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12 Tips to Keep Your Garden Harvest Fresh for Longer

Have you ever been so blessed by a massive harvest that you become overwhelmed? I know the feeling! Sometimes you just have so many fresh veggies that you become worried about using them all before they go bad. Believe me, this is a problem. However, you can turn your problem around if you follow these tips on preserving and keeping your harvest fresh for longer.

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Yes, You Should Eat the WHOLE Avocado – Even the Pit

There aren’t many people out there who don’t like avocados. They’re creamy, delicious, brilliantly versatile, and undeniably one of the greatest superfoods available on supermarket shelves. Most people are aware of the wide-ranging health benefits that avocado flesh provides, but few know that the seed they throw away each time they eat an avocado can provide an impressive array of health-promoting properties. While the flesh of an avocado is packed with nutrients and healthy fats, you may be surprised to learn that over 70 percent of the total antioxidant concentration in avocados is contained in the seed. Here are five compelling reasons to stop you from throwing that next avocado seed away.

Reduce inflammation: The same powerful concoction of antioxidants in avocado seeds is responsible for their potent inflammation-fighting properties. Avocado seeds contain high concentrations of catechins and procyanidins, antioxidants that reduce inflammation associated with pain, swelling, stiffness, and impaired joint function. This heroic pair of antioxidants also promotes heart health and proper blood circulation.

Fight cancer: A 2013 study from the University of Antioquia demonstrated that extracts from avocado seeds had a pro-apoptotic influence on leukemia cells, meaning that the extract caused leukemia cells to die and left the normal cells healthy and stable. For this reason, avocado seeds could be an important way to fight or reduce your cancer risk.

Improve digestion: Avocado seeds have long been used in their native homeland of Mexico and Central America to treat a range of digestive issues, including dysentery and gastric ulcers. Today, avocado seeds can be used to promote healthy digestive function, with their potent concentrations of antioxidants and fiber helping to support your gastrointestinal tract by promoting the growth and maintenance of healthy gut bacteria.

Encourage weight loss: The same fiber found in avocado seeds that helps support healthy digestion can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Their high fiber content provides feelings of fullness and satiation, meaning you don’t get the same urge to eat as often. They can also help control your blood sugar levels, with stable blood sugar meaning you’re less likely to give in to food cravings throughout the day.

Support your skin: The powerful cocktail of antioxidants contained in avocado seeds can be just what your skin needs to become supple and clear. These antioxidants can help to rebuild collagen, promote the repair of cells damaged by free radical activity and generally just make your skin look and feel healthy.

How to eat avocado seeds 

Now that you’ve learned about the many benefits that avocado seeds can provide for your health, you’re probably wondering how the heck to eat them. They’re hard, heavy, and seemingly close to indestructible. 

The first step is to remove the seed from the surrounding flesh by cutting the avocado in half with a large sharp knife then whacking the knife down hard on the seed to stick it onto the blade. Use the edge of a cutting board to dislodge the seed from the knife blade, then cut it into quarters with a sharp knife, being careful of your fingers. The seed is actually surprisingly easy to cut with a suitably sharp knife.

Now throw the quarters into a powerful blender and process until you make a fine powder. Divide the resulting powder into two piles— one pile is enough for a single serving, so put the other pile in a storage container in the fridge. Now you can throw the powder into a smoothie mix, but be sure the other ingredients are relatively strong, as the seed powder can be quite bitter due to its tannins.

Nevertheless, don’t forget that the avocado seed is highly valuable and should not be forgotten! 

 

Susan Patterson, Certified Health Coach, and Master Gardener

 

 

 

Improve Your Gut Health and Reduce Toxins With Lemon Water and Zest

You’ve probably heard of drinking lemon water for any number of ailments, and though there is limited scientific research to back up many of its purported benefits, there is still plenty of proof that should inspire you to include lemon water in your morning routine. Additionally eating lemons and enjoy lemon zest throughout the day can help boost your health. Unlike many other health fads and fleeting trends, this wellness aid is more than just smoke and mirrors. Read on for our favorite reasons to drink a glass of warm (or cool) lemon water as soon as you step out of bed and enjoy the zest all day long!

Can help keep you hydrated

It is well known that the majority of the population is severely dehydrated. In fact, 75% of Americans fall short of the recommended minimum daily water consumption, which is 10 cups per day. That means that three out of every four people are living in a chronic state of dehydration and forcing their bodies to work overtime to compensate for lack of water. 

Often, the reason that so many people cite for their uninspiring water intake is a dislike for the way water “tastes.” Fortunately, getting into the habit of drinking water with lemon first thing in the morning will give you a great, hydrated start to your day. Even if you don’t like the taste of water, a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice can make it infinitely better. 

Supports healthy digestion

Lemon water encourages the liver to produce bile, which is required for proper digestion, and it can help flush out toxins from the body and prevent buildup. Getting your digestive system on the right track early in the morning is critical for proper bowel function throughout the day. Don’t forget to add some lemon zest in with your daily meals as well to further help your body digest the food you eat all day long!

Boosts your immune system

Millions of people around the country are bracing themselves for the upcoming cold and flu season. As Halloween decorations start to emerge, so do the nasty bugs hanging out on bathroom door handles and public transportation, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike a vulnerable immune system. Now is the time to load up on fresh, whole foods, and do whatever you can to boost your body’s natural germ-fighting capabilities. 

This preparation includes drinking a daily glass of lemon water, as this tart fruit has loads of natural vitamin C that helps your cells produce infection-fighting antibodies.

Can aid in weight loss

This study found that the polyphenols in lemons can reduce and suppress body fat accumulation, while the pectin fiber in lemons can help curb appetite and reduce hunger. These abilities combined could help you in your wellness journey. Remember, weight loss does not happen overnight, and there is no magic drink that will (on its own) make you thinner. Lemon water and lemon zest should be enjoyed in conjunction with a healthy whole foods diet, daily exercise, and reduction in sugar consumption. 

Helps freshen breath

There’s nothing like waking up to nasty morning breath. Unfortunately, no matter how well you brush your teeth, you may be subject to halitosis in the morning. Drink a glass of lemon water to help eliminate that foul odor and encourage saliva production.

How to enjoy lemon water:

All you need is two ingredients…filtered water, and a lemon. It’s that easy. Simply squeeze one half or a whole lemon (depending on how much flavor you want) into a tall glass. Fill the remaining way with filtered water and sip away. The water can be cool in the summertime for a refreshment from the heat or hot in the winter for a warming beverage. Add a squeeze of honey, if desired, for a hint of sweetness to combat the sour lemon. Drink through a straw to help protect your teeth’ enamel from the lemon acid, and always swish your mouth with a sip of plain water after drinking to eliminate residue on your teeth. 

Add any of the following ingredients for an extra health boost:

  • A few sprigs of mint
  • Slice of fresh ginger
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Sprinkle of turmeric

Another great way to get your lemon fix is to add fresh lemon juice and zest to an ice cube tray and freeze. These handy lemon cubes will shorten your morning routine even more and ensure you never miss a day. 

-Susan Patterson, Certified Health Coach, and Master Gardener

Supercharge Your Water With Delicious Homegrown Produce

Water, we can’t live without it, and consuming it on its own has a myriad of health benefits such as keeping us hydrated, aiding in weight loss, and keeping our skin, hair, and nails looking great. Plus, it can aid in digestion, maintain the balance of body fluids, energize muscles, help kidneys and bowels with regular function, and so much more. But…do you sometimes get tired of water and wish that it actually tasted like something other than, well, water? You are in luck. There are a number of easy-to-grow, delicious and nutritious herbs and fruits that you can add to your water.

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Always Wanted to Sprout an Avocado Seed? Here’s How To Do it

Why would you want to sprout an avocado seed? Well, the most simple answer:  because you can! There are not many fruits and vegetables that are near as fun to grow from seeds as avocados. Some seeds are a real pain to get started. For instance, seeds of peaches, plums, and apricots need to be either subjected to cold stratification or their hard pits broken mechanically before planting.

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The 5 Best Foods to Feed Your Brain

Just as the foods you eat influence your heart, kidneys, liver and all other major organs, your brain is also impacted by what you put in your body. Treat it right, and you may be able to stave off future neurological complications, including the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

Study finds link between diet and brain size

If you look at the available research, there are numerous studies that show a clear connection between a nutrient-rich diet and brain size, as well as brain function. This is particularly the case when eating a Mediterranean diet.

This month, a new study was published in Neurology. After studying 4,213 people in the Netherlands, it was found that diet may have a profound effect on the brain. The average age of these participants was 66 years old (none of the participants were living with dementia at the time of the study).  

After filling out a questionnaire based on their intake of 400 items in the past month, the researchers focused their attention on diet quality. More specifically, they examined the participants’ intake of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grain products, nuts, fish, dairy, tea, unsaturated fats and oils, processed and red meat, alcohol, salt, and sugary beverages.

The participants were then each ranked based on the quality of their diet. They were given a score between zero and 14. The average score was seven. Following this analysis, all participants underwent an MRI scan. Measuring a number of metrics, the average brain volume was found to be 932 milliliters.

After adjusting for other variables (sex, education, age, smoking, and physical activity), it was found that a higher diet score was linked to a larger brain volume. In previous studies, those with a greater brain volume were shown to have higher levels of cognition.

Overall, those who consumed a healthier diet had an average of two more milliliters of total brain volume in comparison to those who did not eat a healthy diet. To put this in perspective, a brain volume that is 3.6 millimeters smaller equates to one year of aging.

These five foods can help reduce brain shrinkage

The study above is not the first of its kind and it won’t be the last. In fact, past research shows that a diet rich in key vitamins, minerals, and fats can stop the brain from shrinking. In comparison, eating “junk food” has the opposite effect.

Starting today, consume more of the following five foods while maintaining a balanced, active lifestyle.

1. Wild-caught fish

Unlike farmed fish, wild-caught fish is not as heavily exposed to toxins, antibiotics, and other harmful chemicals. Known to offer the body and mind essential omega-3 fatty acids, fish may also reduce brain shrinkage. In one key study, it was found that adults who took fish oil, who had not yet developed Alzheimer’s, experienced less brain shrinkage and cognitive decline in comparison to those not taking fish oil.

2. Dark leafy greens

It was recently found that kale and other dark leafy green vegetables may help keep the brain up to 11 years younger. As published in Neurology, older people who ate at least one serving of leafy greens daily, experienced lower rates of decline on tests of thinking skills and memory. High in folate and B-12, these B-complex vitamins have been shown to reduce brain shrinkage across time.

3. Olive oil

A staple of the Mediterranean diet, quality olive oil has been shown to protect brain tissue. Not only has it been attributed to less brain shrinkage, but also healthier neurons. Loaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidants properties, olive oil is also believed to reduce the risk of genetic mutations in the brain.

4. Nuts

Nuts provide your body with a range of key nutrients, including healthy fats and vitamin E (which is high in hazelnuts and almonds). Walnuts are one of the top nuts for brain health, and just one-quarter of a cup provides nearly 100 percent of your daily recommended DHA (an omega- 3 fatty acid found in the human brain, skin, retina and cerebral cortex). Brazil nuts are also highly recommended.

5. Blueberries

When it comes to inflammation, blueberries can act as a natural line of defense. Also, based on their high concentration of antioxidants, these little nutritional powerhouses are believed to protect brain cells from damage. The research shows that the regular consumption of blueberries is linked to increased blood flow to the brain. It has also been found that blueberries help protect against (and in some cases reverse) cognitive loss due to brain injury, stroke, and normal aging.

When it comes to your neurological health, it is also important to note that there appears to be a significant connection between heart and brain health. This means that you should address and properly manage any cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension and diabetes.

On that note, I’m going to leave you with this quote from T. Colin Campbell, one of my favorite American biochemists. He is also a nutrition educator and once said, “Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.”

Feed your body and mind what it needs, and it will help you take care of the rest!

– The Backyard Vitality Team

 

5 Garden Favorites to Eat Before Working Out

Perhaps you have grown theme gardens before like butterfly, tea, salsa, or salad gardens. But have you ever considered growing your very own energy garden? An energy garden is packed with homegrown goodness that can give you just the right amount of energy before a hard workout. 

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Stop Buying Grapes at the Grocery Store, Grow Your Own Instead

For over 6,000 years, gardeners have been growing grapes. Don’t let the idea of cultivating grapes scare you; it is easier than you might think. And, it is a good idea to stop buying grapes from the supermarket as they are one of the most heavily sprayed commercial crops. Do you even know what you are eating with your grapes?

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27 Lemon Fixes That Work

The lemon was first created as a cross between a lime and a citron, and all three grow on evergreen shrubs. The Arabs introduced this small citrus fruit to the Europeans, who then brought them to Spain in the 11th century. Along with other fruits and vegetables, Christopher Columbus brought lemons with him on his second voyage to the New World in 1493, and they have been growing in Florida since the 16th century.

Besides large amounts of vitamin C, lemons also contain riboflavin, thiamin, iron, magnesium, pantothenic acid, fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, calcium, and folate.
Here’s an interesting fact: lemons protected miners against scurvy during the California Gold Rush, and cost as much as one dollar each in 1849.

Although we may not be overly concerned about scurvy in America today, here are 27 extraordinary ways to put lemons to work in your life:

1. Lemons fight free radicals

Vitamin C is the most important antioxidant. This vitamin neutralizes free radicals both inside and outside of cells. Free radicals are responsible for damaging cells and cellular membranes, which lead to inflammation, chronic diseases, and accelerated aging.

Free radicals can also damage blood vessels and alter cholesterol so that it builds up on artery walls. Vitamin C helps prevent this buildup and consequently helps to stop the progression of atherosclerosis and heart disease in diabetics.

2. Boost immune system

Lemons contain vitamin C to help boost your immune system.
Lemons contain vitamin C to help boost your immune system.

When cold and flu season arrives, it is always a good idea to keep a bag of fresh lemons handy. Citric acid, bioflavonoids, vitamin C, calcium, pectin, and limonene do a great job of boosting your immune system and keeping infections at bay.

3. Protect against cancer

Lemons contain 22 anti-cancer compounds including limonene, an oil that has been shown to halt the growth of cancer tumors in animals. In addition, they also contain flavonol glycosides, which stop the division of cancer cells.

A 2005 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that limonoids in citrus fruits protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer. Another study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry stated that limonoids can inhibit tumors in the mouth and stop the growth of cancer cells once a tumor has formed.

4. Balance pH

Lemons are considered one of the most alkalizing foods you can eat. This may seem counterintuitive, as they are acidic on their own. However, in the body, lemons are alkaline; the citric acid does not create acidity once it has been metabolized.

The minerals in lemons actually help to alkalize the blood. Most people are too acidic, and lemons reduce overall acidity, drawing uric acid from the joints. This reduces the pain and inflammation which many people feel.

5. Aid oxygen uptake

Lemons have a purer concentration of negatively charged ions than any other fruit. Dr. Pierce J. Howard, author of “The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain Research,” says, “Negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy. They also may protect against germs in the air.” The first man to reach the top of Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, said that he attributed much of his success to lemons!

Fact: One lemon tree can produce up to 600 pounds of lemons in a year. If you live in an area where you can grow a tree, you should plant one or two!

6. Add fiber

Most people fall far short of the 20 to 38 grams of fiber recommended daily. Without proper fiber, however, you can easily become constipated or develop hemorrhoids. Consuming adequate fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of developing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and diverticulitis.

In fact, the American Diabetes Association includes lemons on their list of superfoods because of their high fiber content. In addition, the pectin fiber in lemons can help keep you from getting hungry and overeating.

7. Boost mood and energy

Lemons can naturally improve your mood and energy levels.
Lemons can naturally improve your mood and energy levels.

Have you ever gotten up on the “wrong side of the bed?” If you are often lethargic and cranky in the morning, or any time of the day, for that matter, you may want to consider munching on a lemon.

Our energy comes from atoms and molecules in our food. When positively charged atoms flood the digestive tract and mingle with those that are negatively charged, a positive reaction occurs.

Lemons contain more negatively charged ions than positive ions, which gives you a boost as the lemon enters your digestive tract. Just the scent alone of lemons can improve your mood and elevate your energy levels. Lemons also promote clear thinking and help reduce anxiety and depression.

8. Improve digestive health

Your body works hard to digest all that you give it. Lemon juice helps flush away unwanted materials and toxins left from the digestive process. Because lemon juice is similar in atomic composition to digestive juices and saliva, it does a great job breaking down material and encouraging the liver to produce bile.

9. Clear skin

Sometimes we forget that the key to clear and beautiful skin starts with great nutrition. Thanks to the vitamin C in lemons, these little citrus fruits can help decrease wrinkles and blemishes. Lemons help to push toxins from the body and support healthy liver function, which also keeps skin clear and supple.

10. Protect against kidney stones

When you don’t have enough citrate in your urine, you are at an increased risk of developing kidney stones. Eating lemons on a regular basis can help raise the citrate levels in your urine. They may prevent stones from forming by coating very small stones and keeping other material from attaching to the small stones and enlarging them.

11. Reduce blood pressure

Lemons are high in potassium, which is an important mineral that helps to keep blood vessels soft and flexible. This, in turn, helps to reduce high blood pressure. Vitamin B in lemons is also beneficial to heart health.

12. Refresh cutting board

No matter how clean you try to keep your cutting boards, it is inevitable that they will capture the odors of the foods that you cut on them. After each use, cut a lemon in half and rub the cutting board down. You can also pour some lemon juice in a small spray bottle and spritz the board after each use. Rinse well and allow the board to air dry.

13. Repel insects

If you have small children or pets you may be leery of using a chemical treatment for insects that decide to take up residence in your home. To keep ants and other insects out spray a little juice on door thresholds and windowsills.

If you can see where the ants or other unwanted guests are coming from, squeeze a little juice into holes or cracks. You can also cut up small pieces of lemons outside of doors as well. To deter roaches and fleas, mix the juice of four lemons, with rinds left on, with 1/2 gallon of water and wash your floors.

14. Lighten age spots

Age spots, also known as liver spots, are spots that generally appear in people over 50. They can sometimes be the result of sun exposure and are completely harmless, although some people don’t like the way they look.

If you are one of those people, you can lighten these spots naturally with lemon. Simply apply some real lemon juice to the dark area (a spray bottle works well), and let it sit on the spot for about 15 minutes before rinsing off. Keep this up daily and you will see a lightening effect in no time.

15. Highlight hair naturally

Do you dream of beautiful hair highlights but dread using heavy chemicals? Using lemons for lightening your hair is a wonderful way to get lovely highlights without exposing yourself to toxins. Mix 1/4 cup of lemon juice with 3/4 cup water and use this mixture to rinse your hair. After you rinse, sit in the sun until your hair dries. Repeat this once daily for up to a week until you see the desired results.

16. Fight dandruff

Many people are plagued with dandruff and tirelessly seek relief. Thankfully, there is a very easy way to ease dandruff using lemon juice. Massage two tablespoons of lemon juice into your scalp and rinse with water. Next, stir one teaspoon of lemon juice into a cup of water and rinse your hair with it. Repeat this until you see an improvement in your dandruff.

17. Freshen breath

Rinsing your mouth with juice from lemons can give you fresh breath.
Rinsing your mouth with juice from lemons can give you fresh breath.

For long-lasting fresh breath, rinse with straight lemon juice. Rather than spitting the juice out, swallow it. Citric acid, found in lemon juice will alter the pH level in your mouth, killing the bacteria that cause breath odor. Rinse your mouth and teeth well, as long-term exposure to the acid can damage tooth enamel.

18. Remove berry stains

Berries are a delicious and nutritious treat and so much fun to go pick yourself. If you find that your fingers become stained from the berries (and they will if you pick enough), you will also find that regular soap and water will not come close to removing the stains.

However, pour some undiluted lemon juice on your hands, wait a few minutes, and wash with warm and soapy water. Repeat until your hands are stain-free; it shouldn’t take more than a couple of washes.

19. Clean brass and chrome

Does your brass or chrome need a pick-me-up? If so, let lemons do the work for you. You can easily make a paste with lemon juice and baking soda. Just mix enough of each to make the consistency of toothpaste. Apply the mixture to your brass or chrome and let it sit for about five minutes. Wash it off with warm water, then dry and polish with a clean cloth. You can also clean your kitchen sink with this mixture. The bonus is that it smells amazingly fresh. It will work to remove mineral deposits as well.

20. Clean and whiten nails

Whether you dig in the dirt a lot, have yellow stains from nail polish, or just have dull and listless nails, lemon juice is just what you need for your nail revival. Lemons contain natural bleaching power that can restore your nails to a vivid white. Fill a bowl halfway with fresh lemon juice.

Place your nails in the juice for about fifteen minutes. Use a soft brush or even a toothbrush to gently scrub the yellow from your nails. Rinse your hands with lukewarm water and apply a thin coat of coconut oil. Do this daily until your nail color has been restored.

21. Firm up soggy lettuce

Do you hate soggy lettuce and often find yourself throwing it out? Before you do, try this: add the juice of half a lemon to a bowl of cold water and place the soggy lettuce in this bowl in the fridge for an hour. You will be amazed at what happens to your limp lettuce. Just take the leaves out of the lemon juice mixture and dry them off before using them in your salad.

22. Aid in proper food and water absorption

A daily glass of lemon water with Himalayan salt may provide a better overall mineral balance, which promotes proper food and water absorption in your body. This allows essential nutrients to get where they need to be.

23. Get rid of allergies

Drinking lemons in warm water can help combat allergies.
Drinking lemons in warm water can help combat allergies.

It has been suggested that the combination of lemon and salt, specifically mixed into warm water, acts as a natural antihistamine for allergies. It may be the perfect alternative to those pink pills that leave you feeling drowsy.

24. Exfoliate lips

If you are suffering from dry lips, apply a bit of raw lemon juice to your lips before bedtime. In the morning you will find your lips noticeably softer. Repeat this process for several weeks to promote hydration and remove dead skin cells.

25. Boost libido

The vitamin C content and hormone-balancing properties of lemon water can help lift your mood. This might be all it takes to boost your libido, without the need for that little blue pill.

26. Get rid of blackheads

Lemons have both antibacterial and astringent properties that help promote the elimination of waste and excess oil on the skin. To help reduce blackheads, rub some lemon on your skin and let it sit for ten minutes. Splash your face with cold water. Repeat as necessary. Do not use this treatment before spending time in the sun.

27. Fight stinky armpits

Lemons have properties that help them act as a natural deodorant. Citric acid kills bacteria that cause bad odors. Simply rub the juice of a fresh lemon under your arm for a practical and effective emergency deodorant.

What is the difference between real lemons and bottled lemon juice?

Real lemons contain about 139 percent vitamin C, while bottled juice contains 100 percent of the daily value. The calcium content in real lemons is seven percent, while in bottled juice it is three percent. In addition, some bottled lemon juice may also contain fructose and other dangerous additives. Make sure you are using the real thing — it will make a difference.

-Susan Patterson, Certified Health Coach and Master Gardener