Twinkies Are Back on the Shelves.. Why You Should Stay the F* Away!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

TwinkiesAfter a brief hiatus, Hostess Twinkies made their (unfortunately) much-anticipated return to convenience store shelves today, and I felt compelled to put in my two cents.  I know Twinkie fans aren’t kidding themselves into thinking a Twinkie is a healthy food option (it’s really not actually even a food item at all!), but the treat has such strong nostalgic associations that they still hold a fond place in the heart of many Americans.  More than most other, equally unhealthy packaged, processed Hostess treats, Twinkies evoke memories of childhood and simpler times.  Maybe dad would let you get one while he filled up the gas tank (don’t tell mom!), or maybe grandma would sneak you one when you came to visit.  Hell, maybe you even grew up in a household where Twinkies weren’t relegated to secret, special status, and you got one in your lunchbox every day.  Along with all the other changes and responsibilities that come with adulthood, comes the begrudging need to eat better, watch your calories, and stay away from trans fats.  So it’s understandable that treating yourself to this symbol of easier times can come with a sizable, if only temporary, emotional payoff.

Now I’ll admit, I’ve never tasted a Twinkie in my life.  I wasn’t allowed to eat junk food as a kid, but even more than that, the weird, somehow alien looking pseudo-food wrapped in clear plastic never appealed to me.  Now, as a holistic nutritionist, I know full well all the reasons why my mother forbade us to eat packaged foods like this, but I realize that even this rationalization isn’t always enough for some.  So I’m going to appeal to your reason AND your emotions, to help you come to the same conclusion.  Eating a Twinkie just isn’t worth it, and it’s not going to make you feel better for long.

They’re not even food!

As evidenced by Steve Ettlinger in his book, Twinkie, Deconstructed, even the “vitamins” listed among ingredients in this pseudo-food are derived from petroleum.  In China.  Yes, that folic acid and what apparently passes for B vitamins amid the 37 ingredients in a Twinkie are derived from natural gas and other industrial ingredients.  Whatever real food ingredients may have at one point been a part of the lab creation of a Twinkie, they have been bleached, processed, chemicalized, and reconstituted beyond all recognition.  Even the water in the water they use is heavily processed and laden with chlorine!

They make you fat and sick.

A Twinkies ingredient list reads like a who’s who of the worst bad baddies in the world of food.  Tons of processed soy (read: carcinogen); artificial colors and flavors (read: super carcinogen); not one but three different forms of sugar (processed, bleached white sugar, corn syrup, AND high fructose corn syrup); all kinds of processed corn products (six in total) that are genetically modified, and contribute to so many people’s mysterious, chronic ailments; and a slew of toxic chemicals.  These puppies are a one-way ticket to obesity, love handles, digestive problems, chronic inflammation, fertility issues, and yes, even cancer.

They actually don’t make you feel any better.

I recognize that many people reading this article know full well of all the horrible effects foods like Twinkies have on their bodies, but in the moment, choose to eat them anyway.  Whether it be a desire for comfort, a nostalgic connection to your youth, or just a quick rush of sugary serotonin, the effects of a Twinkie just don’t last.  You eat it, you get that momentary rush of whatever it is you’re cravings.  And then you go back to feeling like crap.  Actually, you’ll probably feel even worse as your body comes down from that quick sugar rush, or as all those toxic chemical start doing their dirty work, or worse yet, as you start to feel guilty about having eaten something so god awful.  As I say to my clients every day, it’s not actually that Twinkie you’re looking for.  You’re looking for happiness, or comfort, or connection, or FUN.  But I’m sorry to say none of that is found within a Twinkie wrapper.  So instead of even entertaining the notion of eating that piece of non-food, do something to bring up the desired emotion instead.  Call your mom or your best friend from childhood.  Play with a puppy.  Go for a walk.  Dance around.  Laugh.  Any number of actions will actually give you a lasting positive sensation, without all those terrible side effects.

Really craving the taste?  Make your own, healthier version!

{Images: Marketing Pilgrim, Finally Fit After 55Multianimous}

How Safe is Your Skin and Haircare Routine?

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

CosmeticsFor many of us, our skin and haircare routines are habits we stick to like glue.  We find products we love, and we remain loyal to them for years.  But what if your trusted skincare go-to’s are doing more harm to your body than good?  Our health is most impacted by the things we do regularly — foods we eat every day, products we use everyday, behaviors we partake in everyday.  Those are the things that add up and have measurable effects that can either lead to a longer, healthier life, or a higher risk of disease, reproductive issues, and even psychological or mood imbalances.

So how do your products add up?  Is your skin soaking up healthy, nutritive ingredients, or is your skin a sponge for harmful chemicals that are finding their way into your bloodstream?  For example, did you know that CoverGirl mascaras, Blistex lip balms, Neutrogena face washes, Banana Boat suncreens, Biolage shampoos, and Lubriderm moisturizers all got some of the highest scores for toxicity and health hazards? {Tweet it!}  These are brands millions of Americans use everyday, none the wiser that they are exposing their systems to carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, organ and reproductive toxicity, and more.

So what can you do?  First of all, get really familiar with the most toxic ingredients, and avoid them like the plague.  (Check out 5 Skincare Ingredients to Avoid for a few of the top big bads).  Second of all, search the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database for each and every one of your products.  If any product has a score over 3, (yes 3!) toss it!  It’s just not worth the risk!

Still confused about what is safe to use?  Skin Deep’s searchable database gives you tons of options for the safest, healthiest products, as well as information on where to buy them.  Some of these products are even available at your local pharmacy or big box store.  Convenience or brand loyalty are just not good enough reasons to continue exposing yourself and your family to harmful toxins.  And until our government regulations for cosmetics catch up with the science of safety, YOU are in charge of making sure you’re buying and using the safest products possible!

The EWG is working on a mobile app for Skin Deep, so you can check out a product’s safety on the go!

Donate $10 or more today so EWG can put critical information about cosmetic safety right at your fingertips. They need $45,000 by July 15 so they can deliver this smartphone app to you by September.

{Image: cleanandhealthyme.org}

Is Rice Poisoning You?

There has been tons of alarming news of late about the high arsenic content in rice, which is throwing consumers into a bit of a frenzy.  So what’s the real deal?  Is the arsenic content in rice a reason to cut it out of your diet?

First, a fact that may surprise you.  Arsenic is a naturally occurring element present in soil and water, which means that there are trace amounts of arsenic in almost all fruits and vegetables!  Exposure to low levels of arsenic is an inevitable factor of eating foods grown in the United States, and the effects of these low levels is pretty unclear, but we do know that exposure to higher levels of arsenic has been linked to several different types of cancer, skin conditions, and birth defects.

Because it is grown in water (which has high arsenic levels in the U.S.), rice is susceptible to higher levels of arsenic, which is definitely a concern for people that eat rice every single day.  People that eat rice a few times a week are not exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic.

What can you do to limit your exposure to arsenic?

  • Keep rice consumption to a few times a week, and vary the type of rice you eat.  Jasmine and basmati rice not grown in the U.S. has very little if any arsenic content, whereas American-grown brown rice has the highest.  As long as you are eating a variety of rices, your overall exposure will remain minimal! (For kids, limit consumption of American-grown white or brown rice to about a 1/4 cup of uncooked rice a week).
  • Rinse your rice before cooking it.  This actually applies to most grains, and is a great cooking habit to stick to!
  • Stock up on other grains.  Keep the majority of your grain consumption to other healthy whole grains that have little to no arsenic content.  Quinoa, oatmeal, barley, amaranth, and millet are all great options!
  • Stay away from store-bought juices, particularly apple and grape juices.  Store-bought juices have very little nutritional value anyway (being mostly sugar, with no fiber, and often times a lot of additives), so you may find that omitting them from your diet will actually benefit your waistline!
  • Wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
  • Always drink filtered water.  Invest in a high quality filtration system like ZeroWater to make sure your aren’t ingesting high levels of arsenic and other toxic substances.
  • Eat a varied diet.  Every week there’s a new study about what food is now going to kill you.  Instead of falling prey to all the hype, stick to eating a varied, healthy diet of many different types of organic produce, whole grains, and lean and plant proteins and avoid any diet that goes overboard on any one food or food group (ie: high protein, high carb, powders, shakes or super high fruit-based diets).

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Natasha Uspensky, chhc
Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor
NU Health & Wellness

Shield Those Ovaries!

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Although intended for expecting mommies, Belly Armor Belly Blankets are something anybody who spends a lot of time with their laptop on their lap should consider. Owning my own business and working from home half the week, I spend a good bit of time hunkered down on my chaise with my Pomeranian, typing away on my laptop. I’ve known for some time about the risks of radiation, particularly to one’s reproductive organs, when keeping a computer on your lap, but I’m not a big desk person, and have been putting off finding a viable healthy solution to this issue in favor of my own coziness. Bad me!

So you can imagine how happy I was to literally stumble upon the Belly Blanket… The perfect solution to my quandary! Even in summer months, I’m usually under a light blanket while I work, so this type of shield is preferable to a bulkier laptop tray designed to have the same effect.

Is radiation from laptops really that big a deal? Recent research points to yes. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared radiation from laptops and other wi-fi enabled electronic devices a possible human carcinogen due to the effect it has on various parts of the body, including testes and skin. If it can mutate sperm, I’m not going to stick around to find out what it can do to delicate lady-parts, or worse yet, a developing fetus!

A shield such as this is vital for expecting mothers, and I’m starting to think not shielding from electromagnetic radiation just isn’t worth the risk for the rest of us either.

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Natasha Uspensky, chhc

Holistic Health & Nutrition Counselor

NU Health & Wellness

How To Rid Your Home of Toxic Chemicals, For Good!

Guest post by Dustin Laurence.  Dustin enjoys maintaining a healthy and environmentally low-impact lifestyle; he is a contributing author at www.flowerdelivery.net

Your home is a safe haven that provides you and your family with a comfortable place to live. While you may think you are doing all you can to keep your home safe and clean, sometimes there are toxic chemicals in your house that you may not even know about. Toxic chemicals are nasty and can cause health conditions such as asthma and a variety of other illnesses, so you want to make sure your home doesn’t contain many of these harmful substances. If you are looking for ways to get rid of toxic chemicals in your home for good so to ensure the good health of your family, here are some ways you can do this.

1. Eliminate Toxic Cleaners. Although they may get rid of the grime around your house, many household cleaners contain harmful chemicals. If you want to eliminate toxic chemicals around your home, start by getting rid of these harsh cleaners. Instead, opt for all natural type household cleaners, or do a little research and make them yourself.

2. Stop Drinking Bottled Water. While you may think drinking bottled water is better for your health, the truth is it’s not. Plastic or aluminum bottles contain harmful substances that are bad for your health. If you want a safe alternative, try drinking out of a reusable, stainless steel water bottle.

3. Buy Organic. Non-organic fruits and vegetables may contain harmful pesticides. If you want to be certain that the fruits and vegetables you feed your family are truly  healthy, try buying organic.

4. Get The Lead Out. If your home was built before 1978, chances are, it was painted with lead paint. If you want to eliminate this harmful chemical from your home, repaint your house. When you repaint, be sure to do it in a safe way that will not stir up harmful lead dust particles.

5. Change Your Bulbs. If you are currently using compact fluorescent light bulbs in your home, change them to a safer type of light bulb. Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury and they can be very dangerous to the health of your family.

6. Eliminate Excess Products. Do you use hairspray, body spray and a variety of other personal care items? Well, if you do, you could be creating a hazard in your home. Try to cut down on the excessive use of personal care items and stick to only the ones you need. Many of these products contain harsh chemicals that can be dangerous when combined.

7. Change Your Shower Curtain. If you use a vinyl shower curtain in your bathroom, get rid of it! Vinyl shower curtains contain harmful toxins that can be bad for the health of your family. Replace vinyl shower curtains with a shower curtain made of a less toxic material.

While we all like to think that our homes are safe places that are free from toxic chemicals, this is not always the case. From household cleaners to vinyl shower curtains, there are a variety of common household items that can contain potentially dangerous toxic chemicals. If you want your home to be free from toxic chemicals, try following the above listed ways to help rid your home of these harmful substances.

Everyday Products That Can Cause Cancer

Not to be alarmist, but I really do believe that making informed decisions about what we put in and on our bodies is the first step to preventing disease and extending our life spans significantly. A leading cancer institute recently released a list of common foods and products that have been linked to cancer.  Though it is really important to be aware of this these risks, it is also valuable to point out that genetics, environmental factors, and exposure to other toxins and carcinogens greatly effect the degree to which certain foods/products will effect you.  For example, someone who eats a clean, organic diet, and uses organic cleaning and grooming products (like all of us Organic Beauties!) may be less effected by the regular consumption of coffee than someone who is on the Standard American Diet and uses conventional, toxic products on their body and in their home.  If any of the following products figure prominently in your diet and lifestyle, it might be time to rethink your habits!

  • ALCOHOL:  Regular consumption of alcohol has been linked 3.5% of cancer deaths worldwide.  Alcohol increases risk of breast and ovarian cancer, colon cancer, mouth, esophagus, pharynx and larynx cancers, as well as liver and stomach cancers.  Women especially should limit their alcohol consumption to 1 drink per day (men up to two).
  • COFFEE:  Coffee has recently been labeled a class 2B carcinogen (along with chloroform, DDT, and gasoline exhaust), but the research around coffee consumption (who should and should not drink it, and how much is safe) is still relatively inconclusive. A recent study found that coffee decreased risk of prostate cancer in men who consume 6 cups or more per day.  At the same time, other studies have found that drinking 2 or more cups a day increases risk of bladder and lung cancers.  Coffee has also been linked to a host of other health problems.  Unless directed otherwise, try to limit coffee consumption to a cup a day..  Green tea and yerba mate are great alternatives to get that caffeine fix, and have a lot of beneficial properties as well!
  • ANTIPERSPIRANT:  Aluminum, a known carcinogen, is the main ingredient in antiperspirants, which block your pores and inhibits the release of toxins from your body.  Both the aluminum and this blockage causes an increase in toxicity of the lymphatic system, which can cause a whole host of problems, including breast cancer, lymphoma, prostate cancer, as well as other diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  For non-toxic alternatives to antiperspirant, see my article “Smell Like a Rose, With No Lasting Side Effects!”
  • BODY WASH AND BUBBLE BATH:  Almost ALL conventional beauty products contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which has been linked to many different forms of cancer and a whole mess of other complications.  Parabens feature pretty prominently in these products as well. Children and babies are especially susceptible to this chemical, which is very common in most bubble baths and children’s soaps.  For yourself, and definitely for your children, start reading your ingredients and consider switching to a natural or organic product.  (Click here to read more about revolutionizing your beauty routine).
  • TALCUM POWDER:  You can find talc in makeup, powders, and baby powder (where it’s especially dangerous for the same reasons you read above).  Exposure to talc (which has similar properties to asbestos) significantly increases risk of ovarian and lung cancers.  Try using corn starch-based baby powders and organic mineral makeup instead!
  • CELLULAR PHONES:  We’ve been hearing debate on this topic pretty much since the introduction of cell phones into our culture.  Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement stating that radio frequency electromagnetic fields, including cell phones, are “possibly carcinogenic” to people (a class 2B carcinogenic classification), and could increase risk of developing brain tumors and acoustic neuromas.   CDMA phones (by Verizon and Sprint) are generally a bit safer than GSM phones (by AT&T and T-Mobile), due to the fact that they emit a steady stream of medium range radiation, as opposed to the pulsating radiation of the latter class of phone.  The safest route is to use headphones…NOT Bluetooth devices!  And never keep your phone in your pocket, close to your chest or reproductive organs.

{adapted from my post on One Minute News]

    Step One to Naturalize Your Life: Read Your Ingredients!

    Step 1: Read Your Ingredients | The Organic Beauty Blog

    With the effects of the somewhat recent trend toward all things natural and organic (not to mention local, seasonal, Greenmarket, etc., etc.), most of us have gotten used to reading the ingredients on the things we put in our bodies.  Most of us know to avoid high fructose corn syrup, bleached and refined sugars and flours, trans fats, and artificial colors and flavors.  But do you know that there are equally (if not more) harmful ingredients in your beauty and cleaning products?  Just as we read the labels of what we put in our pantries, we also have to read the ingredients of what we put in our medicine cabinets.

    Continue Reading…