Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Air out your home

YEAH! It's finally time... to do what, you say?
Open your windows! Let the fresh air flow through your house!

I opened my windows when I got up this morning. Did you know the Environmental Protection Agency says studies show the air INSIDE YOUR HOME is more polluted than the outdoor air in the largest, most industrialized city?
Most people spend 90 percent of their time inside. The indoor air pollution comes from gases (like formaldehyde in pressed wood products used in cabinets) given off from your furniture, carpet, chemicals used in your home construction and even a natural, odorless, radioactive gas linked to lung disease called radon.

State health officials and the EPA recommend you buy an inexpensive home test kit to check your radon levels. I personally wish homes would be built to prevent radon build-up so it wouldn't be an issue.

The EPA says indoor air pollution can cause a host of problems... everything from irritated eyes, nose, throat to fatigue and asthma. If you go on vacation or spend more time outside, see if you notice a difference in how you feel.
The good news is there is a simple, inexpensive solution... open your windows!
Five minutes a day is enough to remove radon gas that can build up in your home as well as indoor air pollutants.

Now if I could only get the TV station to install a few windows in our virtually windowless newsroom!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cranberry "shot" over flu shot for me

This time of year, you can get the flu shot just about anywhere... work, drugstore, yes, we've even seen them offered at a strip club!
Friends always ask me if I get the seasonal flu shot.
For me, it doesn't make sense because I try to boost my immune system by eating fresh, whole foods.
This year, I am making more of an effort to drink the garlic broth soup I told you about below once a week for its antibacterial/antiviral properties.

I also have hand sanitizer near my desk and in the TV studio.

I also add a "shot" of pure cranberry juice to my water which also has antibacterial properties (high vitamin C too). Check ingredients to make sure it contains only cranberries.

I found this interesting article from the St. Pete Times:

Canadian medical researchers are raising a few eyebrows because yet unpublished research from British Columbia, Ontario suggests people who got seasonal flu shots last year are more susceptible to swine flu.
Ontario medical officials have even rescheduled its seasonal flu vaccine program until after the swine flu vaccine has been given. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says it has not found this result with its reviews.

Age, health conditions, work environment, all influence your choice.
If you want to get the flu shot, I would encourage you to ask for a mercury free version (Thimerosol free) because the flu shot typically contains mercury.

Friday, September 25, 2009

You are what you "drink"

I lug around a huge, 40 ounce stainless steel water jug (yes, it actually fits in my purse!)  filled with filtered water from my reverse osmosis home system.

You know you are what you eat AND drink.

Water can contain an interesting brew of chemicals. Chemicals leach into our environment and aquifer. More chemicals are used to "treat" our drinking water. Additional chemicals found in older pipes are picked up along the way.
Pure water is hard, if not impossible, to find!
You certainly can check your water quality by calling the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or click here.
You'll see how "easy" (insert sarcasm) it is to understand the results.

I work in a newsroom so I certainly have seen my share of boil water alerts, chemical spills and water quality controversies.
I try to do what I can...within reason. That's how I ended up with my stainless steel, 40 ouncer.

Not only does it save me money, but it helps me avoid synthetic estrogen chemicals that can leach from plastic bottles.
Read Harvard study here   
I filled up my stainless steel jug with filtered water from home and I'm out the door.

Did you know you can also have bottled water delivered to your home or work in glass containers?
It costs about $16.00 a container.
Mountain Valley Spring Water delivers in the Tampa Bay area.

I don't know about you, but I work in an older building. I find it's just easier to keep filtered water at my side in my stainless steel container so I can make sure I drink water throughout the day and never have to think twice about what's in it.

We decided to get a reverse osmosis system installed in our kitchen at home because Consumer Reports found it was the most effective way to filter water. It cost a couple hundred bucks (and $75 to get the filters changed every year).

I'm thinking about this topic right now because I added an Associated Press investigation to Heather's Natural that found contaminated drinking water in thousands of schools including several in the Tampa Bay area.

As a reporter, I see too many stories and studies about contaminated drinking water, so for me, this little bit of effort, is worth it.

It's easier than ever to find stainless steel drinking bottles. I bought mine at Whole Foods for less than $20.00, but I've also seen them at Walgreens and Target.

Cheers! Here's to filtered water!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tylenol recalls children's medications

Time to take a closer look at some of the over-the-counter cold medications you may have.
Check to see which medications have expired and if you have kids, take a look at any Tylenol products.
Tylenol is recalling more than 20 types of children's and infant's medications because of possible bacterial contamination.
The company says it is pulling the liquid products from the shelves because bacteria was found in one of the inactive ingredients.

The company will not say if any kids have gotten sick.
The recalled products were made between April and June of 2008 (and we're just hearing about it now?).

The products include: Children's Tylenol Cold MS Suspension 4oz. Grape, Children's Tylenol Plus Cold and Runny Nose 4oz. Cherry and Infant's Tylenol Suspension Drop 1oz. Grape.
If you have any questions, call the customer care center at 1-800-962-5357

Click on this link to see the entire list of recalled children's medications

Check out easy recipes to boost your immune system and other stories on Heather's Natural Health

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Simple soup to make you feel better

Whenever I am surrounded by sneezers or other sick people, I whip up a batch of my homemade garlic soup.
I swear by it! It soothes scratchy throats and more... just sip away!
Check out the super easy, 4 ingredients below. You can make it in minutes.

If I have more time, I add rotisserie chicken, quinoa (high protein, easy to cook seed available at health food store) onions, carrots, celery and fresh parsley--now that's a healing meal!

You can sip on this simple garlic soup to prevent colds or make you feel better if you're fighing one.

There's science behind the benefits of eating raw garlic.
Harvard educated, Integrative medicine guru, Dr. Andrew Weil suggests eating raw garlic everyday for its antibiotic/antiviral properties.

Garlic is a powerful natural medicine. It has abilities to lower cholesterol and reduce clotting of the blood. It can also help lower high blood pressure.
In addition, raw garlic is a potent antibiotic, especially active against fungal infections, with antibacterial and antiviral effects as well. An effective home remedy for colds is to eat several cloves of raw garlic at the first onset of symptoms. Eating raw garlic does not appeal to everyone, but garlic loses its antibiotic properties when you cook or dry it, and commercial garlic capsules do not preserve the full activity of the fresh bulb. You can make raw garlic more palatable by chopping it fine, mixing it with food, and eating it with a meal. Or cut a clove into chunks and swallow them whole like pills. One or two cloves of garlic a day are recommended for people who suffer from chronic or recurrent infections.

Eating raw garlic by itself can be be tough... that's why I like to sip this soup.
You only need three ingredients:
-Bulb of garlic
-Organic chicken broth carton
-Organic extra virgin olive oil
-Poultry seasoning (optional)

The most laber intensive part is you have to mince an entire bulb of garlic.
Use a knife to pop each clove from its shell and then mince all of the cloves.

Next, toss minced garlic in a pot, add a tablespoon of olive oil and lightly cook for 30 seconds.
(Keep garlic as raw as possible)
Add 32 ounces of organic chicken broth to pot. Cook on medium to low heat for 7 to 10 minutes.

Strain the garlic and drink the broth.
*If it tastes too strong for you (or your kids make a horrible face) you can add more chicken broth  or water.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jumping off the "healthy food wagon"

We went out to dinner Saturday with some good friends and I couldn't help myself... I was going to order a small steak, spinach with garlic and maybe another vegetable.
But then, something happened... that CRAVING for Flemings macaroni and cheeeeeeese!
It's been a LONG time since I've had one, well, maybe two, or I guess three of my favorite "pigfest" foods...
macaroni and cheese, a hamburger (I did split it with a friend) and french fries!
(I usually eat this buffalo burger when I want a burger because the meat is better for you than beef)

Yes, the memories of my junk food days came flooding back! Yup, I loved every minute of it!

Today though, I am taking the reigns and getting back on the wagon before I open the floodgates.
To help me get back on track, I always make a huge pot of healthy soup. I'm going to make the "Healing Soup" below. I swear it makes a difference (maybe all the garlic kills the cravings for junk food, not sure, but I know it always makes me feel great).

Because I am a repoter, I am also bombarded with latest health news and studies so mentally, I am always motivated to eat healthy, fresh foods.

I just came across this study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reminds me why it's good to watch what we eat.
Researchers say 90 percent of all Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease. As we all know, heart disease is the number one killer, but the truth is, it can be prevented.
Americans are literally killing themselves by giving into processed foods and high fat foods every day.
CDC researchers say virtually all Americans have one or more of the following:
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, overweight, smoke or don't exercise enough.
I also find that blood work is another great way to motivate yourself to get healthy.
We're getting ready to have our annual physicals because we know preventative healthcare can help us stay on track.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Best tasting high fiber cereals

Yes, it has the reputation of tasting like cardboard or getting stuck in your stomach so you feel and look 8 months pregnant!
Times have changed! Now it's worth adding a high fiber cereal to the top of your grocery list.

Not only does it fill you up and help keep you slim, but high fiber cereal can also lower your cholesterol, balance hormones and keep diabetes in check.
Integrative medical doctors suggest you eat about 40 grams a day. (The government says about 28 grams is enough.)

I told you about my favorite, high fiber cereal (12 grams fiber/170 calories) a few BLOGS ago.
It made the "good" list. I'm still going to stick with it because it's higher in fiber compared to most brands tested.

Now Consumer Reports is out with its top list.
The winners include:
Costco's Kirkland Signature Spiced Pecan made the only top "excellent spot" with 7 grams of fiber, 190 calories.
Some of the "very good" cereals include:
Kashi GoLean Crunch Fiber Twigs, Soy Protein Grahams and Honey Puffs with 10 grams of fiber, 140 calories.
Archer Farms High Fiber (Target) with 10 grams of fiber, 150 calories
Barbara's Bakery Ultima Organic with 12 grams of fiber, 170 calories
You can see the entire list on

**Make sure you take a close look at the sweetener in high fiber cereals. Some popular brands use aspartame or sucralose. I avoid chemical sweeteners.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Other options for lush lashes...

You've probably seen the commercials or maybe you have friends with luscious long lashes thanks to Latisse?

Like many ladies, I LOVE long lashes too. I admit I tried Latisse when it first came out, but it irritated my eyes, so I stopped using it.

I don't like the idea of using a medication everyday or it won't work anyway.
There are so many other options available that Latisse just wasn't worth it for me.
I really like using a natural "conditioner" on my eyelashes... unrefined, raw coconut oil.

I put a small amount on my lashes before I go to bed.  I have really sensitive eyes. It doesn't bother my eyes and I've noticed that my lashes are stronger and longer. (Washing my face every night can make my face/lashes dry. You know how your hair soaks up conditioner, my eyelashes seem to do the same with the small amount of coconut oil I use. You can find unrefined coconut at Whole Foods or any health food store.)

Of course, for big impact, the store bought variety always work too!

I heard rumblings about the medication even changing the color of the iris... to brown.
Now the FDA is warning customers to understand the risks associated with the medication.

Here's the article from the Associated Press:
The Food and Drug Administration has warned Allergan Inc. that the Web site for its eyelash thickener Latisse is misleading because it avoids or downplays risks associated with the product.
In a letter dated Sept. 10 and posted to the FDA Web site the agency said the Latisse site either doesn't mention potential side effects including bacterial eye infection, allergic reactions, excess hair growth outside the intended treatment area, and permanent changes in iris and eyelid pigmentation, or presents them in small text that is much less prominent than statements about the product's effectiveness.

The drug is approved to make eyelashes thicker, fuller and darker. The FDA approved it for that use in December. Latisse, or bimatoprost was already on the market as a treatment for glaucoma.
In some cases, pages on the Web site leaves out information that is included in Latisse packaging.
"These promotional materials are misleading because they omit and minimize risks associated with Latisse," the agency wrote. Allergan was asked to immediately stop distributing the misleading material and send a written response to the FDA by Sept. 24.

In the letter, the Irvine, Calif.-based company is supposed to state whether it will comply with the FDA request, list all Latisse promotional materials, identify those that violate FDA rules, and explain its plan to stop using those materials.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Heather's Green Guide: A facial peel that pulverizes pores!

You know I believe what you put on the inside of your body will be reflected on the outside. When I eat sugary, processed foods, my face is puffy the next day, my pores look bigger and my skin seems dull.
I've noticed when I keep my system clean (read my BLOG below to see what I mean) and eat fresh, simple foods including good fatty foods like wild salmon, avocado or unrefined, organic coconut oil, my face glows!

I always start my morning with a cup of loose leaf white tea (read the study I posted about this natural wrinkle fighter on Heather's Natural

Clearly, spending time in front of an HDTV camera has forced me to take good care of my face. I swear you can SEE pores with our cameras! ;)
I've used harsh, chemical based skincare lines like Obagi. My skin turned red and eventually looked better but it didn't seem like a longterm solution.

Your skin absorbs what you put on it so over the years. Ten years ago, some major autoimmune issues forced me to take a look at chemicals in every day products (who knew my HAIRSPRAY was one of the culprits behind my autoimmune response!)
I've phased out harsher products to make room for paraben/phthalate free, natural skincare lines.
I've wasted a ton of money on "natural products" that didn't do much of anything (well, they did turn me extra greasy!).

I want to save you money with Heather's Green Guide. It will be a great resource where you can find natural products that REALLY DO WORK! If you care about the ingredients in your products, let me do the homework so you can see the winner's list.

My girlfriend, Edyta, turned me on to the Eminence Organic skincare.
I've tried a couple of things and will only recommend the products that are worth your money because they work.

The Yam and Pumpkin Enzyme Peel has earned a spot in Heather's Green Guide as a natural skincare product that tightens pores, gives you a glow and won't bombard your skin with a zillion toxic chemicals you can't pronounce! I use it once a week (especially around my nose!). This is the first time I've actually noticed my pores getting dramatically smaller! Always a good thing! I have sensitive skin so it's always a plus when I am not bright red after using a product!
It costs about $35 dollars but keep in mind with all of these products, you use a dime or nickel size so they really last a long time. I've seen better prices online so shop around.

I did have to buy the "Soothing Chamomile Toner" a baking soda based toner that balances your skin after the peel.
The Citrus Exfoliating Wash is a great daily wash that helps me remove SERIOUS make-up at the end of the day.

I am a fan of these three products because I can easily understand the ingredients on the label and I've noticed a dramatic improvement in the short time I've been using them.

Please let me know some of your favorite products (cleaners, shampoos, baby products, foods, drinks, cosmetics) to be considered for Heather's Green Guide.
Remember, ingredients matter!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How to get "garbage in, garbage out"

The only way I can avoid cake, doughnuts, candy and other junk in the newsroom is to make sure when I arrive at work, I am filled to the gills with good stuff!

That's why I always eat breakfast and lunch before work. Sometimes it's hard to know which foods (especially cereal) are REALLY good for you. Did you read the story I added to Heather's Natural Health about processed food companies creating their own "Smart Choice" label for sugar filled cereals like Fruit Loops?

One of my favorite cereals that tastes great AND is loaded with fiber is Kashi VIVE.

It's hard to find a high fiber cereal that doesn't taste like cardboard. VIVE tastes like graham crackers and has 12 grams of fiber per serving. I usually add some cinnamon.
I like that it does NOT have corn syrup and other processed ingredients like some high fiber cereals.

Fiber is a good thing for you to eat every day.

I interviewed Dr. Steven Masley about natural ways to lower cholesterol. One of his tips is to eat at least 40 grams of fiber a day. He said to think of it as a "dump truck" that gets all of the garbage in your gut, out!

The ONLY problem is that VIVE can be hard to find. I stock up when I find it at health food stores. You should be able to find it at Greenwise stores and apparently, Walmart.

Tell me about some of your favorite healthy breakfasts on the run so I can share.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My cell phone emits too much radiation for me!

Do you know how much radiation your cell phone emits?

A new 10-month study lists the best and worst cell phones based on how much cell phone radiation is absorbed by your brain.

The FDA and cell phone industry insist daily radiation exposure to our brain is safe but the reality is, we still don't have any longterm cell phone radiation studies proving it is safe.

I don't like how my cell phone performed in this study so I am going to take an extra precaution.

Here's what the study found:

The Samsung Impression gave off the lowest amount of radiation to the brain .35 watts per kilogram.

My new Apple iPhone 3G emits much more. Researchers say your brain absorbs 1.39 W/kg from the iphone 3G, pushing it closer to the WORST list.

For me, the answer is easy. I paid less than $40 bucks for a hollow tube earpiece which doesn't allow radiation to travel to my head.
Here's what it looks like:

When the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Environmental Oncology issued a warning for people to cut down on cell phone radiation I bought my first hollow tube earpiece for my Verizon phone.

I had not taken the time to order one for my new iPhone until I read the new study.

There are some other options you can try (these are especially important if you have kids who are attached to their cell phones).

Read the study here including the BEST and WORST phones based on radiation and how you can lower your exposure.

Yes, the hollow tube earpiece could be a waste of money if I find out 40 years from now that daily radiation exposure to your brain is actually a good thing--I will be missing out.

This is a chance I will take.

Read more of my stories on Heather's Natural Health

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Peru pictures, "healing soup" and more...

Mike and I just returned from our 10th anniversary trip to Peru.

Since we don't have kids (yet?? Still deciding on that one) we like to travel while we can.
We talked about going to Italy, maybe Spain or France, but we really wanted to do something different that may be harder to do when we're older.

Hiking in Peru made sense!

While we love to eat fresh foods (and drink a little vino--BTW--Santa Julia Malbec is an excellent organic wine we LOVED in Peru).

We really wanted to be active during the day. I'm sure you've been on trips that literally become "pigfests!" The whole trip is about pigging out! Right after eating breakfast, you start planning lunch only to stuff yourself again at dinner!
We've taken too many of those trips!

A friend of ours hiked the Inca Trail in Peru for 4 days (he slept in tents, no shower etc.)and LOVED it! He said when you finally see Machu Picchu it's an incredibly emotional moment. We were tempted...

We TALKED about doing this, but in the end, I can admit, I pulled the plug on the idea. I played the "it's our special anniverary" card.
Don't get me wrong, this is my 5th year walking 60 miles in the 3Day Breast Cancer Walk...I've stayed in tents... I can rough it, but you can't blame a girl for asking for a little compromise... hike during the day and stay in cozy hotels at night! Can you blame me? ;)

We really didn't know what to expect in Peru! We knew we wanted to hike & explore Inca ruins in Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Machu Picchu but this is the first time I booked an international trip without the help of a travel agent.
Luckily, my sister-in-law, Terri, gave us her itinerary from a recent trip we were supposed to take with her so I was able to get a good idea of where to go & stay.
I found a great package online through Orient-Express Hotels. We stayed at Hotel Monasterio in Cusco, took the Hiram Bingham train through the Andes mountains to Machu Picchu and then spent two nights at The Sanctuary Lodge on Machu Picchu and one more night at Hotel Monasterio in Cusco.

Terri and our friends told us to stay in the Sacred Valley area of Peru for a couple of days beforehand (we stayed at Sol Y Luna) to get acclimated.
You can get altitude sickness if you fly into Cusco & expect to hike Machu Picchu right away (especially coming from sea level and then going up to 10,000 feet). You can take medication to help... we didn't.
We took liquid ChlorOxygen before & during the trip (it's a green plant based liquid that increases the oxygen in your blood. We added a few drops to water. I bought it at Whole Foods. The locals also recommend drinking mate de cocoa. The leaves have a slightly bitter taste.)

Whatever we did... it worked! We didn't have any problems at all... just occasional "heavy breathing" during our hikes.
This ended up being one of our favorite trips! The Andes mountains, the Inca villages, the Pisac market were all incredible!
Make sure if you go to Machu Picchu you also hike Waynapicchu. The mountain overlooks Machu Picchu. The only bummer is you have to get up at 5:00 in the morning to buy tickets because they only allow a certain amount of hikers each day. The good news is you'll be up early enough to watch the sunrise!

So are you wondering about the food, yet?
Nope, we didn't get sick!
The Quechua people (the language spoken by the Inca) eat a lot of potatos, grains, beans and quinoa--a high protein seed that is one of my favorite foods!
They're really connected to their foods and the environment.

The ancient Inca villages were all designed with the stars, moon, & sun in mind because the people literally worshiped the sun, moon, mountains & earth (which is one of the reasons the Spanish conquistadors destroyed most Inca buildings--except for Machi Picchu--they couldn't find it in the mountain jungle. The conquistadors wanted the Quechua people to worship Christ).

They eat a lot of whole, simple foods. We decided to pass on the cuy (guinea pig) but we did taste the "chicha" a fermented corn beer. I liked the strawberry flavor. I could NOT drink a pint or I would be out the rest of the day!

Two of my favorites foods include a "healing" quinoa soup and lentil bean salad.
I brought back both recipes because I like to make a huge pot of soup on a Sunday and eat healthy leftovers for a couple days. It's a great way to start the week off right and not worry about cooking until Weds. or Thurs!

The Quinoa soup is a great way to prevent colds or keep your immune system strong. Mike & I ate it before every dinner.
(Garlic is a powerful germicide. You can leave out the chicken and just add quinoa because the seed is a complete protein)
Here's what you need:
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 cup chopped carrots
-1 cup chopped celery
-1 cip onions
-4 cups water
-1 whole head of garlic (cloves peeled & coarsely chopped)
-1 rotisserie chicken (already cooked to save time)
-6 cups chicken broth
-2 cups quinoa (rinse before you add it)
-1/2 cup chopped flat parsley
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and onions & garlic. Saute for 4 minutes.
Stir in water and chicken broth. Bring to boil.
Toss in chopped chicken and rinsed quinoa, parsely, salt and pepper. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.

We also liked this cold, lentil bean salad.

Here's what you need:
-2 cups green lentil beans
-2 cups onion
-5 tomatos (I used Roma, but others will work)
-1 cup fresh cilantro
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-2 limes
-1 avocado

Prepare your green lentil beans according to package. While they cool in the fridge, chop onion, tomatos, cilantro and dice avocado.
Lightly coat lentil beans with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste. Fold in your vegetables. Be careful not to squish diced avocados. Squeeze fresh lime juice over salad. You can also stuff this salad into a toasted pita.

We're happy to be back, but we already miss the daily hikes and incredible views!
Peru is a "must do" to add to your bucket list!