An apple a day…can cause cancer?!

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Apples have always been associated with good health, hence the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.  They are full of fiber and antioxidants. Unfortunately, according to a new study, this saying does not apply to conventional apples in the US.  This new study found that 80% of conventional apples in the US are treated with a pesticide called Diphenylamine that is banned in Europe because it has been linked to Nitrosamines, which are well-known and well-studied cancer-causing chemicals.  This also goes for applesauce and apples used in non organic baby food. Thanks America!(sarcasm)  I’ll never understand why US food companies will continue to use known carcinogens and/or toxic ingredients in their products that have been deemed unsafe in other parts of the world.  I find it very upsetting. To avoid this pesticide and other toxic chemicals on your produce, please buy organic whenever possible.  Another alternative is to check out The Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list.  It tells you which foods show the highest concentrations of pesticides so that you can avoid those at the very least.  So, I guess we should change the old saying to “An ORGANIC apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

What IS a baby carrot anyway?

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Ever wondered what the heck makes a baby carrot a baby carrot?  Did it come out of the ground that way?  Is it a big carrot shaved down to a baby size?  Are they as healthy for you as regular carrots?  I’ve also heard rumors that baby carrots are soaked in chlorine before being packaged, which I found super disturbing.  I personally don’t buy baby carrots, I just wash and cut up regular, organic carrots, but I know a lot of people eat them, especially kids. So I wanted to get the story straight and here is what I found out:

1) Baby carrots do come from a smaller, thinner carrot variety, but are in fact vigorously peeled and cut to achieve their baby carrot size.  In the industry they are actually called “baby cut carrots”, where actual baby carrots are just slightly smaller sized carrots that are harvested at a younger age than larger carrots.  I personally love smaller sized carrots (whole, not baby cut), they are sweeter than the huge ones!

2) Baby carrots (organic and conventional) ARE soaked in a chlorine bath before packaging!  Now, before you freak, it’s not straight up chlorine.  It is actually a water/chlorine solution that supposedly contains the same amount of chlorine that is allowed in your tap water.  This is to prevent food borne illness and they are rinsed again with fresh water before being packaged. Apparently, most lettuces and pre-cut vegetables go through the same process.  Still doesn’t sound very appetizing to me and this is why we have a whole house water filter to filter out things like chlorine.

3) Baby carrots may be less nutritious than regular, organic, full size carrots.  Baby carrots apparently contain 30% less beta carotene than a regular carrot.  This is because of the variety of carrots used  and the fact that they are peeled.  Many of the carrot’s nutrients are found in the skin or just below it.  However, because a carrot’s flesh and peel are the same color, it indicates that there is a very similar nutritional value inside and out.  So no need to worry if you prefer to peel, just remember to still wash it before and/or after peeling to prevent ingesting any possible pathogens.

4) Baby carrots are more expensive than buying regular carrots and washing/cutting yourself.

My take away:  After doing this research, I still believe that washing and cutting your own organic carrots is the best way to go.  It is cheaper, takes two minutes, and you can rest assured that there will be no possible chlorine residue, no pesticides (because they are organic) and that they contain all of the nutrition they are meant to.  Now, that said, I also wouldn’t freak out and not eat baby carrots that were served at a friend’s bbq or not let my kid have one.  It ain’t gonna kill you.  But, my philosophy remains the same: food is most nutritious in it’s most natural state.  So buy organic carrots, scrub them well with a veggie scrubber, cut it you prefer and munch away!

NOTE: If your carrots ever become white-ish, or flimsy in the fridge, soak them in cold or ice water to rehydrate them and they will come back to life.  Sometimes I prefer to wash and cut the whole bunch at once, so to prevent dehydration, I’ll store them in a glass tupperware filled with water and it keeps them fresh.

Non Toxic Nail Care

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I am always looking for ways to non toxify my beauty routines, and today I’m talking nails.  Most mainstream nail polish brands have altered their formulas to remove the “toxic trio”, that consists of Formaldehyde, Toluene and Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), and now label themselves as “3 Free”.  Although this is great, these polishes still unfortunately carry other toxic chemicals.  Now for the good news!  There are great choices out there for brands that are non toxic.  My new favorite right now is Scotch.  They have beautiful colors and are vegan, cruelty free, gluten-free, fragrance free, toxin free, paraben free, hypoallergenic and biodegradable!  To top it off they have an adorable kids line called Hopscotch.  It always kills me when I see a little girl in a salon having a fun, girls day with her mom while getting toxic paint put on her nails.  So next time, bring your own!  Your best bet is doing your nails at home or finding a non toxic nail salon (a salon that only uses non toxic polishes and doesn’t do acrylics, etc), so that you aren’t breathing in the toxic fumes.  But at the very least, bring your own non toxic polish to any salon and don’t forget your own non toxic base and top coat too!   

To remove polish at home, I found these great nail polish remover pads at Whole Foods from a brand called Gabriel.  At first, I thought, “oh no, these aren’t working”, but give it a couple of seconds of rubbing and it will take all the polish off.

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Happy painting!!

3 good reasons to use organic tampons

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When most of us think of tampons, we think of all of the typical brands we see at the drug store and we assume that they are safe to use.  I mean, why wouldn’t they be?  Why would they be approved for use inside our bodies if they were not safe for us?  Right?  Well, after doing some research I have found some pretty upsetting information about the ingredients in conventional tampons and the possible harm they can cause.  I am so glad that I switched to organic cotton tampons a few years back and I hope after reading this post that you do too!

Here are three  good reasons to switch to organic cotton tampons:

1) Chlorine bleach- To get that clean-looking white color, tampons (unless otherwise stated) are bleached with Chlorine.  This process creates Dioxins and Furans, which are defined as highly toxic compounds produced as a byproduct in certain manufacturing processes.

2) Pesticide residue- Yup, unless it is organic cotton, cotton plants are treated with chemical pesticides that can leave a residue on the cotton.  Not to mention that  85% of cotton in the united states in GMO (genetically modified), bad for us and the environment. The chemicals in these pesticides are known carcinogens (substances capable of causing cancer in living tissue).

3) Unknown fragrance chemicals- Unfortunately, “fragrance” is considered a trade secret, so companies are not required to disclose their ingredients.  Even “unscented” products may contain masking fragrances, which are chemicals used to cover up the odor of other chemicals.  Fragrances (in not only feminine products, but soaps, lotions,  shampoos, candles, cleaning products and more) can contain allergens, phthalates (a class of chemicals linked to hormone disruption), neurotoxins (chemicals that are toxic to the brain), and/or synthetic musks ( a class of synthetic aromachemicals to emulate the scent of natural musks, and are known to be toxic to the environment and to proliferate estrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of these things near by body, let alone inside it!  The vaginal area has extremely permeable mucus membranes and sensitive tissue that readily absorb whatever is in the products we put on or in it.  That’s why I urge you to switch to organic cotton tampons.  Know what you are putting in your body.  You can buy the brand I choose here or find them in a store near you here.

Review: May Lindstrom Skin Collection

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Back in November, I posted an interview with the lovely Spirit Demerson of Spirit Beauty Lounge.  In that post I expressed my extreme joy and gratitude for the lovely box of natural/non toxic goodies that Spirit sent to me to try, and I promised to share with you any products that I loved.  After testing them out over the last few months, I am now ready to share some of  my favorites!  The first product I would like to introduce you to is actually a few products from a skin care line by May Lindstrom.  May is a model and make up artist who spent 3 years developing this line of luxurious skin care products that are made with bio dynamic, organic and all natural ingredients and never any chemicals.  Below are my three favorite products.  They feel luxurious, well made, effective, yet simple.  They are not your typical cleanser, mask and moisturizer, and takes a little getting used to, but I have learned to love the ritual of using these products and my skin truly glows afterwards.  I hope you all get a chance to experience the magic for yourselves!

1) The Clean Dirt: A cleansing clay, this cleanser comes in powder form and gets activated when you add a few drops of water.   It is made with a blend of cleansing clays, warming spices and healing salts and is like a daily micro-dermabrasion.  My experience: It is a brown powder so when activated with water can get a bit messy, also you don’t want to put it on your eye area to remove make up.  So, I use it whenever I am getting into the shower and don’t have any make up on.  That way, it doesn’t matter if it’s messy, cause you are in the shower, and your face is already free of make up and ready to be exfoliated, leaving you free to enjoy the primal feeling of rubbing clay all over your face.

2) The Youth Dew: A hydrating facial serum made with 20 regenerating plant and botanical oils and is infused with CoEnzyme Q10, known to rejuvenate skin cells. My experience: This is essentially a moisturizing oil.  It is in a small bottle, but you only use 1-2 pumps, so it lasts a really long time.  It smells absolutely amazing and soaks in nicely.  I personally feel like it is a tad too oily to use under make up, so if I plan on putting make up on, I use a squirt of my daily moisturizer and I mix in a drop or two of the youth Dew.  At night I use 2 pumps of The Youth Dew only and wake up with soft, supple, clear skin. I’m obsessed with this product!

3) The Problem Solver: A corrective mask made of antioxidant-rich cacao, healing bamboo charcoal, soil nutrients, salts and warming spices.  This mask comes in powder form and activates with water to purify, tighten pores, fight & heal blemishes, detoxify and jump-start circulation.  My experience: This sh*t is intense!!!  It gives a serious burning/tingling sensation, but don’t get scared, as that will diminish as it dries.  I was afraid that my skin my be red afterwards because it feels so intense, but quite the opposite, my pores were tight and my skin was even-toned and glowing. I’m hooked.

You can find all of these products at Spirit Beauty Lounge  here.

The Truth About Your Favorite Tea

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I don’t know about you, but I love myself some tea.  I always try to drink organic teas, but on occasion I drink conventional if that is all that is available.  I never gave much thought to what the tea was packaged in and what the actual tea bag itself was made of, until I read this alarming post by Food Babe.  If you love tea or know someone who does, it is definitely worth a read.  You can find it here.

Profile: Spirit Demerson

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Have you ever dreamt of a website that only carries the most luxurious, effective, non toxic skin care and beauty products?  A place where you could trust that each product has been vetted out by someone who believes that high performance skin and beauty products should also be non toxic to us and the environment?  Well, your dreams have become a reality with Spirit Beauty Lounge.  I had the pleasure of meeting Spirit Demerson, founder of Spirit Beauty Lounge, at the NYC Premiere of my documentary, GMO OMG.  She is a natural beauty (inside and out) and I wanted to pick her brain a bit about her company and her thoughts on skin care and make up.  I told her how I have managed to switch to non toxic products in almost all areas of my life, but that there are still a few make up products that I just haven’t been able to find healthy alternatives for.  Spirit generously offered to take the list of products I wish to replace and send me a bunch of new, healthy alternatives to try out!  I just received the glorious box of goodies in the mail this week and I am SO excited to give them all a try!  I am going to chronicle my experience with the transition, as well as share any products I find that I think are must haves for all of you.  So check back soon for updates on my journey!

Is your real name Spirit?
My real California-hippie-parent-given name is Spirit Ireland Demerson.
 
What inspired you to start Spirit Beauty Lounge?
I spent a lifetime trying to reconcile my love of luxury beauty products, with my commitment to health and sustainability.  I longed for a place where one could shop for products that were all as green and clean as they were beautiful. That didn’t exist, so I created it!
 
Is it possible to get the same performance as conventional products in natural skin care and make up products?
Generally I wouldn’t say the “same” but in most cases I would actually say natural performs better – it’s our expectations that tend to be off. Especially with skin care, many conventional products are formulated to give the immediate appearance or sensation of improvement, but not long-term, skin balancing, nourishing and strengthening results that we get from natural.  There are certain areas where natural will never compare to synthetic, but by and large it has always been superior.  We should remember, the reason chemists in labs synthesized most of the cosmetic ingredients out there was not to improve on nature, or because effective natural ingredients were lacking, but rather to mimic nature, at a much, much cheaper cost.
 
What is the worst common ingredient that people should avoid and why?
I wish this were an easy question to answer.  Just for perspective, the EU bans over 1,000 ingredients from use in cosmetics, the US bans 10.  Even the new Whole Foods Premium Body Care Standard bans over 400 ingredients.  It would be careless to pick one, or even 12, and think that everything is OK except for products that have those ingredients.  With thousands and thousands of unregulated ingredients in use in US cosmetics, I believe the better solution, for women who aren’t completely obsessive ingredients researchers like myself, is to look at this backwards;  If you can’t memorize a list of several hundred ingredients to avoid – buy only the ones you know and trust.  In most of the products you’ll find on spiritbeautylounge.com, you’ll recognize 90% of the ingredients as the types of things you’d eat (think: argan oil, licorice root, sea algae…).  Anything you don’t, look it up.  You’ll start to get familiar with the chemical-sounding-but-good-for-you ones like “Caprylic Capric Triglycerides” (a fraction of coconut oil).  This is why starting in a store that’s already done a lot of the work for you is so helpful, if you’re looking to shop better.
 
What are your top three favorite natural beauty products of the moment?
May Lindstrom Skin Clean Dirt
Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence
Kjaer Weis Blush in Desired Glow
 
Why are natural products more expensive than conventional products?
They really aren’t.  I think that’s a misconception.  The more you know about the cheap synthetic stuff that goes into products, the more you’ll find that what’s really overpriced is most everything you find in department store beauty counters.  Their minimal-benefit ingredients cost a tiny fraction of the markup you pay.  With a jar of RMS Beauty Un Cover Up you’re getting skin nourishing, anti-aging natural ingredients, that can cost nearly what you pay! With a silicone based designer product of the same price, it’s not multi-benefit or skin nourishing, and what you pay can be 20 times the cheap ingredient cost.
 
What is your recommendation for women who want to start the switch to natural products?  Where should they begin?
I know it can be overwhelming, you start to look around at everything you’re using and think “Oh no! I have to start all over figuring out what works for me!”  This is why I like to think of SBL as a service, and not just a store.  Our beauty experts, and myself, know exactly what that’s like and we specialize in transitioning.  You tell us what you’re using now, and we find the best way and the best products to crossover!
 
What is the best way for us to find out if a product we are using contains harmful ingredients?
Statistically, (if you use conventional personal care products) the odds are, it does.  The questions is: to what degree are you being exposed to them? I used to challenge my loved ones to pick any product they use daily – shampoo, lotion, lip balm… and look up the MSDS and research data on each ingredient in just that one item.  Then ask, “Am I OK with this going into my bloodstream?”  There are some products you may use on special occasions, and even then, only apply them to your nails or eyelashes – I’d say the exposure there is not something to stress about.  But think of the products you use frequently, in particular those you apply to and leave on the skin, knowing that you’re absorbing up to 65% of that into your bloodstream.  Toxins are a part of life on this planet, and unavoidable.  But consider the cumulative effects of that amount of exposure through the skin, and whether that’s something you’re really comfortable with.
 
If you could give some beauty advice to my readers, what would it be?
It’s cliché, but I learn more and more every day, that it truly comes from the inside out.  Making your health and vitality a priority as a woman, will without question, lead to you being more beautiful, and radiating more beauty, than anything you’re “giving up” ever could have.
 
What is a saying you live by?
Beauty is as beauty does.
 

Simply delicious oatmeal recipe

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I’ve never loved eating oatmeal for breakfast.  It always just seemed like empty carbs that made me feel full and heavy.  Then recently, I read about soaking oatmeal to make it more digestible.  Soaking the oats, in water and yogurt overnight, breaks down the naturally occurring phytates that prevent you from being able to absorb the minerals.  So, I decided to give it a try.  Not only was it super easy, but it tastes delicious and I don’t get that heavy feeling afterwards.   I experimented with doctoring it up a bit to make it even tastier and I found my new favorite breakfast.  Simple, filling, healthy.

Jill’s Oatmeal Recipe

serves 2

1 Cup Organic rolled oats (not quick cooking kind)

2 Tablespoons Organic whole milk plain yogurt (no sugar added)

2 Cups Filtered water

Organic grade B maple syrup

Splash of organic milk (cows, goats, almond, or whatever floats your boat)

Dash of cinnamon

Spoonful of organic raw almond butter

Night before you want to eat it…

Put oats, 1 cup of water and yogurt in a bowl and stir to combine ingredients.  Lay a kitchen towel over the bowl and let sit overnight on your counter top (do not refrigerate as the cold temperature will slow down the fermenting process).

The next morning…

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add oat mixture.  Stirring occasionally, cook for 5 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved.

Move to a serving bowl and stir in maple syrup to desired sweetness, a spoonful of almond butter, a splash of milk, and a dash of cinnamon.  Stir and enjoy!

NOTE- You can adjust the added ingredients to get the flavor and consistency that you enjoy most.  You can also get creative and add fruit and/or nuts if you like. Personally, I like to keep it pretty simple, but that’s just me!