Detox Your Life: Healthy Chocolate Swap


This is the time of year that we NEED to talk about chocolate! First, take a deep breathe. I would never tell you to stop eating chocolate because let’s be honest- it’s amazing BUT I do want you to chose a cleaner healthier version.

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Rule #1– NO milk chocolate period. Why? It lacks any type of nutrients and is so processed that you are basically just eating sugar & fat. AND it has weird ingredients in the label. For example what in the world is PGPR???? Remember: if we don’t recognize the ingredients then our body won’t either.

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I had to do a little research to find out what exactly PGPR was & here is what I found:

PGPR can be used to replace the traditional but more expensive cocoa butter as an ingredient in chocolate. Palsgaard’s website asserts, “Cocoa butter is an expensive raw material for chocolate manufacturers. By using PALSGAARD 4150 the chocolate recipe has lower costs in terms of less cocoa butter but also gives the benefit of having less fat.”

So it is basically some man made chemical that will probably be linked to cancer someday. All in the name of reducing costs right? Ditch the milk chocolate people!

Rule #2– Dark chocolate rules! Why? Because it is less processed and contains good stuff that is actually GOOD FOR YOU. Like what? I’m so glad you asked!

-Quality dark chocolate is rich in Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese and a few other minerals.

-Quality dark chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants. Have you ever heard of a measure called ORAC? ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods. Basically, researchers pit a bunch of free radicals (bad) against a sample of food and see how well the antioxidants in the food can “disarm” them.

IN A NUTSHELL: There is considerable evidence that chocolate can provide powerful health benefits, being especially protective against cardiovascular disease. But of course, this doesn’t mean people should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat on. Maybe have a square or two after dinner and try to really savor them. Be aware that a lot of the chocolate on the market is filled with crap. You need to choose quality stuff… organic, dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. Dark chocolates often contain some sugar, but the amounts are usually small and the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain.

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Detox Your Life: Healthy Oil Swap

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Do you cook with vegetable/canola oils? It’s time to make the healthy swap to coconut oil.

Many people think that cooking oils like corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and canola are good for their health just because they’re made from vegetables or plants. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, these oils are probably the worst oils you can use for cooking. One reason is that they are loaded with omega-6 fats or polyunsaturated fats. What’s more, when these oils are heated, their antioxidants become damaged and oxidized, adding more toxic burden to your body.Instead of these unhealthy cooking oils, opt for a wiser and safer choice like virgin coconut oil. Virgin Coconut Oil Offers Better Benefits Than Other Cooking Oils Virgin coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts. For many years, it was vilified and accused of causing heart disease and other health problems. But now, many health experts are recommending this oil, claiming it to be one of the most healthful found on Earth.

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Virgin coconut oil is highly recommended for cooking because it is stable enough to resist heat-induced damage. It is even better than extra-virgin olive oil, which is great when used as a salad dressing or mixed in cold dips but can be a problem when heated. This is because olive oil’s chemical structure also makes it susceptible to oxidative damage.

Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) or medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are smaller and more easily digested by your body, so they do not get stored as fat. Meanwhile, vegetable cooking oils contain long-chain fatty acids or long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). LCTs are larger and are difficult to break down, adding to your body’s toxic burden.

So, the next time you’re planning to use vegetable oil for your meals, reach for virgin coconut oil instead. Not only is it better, nutritionally-speaking, but it also boasts a richer, sweeter flavor that will certainly complement any dish.

Coconut oil is so versatile and good for you. It’s great for the kitchen and has many personal healthcare uses, such as moisturizing dry, winter skin. It’s the go to oil our home!

*Some info above provided by Green Living

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Detox Your Life: Coffee Creamer Swap!

Your body is SO smart & knows exactly how to heal you. IF you stop pumping it full of pills & toxic foods & let it do it’s job.

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If you want to clean up your diet start with your drinks. Water is your friend & most other drinks are not. I know you might NEED your coffee, but please figure out a way to sweeten & add cream to it without chemicals. When I drink coffee I use unsweetened almond milk and coconut oil to flavor it, but when I first made the transition away from creamer, I also used a little bit of pure maple syrup. The maple syrup helps to get the sweet taste without all the chemicals. Be sure you are using a PURE  natural maple syrup- NOT the sugar filled artificial syrup like Log Cabin or Aunt Jemima. Why? Because here is what is in the fake sugar filled syrups –>  INGREDIENTS: CORN SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, CELLULOSE GUM, CARAMEL COLOR, SALT, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SODIUM BENZOATE AND SORBIC ACID (PRESERVATIVES), SODIUM HEXAMETAPHOSPHATE.

What is in pure maple syrup? INGREDIENTS: MAPLE SYRUP

Get the point? I thought so.

My #1 rule to eat by? LESS IS MORE. Real food rocks.

Take a look at the back of your creamer bottle- how many of those ingredients do you recognize? That’s what I thought. Make the switch today.

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Live More. Have Less.

I watched a very powerful TED talk awhile back and it changed my life. See it here –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XRPbFIN4lk&feature=kp

I realized after watching this 20 minute talk that I was not living free. Sure I am already living free in some ways but realized that my STUFF is really weighing me down. What is with ALL the stuff we collect? It seems we are being told the more STUFF you own the better and the bigger the house you can buy the better etc etc. I realized we (my husband & I) were all caught up in worrying about the next step we “should” be taking. Yikes! We are over 30 and we don’t own a home yet? What will people think? How can we make this ‘dream’ happen? Wait, do we even want a house? Is that our dream? Will that make us happy? Or is that just the next thing we are supposed to check off the  list?

Seriously, this has been a BIG wake up call for me. I had to get really honest with myself and admit that I really don’t want a huge house. Gasp! Is that okay? Well sure it it! This is MY life!! I want to build memories not collect mementos. I want to live more and have less.

I was thinking back to the way I grew up- I lived in a small apartment with my mom. Most of my friends had a house, but I don’t remember really caring about that. I feel I had a very unique and special relationship with my mom due to the fact that we shared such a small space together. Speaking of my mom, she grew up in a tiny farm house with 7 siblings and they all shared ONE bathroom. This type of living situation (although I’m sure it was annoying at times) creates strong relationships. It meant my mom and her siblings had to communicate and be close to one another- unlike today where people are home in the same house and don’t even realize it. Or perhaps they are sitting next to each other on the couch but they are on just staring at their iPhones.

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I just don’t like the way things are going and I want to make a change. We have decided to down-size. This summer our goal is to SIMPLIFY. We are moving out of our 1200 sq ft multi-level condo & into a 700 sq ft apartment. We are moving a bit farther northeast, for a more simple ‘country living’ feel.

I want my 4yr old son to value people over things. It’s important to me that he learns you CAN create a life you love- not a life according to the standards that someone else has set. No one else has to understand what we are doing. No one else has to understand why we live the way we live- as long as we are happy- this is EVERYTHING.

I found this amazing excerpt from mnmlst.com

The more I focus on living, the less it seems I need.

What does it mean to focus on living? It’s a shift from caring about possessions and status and goals and beautiful things … to caring about actual life. Life includes: taking long walks, creating things, having conversations with friends, snuggling with my wife, playing with my kids, eating simple food, going outside and getting active.

That’s living. Not shopping, or watching TV, or eating loads of greasy and sweet food not for sustenance but pleasure, or being on the Internet, or ordering things online, or trying to get popular. Those things aren’t living – they’re consumerist pastimes that tend to get us caught up in overconsumption and mindlessness.

When I focus on living, all those other fake needs become less important. Why do I need television when I can go outside and explore, or get active, or take a walk with a friend? Why do I need to shop when I already have everything I need – I can spend time with someone or create, and I need very little to do that.

And needing little but getting lots of satisfaction … that’s immensely rewarding. It’s an economy of resources that I’ve never experienced before.

These days, I need nothing but my loved ones, a text editor, a way to post what I create, a good book, simple plant-based food, a few clothes for warmth, and the outdoors.

The people in your life matter. The SMALL things in your life matter. Not the BIG things or the amount of STUFF you have. Don’t believe me? Just check out the top 5 regrets of the dying –> http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/03/top-5-regrets-of-the-dying_n_3640593.html  I don’t see anything on the list that even relates to material possessions. It seems people who are at the end of their lives wish they would have followed their dreams, not worked so hard and spent more time with their family. If you are always at work trying to pay for a giant house- you usually don’t have any time to enjoy it (or the people inside of it).

Stay tuned as I document the steps we are taking to simplify our lives. This transition to a smaller space is just the first step to achieving our family dream of living in a self-sustaining ‘tiny house’ on some land in the country someday. This is OUR dream to get back to nature and what really matters. I know it’s going to be hard but I am truly excited for the challenge.

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More about the tiny house movement here –> http://thetinylife.com/what-is-the-tiny-house-movement/

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How I learned patience by living naturally

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Confession: I used to be impatient. I am a recovering impatient person. It was really bad. I wanted things done RIGHT NOW. Don’t get me wrong- I still slip into my old ways of demanding my family members hurry up & getting irritated when things don’t happen NOW, but I am WAY WAY more patient than I have ever been in my life. I realized that I learned these lessons in patience when I begin living a more natural life. I know you might be thinking- what the heck does living naturally have to do with being patient? My answer EVERYTHING. Read on.

I ditched toxic chemicals. This means that I make some of my own soaps/ cleaners etc. Is it easier to just pick up some soap & cleaner form the store? Why YES it is, but instead I carve out time to make my own. Once I finish making a product or even just adding essential oils to some castile soap I purchased- it feels good to know that I am taking the time to make a safe & non-toxic product that I can use on a daily basis. Then next month when I run out, I will take the time to make more. It connects me to my health. My health is my responsibility & even just a small step like this can make me feel empowered to know that I can take charge of my health- in this small way- if I just take the time to do so.

I began cooking food from scratch. When I cook food from scratch I know exactly whats in it. Is it easier to cut corners & buy food that is pre-made? YES it is, but instead I take time to shop, prepare & cook things from scratch as much as possible. Is this a big pain in my ass? YES- sometimes it is, but the patient way is not always the easiest. Another lesson in patience + food is seasonal eating. When you eat seasonally,  you are eating what is fresh and meant to be consumed at that time of the year. Seasonal food tastes amazing! If you are eating foods that are not in season- then they are likely covered in chemicals and not very fresh. Waiting for your favorites to be back in season takes patience for sure.

I started doing yoga. If you have never tried yoga then I know exactly what you are thinking: skip ahead blah blah blah. I get it. I too once thought of yoga as a bunch of stretching & fluff. Something I had NO time for. I attended my first yoga class 10 or so years ago & hated how SLOW it was. I couldn’t stop the chatter in my mind during the whole class- thinking of what I should be doing instead and I how I should be going faster. I wasn’t very flexible at the time- so I wasn’t “good” at yoga. I quit. Who has time to do things that you are not good at? Certainly NOT the impatient me. Fast forward a few years. I felt called to do a yoga teacher training last year. I followed the call & entered into the training not having done much yoga at all since the time I quit about 10 years ago. Now let me just tell you- everyone in my training was very experienced. I panicked the first day. How can I teach something I can’t do? The answer PATIENCE. When everyone else was looking ‘perfect’- I was bending my knees. I modified the postures. This was very hard for me to do because the impatient me wanted to be able to do it NOW & initially wanted to just rush into trying the posture. However, I didn’t. Throughout the entire training I remained a ‘beginner’ and was SO overwhelmed with the AMAZING transformation I was able to make. I vowed to stay this beginner (learning nothing beyond what the training was teaching me) so that I could experience exactly what it felt like to be that new yoga student. The fear, the frustration, the impatience, the doubt, the confusion, the trust. It was exactly what I needed to go through to become the yoga teacher I am today. I needed to slow down. I needed to be patient with my body. Yoga taught me all that. Yoga continues to teach me valuable lessons in patience. Trying certain postures for months without success can be frustrating, but the old impatient me would have given up by now. In addition, I have learned lessons in patience through my students. Gently correcting their form & encouraging them to SLOW DOWN. To keep trying & stay patient. Even helping them work through some pretty serious injuries and health issues- patience is always the answer.

I started using essential oils. I admit, I was skeptical about trying the oils after reading all the claims & testimonies- it sounded too good to be true. The first time my son had a fever, I applied the peppermint oil to the bottoms of his feet and neck. The fever cam down a bit, but hovered right around 100 degrees. The impatient part of me wanted to reach for the tylenol to ‘knock the fever right out’- but because living naturally means exercising trust in the human body- I didn’t. Because the oils are natural and work with your body’s natural ability – the peppermint won’t take the fever completely away. Why? Because the fever is your body’s way of naturally fighting off whatever virus etc that has invaded. Peppermint essential oil will bring the fever down a bit, but will NOT eliminate it completely like Tylenol would. If you eliminate the fever then you just prolong the process. Your body needs the fever to heal itself. This is where the patience comes in. Breathe and trust that the body knows what to do and the less toxins/chemicals you put in it’s way- the better! This has been a serious lesson in patience for me.

We are living in a ‘NOW’ world. A world full of fast food and smart phones. We expect everything to be available to us NOW and that we should instantly be good at everything we try to do. What we really need to do? SLOW DOWN. Stop to love yourself just as you are. Take pride in being a beginner. Imagine yourself as a child and allow yourself to learn new things this way. Put down your phone. Give yourself a hug. Oh and….

EAT MORE KALE. DO MORE YOGA.

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How to Extend the Life of Your Produce

No one likes wasting fruits and vegetables, yet the average family of four throws away as much as $600 worth of spoiled produce each year, according to the USDA (it’s not all that hard to imagine when an organic apple can cost $1.50). I discovered an easy way to preserve the edible life of your produce, so you have more time to consume it instead of having to toss it out! With this simple little product called BluApple, you can extend the storage life of produce by as much as threefold- it seriously works!!

51BkS65hLGLHOW BluApple works: by absorbing ethylene gas, which is given off naturally by fruits and vegetables. If ethylene gas builds up in your food storage area, it speeds the ripening process and accelerates ripening. Entrepreneur Timmy Chou, who founded BluApple, was inspired by the science applied for years to prevent spoilage in industrial environments like ocean liners, trucks and warehouses. He created a consumer product that makes use of the same non-toxic active ingredient (sodium permanganate). Each BluApple can absorb ethylene gas in a typical home refrigerator, produce bin or storage container for about three months (after that, refill packets are available). Simply place a BluApple where you keep your fruits and vegetables, and then sit back and enjoy them… for much longer. It’s totally safe & non-toxic- for a full video on how it works click HERE.

You can get BluApple at your local Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon. Be sure to pick one up so you can start extending the life of all your organic produce, reduce waste & save you money!

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9 Best Foods for Your Skin

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  1. Almonds: loaded with Vitamin E, almonds protect your skin against sun damage.
  2. Flaxseeds: The Omega 3’s in flax help to erase fine lines and age spots.
  3. Sweet Potatoes: These taters are loaded with Vitamin C, which when consumed, act almost like collagen in its wrinkle smoothing abilities
  4. Spinach: The folate in dark, leafy greens like spinach help maintain and repair DNA, which may reduce the likelihood of cancer-cell growth
  5. Coconut Oil: Suffering from dry, itchy skin? The Omega 3 fatty acids in Coconut oil can be the best moisturizer
  6. Carrots: The Vitamin A found in carrots can boost eye health as well as clear up your skin from breakouts
  7. Green Tea: Green tea contains catechin, which has proven anti-inflammatory properties.
  8. Water: Hydrated skin keeps it looking supple and glowing
  9. Mango: The Vitamin A in mango helps repair flaky skin to a beautiful, smooth texture

Want glowing skin? Try a mix of green goodness to get the job done!

Green and Glowing Smoothie

Ingredients:
1 cup cleaned spinach leaves, firm packed
1 cup cleaned kale, rough chop, firm packed
1 cup green seedless grapes
1 Bartlett pear, core, stem and seeds removed
1 orange, peeled and quartered
1 banana, peeled
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1⁄2 cup water
2 cups ice

Directions:
Place all ingredients in blender and process on a low speed for 15 seconds, increase to medium, then high until well blended. Going green never tasted so good!

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3 Easy Tips for Giving Greener Gifts

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For the last few years I have been more & more bothered by the amount of paper waste that occurs this time of year. Think about it: gift bags, tissue paper, wrapping paper, cards galore! Not to mention all of the packaging that comes with toys! I just wanted to share a couple of quick tips I use to stay a bit greener this time of year.

#1) Save your sweet potato bags. I get most of my sweet potatoes from Trader Joes so the bags are red & make the PERFECT gift bag for this time of year!

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#2) Purchase pre-assembled bikes and toys without a lot of unnecessary packaging. We purchase a lot of Melissa & Doug toys. I am a fan of this brand for a few reasons, but I especially appreciate their minimal packaging. Instead of a bunch of plastic, cardboard and styrofoam- most of their toys come in wooden crates which we love to reuse all around our house!

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#3) Give your small gifts inside of a Mason jar! It’s SO easy & so reusable!

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Is your hair color to DYE for?

We already realize that chemicals in cosmetics such as skin creams can break through the skin barrier and enter right into our blood stream, but what about the chemicals in hair coloring? Confession: dying my hair has been one of the last things holding me back from being completely ‘green’. I have eliminated ALL the chemicals/toxins in my home & beauty routine, but continued to dye my hair.  I knew it couldn’t be good for me (the smell alone gives that away), but I just wasn’t ready to give it up. UNTIL I finally allowed myself to read about the risks associated with the chemicals used in hair dyes.6a013483f8bf49970c0147e33dc751970b-200pi

For years, researchers believed that hair dye could cause cancer, especially in women who used the darker colors. In fact, some studies even showed that using hair dye repeatedly could increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. But, despite scores of studies, the results linking hair dye to cancer were often contradictory and inconclusive. Until now. New research in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found that women who have spent years coloring their hair do indeed run a greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system that claims about half of all its victims. The six-year study involving more than 1,300 Connecticut women was conducted at Yale University. Why Connecticut? True, the state is home to the university. But there has been a worldwide increase in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since the 1970s and Connecticut is one of those areas with a particularly large number of confirmed cases.

The Likely Suspects

While hair dyes have always been a witches brew of chemicals, two specific compounds may be responsible for the increased risk of non-Hodgskin’s lymphoma and other cancers. The first is a tongue-twisting chemical called phenylenediamine. This chemical, which is often preceded by an m-, o-, or p-, is usually found in permanent hair dyes commonly known as oxidation dyes or peroxide dyes.

Protected under a 1938 FDA exemption, this chemical has been shown to cause cancer in animal experiments, and at least two studies have shown that repeated exposure to phenylenediamine increases the risk of bladder cancer in humans. The most recent, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California, found that women who routinely dye their hair are more than three times more likely to develop bladder cancer.

Although the FDA is unable to ban its use, the agency proposed a requirement ordering manufacturers to place warning labels on products containing this substance. If the proposal had been accepted, the label would have read, “Warning: [this product] contains an ingredient that can penetrate your skin and has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” At the same time, the FDA also proposed that beauty salons using these products post warnings for their customers. But, as often happens, cosmetic industry lobbyists successfully defeated both proposals and no warnings were ever seen on products containing phenylenediamine. <—-UGH!

In most cases, we (as consumers) are not even seeing the labels of these hair dye bottles because the color is typically being mixed in a back room of the salon. There is no verbal warnings made by our hair dressers either, {because I’m not sure they truly understand the risks}. Like I mentioned before, eliminating hair dye was a tough decision for me as I had been avoiding this juicy truthbomb for quite some time. I have been dying my hair on & off for years and just wasn’t ready to give it up! Then I got real with myself-  if lotion can enter your bloodstream through the skin…..What the heck do you think hair dye is doing?? It was time! SO a few months ago, I called my hairdresser & switched my appointment request to ‘just a haircut’ so I could finally take to leap to being completely GREEN & toxin free!! Let’s face it friends –> HAIR COLOR IS NOT WORTH DYING FOR.

I know it’s not what you wanted to hear, but guess what? There are some natural hair dye options available so read on!

Natural Hue

For a truly natural hair dye option, consider henna, which is made from the powdered leaves of a desert shrub called Lawsonia. Available in health food stores, henna has been used for thousands of years to color hair and skin. Although traditional henna only produced red hues, today’s formulas come in black and various shades of brown.

Because henna is natural, there are limits to what you can do with it. You can’t lighten or bleach with it, but you can use it on gray hair and the brown shades work particularly well. Just don’t use it on color-treated hair or if you’ve had a perm. Henna can react with the chemical residue still left on your hair and the results can be . . . well, interesting to say the least.

Like any semi-permanent dye, henna will only coat the hair and lasts an average of six weeks. But one advantage to henna is that it can be mixed with ingredients from the kitchen to customize color, like coffee to deepen brown tones, tea to add highlights and apple cider vinegar to help hold color on resistant gray hair.

But if you’re a natural blond, henna won’t work for you. Luckily, there are a number of natural hair dyes that do work on blonds – and without relying on ammonia or phenylenediamine. Instead they’re based on soy extracts, herbs and other plant-based ingredients.

*Resources: Gago-Dominguez M, et al. “Use of permanent hair dyes and bladder-cancer risk.” International Journal of Cancer. 2001;91:575-579. Mielke H, et al. “Lead-based hair products: too hazardous for household use.” Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association. 1997;85-89.

If you currently have or find a natural option that works for you- be sure to leave a comment & share it below!

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