Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunscreen: healthy or hazardous to your skin?

I am a fair-skinned individual, and for that reason overexposure to the sun has always been a concern of mine. In an effort to prevent skin cancer and wrinkles, I've always slathered on the high SPF (50 or higher) before going out into the sun, and have been a big fan of the frequent re-apply.

In the transformation I've been making over the past 4 years into a healthy lifestyle, skin care has been a rather large piece of what I've transformed. I use organic soaps and lotions, I filter my water, I skin brush... Organic sunscreen is one switch I have not been able to make. It seems no matter which brand of organic sunscreen I try, I still burn. And they are expensive! I finally decided I had to switch back to traditional sunscreen, and have stuck to Neutrogena.

Last week on there was an article recycled about the dangers of traditional sunscreens, and Neutrogena is right up there as one of the worst offenders. Dr. Mercola has an organic sunscreen product that he believes in, but I am super skeptical after all of the organic brands I've tried that failed me. What did stand out was one of the comments at the end that diet improves your skins natural SPF and therefore resistance to sun damage; specifically, eating fresh spinach. When I visited the link provided in this comment, here's what I learned...

The following thirteen nutrients are currently known to increase your skin's sun protection factor (SPF) level:

Co-enzyme Q10*
Omega 3 essential fatty acids*
Vitamin C*
Vitamin E*

The ten SPF enhancing nutrients with an asterisk (*) are all found in spinach. This makes spinach quite possibly the single most potent whole food nutrition source to reduce risk of ultra violet sun damage to skin and thus the risks of sunburn or various skin cancers.

I'm willing to experiment with this! I regularly include green smoothies in my diet now, but I can really beef up the spinach during the months where I'm likely to experience the most sun exposure. I'll include the organic sunscreen in my regimen again, and see how it goes. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, Friday, May 7th Denise and I are hosting our first Raw Food Pot Luck in Wakefield, MA from 6-8pm. Our special guest, Michelle, will be educating us on organic skin care, and I imagine will be the perfect person to ask about organic sunscreen. Everyone is welcome to come join us! Information is posted under Events on


Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Information About Agave...

We said we'd continue to get to the bottom of the "agave is as bad as HFCS" article, and sure enough, there is a wonderful article by Susan of Rawmazing which helps to clarify and dispel myths and misinformation.

She spoke with Stephen Richards, the founder of BetterBody Foods and Nutrition, asking him to respond to some of the points made in the Mercola article. Mercola's article is in quotations, followed by Stephen's responses in italics.

"In spite of manufacturer's claims, agave "nectar" is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of its pineapple-like root bulb. the root is comprised mainly of starch, similar to corn, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of fructose molecules. the process by which agave starch and inulin are converted into "nectar" is VERY similar to the process by which cornstarch is converted to HFCS1."
There is no starch in the agave plant. the agave plant contains fructans which are broken down into sugars by simply applying low heat. the process by which it is broken down is not even close.

"The agave starch is converted into fructose-rich syrup using genetically modified enzymes and a chemically intensive process involving caustic acids, clarifiers, and filtration chemicals."
Xagave is a USDA organic certified product and we have a GMO free certification. Thus the statement that chemicals, genetically modified enzymes and caustic acids are used is incorrect - with respect to Xagave. Again, I cannot speak for other brands.

The fructose content of Xagave is less than sugar (sucrose), about the same as honey, and less than HFCS. In addition, Xagave has less total sugars than the above mentioned sweeteners. Xagave has a glycemic index of 30 (date paste has a GI over 103), and contains inulin, (a prebiotic fiber, promoting the healthy function of your lower intestine that has also been shown to promote regularity, boost the immune system, increase calcium absorption and increase bone density).

Interestingly, onions also promote regularity, boost the immune system, increase calcium absorption and increase bone density... and also contain inulin. When I worked at Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt, I learned that they add inulin to their yogurt. Just a little aside!

I hope this information is helpful to you on your quest to know the truth about agave. Like anything we purchase to feed our bodies with, no two products are created equal... There are good tomatoes and toxic tomatoes, even though they are both called tomatoes. The same is true of agave.

To read Susan's full article on Rawmazing, click here: Agave: Hero or Villain. To learn more about Xagave, including independent lab tests, click here: Xagave.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Jamie Oliver: Teach Every Child About Food

I heard rumblings about this video, shocking things I could barely believe, and now I've come across it and finally seen for myself. Jamie Oliver is a chef who has found his mission: to fight obesity in America by educating children about food. Yes! He states his wish as this: "I wish for everyone to help create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity."

I got into a little discussion with the person who sent me this video - he loves the message, as I do, but we disagree on one point. He thinks it's harder than ever to get away from bad foods laden with salt and sugar. I think it's the same answer as it's always been to do so.

When I was growing up in the 80's, we had fast food and chain restaurants, we had ice cream stands and soda, we had poor nutritional school lunch programs... Everything that exists today. However, I grew up in a household that treated all of those foods as a once-in-a-great-while treat. We had ice cream for dessert once a week, on Fridays, during the summer (and we only had dessert once a week). We had soda only for birthdays, so for my sister and I that meant twice a year. Only my grandmother would take us to McDonalds, which was very infrequent. When we had pizza, it was homemade from scratch with whole wheat crust. We ate dinner together as a family almost every night, and we made our dinners together. We made our own school lunches, and didn't buy from the cafeteria.

The point is, the answer hasn't changed even if the food landscape has (adding sugar to elementary school milk cartons??? Yikes!). Families need to re-evaluate the way they treat food in the home, and how often they go out for prepared food instead of eating at home.

I absolutely applaud Jamie Oliver for embarking on this mission. It is very near to my own mission. I encourage everyone to watch the video... And pass it on.


Friday, April 2, 2010

30 Day Raw Challenge

With the weather in New England unseasonably sunny and warm, now is the perfect time to start the 30 Day Raw Challange! This is a wonderful way for those who have been thinking about eating 100% raw living food to jump in with both feet. Join the Event page for helpful tips, suggestions, Q&A, recipes, support, etc. If you're not ready for a 30 day commitment, or not ready for 100%, you can always modify the challenge to suit you. But Denise and I highly recommend going at this full steam ahead! You won't believe how amazing you feel at the end of the 30 days, and don't be surprised if your body craves staying raw...