Vegan Paradise 

As you know, I spent a lovely week with my mother in law on Sanibel Island recently. It was a much needed relaxing break. On Wednesday we went for massages, body treatments, and a little oxygen bar treatment at the Sanibel Day Spa. It was divine.  

After such a grueling (ha!) morning of pampering and detoxifying treatments, we wanted something light and healthy to fill our bellies. Since Yelp never lets me down when looking for local restaurants, off to Yelp I went, and came across a little vegan cafe, called the Sanibel Sprout. It had great reviews and the menu sounded fantastic. Five minutes later we were there.  

 I can never walk into any health food store without instantly thinking of my mother in law, even though this time she happened to be standing right next to me. The combined aromas of vitamins, essential oils, and patchouli fill the air and remind me of her. This was no different. We were instantly greeted by the most adorable little British woman with platinum hair, a hot pink shirt, and a warm smile.

After perusing the shop section of the store, filled with books, supplements, candles, and a plethora of all natural products, we wandered over to the cafe portion, oohing and ahhing over the vegan cheesecakes, mini vegan key lime pies, vitamin elixirs, and other goodies in the prepared food case. We grabbed a few vitamin elixirs (Ok Mom grabbed one, I’m still new with all this stuff) and took a seat to look at the menu. 

     
   
Mom decided on the vegan lasagna made with brown rice noodles, tomato sauce, and cashew cheese. I, because I’m special, ordered something that wasn’t on the menu but listed on the specials board behind the counter. It was a vegan taco salad. Sounds like an oxymoron right? Wrong! The “taco meat” is actually made with seasoned walnuts and the “cheese” is cashew queso. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost

    
 It was delicious, filling, and if I hadn’t known, I would’ve thought I was eating ground beef. Seriously. In fact, I even found out later from the chef that recently a woman who had picked up a taco salad to go, had called later completely irate that there was meat in her vegan salad! There was no greater complement than that! We had to talk to the owner. I walked over to the aforementioned sweetheart who had welcomed us and found out her name was Edith. I gabbed to her a bit about how much I loved my food and asked her who owned this amazing little spot.

“I do. With my daughter, Nikki. She’s the chef” she said as she motioned toward a young woman working furiously behind the counter blending, chopping, and moving back and forth with grace and know how.

 I told Edith that I had a blog and would love to do a little write up about the Sanibel Sprout so perhaps I could ask her a few questions and take a photo of her. She kindly obliged but said she first had to check her lipstick. She was so adorable I couldn’t help but snap a photo of her as she did so. 

 Once she was fully primped, she positioned herself on a stool in front of the juice bar and smoothie station, took her glasses off, and smiled. 

“Is this alright?” she asked.

“Perfect” I said.

Edith is 89 years old and becoming a vegan literally saved her life. 

Three years ago she was diagnosed with stage one leukemia. Her daughter and natural chef, Nikki, moved from Miami to Sanibel to help her mother change her diet and hopefully prolong her life. Although Edith had been a vegetarian for many years, she was not as enthusiastic about going completely vegan. 

“If I have to give up chocolate and milk, I’d rather just die.” she candidly recanted. 

But Nikki assured her that she would never be hungry and that every day she would be showered with deliciously filling breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. And that she did. She never went hungry and was fully convinced. It has now become her lifestyle.

Edith’s sister, still living in England, was also diagnosed with leukemia. Sadly, she passed away soon after. The difference in their diets was undeniable and the results spoke for themselves. Three years later, Edith’s leukemia is still at stage one and, to the amazement of her doctors, has not moved or grown whatsoever. 

There may not yet be a cure for cancer out there, but a plant based diet, living on what God created, certainly seems to be effective in prevention and even treatment of disease. 

I could have sat and chatted with those two all day, but the beach was calling. I look forward to going back on our next visit, Edith will be 90 by then, and probably better than ever. 

As soon as I got home, I had to try to recreate Nikki’s delicious taco salad. Stay tuned tomorrow for the recipe! 

  

 
 

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Salt, salt, salt! 

  Last week I did a post about natural Castile soap and it’s many uses. Although I am by no means a certified health expert or what I consider to be “granola” (I won’t be wearing Birkenstocks or using a crystal under my arms any time soon), I do appreciate using products that are good for my body and as natural as possible. I got a lot of positive feedback from the soap post so I decided to do a similar post today, but this time, about Epsom salt. 

Epsom salt is a major staple in my house. I keep a giant glass jar of it next to my bathtub and generously sprinkle it in the water every time I take a bath. I initially started doing it because I had heard that it helped soften the skin. Which it absolutely did. But I also noticed that it made my soaks so much more relaxing. Upon further examination, I discovered why. Magnesium! 

Let’s take a little detour to talk about magnesium and some of the things I’ve learned about it. Magnesium is the eighth most abundant mineral on earth, and the third most abundant in sea water. More importantly, it is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and it is necessary in over 300 reactions within the body. Translation? It’s pretty important and you are most likely deficient in magnesium. I certainly realized I was after discovering I have almost all of the following signs of a magnesium deficiency…

  • Inability to sleep or insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Mental disturbances
  • Anxiety, depression or restlessness
  • Muscle soreness or spasms
  • Infertility or PMS
  • High levels of stress
  • Headaches
  • Heart “flutters” or palpitations
  • Fatigue or unusual tiredness
  • Coldness or tingling in extremities
  • Fuzzy brain or difficulty concentrating
  • Allergies and sensitivities
  • Lack of appetite
  • Back pain
  • Body odor
  • Bad short term memory
  • Poor coordination
  • Insulin resistance
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Constipation
  • Frequent cavities or poor dental health (usually caused by frequent use of antibiotics which deplete magnesium from your body)
  • Gut disorders
  • Kidney stones
  • Thyroid problems

What are some factors that cause this depletion of magnesium?

  • Consumption of caffeine
  • Consumption of sugar (It takes 28 molecules of magnesium to metabolize a single glucose molecule! source)
  • Consumption of processed food
  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Consumption of produce from depleted soil
  • Drugs like birth control pills, hypertension medicine, diuretics, insulin, and certain antibiotics (among others) deplete magnesium levels. 
  • Sweating often from exercise or other causes can also deplete magnesium.

So now you know what it is, that you’re probably deficient in it, and how you got that way. But what does magnesium actually do, and why is it so good for you?

  • Gives rigidity AND flexibility to your bones (more important than Calcium in many cases)
  • Regulates and normalizes blood pressure
  • Prevents and reverses kidney stone formation
  • Promotes restful sleep
  • Helps prevent congestive heart failure
  • Eases muscle cramps and spasms.
  • Decreases insulin resistance
  • End cluster and migraine headaches
  • Enhances circulation
  • Relieves fibromyalgia and chronic pain
  • Treats asthma and emphysema
  • Encourages proper elimination (it helps you go poo)
  • Prevents osteoporosis
  • Proper Vitamin D absorption
  • Aids weight loss
  • Lessen or remove ADD or ADHD in children
  • Emerging evidence is showing a preventative role in many cancers

Man that sure is one helpful element off the periodic table! But how do we get more of it? Well unfortunately, magnesium is often not well absorbed by the digestive tract, and is even more difficult to absorb if you are deficient or are low in vitamin D, have poor gut bacteria or suffer from a number of other conditions. On top of that, most foods are depleted of their natural magnesium levels and the water supply is lacking also. But there are some things you can do…

  • Eat lots of leafy greens especially sea vegetables like kelp and nettles. 
  • Use a topical magnesium spray as it can more quickly enter the blood and tissues of the body since you don’t have to digest it.
  • Use Epsom salt, which is rich in magnesium! 

Whew, it was quite a detour but we made it back on course to our topic at hand, Epsom salt! Epsom salt, named for a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England, is not actually salt but a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate. Long known as a natural remedy for a number of ailments, it has numerous health benefits as well as many beauty, household and gardening-related uses. Studies have shown that magnesium and sulfate are both readily absorbed through the skin, making Epsom salt baths an easy and ideal way to enjoy the amazing health benefits. 

The wonders of Epsom salt have been well known for hundreds of years and unlike other salts, Epsom salt has beneficial properties that can soothe the body, mind and soul. Some of the countless health benefits include relaxing the nervous system, curing skin problems, soothing back pain and aching limbs, easing muscle strain, healing cuts, treating cold and congestion, and drawing toxins from the body. One of the simplest ways to ease stress and stress-related problems is to soak in a tub full of hot water with a few cups of Ultra Epsom Salt. 

Here are some great home uses I’ve tried (and a few I haven’t but I’m sure they’re effective)  for this magnificent “salt”…

  • Relax in the tub! Add at least 1 cup of epsom salt to a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes. This can help relieve sore muscles, soften skin, absorb magnesium unti skin, and encourage a good nights sleep. Try putting it in your child’s bath at night to relax them before bed. 
  • Splinter Removal- Soak in concentrated epsom salt water to pull out a splinter.
  • Better Vegetables- Add a tablespoon of epsom salt to the soil below a tomato plant to boost growth. (this is obviously one that I have NOT tried…sorry dad)
  • Heal minor cuts & infections- ever get an infected earlobe from a cheap earring? Soak a cotton ball in warm water and Epsom salt, hold it onto ear for several minutes, and voila! 
  • Facial Wash- Add a pinch of epsom salt to your usual face cleaner (or to your oil cleansing routine) for a skin exfoliating magnesium boost.
  • Tile/Grout Cleaner- Mix equal parts of liquid dish soap and epsom salts and use to scrub tile and grout. Rinse well for a streak free shine.
  • Homemade Sea Salt Spray- Make your own sea salt spray to add texture and volume to have “beach hair” whenever you want! 
  • Volumizing Hair Mask- Combine equal parts of conditioner and epsom salt and leave on hair for 20 minutes. Rinse well and let air dry for thicker hair. (Yeah my hair is thick enough but I’m sure this really works to add volume of you need that kind of thing!) 
  • Foot Soak- For a concentrated magnesium boost, add 1 cup of epsom salt to a hot foot soak and soak for 20 minutes. This works wonders on yucky calloused heels like mine! 
  • Laxative- For occasional constipation, a teaspoon of epsom salt dissolved in water can help. 
  • Headache relief- There is evidence that soaking in a soothing epsom salt bath may help relieve headache.
  • Smooth skin- Mix 1/2 cup epsom salt with 1/4 cup olive oil and scrub skin in the shower for healthy and smooth skin.
  • Itchy Skin or Bug Bites- Dissolve a tablespoon of epsom salt in to 1/2 cup of water and cool. Spritz on itchy skin or apply a wet compress to help relieve itching.
  • Minor Sunburn Relief- Use the same ratio in the itchy skin relief above and spritz on to minor sunburns to help soothe them.

So there you have it! If you don’t have any Epsom salt at home, go get some right away, it’s super inexpensive! 

Dry skin brushing…trust me

20140729-020724-7644051.jpg Monday I posted a recipe for a diy leg exfoliatior and afterwards I got a question from one of my readers, Lolajoy12, about exfoliating before shaving. So rather than responding to the comment I decided to dedicate a whole post to answer your question Emily!

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So Emily, {and everyone else too, obviously} a loofah is of course better than nothing at all and I’m sure will do some exfoliating. Depending on the soap you’re using though, it can actually add to the dry skin problem. But what I like to do before showering? DRY SKIN BRUSHING. This one I got from the butcher’s mother. Now I admit, some of the things my health crazed mother in law says I just listen, nod, and give an internal “eye roll” to {love you ma!} but she is a successful licensed aesthetician {if you don’t know what that is then you really need this post, probably a dictionary and definitely a facial!} and so when it comes to skin, I listen. Years ago she turned me onto dry skin brushing and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Scan almost any spa menu, and you’ll likely find an offering that mentions dry brushing. The practice—which involves scrubbing down your dry skin with a scratchy brush—sounds far from pampering, if not a bit austere…{you proud, Dad?} But spa pros swear by it and sing its praises for supposedly doing everything from exfoliating to, {gasp!} reducing cellulite!
How does it work? Gentle dry brushing sloughs off dead, dry skin, improving its appearance and allowing it to hydrate more efficiently when moisturizer is applied afterward.
As for detoxifying, dry brushing is similar to massage. The light pressure against your skin and the direction in which you brush helps move fluid into the lymph nodes so this waste can be eliminated. Your body naturally does this, but dry brushing speeds up the process and at the same time boosts circulation, delivering oxygenated blood to the skin and other organs, which helps them do their jobs better. I’m telling you, you can actually feel your blood moving and circulating under the skin, like you just gave it an energy drink or something, it’s kind of invigorating.
So how do you dry brush?
First you need a proper brush. Look for firm bristles and a long handle. Here’s an affordable one from Target or a higher end brush from Dermstore.com
Because dry brushing energizes and stimulates the body, most pros suggest doing it in the morning before you shower, but you can do it any time of day you prefer. Using long, upward strokes, start brushing your skin at your feet and work up your legs one at a time. Then move up your mid-section (front and back) and across your chest. Finish by brushing up your arms toward your armpits {even though it may tickle a little here I promise it will make a world of difference in 1) whipping those stubborn underarm hairs into shape for a smoother shave and 2) getting all the deodorant residue that regular soap just can’t get} I like to do my whole body but if I’m in a hurry I at least do my legs, especially if I know I’m going to shave. If I’m really in a hurry and don’t dot it at all but end up shaving, my legs end up dry, bumpy, and much less smooth.

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Now it’s shower time and since you’ve just opened up your pores, any body treatments you apply in the shower {like my aforementioned diy sugar lemon coconut scrub} and afterward will penetrate the skin better and you’ll get the cleanest closest shave you’ve ever had! For more information on the health benefits, check out this article by Dr. Joseph Mercola and his 7 Key Benefits of Dry Skin Brushing.