Wellness Encyclopedia: The Benefits of Raw Honey

Wellness Encyclopedia: The Benefits of Raw Honey

The golden wonder that is raw honey can help keep you at the top of your game this season…

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true: Cold and flu season is almost here. While I’m celebrating the arrival of fall like the best of them, it took one 30°F morning this week to remind me that along with picking pumpkins and brainstorming Halloween costumes, ensuring healthy immunity should be at the top of my to-do list. I love this time of year, so the last thing I want is to be sidetracked by a cough or sore throat. Luckily my first line of defense just happens to be delicious and all natural: Organic, locally-sourced raw honey. The cloudy variety that comes straight from happy bees tended to by a kind keeper. Why honey? The benefits are almost too numerous to list, but today I’ve tried. Read on to learn why raw honey could help keep you at the top of your game this season.

What’s the difference between raw honey and regular honey?  

Regular, commercial honey, the kind that typically comes in a bear-shaped container and runs clear and easy from the jar, is filtered and then pasteurized at a high temperature to kill off any yeast that may be present. Raw honey is unprocessed and unpasteurized to preserve the beneficial nutrients present. While commercial honey still tastes amazing and is an adequate substitute for liquid sweetener in recipes, it lacks the same incredible benefits of raw honey. To see whether or not the raw honey you’ve purchased is truly raw, take a spoonful and place it in a glass of water. If it settles to the bottom, it’s raw. However, if it dissolves easily and sticks the the edges of the glass, it could be processed and even counterfeit (yes, counterfeit honey is a thing).

Benefits of raw honey.

So, what are all these incredible nutrients available in raw, unprocessed honey? If you’re prone to seasonal allergies, local raw honey could help! Raw honey contains bee pollen, which could help your body adjust to the pollen in the air when consumed. By eating honey produced locally, you consume trace amounts of the same pollen that could be wreaking havoc via allergies, helping to regulate your body to the pollen in the air. By regularly eating raw honey, your body could build up antibodies and produce less histamine when allergy season rolls around.

Trouble sleeping? A little raw honey before bed could help you sleep by helping to promote the production of melatonin. Similar to sugar, raw honey generates a rise in insulin, which produces serotonin, which is eventually converted to melatonin. Try adding a small amount of honey to a mug of tea before bed to help you relax and ready your body for rest.

As cold and flu season fast approaches, raw honey should be at the forefront of your seasonal sickness arsenal. Soothe a sore throat and suppress a cough with a spoonful of raw honey, which not only soothes but contains antibacterial properties to shorten the lifespan of a cold. Raw honey has been found to be as effective as traditional cough syrup in treating a sore throat and reducing mucus production (gross, but true). Honey is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, meaning that not only will it not go bad (as long as it’s kept pure and free of contamination from water and other factors), but the same antibacterial and antifungal properties can benefit the body by supporting immunity and warding off minor colds and seasonal illnesses. These same antibacterial properties are incredibly beneficial for acne-prone skin and raw honey has long been used as an ingredient in masks and even as a cleanser.

How to use raw honey.

Raw honey is incredibly versatile, but in order to harness its full range of benefits, it’s best consumed straight from the jar (tough, I know). However, it makes a great substitute for processed sugar if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of its nutritional power. Sub honey for corn sugar in most recipes where it’s called for, or add a small amount to coffee or tea in place of white sugar. Tough workout ahead? Take a spoonful of raw honey beforehand to power through. Or, put some of our favorite tried and tested raw honey recipes to work:

DIY Honey Rose Lip Scrub

Apple Ginger Honey Spritzer

Honey Face Mask

Honey Ginger Throat Drops

 

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Sage Benefits and Sage-Rosemary Oil DIY

Wellness Encyclopedia: Sage Benefits and Sage-Rosemary Oil DIY

More than just a pretty-smelling oil, sage has been used for centuries for everything from memory enhancement to wound healing…

This week, I’m pulling off one of the most stressful things a person can experience: A multi-state move. Come Saturday, I’ll be packing up my truck and making the journey from Pennsylvania to Maine, and right now I’m feeling that stress all over. Head to toe. Even though this move is one I’m excited about, it’s been said that moving, even in the best of times, is akin to experiencing a death in the family when it comes to stress level – and I believe it! To keep calm and grounded as my move-out date approaches, I’ve been turning to tried and true practices that bring peace of mind while everything around me is chaos. A favorite? Sage oil and smudges. While sage smudging is often thought of as a move-in ritual, the smoke from sage can help clear the air anytime. Add sage essential oil to the equation, and you’re in for decreased levels of stress and a great-smelling apartment (even if it is filled with boxes). But sage is more than just a pretty-smelling oil, the herb has been used for centuries for everything from memory enhancement to wound healing. Learn more about this incredible herb below!

What is sage?

Salvia officinalis, also called common sage or garden sage, is a light green herb with small purple flowers in the mint family. Native to the Mediterranean, sage now grows worldwide and has been used for thousands of years for both culinary and spiritual practices. Believed to promote everything from fertility to warding off evil to promoting brain function, When burned as a smudge, sage is thought to clear energy from a space or an object, much the same way as it was used centuries ago..

What are the benefits of sage?

Considered a sister herb to rosemary, when paired together sage and rosemary are believed to enhance cognitive function and could improve memory. On its own, sage could help boost brain power whether consumed as part of a dish, or simply used in aromatherapy by potentially stimulating neural pathways in the brain and possibly reducing overall inflammation, which has been linked to brain function. The same antioxidant properties in sage that may lead to reduced inflammation have also been found to possibly help with reduced muscle pain; in fact, the oils derived from sage have long been used to ease muscle aches and pains throughout the body. Sage has been found to contain some antibacterial and antiviral effects, and when applied as a poultice or tincture has been shown to improve symptoms of a variety of skin conditions, including eczema, acne and psoriasis.

How do I use sage?

Sage bundles can be bought pre-made but are just as easy to create and customize on your own with the benefit of adding in your own herbs and flowers. Sage oil blends beautifully into essential oil blends, like the one below, and fresh sage can be added to everything from salads to soups to desserts for antioxidant and memory-boosting benefits!

Sage-Rosemary Muscle and Memory Blend

Materials

10 drops sage essential oil

10 drops rosemary essential oil

1 oz carrier oil (jojoba, sweet almond, sesame)

Small glass container

Method

Combine essential oils and carrier oil in a small glass container. Mix gently before capping. Store in a cool, dark place. To use: rub on sore muscles or on temples to ease stress and improve mental capacity.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Sage Benefits and Sage-Rosemary Oil DIY

Wellness Encyclopedia: Sage Benefits and Sage-Rosemary Oil DIY

More than just a pretty-smelling oil, sage has been used for centuries for everything from memory enhancement to wound healing…

This week, I’m pulling off one of the most stressful things a person can experience: A multi-state move. Come Saturday, I’ll be packing up my truck and making the journey from Pennsylvania to Maine, and right now I’m feeling that stress all over. Head to toe. Even though this move is one I’m excited about, it’s been said that moving, even in the best of times, is akin to experiencing a death in the family when it comes to stress level – and I believe it! To keep calm and grounded as my move-out date approaches, I’ve been turning to tried and true practices that bring peace of mind while everything around me is chaos. A favorite? Sage oil and smudges. While sage smudging is often thought of as a move-in ritual, the smoke from sage can help clear the air anytime. Add sage essential oil to the equation, and you’re in for decreased levels of stress and a great-smelling apartment (even if it is filled with boxes). But sage is more than just a pretty-smelling oil, the herb has been used for centuries for everything from memory enhancement to wound healing. Learn more about this incredible herb below!

What is sage?

Salvia officinalis, also called common sage or garden sage, is a light green herb with small purple flowers in the mint family. Native to the Mediterranean, sage now grows worldwide and has been used for thousands of years for both culinary and spiritual practices. Believed to promote everything from fertility to warding off evil to promoting brain function, When burned as a smudge, sage is thought to clear energy from a space or an object, much the same way as it was used centuries ago..

What are the benefits of sage?

Considered a sister herb to rosemary, when paired together sage and rosemary are believed to enhance cognitive function and could improve memory. On its own, sage could help boost brain power whether consumed as part of a dish, or simply used in aromatherapy by potentially stimulating neural pathways in the brain and possibly reducing overall inflammation, which has been linked to brain function. The same antioxidant properties in sage that may lead to reduced inflammation have also been found to possibly help with reduced muscle pain; in fact, the oils derived from sage have long been used to ease muscle aches and pains throughout the body. Sage has been found to contain some antibacterial and antiviral effects, and when applied as a poultice or tincture has been shown to improve symptoms of a variety of skin conditions, including eczema, acne and psoriasis.

How do I use sage?

Sage bundles can be bought pre-made but are just as easy to create and customize on your own with the benefit of adding in your own herbs and flowers. Sage oil blends beautifully into essential oil blends, like the one below, and fresh sage can be added to everything from salads to soups to desserts for antioxidant and memory-boosting benefits!

Sage-Rosemary Muscle and Memory Blend

Materials

10 drops sage essential oil

10 drops rosemary essential oil

1 oz carrier oil (jojoba, sweet almond, sesame)

Small glass container

Method

Combine essential oils and carrier oil in a small glass container. Mix gently before capping. Store in a cool, dark place. To use: rub on sore muscles or on temples to ease stress and improve mental capacity.

+ Be sure to check out more Wellness Encyclopedia posts!

Follow Julie on Instagram + check out her blog.

 

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Four DIY Detox Recipes for ARLO BLAK’s Activated Charcoal Powder

Four DIY Detox Recipes for ARLO BLAK’s Activated Charcoal Powder

This ultrafine powder is like a one-stop-shop for total detox…

Is a shot of pitch-black powder the newest way to supercharge your detox routine? At this point in the wellness game, we’re all pretty familiar with the general benefits of charcoal, the sooty, toxin-attracting particle that has the ability to sweep chemicals and bacteria off their feet — but thanks to a new no-nonsense, back-to-the-basics delivery system, you’re bound to become even more acquainted with the poison-trapping powerhouse.

CHARCOAL IS THE NEW STAPLE:

Meet ARLO BLAK, the Australian-based brand that Alexandra Lawson dreamed up last year whilst looking for an alternative to the chemical-heavy products saturating the beauty market. “In an age of toxin overload, I wanted to create a product that was not only good for me, but also environmentally and vegan-friendly,” says Alexandra of the logic behind ARLO BLAK’s Activated Charcoal Powder, created from burning organic coconut shells in a process that creates the ultra-fine black powder with its famously porous, attractive surface. Fans of the brand like bombshell model Simone Holtznagel are already singing its cruelty-free, 100% natural praises.

THE PURIFYING POSSIBILITIES OF CHARCOAL:

Whether you’re mixing it into a face mask, polishing your teeth with it, or sipping it as a purifying elixir, the name of the game is DETOX. “Activated charcoal acts like a magnet drawing out dirt and oil from your pores, discoloration from your teeth, and toxins from your body,” Alexandra explains of the many uses the brand touts for its packet of unprocessed onyx dust. “Toxins from processed food and environmental pollution can wreak havoc on our bodies, destroying cells, affecting the functioning of our immune system, and contributing to early aging — ARLO BLAK binds toxins to help prevent damage, helping to relieve skin issues, allergies, and digestive problems like gas and bloating.”

 THE SIMPLEST CHARCOAL RECIPES FOR RESULTS:

The odorless, flavorless particles are meant to be mixed, so working them into a regular routine doesn’t require ousting your usual favorites completely, but instead sporadically adding a dose of detoxifying power. “I use it for a number of different health and beauty treatments,” Alexandra shares. “The benefits and uses are endless and I love when customers come up with new treatments.” Below, four of her top recipes for a purified future.

ANTI-BLEACH SMILE BRIGHTENER

Ingredients

Water

Your favorite toothbrush

ARLO BLAK Activated Charcoal Powder

ALEXANDRA’S HOW-TO TIPS: “ARLO BLAK helps to whiten teeth naturally, and get rid of stains by removing plaque and discoloration. Brush with the charcoal 2-3 times per week to kiss expensive chemical treatments goodbye and say hello to perfect pH balance and a big, bright smile!”

Try it in the shower to avoid any spotted mirror problems.

Dip your toothbrush in water and add a layer of ARLO BLAK’s powder.

Brush, brush, brush and rinse well with water.

Follow with your favorite toothpaste to get rid of any excess black residue (and leave a minty finish).

TOTAL POWERCLAY MASK

Ingredients

Water

½ tsp bentonite clay powder

½ tsp ARLO BLAK Activated Charcoal Powder

ALEXANDRA’S HOW-TO TIPS: “My favorite masking ingredient to mix in is bentonite clay. Bentonite clay and activated charcoal are a power couple for removing dirt and impurities from your skin. When bentonite clay is mixed with water it tightens large pores, tones and firms the skin, reduces blemishes, controls oil and exfoliates. Coupling it with activated charcoal results in a super purifying and detoxifying face mask.

Start in the bath, because as your mask starts to dry, it will flake.

Mix half a teaspoon of bentonite clay with half a teaspoon of ARLO BLAK and a bit of water into a paste.

Apply evenly to skin, avoiding eye area.

Lie back and relax until the mixture feels dry to the touch.

Remove with a wet wash cloth and your favorite face cleanser or face wipe.

INKY COCONUT MELT

Ingredients

½ tsp coconut oil

½ tsp ARLO BLAK Activated Charcoal Powder

ALEXANDRA’S HOW-TO TIPS: “Take some time out and treat yourself to an acne-fighting, glowing-face-magic mask as often as 2-3 times per week. Remember, no matter how hard you try to remove your mask with only water, it won’t come off—after all, oil and water don’t mix.”

Mix a half a teaspoon of ARLO BLAK with half a teaspoon of coconut oil.

Apply to skin in a smooth layer, avoiding eyes.

Put your feet up and wait for the mixture to dry.

Remove with a wet wash cloth and your favorite face cleanser or face wipe.

OBSIDIAN ELIXIR

Ingredients

Water

½ organic lemon

1 tsp ARLO BLAK Activated Charcoal Powder

ALEXANDRA’S HOW-TO TIPS: “Get a spring back in your step by using ARLO BLAK as the ultimate detox elixir. Drink 2- 3 times per week to help to remove unwanted toxins from your body, leaving you feeling renewed and more vibrant.” (Don’t take at the same time as medication or other supplements, and if pregnant or nursing, suffer from irritable stomach issues, nutrient deficiencies or anemia, consult your healthcare practitioner prior to use. This is not intended as a treatment for accidental poisoning.)

Give yourself 3 hours before or after eating so as not to prevent nutrient absorption from your food.

Stir a teaspoon of ARLO BLAK into a glass of water.

Add a squeeze of lemon for extra detoxifying power and sip at your leisure.

Drink at least 8 glasses of water throughout the day to stay properly hydrated.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Garlic

Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Garlic

Our first line of defense for fending off colds and flu…

It’s officially cold season. At least in my house. Yes, it’s early… not even officially fall yet, but while it may occasionally still feel like summer outside, the weather has that noticeable bite in the air and more and more friends are reporting coming down with something. Cold, flu, what-have-you, whatever it is, I don’t want it, so I’ve been filling up on immunity boosters like ginger, lemon, raw honey, and tons of fresh garlic. The latter may have more of a reputation for making your breath a special kind of pungent, but when seasonal illnesses are making the rounds, a clove or two of garlic should be our first line of defense for fending off colds and flu. Used for centuries to stave off viruses, garlic is prized for its antibacterial and antiviral properties that could potentially improve immunity and shorten sick time. Read on to learn why you should be stocking a few heads of garlic in your pantry all year round, and learn how to make an immunity-supporting garlic tea:

What is garlic?

Native to Central Asia and in the same genus as onions (Allium), garlic has been used for thousands of years as both a seasoning and herbal remedy in traditional medicine. Garlic’s scientific name is Allium sativum and the plant is characterized by its white bulb, which grows underground; purple pom pom flowers; and curly scapes, which can also be harvested and eaten (and should be harvested and eaten — they’re delicious). While garlic plays a role as a key seasoning all year ‘round, it’s especially valuable come autumn and winter, when temperatures and immunity are low. Similar to root vegetables, the garlic bulb is where all the plant’s energy is stored, making it an ideal addition to your cold-weather nutrition and wellness arsenal.

What are the benefits of garlic?

Besides adding a spicy, pungent aroma and flavor to all variety of culinary exploits, garlic has been used for thousands of years to treat everything from cold and flu, to acne, to yeast infections. Prized for its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties largely thanks to allicin, the sulphur compound found in garlic, which could help the body detoxify from heavy metals, prevent acne, support immunity, and could prevent oxidative damage to cells. Studied since the ‘40s for its ability to fight disease and bacterial infection, allicin is responsible for garlic’s pungent smell. The allicin found in garlic is a cold-season must-have, and can be consumed as either an over-the-counter supplement or fresh in the form of whole garlic added to teas, soups, and broths. While supplements are a good second defense when fresh garlic isn’t available, fresh garlic is always the way to go for flavor and effectiveness.

How do I use garlic?

My favorite way to use garlic is fresh, tossed into all manner of soups, stews, sauces, sautes, stirfrys, salads… pretty much any- and everything that could use a savory boost. Fresh cloves are always strongest, with the most potent amounts of allicin, but when in a pinch, pre-chopped garlic can be used for flavor. However, there are plenty of ways to harness the power of garlic specifically for cold season. Try pressing several cloves and adding to a simple broth, or making the tea below for when your immunity needs a little (or a lot) of extra support:

Garlic Immunity Tea

[serves 1]

Ingredients

1-2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced into pieces

Juice from ½ lemon

Small chunk fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

Raw honey, to taste but generous

8-10 oz filtered water

Method

Place the garlic, ginger and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain into a mug and add lemon juice and honey.

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Your New Fave 10-Step Facial Massage

Your New Fave 10-Step Facial Massage

Firming. Lifting. Calming. Brightening. De-puffing. Hydrating. Nourishing. Plumping.

All words I myself have used right here on this very blog to describe beauty and skincare products. And while there are, without a doubt, clean, natural ingredients and formulations that will perform what each of those adjectives promises, there’s also a totally and completely natural way to get roughly the same results without a drop of anything touching your skin.

Any guesses? (Not magic, no. Though that would be very cool.)

If you said facial massage, you either 1) read the headline of this piece or 2) are very wise because yes, the simple act of gently rubbing your own hands over your own face can work wonders on your complexion and the health of your skin. A few drops of oil, five minutes of your time and the brainpower to actually remember to do it every day, and facial massage may just become the best part of your skincare routine.

Before I get into how, let me quickly explain the why. So many of our skin woes are caused by inflammation, both within our organs that then shows up on the skin or closer to the surface in the form of puffiness. When it comes to the former, the only way to control it is diet. But for the latter, much of it can be combatted by making sure our lymph system is free of blockages and flowing smoothly.

When lymph is circulating freely, draining and refreshing optimally, puffiness goes down significantly. It also means toxins that can mess with your skin are being continuously flushed from the body, which keeps the skin clear and glowing. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the lymph system relies mostly on external movement for circulation. When you eat a lot of salty, processed, fatty foods and then go to bed right away, I’d bet you wake up in the morning feeling and looking pretty puffy thanks to all that stagnant fluid that’s taken up residence in your body. But as soon as you really start to move again, getting the blood (and lymph) moving too, that puffiness starts to subside.

Now apply the same reasoning to your skin. Yes, your regular blood flow and exercise is helpful for the health and appearance of your skin. But just like you need targeted movements and exercise to strengthen and tighten muscle groups, you also need targeted care for your face. (No, facial crunches don’t exist…yet.)

Which is where facial massage comes in. By taking a few minutes every day to focus on moving your hands over your face in a specific way, you can help your facial muscles stay active, relieve tension, increase blood flow (hello, glow!), and help that lymph circulate and drain properly so puffiness doesn’t haunt your gorgeous head.

Ok, now the how.

First, a note on technique: You should approach anything having to do with the skin on your face with the utmost care and a very gentle hand. It’s better to underdo it and have it take a bit longer for the results to show up than to overdo it and damage your delicate skin. The pressure you use to massage your face should be similar to that with which you shave your legs — you’re not trying to dig into your skin with the razor (the horror!) and the same goes for massaging your face. A light touch is also better because lymph is close to the surface and responds better to gentle pressure. If you press too hard, you risk bruising that sweet, sweet face.

When it comes to technique, there are many. YouTube is rife with tutorial videos (though proceed with caution) and a quick Google search will also turn up many instructional pieces. Proceed however you like, though one constant you may recognize is direction; you’ll want to start with your fingers in the center of your face and move them out to the edge, then down. That’s because the direction of the lymphatic pathways on the face move from the center, out, then down to just above the collarbone where it all collects to be flushed away. When you empty the trash can in your kitchen, you don’t move the garbage bag into your bedroom — you take it out to the curb. Same goes for your face.

So with all this in mind, here’s my approach to facial massage. I do it every morning after cleansing and applying moisturizer, and every night on clean skin with a few drops of oil. As long as you stick to the basic rules of facial massage (gentle hand, moving from the center out, performing on clean skin with a bit of oil or moisturizer for some slip), you can make up your own pattern. I’m partial to the technique below because it was taught to me by a holistic facialist friend who has the most gorgeous skin you’ve ever seen and, when I skip a day of doing it, I notice the effects immediately, but you do you.

Facial Massage Sequence

Start with freshly cleansed skin and clean hands. Apply moisturizer or face oil as usual and, while it’s still absorbing into skin, start the massage. I do both sides of my face simultaneously since, you know, I have two hands, but feel free to perform one side, then the other.

Place your index, middle and ring fingers at the top of the neck, just below the ears (outer corner of the jaw). Apply gentle pressure and drag your fingers down the neck until you hit the collarbone. Repeat 5x.

With your thumb and index finger in a light pinching formation, start in the center of your chin with the pad of the thumb pushing up into the jawbone and the index finger resting a few centimeters above it. Gently drag your fingers out toward the earlobes along the jaw bone, keeping that slight pinch the whole time so it’s almost like you’re lightly gripping the jawbone. Repeat 5x.

Make peace signs with your index and middle fingers with the pads of the fingers facing you. Rotate the peace signs 45 degrees so they bracket your mouth. Apply gentle pressure and move your fingers out toward the edge of your face, pulling up slightly at the end. Repeat 5x.

Starting at the outer edge of your nostrils, sweep your index and middle fingers along your cheekbones out to the middle of the ear. You’ll be able to really feel where the cheekbone is, so no need to go digging for it. Repeat 5x.

Very gently, press your ring finger into the under-eye area once at the inner corner, once in the middle (beneath the pupil) and once at the outer corner. Repeat the pattern 5x.

With your middle finger, gently press into the eyebrow bone at the inner edge of the eyebrow. Slowly trace the eyebrow out to the temple. Repeat 5x.

Place the palm of your hand on your scalp so your fingers hang over your forehead. From the center of your eyebrows, sweep the fingers up the forehead to the hairline and back. You can even lightly run your fingers through the hair for a mini-scalp massage. Repeat 5-10x.

Starting in the center of the forehead, sweep the fingers out toward the temple. Repeat 5x.

With all fingers but the thumbs, start in the center of your forehead and bring your fingers up to your hair. Then, sweep the fingers along the hairline, out and down toward the temples, behind your ears (like you’re tucking your hair back) and down the sides of your neck to your collarbone, just like that first move.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Sweet Potatoes + Sweet Potato Toast, 3 Ways

Wellness Encyclopedia: Sweet Potatoes + Sweet Potato Toast, 3 Ways

Learn all the reasons you should be sweet on sweet potatoes…

My love affair with sweet potatoes began with my first Whole30. Before that, I’d never eaten them, save for the occasional, unpleasant Thanksgiving fork-full of sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows at my grandmother’s house (a more confusing dish I dare you to find). For unknown reasons (reasons likely related to their affiliation with marshmallows), they were practically banned from my mother’s table, so it wasn’t until that initial Whole30 that I was introduced to how truly incredible sweet potatoes can be in both flavor and nutrition. Now, these power-packed roots are a staple in my diet, and as fall draws closer and the weather cools, they’re ever more present on my table. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and minerals key to powering us through the colder months. Think of a root as the powerplant to what grows above the earth’s surface, brimming with energy and, in the case of sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, carrots, and their ilk, deep beneficial nutrition. As we enter into September and the leaves begin to turn (no joke: yellow and orange leaves were spotted in Central Pennsylvania this weekend), whether we’re fully aware of it or not, our diets will likely turn towards more warming foods to prepare our bodies for the months that lie ahead. Learn all the reasons you should be sweet on sweet potatoes below, then scroll to the bottom for three easy sweet potato toast recipes.

What are sweet potatoes?

Only distantly related to regular white potatoes, sweet potatoes are a perennial vine that boasts gorgeous trumpet-like flowers and a delicious edible root. Thought to be native to Central and/or South America, remnants of sweet potatoes dating as far back as 8,000 years have been found in Peru. Often confused with yams, sweet potatoes typically have lower sugar content and are smaller than yams, which are native to Africa and are typically not grown in the US. Yams boast white flesh and rough skins, and can grow up to eight feet in length! Additionally, it’s safe to eat sweet potatoes raw, whereas yams are toxic unless cooked properly.

What are the benefits of sweet potatoes?

Rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in your body, sweet potatoes could boost cellular turnover for younger-looking skin and help protect eyesight from macular degeneration (pro tip: adding a little fat, like coconut oil or olive oil, to your sweet potato will boost absorption and conversion of beta-carotene). A natural prebiotic, fibre-rich sweet potatoes feed the good bacteria in your gut, promoting better digestion and regularity and helping to eliminate bloat. The anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes could boost brain function and protect against degeneration of brain tissue and prevent memory loss, these same pigments have been linked to collagen production, potentially reducing the signs of aging. While many are quick to write off starchy root vegetables like sweet potatoes, research has shown that they could actually improve blood sugar regulation. Because we digest them slowly, thanks in part to their high fibre content, blood sugar is kept at a steady state instead of spiking and dropping the way it would with other carbs and starches.

How do I use sweet potatoes?

One of my favorite – and unexpected – ways to use sweet potatoes these days is by tossing a handful of steamed sweet potato into a smoothie. They’re a creamy, low sugar alternative to banana and delicious combined with a dash of cinnamon, a splash of nut milk, and your favorite protein powder. Sweet potato also lends itself well to soups, salads (try roasting some up and serving with arugula), baked goods, and they can be used in place of white potatoes in most cases. And while sweet potato fries are in fact delicious, it’s important to keep in mind the healthiest way to enjoy these delicious roots is as unadulterated as possible: steamed, baked skin-on, or lightly dry roasted. Try the recipe below for a new take on toast that will keep your belly happy and feeling full ‘till lunch:

Sweet Potato Toast, 3 Ways

Ingredients

Sweet potatoes (1 medium sweet potato makes about 3-4 slices)

To prepare the sweet potatoes: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse and dry sweet potatoes. Slice sweet potatoes lengthwise, about ¼ inch thick and place on baking sheet. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until bottoms are slightly browned and pieces are cooked through but firm.

PB-Banana-Cacao:

Natural peanut butter or nut butter of choice

1 Banana

Cacao nibs

Cinnamon

Method

Spread sweet potatoes with nut butter and top with banana slices. Sprinkle with cacao nibs and cinnamon.

Avocado “Toast”:

Ripe avocado

Cumin

Sea salt

Black pepper

Method

Layer slices of avocado on top of sweet potato slices. Sprinkle with cumin, sea salt, and black pepper.

Blueberry-Almond Butter:

Almond butter

Blueberries

Nutmeg

Method

Spread sweet potato slices with almond butter and top with blueberries and nutmeg.

Enjoy!

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Stain Less DIY

Stain Less DIY

A bit more work than simply dumping a cap-full of something blue and sudsy into the washing machine, but it’s totally worth it…and Mother Nature will thank you for it!

So you’ve taken my advice and made the switch to natural deodorant. Good for you! Your armpits and hormones thank you. But while you may be sweating more cleanly these days, one thing that isn’t faring quite as well is the underarm area of your favorite shirts. As a human being with sweat glands and a need to regulate your body temperature, I’m guessing you’re no stranger to sweat stains. They may be annoying, but they’re a fairly routine part of being a person with skin and a quick tumble in the washing machine is often enough to remove these pesky stains from fabric. But now that you’ve introduced your t-shirts and tank tops to natural deodorant….things may be different.

The all-natural ingredients in clean deodorant are undoubtedly better for your health, but the same can’t be said for fabric. The coconut oil and shea butter that serve as the base for most clean deodorants? They like to leave yellow hues behind. Same goes for any essential oils in the formula. Now you’re faced with a conundrum: You switched to natural deodorant to get away from harmful chemicals and additives, but it seems like conventional laundry detergent full of harmful chemicals and additives may be the only way to remove the yellow residue left on your clothes by that natural deodorant! What’s a girl to do?!

I’ll tell you: go the DIY route. It’s a bit more work than simply dumping a cap-full of something blue and sudsy into the washing machine, but it’s totally worth it. Below are a few recipes you can play around with, all of which I’ve tested and give two very green thumbs up! 

Cream of Tartar: More Than Just a Meringue Ingredient

What you’ll need:

  • 2 tbsp cream of tartar
  • Lemon essential oil
  • Water 

How to use it:

In a small glass bowl, combine the cream of tartar, a few drops of lemon essential oil and just enough water to create a paste. Spread the paste on the stains and work it into the fabric with your fingers. Let it dry before laundering as usual.

Why it works:

Cream of tartar is just a funny name for potassium bitartrate, an acid salt. When mixed with another acid (like that lemon essential oil), the combination works to break down the proteins in your sweat that cause stains.

H2O2

What you’ll need:

  • Hydrogen Peroxide

How to use it:

No fancy mixing here; simply pour or spray hydrogen peroxide (3%) onto the stained area. Let it soak in for at least half an hour, then wash.

Another option for really gnarly yellow stains is to make a paste with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Rub it into the stain from the back (so, the inside of the shirt to help push the stain out and through rather than further into the fabric), then leave it alone for five minutes before laundering.

Why it works:

The hydrogen peroxide you keep in your first aid kit works wonders on stains — and is way more environmentally friendly than chlorine bleach since the oxygen-based formula breaks down safely in water. When it comes to stains, this same oxygen works to break down color-causing sections of chemical structures, which removes the appearance of a stain. Just make sure your bottle of hydrogen peroxide is fresh: an opened bottle is only really potent for about six weeks before it loses the oxygen that makes it useful.

White Vinegar

 What you’ll need:

  • White vinegar
  • Coarse salt

How to use it:

This one may sound like the beginnings of a salad dressing, but it makes for an easy stain fighter: simply pour white vinegar over the stained area, then rub coarse salt into it, almost as if you’re exfoliating the fabric. Let the whole thing dry before washing it normally.

Why it works:

Aside from removing stains, white vinegar is also a wiz at deodorizing and softening fabrics. A lot of people simply dump a cup into the washing machine every time they do laundry — deodorant stains not necessary. The reason it works? The acid in white vinegar can cross cell membranes in bacteria that causes the release of protons, thereby leading to the cell’s death. Science-y, yes, but effective nonetheless.

+ Want to learn more from Allie? Read these articles here

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Grapes + Renewing Grape Face Mask

Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Grapes + Renewing Grape Face Mask

Before you pass over that purple or light green cluster yet again, take another look…

Consider the humble grape. At this point, this little fruit – or cluster of fruits – may feel a bit… played out. After all, grapes have a habit of showing up all over the place: as raisins, jelly, jam, good puns, wine. Like apples, grapes are one of those produce items we’ve grown so used to, our eyes often skim right over them at the market, opting instead for something more exotic. But before you pass over that purple or light green cluster yet again, take another look. The simple grapes sitting before you come from a long and complicated history, with their first domestication dating as far back as 8,000 years ago. What’re more, they could be the key to gorgeous, youthful looking skin. Intrigued? Read on.

What are grapes?

Thought to have been originally cultivated in the Middle East over 8,000 years ago, grapes are botanically a berry and have been used as food and to make wine for nearly equal amounts of time. The yeast that occurs naturally on the skin of the grapes is what causes the fruit to turn alcoholic, which eventually led to the discovery of turning grapes to wine. Now, the majority of grapes worldwide are destined to be made into wine, though a small percentage is reserved for those of us who still like to eat them straight from the vine.

What are the benefits of grapes?

We’ve all heard of the heart-healthy benefits of red wine, but did you know the same benefits could be reaped by simply eating dark red grapes? Packed with antioxidant-rich polyphenols like resveratrol, grapes — specifically the skin of dark red and purple grapes — could benefit heart and skin health. The flavonoid quercetin present in the skin of dark red grapes has been found to potentially reduce LDL cholesterol and grape’s high polyphenol content has been shown to possibly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The resveratrol found in grapes could also boost brain power, helping to increase blood flow to the brain and neutralize free radicals. Grapes are also a rich source of skin-friendly alpha hydroxy acids, which boost cellular turnover and help heal damage caused by the sun, while collagen-promoting anthocyanins found in the skin of grapes could reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Takeaway: Don’t peel your grapes. One more takeaway? Rich in insoluble fibre, grapes could aid in digestion and tonify the digestive tract, helping your digestion work more efficiently.

How do I use grapes?

Lucky for us all, grapes are pretty versatile! While hot summer days are still upon us, I recommend popping a bunch of fresh grapes straight into the freezer for a healthy alternative to more sugary frozen treats (just make sure you wash ‘em first). Grapes are also an excellent accompaniment to salads, can be reduced to make sauces and glazes, and can be tossed into smoothie and juice blends. Dark red and purple grapes boast the greatest benefit, and as soon as grapes are turned into a different product — think raisins, wine, jelly, etc. — their overall nutrition goes out the window (raisins are still a good source of insoluble fibre, but bear in mind their sugar content is sky high). So the next time you’re in the produce aisle, don’t pass the grapes! Pick up a bunch and enjoy them as is, and know you’re doing right by your body and mind.

Renewing Grape Face Mask

Ingredients

Small handful dark purple grapes

1 egg white

1 tsp oat flour or oatmeal

Optional: A few drops of grapeseed oil

Method

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Use your fingers or a clean mask brush to apply to face, avoiding the eye area. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with cool water and follow up with your favorite oil or moisturizer.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Flax + Why You Need to Grind Flax Seeds

Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Flax + Why You Need to Grind Flax Seeds

These little seeds are more than just a convenient dupe for eggs in a cookie recipe!

The first time I learned about flax seeds was back in college. I had just picked up a brand new vegan cookbook from Border’s (remember Border’s?) and flax seeds played a major part in so many of the recipes, especially as an egg replacement, I had to learn more. Turns out, these little seeds are more than just a convenient dupe for eggs in a cookie recipe! Packed with omega 3’s, antioxidants, and tons of fibre, these little seeds are an important addition to any diet, not just for vegans. Though the original cookbook now feels a touch outdated (So. Much. Soy.), I’ll forever be thankful for the knowledge of flax seeds that it passed along to me. Learn all about these incredible seeds below:

What is it?

Flax has a long history, one that’s centuries old (we’re talking 30,000 years). It’s been consumed as food for over 6,000 years, though its use to make fibers and oil could date farther back, as far back as the Paleolithic period. Most of us know flax in its textile form as linen, and as linseed oil (often used by oil painters) in its oil form. Boasting pretty blue flowers when it’s in bloom, flax grows in colder climates and is believed to have been first cultivated in the fertile crescent. Flax has been popular as a culinary addition for decades, and is especially valuable as an egg replacement for vegetarians and vegans, though the nutty seeds and meal is a tasty addition to a huge variety of foods.

What are the benefits?

Flax seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, also known as alpha-linolenic acids (ALAs). The ALA present in flax seeds promotes a healthy gut and digestive system, along with healthy skin and hair. High in fibre but low in carbs, flax could also help heal the gut, keep you feeling full longer, and improve digestive health overall. Along with nourishing skin, hair and nails with healthy fats, flax also delivers a healthy dose of B vitamins, which could improve symptoms of psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.

How do I use flax?

Flax is super versatile and an easy way to boost nutrition in smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, yogurt, and more. However, the key to getting all that good nutrition from the seed to your body is using ground flax instead of whole flax seeds.

Why grind your flax seeds? Whole flax seeds are nearly indigestible by the body, meaning they’ll pass through your system intact. While, yes, you’ll probably chew some, because they’re so small, flax seeds easily enter the digestive system whole. Unless you’re using them as a garnish or in a seed mix, I recommend always grinding your flax seeds, which you can do with a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, or purchasing pre-ground flax seeds, often labeled as “flax meal” (Bob’s Red Mill is a favorite brand of mine). Along with making the nutrients housed within the seeds more bioavailable, grinding your flax seeds also releases the mucilage gum found within the seeds, a gel-forming substance believed to benefit the intestinal tract.

Flax meal mixes easily into almost anything and for the most part is nearly indetectable. I love throwing a tablespoon of ground flax into my smoothies as a quick way to boost nutrition and add healthy ALAs to my daily routine.

How to Make Vegan Flax Eggs

Ingredients:

1 tbsp ground flax seeds (grind your own or purchase pre-ground, often labeled “flax meal”)

2 ½ tbsp warm water

Method

Combine flax meal and water in a small bowl and stir to combine. Allow to set for 5 minutes. This makes 1 flax egg — increase measurements to make more.

Flax eggs can’t sub for regular eggs in all recipes, but work well for things like cupcakes, cakes, quick breads, pancakes, brownies, etc. Chia seeds can also be used in place of flax!

Flax-Honey-Clay Face Mask

Materials:

1 tbsp ground flax seeds (grind your own or purchase pre-ground, often labeled “flax meal”)

1 tbsp raw honey

1 tbsp bentonite clay or pink clay

Rosewater

Method

Place flax, honey, and clay in a small non-metallic bowl and stir to combine. Add rosewater a little at a time until mixture forms a thick but spreadable paste. Apply to face and neck, avoiding eye area and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. When you’re ready to remove it, wet hands and gently rub in circles to allow the flax to exfoliate. Rinse completely before patting skin dry and following up with your favorite moisturizer.

+ Be sure to check out more Wellness Encyclopedia posts!

Follow Julie on Instagram + check out her blog.

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