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The Wonders of Coconut Oil

Have you discovered the wonders of coconut oil? For years, we’ve been told that coconut oil is bad for you, but the reality is coconut oil has just the right kinds of fats, the same medium-chain fatty acids found in mother’s milk and essential to optimum health and disease prevention. Coconut oil is in fact a miracle oil and one of the earliest oils used as a food and as a pharmaceutical. People who live in tropical climates with a coconut-based diet have fewer incidences of heart disease, cancer, digestive complaints and prostate problems.

Coconut oil adds protective and healthful qualities when eaten internally and used topically. How much do you need? Two to four tablespoons is recommended daily, obtained from cooking, as a supplement, or through the skin. Use coconut oil in all recipes calling for butter, shortening or vegetable oil. It’s an ideal all-purpose cooking oil and has 100% less cholesterol than butter. You can also get the benefits from coconut milk which comes in a can and is found in lots of Thai recipes, or from drinking coconut water, hailed as Nature’s Sports drink. More potassium than a banana, it helps with rehydration, replenishment and concentration. (I also hear it helps alleviate hangovers.)

Coconut oil is known to reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. It stimulates metabolism so that you burn more calories (we all love that) and may promote lower cholesterol. Coconut oil is a concentrated source of medium-chain fatty acids. Research has shown that these fatty acids may help prevent and treat a wide variety of diseases too numerous to list here. Recent studies are showing its effectiveness in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

Coconut oil applied to the skin and hair absorbs quickly and not only adds luster and shine, but helps with dandruff, blemishes and other skin ailments. It’s the only moisturizer you need and a must try for winter’s dry, chapped skin! It is also anti-microbial and a natural germ fighter. Coconut oil is also used for oil pulling, an age-old remedy started in India thousands of years ago that uses oil to clean, detoxify, and nourish teeth and gums; it also whitens teeth.

I keep one jar of coconut oil in the kitchen for cooking and one jar in my bathroom for use as a moisturizer. As with olive oil, make sure you buy extra virgin, expeller pressed. You can purchase coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut water from Whole Foods, Trader Joes or natural food stores.

As you can tell, coconut oil is an extremely diversified and amazing product. I highly recommend replacing some of the fats you eat now with coconut oil.

Information compiled from The Coconut Oil Miracle byBruce Fife, C.N., N.D. This easy-to-read and informative book explains very succinctly the benefits of coconut oil and is worth the read. It also includes lots of delicious sounding recipes using coconut oil.

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Steroid-Free Chicken

On my restaurant menu the other night was this description for Five Spices Chicken:

“Roasted steroid and antibiotic free semi-boneless chicken......” 

Does this strike anyone else as weird and unappetizing? While I’m pleased the chicken is steroid and antibiotic free, what a commentary that we have to write that on a menu description. All chicken should be steroid and antibiotic free, but the reality is conventionally grown chicken is injected with growth hormones and antibiotics and often tainted with harmful bacteria. The steroids are used to make them grow quicker and plumper, and the antibiotics are a preventative measure to counteract the problems of being raised in confined quarters on big factory farms. Furthermore, conventional chicken feed is loaded with pesticides. All of this is passed onto us when we eat conventionally raised chicken.

The good news is that we are aware now of these problems and healthier choices do exist. The many healthy choices you find in a supermarket however, can be overwhelming, confusing, and often without proper varification. Below is a list from Consumer Reports explaining the various labels, which you should find helpful.

Organic: In order to be labeled “USDA Organic,” the chicken had to have been fed not just a vegetarian diet, but a diet that does not include any genetically modified ingredients or toxic synthetic pesticides. It also means that antibiotics can not be used for anything other than medically necessary antibiotics (though some may argue that there are farmers who stretch the boundaries of what is medically necessary). However, chickens can be provided with antibiotics during their first day of life; the drug-free rule kicks in the day after the shell breaks open.

Organic certification, which requires annual inspections, mandates that access to the outdoors be provided for the chickens, but sets no specific standards for the size of the outdoor area, the size of the door leading between inside and outside, or the amount of time the birds spend outdoors.

No antibiotics: These chickens are never given antibiotics, including in the egg. That said, there is no inspection process to verify this label before it is employed.

No hormones: This label can be used on all conventionally raised chickens in the U.S. as the use of hormones in not allowed in the production of chickens for market. So if you see “no hormones” on a label, it just means “chicken.”

Cage-Free: Another label that is just touting the industry minimum, says CR. “No chickens raised for meat in the U.S. are kept in cages. Neither does it mean that the birds have access to the outdoors.”

Free-range: The only difference between conventionally raised chickens and free-range is that the chickens have access of some sort to the outside. Once again, there are no standards for size of the outdoor area or for the door to the outside, and inspections are not required to use this label.

No GMOs: To get the “Non GMO Project Verified” label, the chicken’s feed must be comprised of less than 0.9 percent of genetically modified crops. Verification is required for this label.

Natural: CR dubbed this one “the most misleading label” of the bunch, as more than half of the survey respondents said they believed “natural” meant the chickens didn’t receive antibiotics or chow down on feed containing GMOs. 42% of respondents said they thought the term meant the chickens were raised outdoors, while 1-in-3 said they thought it meant the same as “organic.” The only substantial requirement for “natural” chicken breasts is that they contain no artificial ingredients, but even then there is no process to verify this claim.

If you haven’t already seen it, I urge you to watch Food Inc, an eye-opening documentary exploring the way food has changed in the last 50 years and not for the better. It’s well worth the watch.

The bottom line when eating chicken? Eat locally grown and organic whenever possible, as with most foods.


Some information compiled from:

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There are lots of young eco-entrepreneurs who are starting all sorts of creative services, companies, and apps designed to help build the new sharing economy and benefit the environment at the same time. One of these companies is, RelayRides the nation's largest peer-to-peer car rental marketplace, a new concept in car rental. Basically, car sharing is a way to efficiently connect people who need a car with owners whose vehicle would otherwise go unused, backing each reservation with a $1M insurance policy. Did you know that the average car sits unused for twenty-three hours a day, which raises the question: how many rental cars actually need to be on the road? Click here to see their infographic which highlights interesting facts behind the environmental impacts of car sharing.

According to RelayRides, “car owners can turn their idle cars into cash-generating rental car businesses and make extra money to offset their car expenses. On the other side, renters get to rent unique cars (Porsche, anybody?) that would otherwise sit idle and go unused. That means we’re not only maximizing the utilization of expensive resources, but also saving money on all the costs associated with owning a car.”

Eco-entrepreneurs are thinking outside the box. What do you think?

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Fixer Fair

If you are in the Boston area and your garage is filling up with broken appliances, bikes and other things, head over to the “Fixer Fair” in Union Square Somerville on Saturday, August 16. Talented fixers, supplies and tools will be on hand to fix anything – appliances, bikes, computers, even cars – for this free outdoor event. They don’t make promises, but will give it a try and if they can’t fix it, they will help you figure it out, locate needed parts or direct you to a local fix-it business. What a great idea and one I hope will catch on everywhere!

When I was growing up, small appliance repair shops were common. If a blender broke, you took it to a repair shop. In this era of planned obsolescence with cheap, made in China everything, however, appliance repair shops and handymen have all but disappeared.

It’s time to rethink our throw away society mentality, and reuse, repurpose and fix what we already have instead of always buying new. Of course some things have to be thrown out and it’s important to recycle them, but before you do, think first. Can I fix this? Can I use it for something else? With the internet, you can easily find replacement parts online and it’s always worth a try. Who knows – maybe we’ll bring back the fix-it shops of long ago with a 21st century approach like the Fixer Fair, creating new jobs and saving unnecessary items from the landfill.

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A Greener Way to Wash Your Car!

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, much of the nation is under “abnormally dry” to “exceptional drought” conditions. In San Francisco where drought is severe, people are issued a water allotment and should you go over your allocated amount, there is a significant fine. Additionally, shut off valves are mandatory on hoses. You can’t wash your car without one. My sister who lives there mentioned that everyone’s car is dirty!

Did you realize that car washing is one of the most environmentally unfriendly chores we do? Water run off from car washing goes right into storm drains and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands. Household waste water enters sewers or septic systems and undergoes treatment before it is discharged into the environment. If you wash your car at home, it is important therefore, to choose a biodegradable soap specifically formulated for automotive parts. There are several brands such as Simple Green’s Car Wash or No Rinse™ Wash & Shine, a car wash system that only requires 1-2 gallons of water to wash the entire car. You can make your own biodegradable car wash by mixing one cup of liquid dishwashing detergent and 3/4 cup of powdered laundry detergent (non-toxic and phosphate-free) with three gallons of water.

To cut down on the amount of water you use when washing your car, try rinsing with rainwater collected in a bucket or rain barrel. Use a bucket as much as possible, which saves water and use the hose only on the final rinse. Try to avoid washing near the storm drain. You can cover the drain with a rubber mat or wash the car on grass or gravel and let water seep into the ground. If you do this, please use non-toxic, biodegradable detergents.

We are lucky here in the Northeast with no drought problem, but that’s no reason not to be conscious of your water intake!

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Do Away With Smelly Feet!

One of my readers contacted me for a natural solution to a common but embarrassing problem, smelly feet. Sweaty feet and foot odor are quite common, especially among dancers, athletes or as the hot weather sets in. Wearing shoes and socks that don’t breathe or rough, dry skin on your feet can promote foot odor. Bromhidrosis, foot odor, is due to bacteria that breed and multiply in warm feet, socks, and shoes. The soles of your feet have thousands of sweat glands that produce perspiration, which can breakdown in contact with certain bacteria, causing an odor.

Bunions, hammertoe, fallen arches, excessive perspiration and odor, or toenail fungus require a visit to the podiatrist. There are several simple things you can do however, to prevent ordinary foot odor. Clean your feet regularly with a scrubber and soak them in salt to prevent calluses. Choose open toed shoes or sandals during the summer; otherwise wear leather or canvas shoes, which breathe. Air them out occasionally in the sun and don’t’ forget you can wash your sneakers! Avoid shoes lined with solid rubber or synthetic materials. Wear all cotton socks. Sprinkle your shoes with cornstarch to absorb moisture.

To get rid of foot odor, soak your feet in either white vinegar or tea. Brew 2 tea bags in a pint of boiling water for 15 minutes; add tea to 2 quarts of cool water and soak for about 20 minutes. You may need to do this daily for a week.

Below is a simple recipe for a foot deodorizer with specific herbs and essential oils known for their astringent and deodorizing qualities.

Foot Deodorizer (Recipe from Organic Body Care Recipes by Stephanie Tourles)

Ingredients: Foot tub, 6 quarts water, ½ cup sage, peppermint or rosemary leaves, ½ cup baking soda, 5 – 10 drops rosemary, sweet orange, peppermint, tea tree or eucalyptus essential oil
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and add the herb of choice. Cover and steep for 30 minutes. Strain into the foot tub. Add baking soda and the essential oil and swish with feet to blend. Soak feet for 15 – 20 minutes. Towel dry and coat with moisturizer. (Coconut oil works great!)

There is a natural solution to everything – good luck!

Information compiled from,, and Organic Body Care Recipes by Stephanie Tourles

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Traveling Waste

Ah, summer vacation! There’s nothing like getting away. Whether by car, by air, or by train, traveling however, generates a lot of waste!

My husband and I were recently in Asheville, North Carolina. On the drive from Charlotte to Asheville, we stopped at a Subway restaurant , one of the healthier fast food options, for lunch. Since I haven’t been to a fast food restaurant in years, I was shocked at the enormous amount of throwaway,non-recyclable products with each order – still!

My salad came in a sturdy, non-biodegradeable plastic bowl covered with a heavy-duty non-biodegradeable plastic lid. The server gave me not one plastic packet of salad dressing but four. My iced tea came with a plastic straw, several white sugar packets and a lid, even though we were eating in the restaurant. In the paper bag with my lunch ( a tray would have made more sense since we were eating there), was the plastic cutlery in a plastic bag and 6 or more paper napkins! I returned the sugar packets, the napkins and the unused salad dressings.

On my recent flight to London, we had two throwaway meals. The cutlery came in its own plastic bag, the salt and pepper in another, the cheese and crackers in another, the cookies in another, and the dinner itself in a plastic container sealed in plastic wrap. Plastic water bottles, soda cans, stirrers, unused napkins – all I could think about was waste! Some airlines do some recycling, but not nearly enough.

I don’t understand why, considering the massive volume of fast food sold everyday and the thousands of daily flights, these companies don’t show more environmental consciousness and use biocompostable, biodegradeable disposable serving containers. They do exist and plenty of restaurants use them for take out! Starbucks and McDonalds are going towards more environmentally friendly containers and Dunkin’ Donuts recently eliminated Styrofoam coffee cups, but there is still such a long way to go. It’s a complex issue I know, with cost being the bottom line. The next time you are at a fast food restaurant, ask for more environmentally friendly containers. That’s how change happens.


Bottles Made From Reclaimed Ocean Plastic?!


Next time you need cleaning products, take a look at Ecover in the organic section of your grocery store. Ecover, a Belgian natural cleaning products company has been manufacturing phosphate-free, plant-based products for over three decades. Their factory runs on green electricity and is covered with a flower roof, which acts as insulation to reduce energy needed for heating and cooling, and their renewable, reusable and recyclable “PlantPlastic” bottles are made from sugarcane and recycled plastic. And now, to highlight the dangers of dumping plastic into the oceans, which is killing fish and threatening ecosystems, they are manufacturing the world’s first dishwashing liquid bottle made from reclaimed ocean plastic!

Along with manufacturer Logoplaste, Ecover is working to combine plastic trawled from the sea with “PlantPlastic” and recycled plastic, “a world-first for packaging” according to UK’s The Guardian Weekly. Initially 10% of the plastic will be from the sea, though Ecover hopes to increase that amount. It supposedly went on sale in the UK in May.

Plastic can take thousands of years to degrade, and as it does so can leach harmful contaminants into our waterways and soil, including the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA). You might have heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which scientists estimate is two times bigger than the state of Texas.

Ecover took an important step towards helping to clean up our oceans. We need more ingenuity and corporate responsibility like that. It’s time for other companies to follow suit. Congratulations Ecover!

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Information compiled from:,, The Guardian Weekly, 16.05.14



The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

Whenever possible, eating organic food is always preferable. Organic food is grown without chemical pesticides, may contain more natural antioxidants and nutrients linked to reduced risk for cancer, stroke, and heart disease, and tastes more flavorful. But, organic food is usually more expensive than conventional food and many people can’t afford it.

While I still maintain you can’t afford not to eat organically (it’s cheaper than the doctor), I of course understand. That’s where the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15” guidelines developed by the Environmental Working Group come in handy. The EWG is a non-profit watchdog organization, which uses "the power of public information to protect public health and the environment" and "empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment".

The Dirty Dozen are the 12 fruits and vegetables most heavily sprayed with pesticides – they contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving – and the ones you should always buy organic. These foods are most susceptible because they have soft skin that tends to absorb more pesticides. They are, starting with the worst:

sweet bell pepper
nectarines – imported
cherry tomatoes
snap peas – imported

+ 2 more

hot peppers
kale/collard greens

The Clean 15 are the fifteen fruits and vegetables lowest in pesticides and not necessary to buy organic. They are, starting with the best:

sweet corn
sweet peas – frozen

The organic food market is growing and organic foods are now easily found in conventional grocery store chains as well as natural food markets. To be sure the produce you choose is organic, check the sticker on the fruit or vegetable. If the code number starts with a “9” ,then it is organic.

Next time you go grocery shopping, bring your Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen shopper’s guide. You’ll find it’s cheaper than you think to eat safely!

Visit the Environmental Working Group website to download the EWG Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce and to see their full list of all 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data. Their website also contains shopper’s guides to safe cleaning products, safe cosmetics, safe sunscreen and a variety of other important topics.

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Information compiled from

Eating Fish Is More Complicated Than You Think!


Fish is not a health food, according to Dr. Furhman, a board-certified family physician, NY Times best-selling author, nutritional researcher, and an internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing. He maintains, “If you eat fish regularly, your body is undoubtedly high in mercury, which can damage the heart and brain. Pregnant women may compromise their babies' brain development by mercury exposure associated with eating fish, and eating more fish is also associated with increased breast cancer risk.” He recommends to either avoid fish or eat it no more than once a week and choose those lowest in mercury such as flounder, scallops, trout, sole, squid, wild salmon or sardines.

Fish is a healthy and delicious alternative to meat and obviously some choices are safer than others. Still, reading Dr. Furhman’s report is jarring. I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website, which helps consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans and for consuming safe fish, to read their recommendations.

The Seafood Watch program categorizes fish into “Best Choices”, “Good Alternatives”, and which ones to "Avoid”.

Their Super Green or “Best Choices” lists seafood that meets the following three criteria:

• Has low levels of mercury
• Provides at least 250 milligrams per day (mg/d) of omega-3s
• Is classified as a Seafood Watch "Best Choice" (green)

Best Choice List includes:

• Atlantic Mackerel (purse seine from Canada and the U.S.)
• Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
• Pacific Sardines (wild-caught)
• Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)
• Salmon, Canned (wild-caught, from Alaska)

Next Best choices:

• Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
• Sablefish/Black Cod (from Alaska and Canadian Pacific)

Click here for the “Good Alternatives” and “Avoid” list, as well as a seafood search for detailed information regarding specific fish.

The “Best Choices” list isn’t very long. Sadly, eating safe, nutritious food is getting harder. Staying informed by reading information from trusted sources is one solution, eating local, organically grown whole food is another.

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Information compiled from: and