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Monthly Archives

March 2013

The Skinny on Artificial Sweeteners

The big debate on artificial sweeteners and their health risks continues on, with the FDA claiming that there are no known health risks & others arguing that they indeed have harmful effects on the body.

Let me start by saying that the argument stating there are no known health risks of artificial sweeteners is not a good enough answer to get me to ingest them. Period.

In fact, I’m more inclined to side with the argument that artificial sweeteners can cause a whole slew of negative health effects, which are backed by several studies. Especially since the companies & organizations advocating for the safety of artificial sweeteners generally has a financial stake in the matter, and thus something to hide.

Now although I am using the term “artificial sweetener” broadly, you should know that reduced calorie sweeteners (sugar alcohols) differ slightly. Artificial sweeteners, which are made in a lab, are completely void of calories and do not raise your blood sugar whereas sugar alcohols do have a caloric value and can raise your blood sugar level.

Some of the more commonly known artificial sweeteners are Sucralose, Aspartame, Acesulfame, & Saccharin.

A few reduced calorie sweeteners, or “sugar alcohols” are Xylitol, Isomalt, Maltitol, Mannitol, & Sorbitol

Here are just a few of the side effects that can be caused by some of the above sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners:

  • Saccharin: Cancer, should be avoided by people with Eczema and other skin conditions. This artificial sweetener can also be found in Aspirin & Acetaminophen (about as much as a diet soda)
  • Aspartame: Seizures, Headaches, Attention Deficit Disorders, mood swings, depression, panic attacks, nausea heart palpitations, constipation, swelling of body parts, dizziness, respiratory issues, weight gain, body fat percent increase, tumors, certain types of cancers, & vision problems
  • Sucralose: Enlarged liver & Kidneys, shrunken thymus (plays a role in the development of the immune system), other kidney problems, and a reduced red blood cell count. It also can cause headaches, dizziness, bloating, panic, rashes, depression, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, & seizures, headaches, along with mood swings, depression, panic attacks, nausea, dizziness, and temper problems
  • Acesulfame: Headaches, nausea, liver & kidney problems, vision problems, depression, & cancer
  • Xylitol: Low Blood Sugar, Hypoglycemia, kidney stones & increased levels of uric acid in your blood, rashes/itching, diarrhea, gas, difficulty breathing, tumors,
  • Sorbitol: Heart and lung related issues, breathing difficulties, diarrhea, gas, compromised ability to absorb nutrients, & an over production of urine

Some more facts

  • In the brain, there is a direct link between the taste of a food and the caloric intake your body expects from that food. By ingesting a low calorie, no calorie (not including water), or “diet” food, your body essentially gets confused which can lead to more cravings and thus weight-gain.
  • Artificial sweeteners can over stimulate your sense of taste for sweet foods so what you consume foods that are naturally sweet, they don’t seem as sweet, like a banana for example. Also, foods that are not sweet can begin to taste completely unappealing. This can leave you unsatisfied and more likely to overeat.

All of the risks stated above are merely the known possible risks…what about the side effects that we aren’t even aware of due to lack of information or lack of studies? Is that one beverage or snack really worth the risk?

Skipping the calories but getting a whole plate full of health risks hardly seems worth it, only to end up with the risk of gaining weight anyway, the very thing you were trying tolemon-91537_640 avoid from the beginning.

A better, natural option?

  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Pure Maple Syrup (Aunt Jemima doesn’t count)
  • Sugar in the Raw
  • Agave nectar

*Try cutting back on sugar altogether (real or artificial). If you want something sweet, opt for fruit, but if you must use sugar, try the ones I listed above.”

Gradually try to reduce sugar & artificial sweeteners from your diet until you reach a point where they are hardly or never used.

So, what do you think? Will you skip out on that next packet of Splenda or diet soda??

– Letisha

Sources:

http://www.holisticmed.com/splenda/research-adverse.html
http://www.medicinenet.com/artificial_sweeteners/article.htm
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1931116,00.html
http://www.livestrong.com/article/85091-dangers-xylitol/
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thymus

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Why EGGS Are Better For You Than You Think!

For many years now eggs have gotten a bad reputation as an unhealthy breakfast item. Eggs have been labeled as the cholesterol raiser…eat an egg then BAM, cholesterol through the roof!

However, American consumers are taking another look at eggs and giving them a well-deserved second chance.

Let’s examine the nutritional facts of the egg…

Medium Sized (44g)egg-52915

  • Calories: 63
  • Total Fat: 4g
  • Saturate Fat: 1g
  • Cholesterol: 186 mg
  • Sodium: 62 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 6g

Yes, the cholesterol level is little high, however this is not necessarily a bad thing. You also get 6 fabulous grams of protein, and it’s not high in calories.  Other not widely known benefits are that eggs are rich in Vitamins in A, D, E, B, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, and carotenoids. All these fantastic vitamins and antioxidants means benefits to your skin, eyes, heart, and immune system.

There are so many ways to prepare an egg and turn this breakfast item into a anytime meal.

Try…eggs-19641_640

  • Egg  & Veggie Burrito
  • Egg & Avocado
  • Egg & Brown Rice
  • Sautéed vegetables with scrambled eggs
  • Hard boiled egg with Salt and Pepper
  • Deviled eggs

So go ahead, give eggs a second chance and get crackin’!

Peace, Love, & Coconuts.

– Nalani

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Our Top 10 Secret Beauty Tips (shh..)

Check out our favorite top 10 beauty secrets! Give them a try!

41320_588202385720_17909474_34153008_2758337_n

  1. Huge Pimple? Break open an Advil Liquid gel and apply directly to a pimple to reduce swelling overnight.
  2. Dull Hair? Rinse your hair with Apple Cider Vinegar and spring water for instant shine.
  3. Stained Teeth? Brush your teeth with Rembrandt Whitening Toothpaste for whitened teeth in 1-2 weeks.
  4. Blackheads & Clogged Pores? Clear out your pores by making homemade pore strips with gelatin.
  5. Wet Nails? Spray your semi-dry nails with Pam Cooking Spray for instantly dry nails.
  6. Thinning Hair? Oil your scalp with Castor Oil for thicker hair within weeks.
  7. Irritated skin? Apply a turmeric facemask at night to wake up to calmer and refreshed skin.
  8. Want Smooth Lips? Mix up a simple lip scrub with sugar, lemon and honey for kissable lips!
  9. Persistent, Dry Cough? Swallow a tablespoon or two of honey for instant relief.
  10. Paint Your Nails Outside the Lines? Apply Vaseline to your cuticles prior to painting. Any nail polish you get on your skin will wash right off!

What are some of your favorite beauty tips?! Share in the comments below!

Peace, Love & Coconuts!

– Letisha, Nalani, Zeena

Top 10 Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid…(like the plague)

So many facial cleansers, moisturizers, and masks exist that it can be confusing to find the one that is right for your skin. Just because a facial product claims to be “natural”, does not mean it will not wreak havoc on your face. When shopping for a facial cleanser I pay attention to 3 things:

  1. The cost
  2. The  so called “claim” of the product
  3. THE INGREDIENTS

Cleansers such as Clean & Clear and Neutrogena are filled with harmful agents that can cause long-term negative health effects as well as short-term skin care issues. This does not mean, “natural” skin products are in the clear. Almost every ingredients-to-avoid-pic2product you use deserves a second look at the ingredients. When I find a product I love, I incessantly look at the ingredients, which is why it’s easy for my sisters and I to spend hours in the natural health store.

I want to be able to look at a product and understand the role of each ingredient and their reason for adding it.  It’s impossible to know EVERY single ingredient out there but there are a few that you should most definitely avoid.  If you see a product with these ingredients return it, trash it, and find a skin care product that will treat your skin with the TLC it deserves!

Here’s the list of 10 ingredients to most certainly AVOID:

1. Parabens (ethyl-, methyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- or isobutyl)

  • preservative used to extend shelf life and prevent growth of microbes
  • effects hormones, may reduce sperm count/testosterone in men, cause early menstruation in women, may be a carcinogen

2. Sulfates (Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth or Lauryl Sulfate)

  • detergent and surfactant
  • may cause skin rashes/eye infections, depression, diarrhea

3. Diethanaolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA), Triethanolamine (TEA)

  • foaming agent/emulsifier
  • skin/eye irritant, may affect brain and body function, cause dry skin, may cause liver and kidney cancer

4. DMDM Hydantion/Urea

  • preservative
  • releases formaldehyde resulting in headaches, skin reactions, dizziness, joint pain, chest pain, dermatitis, fatigue, and ear infectionsingredients to avoid pic 4

5. Sodium Benzoate-

  • preservative
  • morphs into the cancer causing agent “benzene” when mixed with Vitamin C.

6. Propylene Glycol-

  • skin conditioning agent or “surfactant” that penetrates quickly the also found in Anti-Freeze
  • may cause cancer, reproductive/developmental problems, damages protein/cellular structure of the skin

7. FD&C or D&C Color Pigments-

  • synthetic coloring that leaves toxins on skin
  • may cause cancer, nausea, headaches, mood changes,

8. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

  • strips skin of sebum (oil)
  • may cause kidney damage

9. Isopropyl/Ethyl Alcohol

  • Solvent/denaturant
  • strip the skin of its natural moisture, may cause headaches, nausea, diarrhea, depression
  • not to be confused with cetyl alcohol which is an emollient derived from coconutsingredients-to-avoid-pic-1

10. Fragrance

  • may contain hidden ingredient “phthalate” that may affect reproductive organs, and development of children

Next time your shopping for a facial moisturizer, mask, or cleanser keep these ingredients in mind. It may take some time but look for products that are labeled as SLS/Paraben/Fragrance/Color free, but your body will thank you!

So, what do I used to stay chemical free?

  • Shampoo: Giovanni Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo
  • Conditioner: Giovanni EO Lavender Conditioner
  • Deep Conditioner: Giovanni Smooth As Silk Deeper Moisture Conditioner
  • Leave-in: Beautiful Curls Curl Enhancing Shea Butter  Leave-In Conditioner
  • Lotion: JR Watkins Hand and Body Lotion Lemon Creme
  • Deodorant: Adama Minerals Clay Dry Deodorant Original

Peace, Love & Coconuts!

– Zeena

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Coconut Curry Noodle Soup!

So this month’s Favorite Ingredient is the lovely coconut! As a reminder, the 1st Friday of every month, we will reveal our favorite ingredient for that month. Each following Friday for that month, we will feature a recipe using that favorite ingredient! Today we’d like to share a recipe for Coconut Curry Noodle Soup!

Try out this YUMMY vegan recipe. And remember, peace, love, and coconuts!

coconut curry noodle soup

Recipe: Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

coconut curry noodle soup

  • 8 oz Brown rice noodles
  • 3½ cups Vegetable Broth
  • 1.5 oz Thai curry paste
  • 1 13.5oz can coconut milk
  • 2 cups sliced bell peppers
  • 1 cup roughly chopped mushrooms
  • 1 handful of cilantro

In a large pot, place coconut oil and allow to coat bottom. Add in bell peppers and mushrooms, and sautee for 1 minute.

coconut curry noodle soup

Add in coconut milk, then curry paste, then vegetable broth.

coconut curry noodle soup

When at a simmer, add in brown rice noodles .

coconut curry noodle soup

Stir and let cook for 10 minutes. When you’re about to serve, add in cilantro. And now it’s ready to enjoy.

coconut curry noodle soup

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 534
Total Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 3g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 491mg
Total Carbs: 37g
Dietary Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 4g
Protein: 2g

ENJOY!!

– Nalani

Getting Your Diet BACK ON TRACK!

When I start to feel sluggish and out of balance, I look towards my diet to help me PastedGraphic-1get centered again. My diet influences so many parts of my health and life overall.

When my diet starts to go south (i.e. more sweets, processed, fatty foods, drink less water) I notice:

  • More facial acne
  • Greater water retention
  • Feeling of sluggishness
  • Headaches
  • Cravings of even more bad food!

In order to get back into the swing of things with a healthy diet, I like to wipe the plate clean and start fresh…literally! For one week, I eat non or minimally processed meals and drink cleansing beverages.PastedGraphic-2

A sample of one day’s menu is:

  • Lemon Water
  • Banana
  • Walnuts
  • Blueberries & Blackberries
  • Salad: (walnuts, craisins, lettuce, orange pepper. Salad dressing: mustard and olive oil)
  • Apple
  • Egg, Avocado & Tomato
  • Lots of water!

When I cleanse my body I begin to crave candy less, experience a decreased desire for processed food, gain more energy, wake up more easily in the morning, notice fewer breakouts, and produce less facial oil and shine throughout the day.

This may seem like an unrealistic or intimidating diet to consume for a week. If you arePastedGraphic-3 nervous, try swapping one or two less-than-ideal food choices like a donut, for a healthy sweet-tooth satisfying banana.

I will be updating my progress with this new rejuvenating dietary cleanse and I’m sure I’ll be good as new in a week’s time!

– Nalani

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Eat CLEAN: The 80/20 Rule for Maximum Fitness!

I’m sure you’ve heard of the 80/20 Rule when it comes to fitness. For anyone who

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

hasn’t, it’s simple. The key to achieving optimum fitness is 80% what you eat and 20% physical exercise.

What does this mean? Realizing your fitness goals, whether they be weight loss, toning upbuilding muscle, or improving cardiovascular endurance is greatly affected by what you fuel your body with.

Junk IN = Junk OUT

Some people get bogged down or stressed trying to figure out what or how to eat. The perfect way to simplify everything is to EAT CLEAN. Cutting out processed foods is half the battle. Once you’ve done that, making sure you are eating a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats is pretty much all there is to it.

Now I’ve heard many times that people don’t understand how I can eat what I eat or eat how I eat. Let me say that once you make a habit of something (hopefully a good habit) it becomes a part of you, a regular part of your daily life, and you don’t look at it as some unimaginable thing, you just see it as what you do, like brushing your teeth.

Image courtesy of nixxphotography/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nixxphotography/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t forget to have fun with this! Eating cleanly doesn’t have to be something you dread. Buy foods that you enjoy and find ways to prepare food that, while healthy, you may not enjoy as much. For example, spinach has never been a favorite of mine, but its incredibly good for you, so what do I do? I sometimes make a spinach and egg white omelet. I put a healthy spin on a food that, alone, I don’t enjoy. My egg white spinach omelets with a little feta cheese…DELICIOUS!

With that being said, do I cheat? Of course. We all do. The difference is to know how and when its okay. Self control is a biggie, but the cleaner you eat and the longer you practice clean eating, the easier it is to stick to.

Try it out. Take a look at your average daily diet and make a change. Pick one or two things you can swap out and replace with something better, cleaner. Start slowly and build your new diet one meal at a time. If you can make one huge overhaul of your diet in one swoop, go for it. Remember to always do what works for you, and do what you are going to stick with. No sense in forcing yourself to do something you will only do for 1 day, then quit.

Don’t just pick a healthy plan, pick YOUR healthy plan. It will take some work, hard work, and a few times falling off the horse, but guess what? You’d be surprised at what you can accomplish. I’m surprised by myself all the time.

Good Luck!

Please share with me what you are doing to improve your diet, or what you already do! I want to hear!

– Letisha

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Delicious Antioxidant Tea

Antioxidant Tea

I absolutely love tea. It has so many amazing health benefits, it’s hard to not incorporate it into your diet. I don’t drink coffee too often but when I crave it I try to drink a cup of tea instead. My sisters and I can spend forever browsing the tea sections in the supermarket. I love all Yogi teas as well as Green tea and Chamomile tea. When looking for a good tea I focus on the herbs and their individual health benefits rather than the “claim” of the tea itself  (lately, I’ve been in LOVE with Hibiscus tea!)

So, what are the so called “benefits of tea”?:

  • Antioxidants (catechins) in certain teas protect the body against cancers; help fight free radicals; aide in anti-aging
  • Tea hydrates the body
  • L-theanine (amino acid in tea) may aide in relaxation of the mind/sleep
  • Certain teas may lower cholesterol; reduce inflammation
  • Tea boost immunity; promotes circulation in body
  • Polyphenols (antioxidants) in tea aide in digestion
  • Green tea aides in weight loss; prevents diabetes, cancers, heart disease; relaxes mood; boosts endurance; keeps skin looking beautiful 😉
  • Ginger tea aides in digestion; treats nausea
  • Hibiscus tea may boost immune system; reduce body bloat

One of my favorite tea beverages to make is chalk full of antioxidants and other beneficial goodies! I love the different flavor that each tea gives off, creating a delicious concoction.

Antioxidant Tea

My favorite brew for a delicious antioxidant tea includes Green tea, Hibiscus tea, Yogi Peach Detox tea, and Lemon and Ginger tea. I always add a few lemon and orange slices for added taste.

Peace, Love, & Coconuts! (mmm coconut tea..)

– Zeena

Flaxseed Hair Gel Recipe

Flaxseed hair gel is absolutely AMAZING. I made a small batch last night to test it outcurls1 and my hair has never felt so soft! It is so easy to make and is a much better alternative to other hair gels full of chemicals and alcohol (yuck!). I will definitely be making this gel more often, especially when I start to run out of my other leave-ins.

Benefits:

  • VERY soft hair
  • Well-defined curls
  • Easy to style hair
  • Shiny hair
  • No residue
  • Voluminous hair
  • Clean, fresh smell
  • Easy to make
  • CHEAP!!

gel1

Flax Seed Hair Gel Recipe

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup flax seeds
  • 1 drop rosemary essential oil
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

 

 

Bring 1 cup of water to a rapid boil. Add ½ cup of flaxseeds, stirring frequently.

photo1

Allow flaxseeds to boil for 5-7 minutes, or until a white mucus-looking layer forms on the top. The goal is to form a gel like consistency.

photo 2-2

Remove from heat and use a strainer to separate flaxseeds from gel. This may take some time but be patient and use a spoon to help push the gel through the strainer.

photo 3-1

Once strained, add your oils. I added olive oil for a bit of moisture, as well a drop of rosemary essential oil to promote hair growth.

photo 4-1

Allow to cool for a few hours. I let mine cool overnight. The gel should last you 1 week but may last longer with other essential oils.

*Yields ¾ gel or enough for 1 use

photo-16 photo-15

I loved the results!! My curls are super bouncy and feel amazing. Definitely give this recipe a try!

Peace, Love & Coconuts

-Zeena

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Super Quick Homemade Facial Peel!

For your peel you’ll need:

  • 1 packet plain gelatin (I used Knox brand)
  • 1 tbsp of milk (I used 1%)

Directions:gm

  1. Mix these two ingredients in a bowl or mug and microwave for 15 seconds.
  2. Let cool for 1-2 minutes then apply to your face.
  3. Leave on for 30 or so minutes or until completely dry (will feel almost like plastic)
  4. Now find a good “starting point” and being to slowly peel the mask off.

Be careful, this WILL hurt! Go slowly, avoid tearing the mask off of the hairy parts of your face (ie: eyebrows, sideburns, etc) Do not rip the mask off like a waxing strip or you run the risk of tearing a layer of your skin off!

NOTE: After it is microwaved, the gelatin mixture hardens very rapidly so work quickly with the mixture. Once you take it out of the microwave, let it cool JUST long enough so that it doesn’t burn your skin, then apply. The mixture will still be warm to the touch though. After you have peeled the mask off, your face will be slightly red but will feel smooth and supple!

Enjoy!

– Letisha