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Food Safety Alert: Nationwide Shrimp Product Recall Intensifies

And… it has happened again. As of August 16, 2021, there have been nine reports of salmonella-related illnesses related to shrimp products sold by Avanti Frozen Foods India.  Three of these people have been hospitalized. This multi-state outbreak is currently being investigated by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Illnesses have been reported in four states, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Rhode Island. 

On June 25, 2021, Avanti Foods Pvt. issued a recall on frozen shrimp products distributed nationwide from November 2020 to May 2021. However, it is now thought that the products may have been sold in stores more recently, according to the CDC.  After the CDC reopened its investigation, the FDA requested Avanti to expand the prior recall.

The frozen shrimp was sold under multiple brand names including,  365, Ahold, Big River, Censea, Chicken of the Sea, CWNO, First Street, Food Lion, Hannaford, Harbor Banks, Honest Catch, HOS, Meijer, Nature’s Promise, Open Acres, Sandbar, Sea Cove, Waterfront Bistro, Wellsley Farms, and WFNO Brands.

Whole Foods Market lists two products associated with the recall under its 365 store brand, Kroger, Albertsons, Target, and Meijer, and Hannaford are among retailers impacted by this recall. Products included in the recall include various sizes of frozen cooked, peeled, deveined, shrimp (some packaged with cocktail sauce), tempura roles sold at Target stores in California, and rings of frozen shrimp distributed by Chicken of the Sea and sold at Meijer as well as bags of Meijer-branded bags of frozen shrimp.

Avanti is based in Visakhapatnam, India, partially owned by Bangkok-based Thai Union Group, a global seafood company.

Three smaller recalls linked to the nationwide recall

In addition to the nationwide shrimp recall, there are three smaller related recalls.

  • Mai Cuisine Inc., of Allentown – Recalling 67 packs of 12 piece Shrimp Tempura Kabuki Roll purchased at selected California Target Stores
  • Genji Pacific LLC, of Allentown – Recalling 1 490 packs of sushi containing cocktail shrimp purchased in Whole Foods Market in California stores
  • Mai Franchising Inc., of Allentown – Voluntarily recalling 103 packages of sushi containing cocktail shrimp purchased at New Leaf Community Market stores in Northern California

Stores linked to these California recalls can be found on the fda.gov site.

How seafood gets tainted

According to a study published in the Journal of Food Protection, unlike poultry and other warm-blooded animals, seafood such as shrimp do not naturally carry Salmonella bacteria. Study authors state the following.

“Salmonella is not part of the natural flora of the shrimp culture environment, nor is it inherently present in shrimp grow-out ponds. The occurrence of Salmonella bacteria in shrimp from aquaculture operations is related to the concentration of fecal bacteria in the source and grow-out pond water.”

More than 90% of shrimp consumed in the United States is imported from other countries, including Southeast Asia and Central Asia. There are numerous points from growing to harvest, processing, and shipping where shrimp can become contaminated. Each time seafood and meat are frozen, it becomes a better opportunity for bacteria to thrive. Additionally, if these foods are thawed and frozen again – more bacteria can grow.  The shrimp in question were sold frozen, then thawed before being sold.

Know where your seafood comes from 

Like all food you put on your table, knowing where it originated and is handled is essential. If you can’t catch your fresh seafood or don’t live close to the sea, pick a reputable company that sources only the best seafood possible. Here are a couple of great options to consider

 Vital Choice says this about their products.

“We seek ingredients that are certified organic and Fair Trade Certified™ whenever possible. We seek suppliers who uphold good manufacturing practices and who make a positive impact on their employees, communities, and the environment.”

Wild Alaskan Company says this about their products.

“We proudly ship a wide variety of wild-caught species from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, including sockeye salmon, coho salmon, pacific cod, pacific halibut, and wild Alaska pollock.”

Stay safe and stay informed,

-The Backyard Vitality Team

Federal Officials Say STOP: Latest Salmonella Food Outbreak Sending People to the Hospital

Like a broken record playing over and over again, food recalls keep on coming. Federal officials have now identified specific stores where recalled frozen, raw, and breaded chicken products were sold. These products, manufactured by Serenade Foods in Indiana, include almost 60,000 pounds of chicken. So far, eight states have reported salmonella sickness, including New York, Illinois, Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada, where 28 people have become sick, and 11 have been hospitalized. 

According to a CDC news release, The outbreak strain of salmonella was found in unopened packages of raw frozen breaded stuffed chicken that were collected from a sick person’s home.” Of course, consumers are being encouraged to return unopened food items to the store purchased for a full refund.

Specific stores involved in the recall include Walmart, Aldi, Save-A-Lot, and Food 4 Less. More retailers may be added as the case unfolds. Check here to see which stores have been added.

Branded products that have been recalled include:

  • Dutch Farms Chicken with Broccoli & Cheese (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
  • Milford Valley Chicken with Broccoli & Cheese (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
  • Milford Valley Chicken Cordon Bleu (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
  • Kirkwood Raw Stuffed Chicken, Broccoli & Cheese (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
  • Kirkwood Raw Stuffed Chicken Cordon Bleu (lot code BR 1056; best if used by Feb 25, 2023)

Salmonella sickness can be deadly

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), there are about 1.35 million cases of salmonellosis each year, resulting in 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths. Contaminated food is the source of the majority of these cases.

Salmonella lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals and is one of the top causes of food poisoning worldwide. It is a general term for about 2,000 closely related bacteria that cause illness by multiplying in the digestive tract. Humans are generally infected by consuming foods that are contaminated with animal feces. Person-person transmission occurs when an infected person’s feces, unwashed from their hands, contaminates food during preparation or comes in direct contact with another person.

While foods contaminated by salmonella are generally animal in origin, including beef, poultry, eggs and dairy, fruits and veggies, and other processed, packaged foods, even spices can become cross-contaminated. 

For instance, the massive cucumber Salmonella outbreak of 2015 spread like wildfire through the country, leaving over 900 people sick, 204  hospitalized,  and six dead. Kellogg’s Honey Smacks recall in 2018 that sickened over 70 people in 31 states, sending 24 to the hospital.

The tricky part is that contaminated foods don’t generally look or smell any different than non-contaminated foods. This means we don’t hear about a contamination outbreak until someone becomes ill and the illness is investigated.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Dehydration

Symptoms typically start six hours to six days after infection and can last anywhere between four to seven days. Some symptoms may be so severe that hospitalization is required.

Here’s what to do during a recall

  1. Visit foodsafety.gov for recent recalls.  
  2. Check your freezer, refrigerator, and cupboards for the product.
  3. If you have the recalled product in your home, read the food label and compare it to the manufacturer’s lot codes on the recall notice. If it’s a match, do not eat it or feed it to your pets.
  4. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or grocery store regarding returning or disposing of the product.

Who is touching your food?

None of us go to the grocery store seeking out contaminated food. We all want a safe, diverse, affordable, and abundant food supply all year long. Because of the demand, America imports about 15 percent of its overall food supply. Today, more than 200 countries or territories and about 125,000 food facilities and farms provide about 32 percent of fresh veggies, 55 percent of fresh fruit, and 94 percent of seafood that Americans eat each year. This, in and of itself, creates challenges when it comes to food safety.

Congress passed the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act ( FSMA) in 2011. This act shifted the focus of federal regulators into more of a prevention mode regarding food contamination. There have been new standards applicable to foreign and domestic food growers, manufacturers, processors, packers, and holders, but there is much work still to be done in food safety.

One of the best ways to keep safe is to know where your food is coming from and grow as much as you can on your own. Eliminating the many hands that touch your food is a great first step in reducing your risk of food poisoning. Eat local, eat fresh, and eat in season are excellent rules to follow.

An excellent place to start is your community farmers’ market. You can meet local farmers who often specialize in just a few things, whether meat, poultry, vegetables, or fruit. This allows you to know where your food is grown. Many local farmers will allow you to visit their farms to check out the source of your sustenance. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon! 

More ways to prevent food poisoning 

Additionally, here are some things you can practice at home to further decrease the risk of contamination:

  • Wash your hands before handling any food and in between handling different foods
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, or touching animals
  • Wash counters, knives, and utensils before preparing food – hot water and soap work great!
  • Keep your kitchen towels and dishcloths clean – don’t leave them damp – this is the perfect place for germs to spread.
  • Use separate cutting boards for raw food and fish.
  • Keep meat away from any ready-to-eat foods such as fruit, bread, and salad. Store raw meat on the bottom shelf in the fridge where it is less likely to touch other food.
  • Cook all meat thoroughly.
  • Keep your refrigerator set to below 41 degrees F and avoid overfilling. 
  • Cool cooked food that you are not going to eat within 90- minutes and store in the fridge or freezer. 
  • Use leftovers within two days and never reheat the same food more than two times.
  • Don’t ever consume food that is past its use-by date.

Stay safe and eat well,

-The Backyard Vitality Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

35 Ways to Use Raw Honey for Great Health

Winnie the Pooh said it best when he said, “Eating honey is a very good thing to do.” This liquid gold has been a staple in my home for many, many years, and for good reason. The benefits of honey are seemingly endless. Everywhere I have lived, I have sought out raw local sources of honey for use in my kitchen, as well as for other medicinal purposes. I am also beginning to do my own research on keeping bees — partially because I use so much honey and partially because I find it absolutely amazing that bees provide us with this wonderful gift that I want to watch them work up close and personal.

I am not alone in my awe of honey. Ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Romans, and Greeks used honey for treating wounds and to heal conditions of the gut. Hippocrates himself used honey and vinegar for pain, honey and water for thirst, and honey mixed with water and other substances for fever.

Medicinal properties of honey

Honey is truly a healing gift from nature, and is rich in medicinal properties:

  • Hygroscopic property

In its natural state, honey has very low water content, but it absorbs moisture when exposed to air. This hygroscopic property makes honey highly beneficial to dry skin by allowing it to better retain moisture. It also helps to speed up wound healing time.

  • Antibacterial property

One especially vital component in honey, glucose oxidase, is an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide. Research indicates that this is one of the main reasons why honey seems to have such powerful antibacterial and wound-healing capabilities. The production of hydrogen peroxide is just one of the remarkable ways that honey helps to kill bacteria and heal wounds.

  • Antioxidant property

Although darker honey generally contains more antioxidant power than light-colored, both are still a rich source of valuable antioxidants. Antioxidants go to work against free radicals and encourage new tissue growth. This, in turn, helps expedite the healing of damaged tissue and also helps skin appear younger and more radiant.

  • Honey is a nutritional powerhouse

Honey is also a nutritional powerhouse, containing glucose, fructose, and numerous minerals including calcium, iron, copper, phosphate, sodium chlorine, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Vitamins in honey include B6, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, and a number of amino acids. It is also quite acidic, with a pH of 3.2. and 4.5. This helps prevent the growth of bacteria. It is also loaded with protective antioxidants.

Ways to use honey

There are literally hundreds of ways to use honey — here are 35 of my favorite. I hope you give some of these a try. You will be amazed at what you find.

1. Wound cleaner

Dab honey onto a minor burn or cut, lightly covering the wound like an antibiotic ointment. Research published in The FASEB Journal shows how honey kills off bacteria and helps speed healing time.

2. Diaper rash and nipple cream

Honey is a gentle way to soothe diaper rash.
Honey is a gentle way to soothe diaper rash (and nipples)

A New Zealand study investigated using topical pharmaceutical-grade manuka honey in place of traditional barrier cream for the treatment of redness, itching, and inflammation. Researchers found that symptoms improved in a similar fashion to using a traditional barrier cream. To help prevent diaper rash, try adding equal parts of honey to your usual diaper cream and use it daily. In the same manner that honey provides relief and healing for diaper rash, it is also a fantastic remedy for sore and inflamed nipples!

3. Hair conditioner

Honey makes for a great natural conditioner. Mix together 1/2 cup honey with 1/4 cup olive oil and warm slightly on the stove. Apply to your hair and then allow it to soak in by wrapping your hair in a towel. Once it is soaked in, rinse out your hair, preferably with cool water.

4. Natural hair remover

Mix one tablespoon of honey with one tablespoon of lemon juice and three tablespoons of brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm slightly in the microwave and allow the mixture to cool, then apply to facial hair using a popsicle stick. Place a small piece of muslin cloth over the area and rub slightly. Apply a small amount of tea tree oil to the area where you removed the hair.

5. Burn treatment

The Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery published a paper based on an analysis comparing the use of medicated dressings (silver sulfadiazine) with honey dressings over a five-year period. When burn healing time was compared, those patients with the honey dressings healed in an average of 18.16 days, while those with the medicated bandages healed in 32.68 days.

Researchers concluded that the honey dressings made wounds sterile in a shorter time period and also improved healing time. Note: Only try this home treatment for minor burns. In the case of a serious burn, call the emergency room.

6. Makeup remover

Mix baking soda and honey together to make a paste and add a few drops of tea tree oil. Apply using a warm washcloth in a circular motion. Rinse with warm water.

7. Bad breath

If you suffer from bad breath, try a mixture of 1/4 cup water, one teaspoon raw honey, and one teaspoon of lemon juice. Gargle for three minutes and spit out for fresh breath all day long.

8. Face mask

A honey face mask can help improve skin conditions.
A honey face mask can help improve skin conditions.

Honey can effectively treat conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema, while coconut oil is great for relieving dry or irritated skin, as well as for reducing wrinkles. Combining them leads to super-soft, clear, hydrated skin! Mix one tablespoon coconut oil and one tablespoon raw honey in a small bowl with a spoon until it’s well combined.

Apply the mixture to your face and neck with your fingertips — gently — as sometimes honey can crystalize and be rough on your skin. Let it sink in for up to 20 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Simple, easy, and effective!

9. Strengthen nails

If you have weak, brittle nails, try mixing one tablespoon of honey with a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar in a shallow dish. Soak your nails for 10 minutes and rinse. Repeat weekly for strong and healthy cuticles and nails.

10. Relieve acid reflux

Raw honey coats the lining of the esophagus and provides relief to the burning caused by acid reflux. In a report posted in the British Medical Journal, Professor Mahantayya V. Math found relief from reflux when he ingested five milliliters of honey.

11. Balance blood sugar

Although honey is sweet, it has a fairly low glycemic index. The natural sugars in honey have a “slow-release” effect, which means it does not cause the sharp peak in blood sugar that other sweet substances (like refined sugar) do. The sugars in honey are therefore more slowly absorbed and metabolized. Despite its sweetness, honey will not cause blood sugar levels to spike as high or as fast as other high-sugar foods.

12. Natural cough syrup

You can make a very effective, tasty, natural cough syrup using the following ingredients: one cup of filtered water, 1/4 cup fresh ginger root, 1/4 cup marshmallow root, one tablespoon cinnamon, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, and one cup honey. Pour the water into a saucepan and add the dried herbs.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the volume is reduced by about half. Pour through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove herbs. While the liquid is still warm, but not boiling, mix in the lemon juice and honey. Stir well and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

13. Dark circle remover

Mix one teaspoon of honey with one teaspoon of sweet almond oil and spread the mixture under the eyes. After about 20 minutes, wash the mixture off and follow up with a light layer of organic coconut oil. Repeat this treatment a few times a week to keep your skin looking great.

14. Lip moisturizer

A very easy way to heal and prevent chapped lips can be made with honey. Mix one part of warm, recently-melted beeswax to three parts olive oil. Then add one to two tablespoons of honey to the mixture. Once the mixture has been set, it’s ready to use.

15. Healthy sports drink

Commercial sports drinks are loaded with sugar and other not-so-healthy ingredients. However, it is very easy to make your own homemade sports drink using honey. Simply combine the following ingredients in a Vitamix and blend until the honey dissolves: 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, two cups water, 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt, and two tablespoons of raw honey. Take some of this mixture in a water bottle when going out on a long hike and you’ll feel hydrated and energized.

16. Improves healthy gut bacteria

Bees have a very diverse population of beneficial acid bacteria. A unique characteristic of raw honey is its ability to feed good gut bacteria and fight off bad bacteria. Good bacteria are essential for overall health and wellness. It forms the main defense against outside threats.

17. Relieve morning sickness

Honey can help to naturally alleviate morning sickness.
Honey can help to naturally alleviate morning sickness.

Organic honey works to relieve morning sickness for pregnant mothers. A warm tea made with honey and ginger is highly effective at calming a pregnant mother’s tummy.

18. Fruit-preserver

Preserving your fruits with raw honey makes them so much healthier. Simply use one part honey to ten parts water and cover your berries in the mixture. Much better than sugar!

19. Weight-loss aid

Hands down, honey is a better and far healthier sweetener than sugar. The body knows just what to do with this natural gift from the bees, and our cells can use it for energy. If you are looking to drop a few pounds, replace your sugar with honey. It will boost your metabolism and give you energy.

Just remember, all in moderation. You must eat a healthy diet and exercise for any permanent weight loss to occur. For an added boost, mix half a teaspoon of organic ground cinnamon in a cup of boiling water, then let it steep for 10 minutes. Add one teaspoon of raw honey and enjoy!

20. Infections in the mouth

Bacteria and viruses can cause oral infections that impact the teeth, gums, palate, tongue, lips, and the inside of the cheeks. Oral infections are very common. In fact, infections that cause tooth decay are the second most common infectious condition after the common cold.

Researchers in India have found that manuka honey worked just as well as commercial mouthwash, and better than chewing gum with xylitol, for reducing plaque levels. This they attribute to its outstanding antibacterial qualities. Manuka honey, taken orally, can help reduce gingivitis and keep the mouth healthy and free from harmful bacteria.

21. Treat insect bites

Mixing some lemon juice with honey makes a natural antiseptic solution; the natural sugar in honey kills the microorganisms, while the lemon partners with it to prevent bacteria from taking over. The combination will also reduce the swelling associated with insect bites, and decrease itchiness.

For best results, squeeze the juice of one lemon into two tablespoons of raw honey and spread on the infected area. Allow the mixture to remain on the skin until the swelling goes down. You’ll also notice a decrease in itchiness.

22. Fix fertility issues

Raw honey is also an effective natural remedy for fertility issues. It can be combined with raw goat milk to increase sperm counts in men. In women, it can increase the chances of successful fertilization.

23. Reduce the appearance of scars

Over time, a mixture of honey and baking soda can reduce the appearance of scars. Mix one tablespoon of honey with one tablespoon of baking soda. Apply the paste to a scar and let sit for about 30 minutes. Rinse with cool water and pat dry. Do this daily until the scar begins to fade.

24. Treat yeast infections

Honey can help fight off a yeast infection.
Honey can help fight off a yeast infection.

There is evidence that applying raw honey in and around the vagina can help get rid of yeast infections. Apply the honey, let it sit for 30 minutes, then wash it off in the bath or shower.

25. Stockpile for emergency

Are you building up an emergency food supply for the apocalypse? Honey should be in it! This food never spoils — collections of it have actually been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. It also provides the perfect balance of glucose and fructose for energy, along with a ton of healthy vitamins and enzymes.

26. Soften skin

The same qualities that make honey good for your hair also make it good for your skin. It’s a great way to keep your skin naturally soft and clean. Just add two tablespoons of honey to a cup of hot water and let it dissolve. Add two to three drops of lavender essential oil, then pour the mixture into your bath.

27. Whip up healthy peanut butter

I love peanut butter but hate sugar. This is quite simply the most delicious peanut butter I have ever tasted, with natural sweetness from a healthy dose of honey.

28. Combat parasites

If you have parasites, try using a mixture of raw honey and apple cider vinegar. Simply add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and one tablespoon of honey to a glass of water and drink it down!

29. Relieve a hangover

Because of its antioxidant properties, honey is said to neutralize the toxins created by consuming alcohol. The fructose in honey is thought to be the essential compound that helps the body break down alcohol into harmless byproducts.

30. Treat antibiotic-resistant superbugs

Antibiotic resistance is, according to the CDC, a leading world health problem. Doctors first began to notice resistance problems almost a decade ago, when kids with middle-ear infections stopped responding to the drugs they were being given.

Phenols found in manuka honey inhibit bacterial growth and promote healing. These antioxidants are not like synthetic antibiotics that promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Clearly raw honey is an impressive antimicrobial agent against a broad spectrum of bacteria and other infectious organisms.

31. Create a simple energy boost

If you start to feel a little lethargic towards the end of your day, a tablespoon of raw honey is just what you need. According to the American College of Nutrition, honey (unlike sugar) provides a nutritious carbohydrate that the body can use for immediate energy. When you are feeling low, take a teaspoon in a cup of warm water mixed with lemon or a scoop right from the jar!

32. Make salad dressing

Ditch commercial salad dressing and try this delicious and healthy option instead. Combine equal parts raw honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil into a jar and shake lightly. Add herbs, pepper and sea salt to taste.

33. Treat allergies

Local honey can help to combat allergies.
Local honey can help to combat allergies.

Research contends that locally produced honey helps greatly with seasonal allergies. Try adding a tablespoon of local honey (produced during the season you have your allergy problem) to a tea made with nettle leaf for extra allergy relief benefits.

34. Topical antibiotic

Raw organic honey has been used as an antibiotic and topical treatment for abrasions and cuts for hundreds of years. For people with diabetic ulcers, it can be an effective treatment when many other topical treatments are unsuccessful.

35. Homemade dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a delicious and healthy treat, in moderation. Make your own using honey (much better than sugar). Visit this site for an amazingly good recipe for some delicious little treats.

How to choose the best honey

Raw honey is honey in its purest state. According to the National Honey Board, there is no exact definition for raw honey. A honey label that says “untreated” or “unpasteurized” may be an indication, but not a guarantee that the honey is raw. Obviously, any honey labeled pasteurized is not raw. Don’t be fooled by words like “natural” or “pure” — they mean nothing in regards to honey processing.

To be sure that the honey you are purchasing is raw, it is best to get it from a local beekeeper who will tell you how the honey was obtained. The very best raw honey will also be organic — beekeepers must adhere to very strict regulations in order to be certified organic. Now go out and get some honey!

-Susan Patterson, Certified Health Coach and Master Gardener

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

 

 

 

Low on Money? 7 Ways to Make More Green with Green

When you think of side hustles, ways to make a little extra money, you may conjure up images of things like selling clothes you don’t wear, walking dogs, babysitting, or even baking and selling cookies. But, have you ever considered taking your love of plants, gardening, and homesteading (even urban homesteading) and using it to turn a quick profit?

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They Told You That it Was Impossible: 5 Ways You CAN be Self Sufficient in the City

Do you live in the city – perhaps a dense urban area surrounded by tall buildings, cars and people…lots of people? Have you tossed your dream of self-sufficiency out the window because of your geographic location? If so, I have great news for you. It is possible to be self-sufficient in the city; seriously, there are several steps that you can take to become more self-reliant – even if you live in the the heart of a concrete jungle.

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Are You Still Using Pesticides? Why You Will Regret It (and what really works)

Yes, I get it; pests can be a problem. In just a few hours, pests gone wild can destroy your beautiful cabbage crop, annihilate your cucumbers, and leave your lettuce looking like it went through a war. All of this is heartbreaking, and I have had it happen to me more than once. There is a solution to this problem, and it is not to pour a vat of toxic chemicals into your garden either. Once I got the formula down – the best method to repel nasty pests – my garden has never been so beautiful. If I can do it, so can you.

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#1 WORST Sunscreen (avoid at all costs)

With warmer weather here, people all over are gearing up for poolside gatherings, beach vacations, and some good ol’ fashioned sun-soaking. The sun just seems to make us feel good, and rightly so. The sun is necessary for all human life. Without the warming rays of this massive star, life on this planet would cease to exist. Every type of living creature, including mankind, needs sunlight in order to live. Humans have been exposed to the sun since the beginning of time.

Is sun exposure good or bad? 

However, for more than 30 years, doctors, beauty experts, health officials, and skincare product manufacturers have sent out strong warnings regarding the dangers of the sun. We have been told to avoid any sun exposure without sunscreen because the rays will damage our skin and cause skin cancer.

Much of this hype has been due to the fact that skin cancer is on the rise. In 2002, over 50 percent of the 1.2 million cases of cancer in the United States were skin cancers, and 10,000 of these cases were fatal. These statistics have injected a rampant fear of the sun into many unassuming people, who have decided to stay clear of the burning ball of light at all costs. This, however, has caused problems of its own.

Does the sun cause cancer? 

To say that the sun causes cancer is not entirely correct. It is actually a great oversimplification of the truth. Well-researched and documented studies show that vitamin D optimization may actually prevent up to 16 different types of cancer.

Because of our fear of the sun, we have become a nation deficient in vitamin D. This deficiency in itself has led to a surge in a number of debilitating conditions such as depression, obesity, hypertension, and cancer. In addition, 60 percent of people with diabetes are vitamin D deficient, and studies show very low levels of vitamin D in children, women, and the elderly.

It appears, to at least some extent, that the dangers of the sun have been overemphasized while the benefits have been minimized. Dr. William Grant conducted a study that revealed that 30 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented each year if vitamin D levels were higher. That’s right: the very thing that so many hide from may not cause cancer, but rather protect from it.

Furthermore, vitamin D is also essential for a number of healthy bodily functions, such as muscle strength, cardiovascular health, strong teeth, optimal blood pressure, and a healthy immune system — to name just a few.

Does sun exposure cause melanoma? 

Melanoma has been on the rise, along with sunscreen use.

Good rays, bad rays

In order to completely understand the risk that the sun poses to our health, we must better comprehend the sun itself. The sun gives us two main types of wavelengths — UVA and UVB. While both can cause tanning and burning, UVB rays are necessary for the skin to make vitamin D, while UVA rays penetrate the skin deeply and can cause severe free radical damage including wrinkles. They also destroy vitamin D.

It only takes a little sun to make vitamin D

To encourage your body to produce vitamin D, you don’t need to spend countless hours in the hot sun and you most definitely don’t want to burn. Here are a few general guidelines to follow to help you get the most from the sun’s helpful rays while staying safe from those that can cause damage.

  • If you are just getting out in the sun for the first time in the season and have white skin, limit yourself to about 15 minutes between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • If you burn frequently, limit your time to a few minutes each day until your skin begins to slightly darken.
  • Once you have a nice tan, you can increase the time you spend in the sun.
  • Use a moisturizing non-SPF lotion to help keep your skin soft. If you use an SPF lotion it will block out the beneficial UVB rays. Organic coconut oil is a great option.
  • After your initial exposure, spend the rest of the day in the shade or covered up.
  • If you have to be in the sun for an extended period of time, use an SPF 15 non-toxic sunscreen.

Is sunscreen bad for you? 

When you slather on sunscreen that does not offer natural UVA protection, you are doing nothing short of wasting your money. Sunscreen that blocks UVB rays and does not protect from UVA rays and will work against you by limiting vitamin D production and damaging skin.

There are two main types of sunscreens — chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens prevent sunburn when they absorb UVA rays, but can increase the risk of cancer. Physical sunscreens contain inert minerals that reflect ultraviolet rays away from the skin. They are considered safe and effective.

Most of what you find in the store are chemical sunscreens, which may contain from three to six of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate, and octocrylene.

Almost all products contain avobenzone – the agent for filtering out skin-damaging UVA rays. There is some concern, however, that this substance may break down when exposed to the sun. Other chemicals, such as octocrylene, are often added as stabilizers.

Dangers of using sunscreen

Sunscreen contains several chemicals that get stored in the body.
Sunscreen contains several chemicals that get stored in the body.

Studies done on a number of the chemicals found in commercial sunscreen indicate that they may disrupt hormones. Animal research also suggests that oxybenzone (found in 80 percent of chemical sunscreen) and octinoxate are toxic to reproductive systems and can interfere with development. While more testing is yet to be done, many are concerned that the high level of toxicity found in these active ingredients may undermine any benefit that this type of sunscreen offers. Like personal care products, sunscreens penetrate the skin and deserve special attention. Studies done at the University of Zurich found sunscreen chemicals in 85 percent of milk samples. Four of the chemicals that were found are commonly used in American sunscreens.

Avoid sunscreens with retinol

Sunscreens that contain vitamin A, or retinol, may actually speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when sunlight is present, according to a 2009 study done by the National Toxicology Program. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a study in 2011 that concluded the same thing. Since this time, consumer advocates have been urging the FDA to restrict the use of vitamin A in topical products.

Avoid spray-on sunscreens

Vitamin A and toxic chemicals are not the only things you have to worry about in sunscreen. In July of 2012, a very scary incident occurred for one man who applied aerosol sunscreen and immediately walked over to his barbecue. Upon lighting the grill, he sustained second-degree burns, because the sunscreen had not had time to set into his skin, and the propellant chemicals didn’t have adequate time to evaporate. According to news reports, the spray also left a vapor trail that added insult to injury. He caught on fire immediately after lighting the grill.

Banana Boat, the makers of the aerosol sunscreen in question, voluntarily recalled their product after hearing of the incident. The company cited a problem with the spray valve as being the reason for the accident.

“The spray valve opening on the affected products dispenses more than is typical in the industry for continuous sun care sprays. As a result, the product is taking longer to dry on the skin than is typical with other continuous sprays. If a consumer comes into contact with a flame or spark prior to complete drying of the product on the skin, there is a potential for the product to ignite.”

Mothers of young kids, and many other people of all ages, love the ease of application that aerosol offers, as well as the fact that spray sunscreen makes it easy to cover all of the hard-to-reach spots.

Dangers of aerosol sunscreens

Spray-on sunscreen contains chemicals that get into your lungs.
Spray-on sunscreen contains chemicals that get into your lungs.

Besides the fact that aerosols are highly flammable, there are more concerns with this type of sun protection. First, the Food and Drug Administration has mounting concerns that aerosol sunscreens can be inhaled during application. Both the propellant chemicals and the nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (found safe in other forms) worry scientists, who say that these particles are easily ingested.

Although the particles can’t be absorbed through the skin, they can accumulate in different organs in the body once they are ingested. Because they are so small, they can move freely throughout the body, causing problems at the sub-cellular level. What is worse is that the body can’t get rid of them.

Each time the sunscreen nozzle is pressed, these particles are transported some 20 feet in all directions, landing on everything in sight. Everyone in the danger zone gets to breathe in the dangerous particles, even if they don’t want to. Use caution with loose powder sunscreens as well for the same reason; they contain particles that could end up in the lungs and cause damage.

There are presently no recommendations or guidelines set by the U.S. government regarding the size and characteristics of nanoparticles to protect from the sun and be safe to users at the same time. As with other personal care products, this is a “caveat emptor” circumstance where consumers must do their own research with regard to safety.

How to stay safe in the sun

Playing it safely requires forethought. Obviously, the sun is a very important part of health, one that should not be ignored. However, there are rules:

  • Playing or laying all day in the hot sun without any protection and getting burned to a crisp must be avoided at all costs.
  • Be especially careful with young children; avoid sunburn as much as possible.
  • Try to stay in the shade between the hours of 12 and 3 p.m. — this is when the sun’s rays are the hottest and can cause the most damage.
  • Wear lightweight, white clothing if possible, and a hat if you have to be in the sun for long periods of time.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Never tan through a window — you will get all UVA rays and none of the beneficial UVB rays.

Check the label on your favorite sunscreen 

The Environmental Working Group urges us not to use sunscreen as a tool to prolong time spent in the sun, and to check our skin often for irregular moles or other suspicious spots. Being choosy about the type of sunscreen that you use for yourself and your family is critical. The best is one made from natural ingredients that protect you from damaging rays, don’t break down on the skin, and allow at least some penetration of UVB rays for the production of vitamin D.Visit The Environmental Working Group for a list of safe sunscreens which contain non-toxic ingredients and offer protection from damaging UVA rays without compromising UVB exposure.

Remember: Enjoy the sun, respect the sun and know what is in your sunscreen. For natural sun protection, try coconut oil. Coconut oil has been shown to have between 7-10 SPF and is a great moisturizer for the skin.
-Susan Patterson, Certified Health Coach, and Master Gardener

Keep Your Vagina Healthy and Prevent Leaks by Eating These Foods

Your vagina is a complex and finely tuned environment that has several factors that need to be kept in balance. Your vagina is pretty good at protecting and cleaning itself. Proper vaginal care, such as good hygiene, safe sex, and regular gynecological visits, all play a role in keeping your pH in check. But what about food? What you put in your mouth has an effect down south, and what you eat could make or break the health of your vagina.

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11 Coconut Oil Fixes That Work

Honestly, it would be easier to list the problems that coconut oil can’t solve rather than the ones it can. Keep a jar of this all-purpose oil in your bathroom and your kitchen to help with everything from dry elbows to halitosis. If you’re still not sold on coconut oil, check out our list for just a few of life’s problems that are eliminated by this tropical treasure. 

Moisturize dry skin

Perhaps one of the most well-researched and famous uses of coconut oil is its ability to replenish dry skin. This oil is a nourishing powerhouse and is full of beneficial fatty acids and antioxidants that work to heal your skin, boost collagen production, and prevent issues such as eczema and rosacea. 

Prevent razor bumps

Coconut oil works as a naturally hydrating shaving cream that will give you a close shave while penetrating your skin to prevent rashes and shaving cuts. Be cautious when shaving during a  shower as the heat from the water can cause the coconut oil to become incredibly slippery. 

Remove stubborn makeup

Many commercial makeup removers are full of harsh ingredients that damage and dry out your skin. This wonder oil works to remove even the most stubborn waterproof mascara with just a few swipes. Be sure to rinse and cleanse your face following use as too much oil can clog your pores. 

Cook at high heat

Because of its high saturated fat content, coconut oil is one of the all-time best oils for cooking things at high heat. Unlike other unhealthy oils such as vegetable and safflower, it retains its structure and will not break down during cooking.

Trim your waistline

If you eat a healthy, whole foods diet and exercise regularly but still can’t lose those last few pounds, coconut oil could help you cross the line to your weight loss goal. It has been shown to be an effective tool for cutting down on excess visceral fat along with a healthy lifestyle. It may also help reduce hunger, which can lead to a lower calorie intake and subsequent weight loss. 

Reduce inflammation

Chronic inflammation can be dangerous and severely debilitating. Adding coconut oil to your diet helps reduce this inflammation and markers of oxidative stress. 

Restore shine to wood furniture

Over time, wood furniture can get grimy and dusty, and no amount of cleaning seems able to restore its shine. Instead of purchasing commercial wood polish with dangerous chemicals and weird-smelling fragrances, simply place a little coconut oil on a soft cloth and apply in a circular motion. It will soak into your furniture and leave it gleaming!

Act as a carrier oil

Essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin since they can cause burning and rashes and are too potent on their own. Combine them with a gentle carrier oil such as coconut oil to receive all of the health benefits of both. 

Restore lifeless hair

If you use a lot of heat on your hair such as blow dryers and flat irons, you are probably accustomed to dealing with brittle ends and dry, lifeless locks. Lauric acid, the main fatty acid in coconut oil, has been shown to penetrate the hair shaft more effectively than other oils that simply sit on the surface. Use a coconut oil mask every few weeks to give your thirsty hair the moisture it craves.

Eliminate bad breath

Oil pulling, or swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes before spitting it out, can improve your oral health and eliminate bad breath once and for all. Since coconut oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties, this practice can also help clear away germs in the mouth, prevent gum infection, and even leave your teeth whiter. 

Act as a mild sunscreen

Though coconut oil won’t keep you from burning if you spend hours in the sun, it provides about 20% protection from the sun’s UV rays and can be an adequate daily sunscreen for normal activities. Always be sure to cover up in the bright sun and use a higher SFP mineral sunscreen when spending significant time outdoors. 

Note: Always use unrefined organic coconut oil.

Susan Patterson, Certified Health Coach, and Master Gardener

This “CLEAN” Compost Trick Will Make Your Veggies Grow Huge

It’s spring, and for many gardeners around the country, it is time to prepare garden beds and start planting. One of the best things you can do for your plants is to supercharge your soil with rich, nutrient-dense compost. Don’t have time for composting? Don’t fret; there is one really neat compost trick that takes little time and effort but pays off big – building up the soil and making nutrients available to hungry plants and beneficial critters deep inside the soil.

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