Nature’s Sleep Aids

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? One of the easiest ways to combat insomnia and sleeplessness is to utilize the benefits of natural essential oils. Whether you apply the oils topically, add them to a warm bath, diffuse them, or spritz* them onto your pillowcase or eyemask, certain essential oils provide relief for insomnia and aid in falling and staying asleep.

Lavender

lavender By now, many people know that lavender helps to soothe and relax tired minds and muscles. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders.” It is also beneficial as a bug repellent and antibiotic, for all you avid campers.

 Ylang Ylang

imagesThis essential oil is one of my favorites for relaxation, probably because of its fragrant floral notes. It reduces stress and relaxes the nerves. I like to mix a couple drops of this with lavender or chamomile for added benefits.

 Roman Chamomile

chamomile-401490_640Roman Chamomile has a sweet, fruity aroma. It has a calming effect, and is great to diffuse for a soothing and peaceful environment, i.e., one that promotes and supports sleep.

 Bergamot

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Bergamot is a good choice for someone who loves citrus scents, but it is much more calming than the more stimulating oils of grapefruit or tangerine. It is great for “clearing your head” in preparation for a peaceful night’s rest.

Vetiver

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This essential oil is extracted from the root of the vetiver plant. It has a warm, earthy scent, and promotes sleep while also relieving stress and muscle tension.

* I recommend adding a couple drops of essential oil to a water-based spritzer so the oil does not stain your bed linens.

Surprise! Sleep Deprivation Affects Emotional Intelligence

It is 8:00 am, pre-coffee (if that’s your thing), and you’re getting ready to walk out the door after a night of staying up with your sick spouse, child, or roommate. You’re starting to feel super-human, juggling all your pre-work morning responsibilities with a heavy head and groggy eyes, when your spouse/child/roommate walks up to you and asks an innocent question: “I’m hungry. What are we having for breakfast?” You look at their cheerful face and take instant offense. You think, “What do you mean, what’s for breakfast? Can’t you see I’m simultaneously feeding the dog, prepping the beans for tonight’s slow-cooker dinner, and reading Junior’s school newsletter?” Excitement      According to a new U.C. Berkeley study published in the Journal of Neuroscience earlier this week, there is a strong link between a lack of quality sleep and decreased ability to distinguish between positive and negative emotional facial expressions in others. Researchers viewed brain scans and monitored the heart rates of 18 adult participants while they randomly viewed 70 images of faces with random expressions: positive, neutral, and negative emotions. Each individual viewed the facial images twice, once when they were fully rested and once after they had been awake for 24 consecutive hours. The study noted a neural link between the quality and amount of sleep a person gets and his or her ability to correctly process others’ facial expressions. The results of the study inferred that there is “a role for REM sleep in affective brain recalibration” and “the next-day success of emotional discrimination…” Sleeping_angel All the more reason to get a good night’s sleep!   For more information on the study, you can refer to the following articles: http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/07/14/brain-facialexpressions/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/15/sleep-brain-emotions_n_7801726.html

A Good Night’s Sleep

There are all kinds of benefits from getting a good nights sleep. It can help us live longer, lower the risks of having a stroke or heart disease, or even spur our minds to be more creative.

But what about memory?

Shai Marcu teamed up with TED-Ed to make a video that sheds light on the mistaken idea that sleep is lost time or just a way to rest when all our work is done.

Enjoy!

10 Ways to Make Your Vegetable Dishes More Nutritious

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Now that summer is here, I prefer to prepare meals with a lot of delicious vegetables. After looking up some new recipes and information on which vegetables have the most nutritional value, I discovered that the way I cook and store them can actually be making them less nutritious! Investigative journalist Jo Robinson recently published the book Eating on the Wild Side, featuring pages and pages of information on how to properly store and prepare vegetables. Here are 10 ways we are making our vegetables less nutritious and the simple solutions to fix the problems.

 

1. Buying fresh tomatoes instead of canned.

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Cooking tomatoes makes them more nutritious, and the longer you cook them, the better. Heat changes the lycopene into a form our bodies can more readily absorb and — surprise! — canned tomatoes are much higher in phytonutrients, thanks to the heat of the canning process. Tomato paste, being more concentrated, is even better.

 

2. Storing lettuce wrong.

You might think that damaging your vegetables before storing them is a mistake, but when it comes to lettuce, tearing the leaves triggers a protective blast of phytonutrients that you can take advantage of by eating the greens within a day or two. Lettuce that is torn before storing can have double the antioxidants of whole lettuce leaves.

 

3. Boiling spinach — or any vegetable, really.

You may have heard that boiling vegetables is a no-no because water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C leach out of the food and into the cooking water, but you might not know that boiling also reduces the antioxidant content. The difference in spinach is especially dramatic: after 10 minutes of boiling, three-quarters of its phytonutrient content is in the cooking water, not in the vegetable itself. (Of course, if you consume the cooking liquid, as you do when making soup, you consume all the nutrients in the water as well.) Steaming, microwaving, sautéing, and roasting — cooking methods that don’t put vegetables in direct contact with water — result in more nutritious vegetables on the plate.

 

4. Eating your salad with fat-free salad dressing.

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We’ve known for a few years that you absorb more of the nutrients in salad when you eat it with fat, but the type of fat can make a difference. Most commercial salad dressings use soybean oil, but extra-virgin olive oil is much more effective at making nutrients available for absorption. Unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil is even better, as it contains double the phytonutrients of filtered.

 

5. Cooking garlic right after chopping it.

If you mince a clove of garlic and quickly throw it in a hot pan, you consume almost no allicin, the beneficial compound that makes garlic such a health star. That’s because the enzyme that creates allicin is not activated until you rupture the cell walls of the garlic — and is quickly inactivated by heat. Just two minutes in a hot pan or 60 seconds in the microwave reduces the allicin in just-chopped garlic to almost nothing. Letting the chopped garlic sit for 10 minutes before exposing it to heat gives the enzyme time to do its work, so your finished dish contains the maximum amount of allicin. Using a garlic press is even better than mincing, as it releases more of the compounds that combine to create allicin.

 

6. Throwing away the most nutritious parts of the vegetable.

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Most American recipes call for only the white and light green parts of scallions, but the dark green parts have a higher concentration of phytonutrients. Instead of throwing out the nutritious tops, you can ignore the recipe instructions and toss in the green parts as well, or explore recipes from elsewhere in the world which utilize the entire green onion. And don’t forget vegetable peels, which often contain a higher concentration of antioxidants than the rest of the vegetable. You can try roasting them and eating them like chips!

 

7. Eating potatoes right after cooking them.

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Many people avoid white potatoes because they are a high-glycemic vegetable, spiking blood sugar after eating. But chilling potatoes for about 24 hours after cooking converts the starch in the potatoes to a type that is digested more slowly, making them a low-glycemic vegetable. So potato salad chilled overnight is a low-glycemic food, as is a cooked, chilled, and reheated baked potato.

 

8. Cutting carrots before you cook them.

Cooking carrots whole and cutting them up after they are cooked keeps more nutrients in the vegetable. And speaking of cooking, carrots are one vegetable that is better for you cooked than raw — cooking helps break down the cell walls, making the nutrients easier to absorb.

 

9. Buying broccoli florets, instead of a whole head.

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Broccoli looks like a hardy vegetable, but from an antioxidant standpoint, it is shockingly perishable, quickly exhausting its stores of powerful phytonutrients after harvest. “I call it one of the ‘eat me first’ vegetables,” says Robinson. One study found that after 10 days — the time it took to get the vegetable from field to supermarket produce section — broccoli lost 75 percent of its flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) and 80 percent of its glucosinolates, the compounds in cruciferous vegetables that are associated with numerous health benefits. Cutting the broccoli into florets doubles the rate of antioxidant loss, so in addition to buying the freshest broccoli you can find and cooking it right away, you should choose whole heads rather than the bags of pre-cut florets.

 

10. Cooking beans from scratch and discarding the cooking liquid.

Dried beans are some of the most phytonutrient-rich foods out there, but the big surprise is this: canned have more antioxidants! If you prefer from-scratch beans, let the beans sit in the cooking liquid for about an hour after cooking to reabsorb some of the nutrients that have moved into the liquid. And try using a pressure cooker to cook beans; one study found that beans cooked in the pressure cooker had more antioxidants than those cooked with other methods.

 

Enjoy your extra-nutritious meals!

 

The Organic Effect

What would happen if you only ate organic food? To answer just that the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL conducted a study on the effects of eating only organics. Watch this short video, The Organic Effect, to see the results.

The decrease in the amounts of pesticides present in the body after eating only organics is astonishing. Buying organic when possible is a great way to have less exposure to chemicals and pesticides used in conventional items. “There were a whole number of chemical removed from my kids’ bodies and I don’t want them back.”

For more information on the study and the full report, click HERE.

26 Eco-Conscious Ideas for Earth Day

With Earth Day fast approaching, now is the time to start incorporating some eco-friendly ideas into your everyday life. In my search for fun ideas I came across several great ways to not only celebrate Earth Day, but keep the eco-friendly ideas going throughout the year.

  1. Plant a tree
  2. Clean up a park, lake, trail, river, beach, or other natural site 
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  3. Go for a walk
  4. Plant a garden 12035372145_d495f33afc_z
  5. Start a compost pile
  6. Make an indoor herb garden
  7. Implement a recycling system, or ensure that your current system is the best it can be 6881231757_3cb80f7652_b
  8. Pay bills online
  9. Stop paper bills and bank statements
  10. Limit your water usage
  11. Reduce energy consumption
  12. Lower your water-heater temperature to save energy
  13. Visit a farmers’ market vegetables-353926_640
  14. When shopping, bring your own reusable bags
  15. Ditch the plastic water bottles and use a reusable bottle instead
  16. Bring your own coffee mug when visiting a coffee shop DSC_0741
  17. Check your home for water leaks
  18. Plan a vegetarian meal once a week pizza-442058_640
  19. Skip the baths and take a shower
  20. Take a shorter shower
  21. Adjust your thermostat one degree higher in the summer and one degree lower in the winter to save energy
  22. Eliminate excess junk mail by removing yourself from unnecessary lists Pile_of_junk_mail
  23. Use rechargeable batteries
  24. Unplug appliances when not in use
  25. Wash laundry in cold or warm water
  26. Have a picnic

However you decide to spend Earth Day, be sure to try to lessen your impact on the planet by changing one thing you do. Be sure to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature!

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