The Mind-Body SHIFT

Nourishing the Body, Feeding the Mind, Nurturing the Soul

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Follow These Five Tips For Healthier Travel This Holiday Season



This a guest post by Biocodex’s probiotic specialist Karen Katsirubas, RN, with supplementary info provided by Renée Canada

Travel takes a toll on our bodies, it’s a challenge to stay healthy during the holiday season.  Your immune system–the body’s natural defense–can get stressed when faced with multiple threats. Fortunately, there are precautions that can be taken before the 4th of July to help keep your immune system robust. Follow these five tips for healthier travel this holiday season.

Fuel Your Body With Healthy Food

Fuel Your Body With Healthy FoodSupporting a healthy immune system requires eating well – which means you have to eat the right foods, even when you’re on the road. The challenge is choosing healthy foods, especially when faced with questionable airline offerings and tasty party temptations like pies and cookies.

Try carrying dried fruits and nuts. Dried fruits are nutrient-concentrated, meaning they are compact, rich sources of antioxidants and dietary fiber. Nuts are high in  omega-3 fatty acids and protein, which can be a great source of energy. They’re travel-friendly, so keeping some with you can keep you from snacking on less healthy foods.

If you have a small cooler or insulated bag with a portable ice pack, consider bringing boiled eggs and sliced veggies, like carrots, to snack on. Eggs are packed with protein and approximately 60 percent of its calories come from good, unsaturated fats. Carrots are chock-full of antioxidants and can help fight infection; the fiber in these vegetables can also flush toxins from the liver and clean out the colon.

Boost Immunity With Healthy Gut Bacteria

Heal Your Gut Flora With Fermented FoodsAs 70 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system, maintaining a healthy gut is vital to immunity. Take a daily probiotic to support a healthy gut, such as Florastor by Biocodex. Be mindful that the probiotic brand you take is travel-friendly and does not require refrigeration, as that can be a challenge when on the road.

Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kombucha and full-fat plain yogurt also are great, whole food sources of probiotics. Probiotics promote healthy gut bacteria, better equipping the body to fight illness.

Rev Up Your Immune System With Exercise

Exercise is particularly effective at keeping your immune system strong. According to Medline Plus, exercise may aid in flushing bacteria from the lungs and airways, cause antibodies and white blood cells (immune cells that fight disease) to circulate more rapidly in the body and prevent bacteria from growing in the first place by elevating blood temperature. As you become active, your body also floods with endorphins, helping to relieve stress.

Stay active and keep well hydrated while on the road. Moderate movement, like biking or walking, is easy to do when traveling. It not only boosts your immune system; a long walk also gives you a great way to become familiar with new places.

Fight Germs By Frequently Washing Hands

Antibacterial Hand Soap

Whether you realize it or not, you are constantly fighting a personal battle with infectious germs. Washing your hands is the easiest way to keep yourself healthy.  Scrub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds and make sure to get in between your fingers and under your nails. This prevents the build-up of germs, lessening the chance of transferring them from your hands to your eyes or mouth.

Skip Germs By Going Digital

Src: Phone Soap

Src: Phone Soap

You’d be surprised how easily germs can build up on public surfaces, such as kiosks. Use your own digital devices for online check-ins and mobile ticketing. Swipe your own card so that strangers aren’t handling it.

Wipe down your digital tools frequently with a lint-free microfiber cloth and rubbing alcohol (use distilled water on screens and lenses). Also consider carrying and using your own combination pen/stylus to lessen the direct contact of hands spreading germs to your devices.

Give your immune system the best support that you can to feel great while you’re on the go this 4th of July weekend!

Manager of Pharmaceutical Affairs at Biocodex USA

Karen Katsirubas is a health expert, registered nurse and probiotic specialist serving as the Manager of Pharmaceutical Affairs at Biocodex USA, the manufacturer of Florastor, the #1 probiotic worldwide.

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Top Chef Hugh Acheson Talks Healthy Cooking and Getting Creative With Greens for Good

How To Cook With CSA Vegetables

One of America’s top chefs Hugh Acheson is committed to helping people make the most out of fresh produce plentifully available in their communities, from local farmers, regional farmers markets and Community Support Agriculture (CSA) programs. We recently spoke with Acheson about healthy cooking, his new recipe book on seasonal fruits and vegetables, and his efforts to get Americans excited about leafy greens with The Greens For Good salad contest sponsored by Newman’s Own Foundation.

How To Cook With CSA Vegetables

In his new book, The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits, Acheson offers approachable and tasty solutions for those wondering how to healthfully broaden their palate with produce. The book answers questions people have about CSAs, about vegetables and fruits that appear in their markets and how to use them in delicious dishes.

The Bravo Channel’s Top Chef Masters judge said the book really began with the question: What the heck do I do with kohlrabi? As the resident chef in his neighborhood, people seeking culinary advice kept asking him about this vegetable. “It got to be easier to answer them in book form, rather than reiterating over and over again,” he said in a recent interview. “So, kohlrabi is this crazy looking vegetable that people just have no idea what to do with, so they typically make a slaw of some sort. But you can dice it, puree it, roast it, shave it or steam it. So there’s a ton of different options you can do with it.”

The chef/partner of Five & Ten, The National, Cinco y Diez, Empire State South, and The Florence said the book is really not about the food he makes in restaurants. Rather, Acheson said The Broad Fork’s focus is more on the food he makes for dinner when he’s home with his kids Beatrice and Clementine.

“We need to remember that food is not an inconvenient thing. Food should be really fun and easy to make. The best time you’ll ever have in your life is making things in your kitchen with your kids,” he said.

To make vegetables and fruits more of the centerpiece of any meal, Acheson suggests reducing the amount of protein on the plate. “I think before if you were talking about half a chicken per person, I think now you’re talking about a chicken thigh,” he said. “The rest of that chicken is replaced with three different vegetables, in addition to what would have been there. So I want a veritable cornucopia of choice on the plate. I want really bright, simple applications of vegetables that are really, really well done.”

Getting Creative With The Greens For Good Salad Contest

One of the ways he is encouraging folks across the nation to get creative with their healthy food choices is inviting them to participate in The Greens for Good Contest, sponsored by Newman’s Own Foundation. “It is asking America to really present their most amazing salad recipes with a Newman’s Own dressing, and enter it in the contest,” he said.

The contest runs from now until August 21, and the winner of the grand prize will be announced in late October. Salad lovers in America can submit their favorite recipes by visiting and click on the “Greens for Good” tab. The top ten finalists will be posted online for public voting to help determine the Grand Prize winner. The winning salad creator will receive $35,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. Nine other finalists will receive $1,000 for donation to their own favorite charity.

“It’s a pretty amazing thing,” Acheson said. “And it’s just another example of a great company like Newman’s Own–and the great legacy of Paul Newman–giving a ton of money to charities that are making good in a lot of communities.

The James Beard Best Chef Southeast of 2012 will be supporting his charity Seed Life Skills this year, an initiative down in his home state of Georgia. The charity is modernizing the classic home economics curriculum into a contemporary version of life skills. In addition to teaching DIY skills and consumer finance skills, students learn how to poach an egg, roast a chicken and make a simple soup and a salad.

“To me, a salad is a seasonal representation of what’s out there and it should be just an amazingly achievable thing for everybody to do,” said Acheson. “We’ve pushed the envelope of what it is a salad really means now more than ever.”

When discussing the key attributes of a great salad, the chef said, “I’m looking for seasonal balance. I’m looking for beautiful richness and fun. And I’m looking for a salad that even an 8-year-old can’t stop eating. And you can do it. You just need to find the right things. It’s hard to get 8-year-olds to stop eating corn, so that’s a good thing.”

Flavorful and Healthy Vegetable And Fruit Recipes For All

Asparagus RecipesTo make vegetables and fruits more of the centerpiece of any meal, Acheson suggests reducing the amount of protein on the plate. “I think before if you were talking about half a chicken per person, I think now you’re talking about a chicken thigh,” he said. “The rest of that chicken is replaced with three different vegetables, in addition to what would have been there. So I want a veritable cornucopia of choice on the plate. I want really bright, simple applications of vegetables that are really, really well done.”

In The Broad Fork, readers can cross-reference the list of diverse vegetables included in their CSA box with a plethora of the chef’s recipes. His delectable dishes include sweet potato gratin; roasted pork tenderloin with bok choy, curried tomatoes and avocado; grilled okra; and raspberry cobbler with drop biscuit toppings. The recipes are divided up seasonally; summer produce includes basil, berries, cucumbers, leeks and tomatoes.

“Sometimes you just need that little gateway to really pull the blinders off how you’re cooking,” he said. And you need a little inching and pushing toward something greater to make a great salad. So that’s what we’re trying to do, and I think that’s what the Greens for Good campaign is all about as well.”

Acheson believes that Americans today are eating healthier than ever and are more active than ever. “I think it’s just time for us to really eat food that makes us feel great—not just about ourselves, but about communities, farmers and everything involved,” he said. “The more respectful we are of food, the better. And the more you understand the seasons, the more you understand food. Understanding seasons is getting out there and seeing what’s in your locality.”

He suggests the best way to invest in your community is to find the local farms and supporting businesses in your area  to which you wish to contribute. “There are a lot of farmers in my community—and I know there’s a lot of famers in your community—who need our help,” he said. “Bridging that gap of finding those people to purchase stuff from warms my heart and makes me think I’ve done a good thing, and I’ve sought out the best stuff in my community, and I’ve learned a name and made a relationship with someone that I want for a long time.”

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Recent Studies Reveal How Yoga Helps Us Heal From Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain and MeditationLiving with chronic pain for virtually my entire adult life, I have tried almost everything I can think of to help manage it. My initial attempts to stoically tough it out and just push ahead resulted in months of near sleepless nights, constant pain, exhaustion and misery. Eventually, I began to tackle pain from both the Western medicine approach of pharmaceuticals, shots and surgery to the holistic and complementary medicine alternatives of acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopathy and massage. The more proactive I became—drastically changing my diet, reducing stress and listening to my body’s needs—the better I was able to manage the pain. When I finally fully embraced yoga and mindfulness meditation, I saw the greatest improvements in my health. New research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Texas helps to explain how yoga helps us heal from chronic pain, both physically and mentally.

What’s the Matter With the Brain in Chronic Pain?

Yoga practitioners were found in NIH studies to have more grey matter in the cerebral cortex and subcortical areas of the brain than people with chronic pain. Grey matter is a type of tissue of the central nervous system that processes information in the brain, such as stimuli from sensory organs. The cerebral cortex plays a major role in perception, memory and attention.

“Imaging studies in multiple types of chronic pain patients show their brains differ from healthy control subjects,” M. Catherine Bushnell, PhD, scientific director of the Division of Intramural Research for the NIH, said at a recent meeting of the American Pain Society, according to Business Standard. “Our research shows that grey matter loss is directly related to the pain when we take depression into account.”

Centralization of PainWhen a peripheral injury doesn’t completely heal, chronic pain can cause structural, functional and chemical changes in the brain, altering how it processes and modulate pain signals. The brain begins to generate abnormal levels of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters–chemicals that relay signals between nerve cells, communicating information through the brain and body. Due to abnormal function in brain circuitry, many people with chronic pain have problems with autonomic responses and cognition, causing memory impairment and emotional issues. It is not uncommon for people with chronic pain to experience associated anxiety and depression.

Bushnell said there is convincing evidence from numerous studies that mind-body techniques, such as yoga and meditation, can counteract the brain anatomy affects of chronic pain.

Yoga Helps Reverse Effects of Chronic Pain In the Brain

“Practicing yoga has the opposite effect on the brain as does chronic pain,” she said. “Some grey matter increases in yogis correspond to duration of yoga practice, which suggests there is a causative link between yoga and grey matter increases.”

A Harvard University-affiliated study Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH found that just a half hour of mindfulness meditation every day for eight weeks was enough to “stimulate a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus,” wrote MGH researcher Sue McGreevey.

“The encouraging news for people with chronic pain is mind-body practices seem to exert a protective effect on brain grey matter that counteracts the neuroanatomical effects of chronic pain,” Bushnell said.

Yoga is also believed to trigger endorphins, which act as a painkiller and reduce the perception of pain. Yoga also improves overall health by reducing chronic inflammation and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to rebalance the body from the constant fight-or-flight response of chronic pain.

Src: Medical News Daily

Src: Medical News Daily

It is estimated that almost a third of the adult population in America, or 100 million people, suffer from chronic pain, according to a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine. Chronic pain is medically defined as any pain in the body that lasts more than three months. When we suffer a peripheral injury, pain signals travel like electricity from the site of the injury to the spinal cord, triggering electrical or chemical signals to other cells, which are then relayed to the brain. When acute pain becomes chronic, nerve cells continue sending pain signals to the brain even in the absence of a persisting peripheral injury.

“Acute pain is important; it alerts the brain that there is danger. But for chronic pain, there is no separate system. It continually alerts the brain that there is something wrong, and yet it doesn’t stop. There is no way to calm it down,” physician turned mindfulness meditation teacher Christiane Wolf, M.D., Ph.D. told HuffPost Healthy Living.

A focal injury may lead to systemic pain that is increasingly complicated to manage and treat. The mechanism by which this occurs is unknown but researchers believe chronic pain changes how the multiple pain signals in the brain are activated.

Earlier this year, researchers at University of Berne in Switzerland also identified a brain mechanism that may be responsible for chronic pain. Scientists discovered that neurons in a region of the brain called gyrus cinguli change with chronic pain. Negatively stimuli constantly activate these excitable neurons, creating a type of “pain memory” that is difficult to stop.

More recent research by the University of Texas at Dallas found that the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical produced by the brain that is also associated with cognition, emotion and regulating movement, plays a significant role in chronic pain. The researchers found that removing a specific collection of nerve cells, or A11 neurons, containing dopamine significantly reduced selective chronic pain in mice, according to the study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

“This may open up new opportunities to target medicines that could reverse chronic pain,” said the study’s senior author Ted Price, an associate professor in behavioral and brain sciences at UT Dallas.

“In future studies, we would like to gain a better understanding of how stress interacts with A11,” he added.

While stress is heightened with pain, pain also intensifies under stress. With the constant stress of chronic pain, muscles tense and tighten and breathing often becomes shallow and irregular. A focus on deep and controlled thoracic-abdominal breathing in yoga helps to fully oxygenate the body and shift it from fight-or-flight mode to relaxation.

How Mindful Meditation Helps Manage Pain

Inhale Exhale

Inhale, Exhale

Yoga and mindfulness have proven helpful for deconstructing the process by which pain becomes chronic. According to Wolf, mindfulness can help people better cope with pain by removing the emotional and mental tension that can exacerbate physical pain.

“Nobody likes pain. But just because something is unpleasant doesn’t mean we have to suffer or react against it,” she said. A change of perspective can help a person better tolerate the experience of pain.

Wolf believes that the experience of pain is made up of the physical sensation, how we emotionally feel about it and the meaning pain holds for us. Key in the latter is learning how to once again separate pain from our personal identity. Mindfulness brings us into the present to see how we actually feel now, as opposed to being stuck in the trauma of the past—rehashing how my accident derailed my plans after graduation—or worrying over the potential limitations on our future—will I ever be able to teach full-time again?

“We start to see that the physical pain is separate from the emotions we feel about it,” Wolf said. “We describe the sensation. We label it. That awareness is what is helpful.”

Meditation has also been shown to play a role in modulating dopamine “the feel-good hormone” levels. An in vitro demonstration of the deeply relaxed, yet conscious state of Yoga Nidra meditation showed that there was a 65 percent increase in endogenous dopamine release, as well as decreased blood flood to the subcortical regions. Researchers at the University of Southern California also found that exercise helps the brain cells to use dopamine more efficiently.

Mind-body practices like yoga and meditation thus might play a key role in reducing the abnormal levels of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters that trigger the chronic pain loop. For me, getting on the mat not only helps to physically release tension through stretching and strengthening; it also helps me to mentally focus my attention on something constructive that brings me into deeper body and breath awareness. The pain is no longer a foe I’m fighting, but a friend I am trying to help; the mind and body can feel the difference.


Rachel Brathen Reflects on Riveting Spiritual Journey in Her New Book ‘Yoga Girl’

Rachel BrathenAfter a steamy past several days here in Connecticut, this rainy Monday is welcome relief. One of my favorite ways to enjoy a drenched day is immersing myself in a book that tells an irresistible story. Rachel Brathen’s Yoga Girl is a perfect read for a day of staying in as it provides a perfect escape into a tropical, charmed lifestyle of embracing one’s passion and life purpose. What makes it even more captivating and engaging, Brathen shares the deeply personal and inspiring story of how a lost young woman seemingly hell-bent on chaos and destruction completely transformed her life to become an internationally-renowned yoga teacher pursuing a life of peace, balance and joy.

Brathen’s first book is a unique blend of memoir, yoga instruction, vegetarian recipes, spiritual insights and the exotic and idyllic photos that have made 1.4 million people follow @yoga_girl on Instagram. There are step-by-step tutorials of yoga poses and sequences, with variations for practitioners of all levels. Brathen covers sun salutations, balance poses, heart-opener backbends, inversions, balance poses, core work and restorative yoga. Recipes vary from green juices, smoothies and superfood salads to soups, hot beverages and ice cream.

Yoga Girl Big Green Smoothie Recipe                                      Sun Salutations With Yoga Girl
Brathen also peppers her book with spiritual insights and revelations she’s learned along the way. She encourages fellow yoga practitioners:

Be patient with your body!

Do your homework. What does your body need to heal?

It does not matter what brings you to the mat. What matters is that you get there!

Let your practice evolve and change like the seasons.

She also offers readers inspiration for living life full of love for the self and others, while being true to one’s authentic self:Advice from Rachel BrathenThe gem of this book by far is when Brathen’s opens up about her sometimes bumpy path to spirituality and her life’s passion–yoga. She chronicles her journey from a little child dealing with the grief of death to the wild and rebellious days of her teens. She is honest and genuine, recalling the emotional turmoil mistakes of her youth with the insight, maturity and forgiveness of an adult completely transformed. She shares the beginning of her spiritual awakening at a meditation retreat at age 18 through her journey as an adult to exotic places far from her native Sweden, where she found her calling as a yoga teacher—and the love of her life (yes, there’s romance in here too!).

Rachel Brethen MeditationThe final section of the book is devoted to meditation, which Brathen largely credits for helping her to move away from a life of escaping problems by partying and destructive relationships. Sent by her mother to a therapeutic meditation retreat at age 18, she learned to settle in silence and quiet her mind for the first time. She said that the group meditation and therapeutic sessions gave her “tools to deal with my past, and I started working through the issues causing my anger and resentment.” She was finally able to release the grief over her stepfather’s death when she was a young child, the responsibility and pressures of taking care of her mother and younger brother, and let go of the anger she carried toward her emotionally fragile mother and distant father.

My entire view of the world changed in just one week, and I left the center a different version of myself. I realized that I had taken on traits that were not at all who I really was at my core. I wasn’t an angry person. Situations and events that came my way made me into an angry person…I started looking at the big picture, and all of a sudden, I realized I wanted to be happy. I’d never had a longing like that before in my life. I’d been too busy just surviving, but now that I had to the tools to deal with all the feelings I had locked up inside, I wanted more. I wanted happiness. Balance. Peace.

Yoga Girl offers the same possibilities to its readers with its unique lessons for enriching the body, mind and soul. While it is a book easy to breeze through, readers will find themselves returning to these pages again and again for Brathen’s refreshing words of hope, encouragement, insight and inspiration. It is definitely a summer must-read for fans of yoga at all stages of practice, from intrepid beginners to bold and seasoned yogis. Get your own copy of Yoga Girl today.

Learn more about the author at her blog, Rachel Brathen Yoga Lifestyle.

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Protect Skin With These Summer Sun Safety Tips

Protect Skin With Summer Sun Safety Tips

This past Monday Memorial Day marked the unofficially first day of summer. Many celebrated with barbecues and trips to the beach or by opening up household pools. Right on cue, it’s been heating up here in Connecticut, with daytime temperatures in the 80s and high 70s. As more of us are heading outdoors to enjoy the sun, today—Sunscreen Day—is the perfect time to review some summer sun safety tips to protect skin.

Why You Should Protect Skin From Sun

Skin Cancer by CoolibarSkin cancer is the most common form of the cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, approximated 3.5 million people are diagnosed with basal or squamous skin cancer each year. In 2015, more than 73,000 cases of skin cancer will be melanoma, which causes most skin cancer deaths. While melanoma is usually curable when found in the earliest stages, it is the most likely skin cancer to grow and spread to other parts of the body, making it difficult to treat.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and severe sunburns in the past are two major risk factors for skin cancer. UVA rays contribute to early skin aging, such as wrinkles, while UVB rays are the main cause of sunburns. While UVA rays play a role in some skin cancers, UVB rays are thought to cause the majority of skin cancers. Using broad-spectrum sunscreen on exposed skin can help protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.

Summer Sun Safety Tips

  • Use a broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher. Sunscreens with SPF values under 15, whether they are labeled Broad Spectrum or not, can only claim to help protect against sunburn. There is no evidence that SPF values greater than 50 provide any additional benefit. The Connecticut DPH  recommends looking for water-resistant sunscreen that contains zinc oxide as the active ingredient, or as a blend with titanium dioxide. These mineral blockers are preferable to chemical skin-absorbers, like oxybenzone. See the next section for potential sunscreen risks.
  • Apply sunscreen a half hour before getting out in the sun. Reapply at least every two hours. Apply more sunscreen after swimming and sweating.
  • Seek shade when UV rays are at their most intense, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear sunglasses with 100 percent UVA/UVB protection to protect your eyes and surrounding skin.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face, ears, and neck.

Watch Out for These Sunscreen Risks

ewg-sun-safetyThe Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released its Sunscreen Hall of Shame to highlight products that promise to shield consumers from the dangers of the sun but fall flat on protection. Their review of 1,7000 products in the sunscreen market found that 80 percent fail to deliver adequate sun protection or contain worrying ingredients, such as oxybenzone and retiyl plamitate (a type of vitamin A).

Half of the sunscreens reviewed by EWG contain the active ingredient oxybenzone, which absorbs ultraviolet (UV) light. This chemical is absorbed considerably through the skin, posing a threat to human health. Oxybenzone is suspected to be an endocrine disruptor, interfering with hormone secretion and regulation and acting like estrogen in the body. Studies have linked endocrine disruptors with reproductive and child development problems, learning disabilities and cancers of the breast, prostate and thyroid. Oxybenzone can also trigger allergic skin reactions.

According to the EWG, nearly 20 percent of sunscreens and SPF-rated moisturizes contain retinyl palmitate. On sun-exposed skin, this form of vitamin A may enhance the growth of skin lesions and squamous cells of the skin to form cancer.

EWG also singled out sunscreen with high sun protection factor (SPF) and spray sunscreens. The latter are difficult to apply evenly and in adequate amounts for skin protection. They also may pose inhalation risks.

As for SPFs above 50, one eighth of evaluated sunscreens promise excessive claims to protect skin from burns caused by ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which may cause skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends products with an SPF of at least 30. However, there is no evidence that SPV values greater than 50 provide any additional benefit. In fact, EWG claims that the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeks to bar SPF numbers higher than 50, as the European Commission, Japan and Australia have done.

EWG Hall of Shame Sunscreen Lotions

EWG named 12 of the worst sunscreen lotions of 2015. These lotions claim SPF above 60 and also contain oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate:

  • Summer Sun SafetyBanana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Coppertone Sport High Performance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  • Coppertone Sport High Performance Sunscreen, SPF 75
  • Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
  • Coppertone Ultra Guard Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
  • CVS Sport Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
  • CVS Sun Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 100
  • CVS Sun Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 70
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Daily Liquid Sunscreen, SPF 70
  • NO-AD Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 60
  • NO-AD Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 85
  • Ocean Potion Protect & Nourish Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70

The major sunscreen brands of Banana Boat, Coppertone, CVS and Neutrogena all have poor product scores. EWG specifically called out Neutrogena for having the greatest advertising hype surrounding suncare protection with the worst ratings. Neutrogena products claim extremely high SPF values, including 100 and higher. More than 80 percent of heir products contain oxybenzone and a third contain retinyl palmitate.

To see a list of EWG’s best-rated beach and sports sunscreens, click here.

For those concerned about the chemicals in some sunscreens (and insect repellants) UConn dermatologist Meagen M. McCusker, M.D. also offers natural, toxin-free alternatives here.

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Donning Purple to Draw Awareness to Lupus

Put On Purple for Lupus AwarenessLike a lion hiding in the underbrush before it pounces on its spied prey, the symptoms and severity of lupus and other auotimmune diseases can sneak up you when you are least prepared for it. One day you may be feeling like your old self before the disease took root, super strong, active and as healthy as the next person. The next day you may literally collapse, a rash spreading across your skin, a respiratory infection settles in deep, and your neurological system can go haywire, causing you to sink into a severe relapse of disease.

How long will you be, like me now, be confined to the bed or couch? A couple days, a couple weeks, a couple months or much longer? The uncertainty of autoimmune disease, the limited or misinformed knowledge about its origin and manifestation, and the lack of a cure are important reasons why I do what I can to promote awareness. So today, I PUT ON PURPLE for lupus.

Five Important Facts about Lupus

Although millions of people worldwide live with lupus, many do not know much about the disease. Here are five things you should know about the disease:

  1. An estimated 1.5 million Americans, and at least five million people around the world, have a form of lupus.*
  2. Lupus is a type of autoimmune disease, in which antibodies made by the immune system erroneously begin to attack one’s own healthy tissues as if they were foreign invaders threatening the body. Lupus specifically may attack joints and organs, causing swelling and degeneration, pain, skin rash, sun sensitivity, extreme fatigue and vulnerability to severe cases of infection.
  3. LupusAwarenessMonthSystemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) accounts for approximately 70 percent of all cases of lupus.* A major organ, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys or brain–as in my case–will be affected in approximately half of these patients. Brain involvement and central nervous system dysfunction–as well as its sister disease Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome (APS), or Hughes Syndrome, an autoimmune syndrome that affects vascular function and blood clotting–is thought to be a cause of the neuromuscular movement disorder, dystonia, in my specific manifestation of illness.
  4. 90 percent of people diagnosed with lupus are women.* The disease most often strikes in one’s childbearing years, though women and men of all ages may experience symptoms of lupus.
  5. There is no cure for lupus, though a patient may go into remission, whether long-term or short-term repeatedly over the course of disease. Nutritional therapy, mind-body exercise, avoiding triggers of my photosensitivity and reducing stress have been crucial for helping to keep lupus and APS (and thus dystonia) in remission for long periods of time.
As with so many other health conditions, awareness and knowledge is power. Let’s show our support and help drive more research to better understand this pervasive autoimmune disease! For now, you can Put On Purple to show your support for those of us with lupus.
*Statistics from the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA)


Get Festive For Cinco De Mayo With These 4 Flavorful Recipes

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Ever wondered what the celebration is all about on May 5? Believe it or not, the day is more than a festive opportunity to drink margaritas and have Mexican fare—though we love that part too (and much more on that later).

While many mistake Cinco de Mayo as Mexico’s day of independence (which is actually celebrated on Sept. 16), the holiday actually commemorates El Día de la Batalla de Puebla in Mexico, an event that occurred some 51 years later.

A Brief History of Cinco de Mayo

The Battle of Puebla was the unexpected victory of the Mexican army over the larger, more experienced French forces of Napoleon III on May 5, 1862. The French, Spanish and British had come to Mexico in late 1861 to collect debts borrowed from European countries to help fund Mexico’s civil war of the late 1850s. While Spanish and British troops shortly left the country, France took advantage of the chaos of the neighboring U.S. civil war to invade Mexico in April 1862. At the town of Puebla that May, less than 100 miles east of Mexico City, a small Mexican army pulled a victory reminiscent of David’s over Goliath (though it was largely symbolic, as the French did eventually conquer Mexico and established a monarchist regime there, from 1864 to 1867).

While the celebration of the Battle of Puebla was largely unknown to most of the country for almost 100 years, Cinco de Mayo became a popular holiday in the United States in the 1960s. Chicano activists brought attention to the battle to instill pride in the Mexican-American community. While Cinco de Mayo is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, it is largely celebrated today across this country to honor Mexican culture and heritage. And who doesn’t love to celebrate the successes of underdogs?

4 Flavorful Recipes for Your Cinco De Mayo Fiesta

If you’re looking for some last-minute, quick and easy Cinco de Mayo recipes for your fiestas today, consider these dishes from Steve Lindner, go-to healthy chef and founder of Zone Manhattan, and the team at bistroMD.

Cinco De Mayo Salsa Recipe

BistroMD’s Super Simple Salsa with Avocado


  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 small, sweet onion, diced
  • 2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 chopped finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 haas avocado, cleaned and diced
  • 1 lime, for juice
  • A pinch of sea salt


  1. For this healthy twist on a Cinco de Mayo favorite, all you have to do is combine all of the above ingredients, and chill it in your refrigerator for about one hour.
  2. Pair with a bag of low fat corn chips or veggies, and you are ready to start snacking!

Cinco De Mayo Enchilada Recipe

Zone Manhattan’s Lobster, Pea and Pablano Enchilada

(Serves 12)


  • Lobster – 1 ¼ lb.
  • Crepes -12
  • Pea Tendrils
  • Veggies for Filing- onions, Peas, Lime Juice and Zest, cilantro, Roasted Pablano
  • Cooked Black Beans – ½ lb
  • Green Squash – 1 c. Diced Small
  • Snow Peas – ½ c. Sliced Small
  • Grilled White Corn Cut off cobb
  • Chayote- ½ c Small dice
  • Baby Pepper- 1cs Sliced Round and Roast
  • Monterey Jack cheese – ½ pc.
  • Roasted Tomatillo and Green Pea Salsa
  • Tomatillo- 5 ea Dice and Roast
  • Lime- 1 Juice and Zest and Cilantro
  • Avocado- ½ Diced
  • Whole Wheat Crepes


  1. Cook Lobster for 15 min in boiling water, cool and remove meat and dice.
  2. Sauté Veggies for filling until cooked, then cool.
  3. Mix Lobster and Veggies, add Juice and Zest of ½ a lime.  This and cheese is your filling for the enchilada.
  4. Trim Crepe and Roll Enchilada.  These can be made in advance and heated for 1 ½ min in a micro with Cheese and Salsa on top. Whole Wheat Crepe as Tortilla, Roll and Warm in Micro for 1 ½ min.
  5. Season Black Beans with Cilantro, Toasted Cumin and Lime Juice and Zest.  Add Orange Grape Tomatoes, Diced Vegetables and roasted Corn.   Mix. This can be made in advance and heated for 1 ½ min in a micro after warming sprinkle over Pea Tendrils.

Chicken Burrito Bowl Recipe

BistroMD’s Better for you Chicken Burrito Bowl


  • For the Chicken:
    • 4, 4 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded
    • Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Paprika and any other of your favorite spices to season (optional)
  • For the Red Burrito Sauce:
    • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 1/2 tablespoon corn oil
    • 1 yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon masa flour
    • 1/2 cup low sodium, chicken broth
    • ½ cup tomato sauce
    • ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
    • ½ jalapeno pepper, diced
    • 1 teaspoon lime juice
    • ½ teaspoon chili powder
    • ½ teaspoon paprika
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • Pinch of Sea Salt

Bowl Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 Lime, juiced
  • 1 can (15 oz.) reduced sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 ears fresh corn OR 1 can (15 oz.) reduced sodium, organic corn kernels, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup bell pepper, any color(s), diced
  • 1 cup fresh tomato, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin
  • ¼ cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
  • Jalapeno or other hot pepper, diced (optional)
  • Garnish (optional)
  • Reduced-fat Cheddar Cheese
  • Chopped Cilantro


  1. Red Burrito Sauce:
  1. In a medium skillet, heat the corn oil and unsalted butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and jalapeno and saute until onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle the masa flour and whisk together. Allow to cook 2 minutes.
  3. Gradually add the chicken broth; constantly whisk to ensure no clumps of flour.
  4. Adjust heat to medium-low. Add tomato sauce, granulated garlic, lime juice, chili powder, paprika, oregano and pinch of sea salt. Stir together, cover, and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. Burrito Bowl:
    1. While the sauce is simmering, add lime juice and fresh chopped cilantro to the cooked brown rice and blend together.
    2. Add the blacked beans, corn, bell pepper, tomato, cumin, garlic and jalapeno to a medium sized bowl and mix.
  6. Divide the rice into 4 portions. Divide the black bean and corn mixture into 4 portions.

Cinco de Mayo Dessert Recipe

Zone Manhattan’s Gluten-Free Coconut Tres Leches


  • Cake (if making from scratch, see ingredients below)
  • Coconut Milk
  • Soy  Milk
  • 1/2 and ½= Sweeten to taste
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Ricotta – ½ C
  • Tofu – ½ C
  • Lemon
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Champagne Mangos- 1
  • Raspberry- 1


  1. Cut Cake into 2 ½ inch rings.
  2. Combine coconut milk and soy milk and a touch of ½ and ½ add Splenda, lime zest and vanilla extract.
  3. On serving plate, Pour liquid over cake and let sit 20 min.  You want the liquid to soak into the cake.  Before Serving add a little more liquid to fill the plate.
  4. Combine Ricotta and Tofu in food processer.  Add vanilla and lime zest and Splenda puree smooth, and add around edge of cake.
  5. Dice Mango and sprinkle with a little lime zest and juice.  Spoon this into the middle of the cake.  Top with Coconut Flakes and Raspberry.



  • 2 C Soy Flour
  • 1 c Canola Oil
  • 13 Eggs
  • 2 C Almond Flour
  • .75  Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • .75 Tbsp. Baking Soda
  • ½ C Coconut Milk (unsweetened)
  • ½ C Coconut Flakes
  •  1 C bag Splenda
  • 2 Tbls. Vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lemons


  1. Combine all dry ingredients in mixer.
  2. Combine all wet ingredients and add into dry mixture. Blend until combined.
  3. Fold in whipped egg whites.
  4. Divide onto 8-inch nonstick pan sprayed with Pam. Bake for 12 minutes at 350. Check and continue at 2 minute intervals until knife in center comes away clean.

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