By Becky Striepe
Honey is not vegan, but luckily there are delicious alternatives to replace it in any recipe. Try these vegan alternatives to honey!
The honey question is surprisingly contentious in the vegan world, but honey is an animal product and definitely not vegan. Bees do not create honey for humans to eat—they create it as their own, sole food source.
As Piper Hoffman explained to Care2, bees have a central nervous system. They experience pain, just like larger animals do. "I'm going to speculate here that starving causes pain," Hoffman said, "and thanks to beekeepers, some entire hives starve to death during the winter."
There are some vegans who argue that local honey is ethical, because the methods used to take the honey are less harsh than in commercial honey operations. The local honey debate is a hot topic and I'm not here to argue about it. You do you. The resources below are for anyone looking for vegan alternatives to honey.
Vegan Alternatives to Honey
1. Agave Nectar
Agave nectar is a little bit controversial from a health perspective, but there is no question that when it comes to taste and how it behaves in recipes, it mimics honey like a dream. I think of agave nectar as a sometimes food, because it's not terribly healthy.
This apple-based vegan honey alternative is truly amazing. Creator Katie Sanchez discovered this recipe in 1999 when an apple jelly experiment went awry. The result of her testing wasn't jelly, but it was a shockingly spot-on vegan alternative to honey.
3. Maple Syrup
Maple syrup gives recipes a different flavor than honey does, but it works well in baking, sauces and most other recipes that call for honey. I even use maple syrup in place of honey in beauty recipes, like this sugar scrub.
4. Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup is available at most grocery stores. It's slightly less sweet than honey, but that can be a good thing, especially if you're trying to cut down on your sugar intake. Use it just like honey, adding a bit more to recipes, if you find the results not sweet enough for your tastes.
5. Barley Malt Syrup
Barley malt syrup has a distinct, malty taste and, like brown rice syrup, it's a bit less sweet than honey. It's a fun one to play with, though, if you can find it at the store! I especially like barley malt syrup in place of honey for things like granola, cookies or cereal bars.
6. Sorghum Syrup
Sorghum is an interesting crop. Some energy companies are looking at this heat- and drought-tolerant crop as an alternative for the corn used to make biofuels and it's also versatile in the kitchen. Sorghum syrup is available at most grocery stores and is about as sweet as honey, so you can sub it in at a one-to-one ratio.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
By Julie M. Rodriguez
It's no secret that bee populations have declined in recent years. Last year, beekeepers across the U.S. reported losing a staggering 44 percent of their colonies over the course of the winter and summer.
It's Official: First Bumble Bee Species Listed as Endangered in 'Race Against Extinction' https://t.co/7Kl4bXYqtw @xercessociety @bpncamp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1484176512.0
The causes of bee decline vary—exposure to a variety of pesticides, fungus, parasites and rising temperatures being just some of the potential issues—but there's only one really effective way to fight back against the problem. Bees need open spaces to roam and collect pollen without being disturbed.
One city in Iowa has decided to do just that, in a major way: Cedar Rapids is planning to set aside 1,000 acres of bee-friendly open space. (Eventually, it's hoped, the project may expand to as many as 10,000 acres). This spring, they'll start by seeding a modest 188 acres with native prairie grasses and wildflowers, plants that will both nourish pollinators and prevent invasive weeds from spreading. So far, the initiative has secured $180,000 in funding from the state and the Monarch Research Project, an organization dedicated to restoring monarch butterfly populations and pollinator habitats.
Monarch Populations Plummet: 27% Decrease From Last Year https://t.co/63KULj3gUp @NWF @foodtank @SpeciesSavers @endangered @nongmoreport— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1487604237.0
Cedar Rapids isn't going to convert land used for other purposes for the project. Instead, they're simply repurposes public lands that are currently going unused, seeding them with 39 species of native wildflowers and seven species of native grass. The flowers will serve as an attractor for bees and butterflies, while the grasses will keep noxious weeds from invading the area. Some of the spaces that are being used for the initiative include far-off corners of public parks, golf courses, open areas near the local airport, sewage ditches, water retention basins and green space along roadways.
The project was proposed by Daniel Gibbons, the park superintendent of Cedar Rapids. According to Gibbons, over the past 100 years, Iowa's agriculture boom has resulted a loss of 99.9 percent of the state's native habitats. Converting these unused public areas back to their original state will do more than simply help bees—it's also going to help birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals who rely on native vegetation.
Converting these spaces back to native prairie isn't going to be a simple process. Right now, many of them are choked with undesirable vegetation that isn't bee-friendly. The invasive plants present in these areas need to be mowed down, burned and in some cases hit with doses of herbicide before the native seed mixture can be planted.
You Can Replicate The Cedar Rapids Experiment In Your Own Backyard
Most of us don't have 1,000 acres of unused space lying around, but if you want to do your part to help bees in the same way as Cedar Rapids, there's plenty you can do. If you have a garden or a place to leave outdoor planters, just a few square feet of wildflowers native to your area can help boost local bee populations. In Popular Science, pollination ecologist Stephen Buchmann suggests planting a diverse mix of wildflowers and heirloom crops that bloom in the spring, summer and fall.
If you do plant a pollinator garden, it's best not to use any herbicides or insecticides at all, as these are known to correlate with poor health in honey bees. If you must use these products, do it at night when bees are inactive.
Of course, simply providing a food source for bees does no good if they have no place to rest at the end of the day. You can also create nesting sites for native bees, if you can stomach the idea of a hive on your property. The Xerces society has compiled a helpful guide with information on how to provide nesting sites that allow bees to thrive. In many ways, the approach you'll need to take depends on the species of bees that live in your area—some prefer to nest in hollow wood, while others dig their nests in the dirt.
If we all make a small effort to create bee-friendly spaces, it's completely possible to replicate Cedar Rapids' experiment collectively in our own communities.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
Solar power has been an energy source of growing importance in recent years, as technology has advanced and the cost of solar panels has declined sharply. As a result, many smaller sun-powered products have become available, from solar phone chargers to solar generators to outdoor solar lights.
Whether you're looking for ground lights or flood lights, illuminating your outdoor spaces with a wired system can be both an electrical challenge and an eyesore. Convenience, sleekness and sustainability are just a few reasons so many people are looking for the best outdoor solar lights.
In this article, we'll go over how solar lights work, show you some of the best solar lights available and help you decide whether solar-powered lighting is a good choice for your home.
6 Best Outdoor Solar Lights
The below table provides a quick summary of our recommendations for the best outdoor solar lights across six unique categories. We chose these products based on criteria including durability, ease of installation, ease of use, run time, cost and more.
|Best Outdoor Solar Lights||Our Award||Buy Now|
|Solpex Solar Ground Lights||Best Overall||Check Price|
|Brightech Ambience Pro||Best String Lights||Check Price|
|Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights||Best Path Lights||Check Price|
|AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights||Best Flood Light||Check Price|
|Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights||Best Fairy Lights||Check Price|
|Sunnest Stainless Steel Outdoor Solar Lights||Best Lights Under $20||Check Price|
To dig into the advantages and disadvantages of each of these models specifically, keep reading.
Best Overall: Solpex Solar Ground Lights
Solpex's outdoor in-ground solar lights provide bright illumination without getting in the way or even really being noticeable until they're turned on. The high-quality system is designed to be exceedingly easy to install, is extremely durable in material and operates with ease, turning on automatically and running from dusk to dawn. Solpex's bright LED bulbs are perfect for providing your yard with guiding light year-round.
- Easy to install
- Weather-resistant and durable
- Efficient and effective
- More expensive than some competitors' models
- In-ground lights need more maintenance to keep clean and clear
Why Buy: If you're looking for an in-ground solar garden light that will truly wow your guests when they turn on, the Solpex Solar Ground Lights could be your best pick.
Best String Lights: Brightech Ambience Pro
String lights can be the perfect mood-setter, and using the Brightech Ambience Pro solar powered string lights ensures that you brighten your space reliably and efficiently. With a thorough two-year warranty and extensive weatherproofing and shatterproofing, these lights will hold up through most weather conditions while still appearing delicate enough for any setting — romantic, celebratory, relaxed or otherwise.
- Long lifetime
- Flexibility in installation and design thanks to clip-on bulbs
- Decorative cozy feel
- May not provide enough light for safety or security applications
- Heavier than non-solar string lights
Why Buy: To fill your outdoor space with a warm ambiance, Brightech's solar-powered outdoor string lights are a great option. The Edison bulbs give off a vintage feel that your guests are sure to appreciate.
Best Path Lights: Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights
To dot a pathway, garden or outdoor patio, using solar outdoor lighting eliminates the need for fragile and cumbersome wiring, and the Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights are some of the best ones out there at an affordable price. These solar path lights take seconds to install — simply use the spike to insert them directly into the ground — and are built to last for years.
- Easy installation
- Great value for money
- Extensive battery life
- Stylish appearance
- Made of plastic, so not as durable as more robust materials
- Provide accent lighting rather than full illumination that may be needed for some pathways
Why Buy: The Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights are the best outdoor solar lights if you're looking for affordability and quick installation. They're ideal for accent lighting during the darker hours, and buying multiple packs can allow you to light up a wider area.
Best Flood Light: AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights
Floodlights are critical for outdoor security, but if the lights burn out or aren't illuminating enough, then they can't do their job. That's why solar floodlights, and specifically the AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights, get high marks from us. They provide a wide angle of light to illuminate an expansive area brightly, and they do so using motion sensors in durable, waterproof fixtures.
- Wide angle is great for security
- Built-in motion sensor requires no additional power
- Highly durable, weatherproof design
- Designed for function rather than decoration, so they may not fit into your outdoor style
- Doesn't provide constant light (only on a motion sensor basis) so may not work for steady light applications
Why Buy: Floodlights can be critical for outdoor safety, and the AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights accomplish that efficiently with solar energy and built-in motion detection. We recommend them as the best outdoor lights to illuminate your entire yard for safety.
Best Fairy Lights: Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights
Fairy lights provide the perfect touch of style and design to an outdoor area, and moving to solar lights eliminates the frustrating constraints of having to plug them in. We recommend the Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights because of their quick charging, flexible design and warm light that's perfect to decorate for holidays, barbecues, parties, weddings and more. They also have eight light modes that range from slow fades to steady twinkling.
- Easy to shape into different designs
- Multiple lighting modes and patterns for customizability
- Great price
- More delicate in construction
- May not hold up as well in heavy snow or flooding
Why Buy: Solar-powered fairy lights are the perfect decorative addition to a yard or patio, and the flexibility the Brightown Solar-Powered Fairy Lights offer in design and operation can't be beaten for the price.
Best Lights Under $20: Sunnest Stainless Steel Outdoor Solar Lights
The best solar-powered outdoor lights don't have to break the bank. Sunnest's stainless steel landscape lights come in a pack of 12 for under $20 yet still deliver great functionality, appearance and ease of use. They can be installed to illuminate pathways, gardens or other outdoor areas.
- Attractive in design with cool white lights
- Ready to install in seconds
- Cheaper price means less durable over the long term when up against the elements
- Provides accent levels of lighting rather than full illumination
Why Buy: If you want to dip your toes into the solar outdoor light area without investing a lot of money right away, the Sunnest Stainless Steel Outdoor Solar Lights are your best bet to enjoy that initial experience and get hooked into more solar light solutions.
How Do Outdoor Solar Lights Work?
When choosing the best outdoor solar lights for your yard, it may be helpful to understand how these solar panels work.
You may have seen traditional solar panel installations on the rooftops of homes around you, businesses at which you shop or even installed in large outdoor solar farms owned by utilities. What's particularly intriguing about solar lights is that the technology used is more or less the same as these large-scale panels that are powering entire buildings.
Regardless of the size of a solar panel, it contains solar cells, which are made up of unique semiconductor materials like silicon. When sunlight strikes the cell, some of that energy is absorbed by the material via electrons being knocked loose and being able to flow freely (otherwise known as electricity!).
While standard types of solar panels may contain 36 to 48 solar cells connected together, solar lights are smaller in size and require much less electricity to run (particularly when paired with energy-efficient LED lights). The typical solar light will therefore use just four solar cells, but that's really the only difference from a solar technology basis.
The rest of the solar light comprises a battery, controller board, photoresistor and the light itself. During the sunny daytime hours, the four-cell solar panel will charge up the battery, typically receiving more than enough juice to run for the entire night.
The photoresistor's job is then to detect when light is no longer hitting the solar panel, at which point two things will happen: 1) the battery will stop getting charged, and 2) the controller board will tell the light to turn on. In that way, the solar light is always either charging or illuminating.
When morning strikes and the sun hits the photoresistor once again, the controller board will send a message to turn off the light, and the battery will begin accepting its daytime charge.
Types of Outdoor Solar Lights
Outdoor solar lights are a broad category, filling lots of niche needs and popping up in new opportune areas as the technology continues to improve. Because of their low installation threshold, falling prices and efficiency, solar outdoor lighting solutions can be ideal for countless scenarios, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Ground lights
- Path lights
- Landscape lights
- Motion or security lights
- Fairy lights
- String lights
- Hanging lights
- Post lights
Homeowners deciding which style of outdoor solar light they want to install should consider all the same factors as they would with traditional lighting technologies: What areas do they need to be illuminated for safety? What fits into the aesthetic of the outdoor area? What security needs can lights fill?
The advantage is that homeowners wise enough to go the route of solar lights will have fewer headaches with installation, will have their lighting last for a longer period of time before it needs to be replaced and can easily change their minds on lighting locations because no wiring is needed.
How Much Do the Best Outdoor Solar Lights Cost?
You may be sold on the technology and ease of outdoor solar lights, but how much will it set you back to purchase the best option out there? As with any advancing technology, the answer to that question can vary significantly depending on the choices you make. The answers to these questions, for example, will all have a material impact on price:
- How bright (i.e., how many lumens) do you need the lights to be?
- How efficient do you want the lights to be?
- How durable do you need the lights to be?
- How top-of-the-line do you want the materials and decorative nature to be?
For the bulk of the outdoor solar light market, regardless of your answers, each light system will typically cost between $20 and $50. If you really want to go with a high-tech system (which could mean higher-capacity batteries, more intelligent functionality, intricate customizations and more), it could end up costing over $200.
The best approach is to analyze your specific needs and then purchase accordingly.
Choosing the Best Outdoor Solar Lights for Your Home
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, outdoor solar lighting works quite well in most areas of the U.S., as it doesn't require an excessive amount of sunlight to charge up and work. This means that even on cloudy days or during winter, you'll still be able to light your way. Solar light adopters aren't only helping the environment, but they're also saving money via reduced energy consumption.
If you're ready to make the switch, identifying the best solar lights for your specific home and need is no small task. When picking the best outdoor solar nights for your need, some characteristics you're going to have to make decisions on include:
- Design, style and aesthetics
- Size of fixture
- Ease of use and control after installation (remote-controlled, connected to in-home smart device, manually controlled, etc.)
- Durability to weather and general wear and tear
- Expected lifetime before replacements are needed
- Overall system cost
FAQ: Best Outdoor Solar Lights
What are the brightest outdoor solar lights?
If you want the brightest outdoor solar lights, you'll want to look at floodlights or spotlights. These often have a higher lumen count and can light spaces better than string or ground lights. Our pick for the best solar-powered floodlight is the AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Light.
What is the best outdoor solar lighting?
We named the Solpex Solar Ground Lights the best overall choice for outdoor solar lighting. These lights are easy to install, ultra-efficient and hold up well in the elements.
What should I look for in outdoor solar lights?
When choosing the best outdoor solar lights for your home, consider factors such as design, brightness, durability and cost.
Do outdoor solar lights really work?
Yes, outdoor solar lights work just as well as traditional outdoor lights. According to the DOE, solar-powered outdoor lights work well in most areas of the U.S. because they don't require much sunlight. This means that even if you live somewhere with more gray days than sunny ones, you can still harness the sun's power to light your outdoor space.
By Steve Williams
A new report indicates that more than half of wild primate species are facing extinction. With nearly three quarters of the world's primate population already under threat, is there anything we can do to save our primate cousins?
The study, which was conducted by a team of 31 leading scientists from across the globe, looked at the current data we have on the state of primates around the world and the challenges they face, utilizing data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) among other sources. While we have several smaller studies that give us a worrying insight into the decline of primates, this research aims to provide a broader snapshot—and the results aren't encouraging.
2 Orangutans Who Spent Their Lives in Cages Are Returned to Their Forest Home https://t.co/kevnJBquJ5 @orangutans @opfuk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1482807008.0
Of the total 504 primate species that we have on record it is estimated that 60 percent are under threat of extinction, while 75 percent have populations that are declining. What's more, the researchers believe that unless we take concerted action right now, several primate species may have as little as 25 years before extinction claims them.
To give an idea of how desperate the situation is, the Hainan gibbon, which is found in China, is now thought to have reached just 25 individuals. In fact, 22 out of the 26 primate species residing in China are now either critically endangered or under threat. The picture is similar in other areas like Indonesia and Madagascar, the latter of which is home to lemurs and shares some of the highest burden of primate population loss in the world.
Unfortunately, even when it comes to species who have received global attention and are being protected with conservation efforts, the picture is still worrying.
For example, figures show that the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan saw its habitat decline by nearly sixty percent during the period 1985 and 2007. One of the major contributors to this problem has been land clearing so that humans can use areas that were once the orangutan's home for farming.
While we have previously learned that orangutan populations have shown some surprising resilience to this threat, they cannot survive the onslaught for much longer. Though campaigners have urged tighter controls on things like palm oil and soy production, which together with livestock farming is leading to massive deforestation and thereby driving down habitable areas for the orangutan, action has been sadly lacking.
One thing the study does highlight that intersects with human political development is that civil unrest in the primates' home countries may be one driving force behind this rapid descent toward extinction. In countries where food scarcity has become a problem due to civil war and internal conflict, the scientists noted people may turn to hunting primates as a source of food and particularly as a source of rich protein.
Furthermore, in countries where poverty and a lack of job opportunities create systemic financial burdens, people may turn to hunting primates and sell them on the black market. Obviously both of these are terrible, but unless we tackle the root cause of these actions, namely extreme poverty and conflict, it's unlikely we can create meaningful change.
So can we do anything to stop this decline? The answer is yes and one way actually comes down to many of our buying choices. While global governments can help by utilizing international aid as well as peacemaking to ensure that nations are protecting their primates, we can use our spending power to avoid products that are going to contribute to deforestation and, as a result, species decline.
This Map Shows How Your Consumption Habits Impact Wildlife Thousands of Miles Away https://t.co/ni7ydIcCKN @foeeurope @globalactplan— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1484216114.0
Prof. Jo Setchell from Durham University, one of the researchers in this study, is quoted by the BBC as saying, "Simple examples are don't buy tropical timber, don't eat palm oil." In terms of broader actions, Setchell also points out, "we need to raise local, regional and global public awareness of the plight of the world's primates and what this means for ecosystem health, human culture and ultimately human survival."
Given that primates are our closest animal cousins, they can teach us so much about ourselves. They also provide a vital link to the animal kingdom that teaches us about other species, too. As primates are often a key species in biodiversity and are a good marker for wider habitat loss, their extinction would signal not just the loss of a profoundly important part of our heritage, but it would mean that the natural world as we know it will have changed fundamentally and not for the better.
If you would like more tips on how you can help save species like the orangutan, Care2 has a guide. We also have information on how to choose products that do not contribute to deforestation and primate loss.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
By Laura Bowen
Candles are a lovely way to add a beautiful, calm ambiance to your home—unless they're toxic and cancer-causing. Sound like an exaggeration? I promise it's not.
10 Toxic Chemicals @EPA Should Reconsider Now https://t.co/5VFHKLOdCj @ewg @Healthy_Child @sierraclub @greenpeaceusa @NRDC @EnvDefenseFund— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1469121826.0
Conventionally-made candles are packed with some of the worst chemicals available, to the point that some compare breathing the fumes of a paraffin candle to breathing the exhaust from a diesel engine.
This shouldn't be a surprise. Paraffin is the nasty by-product of gas and oil refineries. It comes out of the ground grayish and oozing, then gets bleached with chemical solvents and mixed with heavy fragrances to prepare it for use in pretty candles.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, burned paraffin candles emit many pollutants and carcinogens like benzene and toluene, each of which have been connected to cancer, asthma and birth defects.
On top of that, candle wicks can contain heavy metals like lead. However, according to the National Candle Association (NCA), the likelihood of purchasing a lead-wicked candle in the U.S. is very low. "Lead wicks have been officially banned in the United States since 2003, and before then they were primarily limited to inexpensive imported candles," the organization said.
When you burn a candle properly, according to the NCA, you should only get carbon dioxide and water vapor. You shouldn't have to settle for the indoor air pollution that a paraffin wax candle produces.
And, fortunately, there are numerous candle varieties out there that aren't full of chemicals. In fact, some candles (those made from pure beeswax in particular) actually purify the air by removing pollution and allergens through the emission of negative ions.
One hundred percent pure beeswax candles are also thought to provide relief of allergies, sinus problems and asthma. Intuitively, this makes sense; the cleaner the air, the healthier the people who are breathing it.
Here's what you should be looking for:
- Candles labeled as lead-free.
- Candles that are 100 percent beeswax with cotton wicks. No blends.
- Candles made from 100 percent vegetable-based waxes.
- Essential oil diffusers to dispense scents, rather than candles.
Here's what you should avoid:
- Candles made with paraffin wax in any form.
- Candles that produce black soot around the wick when burned.
- Candles that leave a mark like a pencil when you touch the wick to paper.
- Candles that have a metal core.
By Kevin Mathews
If you like to eat shellfish, you may want to start reconsidering your dietary choices in light of our changing environment. As NPR reports, researchers are linking climate change with an increase in potentially lethal neurotoxins found in shellfish.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a new study demonstrated that when oceans get warmer (a direct consequence of the rising atmospheric temperatures,) production of these neurotoxins, known as domoic acid, is boosted.
Can Eating Oysters Make You Sick? https://t.co/AnRzk57691 @Healthy_Child @naturallysavvy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481063414.0
To find the source of domoic acid, you have to go straight to the bottom of the food chain: algae. When shellfish like clams, mussels and crabs consume tainted algae, the poison doesn't affect them directly, but they carry the neurotoxins in their body, which subsequently have consequences in the people who eat them.
(Not all creatures are impacted equally, however. While clams may hold on to the toxins for as long as a year, mussels can cleanse themselves of the dangerous acids within a matter of weeks).
Humans who wind up consuming shellfish containing domoic acid can develop respiratory problems, experience memory loss and in some cases death. In acute cases, the victims generally suffer from stomach problems like diarrhea and vomiting.
Even animal lovers who don't include shellfish in their diets should be alarmed by this news. Other creatures like birds and seals that eat life with the toxins can suffer just like a human would. Last year, the Marine Mammal Center reported that 75 percent of its sea lion patients were the victims of domoic acid toxicity.
The good news is that health officials are able to test seafood samples to identify whether a toxin outbreak is present in the waters, but it's not practical to verify whether all mussels, clams and crabs can be tested on an individual basis. Besides, these tests can't help spare the sea lions and birds that will continue to unwittingly eat tainted shellfish.
In 2015, lofty ocean temperatures ushered in so much domoic acid that the Dungeness crab industry on the U.S.'s Pacific coast had to stop fishing because the crabs were too risky to eat. Scientists believe that that blockage is a sign of what's to come.
As Scientific American points out, the seafood industry is already putting this research to use by starting to track ocean temperatures to determine when shellfish are most susceptible to domoic acid. This knowledge could help companies to plan around impending economic hardship, not to mention prevent a public health crisis.
Sadly, domoic acid is just one consequence of rising ocean temperatures. Other devastating examples include:
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
By Michelle Schoffro Cook
MSG by any other name would still be just as harmful. When most people hear the name monosodium glutamate or MSG, they assume this chemical food additive is only found in Chinese food. While it is true that this chemical flavor tends to be used in many Chinese food restaurants, this brain and nervous system toxin masquerades under many different guises and is found in a huge number of common foods.
Monosodium glutamate has been linked to many serious health conditions, including: hormonal imbalances, weight gain, brain damage, obesity, headaches and more, you may be shocked to learn how prevalent it is. MSG is almost always found in processed, prepared and packaged foods. Even when there is no sign of it on the label, it is still frequently hidden in many prepared foods. That's because it goes by a wide variety of other names, including: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, plant protein extract, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, yeast extract, textured protein, autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed oat flour.
What's even more shocking than MSG's seemingly ubiquitous nature is how the additive affects the brain. There is a protective mechanism in the brain known as the blood-brain barrier. The brain depends on careful control of chemicals to operate smoothly. Even small fluctuations in the concentrations of chemicals can cause drastic disruptions in brain function. When a category of chemicals known as excitotoxins enter the brain, they literally excite brain cells until they die. Monosodium glutamate is added to foods as a taste enhancer, but it is a well-established excitotoxin.
Additionally, some parts of the brain such as the hypothalamus and the pineal are not protected by the blood-brain barrier, yet these parts of the brain control many hormones in the body as well as other bodily functions, including mood. When MSG enters the brain, not only does it kill brain cells, it wreaks havoc on brain functions.
Many people react within 48 hours of ingesting MSG, even in minute amounts, which can make it difficult to trace back to the food source that caused the reaction. The effects can include: headaches, hives, canker sores, runny nose, insomnia, seizures, mood swings, panic attacks, heart palpitations and other heart irregularities, nausea, numbness, asthma attacks and migraines. Many of my clients report experiencing restless leg syndrome after accidental ingestion of MSG.
Research by neurologist and author of the book Excitotoxins: the Taste that Kills, Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD, shows that MSG slowly enters the brain, bypasses the blood-brain barrier and reaches peak concentrations in the brain three hours after ingesting it. The high levels of MSG in the brain remain for 24 hours after the initial ingesting of the contaminated food.
According to Dr. Blaylock, MSG can be especially detrimental to people who have experienced some sort of brain injury or a genetic predisposition to brain disease.
Avoid prepared and packaged foods as much as possible. Avoid eating at fast food restaurants since they are notorious culprits when it comes to MSG usage. If food products, such as those made in-house at the bakery and deli departments in grocery stores, don't contain an ingredient list, you should assume it contains MSG. These types of food items frequently contain MSG. Avoiding as many of the MSG-containing culprits listed above can also help reduce your exposure.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
For health-minded folks, 2016 will probably go down as the year of acai bowls, mindfulness and yoga festivals. Kale and lemon water also had their moments in the spotlight, as did raw vegan recipes. With the year coming to a close, wellness experts are starting to predict what trends we can look forward to in 2017.
Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
1. Sober Parties
Last summer, booze-free dance parties really came into their own as a source of fun in the conscious community (pregnant ladies everywhere rejoiced too!). In 2017, experts are predicting that the trend will continue to grow.
Daybreaker is one of the companies pioneering this movement. With events in cities all over the world, Daybreakers has hosted sober raves, silent rooftop dance parties (in which everyone gets his or her own pair of headphones) and yoga happy hours.
Are You Ready to Party #Sober? https://t.co/ZPCl8aPHgW #soberdance https://t.co/BKgA67mEsV— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1448905163.0
The benefit of these kinds of events? No one imbibes and everyone has a great time. Most of these events are held in the morning hours, too, so you get a shot of positive energy right before heading into work.
Minimalism also saw a lot of buzz in 2016 and it's likely to continue into 2017. In particular, fashion minimalism may replace trends such as thrift store shopping. Instead of buying tons of vintage frocks and shoes, the new outlook toward fashion may simple be "less is more."
Consider the concept of a capsule wardrobe. This idea, pioneered by fashion bloggers and YouTubers, encourages participants to chose 33 wardrobe items per season. This includes pants, shoes, tops, tanks, jackets—literally everything you might need (minus underwear, pajamas and activewear). Because you're limited in inventory, you're forced to choose items that all go well together and suit your everyday needs. This process requires you to think more critically about any fashion choices you do buy, as you need to adhere to the mentality of "one comes in, one goes out." It's basically ultra-efficiency in fashion form.
3. Homemade Bread
What gluten-free eating was to 2016, healthy carbs will be to 2017. Homemade bread is making a big comeback, with health-conscious eaters turning to their own kitchens for healthy sources of starches and carbs.
Healthy whole grain and sourdough breads will be on the rise, as will artisan creations. And to those who haven't made bread at home before, don't worry—you don't actually need a breadmaker to make a fresh homemade loaf.
4. The Ketogenic Diet
While Paleo has enjoyed a hot minute in the spotlight, it will be the Ketogenic diet that consumes our minds next year. While Paleo favors a high-protein approach to eating, the Ketogenic diet is all about healthy fats and only moderate amounts of protein … which means eating a ton of meat is totally off-limits.
Rather, eating Keto involves consuming lots of olive oil, coconut oil, organ meats, free-range eggs, avocados, organic dairy and bone broth. It has demonstrable health benefits, including weight loss, better skin, slowed aging, more energy, blood sugar regulation and reduced risk of dementia.
5. Cooking With Teff
Teff flour is a African grain that is projected to be majorly en vogue next year. It's basically the next quinoa. According to Bob's Red Mill, teff flour is a "nutritional powerhouse" that contains high levels of iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. It can be made into cakes, breads, polenta and veggie burgers and is naturally gluten-free.
What Is Teff and How Do You Use This Ancient Grain? https://t.co/M9jt5poDHm @goodhealth @nytimeshealth— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1447376540.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
By Alicia Graef
Animal advocates are celebrating the successful rescue, rehabilitation and release of two critically endangered Bornean orangutans who had spent their lives in cages as pets.
The two orangutans, eight-year-old Johnny, and 10-year-old Desi, had spent their lives in confinement as pets before being rescued by a team from International Animal Rescue (IAR) in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The two have spent the last few years at IAR's Orangutan Conservation Centre in Ketapang where they went to "forest school" to learn all the skills they would need to survive in the wild, ranging from climbing and foraging to making their own nests.
"The rehabilitation process is a long one. It can take seven or eight years," said Karmele Llano Sanchez, IAR's program director in Indonesia. "Being kept as pets for several years can have a very adverse effect on the orangutans' mental and physical health."
Once they mastered those skills, they were moved to a pre-release island where they were monitored and assessed to see if they would be good candidates for release.
Finally, they began the long journey to the forests of West Kalimantan, Indonesia, where they were released.
While they're now free to do as they please, they will still be be closely monitored by a team from IAR to ensure they stay safe and healthy.
IAR believes both Johnny and Desi were saved just in time, but notes that not all those who are rescued will be so lucky. The organization has successfully released 11 orangutans at this site, but is still caring for more than 100 others at its rescue center. More concerning is that they expect the number to grow as orangutan habitat is destroyed by fires and cleared for palm oil, rubber or paper plantations, while still more will suffer from conflicts with us and the illegal wildlife trade.
Over the summer, concern over their declining numbers got Bornean orangutans moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered–just a step away from extinction–on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, while the outlook for Sumatran orangutans isn't much better.
"We can't imagine a bright future for orangutans if their habitat continues to be lost at this rapid rate. They are threatened by the clearing of forests, fires, and also the threat of being caught and sold as pets like Johnny and Desi," added Karmele. "They will only survive when people start to take the problem seriously, although I fear it could be too late by then."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
By Sommer Poquette
Many conventional laundry soaps and dryer sheets contain questionable ingredients. For example, many conventional detergents might contain, 1,4-dioxane, quaternium-15, phosphates and synthetic fragrances.
If you do your research, you will find that many of these are known carcinogens and/or irritants to the skin. These chemicals are added to detergents to make them smell better, work better in hard water and prevent dirt from settling back on clothes during the wash cycle, among many other reasons. Are they necessary? This depends on whom you ask, but the good news is this: You can clean your clothing, avoid static cling and have nice-smelling clothes—all without the chemicals.
The bonus is that you will save money, too! It's super cheap to make your own laundry detergent and laundry softener. It's estimated that making your own laundry detergent costs $.02 per, load while using name-brand detergents can cost as much as $.21 per load. If you do a lot of laundry, that's a lot of money saved!
There are hundreds of DIY laundry soap and fabric softener recipes online, but the best thing to do is to experiment with the variety and find what works for you—whether it's liquid or powder, scent or scent-free. Here are two of my favorite recipes for making my own laundry soap and fabric softeners. Neither take much time to prepare and both work well.
DIY Laundry Soap & Softener Recipes
DIY Laundry Soap
- 1 cup liquid Dr. Bronner's Soap
- 1 cup Super Washing Soda
- 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil
- Gallon-size container that closes to avoid leaks—plastic or glass
- 2-3 cups hot water
Add your liquid Dr. Bronner's Soap, Super Washing Soda and hot water to the container, then drop in the essential oil. Close the container and shake it well. The washing soda takes a while to dissolve. If you find that it is not dissolving, you can empty the mixture into a saucepan, heat it and stir until everything dissolves, then pour it back into your container. I just shake, shake and shake! The hotter the water, the better the washing soda dissolves. Watch the how-to video here.
DIY Fabric Softener
- 2 cups of white vinegar
- 20 drops of your favorite essential oil
- 1 tablespoon of witch hazel or rubbing alcohol for emulsion
- Quart-size container that closes to avoid leaks—plastic or glass
- 6-8 sponges or washcloths cut in half
Add your vinegar, essential oils and witch hazel to your container of choice. Add your cut sponges or washcloths to the liquid in the container and shake. The sponges or washcloths will absorb the liquid. Add one sponge or washcloth to your dryer to prevent static cling and give your clothing a fresh, clean scent of your choice. Watch the how-to video here.
Benefits to Making Your Own Laundry Detergent
The best part about making your own laundry soap and fabric softener, besides the cost savings, is that you control the ingredients. If you have someone in your family with sensitive skin, they'll appreciate you limiting the chemicals used to clean their clothing. Using natural ingredients can be just as effective as brand-name cleaners and you won't have to worry about the chemical irritants.
By Maggie McCracken
Cooking with ancient flours and grains is appealing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their heritage health factor. Flours that ancient people have been using for thousands of years often come with a number of health benefits that give us a little something extra from standard modern wheat flour.
Teff flour, a gluten-free ancient grain native to Ethiopia and the surrounding region, is no exception, and people are really catching on. In fact, Epicurious named teff flour one of the upcoming food trends that will be big in 2017. If you're interested in cooking with this delicious, hearty grain, here are some of the health benefits you may want to know about.
It's Gluten-Free and Easy to Digest
Teff flour is a gluten-free flour, which makes it a great option for people with Celiac disease and other gluten sensitivities. Even if you tolerate gluten relatively well, though, you may find that teff is easier on your digestive system. Gluten-containing foods, while perfectly fine for those without sensitivities, create a low-level state of inflammation when eaten due to their difficulty being processed by the body.
"Although some may think only people diagnosed with celiac disease can be affected, the truth is that most people, regardless of whether or not they are diagnosed with celiac disease, are sensitive or downright intolerant to gluten," states the Global Healing Center. "Certain skin conditions, digestive complaints, and mood disturbances are all subtle ways your body is telling you that something in your diet is not right."
It's Packed With Calcium, Helping to Reduce PMS Symptoms
Calcium is an important nutrient for bone health, but did you also know that it can help relieve PMS symptoms? A number of studies have suggested that women who supplement with calcium have lower incidences of severe PMS symptoms than those who do not.
It's Full of Fiber
Did you know that teff flour contains five times as much fiber as wheat flour?
"One ounce of teff flour contains about five grams of fiber, compared to all-purpose wheat flour which only contains 1 gram," explains the Global Healing Center.
Fiber is beneficial for good health, as it moves through the digestive tract and helps clear out accumulated waste, food and toxins. It promotes digestive regularity as well as nutrient absorption, making it vital component of a healthy diet.
It Can Help You Lose Weight
Speaking of fiber, did you know that fiber is one of the most important building blocks of any weight loss program? While low-fat diets help people lose weight with lots of fiber from whole grains, low-carb diets also include plenty of fiber in the form of vegetables. No matter which camp you fall into, you can't deny that fiber is a crucial part of weight loss.
In fact, a research paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that making only one dietary change—increasing the amount of fiber in your diet—can result in effective weight loss.
Teff flour's high fiber content can be a great way to boost your efforts if you're interested in losing weight. The combination of the grain's fiber content, gluten-free nature and plentiful calcium make it an all-around great choice for vibrant health.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
The Vancouver Aquarium is back in the spotlight this week, following the death of another beluga who died shortly after losing her calf.
Sally Anderson / Flickr
Just over a week ago, a 21-year-old beluga named Qila died of causes that are still unknown. Shortly after, her 29-year-old mother Aurora started showing the same symptoms Qila exhibited and was reported to have suffered from abdominal cramping, a loss of appetite and lethargy.
Sadly, despite receiving round-the-clock care from veterinarians and staff, she also passed away. According to the aquarium, the cause of their deaths is still being investigated, but it's suspected that they were caused by a virus or toxin.
Qila was Aurora's first born. Tuvaq, her second, who was a male, was born in 2002 and died in 2005. Nala, her third, was born in 2009, but died just a year later.
Qila herself also gave birth to one calf, Tiqa, in 2008, but just three years later she was also dead.
The ongoing mistreatment of belugas and continued attempts to breed them landed the Vancouver Aquarium on In Defense of Animals' (IDA) first annual list of the 10 Worst Tanks for Dolphins and Whales in North America over the summer.
While the Vancouver Aquarium owns five other belugas who are on loan to marine parks in the U.S., there are now no belugas at the aquarium and organizations including IDA and the Vancouver Humane Society, and the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are calling on the aquarium to shut down its cetacean exhibits forever.
"Aurora and Qilas' horrific deaths should be a wake-up call for Vancouver," said IDA's cetacean scientist, Dr. Toni Frohoff. "Even the most modern technology, veterinary care and infrastructure could not help Aurora, Qila or the many other belugas who have suffered and died in captivity. It's time to stop exploiting these intelligent and sensitive animals and close Vancouver's dying pools for good."
Following Qila's death, the head of Vancouver's park board announced she was going to formally propose bringing the issue of captive cetaceans to voters during the next civic election in 2018. Animal advocates are hopeful that move could potentially stop an expansion of the aquarium's current beluga exhibit, which is expected to start early next year and will ultimately keep belugas out permanently.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
By Jordyn Cormier
If you suffer from chronic pain or health issues, you've probably considered (or been told to consider) acupuncture. But, if you can't fathom how a little, painless "needle" is going to fix your migraines or help with your hormonal imbalance, you're not alone. Acupuncture is a highly misunderstood practice, especially in Western medicine.
Acupuncture is a highly misunderstood practice, especially in Western medicine.Shutterstock
Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years. In a session, the "needle" is used to stimulate specific, powerful sites (acupoints) along meridian lines, which is though to promote healing throughout the body's various systems. Acupuncture has been successfully used to treat pain, PTSD, arthritis, chronic stress, addiction, insomnia, migraines, digestive disorders and much more. But there is no steadfast answer as to how or why acupuncture works. Here are four of the most common hypotheses for how acupuncture helps to restore balance to the body:
1. Unblock Energy Flow
In Eastern medicine, acupuncture is said to release energy blockages in the body. Energy or qi, flows through specific meridian lines in the body. By releasing areas of congestion and stagnation through acupuncture, qi is allowed to flow unfettered and promote health and balance. If your energy life-force is healthy, the physical body follows. Unfortunately, this explanation isn't widely accepted in Western medicine
2. Placebo Effect
Many doctors in Western medicine believe that the bulk of the benefits seen with acupuncture are heavily rooted in the mind-bending placebo effect. Whether this is true or not, the mind is a powerful source of healing energy. If acupuncture can unlock that energy successfully, why complain? Utilize it as a healing tool. Placebos should not be dismissed so quickly.
3. Stimulate the Body's Healing Powers
Some believe that stimulating nerves with the fine needle activates the body's internal healing mechanisms. In turn, the brain sends signals to that area in order to restore balance, when it may not have been actively addressing that area before. The action of inserting "needles" gently into the skin may increase hormone production and chemical signaling by drawing attention to important, neglected areas of our vast bodies, and alerting the brain that it is time to "clean house." It also helps that many people find acupuncture very relaxing and soothing for chronic stress, which also signals to the brain that it has the time and space to restore and repair the body.
4. Fascial Release
Perhaps the most recent theory as to how acupuncture works addresses the fascia. Fascia has been getting a lot of attention lately as it is becoming more recognized for its responsibilities in proper body function. Fascia is essentially an extensive compression sock that keeps your whole body contained. The issue is, with imbalance and inactivity, areas of fascia can become stiff, thick and unhealthy, leading to pain, inflammation and mis-signaling in the body.
According to a study conducted at University of Burlington, more than 80 percent of acupuncture points lie where connective tissue planes converge. With this in mind, it is possible that acupuncture could release stagnant, essential points in the fascia, so as to enable chemical messages to pass through more easily. This could explain why a "needle" in your ankle could help you with pain in your lower back.
If you're skeptical of acupuncture because no one is certain how or why it works, consider this: Western medicine still doesn't know exactly how the certain pills/drugs works either, yet millions take them every day. If you ask me, acupuncture is a lot less risky.
Of course, neither acupuncture or acupressure will miraculously heal all that ails you. Without a balanced and healthy lifestyle, acupuncture can only help you so much. Work to keep a clean diet, be mindful of stress levels, exercise regularly and be kind to yourself. Acupuncture is just another powerful modality of healing to assist you on life's journey.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.