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.

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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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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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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.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Avocados & Avocado/Honey Face Mask DIY

Wellness Encyclopedia: Avocados & Avocado/Honey Face Mask DIY

Read more about the incredible, edible avocado below, then scroll on for an easy face mask recipe you can whip up in minutes…

By now, I think most of us can agree: Avocados are awesome. Few fruits or vegetables have experienced such a dramatic PR shift over the past two decades, in fact, the rise of the avocado can only be compared to that of the “incredible, edible” egg. Once believed to be the basis of bad health, avocados spent a solid decade unfairly blacklisted from our plates. Imagine all the guacamole we were missing out on! Now, avocado toast is as commonplace in our diets as a bowl of cereal once was, and for good reason: Avocados are nutritional powerhouses. They satisfy without sugar, keep us feeling full, and best of all, the healthy fats they were once maligned for are now understood to make our skin glow and hair shine from the inside out. Today we’re celebrating these unique fruits by diving into what makes them great.

What exactly are avocados?

Botanically, the fruit of the avocado tree (aka the avocado) is a large berry with one large seed and is thought to have originated in the Tehuacan Valley in Puebla, Mexico up to 15,000 years ago. The fruit ripens on the tree, but only matures when separated, either by being harvested or dropping naturally, so plan ahead and choose hard avocados at the grocery store — these are most likely the freshest and will likely ripen after a few days on your countertop. It’s no secret that avocados have experienced a boon in popularity over the past several years (the per capita consumption in the US increased from 1 pound to 7 pounds in the span of six years) — so much so that it’s difficult to believe they were once victim to bad PR due to their high levels of healthy fats.

What are the benefits of avocados?

The low-fat diet craze of the ‘80s and ‘90s painted avocados as fat bombs akin to hamburgers and, well, anything else that featured any semblance of fat, healthy, natural, or otherwise (remember how everyone stopped eating eggs at one point? Same thing). At the time, it was thought that fat content in food equaled fat in the body, it wasn’t yet understood that different types of fats exist with different functions and different effects on the body. Trans fats and refined polyunsaturated fats? Those are the ones to avoid, most often found in processed foods, but the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, nuts, and — you guessed it — avocados, has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, and could even help with weight management. Rich in monounsaturated fats, avocado is thought to help regulate blood sugar levels, potentially helping to reverse insulin resistance, reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, and reduce the risk of stroke. Avocados are also rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K, which impact metabolic function and keep skin looking healthy. The high levels of fibre present in avocados also contributes to all the benefits listed above, along with keeping the gut healthy and aiding with digestion. Avocados are one of the richest sources of protein of any fruit, with the lowest sugar content, making them ideal for smoothies and post-workout nutrition, as they won’t cause blood sugar to spike and keep you feeling full and satisfied through to your next meal.

How to I use avocados?

A better question: How don’t you use avocados? Whether applied topically as a moisturizing hair or skin mask or tossed into a smoothie, avocados lend themselves to pretty much all areas of life! Let’s start with breakfast, shall we? Toss them into the afore mentioned smoothie as a satisfying, low-sugar alternative to your usual smoothie banana. Add some avocado to a savory bowl of oats, or use a scoop of guacamole in place of cheese in your next omelette. Lunch options? Sure, you could do everyone’s favorite, avocado toast, or you could roast a sweet potato and toss some avocado on top with a bit of homemade salsa (pro tip: make your own salsa, it’ll cost you pennies per serving and is to much better). Dinner? Add some avocado to salads or in place of cheese wherever you may usually use cheese. Don’t forget dessert! Avocado is easily whipped into chocolate mousse with the addition of cocoa powder and a bit of coconut sugar. For outside nourishment, mash ripe avocado together with a few simple ingredients for a super moisturizing hair or face mask. Not sure where to start? Try the simple recipe below to rejuvenate summer-parched skin:

Avocado-Honey Face Mask

Lactic acid in yogurt gently sloughs away dead skin while avocado and honey moisturize summer-parched skin

Ingredients

¼ avocado

1 tbsp plain yogurt

1 tsp raw honey

Method

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix/mash together until well blended. Use a brush or your fingers to apply mixture to face, avoiding the eye area. Relax for 10-15 minutes, then rinse with cool water and pat dry. Follow up with your favorite oil or moisturizer.

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This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. 
Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Cherries + Cherry Recovery Smoothie

Wellness Encyclopedia: Cherries + Cherry Recovery Smoothie

Cherries are more than their garnet-colored flesh and delicious flavor would lead you to believe…

Late summer might just be my favorite “season” at the farmers’ markets here on the East Coast. Tables and stalls of local producers are overflowing with ripe peaches and nectarines, fresh flowers cascade from their baskets like tidal waves, every shade of green imaginable is represented by the cornucopia of vegetables available, and on more than one seller’s table the prize of August sits — fresh cherries. It’s not just the outdoor markets cherries commandeer come August, grocery stores and even corner markets all seem to procure them, the fruits practically begging to fill a bowl and be lazily eaten under the canopy of some shady tree somewhere, the difficult-to-navigate pits forcing those eating them to slow down and just enjoy it… And probably have a pit spitting contest too (just be sure to aim for the compost). As you might imagine with any lucky fruit or veggie lucky enough to be chosen for a Wellness Encyclopedia post, cherries are more than their garnet-colored flesh and delicious flavor — turns out they’re super good for you, too! Today — and for the remainder of August for that matter — I’m celebrating cherry season. Read on to learn how these pretty stone fruits can benefit you, then be sure to whip up the recipe below the next time you need a little recovery time post-gym session.

What are they? The cutest stone fruit (or drupe) in the Prunus genus, cherries are believed to be native to Turkey before they were eventually exported to Europe and later, North America. Late summer is typically cherry season in North America, making August the perfect time to pick some up at your local market. The most common cherry available is the Bing cherry, but a wide variety exist, including sunset-colored Rainier, Coral, and Tulare, with most cherries coming from either Prunus avium (sweet and/or wild varieties) or Prunus cerasus (sour varieties).

What are the benefits? Your first tip-off that cherries might be kinda-sorta really good for you should be their dark outer skin. Generally, most fruits and veggies that feature dark or deeply hued outer skins contain high levels of antioxidants, collagen-boosting anthocyanins, polyphenols like quercetin, and carotenoids — cherries included! Cherries are also rich in vitamin C, which not only boosts immunity but aids in cellular turnover, keeping skin looking healthy, youthful and smooth. If you have trouble sleeping, try drinking a small glass of tart cherry juice before bed, as it’s been found to contain phytochemicals that aid in sleep, including melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. Athletes and casual exercisers can both benefit from the anti-inflammatory powers that cherries are believed to possess — cherries and tart cherry juice can help reduce muscle damage and increase healing time after intense exercise, and as a bonus, you might get the best sleep of your life after a good workout and some cherries! Try the restorative smoothie below after your next workout.

How do I use them? Like most stone fruits, cherries are incredibly versatile and work well in both sweet and savory recipes for any time of day. Try them in savory grain bowls nested next to avocado, walnuts and arugula, or tossed into a bright salad with almonds and crunchy romaine. Cherries are easily reduced to a sauce or glaze, and depending on direction can be used to top something sweet (like ice cream) or savory (like a protein). Use them as you would any fruit for dessert recipes, or take the healthy route and add them to juices, oatmeal, chia puddings, and of course – smoothies! …psst, like the one below.

Cherry Recovery Smoothie

Ingredients

1 handful fresh dark cherries, pits and stems removed

1 scoop protein powder of choice (either plain or vanilla)

1 cup frozen steamed veggies (I recommend either cauliflower or zucchini — or both!)

8 oz coconut water

1 tsp coconut butter

¼ tsp almond extract (optional)

1 cup ice

 

Method

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into a cup and enjoy! Top with unsweetened dried coconut flakes if desired.

 

+ Be sure to check out more Wellness Encyclopedia posts!

Follow Julie on Instagram + check out her blog.

This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. 
Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.

Free People Blog

Wellness Encyclopedia: Pineapple + The Easiest Pineapple Recipe Ever

Wellness Encyclopedia: Pineapple + The Easiest Pineapple Recipe Ever

In the heat of August, is there anything quite as gorgeous as a bite of fresh pineapple?

With its sunny yellow hue and juicy sweet taste, to me, fresh pineapple is the only answer to the question of what to eat on a blistering hot afternoon. It’s the perfect snack to have on hand all summer long — from the beach, to picnics, to the ideal dessert when it’s 8pm and somehow still sweltering. As we enter into high summer, my pineapple consumption has increased exponentially with the heat, so I thought it was time to finally give this incredible fruit its day in the sun. Along with being super delicious and super affordable, pineapple boasts incredible benefits for the whole body — it’s more than its tropical flavor! Read on to learn why the humble pineapple (a whole, unpeeled, as-is pineapple!) deserves a place in your market basket the next time you’re browsing the produce section.

What is it? Native to Brazil and Paraguay (and possibly the Caribbean), pineapples are part of the Bromeliaceae family, the same family as most air plants (which makes total sense as soon as you look at the top of a pineapple and a tillandsia side by side). Pineapples begin their interesting lives as large flowers, consisting of over 200 blooms for most fruits. As the flowers mature, the fruits of each flower join together, with the ovaries of each flower transforming into berries which bind together to make a single pineapple (told you it was interesting). Pineapples are classified as multiple fruits (or collective fruits) consisting of coalesced berries, which means each flower produces a fruit/berry, but these mature into one large fruit (figs and breadfruit are another example of this). Phew! It’s a lot to take in, but next time you’re eating a pineapple, you can think about how you’re really eating a bunch of berries joined together.

 

 

What are the benefits? While some people turn to orange juice to fight off a cold, my family swore by pineapple juice (which might explain why it took me years to warm back up to it). But! My mother wasn’t wrong — one cup of pineapple contains 105% DV of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant and immune booster. Along with potentially boosting overall immunity, the vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B1 in pineapple can help scrub the body of free radicals, aiding in cellular turnover and resulting in healthier cells from the inside out, healing sun damage and possibly reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Pineapple’s high level of bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme, soothes and relaxes tense muscles and connective tissues, aiding in everything from pain relief, arthritis relief, wound healing, and tendonitis. Bromelain has also been shown to be a powerful digestive enzyme, aiding in the absorption of nutrients and in the healing of digestive disorders.

 

 

How do I use it? Before listing all the delicious ways you can use pineapple, first allow me to make the case for purchasing a whole pineapple instead of pre-cut chunks or — shiver — canned:

Price. In peak season a whole pineapple can usually be bought for somewhere between $1.99 and $2.99, a far more economical choice than purchasing pre-cut chunks, which you’ll end up paying a premium for, sometimes upwards of $5.99 per pound. You’ll save some cash if you’re willing to spend five minutes of your time cutting it up yourself. Plus, you’ll earn some IRL fruit ninja bragging rights.

Taste. Canned pineapple can’t hold a candle to the fresh stuff. If you don’t believe me, do a taste test. Unless you’re making a pineapple upside-down cake or some type of drink, canned pineapple is actually pretty awful. Choose fresh whenever possible. Fresh pineapple is like summer’s prize for making it through the winter. You win!

Now that I have you convinced, how do you use fresh pineapple? Besides cutting up a big bowl of it and devouring it right then and there, fresh pineapple is surprisingly versatile, lending its sweet and tropical flavor to everything from sweet to savory. The next time you make salsa, try tossing in some diced pineapple for a new twist, or add pineapple chunks to kebabs before throwing them on the grill. For a summer-ready dessert that won’t leave you feeling stuffed, dip pineapple chunks in melted dark chocolate and sprinkle with dried coconut before popping in the fridge to set. Add pineapple to smoothies, chia pudding, or overnight oats, or top with plain yogurt for a tropical breakfast. Or, try the recipe below — it’s one of my favorite summer treats and takes all of five minutes to throw together.

 

 

Spiced Fresh Pineapple

Ingredients:

½ to 1 whole pineapple, peeled and cubed (this video will show you how to choose and cut a whole pineapple)

Chili powder

Lime wedges

Dried unsweetened coconut

Method:

Place pineapple cubes in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with chili powder and toss to combine (start off slow, then add more to taste). Divide pineapple between serving bowls and top with dried coconut. Serve with line wedges to squeeze on top. Enjoy!

+ Be sure to check out more Wellness Encyclopedia posts!

Follow Julie on Instagram + check out her blog.

This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. 
Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.

Free People Blog