Epsom Salt #bebetter52

Epsom Salt #BeBetter52

You may have experienced the calming effects of pouring a cup of Epsom salts into a warm bath. The salt makes you feel slightly more buoyant, relaxed, and rejuvenated, but what exactly is Epsom salt? Its scientific name is magnesium sulfate, an inorganic salt containing magnesium, sulfate, and oxygen.  In the human body, magnesium is responsible for protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.  Because it's responsible for so much, magnesium deficiency is often called the "Invisible Deficiency."

Although little scientific research has been done on Epsom salt, most  doctors and therapists agree that a dash of Epsom salt in warm water relieves sore muscles, lessens joint pain, and heals burned skin. It’s great to soak tired feet in after a long day. Try adding an essential oil such as lavender for a spa-like atmosphere.

Our #bebetter52 challenge this week is to use Epsom salt. The most obvious use of Epsom salts is to put them in a bath. Make sure the water is warm, not hot, and pour the recommended amount of Epsom salt into the running water. Check out our Epsom Salt Bath recipe below.

If you're feeling a little more adventurous, try using Epsom salt as an exfoliant, to remove scum from dirty dishes, or to fertilize your plants. There are a plethora of uses for this mighty magnesium compound, and we want to hear about how you used Epsom salt this week! Post a pic of how you added Epsom salt in your life with the #bebetter52.

Recipe:

Bath: Add at least one cup of Epsom salt to a warm bath and soak for at least 20 minutes. For aches and pains, add at least two cups. (If you have time, soak for 30 to 45 minutes). You'll be amazed at how relaxing it is as all your aches and pains are soothed. Have a good book on hand to read while you soak! Combine with lavender essential oil or flowers for extra relaxation.

Foot soak: for a concentrated magnesium boost, add one cup of Epsom salt to hot water, and soak for 20 minutes.

Oil: Make a homemade magnesium oil when you don't have time for a soak.

Combine a half cup of Epsom salts with a half cup of boiled, distilled water and stir until dissolved. Put into a spray bottle and spray onto arms, legs, and stomach daily (10 to 30 sprays). It may tingle the first few times, and this is normal. If it doesn't go away or is uncomfortable, dilute with more water. This can be left on the skin or washed off in the shower after 20 to 30 minutes. Moisturize about five minutes after application if leaving on.

Other uses:

Splinter removal: soak in concentrated Epsom salt water before pulling out a splinter.

- Magnesium foot or face scrub: mix with coconut or olive oil for smooth skin.

In the garden: add a tablespoon of Epsom salt to the soil below a tomato plant to boost growth.

Tile or grout cleaner: mix equal parts dish soap and Epsom salts. Rinse well for streak-free shine.

- Homemade sea salt spray will add texture and volume to hair.

Voluminizing hair mask: combine equal parts conditioner and Epsom salt and leave on hair for 20 minutes. Rinse well and let air dry for thicker hair.

- Get rid of slugs.

Laxative for occasional constipation: take one teaspoon of Epsom salt dissolved in water (check with doctor first).

Sunburn relief: dissolve one tablespoon of Epsom salt into warm water and let it cool, then spray on burn for relief.

Rose growth: a tablespoon a week around the soil of your rose bushes can help boost growth.

 

Cinnamon #bebetter52

Cinnamon #bebetter52

Cinnamon #bebetter52

The answer to your health woes might just be in your spice drawer.  This week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to add a dash of cinnamon to your diet.  

In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, cinnamon was proven to lower fasting blood glucose levels by up to 5%.  That’s equivalent to most older generation diabetes drugs.  The delicious spice has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels by 18%.  

Cinnamon also protects the body from free radicals and inflammation.  Sun, pollution, and stress can all wreak havoc on the human body.  Due to the potent antioxidants present in cinnamon, adding just a half-teaspoon a day to your diet can increase immunity.  Cinnamon, a known anti-inflammatory, can improve digestive health and swelling as well.  

This multi-talented spice can be added to your morning cereal, in a glass of milk, or on nut- butter toast.  You can also try it as a rub in savory dishes such as lamb or with quinoa for an added depth of flavor.  Got a hot date later?  Gargle some cinnamon water to refresh your palette and ward off bacteria.  

As with all spices, the flavor and benefits drop if the spice is old. Check the “best if used by” date, discard if past its prime, and buy a high quality cinnamon from your favorite health food store.Snap a pic of the creative way you use cinnamon this week with the hashtag #bebetter52.  

Floss Your Teeth #bebetter52

Floss Your Teeth #bebetter52

Who can forget the scene in Pretty Woman when Edward suspects Vivian is doing drugs in his bathroom, but discovers, to his chagrin, she is hiding something far less sinister behind her back?

    “Dental floss.”

 “Yeah? So? I had all those strawberry seeds. And you shouldn't neglect your gums.”

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge: Floss!  We all know we should do it, but we often fail to complete this quick task.  In fact, twenty percent of Americans never floss.  Even among those who claim to floss, twenty-seven percent are lying.  We recommend you pick up the ol’ thread and aim to floss once a day this week.

Flossing keeps your teeth and gums in tip-top shape.  In a study with twins, flossing significantly decreased the abundance of microbial species associated with periodontal disease.  As part of a regular dental routine, flossing can improve bad breath, reduce dental care costs down the road, and even prevent more serious disease.  Bacteria that flourish in an unhealthy mouth can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory illness.  Incorporating flossing into your morning routine is a quick way to prevent disease and increase longevity.  In a study conducted by the Ameican Dental Association, people would rather clean the toilet, do their taxes, and listen to a child crying on a plane than floss.  It’s bad, but it’s not that bad!  Considering the multitude of health benefits, we think altering one’s mindset about flossing is all that’s required to start a clean mouth revolution.  Snap a pic of your gorgeous smile with the #cleanmouthrevolution to launch America’s new obsession: flossing.

Honey #bebetter52

Honey #bebetter52

This week’s challenge is to incorporate honey into your life.  Although most of us know what honey is, few know just how many uses it has.  

Honey is a simple sugar that contains antioxidants, catalase, ascorbic acid, flavonoids and alkaloids.  These helpful free-radical fighters have been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Not all honey is created equal.  Raw honey preserves micronutrients and enzymes.  Studies on friendly bacteria, blood sugar, weight management, and cholesterol have shown the positive side effects of eating raw honey.  

Believe it or not the artificial honey market is growing.  Americans consume 400 million pounds of honey each year but only 149 million pounds are produced in the states.  Enter cheap imports. Due to the rapidly declining bee population and the high cost of honey, manufacturers dilute this delicious substance with various form of artificial sweeteners.  Pollen is removed because it is the only marker that can determine where the honey is sourced.  Without pollen, manufacturers can add as many artificial sources as they choose.   In 2014 researchers at Texas A& M University tested commercial honeys and concluded that 75 percent of the pollen had been removed.  

But there is hope!  The FDA recently drafted guidelines that state, “Only manufacturers that do not add sugar, corn syrup or other sweeteners should label their products as pure “honey.”  It is also important that we as consumers read labels and know exactly what we’re buying.  Don’t have access to the label?  Rub the honey between your fingers.  If it’s sticky, it’s probably fake.  

So what can we do to help?  Olivia Box, beekeeper and honey bee researcher suggests, "The absolute best thing you can do is buy local honey. Whether it is from your farmers market or a friend, supporting local beekeepers is key to making sure we can push artifical honey off the market.  Be sure to check your labels for where it is from and what is in the honey!"  

Besides adding sweetness to our food and free-radical fighters to our bodies, honey has many other beneficial uses. Do you have trouble falling asleep? Allergies acting up? Does your memory need a boost? Add pure honey to your diet and see why It’s the bee’s knees!So grab a jar of the sweet stuff (preferably raw, organic, fair trade) and have at it!  

(Warning: The Mayo Clinic does not recommend giving honey to babies under the age of one due to their immature digesive system.)

Coconut Oil #bebetter52

Photo Courtesy of Maddy Fredrick
Photo Courtesy of Maddy Fredrick

Coconut Oil #bebetter52

Call it the fountain of youth, a beauty balm, or a miracle fix-it, coconut oil has made its mark.  

This week’s challenge: Try some coconut oil. Whether you add it to your favorite Thai dish, apply it as a face mask, or apply it just because it smells so good, try it out and let us know what you think. For coconut oil aficionados our challenge to you is to discover a new way of using your favorite cure-all.

Among its more well-known properties, coconut oil effectively locks in moisture and relieves irritation, making it a perfect substitute for a body cream, lip balm, aftershave, or hair mask.  The lauric and capric acid in coconut oil has also been shown to fight inflammation, so slather on bruises or small cuts to naturally ward off bacteria.  

Health-wise the jury is still out on the benefits of cooking with coconut oil.  Some claim the high saturated fat content (90% compared to butter at 64%) can increase the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease, while others believe coconut oil increases “good” HDL cholesterol.  Others have stated that coconut oil is the key to weight loss and an increased metabolism as well.  Walter C. Willett, M.D. of the Harvard School of Public Health recommends it be used sparingly, stating, “Coconut is a wonderful flavor…but it’s still probably not the best choice among the many available oils to reduce the risk of heart disease.”  To play it safe, apply this luscious oil on cuticles, hair, and skin, but proceed with caution when cooking.

However, not all coconut oil products are created equal.  There’s refined vs. virgin, organic vs. commercially grown and some is classified Fair Trade while others are not.  We at Be Better prefer virgin because it is unfiltered and does not include any additives which can irritate the skin.  Certified organic products do not use pesticides although some coconut oils without the USDA organic label may be organic as well.  Fair trade coconut oil will ensure that those who produce the product receive a fair wage for their work.  Of course, budget can dictate which coconut oil you choose, but due to popular demand, coconut oil is much less expensive than in the past.