Your belly button, which seems to do little more than collect fluff, was once the spot of a vital connection between you and your mother, the place where your umbilical cord once was. This tube-like structure connected to the placenta carries nutrients and oxygen from the placenta to the baby while exporting waste materials out. Once you entered the world, this cord was cut, leaving behind a scar – AKA, your belly button.
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.
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
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.
I love to grow all citrus fruits, including lemons. Lemon trees are so cheerful, and the fruit that they bear is incredibly useful. Fresh lemonade, lemon pie, lemon water spritzers, lemon cookies, lemon cleaning products, and even lemon deodorant! That’s right; when I discovered that lemons could naturally keep me smelling fresh all day long, it was a game-changer. I developed an even greater respect for the little yellow fruit. Let’s take a closer look at how lemons can rescue your stinky pits.
Nearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure (also called hypertension), a preventable condition that is the number one risk factor for heart disease. Sadly, millions of people with this condition go undiagnosed. The good news is, numerous lifestyle changes can help prevent, manage, and even eliminate high blood pressure. Additionally, nature has provided relief for this condition as well. Let’s take a closer look at some easy-to-grow herbs that can be used to regulate blood pressure.
Summer is fast approaching, and with warmer weather comes excellent things like a beautiful yard and garden and lots of fun times with family and friends under the sun and stars. Unfortunately, it also brings out the bugs, including flies, mosquitoes, and other nagging insect pests that wreak havoc on our warm-weather festivities.
I love sweet potatoes; they are a highly nutritious and delicious root vegetable. Known as Ipomoea batatas, sweet potatoes are not only one of the best vitamin A sources, but they are also packed with vitamin B5 niacin, thiamin, and carotenoids. Research has also uncovered a host of therapeutic benefits in sweet potatoes. They contain anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic properties. Sweet potatoes are a delicious addition to any meal and can even help keep your skin healthy.
Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of eating fungus. However, mushrooms’ nutritional value is second to none, and researchers are learning more each day about their many benefits.
There’s a lot of rumor, speculation, and misinformation surrounding the topic of cooking oils. We rely on them every single day to lubricate our frying pan, bolster our marinades, baste our roasts and dress our salads. And yet, the majority of us know next to nothing about them. Typically, if you happen to strike up a conversation about cooking oils with someone, it’ll conclude with them swearing by one particular oil, which they use in almost all their dishes. Ask them why they swear by this oil, however, and they’ll likely feed you a series of rumors and second-hand information which justifies why that particular oil is better than the rest.
Ask them about important aspects of that oil, such as smoke point, oxidation, and rancidification, and they’ll probably look profoundly confused or quickly change topics. Go easy on them — it’s not really their fault. Choosing the right cooking oil or fat for a given task is a very difficult process, and requires an in-depth look at a range of different attributes of that oil. And because oils are such an important part of our everyday lives, I’d like to guide you through everything you need to know, so you can confuse even more of your friends with your know-how and, more importantly, safeguard your health.
The two types of cooking oil
Any given oil can fall within one of two groups of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Knowing the type of fat your cooking oil is can help in the process of deciding whether it’s actually good for your health and if it’s the right oil for a given form of food preparation.
Saturated fats are the simplest, most dependable of the two fat groups. They have simple bond structures, and for this reason, are less likely to undergo a chemical reaction when heat is applied. This makes them the more stable of the two fats, and they’re therefore often a better choice for medium to high-heat cooking. One easy way to tell whether an oil has a high saturated fat content is if it turns solid at room temperature.
Here’s a list of common, primarily saturated fat-based oils you’re likely to see on the supermarket of health food shelves:
- Butter (technically not cooking oil, but many people use butter for cooking purposes)
- Chicken fat
- Coconut oil
- Ghee (clarified butter)
- Lard (pork fat)
- Palm kernel oil
- Tallow (beef fat)
You’ll notice that, with the exception of coconut oil and palm kernel oil, the majority of saturated fats are from animal sources.
Unsaturated fats are, unfortunately, a little bit more complex than their simpler, more carefree saturated counterparts. Unsaturated fats can be further broken down into three sub-groups: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans unsaturated. Popular or common unsaturated fats include the following:
- Avocado oil
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Hemp oil
- Olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower oil
- Various nut oils (walnut, almond, etc.)
Before I go any further, let me do you a huge favor and tell you to throw out any canola, corn, soybean, or sunflower oils you might have sitting around. Despite what many outdated health advisors and websites would have you believe, these oils are bad for your health! The reasoning behind these advisories and websites condemning other oils is their high saturated fat content, however as you probably know by now, saturated fats are actually very beneficial to our health. Even the government and mainstream media are starting to grudgingly concede that they may have gotten it wrong all these years.
Now that you’ve vanquished your health-degrading canola, corn, soybean, and sunflower oils, let’s continue. The three unsaturated fat groupings are based on their molecular structure — monounsaturated fats have only one double bond, polyunsaturated have multiple double bonds, and trans unsaturated fats have multiple bonds which have been chemically and artificially altered through the process of hydrogenation.
This may all sound like technical mumbo jumbo to you, but it’s important that you learn the differences. Why is it important? Well, for starters, monounsaturated fats are much more stable than polyunsaturated fats due to their simpler bond structure, meaning they’re generally better suited to high heat cooking. Next, trans unsaturated fats are just plain nasty, being the diabolical creation of the fast-food industry, and always found in foods containing partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil. Avoid these foods at all cost, if you value your health!
The smoke point of cooking oil
After the complexities of the previous section, you’ll be pleased to know that the concept of a smoke point is an easy one to wrap your head around. Simply put, the smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature at which it starts to produce smoke when heated. I told you it was simple!
But, while this is a simple concept, the 99 percent of people who use cooking oils likely have no idea what the smoke point of their oil is. They’d do well to find out, as an oil which has reached it’s smoke point can rapidly become very damaging to your health.
When you’re cooking with an oil or fat and it reaches its smoke point, it begins to break down and transforms into acrolein. Acrolein is one of the detrimental chemicals found in cigarette smoke and is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing compound). Therefore, knowing the smoke point of your cooking oil and staying below it can prevent you from breathing in carcinogenic fumes — probably something you want to look into.
The following graph provides a convenient list of common oils in relation to their smoke point. You might want to consider printing it off and sticking it to your kitchen wall — a little unsightly, but it could be instrumental in reducing your risk of cancer.
The (U) next to some oils and the (R) next to others signifies unrefined and refined, respectively. As you can see, the process of refining an oil makes it more stable and therefore more resistant to heat, however, it also generally removes a lot of the vitamins and nutrients found in the unrefined versions of these oils and fats.
After seeing this graph for the first time, I confess that I was somewhat dismayed to see my good friend butter at the bottom end of the spectrum. With a smoke point of only 150 degrees Celsius, it certainly isn’t fit for some of the high-heat cooking I usually use it for. But it’s revelations like these that make it all the more important to learn about the oils and fats we’re cooking with.
Cooking oil oxidation
Alright, so now you’re familiar with the smoke point of your favorite cooking oils. Excellent. Arguably even more important than the smoke point, however, is the oxidative stability of your oils or fats. Oxidative stability is determined by an oil’s resistance to oxidation, the process of which causes the fat molecule of your oil to lose a hydrogen atom and transform into a diabolical free radical.
Free radicals, in case you’re not familiar with them already, are one of the great enemies of the human body. They attack our bodies at the cellular level, speeding up the process of aging and dramatically increasing our risk of developing a range of different diseases, cancer included.
For this reason, choosing an oil that has solid oxidative stability, or is resistant to oxidation, is definitely a good thing. One thing to be aware of is that just because a certain oil or fat has a high smoke point, doesn’t mean it has a high oxidative resistance. In most cases, it’s exactly the opposite, so there’s a bit of a trade-off, unfortunately.
How to get the most out of your cooking oil
After reading through the above, you’re probably a little bit frustrated to learn how many variables there are governing the quality and use of oil. Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut winner, as an oil that has a high smoke point may be prone to oxidation and therefore become rancid easily. Likewise, an oil that is packed with nutrients and is resistant to oxidation may have a very low smoke point, and therefore only be useful for low heat cooking.
For this reason, it’s good to have a range of oils available, so that you have one for every possible culinary occasion. Also, to help you along, I’ve compiled a list of things you can do to get the most out of your oil and ensure you enjoy all of its health benefits and none of its potentially damaging effects:
- Antioxidants: unless you’re only doing high-heat cooking (such as stir-frying and grilling), choose oils that are high in antioxidants. These compounds, found in oils such as avocado, olive, and coconut, work against the oxidative damage of free radicals and prevent things like heat, air, and light exposure from making your oil go rancid.
- Light: ultraviolet wavelengths from the sun increase the oxidation rate of your oil. For this reason, only buy oils that come in dark or opaque bottles, and store them in a dark place to reduce their rate of rancidification (yup, that’s a word!). This rule doesn’t always apply, particularly in the case of coconut oil which is highly resistant to oxidation and doesn’t really go rancid too easily.
- Re-use: don’t store and reuse your oil — every time you do, its smoke point lowers significantly.
- Temperature: be aware of your oil’s smoke point, and stay below it! Your food will taste better, and you won’t be breathing in carcinogenic compounds in the process.
It’s a lot to take in, but do your research, and your health will thank you for it.
-The Backyard Vitality Team
So, you have decided to get a few backyard hens. I congratulate you on this The chicken movement is on fire, even in urban areas, as more and more people realize the benefits of having fresh farm eggs at their fingertips. Well, as long as your girls are laying, that is. Contrary to what you might think, there are a few key things to consider to ensure your chickens produce healthy and nutritious eggs consistently. Let’s take a look at how you can be sure you are always in eggs!