduces HbA1c (measure for diabetic control)
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces mental stress
  • Reduces the incidence of depression
How can you add more steps every day?

This depends on several factors, including your current activity level and overall health.

First, figure out what your baseline is. Put on a pedometer or fitness monitor or use an app (remember to carry your smartphone with you throughout the day if you use an app). Go about your day as usual. At the end of the day, check your step count. Do this for a week, and calculate your average.

Then, gradually add steps every day.

According to a report from VeryWellFit, Professor Tudor-Locke advises a goal of 10,000 steps per day as a good baseline. She offers these tips to match physical activity recommendations for heart health:

  • Increase your daily steps by 3,000 to 4,000 steps taken during bouts of 10-minutes or longer at moderate-to-vigorous intensity, which is a pace of brisk walking to jogging.
  • Achieve a goal of 8,900 to 9,900 steps at least five days per week with at least 3,000 steps of moderate-to-vigorous intensity bouts of 10 minutes or more.
  • Alternatively, set a goal of 9,150 to 10,150 steps at least three days per week with at least 3,250 steps of vigorous intensity bouts of 10 minutes or more.
Here’s how to fit 10,000 steps into your busy schedule.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to get all of your steps in one walking session. All of the walking you do during the day counts! Here are some ways to sneak in more steps to help you reach your goal.

  • If you drive to work, park farther away from your office.
  • Get off the bus or train one stop earlier and walk home.
  • Take several shorter walks daily, preferably outside. Yes, even during the colder months! Research shows that spending time outside during winter provides many benefits.
  • Go for walks during your lunch break and other work breaks. Even 10 minute walks spread through the day add up.
  • Join a walking group. Sites like MeetUp have lots of them. If you can’t find a group, consider starting one.
  • Take the stairs instead of using elevators and escalators.

If you walk alone, please keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Stay alert – if you use headphones, be sure to keep the volume low or leave an earbud out of one ear so you can hear what is going on around you. Don’t look down at your device – practice situational awareness.
  • Tell someone your planned route and your expected return time. Ask them to check on you at that time.
  • Carry a personal safety device like pepper spray, an alarm, or a stun gun (legality for each varies in different localities).
  • Know how to avoid possible attackers, and how to defend yourself should someone attack you.
  • Wear bright colors. Carry a flashlight if you walk when visibility is low.

Do you currently walk on a regular basis? Do you have tips for other readers? Let us know in the comments!

Be well!

 

10 Health Boosting Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar Tonics

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 09:00

Apple cider vinegar has a fairly lengthy history when it comes to natural home remedies. It has been touted as a cure-all for almost everything; from helping blood pressure issues, fungal infections, to sore throats and even weight loss.

Let’s get one big myth about apple cider vinegar out of the way first. Many erroneously believe that apple cider vinegar contains a lot of nutrients; it actually doesn’t.  Apple cider vinegar is fantastic for all sorts of ailments, not because of it’s nutritional content but from its ability to acidify the body.  ACV does have acetic acid, which is the one reason why it helps with so many conditions. Acetic acid is actually the key ingredient and has a pH of 2.5. This will help in the transportation of minerals, especially calcium, the digestion of protein and the stimulation of thyroid function. Interestingly, due to the common excessive alkalinity, a good portion of the population has, apple cider vinegar is a safe and healthy solution.

10 Healthy Benefits From Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar’s most common use may be for weight loss, however, it may work overall on a lot of conditions by balancing your gut microbiome. Because of the new and trendy “Give It a Shot” craze, many have found that “taking a shot” of ACV can have lasting effects on your health. Some of those benefits include:

    1. Antibacterial and Antiviral – Vinegar has been shown in studies to mildly lower the growth of gram-negative bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Gram-negative bacteria have an impenetrable outer wall and are more difficult to kill with antigens than gram-positive bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria are often more resistant to antibiotics making them culprits for “superbugs.” But bacterial colonies like these are higher in bacterial endotoxins called lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Higher levels of LPS are implicated in a whole of inflammatory health problems and leaky gut syndrome, so it’s great that apple cider vinegar could help keep the number of these bacteria down! ACV has also been shown to have antiviral and anti-yeast and -fungal benefits, all helpful in supporting microbiome and overall immune balance.
    2. Digestion and acid reflux – apple cider vinegar increases the acidity of your stomach, which helps your body create more pepsin, the enzyme that breaks down protein and aids in quality digestion of your food.
    3. Immune boosting – most germs can’t survive in the overly acidic environment created by ACV.
    4. Improves complexions and helps with skin disorders – although there are few studies to prove this, ACV can help with acne. ACV contains acetic, citric, lactic and succinic acid, all of which have been shown to kill acne. In one study, 22 people applied lactic acid lotion to their faces twice a day for one year. Most of them experienced a significant reduction in acne, while only two people experienced less than a 50% improvement.
    5. Weight loss as a hunger suppressant – ACV helps you feel fuller for longer.  Because of that, you’ll consume fewer calories. The acetic acid acts as a natural appetite suppressant. 
    6. Helps with Diabetes by reducing blood sugar –  One European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, for example, found that those who consumed ACV before eating white bread experienced 31 percent smaller spikes in blood sugar than those who ate bread but no vinegar. Acetic acid, one of vinegar’s main components, decreases the activity of an enzyme that breaks complex sugars into simple sugars. It’s also been shown to increase levels of glucose-6-phosphate, a compound that helps convert glucose (the simple sugar in our blood) to glycogen (a form of sugar stored in our muscles and liver to be used as energy). Both effects contribute to vinegar’s potential blood sugar benefits.
    7. Reduces Inflammation – ACV is an anti-inflammatory, see #1.
    8. Pain relief – Since ACV helps eliminate inflammation in the gut, it can also help with pain relief. A healthy gut microbiome can help reduce inflammation in the digestive system, joints, and even other areas of the body such as the heart, blood, and more.
    9. Natural detoxan ACV detox may help your body function at optimum levels by removing toxins and “detoxing.”
    10. Headaches – using a compress of ACV helps to reduce the pain in headaches
THERE ARE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF CONSUMING ACV

It’s incredibly important that you are aware of a few of the negative effects associated with apple cider vinegar. Please keep these in mind when consuming ACV, especially if you drink it straight or “take a shot” of it. Some of those potential negative outcomes are:

  1. Dental Erosion – Studies have found that weekly consumption of apple vinegar increased the risk of dental erosion. Acetic acid is the culprit. If you are concerned about your teeth enamel, consider taking ACV supplements.
  2. Stomach discomfort – The acids in vinegar can have a negative effect on those who have sensitive stomachs and can cause issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.

* DO NOT “take a shot” of ACV, or consume it straight.  Mix “the shot” in a salad dressing or dilute it in more than 8 oz of water. “Apple cider vinegar has a strong effect on the teeth because of its acid content,” says holistic dentist Tom Valmadre, D.D.S. “Exposure can increase [the] risk of decay, sensitivity, and erosion.” Not to mention, it can rather unpleasantly burn the heck out of your throat and damage its lining over time.

The best type of ACV to purchase is perhaps in an already made drink. This one from Bragg’s is organic. If you’re buying ACV itself, look for organic apple cider vinegar with a cloudy bloom in it: this is the “mother” fermentation in the vinegar and is a sign of quality. This will afford you the freedom of making your own tonic, but again, we suggest heavily diluting the ACV.  If you choose, more than 10 ounces of water can be used.  Personally, I loathe the smell and taste of vinegar and ACV is not any different.  I dilute 1/2 tablespoon of ACV in 20 ounces of water because I honestly can’t handle it any stronger. My dislike of the stuff actually helps keep me from consuming it more than every 10-15 days or so, which helps with minimizing the tooth enamel erosion risk.

ACV Tonic Recipe for Health

Ingredients:

  • 10 – 24 ounces warm water
  • 1-2 tablespoon/s apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger, grated (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Add all of the ingredients to warm water. Do not use boiling water as it will destroy the vitamin C in the lemon juice. Add optional fresh ginger and cinnamon to help with the taste and give the body a little extra boost.

** This article is for informational purposes only.  It is not meant to treat, cure, or diagnose any health concern or medical condition.  Please see a qualified medical professional if you need treatment or diagnostics.

 

This Winter Survival Skill Saved Two Women Lost in the Mountains

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 00:47

Emergencies happen when we least expect them, and as two women recently found out, when you plan for the worst, your odds of survival increase.

A survival story made headlines recently about two women who lost their way in the Sierra Nevada mountains over President’s Day Weekend. The two became disoriented in the snow and lost their way while cross-country skiing and spent two days in harsh winter elements before they were able to notify relatives that they were lost, and the relatives then called 911. Emergency responders are now claiming they survived subzero temperatures from knowing how to make a winter survival shelter.

Image Source: Mountain Democrat

In the article:

El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Almos said they received the call about the women’s distress at midnight on Saturday. On Sunday they did a “hasty search” but all attempts were failing due to conditions, Almos said that even snowmobiles and a snow cat couldn’t navigate in the deep snow. “We even contemplated sending a drone,” he said, but there was a blizzard. “It’s tough to even send people out there due to the conditions.”

Fortunately, the women knew enough to build a snow cave in the heavy snow and were able to survive Saturday night when temperatures dropped below freezing.

….

Jared Boothe, a flight officer/paramedic with the California Highway Patrol’s Valley Division Air Operations said the helicopter crew spotted the women around 9:30 a.m. on Monday. “If they hadn’t had the skill set and experience to build a snow cave, it likely would have been a fatal event as temperatures were reported to be a minus 8 degrees without considering wind chill,” Boothe said. “If they had sat out in the open, they likely wouldn’t have made it out.”

Navigating in the Snow

It is easy to become disoriented in a snowy landscape. In a previous article about navigating the snow, the writer states it’s more difficult than one would think. “First, with snow blanketing the landscape, the appearance of the terrain is changed. Secondly, the landscape is also physically altered: it is a different thing to walk across six inches to several feet of snow. Right now, where I live, I have almost three feet of snow on the ground. The winter weather conditions are another item: it’s a far cry from a summer stroll when you walk into a cold wind that is throwing sleet right into your face in the middle of February.” He emphasizes knowing the terrain and pace count is the best way to navigate in a wintry area.

While it should go without saying, dress appropriately for winter conditions. You never know when you will find yourself staring down the business end of an emergency situation. “Pick up a good pair of goggles that do not fog up, and appropriate shielding for the face. Make sure you’re dressed in all-weather to combat the weather.  I recommend Gore-Tex from head to toe.  A GPS compass will help, but here it is important to rely on the basics because batteries do die, electronics can be fouled up by extremes in weather and temperature, and it’s always best to rely on the “primitive” and skills.” Try this compass instead.

Other lightweight tools to keep in mind are:

How a Snow Cave Will Protect You

If you find yourself in a situation like the women skiers who lost their way, learn from their survival story and teach yourself essential winter skills. A snow cave or a quinzee will protect you from the elements and is perfect for areas where snow is not too deep and has powdery snow in order to form correctly. This snow shelter uses the powdery snow which will pack and bond together so that it is easier to hollow out and form a shelter. A properly made snow cave can be 0 °C (32 °F) or warmer inside, even when outside temperatures are −40 °C (−40 °F).

A snow cave is constructed by excavating snow so that the tunnel entrance is below the main space to retain warm air. If made correctly, your body heat will insulate and heat the inside of the cave and save your life.

The video provides step-by-step instructions. If you do not have a shovel on hand, look for makeshift tools like a flat rock or a split piece of wood.

Keep These Winter Shelter Tips in Mind
  • If you can face your shelter towards the east you will be able to prevent heat loss from prevailing winds and storms coming into your shelter.
  • Protect yourself from the elements by using branches, sticks, tarps or whatever you have available. Pine branches are great for wind-proofing your shelter and preventing heat loss from the ground.
  • Body heat can quickly escape if you do not have a ground insulator. If you can make your bedding area off the ground, you will be able to conserve more body heat. Consider pine needles, leaves, spruce boughs and/or branches, or even building up the snow around your primitive shelter.
  • Dehydration in cold climates can be a major risk when outdoors. Excessive perspiration, heavy clothing, and increased respiratory fluid loss are other factors that contribute to dehydration in cold climates. For example, when you can see your own breath, that’s actually water vapor that your body is losing. The colder the temperature and the more intense the exercise, the more vapor you lose when you breathe.
  • Take into consideration your energy output on building the shelter versus the protection of the shelter. This is labor intensive so be mindful of how much time it is taking to ensure you are not overexposed to the winter elements. Being exposed to the elements longer than three hours could be life-threatening.

Start training for winter survival emergencies with some basic shelters and then move into more advanced. Knowing these skills could save your life!

 

Additional Reading:

How To Build a Snow Cave

Quinzee Building

A Step-By-Step Guide To Prepare You For Any Disaster

A Green Beret’s Guide To Building an Emergency Winter Shelter

 

How To Get More Eggs From Chickens Over Winter

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 05:28

Backyard chicken owners dread winter! Winter conditions and changes in sunlight cause a decrease in chicken’s egg production. While this can be bothersome to see your investment of egg-laying hens “close up shop” during winter, (and you’re still footing the bill for the cost of feed) there are some things you can do to help them. In a previous article, we covered how to winterize your coop for winter and touched on a few of these pointers. Today, we are going to go into more detail.

So why do hens stop producing? When the cooler days of autumn turn into the bitterly cold nights of winter, more of your chicken’s bodily resources have to go into keeping her warm rather than go toward producing eggs. As well, after the long egg production that happened during the warmer months, chickens tend to “rest” when the days get shorter. This is a normal reaction for hens, and if you allow nature to takes its course, they will stop laying completely during winter and start back up in spring. This also reduces burn out from overactive egg production. But, some of us depend on a daily amount of eggs and try to encourage them to continue laying.

Give your girls what they need to keep them laying all winter long 1. Plenty of Food and Water

Did you know that chickens need more food in winter? Typically, they require 1.5 times more food during colder months. They tend to eat more because their bodies are fighting more to stay warm. It’s alright to play around with the amount of food as chickens do not tend to overeat. If you’ve overfed them, you may notice some leftover food in their feeders in the morning. Giving them extra food will help them ensure they have adequate nutrition during winter.

In addition, pay attention to adding extra nutrients to their diet. Because they do not have as much access to fresh grasses, fruits, vegetables, and bugs, they need more carbohydrates and protein in their diet during winter. Remember, hens need protein to produce eggs! While most chicken owners will add some chicken scratch to their feed, there are some additional nutrients to keep in mind. As well, a hens’ diet shouldn’t consist of only cracked corn/scratch grains. What nutrients do they need in winter

We’ve had great success sprouting our garden seeds that we didn’t use the previous growing season and mixing those sprouts in with mealworms. This provides them with the extra protein they need in winter and they love it. A note of caution: stay away from feeding nightshade seed varieties (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, etc.) to your chickens as these contain solanine and can cause your health problems for your girls. A frugal alternative to sprouts is to supplement their diets with fodder, as well as vegetable and fruit scraps for added nutrition.

I also like to give my hens a cup of oats along with their sprouts every few days to provide them with additional carbohydrates. Moreover, a handful of grit can also help since it’s harder for them to get access to it in winter. A handful once every 2 weeks will be plenty for a small flock of 12 hens.

As well, ensure there is plenty of water for them. If chickens, particularly laying hens, are without water for a 24 hour period, they may stop laying eggs for several weeks following. Simply put, it stresses them out. As well, hydration protects them during periods of severe cold as well as extreme heat. One solution is to purchase a heated base for the water system and run a heavy-duty extension cord into the chicken coop. Another solution is to check on your chicken’s water more frequently. Bringing warm water out to replace the frozen water will be very welcomed.

2. Sunshine

According to The Happy Chicken Coop, “The amount of daylight tells your hen when to release a yolk and produce an egg. So when the daylight is reduced, chickens don’t receive this light ‘cue’ to tell them to release a yolk. This is mainly a survival mechanism as their offspring would have a very small chance of surviving during a cold winter.”

Keep in mind that young chickens will require more body heat compared to a fully grown chicken. Further, the avian reproductive cycle, which is how a hen produces eggs, is stimulated in poultry by increasing day length. 14 hours of light is what a chicken requires to lay eggs and usually get these results during the warmer months. Having a light bulb hooked up to a timer to assist in continued egg laying. An added benefit to this is it creates added warmth to the flock. To provide some warmth, but not too much light, we use a 250-watt bulb in our coop. One heat lamp per 30 chickens will be sufficient. Light fixtures in the coop should be placed above feeders and watering container, and care should be taken to avoid having areas in the chicken house that are shaded from light.

One homesteading blog asked Extension Poultry Specialist Jesse Lyons at the University of Missouri how to convince hens to keep laying using supplemental daylight, and she said, “It takes about 12 hours of day length to get the birds stimulated to where they start laying,” Lyons says. “Up to about 16 to 17 hours or so, somewhere in there, is probably the maximum day length that will stimulate the birds.” The light has to be constant, and if you have a timer set for say, 14 hours of light and the egg production slows down, Lyons adding another half-hour so the hens think springtime is coming.

3. Be Observant

There’s a chance that with all of these suggestions, your girls still may not produce eggs until spring. So pay attention and make sure it’s just the weather and not them being sick. Chickens may get sick in the winter, so keep an eye out for symptoms of the cold or flu. If your chicken gets sick, seek out the help of an avian veterinarian.

According to Backyard Coops, some common signs of chickens not feeling well are:

  • A pale, limp comb (potential symptoms of frostbite, worms)
  • Coughing, wheezing, runny nose (Chronic Respiratory Disease)
  • Mangy/patchy feathers (lice or mites)
  • Heavy breathing, holding wings away from their body (heat stroke)

If you notice any of these signs your chicken could be ill and you may need to give her some extra care or call a vet.

Other factors that could contribute to decreasing eggs is the hens age and even molting. Molting could also be an issue with decreased egg production. This occurs in response to decreased light as summer ends and winter approaches, so it is entirely possible they are using their energy to get their new feathers in; and with that you must be patient until this process is complete.

Just in case you need more reasons why your chickens aren’t laying here are 20 more reasons!

To conclude, during the winter months the best thing you can do as a backyard chicken owner is to keep them warm, well fed and watered, and give them extra light to try to encourage more eggs. On a personal note, we have 12 chickens on our little farm and the average daytime temperatures have been in the 30s – 40s with intermittent snow storms. With this nasty weather, I am still getting a nice amount of eggs from them. All that I have done this year is give them fresh bedding, increased their feed, give them extra nutrients (as described above), and made sure they have plenty of water. They seem happy and are still laying.

 

Why Sourdough Bread Is Great For Your Health (with recipes)

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 05:14

Sourdough bread is often known as the healthiest bread, and there’s a science behind that moniker. Although bread is a staple, many have trouble digesting it and it could be one of the worst things to eat if a person has a gluten intolerance. But sourdough bread could be the solution and a naturally healthy one at that!

So what exactly makes sourdough bread so much healthier and better for digestion than commercially made bread?

Part of the reason that sourdough bread is so healthy is the reduced phytic acid in sourdough bread thanks to the different fermentation process. Phytic acid is actually so hard on the body, it is considered an “anti-nutrient” by some. Phytic acid is a component found in the bran portion of all grains and beans.  It impairs the absorption of iron, zinc, and calcium because the phytic acid molecules bind with the minerals, which make these important nutrients unavailable to the body for use. Sourdough fermentation is much more efficient than yeast fermentation in reducing the phytate content in whole wheat bread (-62 and -38%, respectively). The lactic acid bacteria present in sourdough enhances acidification, which leads to increased magnesium and phosphorus solubility. Long slow fermentation of wheat can reduce phytates by up to 90%! Some recent studies have even indicated that those who are intolerant to wheat are able to tolerate sourdough bread because the old-fashioned fermentation process has been shown to break down the gluten in the wheat in the process.

*We still suggest steering clear of ALL bread including sourdough if you have Celiac or a major intolerance to gluten; unless the bread has been made with gluten-free ingredients. Better safe than sorry. We have included a gluten-free flour option in the sourdough bread recipe in this article for our friends who do live a gluten-free life!

Sourdough bread won’t spike your blood sugar either. Sourdough bread is rated lower in the Glycemic Index (a system that ranks food based on its effect on blood sugar levels) than other types of bread because of the build-up of organic acids. These naturally occurring acids make the minerals and vitamins in flour more available than they might be in other bread, and reduce the rate at which glucose is released into the bloodstream. Despite its significant carbohydrate content, which is usually an indication of a high glycemic index food, sourdough bread has a glycemic index of only 53. This makes it a low-glycemic-index food. As with other low GI food, sourdough bread will likely cause only a gradual increase in blood sugar levels rather than a spike.

There are also probiotics in sourdough bread that make it a better choice than the commercially processed bread at the store. Probiotics help to support the gut microbiome. Probiotics are the gut bacteria that aid the body in healthy digestion. While gut health can help balance your mood, stress levels, hormones, and some of the other somewhat invisible aspects of your health, it’s often misunderstood as being an agent for weight loss or dieting. Gut health is really just assistance for your digestive system. However, the mass-produced sourdough sliced in a popularly branded loaf is likely lacking when it comes to any real probiotic benefit. So that’s why you will want to make your own!

SOURDOUGH STARTER RECIPE

All you need to make your sourdough starter is flour, water, and a container large enough to hold 2 quarts to keep it in.

*For a gluten-free alternative, try brown rice flour. Try this one here!  

  • Day 1-2: In a clean jar or container: add 1/2 cup flour (unbleached white, whole wheat, rye, brown rice*), and 1/2 cup water.** Please note – If you do not want a major mess on your hands, do not screw the lid to a glass jar for your starter! Stir the flour and water until combined and allow this mixture to sit for 2 days on the counter (covered with plastic wrap or a canning lid that is not completely fastened) at room temperature.
  • Day 3: Observe the dough. If you have bubbles, add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Stir together and let sit for one day. If you don’t have bubbles, allow the dough to sit for another day and observe.
  • Day 4, 5, 6: Add 1/2 cup flour and water to the jar and stir on each of these days to build the strength of your starter. Let it sit at room temperature after each stirring. By the 6th day, your starter should seem mildly bubbly and it will have a pleasant sour smell building up. Add more flour and water so you have at least 3 1/2 cups of starter to use in a batch of dough.
  • Day 7: By this time, the starter will be actively bubbling and puffy. This indicates that your starter is ready for use.

Your sourdough starter looks like this when it’s ready:

MAKING SOURDOUGH BREAD:

  • Ingredients
    • 1 cup ripe sourdough starter
    • 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
    • 5 cups flour
    • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Instructions
    • Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart) food-safe plastic bucket.
    • Mix and stir everything together to make a sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the paddle attachment for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir with a big spoon or dough whisk until everything is combined.
    • Leave the dough in the bucket or 6-quart bowl, cover it with the bucket’s lid or a piece of plastic wrap, and let it rise for 1 hour.
    • Gently pick up the dough and fold it over on itself several times, cover it again, and let it rise for another hour.
    • Repeat the rising-folding process one more time (for a total of 3 hours), folding it again after the last hour. Then, place the bucket or bowl in the refrigerator, and let the dough rest for at least 8 hours (or up to 48 hours).
    • When you’re ready to make bread, turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface, and shape it into a rough ball. Leave the dough seam-side up, cover it, and let it rest on a floured surface for 15 minutes.
    • Next, shape the dough to fit the vessel in which you’ll bake it: a 13” log for a long covered baker, or a large boule (round) for a round baker or Dutch oven. Place the shaped dough into the lightly-greased or semolina-dusted base of the baker and cover it with the lid.
    • Let the loaf warm to room temperature and rise; this should take about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. It won’t appear to rise upwards that much but will relax and expand.
    • With a rack positioned in the middle, start preheating the oven to 500°F one hour before you’re ready to bake.
    • Just before baking, dust the loaf with a fine coat of flour and use a knife to make one or several 1/2” deep slashes through its top surface. If you’re baking a long loaf, one arched slash down the loaf lengthwise is nice, or if baking a round, a crosshatch or crisscross pattern works well.
    • Cover the baker with its lid and place it in the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 450°F and bake the bread for 45 minutes.
    • Remove the cover of the baker and bake the bread for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the bread is deep golden brown and crusty, and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 210°F.
    • Remove the bread from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool completely.
    • Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

The flavor of homemade sourdough bread is incredible and you will still be making a large batch of dough and storing it for up to a week, so you will do the work on one day for many loaves.

 

 

Millennials are Flocking to CBD For Anxiety Relief

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 19:07

There has been a huge surge in CBD oil sales from Millennials.

With this generation being dubbed “the most anxious,” they are often the butt of jokes stemming around being entitled, emotionally fragile, and lazy; but perhaps older generations have jumped to conclusions considering what the pressures Millennials are under.

Recent surveys and studies have found that anxiety is a common challenge for many – and Millennials, in particular, are struggling. Unemployment, financial obligations like student debt, and addictions to technology are some of the surmounting issues causing anxiety in this age group. In fact, this generation is experiencing so much anxiety that in a poll conducted by Quartz found that 18% of the respondents overall said they experience anxiety or depression to the point where it disrupts work “all the time” or “often.” The rate was nearly twice as high (30%) among Millennial and Gen Z employees (aged 18-34.)

Why are young adults so anxious?

Quartz listed some reasons:

There’s ballooning student debt, for which a job in the gig economy is not particularly well-suited to tackle. So-called helicopter parents, some suggested, have taught middle-class millennials that achieving, not simply being, is all that matters. And millennials are the first generation to grow up with sophisticated mobile technology, and a fierce social-media habit. They’re therefore less nourished, so to speak, by face-to-face interactions, which can alleviate some of the symptoms of stress and depression, psychological research suggests. Meanwhile, all the selfie-posting leaves millennial psyches soaking in humble brags, showboating, and deceptive depictions of other peoples’ picture-perfect lives.

Perfectionism is another factor, according to a report from the American Psychological Association. Last year, the organization found that recent generations of college students have reported higher levels of perfectionism than earlier generations.

From the Chicago Tribune:

This “irrational desire to achieve along with being overly critical of oneself and others” takes a toll on young people’s mental health, according to its research, which analyzed data from more than 40,000 American, Canadian and British college students. Three types of perfectionism were measured: an irrational personal desire to be perfect, perceiving excessive expectations from others and placing unrealistic standards on others.

Recent generations of college students have reported significantly higher scores for each of these types of perfectionism than earlier generations, the researchers found.

Researchers have also found that social media adds comparison pressure, along with the drive to earn money and set lofty career goals.

Pharmaceutical options for treating anxiety carry serious risks.

Many different types of medications are used to treat anxiety disorders, including traditional anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines (typically prescribed for short-term use), and SSRI antidepressants (often used long-term). Common examples of benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan).

There are many questions about the long-term effectiveness of these medications. HelpGuide explains that “According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, benzodiazepines lose their therapeutic anti-anxiety effect after 4 to 6 months of regular use. And a recent analysis reported in JAMA Psychiatry found that the effectiveness of SSRIs in treating anxiety has been overestimated, and in some cases is no better than placebo.”

These drugs come with serious possible side effects and safety concerns – some of which are significant. Common side effects include drowsiness, sleepiness, next-day drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, slowed mental processing, confusion, and memory impairment.

Drugs.com describes a particularly scary common side effect:

Unusual sleep behaviors and anterograde amnesia may occur with traditional benzodiazepines. Anterograde amnesia is the loss of the ability to create new memories, leading to a partial or complete inability to recall the recent past. Several benzodiazepines are known to have this powerful amnesic effect; triazolam (Halcion) is notorious.

Benzodiazepines have a high potential for abuse, addiction, and diversion (illegally selling the drug).

Physical and psychological dependence on benzodiazepines can occur even after short-term use. Withdrawal symptoms can be intense and serious and include sleep disturbances, elevated anxiety, blurred vision, panic attacks, nausea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, psychosis, and hallucinations.

If you are taking a benzodiazepine drug regularly, talk to your doctor before you stop taking it. If you suddenly stop taking the drug without tapering under a medical practitioner’s care, serious side effects – and even death – can occur.

Most prescription drug-related media coverage in recent years has been about the opioid crisis, but as Vice reported last year, it isn’t the only medication that is causing serious problems:

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open found that the number of regular American doctor visits resulting in a benzodiazepine prescription doubled between 2003 and 2015. Meanwhile, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has highlighted that more than 30 percent of opioid overdose deaths involve mixing opioids with benzos, and US overdoses associated with benzodiazepines—the vast majority of which also involve an opioid—grew by a factor of about ten between 1999 and 2017.

Also mentioned in Vice’s report: “…benzo withdrawal can kill on its own by causing seizures”, and “benzodiazepine withdrawal can last months or even years in some cases—and if tapers aren’t conducted slowly and carefully, people’s ability to function at home and at work can be destroyed.”

With the side effects of these prescriptions, it’s no wonder people are turning to more natural ways of handling some of their mental health challenges.

Like their elders, Millennials and those in Generation Z are turning to safe, non-habit forming solutions for managing anxiety.

Interest in cannabidiol (commonly known as “CBD”) is growing for a wide range of health challenges. Is it possible CBD could replace pharmaceutical drugs in the treatment of anxiety?

It seems possible because a growing body of research suggests CBD has powerful anti-anxiety properties.

According to a survey published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2018, almost 62 percent of cannabidiol users reported that they used CBD to treat a medical condition, with the top three conditions being pain, anxiety, and depression.

Because research is still in its early stages, scientists aren’t quite sure how CBD oil might help treat anxiety. Some research suggests that in addition to working via the endocannabinoid system, CBD may influence receptors involved in the modulation of serotonin (a chemical messenger thought to play a role in anxiety regulation).

A 2015 research review titled Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders published in The Journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics found that “existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder when administered acutely” and concluded that “current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, with the need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations.”

Research published in 2011 found that CBD reduced anxiety induced by public speaking in participants with Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder.

A recent report from Healthline described how CBD may help those with anxiety:

CBD oil is thought to work with a brain receptor called CB1. Receptors are tiny proteins attached to your cells that receive chemical signals from different stimuli and help your cells respond.

The exact way CBD affects CB1 is not fully understood. However, it’s thought that it alters serotonin signals. Serotonin is one of your body’s chemicals and plays a role in your mental health. Low serotonin levels are common in depression. Not having enough serotonin can also cause anxiety in some people.

The conventional treatment for low serotonin is prescription selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Zoloft and Prozac are both SSRIs. CBD, for some people, may be an alternative to SSRIs for anxiety management. However, you should talk to your doctor before making changes to your treatment plan.

CBD is safe, non-intoxicating, and non-addictive. It is usually well-tolerated, but it can interfere with certain medications. Please consult with your healthcare provider if you are taking prescription drugs and would like to take CBD.

 

 

For more on CBD, please see Dispelling the Myths: Baby Boomers Still Aren’t Sure About This New CBD Craze and CBD Oil Is More Than Just A Fad: Holistic Vets Effectively Use It On Dogs.

For more studies on CBD and anxiety, please see Project CBD’s Anxiety page.

*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to treat, cure, or diagnose any disease, illness, or any other ailment.

 

20 Unexpected Ways Zip Ties Will Save Your Life in an Emergency

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 12:42

Preppers may be known for their beans, bullets, and band-aids, but in a survival situation, they may also want to be known for their vast knowledge of zip-tie uses to get them out of hairy situations.

In past articles, we have covered articles on how to use common household items like rubber bands, bungee cords, PVC, and tarps to use in an emergency situation. Today, we are going to discuss the usefulness of zip ties in emergency situations.

Zip ties have multiple uses for multiple situations and are especially handy in emergency situations. These little guys should be added to preparedness supplies for the home, the vehicle, and for extended emergency situations.

Most zip ties are designed for indoor use and will deteriorate over time in direct sunlight. Therefore, look for durability especially weather resistant or UV-resistant/UV-stable. A point to keep in mind with zip ties is they tend to weaken in extreme temperatures. According to a zip tie manufacturer, “Ties withstand temperatures to 185°F (85°C) and have a melting point of 495°F (257°C); except for barbed design cable ties which withstand temperatures to 167°F (75°C) and have a melting point of 425°F (218°C).” With that in mind, for emergency planning, purchase industrial strength zip ties or heat stabilized nylon as these tend to last longer compared to others.

Weight can also be a factor in weakening its strength. Zip tie tensile strength is the amount of weight a zip tie can hold safely without breaking. For example, a single zip tie with a tensile strength of 120 lbs. will break if it is used to hold something weighing over 120 pounds. Did you know they make extra large 120-tensile zip ties? These would be useful for long-term emergencies situations!

Because zip ties come in a variety of sizes, you should consider purchasing different sizes to meet different scenarios. The average length of a zip tie is 7-12 inches, but the sizes range from 4 to 52 inches!

Let’s take a look at 20+ ways of utilizing zip ties in an emergency.

20 Unexpected Ways Zip Ties Will Save Your Life in an Emergency
  1. Shoelaces – We all know that when a shoelace breaks, you’re “up the creek without a paddle”. Using multiple zip ties will work as a makeshift shoelace until you can replace it.
  2. Makeshift snow chains – We found this idea on Instructables. While these certainly aren’t a replacement for the real deal (and will likely break off shortly after your car gets moving), if you’re stuck in the snow, this could be what you need to get your car and yourself out of danger. Likewise, you can fasten zip ties to your boots for traction if you are walking on ice or slick wet rocks.
  3. Trail markers – If you are in an area you aren’t familiar with, in the backcountry, or marking a path for your group to follow, mark your trail with some brightly colored zip ties.
  4. Make a snare – Catch small game like squirrels and rabbits with this snare made from zip ties. Likewise, this could also be used as a mouse/rat trap too.
  5. Makeshift belt loop – Attach gear or items you want to keep handy to your belt loops or attach zip ties to hold items on molly webbing for bug out bag.
  6. Medical emergencies – Zip ties can be used as a way to hold bandages in place or even make a makeshift splint.
  7. Make a small livestock enclosure – This would be great for chickens with PVC, chicken wire, and zip ties. Granted, this may not last the test of time, but it could be useful in a pinch.
  8. Fasten tarps for an emergency shelter – If you have a tarp or two in your preps, you will want some zip ties to go along with it. They can help fasten to tarp for emergency shelters. Likewise, you can insulate your emergency shelter by securing limbs and branches with zip ties.
  9. Haul large game – When dragging large game like deer out of ravines or crevasses, an XL zip tie looped in each of the deer’s hocks created handles and is a great way to get a grip on the buck’s tail end and keep from stinking up a hunter’s hands.
  10. Quick fix for gear repair – This is perhaps the most common zip tie use, but an important one at that!
  11. Handcuffs – Hopefully, you will never have to use zip ties in this manner, but it’s good to know that they can be used for home security. Purchase larger/wider zip ties for more holding power.
  12. Garden stakes – Zip ties can especially come in handy in the garden. Simply, loosely fasten a zip tie to stake plants like tomatoes, squash, and other vining plants to train them to grow upright.
  13. Food storage – To prevent opened food sources like rice and beans from succumbing to food enemies like oxygen, moisture, and rodents use a zip tie to secure them. Simply drill a hole in your 5-gallon plastic containers and secure it with a zip tie. This keeps your preps secure and safe.
  14. Zipper hack – Got a zipper malfunction? Loop a zip tie through the end of your zipper, then zip up your pants. Hook the loop onto the button, then button your pants. And voila! Zipper crisis averted.
  15. Camping necessity – Use a zip tie to fix broken hooks and loops on a tent. Or use one to secure your camp tablecloth to the table in windy conditions.
  16. Hang tools – Loop a zip tie through the hole in the handle of your broom and dustpan, shovels and other hand tools. They’ll be easier to hang, and you’ll be able to hang multiple tools from each hook or nail.
  17. Create a hunting blind – One hunter made this suggestion and said to use zip ties to pull back and secure obstructing foliage from shooting lanes. This makes for a more natural-looking hunting blind.
  18. Repair backpack straps – If your bugout bag strap breaks, repair it with a zip tie.
  19. Home security – The garage door is one of the easiest ways that thieves break into homes. Threading a plastic zip tie through the emergency release latch of the automatic door opener can prevent such break-ins. Read more here. This should be used during emergencies only as there is a federal code (UL 325) that indicates that zip ties can’t be used to secure garage
  20. Hands-free lighting – Use a zip tie to attach a mini flashlight to a pair of safety glasses and use whenever you need your hands free such as climbing into an attic or doing repairs in unlit spaces.
This video has some of the listed ideas and more

Share this article on Pinterest and share the knowledge!

Old Fashioned Horehound Cough Drops

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 22:50

If over-the-counter cough drops aren’t helping, you may need a more natural remedy to get to the source of the ailment. This horehound recipe is made with loving care using all-natural ingredients like horehound, peppermint, and honey.

This is the easiest recipe I found and works brilliantly! But first why horehound and peppermint?

Health Benefits Horehound

Horehound is one of the oldest medicinal herbs used and is renowned for it’s healing properties. It’s an herbal remedy best used for lung and breathing problems including cough, whooping cough, asthma, tuberculosis, bronchitis, and swollen breathing passages. It is a part of the mint family and contains certain antibiotic and antimicrobial properties that make it a natural way to boost your immune system. According to WebMD, horehound is such an effective cough suppressant because “the chemicals in horehound thin mucus secretions, reduce spasms in the stomach and intestines, and decrease swelling (inflammation).  While on its own it has a bitter taste, adding honey will help that natural medicine go down. More on that soon!

Peppermint

Did you know that sailors carried peppermint with them to help with ailments onboard ships? After reading that fun fact, adding peppermint to my homemade lozenges was a no brainer. The menthol in peppermint acts as a natural decongestant and has a cooling effect that naturally soothes inflamed throats. It provides effective relief from many respiratory problems including nasal congestion, sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis, and the common cold and cough. If you do not have loose peppermint available, you can add 10-15 drops of peppermint essential oil to the recipe below and get the same medicinal effect.

Honey

Honey is the perfect accompaniment to your homemade cough drop recipe. Honey actually fights against bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus. The latter is the most common bacteria found in the human nasal passages and nose. Also, honey should be as raw as possible, and the darker the better.  Dark honey contains more antioxidants, and it is more effective in fighting microorganisms and bacteria. It is highly effective as a cough-suppressant and as a demulcent. That latter term means something that coats the throat and the linings of the trachea and mouth to soothe the surfaces…a principle for which cough drops and lozenges have a primary function/goal. You can read more about the healing properties of honey here. Moreover, not only does honey make the lozenges taste better it is also a binding ingredient which holds the lozenges together.

Old Fashioned Horehound Cough Drops

Before you start on your cough drop making adventures, make sure you have the proper equipment:

  • stainless steel pot
  • fine mesh sieve
  • spoon
  • cookie sheet
  • candy thermometer (optional)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup horehound
  • 1/2 cup peppermint
  • 1-1/2 cup local honey
  • granulated sugar – optional

Instructions:

  1. Bring water to a boil and add loose herbs. Stir herbs into the water and cover.
  2. Remove from heat and allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain and reserve liquid. Add used herbs to your compost pile.
  4. Add the honey to the herbal liquid, return to the pot, and bring to a boil once again.
  5. Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to a simmer.
  6. Stir constantly until the syrup reaches 300 degree F (this could take up to 30 minutes). This is where a candy thermometer will come in handy. Or, if you’re like me and don’t have a candy thermometer, use the water test (see below).
  7. Grease a cookie sheet with butter or coconut oil and pour in the syrup.
  8. When the syrup has cooled and is pliable, begin pulling off small pieces and roll them between the palms of greased hands. Form a small, cough-drop sized ball. Note: Work quickly as the mixture hardens pretty fast. If balls harden during the process, return pan to a preheated 350 degrees F oven to soften for a few minutes. Note: for added sweetness, roll cough drops in sugar and set on a cookie sheet.
  9. Allow lozenges to cool and harden on a sheet pan.
  10. Wrap the lozenges individually in pre-cut sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container up to 3 weeks.
Candy Test:

To ensure that the horehound peppermint syrup has reached the correct temperature/consistency, place a drop or two of the syrup into a bowl full of ice water. If the syrup turns and stays hard (like a cough drop) then you know it’s ready. If it is still soft and sticky, it needs to keep cooking.

Feel better!

 

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