Monthly Archives: February 2017

February Nutrition Nuggets


In this months “Nutrition Nuggets” I will discuss recent studies for a longer, healthier life; brown apples; arsenic in your rice; France’s new law to fight obesity; another reason not to eat sugar; snacking & breakfast; & vitamin D3. Lots of good information! I am ending with a Nugget about healthy pasta that Alessandra sent me this morning.

This new study from England focused on the eating habits of 2 million people in various studies. Here are the results from pooling this information.  Fruit and veg: For a longer life eat 10-a-day Eating loads of fruit and vegetables – 10 portions a day – may give us longer lives, say researchers. The study, by Imperial College London, calculated such eating habits could prevent 7.8 million premature deaths each year. The team also identified specific fruit and veg that reduced the risk of cancer and heart disease.

The analysis showed even small amounts had a health boon, but more is even better. A portion counts as 80g (3oz) of fruit or veg – the equivalent of a small banana, a pear or three heaped tablespoons of spinach or peas. The conclusions were made by pooling data on 95 separate studies, involving two million people’s eating habits.

Lower risks of cancer were linked to eating: No surprise here 🙂

  • green veg (eg spinach)
  • yellow veg (eg peppers)
  • cruciferous vegetables (eg cauliflower).

Lower risks of heart disease and strokes were linked to eating: Or here.

  • apples
  • pears
  • citrus fruits
  • salads
  • green leafy vegetables (eg lettuce)
  • cruciferous veg

The article concludes that 5 portions a day, one portion being 3 ounces of fruit or veg, have health benefits, but more increases those benefits. The last thought is:Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “The five-a-day target is the foundation of a healthy balanced diet and is an achievable way to help prevent a number of diseases. “Whilst consuming more than five portions of fruit and vegetables a day may be desirable… adding pressure to consume more fruit and vegetables creates an unrealistic expectation.”  We don’t need more stress over our diets 🙂 Very good article.

This next article sort of irritated me. Consumers have come to expect the perfect, blemish free, piece of fruit or vegetable in their grocery stores. Because of this expectation…GMO apples that never brown could hit stores soon  For a select few apple lovers in the US, a Golden Delicious slice will no longer turn brown as the first genetically modified apples are expected to go on sale early next month.

A small amount of Arctic brand sliced and packaged Golden Delicious apples, produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits in British Columbia, Canada, will hit the shelves of 10 stores in the Midwest in February and March, Neal Carter, the company’s founder and president, told the agricultural news website Capital Press. Arctic’s website lists the apples as being available early this year in some test markets. 🙁 🙁

As the article states, apples turning brown does not mean they are rotten. It is just an oxygenated process that is natural. I wasn’t aware that stores or producers spray apples with chemicals to delay the apple from becoming brown. That is just wrong. This company thinks that a GMO apple would be welcomed because it wouldn’t be sprayed with toxic chemicals. Read the article for more information.

I will stick with my organically grown apples. When sliced, I will either eat them right away; squirt lemon or lime juice on them; or sprinkle them with cinnamon to prevent browning. Tastes wonderful. My grandsons loved their apple slices that way in their lunch boxes. Have we become that lazy & picky that we need GMO fruits & vegetables to keep them looking fresh?

Arsenic in rice is in the news once more. I addressed this issue in a post on February 13th 2016, take a look at the information. I discussed the use of American grown rice as opposed to rice from Asia. The reason it is back in the news, one year later, is because of the rise in arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh. This is from contaminated drinking water. The concern is that rice is grown in flooded fields; exposing it to arsenic in the soil & in the contaminated water. Should I worry about arsenic in my rice?   This article is from the BBC News. It is about the need for stricter regulations regarding the acceptable levels of arsenic in rice imported into the UK. Very informative. 

from the Huffington Post:  Yes, There Is Arsenic In Your Rice. Here’s What You Need To Know  Yes, there is arsenic in your rice. Yes, arsenic is toxic. And it has been associated with lung, skin and bladder cancer, among other health concerns. And yes, even though it contains arsenic, you can still eat rice…..Consumer Reports suggests mixing up your grain consumption with other grains that are naturally lower in arsenic. Amaranth, buckwheat, millet and polenta have almost no levels of arsenic. Bulgur, barley, and farro have very low levels. And quinoa has less than rice…..You can also cook rice in a way that will remove some of the arsenic. While the modern technique of cooking rice in a limited amount water helps retain the most nutrition from the grain, it also retains the arsenic. Boiling the rice in a 6:1 water-to-rice ratio (sort of how you’d cook pasta), draining the excess water once cooked, has been shown to remove up to 60 percent of arsenic levels in rice. Rinsing before you cook can also reduce arsenic levels. In other words, flush the rice with lots of water.

Don’t freak out about eating rice. Your supposed to be eating a varied diet including different types of grains anyway. So your intake of rice would be in moderation. You can also do what I do, buy American grown rice; arsenic levels are much lower. It looks like this is going to make the headlines yearly!

We have seen a lot of attempts to fight obesity through legislation in the USA. So far none of them have worked. People protested against them because they don’t want to be told what & how much to eat. Reading the following article has made me think that France may have found reasonable solutions.

France Is Banning Unlimited Soda Refills to Fight Obesity  TIME: Tara John, Jan 30, 2017

France has banned restaurants from offering unlimited refills of soda and sugary drinks, the latest bid to decrease the rise in the nation’s obesity rate. This is good & notice it didn’t limit the size of the drink you order.

The new order, implemented on Jan. 27, will mean that hotels, restaurants and school cafeterias will no longer have soda fountains. The move is part of a spate of health initiatives implemented by the country, which includes a “soda tax” imposed on sweetened drinks, a ban on vending machines in schools and a limit on the servings of french fries to once a week in schools, the New York Times reports. Personally, I like all of these rules for the schools, hotels & restaurants. Especially for the schools. Sugar makes you sleepy & irritable when the “high” leads to a crash. 

Even though France’s overall obesity rate is relatively low—41% of women and 57% of men between 30 to 60 were obese or overweight—the laws are in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. WHO presented statistics in 2016 on the good effects of imposing a sugar tax. If your interested in obesity rates in the USA, this link is very informative & up to date: Obesity Rates & Trends 

This is relatively new information from the University of Bath, UK, research study. Sugar’s “tipping point” link to Alzheimer’s disease revealed For the first time a “tipping point” molecular link between the blood sugar glucose and Alzheimer’s disease has been established by scientists, who have shown that excess glucose damages a vital enzyme involved with inflammation response to the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Abnormally high blood sugar levels, or hyperglycaemia, is well-known as a characteristic of diabetes and obesity, but its link to Alzheimer’s disease is less familiar.” This article is from the University of Bath & explains the study & it’s important findings. Another good reason to limit your added sugar intake.

What we eat is important. When and how often we eat is just as important. Here are 2 articles that explain what science has found.  What Science Says About Snacking and Breakfast  In a new Scientific Statement, experts from various committees of the American Heart Association say that paying attention to how often you eat, and at what time of the day you eat, can help to lower risk of heart attacks and stroke.

The panel reviewed all of the available studies on how often and when people eat. Based on what’s known so far, the panel, led by Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University, supports existing advice about the benefits of breakfast. That advice is based on studies that compare breakfast-eaters to non-eaters and their heart disease events. Breakfast-eaters tend to have lower rates of heart disease, and were also less likely to have high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. They also tended to have more normal blood sugar levels and sugar metabolism, meaning they were at lower risk of diabetes than those who didn’t eat breakfast. Still, the existing research isn’t strong enough yet to say that people who don’t normally eat breakfast should start—or that people who already do should expect to be heart-disease and diabetes-free for the rest of their lives. Eating breakfast does set the tone for the day. You begin with more energy that will last longer than if you had skipped the meal. 

Eating Breakfast — And Eating Mindfully — May Help The Heart  A new statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), looking back over past research, determines that the best advice is, in the end, probably to eat breakfast. But even larger than that, they suggest that we make sure to eat “mindfully,” rather than mindlessly. And this may be the first step in changing the bad eating habits that plague so many of us.

Included in this article is a list of what doctors should take into account. The AHA offers some more specific advice to doctors, which we can all take into account.

    • “Develop an intentional approach to eating,” the AHA suggests. Think about the timing and frequency of meals and snacks, and about how you define meals and snacks in the first place.
    • “Use planned meals and snacks,” spread out across the day. And, the authors add, “Link eating episodes to influence subsequent energy intake.” In other words, intentionally eat a healthy snack before a meal that could lead to an overeating episode, to reduce the odds that it does. Take a moment to think about this one. It is very good advice.
    • Try to distribute your calories over a certain portion of the day, for instance, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. And the extension of this is to have consistent overnight fasting periods. Doing this counts as intermittent fasting.
    • Think about taking in a greater part of your total calories earlier in the day, which they say may reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
    • Think about including “intermittent fasting,” if you can, as a way to reduce calories and lose weight.
    • Use “added eating episodes to introduce a wider variety of healthful food options and to displace less healthful foods.” In other words, insert additional snacks or small meals—fruits and veggies and other healthy items—to leave less room for the other, unhealthier options we may be faced with. Portion control.

***If you have an interest…  Eight Must-Read Books on Mindful Eating  by Susan Albers Psy.D. My favorite is, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung

This news from NPR/89.3KPCC is very welcome. More benefits for taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.  A bit more vitamin D might help prevent colds and flu  “It’s long been known that vitamin D helps protect our bones, but the question of whether taking vitamin D supplements or helps guard immunity has been more controversial. An analysis published Wednesday suggests the sunshine vitamin can help reduce the risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu — especially among people who don’t get enough of the vitamin from diet or exposure to sunlight.Certain groups of people are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency,  including people with digestive disorders such as celiac disease and people who cover up most of their skin or get very little exposure to the sun. And pregnant and nursing women, as well as women with osteopenia or osteoporosis, often need more vitamin D to maintain bone health.

“People [at higher risk] should get tested,” Tello says. She says when a patient’s blood screening test shows levels of vitamin D, between 20 to 32 ng/ml, “I recommend that they take between 1,000 and 2,000 International Units of vitamin D daily, indefinitely.” The Institute of Medicine says that adults shouldn’t take more than 4,000 IU a day.” Cancer patients should be tested too. My recommendation has been that everyone should be taking vitamin D3, 2000 IU’s, daily. 

Our Dr. Zumba, Alessandra, sent me this post by Dr. Weil: Love Pasta? 5 Tips For Making It Healthier! Always good to end on a yummy, yet healthy note! “Quality carbohydrates are an essential part of a balanced, healthful diet. If pasta is your go-to carb, there are ways to take advantage of this low-cost food to make it even healthier:” Go to the link to see the entire list. My favorites are:

  • Cook pasta only until it is al dente (barely tender). When it is cooked this way, it achieves a lower glycemic index than fully cooked pasta because the pulverized grain comes apart slowly in the stomach. (Low-glycemic-load carbohydrates should be the bulk of your carbohydrate intake to help minimize rapid rises in blood glucose levels.)
  • Aim for two to three servings per week. One serving is equal to about 1/2 cup cooked pasta, which is far less than the amount Americans typically eat. Don’t you just love being told to eat pasta 🙂

Until next week….Mary 🙂

Cholesterol & Cholesterol Fighting Foods   CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE

Cholesterol is an interesting topic because it is so confusing! Or maybe I should say, complex. From all the research & studies done recently, we now know that the intake of cholesterol through diet minimally affects your cholesterol numbers. According to the research very little of it enters your circulating blood. That is why eggs & bacon are back, in moderation. 

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is necessary in the human body for producing hormones, bile acids, & building cell walls. It is manufactured by your body, mainly by your liver, & circulates in your blood. Your body produces 75% of your cholesterol. This is the cholesterol that is measured in blood tests. 

First, lets look at what the cholesterol numbers on your test should look like. Then lets look at the foods that do affect your cholesterol numbers & last what foods will lower those numbers. 

According to Vishal Rao, M.D., M.P.H. and Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S with John Hopkins University School of Medicine: “Ideally, total cholesterol should be less than 200 milligrams per deciliter. HDL cholesterol should be above 40 milligrams per deciliter for men and above 50 milligrams per deciliter for women. LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 milligrams per deciliter, and triglycerides ideally should be less than 150 milligrams per deciliter. Keep in mind that treatment goals can vary based on each individual. You should discuss your cholesterol levels with your physician.”

Here is an excerpt from the Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020: Do I still need to watch my cholesterol intake?  “While adequate evidence is not available for a quantitative limit for dietary cholesterol in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, cholesterol is still important to consider when building a healthy eating style. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines states that people should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.

In general, foods that are higher in dietary cholesterol, such as fatty meats and high-fat dairy products, are also higher in saturated fats (which should be limited to 10% of total calories per day). The primary healthy eating style described in the Dietary Guidelines is limited in saturated fats, and thus, dietary cholesterol (about 100-300 mg across the various calorie levels). It is the saturated fats & the trans-fats that raise your blood cholesterol. So, if you limit the saturated fats to 10% of your daily calories & eliminate the trans-fats you will lower your total cholesterol number.

Mayo Clinic 2016: The recommended daily limits on cholesterol in your food 

  • If you are healthy, consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day.
  • If you have diabetes, high cholesterol or heart disease, limit the daily cholesterol intake to no more than 200 mg a day.

This is a very useful graph to help you understand where the cholesterol is in foods & the amount per serving.  From UCSF Medical Center: Cholesterol Content of Foods  If you have risk factors for heart disease, you should not consume more than 200 milligrams of cholesterol a day. If you do not have risk factors for heart disease, you should limit your cholesterol intake to no more than 300 milligrams a day. Note that this is the same recommendation from the Mayo Clinic.

Use the following tables to check the cholesterol and fat content of the foods you eat. This will help you keep track of your daily cholesterol intake.

Note: Cholesterol is only found in animal products. Fruits, vegetables, grains and all other plant foods do not have any cholesterol at all.

Dairy Products Portion Cholesterol (mg) Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g)
Milk (non-fat) 1 cup 4 0 0
Milk (low-fat) 1 cup 10 3 2
Milk (whole) 1 cup 33 8 5
Yogurt (non-fat) 1 cup 10 0 0
Yogurt (whole) 1 cup 29 7 5
Cheddar Cheese 1 oz 30 9 6
Cottage Cheese (low-fat) 1 cup 10 2 2


Fats Portion Cholesterol (mg) Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g)
Butter 1 tsp 11 4 3
Margarine 1 tsp 0 4 1
Vegetable Oils                   1 tsp 0 5 1 – 2


Meats & Protein Portion Cholesterol (mg) Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g)
Tofu 1/2 cup 0 11 2
Pinto beans 1/2 cup 0 1 0
Egg *** 1 212 5 2
Halibut 3 ½ oz 41 3 0
Salmon 3 ½ oz 63 12 2
Oysters 3 ½ oz 55 2 1
Crab 3 ½ oz 52 1 0
Lobster 3 ½ oz 71 1 0
Tuna (in water) 3 ½ oz 30 1 0
Shrimp 3 ½ oz 194 1 0
Squid 3 ½ oz 231 1 0
Beef (ground, lean)          3 ½ oz 78 18 7
Beef (short ribs) 3 ½ oz 94 42 18
Beef (sirloin) 3 ½ oz 89 12 5
Beef Liver 3 ½ oz 389 5 2
Veal (top round) 3 ½ oz 135 5 2
Lamb (foreshank) 3 ½ oz 106 14 6
Ham 3 ½ oz 53 6 2
Pork (tenderloin) 3 ½ oz 79 6 2
Pork (chop) 3 ½ oz 85 25 10
Chicken Liver 3 ½ oz 631 6 2
Chicken (no skin) 3 ½ oz 85 5 1

***Cholesterol is in the egg yolk. Egg white is just protein, no cholesterol. 

What foods lower blood cholesterol & why? Harvard Health Publications from its Medical School: 11 Foods That Lower Cholesterol Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Some give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And some contain plant sterols and stanols, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.”

1. Oats. An easy first step to improving your cholesterol is having a bowl of oatmeal or cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Current nutrition guidelines recommend getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, with at least 5 to 10 grams coming from soluble fiber. (The average American gets about half that amount.) Original Cheerios contain 3 grams of fiber & 1 gram of sugar per 1 cup serving. There are other high fiber, low sugar cereals on the market. Check the labels!

2. Barley and other whole grains. Like oats and oat bran, barley and other whole grains can help lower the risk of heart disease, mainly via the soluble fiber they deliver. Whole grains!

3. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take awhile for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That’s one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices — from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food. My favorite right now is the 13 Bean mixture. You get a bit of every bean.

4. Eggplant and okra. These two low-calorie vegetables are good sources of soluble fiber. Roasted eggplant last night. Can’t get enough. Okra is quite good if you prepare it correctly. Give it a try.

5. Nuts. A bushel of studies shows that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways. Hand full not a can full.

6. Vegetable oils. Using liquid vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, and others in place of butter, lard, or shortening when cooking or at the table helps lower LDL. Olive oil is the best choice. Coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated fat. Use it in moderation.

7. Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits. These fruits are rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that lowers LDL.

8. Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum up the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They’re also available as supplements. Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%. I would check the label if you decide to eat margarine, granola bars, orange juice & chocolate. Look at the sugar, saturated fats & trans-fats on the nutrition facts. Also check the ingredient list!

9. Soy. Eating soybeans and foods made from them, like tofu and soy milk, was once touted as a powerful way to lower cholesterol. Analyses show that the effect is more modest — consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day (10 ounces of tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk) can lower LDL by 5% to 6%.

10. Fatty fish. Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms.

11. Fiber supplements. Supplements offer the least appealing way to get soluble fiber. Two teaspoons a day of psyllium, which is found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming laxatives, provide about 4 grams of soluble fiber. Rarely a good choice. Better to eat the foods high in fiber.

Eating Well’s article, 10 Foods That Lower Cholesterol  included the following in their list…

  • Cholesterol & Avocado: Who doesn’t love avocados? They not only taste amazing but also can help lower your cholesterol. Avocados are high in healthy monounsaturated fat, which helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. They also contain fiber, antioxidants and phytosterols, such as beta-sitosterol, which have also been shown to lower cholesterol. Don’t hog the entire bowl of guacamole, though! One serving is just a quarter of a Hass avocado, which delivers 57 calories. Spread a few slices of avocado on your sandwich instead of mayo, or dip some veggies into a bowl of fresh guacamole.
  • Cholesterol & Dark Chocolate: Chocolate fans rejoice! You might have heard that chocolate is good for you, and it’s true. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain powerful antioxidant compounds called flavonoids, which help lower cholesterol. Milk chocolate has less cocoa solids, and thus lower flavonoid levels, and white chocolate is even lower in the good stuff. Reach for small portions of dark chocolate, preferably with a high cocoa content. Or try a sprinkle of cocoa powder in your smoothie or on yogurt to reap chocolate’s cholesterol-lowering benefits. 70% or higher is recommended.
  • Cholesterol & Kimchi: Kimchi, a Korean fermented side dish commonly made from cabbage, radish or cucumber, is quickly gaining a following for its many health benefits. Kimchi is high in fiber and—because it’s fermented—is loaded with good bacteria that help keep your gut healthy. Kimchi contains bioactive compounds that lower cholesterol by blocking cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream. The good bacteria produced during fermentation also help lower cholesterol. Kimchi and sauerkraut are usually pretty high in sodium, so watch your portions if you’re watching your salt intake.
  • Cholesterol & Garlic: Garlic packs a serious health punch. Some people love the flavor and others have been using it as a kitchen cure to boost immunity and promote heart health for years. Recent research has backed garlic’s health benefits, especially for your heart. Garlic, along with garlic extract, has been shown to lower cholesterol, possibly by preventing cholesterol from being made in the liver. Plus, eating garlic may also help lower blood pressure. Give your heart a boost and add garlic to your sauces, salad dressings and stir-fries.

WebMD has a good article: Your Heart-Healthy Grocery Shopping List It is a printable list of all the heart healthy & cholesterol lowering foods to stock in your pantry. Healthy eating starts with having the right heart-healthy foods in your kitchen. They help lower cholesterol and keep your blood pressure in check. If you aren’t sure which foods to buy, print this list to take to the supermarket.

This link is to Mayo Clinic’s, High Cholesterol: Self Management Well worth the read. It lists “lifestyle & home remedies”. 

I like the information in this article by Dr. Mercola: Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing I am not a Mercola fan, but he does write factual articles about health topics. When you read this article be sure to read the section, ‘How to Protect Your Heart Health’. It has very good tips.

If you are interested in statistics then this is the site for you. CDC, Center for Disease Control & Prevention: Cholesterol Fact Sheet. The other page on the CDC website you may enjoy is: CDC: High Cholesterol Facts   This page has more facts about the state of our cholesterol health in the USA.

I trust that this has cleared up the confusion surrounding cholesterol. The focus now should be on incorporating cholesterol lowering foods into your diet. If you are following a vegetarian, vegan, or the Mediterranean or DASH diets, you already do. 

Until next week…Mary 🙂


DIY Beauty Products



Last week our post was about making our own cleaning supplies. This week I want to look at beauty products. As with the cleaners, you can either make your own or you can buy organic or green products.  Why the concern?

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration, FDA, states on their website: The FD&C Act defines cosmetics by their intended use, as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance” (FD&C Act, sec. 201(i)). If the product is used therapeutically then it comes under the same regulations as supplements. 

FDA-regulated does not mean FDA-approved. FDA does not have the legal authority to approve cosmetics before they go on the market, although we do approve color additives used in them (except coal tar hair dyes). Most hair dyes now use petroleum. Prolonged use of coal tar, used in beauty products, has been linked to bladder cancer.

However, under the law, cosmetics must not be “adulterated” or “misbranded.” For example, they must be safe for consumers when used according to directions on the label, or in the customary or expected way, and they must be properly labeled. Companies and individuals who market cosmetics have a legal responsibility for the safety and labeling of their products. The FDA does not review these products, they rely on the integrity of the company. FDA can take action against a cosmetic on the market if we have reliable information showing that it is adulterated or misbranded. FDA takes action within our legal authority, based on public health priorities and available resources.” As with supplements, they will take action if consumers have complained to the FDA about a product. If there is an outbreak of side affects the Department of Public Health will take action & report it to the FDA.

It is left to the consumer to decide what is safe & what is not. Once again this shows how we need to be our own healthcare advocates.

The best website for information regarding your products is… Ta-da!!… Skin Deep  🙂 You can check the safety of your favorite beauty product by typing in the brand or name of the product in the search box. The site has 64,482 products in its data base. For example: Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Pure-Castile Soap, Peppermint get’s a 1 on all but one ingredient, hemp oil, which gets a 2. The best score possible is a 1. I also use Dr. Bronner’s tooth paste. Dr. Bronner’s Anise All-One Toothpaste scores a solid 1 on all but 2 ingredients: citric acid & glycerin which score a 2. 

Another way to use this site is to look at the top banner & click on the type of product you are interested in: Sun, Makeup, Skin, Hair & then click on the product in the drop down menu. If you clicked on Makeup/Concealer, then a list will come up of all the products that are ‘EWG Verified’ & it’s score. If you decide you want to look at it in more detail then click on the one you are interested in to get a list of ingredients & their scores. Here is an example.

 Rejuva Minerals Concealer, Golden Sand is the first one on the list.  EWG scientists reviewed Rejuva Minerals Concealer, Golden Sand for safety according to the methodology outlined in our Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. We assess the ingredients listed on the labels of personal care products based on data in toxicity and regulatory databases, government and health agency assessments and the open scientific literature. EWG’s rating for Rejuva Minerals Concealer, Golden Sand is 1. It then rates it & lists the ingredients. On the left of this page you can choose additional information you may be interested in: 

Data last updated: January 2016

Use this page when you have concerns about a product or are just curious. My recommendation is to read the information about the product you want to use & then make a decision based on your needs & the information. Maybe a 3 or even a 4 score on your product would be adequate for you. Informed decisions are the best decisions.

EWG: Guide to Sun Screens has it’s own page. The new 2017 guide will be available in the Spring. The page not only has information about the best sunscreens, it also has tips to avoid using them at all. 

At the bottom of the page is a place to download the sunscreen app for your phone. They have both Android & Apple. 

I don’t use makeup but I do use a face cream, shampoo, hair rinse, toothpaste & a hair cream. Some I buy & some I make. You have probably noticed that my favorite brand for beauty products is Dr. Bronner’s. I started using this brand in the 60’s & continue to this day. 

We use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap in the liquid form & the bar as a body wash. My husband uses the bar for his shampoo. We also use Dr. Bronner’s toothpaste, and face cream. I make our hair rinse & a hair cream for my husband. Here are my recipes.

My Hair Rinse This rinse makes my long hair soft & easy to brush out. We haven’t noticed our grey hair getting darker though. 🙂 I sometimes add lemon balm &/or chamomile.

Bring 4 cups of water to boil: pour over the following fresh or dried herbs.

  • Rosemary…10-15 sprigs ~Rosemary stimulates hair growth & will darken grey hair. 
  • Garden Sage…10-12 leaves ~Sage is used for hair loss, makes your hair shiny & will darken grey hair. 
  • Thyme…10-12 sprigs ~Thyme is great for dandruff & hair loss.

All three provide nutrients for your hair. Steep for 30 minutes; strain & allow to cool. Pour onto hair, just enough to rub it into hair & scalp. Leave it on your hair, do not rinse out. Towel dry. 

Homemade Hair Cream Recipe: A little bit of this cream goes a long way, so start with a very small amount when first using it. Dip clean fingers into cream, rub a small amount into your hands, and apply to hair that is only slightly damp or completely dry. (I have not had good results when using it on wet or very damp hair.) Don’t let this recipe intimidate you. It is actually very simple to make. It lasts a long time too. Once you have the ingredients on hand, you can make it whenever needed. You only need about an 1/8th of a teaspoon to rub into your hair. If your hair feels greasy, you used too much.

Ingredients: makes about 2 ounces or ¼ cup of cream

  • 2 Tablespoons shea butter 
  • ½ Tablespoon coconut oil 
  • ½ Tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon jojoba oil 
  • ¾ teaspoon sweet almond oil Buy this oil in the grocery area & it will be less expensive. I also use it when making medicinal salves.
  • ½ Tablespoon pure aloe vera gel Read the label to get 100% pure aloe vera. I buy it in the bulk section of an herb store.
  • ⅛ teaspoon Vitamin E oil Squeeze it out of your capsules if you have them.
  • 15-20 drops of essential oils – Use 6 drops rosemary, 5 drops chamomile, 5 drops bergamot. I used pine essential oil instead of bergamot. You could also use Lavendar.  


  1. Combine shea butter and coconut oil in a glass measuring cup or half-pint mason jar. Melt in microwave for a few seconds, or use a makeshift double boiler (fill small saucepan with about 1-2 inches of water and set glass container inside, heating on low just until melted).
  2. Add remaining ingredients and stir well to mix. Transfer to a small, shallow tin with a lid. I use a 2 ounce glass container. Buy two so you can make more before you run out.
  3. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight until mixture is cooled and set up. Remove from refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before using.
  4. Store at room temperature (for a nice, creamy consistency) and use within a month. Refrigerate any amount you can’t use within that time.

Homemade Hair Rinse from Mother Earth Living: This is like the rinse my mother used on our hair. This is a good one to use once a month to clean the shampoo & conditioner residue from your hair.

• 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves or 1 tablespoon dried
• 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1 cup boiling water

1. Combine mint and vinegar in a medium bowl, then pour boiling water over the mixture. Allow it to cool completely; strain out leaves. 

2. To use: Pour entire mixture over your scalp after shampooing and massage well. Let sit a few minutes, then rinse with tepid water. Makes 12 ounces.

Hair Rinse Variations

■ Power Boost: Add 1 teaspoon baking soda to your mixture to remove residues left behind from styling products.

■ Go Blond: Replace mint leaves with 1/2 cup chamomile tea for subtle blond highlights.

■ Darker Tresses: For darker highlights, replace mint leaves with equal amounts fresh or dried sage leaves. Over time, this rinse can even darken gray hairs.

8 Herbal Hair Rinse Recipes from Mother Earth Living“Natural hair rinses are as simple to create as making your favorite cup of tea.  In fact, several of the ingredients, such as dried herbs and flowers, can be found in the tea aisle of your local grocery store. You can also use fresh or dried herbs from your garden for year-round healthy tresses. Here are some simple hair rinse recipes for you to create at home—enjoy! “

I am not including a homemade shampoo in this post because I haven’t found one that actually works. I do like the castile soap by Dr. Bronner’s, but it makes my long hair sticky. I prefer to buy my shampoo. If you make your own & love it, please let me know so we can share the recipe 🙂

This site is one of my favorites for homemade beauty products: Miss Wish: 60 Beauty Products You Should Make Yourself and Stop Buying  It even has a Coffee Mud Mask!

Coffee Mud Mask Recipe: 
4 tbsps. bentonite clay Click here for information re: Bentonite Clay 
2 tbsps. coffee grounds
2- 5 tbsps. apple cider vinegar (can be substituted for water)
Recipe Directions: In a small bowl add clay, coffee grounds and mix until incorporated, add 1-2 tbsps. apple cider vinegar to mixture and mix, if the mixture is too thick add more vinegar until it thins out. Smear over face in a circular motion and let it set for 5-10 minutes or until the mask hardens. Rinse mud from face and add a light layer of lotion to face, to prevent drying.

Here is another example from this site.

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil You find this with Olive, Avocado, & Almond oils in the grocery section. It is not an essential oil.
  • 2 chamomile tea bags
  • Add the cup of oats to a food processor. Grind until the oats are broken up into dust (or very small pieces).
  • Transfer oats to a bowl and add coconut oil, grapeseed oil, and the contents of the two tea bags. Stir well until mixed. (If your coconut oil is too solid to measure, run the jar under some hot water or heat up in the microwave to make it easier.) Put the coconut oil into a small heat proof bowl & set in a pan of hot water to soften it.
  • To use the scrub, apply at the very end of your shower. You’ll want to get out right after so that you don’t rinse away all of the moisturizing oils.
  • Stir your scrub before using. Scoop out a small handful and rub all over clean skin. Rinse with warm water, using a washcloth if you prefer. Careful in the tub- it will likely get slippery!
  • Apply a lotion or body oil once you’ve towel-dried for maximum moisture.

Live Simply is full of easy DIY beauty products. I especially like this page on her site: MY MUST-HAVE INGREDIENTS FOR NATURAL BODY-CARE If you’re familiar with Live Simply, then you’re probably aware of the fact that I keep my body-care ingredients fairly simple. I also try to reuse ingredients in multiple ways when possible. It’s oftentimes hard to see the full story when you’re just reading a recipe or two. It’s hard to see how a few basic ingredients overlap to create multiple products. That’s why I’ve compiled today’s ingredient list: to offer an all-in-one-place round-up of the ingredients that I use in multiple body-care recipes here on Live Simply

Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite source to buy organic herbs. There are some that I can’t grow here & some that are obscure. This is a reliable company.

Look under Resources below for other sites that have DIY beauty products.

Here are but a few simple choices for skin care. 

  • Aloe Vera Gel: Make sure you check the label to get 100% Aloe Vera. This simple plant can be used for skin problems, sunburn, radiation burns, & it will make your complexion clear while reducing inflammation. Rub it on your face nightly.
  • Calendula cream/gel: This humble flower, the marigold, has healing properties for wounds, sunburns, radiation burns & insect bites. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties it will smooth & soften your skin. Calendula can be used safely on open wounds.
  • Avocado: Avocado has been a popular facial treatment for a long time. Evidence shows that eating it gives you a healthy, clear, complexion! Tastier way to use them.
  • Shea Butter: Shea butter is a natural moisturizer. It is a better choice than coco butter because it doesn’t clog the pores. This makes it a good choice for acne. Shea is also used to treat psoriasis & eczema.
  • Coconut Oil: Use a tiny amount for a lip balm, skin softener, as a moisturizer, and for those cracked feet during the summer. 

For those of you interested in dental products that you can make at home:

Learning Herbs: Holistic Dental Health and Homemade Mouthwash   This site has helpful hints on holistic preventative care for your teeth as well as a homemade mouthwash. 

Natural Dental Care for Healthy Teeth “Keep chemicals off our pearly whites with these natural dental care tips. Take a look at their tips for dental care. Here are some of their recipes.

Mint Toothpaste Recipe

2 tablespoons baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vegetable glycerin
20 drops peppermint essential oil

1. Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container.
—Laurel Vukovic  

Natural Tooth Whitener

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon 3% hydrogen peroxide

1. Mix ingredients together.
2. Dip toothbrush in mixture and brush for 3 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Follow with toothpaste.
—Laurel Vukovic

Note: Some people’s gums may be sensitive to hydrogen peroxide. Attempt to keep solution off gums as much as possible.

Natural Mouthwash Recipe

3⁄4 cup water
1⁄4 cup vodka
2 droppersful calendula tincture
2 droppersful goldenseal tincture
1 dropperful myrrh tincture
1 to 2 drops peppermint essential oil

1. Combine all ingredients and shake well.
2. Dilute 3 tablespoons of the rinse in 1⁄2 ounce water, and use as a mouthwash.
—Rosemary Gladstar

I have had emails in the past concerned about endocrine disruptors in nail polish. The most comprehensive information that I have found is on the EWG website 🙂 Nailed It’s not surprising that many nail polishes contain potentially toxic chemicals. Now a study conducted by researchers at Duke University and EWG finds that at least one of those chemicals could be ending up in your body.

Triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP, a suspected endocrine-disrupting chemical, is commonly used to make plastics and as a fire retardant in foam furniture. And if you wear nail polish, it could be in your body too. This site lists the brands that have TPHP in their nail polish. Click here for EWG’s full report.

This is a good start in building up your homemade beauty products. Enjoy the process! Until next week…Mary 🙂


DIY Natural Cleaners



Spring cleaning is right around the corner. We are going to put nutrition aside this week to answer an email from our NUT, Beth. She asked me about making our own cleaning products, thus eliminating those toxic ingredients. I like this question because it is relatively easy to do with natural ingredients that you already have & are easy to find. 

If you prefer to buy your cleaning products but want them without all the toxic ingredients then EWG is the website for you.

The Environmental Working Group has always been my go-to for information regarding toxic ingredients in anything I use or consume. The labels on cleaning products are very confusing & difficult to decode. EWG has done that for us. Instead of looking through the ingredients list for anything “bad”, it is far better to understand what they are claiming. EWG’s Guide to Heallthy Cleaning: “Decoding the labels: Confused by the labels on cleaning products? EWG helps you sort facts from hype.”

For example:  “Active ingredients” in cleaning products are usually antimicrobial pesticides added to kill bacteria, viruses or molds. Avoid them – they’re hazardous chemicals, and you rarely need them to get your house clean.

Another example. We think of essential oils as being a natural, safe product. “Essential oils are plant extracts that emit distinct, often appealing scents. Some contain naturally occurring chemicals that can irritate skin, trigger allergic reactions or cause other toxic effects. Don’t assume that essential oils are safe simply because they come from plants. Approach them with the same safety questions you bring to other ingredients or products. When trying a new product containing an essential oil, always use a small amount at first to see if you have an allergic reaction. Never apply pure essential oils directly to your skin. Avoid using products that are old or that have been exposed to light, because some essential oils react with air and sunlight to produce new and sometimes more hazardous chemicals.”

On this same page is a search box for 2,500 products. You can type in a cleaning product & see how it is rated. Typing in Planet, a company that makes laundry detergent & dish soap you see that it gets a B. It goes on to tell you why it got a B. Dr. Bronner’s products get an A. Purex gets B’s & C’s. Try it out on some of the brands you use.

If you would like a list of products & their grades rather than looking them up one at a time go to this linkEWG’s Guide to Heallthy CleaningAt the top left is a Green Banner that says EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. It is a drop down menu. Click on the cleaner you are interested in & you will get a list, with their grades, beginning with the highest rated products.

Most of my cleaning supplies I have made. Some, detergent & dish soap, I buy. When I make them myself, I like simple & fast. White Vinegar, Baking Soda, Borax & salt have been used for cleaning for generations. You can buy them in large containers at drug stores & markets. Here are some of my favorites recipes.

Oven/Pot/Pan cleaner: Make a paste with baking soda & water. Apply it to gunky area liberally. Sprinkle white vinegar onto the paste. It will foam. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Wipe & you have a clean oven or pan. You can add salt to the paste & skip the vinegar. Let it sit 30 minutes, then scrub. Works well.

All purpose cleaner: 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. I use this to clean counters, floors, stove tops, cupboards, doors & walls. It can also be used on carpet, but test it first in case it bleaches out the color. Here in the Pacific Northwest, mold & mildew is a problem. We now have a dehumidifier which has limited the mold & mildew in the house. That combined with using this spray, I no longer have a problem.

Window cleaner: 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Bright & shiny windows.

Bathroom tiles: 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water. Spray onto tiles & shower curtain to get rid of mildew. You can use this to clean the tiles as a preventative measure all year.

Keep your drains clog free: Place 1/4-1/2 cup of baking soda into your drain. Follow this with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar. It will foam up. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Then clear the drain with 2-3 cups boiling water. If you do this once a month you won’t get that buildup around the pipes. Great preventative method. I have also used this to unclog drains. 

This is my favorite reference for ingredients & recipes. They also have a printable version at this link… A Green Clean: Homemade Cleaners to Detox Your Home from Mother Earth Living, by Kim Erickson
July/August 2009

Baking Soda: A truly multitasking cleaner, baking soda is a perfect substitute for cleaning powders that scour sinks and tubs without scratching. It’s also great for wiping down and deodorizing the fridge. Combined with an equal amount of vinegar, baking soda can freshen drains and prevent them from clogging. The overflow hole in our bathroom sink in Encinitas was emitting a horrible odor a few years ago. I used the Baking Soda & Vinegar in the hole then rinsed it. Odor was gone!

Borax: Combining equal amounts of white vinegar and borax will banish mold and mildew from hard surfaces. This natural mineral can also clean your toilet. Pour 1 cup of borax into the toilet bowl and let it sit for a few hours before scrubbing to eliminate stains and odor.

Distilled White Vinegar: This pantry staple cuts grease, eats away lime deposits and destroys odors. Because of its neutralizing properties, white vinegar is also good for washing windows, sanitizing kitchen counters and shining bathroom fixtures. Simply dilute 1 part vinegar in 4 parts water. A natural antibacterial because of its high acid content, vinegar is an effective alternative to caustic cleaners on toilets and floors.

Hydrogen Peroxide: Typically found in the medicine cabinet, this disinfectant can also be used as an effective bleach alternative in the laundry room. Because it’s also a powerful oxidizing agent, it works especially well on food, soil, plant, blood and other organic stains. Just make sure to spot test in a discreet area because, like bleach, hydrogen peroxide may lighten fabrics. For each average-size load of whites, add 8 ounces of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide after you have filled the washer with hot water.

Salt: Perfect for cleaning grungy ovens, this natural abrasive is also great for soaking up fresh carpet stains such as red wine, coffee or ink. Pour salt on the wet stain. Let dry, then vacuum. I always forget to use salt on carpet stains. I have a stain right now that I will try it on 🙂

Vegetable Oil (Castile) Soap: This natural soap is great for floors and all-purpose cleaning when combined with vinegar, borax or even warm water. For an all-purpose cleaner, add 1⁄2 teaspoon of soap to either 2 cups of water or to the “All-Purpose Cleaner and Disinfectant” recipe below. For floors, combine 2 teaspoons of soap with 3 gallons of water. Make sure to rinse well to remove any dulling residue. Dr. Bronners is a castile soap.

Washing Soda: This old-fashioned laundry booster cuts through tough grease on grills, broiler pans and ovens. Because washing soda is a strong alkaline, it’s perfect for tackling dirty linoleum floors. But because it’s caustic and strong enough to strip wax and peel paint, wear gloves when using—and use sparingly. Adding just 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon of washing soda to 32 ounces of hot water will tackle the toughest grease. Washing soda is soda ash. It is not edible. EWG gives it an A. It is very caustic, wear gloves when using. It can be purchased at most grocery & big box stores. Look in the laundry detergent aisle. Arm & Hammer makes one & it gets an A from EWG.

Lemons: Lemon’s citric acid content cuts stubborn grease and makes your home smell fresh. Lemon juice is also a natural bleach, especially when combined with the sun. Freshen cutting boards by rubbing a cut lemon over the surface. This is especially effective for banishing fish odors. Undiluted lemon juice can also be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. It works on both plastic & wooden cutting boards. If you have been cutting up garlic, add salt to the lemon & scrub the board. You can also use salt & lemon to wash the garlic smell from your hands. As teenagers, my younger brother & I surfed, not very well, but we did try. He had light brown hair & wanted it blond. I poured grapefruit & lemon juice on his head & he laid out in the sun for hours. Presto! Blond sticky hair! 🙂

Homemade Cleaners: You can use your essential oils with these! They not only make them smell fresh, they are also anti-viral & anti-bacterial.

All-purpose cleaner and disinfectant:  Just as effective as popular antibacterial cleansers, this formula is perfect for kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
2 cups hot water
¼ cup white vinegar
½ teaspoon washing soda (similar to, but more caustic than, baking soda)
15 drops tea tree essential oil
15 drops lavender essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a reusable spray bottle and shake well. To use, spray on surfaces, especially cutting boards, countertops and toilets. Wipe with a dry cloth.

Lemongrass dust cloths: Whether you’re using microfiber cloths or old cloth diapers, these do-it-yourself dusters offer the convenience of disposable furniture wipes without the guilt of contributing to the landfill. Make several dustcloths at a time.
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
¼ teaspoon lemongrass essential oil
Dustcloths or rags
Freshly cut lemon peel

Combine water, vinegar and essential oil in large bowl. Soak dustcloths in the solution for 30 minutes. Squeeze out cloths, leaving them slightly damp. Lay cloths flat and place a couple pieces of lemon peel on each one. Fold each cloth in half or thirds and roll up. Place each cloth in a glass jar along with an extra piece of lemon peel. Cap tightly with a screw lid. To use, unfold cloth and discard peel. Dust as usual. Launder dustcloths when dirty and infuse again with essential oil and lemon peel.

Creamy nonabrasive cleaner:  Perfect for acrylic and fiberglass surfaces, this smooth cleanser won’t scratch tubs, stovetops or laminate countertops.
¼  cup borax 
Vegetable oil-based liquid soap (also known as castile soap)
½  teaspoon lemon essential oil

In a small bowl, combine borax with just enough liquid soap to create a thick paste. Add essential oil and blend well. To use, scoop a small amount of cleaner onto a damp sponge. Scrub surface and rinse wel

Pre-vacuum carpet freshener:  This fragrant odor eliminator will leave your home smelling fresh without posing a danger to pets or children.

1 cup dried lavender flowers
2 cups baking soda
10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops rose geranium essential oil

Crush lavender flowers and mix with baking soda, breaking up any clumps. Add essential oils and blend well. To use, sprinkle on carpets. Wait 30 minutes, then vacuum as usual. Store leftovers in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Sometimes I just strew dried lavender onto the carpet & leave it there until the next time I vacuum. Smells lovely. I also hang a muslin bag full of dried lavender & dried lemon grass from the door knobs. Wonderful room freshener. 

If you enjoy working with essential oils or just like aromatherapy, here is an article about how to use them in natural cleaning. 

Natural Cleaning Recipes with Essential Oils  Use these easy natural cleaning recipes for a home that’s free of germs, grime and toxic chemicals.” Here is an example: 

Herbal Disinfectant:  A super disinfectant formula that’s incredibly easy to make

2 cups hot water
10 drops thyme essential oil: a natural disinfectant.
1/4 cup washing soda

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray on surfaces and wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge.

Now you are ready for spring cleaning without the worry of toxins. For even more information, explore the links below under Resources.

I would like to end with a recipe for Hand Sanitizer that I found on Live Simply: DIY  I keep a bottle in the car & a small spray bottle of it in my backpack. 

DIY Hand Sanitizer by Live Simply 


  • 3 TB aloe vera Get pure aloe vera. Check the labels!
  • 2 TB witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, if using alcohol reduce to 1 TB We only use witch hazel in our house. It is a great wound cleaner.
  • 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil You can get this in a small bottle or you can open capsules if you have them.
  • 16 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 8 drops lavender essential oil


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. To use the hand sanitizer store in a small jar or a squeeze tube. I also use these tubes for homemade toothpaste. Note: This recipe will make 2 fl oz (one tube.)

Beth also asked about making her own beauty products. That will be next weeks topic. Until then…Mary 🙂