5 Ways to Reduce Your Pesticide Exposure

grass pesticide spray

Living in a city exposes you to traffic, pollution, and…pesticides? A study from the National Institutes of Health shows people living in New York City are more likely to have pesticides in their bodies than those living in less urban areas. And we know that pesticides negatively impact the developing bodies of children and babies more than adults.

The Environmental Protection Agency notes that children may be more sensitive to pesticides because their bodies are still developing. Plus, in relation to their body weight, they eat more than adults, possibly increasing their exposure to pesticides. According to Healthy Child, Healthy World, farmers and other people who work with conventionally grown crops show a heightened risk of asthma, leukemia, and prostate cancer. For those reasons, the potential impact of pesticides on small, developing bodies is cause for concern.

So, how do you avoid pesticide exposure when you reside in a concrete jungle and not a green one? Naturopathic doctor Thalia Farshchian offers these tips to help you reduce the environmental toxins in your life (healthy advice any family might benefit from regardless of your zip code).

1)  Buy Organic. You can find affordable organic produce at farmers’ markets. Vendors at these markets sometimes give deals in the half hour or so before the market closes for the day since they want to get rid of the produce they brought. You can search the Web for your local Farmers’ Market Federation to find a market near you. If organic is out of your price range, do what you can and buy organic produce for the dirty dozen. These are the 12 fruits and vegetables shown to have the most pesticides when conventionally grown. The “clean 15″ are non-organic fruits and veggies that are safe to eat (usually items with thick skin). Click here and enter your email address for a free PDF print out of the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15″ lists, or follow the links to an iPhone or Android app.

2) Veggie Wash!  Regardless if organic or non-organic, wash your vegetables and fruits thoroughly. It is not only cleaner, but extends the shelf life of your produce. According to Christopher Gavigan, half of our lifetime exposure to pesticides occurs in the first five years of life since kids eat more fruits and veggies pound-for-pound than adults. It’s especially important to give produce a good washing before serving it to children.

3)  Remove your shoes. According to the EPA, pesticides often make their way into our homes via contaminated dust and soil on the bottoms of our shoes. Leaving your shoes at the door stops these pesticides in their tracks and (for the most part) keeps them out of your home. (We wrote this handy DIY showing how to make a shoe tray to remind your family to take off their shoes when they walk inside your home).

4)  Open up detoxification pathways. Major pathways include sweating, bowel movements, and urination. Sauna therapy, drinking plenty of water, and daily bowel movements can help ensure toxins exit your system.

5)  Take care of your filter – the liver. Our liver takes on what we breathe, eat, drink, and absorb via our skin. It is important to lessen the load when possible by eating unprocessed foods and incorporating all of the above recommendations.

~ Dr. Thalia Farshchian 

Monday Meditation: Oprah on Small Gestures

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5 Ingredients To Give Your Immune System An Antioxidant Boost

antioxidants

As colder weather rolls in, so does cold and flu season. This is the perfect time to give your immune system a much needed boost. And it’s as easy as eating the right foods — antioxidants are especially important this time of year.

University of Michigan researchers conducted a study in 2011 in which they infected 17 people with the flu but not everyone showed signs of sickness. This was due to how the participants took care of their bodies — namely, by consuming foods high in antioxidants. Another study from 2009 conducted by researchers in Alabama showed the same thing — antioxidants prevented the flu virus from doing too much damage to subjects’ bodies.

What these studies underscore is the fact that eating lots of vegetables and fruits can help your body prevent disease and sickness. Perhaps you already eat healthy most of time and could use a few powerhouse foods to add to your diet? The list below contains some ingredients that can kick-up the flavor in your meals, as well as the antioxidant potency. While we should mention that none of these foods or spices can cure the cold or flu, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ratchet-up your body’s defenses this time of year simply by consuming a few extra ingredients.

Chia Seeds have been grown in Mexico for thousands of years. For ancient Mayan and Aztec peoples, the seeds were an important part of their diet. Today, we think of the ’90s Chia Pet — it’s the seed from that plant which has grown in popularity recently within health food circles. The seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, but did you know they also contain antioxidants? The amount of antioxidants in the seeds have been compared to blueberries, another antioxidant powerhouse. Mix Chia seeds into yogurt, smoothies, juice, muffins, or sprinkle on salads.

Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A relative of ginger, it’s widely used in Indian food and has a bright yellow color. Add it to vegetables, scrambled eggs, or sprinkle it on chicken. The National Institutes of Health have conducted 24 studies on the benefits of curcumin, the active component in Turmeric. The studies suggest curcumin may slow the spread of breast cancer into lung cancer and inhibit melanoma; other studies theorize the presence of turmeric in Indian food is the reason why the rate of Alzheimers in the country is so low.

Garlic contains an antioxidant that one group of researchers said was “the world’s most powerful antioxidant.” Called allicin, it is believed to trap free radicals in the body that cause heart disease, cancer, and numerous ailments. Garlic has also been shown to prevent the common cold. This is an easy one to eat since it complements so many foods — cook it with meat or poultry, add it to salads, pastas and rice, or use it to create sauces and dressings. Create a delicious spread for bread or crackers by roasting it with olive oil.

Cinnamon is a spice taken from the bark of a tropical tree. Cinnamon has been compared to blueberries in terms of antioxidant power: 1 teaspoon of cinnamon equals ½ cups of blueberry in terms of antioxidants. Cinnamon is also a great anti-inflammatory. Add cinnamon to oatmeal, smoothies, warm milk, or bake into muffins.

Raw cacao powder will make you swear off processed cacao permanently. Not only does raw cacao have a type of antioxidant called flavanoids, but it tastes very chocolate-y when combined with something sweet. Anthocyanidin is one type of flavonoid that works to reduce free radicals. It is found in high quantities in cacao, more so than black tea, green tea, or red wine. Try blending raw cacao poweder with coconut milk, a banana, several pitted dates, plus lots of ice for a sweet afternoon treat.  

What antioxidant-rich foods do you eat to boost your immune system?

Healthy Thanksgiving Makeover: Side Dishes

roasted squash plated 600

The holidays give us a chance to indulge in rich foods, but there’s no reason those foods can’t be nutritious too. In fact, it’s pretty amazing what roasting can do to a vegetable. You start with this fresh, light veggie, toss it with some olive oil, stick it in a hot oven and within 10 minutes it’s rich and complex in flavor. In the first of this three-part series, we’ll show you some tasty and healthy Thanksgiving sides that the whole family will enjoy. Yum!

One idea we love is to serve some classic Thanksgiving dishes along with healthy sides, introducing new flavors into your meal. Roasted fall veggies are the perfect solution for a number of reasons:

  • First, they are super simple to make. Basically, you’ll need olive oil, sea salt and pepper, and an organic veggie or two. Sprinkle organic fresh or dried herbs on top if you’d like. Stick it in the oven (times vary depending on the vegetable, but typically 10-12 minutes) and you’ll have a rich-tasting side dish.
  • Another reason to serve fall vegetables (parsnips, squash, carrots, etc.) at your Thanksgiving meal? They’re in-season so you’ll get them at the peak of freshness, especially if you can buy them at a local farmers’ market (ask for unsprayed or organic). And plant-based meals are much more affordable than meat-based ones.
  • Finally, roasted veggies complement turkey very well. In fact, you might even be able to skip the gravy!

When you get home from the store, wash all your produce, prep some of the veggies ahead of time (this makes day-of cooking easier), and put them in the oven just before you’re ready to serve dinner on the big day. We promise your Thanksgiving guests will leave the table satisfied if you try one or more of these  super delicious and easy-to-make recipes.

Roasted Tomatoes 

*Serves 4 people 

Ingredients

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl then transfer to a baking sheet.

3. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until tender. Serve warm.

roasted tomatoes plated 600

Garlic Asparagus 

*Serves 4 people 

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl then transfer to a baking sheet.

3. Bake for 10-12 minutes until crispy. Serve warm.

 

Autumn Zucchini & Onion Gratin

*Serves 4 people 

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 large zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 sweet white onion, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, zucchini, onion, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper.

3. Bake for 10 minutes. Then add heavy cream, breadcrumbs and cheese.

4. Bake for another 10 minutes. The gratin should look golden brown. Serve warm.

 

Orange Green Beans

*Serves 4 people 

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Juice of 1 large orange
  • 1/2 tsp. orange zest

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl then transfer to a baking sheet.

3. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until tender. Serve warm.

 

Rosemary Brussels Sprouts

*Serves 4 people 

Ingredients

  •  2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary

Directions: 

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat ; add Brussels sprouts and cook for 15 minutes.

2. Add remaining ingredients; cook for another 5 minutes or until spouts are tender. Serve warm.

 

Sweet Butternut Squash 

*Serves 6 people 

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch
    cube
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add squash and cook for 20 minutes.

2. Add remaining ingredients; cook for another 10 minutes. Serve warm.

 

roasted squash 600

Agave Roasted Squash

*Serves 4 people 

Ingredients

  • 2 large acorn squash, cut into 2 inch wedges
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 tsp. agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl then transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The acorn should look golden brown. Serve warm

What are your favorite ways to prepare fall vegetables? Share your cooking tips in the comments below.

- Amie Valpone of TheHealthyApple.com

What is Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate?

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate

This is part of our ongoing series to help consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!

Ingredient: Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate

What it is: Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is derived from sarcosine, a natural amino acid found in the human body and just about every type of biological material from animals to plants. Honest’s sarcosine is made from coconut oil.

What it does: Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is a cleanser and foam booster that helps with the effectiveness and feel of our toothpaste.

Why we use it: We chose sodium lauroyl sarcosinate because it’s very mild, but also very effective. What’s more, it’s included in the Handbook of Green Chemicals and is also Whole Foods Premium Body Care approved — two stamps of approval that validate our confidence in the safety and sustainability of this ingredient.

Why we’re featuring it today: A customer recently asked us if sodium lauroyl sarcosinate was anything like sodium lauryl sulfate, so we thought we’d clarify the issue for anyone who may share the same concern.

Here’s the 411:

They may have the same initials (SLS), but sodium lauroyl sarcosinate and sodium lauryl sulfate are NOT the same thing. Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is only similar to sodium lauryl sulfate in that they’re both surfactants, but that’s about where it ends. A comprehensive safety assessment published in the International Journal of Toxicology deemed that sodium lauroyl sarcosinate was not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful, and had no mutagenic, irritating, or sensitizing effects. It ranks a little low in EWG’s database because there are nitrosamine contamination concerns. Nitrosamines are a class of chemicals that are almost all carcinogenic, so this is a valid concern — but there’s no need to worry with our products. The sodium lauroyl sarcosinate raw ingredient we use has been continually tested for nitrosamines, which NO detectable amounts were found. Furthermore, we don’t use any ingredients that could interact with our sodium lauroyl sarcosinate to create nitrosamines. All in all, there’s nothing to worry about.

Have any additional questions about this ingredient? Let us know in the comments. We’re happy to answer!

For more information about nitrosamines, check out this reader-friendly article from The Linus Pauling Institute.