Cilantro: Love It or Hate It?

cilantro

This weekend I was helping teach a cooking class for a local organization that encourages people to grow, buy, and cook real whole foods to prevent chronic illness. One of the ingredients we were using in the salsa and guacamole we were making was cilantro. It turns out that cilantro is one of those foods that people either love or hate.

We had one person who really despised cilantro (just like my mother) and one with a sensitivity to cilantro, so we also made a small batch of cilantro-free guacamole. I, on the other hand, love it. I love the way it smells and I often mix it with my salad greens. I don’t even bother to chop it before putting it in my salad, I just toss in the whole thing. Yum!

Cilantro (and parsley) contains many cancer-fighting antioxidants as well as antibacterial and antifungal properties.¹ It is also believed to help the body detoxify, aid in digestion, and help stabilize blood sugar levels.

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10 Tips to Reduce Stress for Stress Awareness Month

stress

April is National Stress Awareness Month. I must say, after a fairly stressful March, we all could use a little stress awareness and relaxation.

Our fast-paced modern lifestyle can be very stressful without even considering the daily onslaught of weather-related disasters, mass-shootings, terrorist attacks, and the banter and bickering about the current US Presidential campaign.

These are definitely difficult times to deal with.

Our schedules are often filled with activities, projects, and to-do lists that leave us little time to catch our breath, relax, renew, and rejuvenate. As a society, we teach our children to do the same “busy-ness” from the moment they can sit up. Have you ever noticed how many infant and toddler classes there are now? And teenagers have schedules that would rival Fortune 500 CEOs.

So what’s the problem with stress?

Stress is the result of the interaction between environmental factors and life events plus the mental, emotional, and physical burden that they put upon you as an individual.

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Before You Eat that Avocado Seed

avocado seed 2

Avocados are one of my favorite foods. They’re a perfect addition to an anti-inflammatory whole-foods-based diet. They are so versatile and can be used in a number of different and creative ways. I’ve seen recipes for chocolate avocado pudding, lemon avocado mousse, fudgy avocado brownies, avocado deviled eggs, etc. (although, I usually stick to slicing them up and putting them on my food–hey, I like to keep it simple).

But the latest trend going around is eating avocado seeds. Yep, people are going wild drying out avocado pits by placing them in the oven for 2 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, removing the outer skin, and pulverizing them before adding them to smoothies and green juices.

The reason most people added it to smoothies is because it tastes pretty bad and they want to conceal the flavor.One friend of mine decided to eat the pit by just baking it and slicing it into pieces. It tasted very bitter and she didn’t feel that well after eating it. I’m not all that surprised that it wasn’t fabulous. I imagine it would taste like a wooden ball, if I had ever tasted a wooden ball.

I’ve built BrightFire Living around the concept of simple, toxic-free, allergy-friendly living so I have to tell you this…

Avocado pits have been used medicinally in South America to treat high-blood, pressure, diabetes, and inflammation. While they do contain beneficial nutrients and fiber, avocado pits (and leaves) are mildly toxic but adults can usually eat them safely in small amounts. So, if you do decide to eat them, be sure to eat them in small quantities and pay attention to how your body reacts.

If you’re pregnant, you might want to forgo the seed. I wouldn’t recommend feeding them to children either. There just hasn’t been much research on the potential toxicity of consuming avocado seeds. Obviously, if you have an allergy to avocados, you want to avoid eating the pits as well as the fruit.

You also want to keep them away from your pets, as they are toxic to horses, birds, and possibly other domesticated animals.  According to Dr. Robert Clipsham, DVM:

“The parts of the [avocado] tree containing the toxic chemical are limited to the bark, leaves, and pits. There is no current evidence that the fruit has caused toxicities in any species of animal. Due to the parts of the plant which carry the poison, the most commonly affected animals tend to be horses, cattle and goats; however, cases have been reported in mice, rabbits and birds. Drying of the plant does not seem to modify the toxin as animals have been
poisoned by consuming dried leaves and pits. The nature of the toxin is unknown…”¹

 

Here’s the good news

The good news is that you don’t have to eat the bitter seeds to get the health benefits of avocado. The flesh of the avocado, especially the dark green part next to the skin, is loaded with phytosterols, polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs) and omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation.

They’re also a good source of potassium, antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, in addition to being low in sodium. This makes them great at protecting against high-blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

  1. A little bit of avocado goes a long way. You only need to eat half an avocado to get 600 mg of potassium. Half an avocado also gives you about 20% of your fiber for the day.
  2. You might want to stick to half an avocado if you have a histamine intolerance or IBS. If you’re on a low histamine diet, you should note that avocados are high in histamine. If you’re on a low FODMAP diet, guess what? Avocados are a FODMAP (they’re one of the P’s for polyols). If I eat more than half an avocado at a time or in combination with a lot of other high-histamine foods or certain FODMAPs,  I have issues. It’s important to find out what amount works for you, so pay attention to your body.
  3. Obviously, again, don’t eat avocados if you are allergic to them. You should also know that there is high cross-reactivity between latex, banana, kiwi, and avocado so proceed with caution if you have one of those allergies. Pineapple is also another potential cross-reactor, among others (like melons, peaches, etc).²

Because my girls have seed allergies, I don’t foresee feeding them giant avocado seeds in the future. Plus, one daughter has a banana allergy and another one has a pineapple allergy, which means I’m usually the only one eating avocado so I don’t get too fancy with it. In fact, I very carefully pitch the seed, but hey, you might want to give it a try.

I would love to hear how you use avocados. Planning on eating the seed? Feel free to leave a comment below!

References

  1. Clipsham, Robert, D.V.M. “Avocado Toxicity.” Watchbird Apr.-May 1987: 14-15. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
  2. Grier, Tom. “Latex Cross‐reactive Foods Fact Sheet.” Latex Cross‐reactive Foods Fact Sheet. American Latex Allergy Association, 08 Oct. 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.

 

Blueberries May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

blueberries

Blueberries have to be one of my favorite foods on the planet. In fact, blueberries are the one thing that I absolutely will not go a day without eating. I love them that much.

Lucky for me, blueberries are typically easy to come by in the U.S., as they are native to North America, and they are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Studies have shown that blueberries have the highest levels of active antioxidants per serving of any food.

Blueberries also contain a high concentration of proanthocyanidin compounds which can slow the growth and spread of cancer cells. Blueberries also contain anthocyanins which protect against gastroenteritis and diarrhea, may prevent cardiovascular disease, and improve eye health.

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7 Ways to Use Dandelions in Your Diet

dandelionspost

Did you know that Weed Appreciation Day is coming up? No? I’m not surprised. ;) Weed Appreciation Day is coming up on Monday, March 28th, and in recognition, I’d like to share my favorite weed: the Dandelion.

Besides being the most hated weed found in lawns across the United States, dandelions pack quite a bit of nutritional value.

Research suggest that dandelions help reduce inflammation in the liver and gallbladder. Their leaves, which are a natural source of potassium, have traditionally been used to remove excess water and toxins from the body.

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5 Ways to Get Kids Excited About Eating Vegetables

kids and veggies

I often hear dismayed parents talk about how their children simply won’t eat their veggies. It’s not uncommon to hear “my child will only eat ______.” Usually the blank is filled with a processed food like chicken nuggets or McDonald’s french fries.

It’s true, children can be picky eaters and they do often “turn their noses up” at anything that looks unfamiliar or “weird” to them. In addition, because the Standard American Diet (SAD) is chock full of processed foods that are engineered to be highly-palatable, whole foods like vegetables tend to taste relatively bland and unappealing to the American palate.

That doesn’t mean you stop trying to get them to eat their vegetables, however. It just means that you have to find creative ways to familiarize them with a variety of foods so that they are more open to trying them. Once they are used to eating vegetables instead of processed foods, their palates will normalize and they will begin to actually enjoy eating vegetables.

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Lemon and Lime Infused Water

Lemon Lime Water

As a child, I remember taking a sip of cola and feeling my throat and nose burn from the fizzy, acidic concoction. The only soda I could get down the hatch was lemon-lime flavored beverages (or the ever rare peach soda).

For many Americans, however, soda is their beverage of choice. I have several friends and family members who used to consume almost no water while drinking several cans of cola each day.

Unfortunately, research has shown us that consumption of sugary beverages is linked to a number of chronic conditions, most notably type 2 diabetes, in addition to obesity, dental caries, and hypertension.¹

Instead of reaching for a can of soda, go for a healthy glass of lemon and lime infused water.

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The Toxic Truth About Talc

The Toxic Truth about Talc

As you may have heard, on February 22, 2016 Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million in damages to the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer which was linked to her life-long use of talc-based powders sold under Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower brands.

I remember working in the hospital years ago and many women patients would use baby powder to fight excess moisture and yeast. I don’t really remember ever hearing anyone advise against this practice.

In fact, I didn’t know how toxic it was until I made it my mission to weed out harmful chemicals in my personal care products and began researching the topic extensively.

When I posted about this story on social media earlier this week, I realized that many women are still not aware of the link between talc and ovarian cancer. In addition, most consumers assume that a product is safe if it is on the market. And the longer a product is on the market, the more trusted the product becomes.

In reality, Johnson & Johnson continued selling talc-based baby powder despite decades of research suggesting it’s link to ovarian cancer and despite formulating a corn-starch based version of their baby powder.

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Non-Toxic Allergy-Friendly Citrus Bathroom Scrub

Non-Toxic, Allergy-Friendly Citrus Bathroom ScrubWhen I was a young kid, I remember cleaning the tub after every bath with one of those powder cleaners that come in a can. Afterwards, I always seemed to have a bit of respiratory irritation from indirectly inhaling the powder as I sprinkled it around the bathtub.

When I was a teenager, my grandmother mistakenly mixed Comet® Powder Bathroom cleaner with bleach. As you can probably guess, that did not go very well.

Mixing comet with bleach, or mixing cleaning supplies in general, can be very dangerous. Mixing bleach with ammonia, or anything acidic is a big “no-no” as it creates a very dangerous chemical reaction that can result in the formation of toxic chloramine vapor or toxic chlorine gas which can cause death at very high levels. Even at low levels, chlorine gas almost always causes respiratory distress and irritation of mucous membranes.

Luckily, my grandmother was okay. Needless to say, after that my family removed all of the dangerous cleaning products from her home.

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The 5 Biggest Modern Environmental Health Challenges Facing Women and Children (and 5 Tips to Overcome Them)

Many modern conveniences, luxuries, and lifestyle habits seem great. And many of them are great when it comes to saving 5 Big Environmental Challenges1time and convenience. But they are not necessarily healthy for us.

In fact, most of the common chronic illnesses and conditions that we see skyrocketing today are directly related to our modern lifestyle, or what experts call, “environmental factors.”

Chronic illnesses like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, allergies, asthma, reproductive issues, Alzheimer’s, cancer, mood disorders, etc., are all triggered by lifestyle and environmental factors.

Right now we are living in what I call, “The Age of Modern Chronic Illness” which is characterized by a general state of “un-wellness” and soaring rates of diseases that were fairly rare in the western world just 50 to 100 years ago but are frighteningly common today. Unfortunately, women and children are disproportionately paying the price and bearing the brunt of our modern lifestyle challenges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases and conditions are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems.

Here are just a few statistics you should know:

• As of 2012, about 50% of all adults had at least one chronic health condition (CDC).
• 65.8% of US women are overweight or obese (source: NHANES, 2011-2012).
• 78% of people affected by autoimmune disorders are women (source: AARDA). As a group autoimmune disorders make up the 4th largest cause of disability in the US and they are increasing.
• The #1 cause of death for women (and men) is heart disease (source: CDC, 2013).
• The #2 cause of death for women (and men) in the US is cancer (source: CDC, 2013).

The good news is …

As I mentioned above, chronic illness is preventable. Research shows that only 5-10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90-95% have their roots in environment and lifestyle. In fact, lifestyle and environment account for 90-95% of MOST chronic illnesses, not our genes.¹ This is good news because we can’t change our genes but we can change our lifestyle and environment.

Here are the 5 Biggest Modern Environmental Health Challenges:

#1 Threat:  Exposure to Toxic Substances

This is one of the biggest health challenges we face in the modern world. There are thousands of chemicals in use today and only a small portion of them have undergone toxicologic evaluation to determine whether or not they are safe.
In fact, research shows that many of them are not safe and have a significant impact on our health and the environment.
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, environmental toxins may contribute to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, reproductive issues, cognitive impairment and many other chronic health conditions. Children are particularly susceptible to chemical exposures and exposures during child development may contribute to health problems that arise later in life.

In a recent report issued by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, it states that the widespread exposure we experience in daily life to toxic environmental chemicals, such as pesticides, plastics, and metals (like lead), can lead to fertility problems, stillbirths, miscarriages, cancer, and neurological problems.²

What can you do today? Begin reducing your exposure to toxic substances in your home. Choose paper, cloth, glass, wood, or stainless steel containers over plastic whenever you can. If you live in a home that was built before 1970, consider lead testing. One way to reduce your exposure to pesticides is to buy organic foods as much as possible.

For more ways to reduce your family’s exposure to harmful pesticides download my FREE guide, “Pitch the Pesticides: 5 Strategies to Reduce Your Family’s Exposure to Pesticides.”

Click Here to Get the FREE Guide: Pitch the Pesticides

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