Thursday, February 26, 2009

Healing With Honey

The ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans all considered honey a basic component of any first aid kit and today, we're hearing more and more about honey's healing power, from helping to suppress a child's cough to aiding in weight loss.

Recently, my son had croup. Actually, we were struck with it twice this winter, along with a slew of cold viruses. I had read that honey is an effective alternative to cough syrup for children and I decided to give it a try. Of course, he was thrilled to have a big tablespoon of honey (squeezed right out of the "honey" bear) and it really did seem to help his cough.

Researchers at Penn State tested honey against dextromethorphan - the active ingredient in cough medicines - as a cough suppressant for children and found honey to be more effective. It seems that honey's "sweetness" is its active ingredient for coughing. "The brain part that registers sweet tastes and the part that causes coughing are located near each other so sensing the sweetness may affect coughing" states the author of the study. The research went on to be published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The only caveat to this is the age of the child. Honey should never be given to a baby less than a year old due to the risk of botulism.

The verdict is still out on this next "sweet" honey benefit but the research has been published. A 2008 study in the Journal of Food Science linked honey to weight loss! Scientists reported that rats that were fed a honey-sweetened diet gained 23% less weight than those that ate foods spiked with refined sugar. The rats were tracked for one year. The lead researcher did add that the honey that was used for the study was high in antioxidants. Most of us use the most common honey - clover. The clover "honey" bear is quite cute, particularly for children, but this type of honey doesn't have many more antioxidants than refined sugar.

We live in one of the best parts of the country for honey. There is simply no reason to buy honey at our grocery stores when it is produced locally. Try a new variety for yourself and for your child (for medicinal or just enjoyment purposes!). The downtown Sunday Farmer's Market (located under the freeway) has a great honey vendor who has several varieties of local, luscious honey (and he even has bear shaped, plastic containers!).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wordle Strikes Again

My newest obsession, apparently is not as smart as I thought. My "healthy" blog is, by wordle's standards, apparently not-so-healthy. Check out the superstar of the image:

Wordle: luscious blog

Splenda? Are you kidding me??

At least my girl Natalie scored a decent font size. She certainly deserves it more than Splenda.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pass the wine, but hold the decaf

Wine lovers and coffee drinkers rejoice! Both are good for you, provided that you're drinking the right stuff. Here's the scoop:

Drinking red wine has some great health benefits. Moderate amounts have been shown to boost HDL ("good") cholesterol, thin the blood and potentially lower the risk of both cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. Red wine is rich in resveratrol, which is a plant chemical that helps to prevent blood clotting. There is also some research that suggests that resveratrol may help prevent cancer and increase longevity.

As for regular coffee, it's full of antioxidants and may help ward off several diseases, especially type 2 diabetes. However, if your drink of choice is decaf coffee, you should know that the decaffeination process is poses several health problems. Two of the chemical solvents used to remove caffeine in most decaffeinated coffee brands are considered harmful; one is a suspected carcinogen. There is also research that shows that the "buzz" you get from regular coffee could be cleaner than the after effects of a decaf drink. Ever feel a little irritable after downing a decaf latte? Many people have a sensitivity to the chemicals used in decaffeinated beans.

So the bottom line is this: On alcohol, moderation is always key. Dr. Oz suggests one to two drinks a day, as a social ritual. I wholeheartedly agree with this prescription. And, if you want to avoid caffeine, certainly don't rely on decaf coffee. If you must have a decaffeinated coffee drink, look for brands made with safer decaffeination methods, such as the Swiss water process, and be prepared to spend a lot more. These beans are often labeled with a logo on the packaging but can generally only be found at high end grocery retailers. Sadly, Starbucks and Peet's have yet to jump onto the "clean decaf" band wagon.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Get Healthier Almost Instantly

It's as easy as opening the door and stepping outside, that is, if you live in California.

Just fifteen minutes of direct sunlight at least three times a week will help your body produce all the Vitamin D it needs. And we definitely need it, considering the fact that not one, not two, but five just-released studies found that Vitamin D has wide-ranging benefits , from keeping your bones and heart healthy to reducing the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer.

If you can't get consistent direct sunlight, consider taking a supplement. Experts agree that D3 is more easily absorbed by the body than regular Vitamin D. You can find D3 at any health store. I buy mine from Elliott's here in Sacramento. A 90 day supply is less than $10.00 You can also get a good dose of Vitamin D from salmon. Just be sure it's wild and not farmed (more on this topic in a future post).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Good Hair Days

I am often stopped in the middle of my day, generally by a perfect stranger, to talk about my hair. It's not that I have great hair, it's just that my style is distinctive and some might say, a bit edgy. And it definitely meets my "good hair" criteria of being somewhat easy and very current. I also have the ability to go a few days between washing and blow-out also which some might think is a huge advantage while others might be completely disgusted.

My search for the perfect hair stylist has taken me all over Sacramento and has resulted in a huge investment just in hair cuts and some not-so-good outcomes. So I was thrilled, a year ago, to meet the lovely and very talented Natalie at Sanctuary Salon in Citrus Heights. My only disappointment was when she left me to go have a baby and take a few months of maternity leave. I once again made the somewhat painful trek of searching for someone who could replicate my beloved cut and I definitely noticed a sharp decline in inquiries about my hair.

So I'm using my blog today to tout Natalie and to tell you that no, she is not expensive (think $35.00 for a hair cut that she will spend LOTS of time on) and that no, the salon she works in is not pretentious, and finally, you don't need to book an appointment weeks in advance. She's also very sweet, very engaging, and probably one of the most positive people I know in the service business.

One of the things that I love about Natalie most and the trait that I believe makes her a great stylist is the fact that she is honest and upfront about the type of cut that she believes will work for a client. As an example, if you go in and ask for my cut, she'll probably tell you that I have masses of hair and that unless you want to spend at least 30 minutes a day with a hair dryer and develop a huge bicep in your right arm from wrestling with said blow dryer, you may want to consider something a little more of the "wash and go" variety. Or, you can just skip the 30 minutes and go days without washing!

Lastly, I'm not getting a kick back from Natalie by plugging her on my blog; I just happen to think that she's great and I hate to see people disappointed by bad hair cuts.

Here is her contact information:

Natalie Bitz
Sanctuary Salon

The salon is located next to Target on Sunrise, in the Birdcage Shopping Center.

Note to Natalie: If you get pregnant again, I'm going to have to find out where you live. I'll even forgo the magazines to hold the baby while you cut my hair!