Healthy Lifestyle

Superstars of the Summer Garden

When it comes to gardening, you always have to think ahead. So even though it’s barely spring, today we want to focus on the plants that will be superstars of your summer garden. By putting in the time, research and effort now, you’ll be reaping the rewards of your summer garden with satisfaction! Once again, these are all items that are relatively easy to grow for the newbie or inexperienced gardener. All three require a good amount of direct sunlight and can be started from seed indoors now or you can pick up seedlings from your local nursery when ready to plant in the ground.

Tomatoes – No summer garden is complete without tomatoes and nothing compares to the taste of a homegrown tomato! They will want lots of sunshine, water and nitrogen in the soil. If you notice the plants turning yellow, this means they are lacking nitrogen. Adding a little bone or blood meal around the base of each plant is a quick fix. Just be sure to keep companion planting in mind and keep your tomatoes at a distance from our next suggested plant. . . bell peppers.

Bell Peppers – Bees will cross pollinate peppers and tomatoes, ruining the flavor of tomatoes which is why they should not be planted together. Bell peppers love heat which makes them a superstar of the summer garden. They want sun all day long and do best in well drained soil, spaced about 4-6 inches apart. When they first begin to ripen, they’ll be a lighter shade of their color and are ready to pick when they turn bright and waxy.

Summer Squash – These vining plants either needs ample ground space to run or you’ll need a sturdy trellis. This summer garden group includes both green and yellow zucchini, crookneck and scallop squash, all of which are typically ready to pick 60-70 days after planting. They also produce squash blossoms which are delicious sauteed, stuffed or dipped in batter and fried.

We hope we’ve given you some inspiration to get out and get gardening! Here’s hoping for a great growing season and an ample harvest!

Spring Cleaning For Better Health

A good spring cleaning of the house is on many people’s to-do lists at this time of the year. Clearing out the dirt, dust and clutter can make for a healthier and happier home. Today we have a few areas to keep in mind as you tackle your spring cleaning chores.

Tackle the Dust Collectors

Dust is no friend at a time of year when people may also be dealing with seasonal allergies. Start high with ceiling fans, curtains and upholstery and then move on to furniture and floors.

 

Get Ready to Open Those Windows Wide

Cleaning the dust away from the tops of window sashes and getting rid of the winter dirt and grime from the glass will make those spring views even more enjoyable. Opening the windows to get some fresh air means also making sure that screens are cleaned and in good repair.

 

Renew the Refrigerator

Give the fridge a total overhaul as part of your spring cleaning routine. Throw out expired foods and condiments and get rid of any spills and debris which can breed bacteria and mold. This is also a good time to clean the condenser coil, typically found behind the toe grill. You can usually do this with a long handled bottle brush or vacuum cleaner attachment hose. Getting rid of dust and lint can help prevent the refrigerator to overheat. If coils are attached to the back of the fridge, don’t hurt yourself pulling it out, ask for help to get to the area!

 

Declutter and LET GO

Go through clothes, books, household items and such to see what isn’t working or you don’t need anymore. Purging items that you don’t really love, wear or use can be extremely satisfying. Remember, more stuff means more stuff you have to take care of and it might just be a good time to eliminate that burden.

 

Fire Alarms/Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Do a thorough test of existing units, change batteries and add alarms and detectors where needed. The American Red Cross has some valuable information on the importance of having working alarms and estimates that, “The fire death rate in homes with working smoke alarms is 51% less than the rate for homes without this protection.”

Snow Safety: Part One – Driving Snow and Ice Covered Roads

 

The kids are all singing “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” hoping for days off school and time for snowball fights and sled rides. While it sure is beautiful, most adults find it to be a pain, especially when it comes to driving snow covered streets and roads. At the very least, it can make life inconvenient but at worst it can be downright dangerous. We’ve put together a three part series on staying safe and healthy in the snow. Driving snow covered roads and icy streets can be a challenge, so today we focus on navigating the white stuff!

We are one snowy nation! Around 70% of U.S. roads will see 5 or more inches of snow each year and vehicle accidents result in about 1,300 fatalities per year. Here are some tips to keep you safe as you navigate the ice, slush and snow. . .

  • Bridges, overpasses and rarely travelled roads are the first to freeze. If conditions are wet, these areas can become icy before the temperatures even drop below freezing.
  • Be sure to brake gently when driving snow or ice covered streets and roads. If standard brakes lock, pump gently and if anti-lock brakes do lock up, apply steady pressure (they may begin to pulse and make noise when doing so).
  • Never pass a snowplow. These vehicles have limited visibility and conditions ahead of them are more than likely worse than behind them.
  • Allow enough space between you and the car ahead of you. About 3 car lengths for every 10mph you are travelling.
  • If you begin to slide and it’s your rear tires, take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels then begin sliding in the opposite direction, ease the steering wheel in the same direction as the tires. Repeat gently until the car is under control. If your front tires are sliding, take your foot off the accelerator and put the car in neutral. When traction returns, gently steer the car in the direction you want to go, put the vehicle back in drive and slowly accelerate.
  • If you get stuck, turn your wheels from side to side to push the snow. If needed, get out and try to shovel some snow away from the tires and undercarriage. Go easy with gentle acceleration to avoid spinning your tires.

#TBT – Ylang Ylang – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. Today we focus on the benefits of ylang ylang essential oil!

Ylang ylang (e-lang e-lang), often called “the poor man’s jasmine”, comes from the sweet smelling, star-shaped flowers of the ylang-ylang tree. Native to Malaysia, Indonesia and other east Asian lowland countries the tree does not produce flowers until five years of growth but then produces up to 45 pounds of flowers for up to fifty years. High quality oil made from the flowers has a sweet and musky aroma and is prized for it’s amazing scent. However, indigenous peoples of the areas where it grows quickly discovered it was effective as a natural treatment for skin irritations such as cuts, burns and insect bites as it inhibits microbial growth and disinfects wounds.

Indonesians scatter the petals over the beds of newlywed couples on their wedding night. A hair pomade, Macassar oil, developed in the Molucca Islands became so popular in Victorian England that it led to the creation of the antimacassar, a decorative chair covering used to keep the oil from staining upholstery. In the 20th century, French chemists discovered that the oil was useful in treating intestinal infections and that the oil had a calming effect on the body, specifically the heart. Eventually, ylang ylang essential oil was used as the top floral note in the now famous Chanel No. 5 perfume.

Ylang ylang oil has also proven beneficial in treating eczema. Caused by malfunctioning sebaceous glands which don’t provide an adequate production of sebum, eczema is a painful skin disorder. Ylang ylang soothes inflammation and assists the skin in regulating sebum production.  It’s also loaded with organic compounds that are beneficial to the hair and scalp. Since it’s known for uplifting mood and promoting relaxation, it’s a terrific addition to massage oil.

If taken in excessive amounts, it can result in nausea and headache so it is important to use ylang ylang oil in recommended doses.

Healthier Homemade Baby Food

Parents concerned with the cost and quality of jarred foods for beginning eaters may be considering homemade baby food instead. It really is a great way of saving money, providing quality nutrition and getting that little one on the path to a healthy relationship with food. Making homemade baby food gives you the ability to experiment with different textures for your baby and use a greater variety of ingredients than what can be found in commercial baby food.

Most pediatricians recommend starting kids on solid foods between the ages of 4 to 6 months. Prior to 4 months, nitrates in foods can be toxic to the infant as their digestive system cannot handle them. After four months, it’s best to start with single ingredients and to space new foods about 4 days apart to see how baby reacts to the food. These first foods are highly pureed and strained foods that are lowest on the allergy scale and are more easily digested by those little bellies. Rice and other grain cereals, sweet potatoes, avocados, bananas and carrots are among good choices for the first foods.  

Many of these first foods can just be smashed up with a fork such as avocado, banana, cantaloupe and pear. Simple purees from foods that must first be cooked, can be made using a food processor, blender or immersion blender. It’s very difficult to finely puree some vegetables such as peas and green beans and so some parents choose to wait on introducing those later when baby has reached the age of enjoying some texture and can eat them as finger foods.

Another great reason to make homemade baby food is the ability to incorporate herbs and spices to introduce new flavors and build baby’s taste buds. Most pediatricians will recommend waiting until 8 months to incorporate spices and herbs but this has more to do with preventing digestive upset than a concern over allergic reactions. Many cultures begin using spices and herbs in homemade baby food from the very start. As with any new food, just be sure to wait about 4 days before introducing something new. It is never recommended that one add sugar or salt to homemade baby food but several spices and herbs to try include: anise, basil, cinnamon, curry powder, dill, ginger, garlic, mint, nutmeg, oregano, pepper, rosemary and vanilla.

There are so many ideas out there for simple recipes for baby that we’re sure you’ll have no problem finding a wealth of suggestions on the internet. The idea is to give baby a healthy start when it comes to a relationship with food, so we recommend not getting too upset or worried if your child doesn’t take to certain foods right away or at all. Remember that taste buds change throughout the years and it can take several tries of a food before a child decides they like it. It’s best not to force foods on children or make a big deal about being a “picky eater” which can set up an unhealthy relationship with food. There are a wealth of healthy options in the food world and as they grow they are certain to find some nutritious delights that they love. Bon appetit, babies!

Nutritional Deficiencies – Signs in Your Body, Part One

 

We’re all aware that nutritional deficiencies can impact the complex machine that is the human body. Lack of certain nutrients and vitamins manifest in various weaknesses, illnesses and problems. However, the body also gives us signals when something is not right. By paying attention to what the body is telling us can make spotting nutritional deficiencies and, while less common, the over consumption of certain nutrients, and then rectifying those problems much easier!

Here are some common issues of the nails and skin that signal that nutritional deficiencies of one sort or another might be plaguing you. Check back with us next week for more signals that our bodies give when something isn’t quite right!

 

Nails

White spots: These are typically nothing to worry about, sometimes the result of trauma to the nail. If excessive, it could be an indicator of low zinc.

Ridged nails: This can also indicate a lack of zinc.

Weak or brittle nails: Lifestyle factors such as having your hands in water often or living in an environment with low humidity may be the culprit. With those factors taken into consideration, Weak and brittle nails could also be a signal of too little magnesium, vitamins A or C and the B vitamin biotin.

Spoon nails: If nails curve upward at the edges like a spoon it may be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia or excess iron absorption called hemochromatosis.

Dark discolorations: These are not a signal of a nutritional deficiency but warrant an immediate visit to the doctor as they can be caused by a form of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.

 

Skin

Face: The face is a great indicator of vitamin B deficiencies.  If you are plagued with greasy, red, scaly skin on the face (typically on the sides of the nose) this can be a signal of too little vitamin B2. Acne that appears like a rash on the forehead and sides of nose can indicate a vitamin B6 deficiency. If you notice that your skin seems paler than usual it can be a symptom of B12 deficiency. Take a look at your tongue as well, which should appear somewhat bumpy. If it’s completely smooth, this is another signal that you are lacking in B12.

Stretch Marks: It’s a popular misconception that these are hereditary. However it is a lack of zinc which impacts collagen formation in the body that could be the culprit. If you are prone to stretch marks, these slight tearings of the skin may be due to a zinc/collagen deficiency.

Yellow Palms: This is not caused by nutritional deficiencies, rather the opposite. Yellow palms are a signal that you are consuming too much beta carotene, found in foods with the same coloring such as carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes, etc.

“Chicken Skin”: Typically found on the backs of the arms, pimply rough skin signals that you are lacking essential fatty acids or vitamin A.

Garden Planning – Companion Planting

 

It’s a wise idea for new gardeners to familiarize themselves with companion planting for best success in the home garden. Certain plants offer protection to other plants against pests and disease. Today we’ve picked three very easy to grow plants that offer protection to each other. At the end, we’ll give you a few more ideas of what to plant and what not to plant next to each other for a successful garden!

Green Beans – This is another plant whose seeds are directly sown into the ground. They are prolific producers that sprout quickly. Half runners are very popular because they are so tender but be advised that you’ll need to grow these alongside a trellis since they are a vining plant. Also, these beans have strings which have to be removed prior to eating. If you are looking for a simpler option, bush beans are the route to go. Beans really give back, helping to fix nitrogen levels in the soil, which makes them a great companion planting for another easy to grow option in the garden. . .

Radishes – Radishes need nitrogen to thrive, which means they will thrive if you have companion planting in mind and place them near the green beans. These fast growers will produce in as short a time span as 21 days, making them a great “quick reward with little effort” for those of us impatient to have something pop up quickly. You’ll want to provide constant moisture and stay on top of harvesting so that they are crisp and mild flavored. To determine when to harvest, simply push back a little garden soil to see if there’s a bulb and pick and taste a few. Not crazy about raw radishes? Try baking them in the oven to bring out a little sweetness. Radishes are a great companion planting for . . .

Cucumbers – Radishes are natural repellents of cucumber beetles! Other than that pest, cucumbers are super simple to grow. If you try sowing from seed, they will need to be started indoors about three weeks before going outside into the ground, after the last spring frost. They need well drained soil and ample sunlight. It’s a good idea to build a trellis for these plants to produce optimally.

Here are some other good companion plantings to keep in mind. . .

 

  • tomatoes with asparagus
  • eggplants with peppers
  • melons/squash with corn

 

And on the flip side of companion planting here are some combinations to avoid. . .

 

  • Keep the strawberries away from pest prone cabbage.
  • If you want both crops to grow hardy, keep the onions away from the beans and peas.
  • Fennel should just pretty much be planted far away from everything!

Check back next week as we’ll focus on the superstars of the summer garden!

Whole Foods Spotlight – Bananas

When talking about foods that are nutritional powerhouses, there are few better to wax poetic over than humble bananas. Not only does it come in its own packaging, making it ideal for busy folks on the run, inside that yellow peel is a treasure trove of nutrients and vitamins! Here are some of the top apPEELing (sorry, couldn’t resist) health benefits of eating  bananas. . .

 

  • Bananas are a significant source of potassium which plays a key role in cardiovascular health. Lack of potassium can also cause muscle cramping so if you are getting those charley horses in the middle of the night, it’s time to reach for a banana. You’ll be helping your bones as well since potassium plays a key role in retaining calcium in the body.

 

  • Tryptophan is also found in bananas. When consumed, tryptophan is converted into serotonin which elevates mood and relieves stress. It also helps to regulate sleep patterns, body temperature, memory and appetite.

 

  • For digestive health, bananas are a super hero of the fruit world. They are a natural antacid, giving relief from heartburn and acid reflux. Because they coat the lining of the stomach against acid, they are the only raw fruit recommended to people suffering from stomach ulcers. The pectin in bananas aids in digestion and removal of toxins and heavy metals from our system. They produce enzymes which assist in absorbing nutrients during digestion. They play the role of prebiotic, acting as a food source for friendly bacteria in the gut. A banana can also be a soother for two very opposite problems, soothing both constipation and diarrhea.

 

  • The high water content and levels of Vitamin A in bananas help to repair dry and damaged skin cells. By ingesting the fruit or using a banana face mask, you can help restore moisture to the skin and renew damaged cells. Many also swear by banana peels for treating acne and it’s also effective at neutralizing the itch from bug bites.

 

They are a perfect food all in their own cute yellow package but we’ve included a few tasty banana recipes below as well. Enjoy!

 

Brown Sugar Banana Overnight Oats

Banana Bread Scones

Dairy Free Banana Chocolate Ice Cream

Garden Planning – Part One – Early Spring Crops

Have you been thinking about growing some of your own food? While it’s a bit too early in most of the country to really start digging in the dirt, this is the perfect time to do a little garden planning! Whether the prospect seems a little overwhelming or you are just hoping to keep the process as simple and productive as possible, over the next few weeks we’ll be offering some suggestions for you of the easiest items to grow in a home garden. Today we’re focusing on those crops that can be planted in these early days before true spring arrives.

Lettuces – For a new gardener, starting plants from seed can be a difficult and intimidating prospect. Lettuces are a great option as they can be directly sown into the soil. A few weeks after planting in the garden, you will want to go over the area and thin out the seedlings a bit. Since it’s a cool weather plant they can be sown in early spring or fall and are tolerant of a little bit of frost. If temperatures dip below 45 degrees or there’s snow in the forecast, covering the plants with plastic or a sheet should help to protect them. To keep a continuous supply, replant every two to three weeks.

Potatoes – It depends upon what zone you live in and soil temperatures but traditionally, in many parts of the United States, potatoes are planted in the garden around St. Patrick’s Day. A couple of days before you plant them, you’ll want to quarter the seed potatoes and store them in a warm dark place, allowing them to toughen up and dry out a little. In a typical garden, you’ll want to plant them about 2 inches deep and 8 inches apart and mulch them with straw. However, if space is limited, you can always try bucket planting.

Peas – Sweet, delicious peas are a favorite in the home garden as they are relatively easy to grow and produce well. The seeds are small and should be planted shallowly, no more than a ½ inch deep. This allows them to germinate and sprout quickly, usually in about a week. Sow the seeds about 2.5 inches apart and as the plants grow, you will want to install some sort of trellis for them to climb.
Check back with us next week for more ideas for your spring garden!

#TBT – Anise Seed – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. Today we focus on sweet anise seed! 

Anise is a delicate white flowering plant with feathery leaves closely related to star anise, fennel and licorice. Native to Egypt, Greece, Crete and Asia Minor, it was the Egyptians who first began cultivating the plant. The Romans often included the spice in baked goods served at the end of decadent meals as the seeds provide protection against indigestion and flatulence. It was given the nickname Solamen intestinorum or “the comforter of the bowels.”

In France, Spain, Italy and South America, the seeds are used primarily in the production of cordial liquers such as Anisette. In Germany of the 1800’s, the spice was so popular, they flavored their bread with whole aniseseed. It is a remarkably versatile herb, used in both sweet and savory dishes.

It’s uses for human and animal alike, abound!

  • The oil of anise has long been used to destroy lice and other biting insects and to treat skin irritations. The oil is also said to work well in combination with cheese on mousetraps!
  • Some beekeepers say that anise oil is the fastest way to attract bees if there are no flowers around and putting the oil on bee boxes will help attract and encourage their return.
  • In addition to providing relief from excess gas and indegestion, the essential oil has been used to eliminate intestinal worms. It also provides relief from aches, pains and menstrual cramps as it has antispasmodic properties.
  • Anise has also been traditionally used in the treatment of  clearing congestion in the lungs and respiratory tracts, bronchitis and asthma. Teas with anise are very soothing during cold and flu season!

German Spelt Bread

Cinnamon Anise Tea

Homemade Italian Sausage