A Simple Recipe For A Homemade Non-Toxic Fabric Softener

By Alanna Ketler

  • The Facts: Many fabric softeners are loaded with toxic chemicals that may cause harm to our health.
  • Reflect On: Have you looked for alternatives to make or to buy? There are plenty out there.

Fabric softeners are one of the most unnecessary dangerous chemicals that you may be using in your home, and it’s important that you stop right away. There are much better, safer, all natural alternatives that will keep you, your family, and the environment safe. The natural alternatives can also prolong the life of your clothes. Really, we have no reason to have ever invented such a toxic product in the first place.

Fabric softener is one thing, among many household items, that absolutely must go, and hopefully from the awareness that is raised from this article and many others that are exposing these harmful chemicals for what they are, we will continue to see the decline in their use as people continue to opt for safer, cleaner alternatives.

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So, What Is So Bad About Conventional Fabric Softeners?

First of all, the majority of conventional cleaning and personal care products can essentially be thrown in the garbage as they are absolutely loaded with chemicals, many of which are completely banned in other countries. We have many safer, all-natural alternatives to these types of things and we simply do not need to be using these to clean ourselves, our home, or our clothes. People sometimes assume that our governments have our best interests in mind and wouldn’t allow ingredients that are toxic to our health into the products that we use on a regular basis, and while that’s a nice thought, it is a naive one.

Fabric Softeners are among the worst offenders in terms of toxicity and it really makes one wonder how these chemical pollutants were approved by the U.S. Environmental Agency in the first place. The purpose of Fabric Softeners is to free your clothes from wrinkles and static cling and of course leave them smelling mountain fresh or like a field of lavender, but at what cost is this “fresh” smell?

According to the Environmental Working Group, fabric softeners contain chemicals and fragrances that can cause skin irritation and respiratory irritation. The fragrance element alone can come from hundreds of different chemical compounds, and yes many of them are toxic.

Interestingly, according to what Anne Steinmann, Ph.D., professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia and a world expert on environmental pollutants and their health effects, said in an interview with New Scientist, “Most exposure to hazardous pollutants occurs indoors, and a primary source for these pollutants is our everyday consumer products.”

New Scientist also has stated that there are no legal requirements that all the ingredients, including potential toxins be listed for most of the products we use every day. While the compounds they contain have been tested individually for toxicity, scientists admit it’s hard to say how dangerous they might become when some are mixed.

Conventional fabric softeners are either a liquid that you pour into the rinse cycle of your washing machine, or a sheet that is thrown into the dryer with your clothes. Both contain compounds that are especially harmful to children. Toxic chemicals can easily enter your body through the skin. One of the worst is phthalates, which are added to emit a fake fresh fragrance, the University of Illinois Cancer center had the following to say about phthalates,

Phthalates [are a] synthetic preservative that’s carcinogenic and linked to adverse reproductive effects (decreased sperm counts, early breast development and birth defects) and live and kidney damage.

Steinmann also noted,

Using a liquid fabric softener? You are pouring these toxic chemicals into the ocean every time you use it. Even worse than liquid fabric softeners are dryer sheets, whose chemicals are heated and then shot into the air for you to breathe into your lungs.

That ‘fresh-from-the-dryer’ smell that fabric softeners impart to your clean load of laundry? Don’t breathe it in, if you like your lungs to function. That super floral smell is masking a seriously unhealthy chemical stench.

o, What Are The Alternatives?

Luckily, there are lots, which begs the question, why did we ever start using these horrible toxic products in the first place? Every chemical product that is in use today for personal care or home cleaning could essentially vanish from the Earth and you know what? We would make do.

A simple recipe for a homemade fabric softener is as follows:

Ingredients

2 Cups Epsom Salts or 2 Cups Coarse Sea Salt
20-30 Drops Essential Oil
1/2 Cup Baking Soda

Simply mix all ingredients together and store in a container with tight-fitting lid, add ½ cup directly to your load of laundry.

Some even more simple ideas are as follows,

One half cup pure baking soda added to your laundry.

One cup of distilled white vinegar and about 15 drops of your favorite essential oil shaken in a spray bottle, give your wet clothes a spritz after they are washed, before you put into the dryer.
Don’t worry the vinegar smell will go away.

A crumpled up ball of aluminum foil tossed in the dryer with your clothes can help to get rid of the static cling.

Another great alternative, that is simple, cost-effective, economical and environmentally friendly is the use of dryer balls. You can get the plastic kind that can cut your drying time in half and reduce the static cling in your clothes, but to be more environmentally conscious there are also wool dryer balls that you can purchase or easily make your own.

Final Thoughts

Here’s what it comes down to, as consumers we have been gravely misinformed and maybe we have believed that there are some kind of standards set in place by our governments, unfortunately, it seems that these protection agencies, for the most part, don’t have our best interest in mind. So, with that in mind, it is up to us to be aware of what we are purchasing, if we stop purchasing these conventional products which contain harmful ingredients such as phthalates and fragrances, then the big corporations will either change their recipes, stop using these chemicals or simply go out of business. As the consumer, we have a direct vote for the types of products that are being produced by how we are choosing to spend our money. If WE don’t want chemicals in our products, we must simply stop buying them and start making our own. We must take responsibility for our own lives and create the type of world we want to live in. It is up to each and every one if us.


Article source: Collective Evolution

Hi, I’m Alanna! My journey really began in 2007 when I began to question what was being presented to me, my path led me to Collective Evolution and I joined the team in 2010. Wow, has it been an incredible journey so far! I am extremely passionate about learning new information! I aim to have a voice for animals and animal rights, I also enjoy writing about health, consciousness and I am very interested in psychedelics for healing purposes! I strongly believe that knowledge is power, and the first step to creating change on this planet is by raising awareness. “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” -Jack Kornfield Questions or comments? Email me alanna@collective-evolution.com

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Not All In-home Drinking Water Filters Completely Remove Toxic PFAS

The water filter on your refrigerator door, the pitcher-style filter you keep inside the fridge and the whole-house filtration system you installed last year may function differently and have vastly different price tags, but they have one thing in common.

They may not remove all of the drinking water contaminants you’re most concerned about.

A new study by scientists at Duke University and North Carolina State University finds that – while using any filter is better than using none – many household filters are only partially effective at removing toxic perfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, from drinking water. A few, if not properly maintained, can even make the situation worse.

“We tested 76 point-of-use filters and 13 point-of-entry or whole-house systems and found their effectiveness varied widely,” said Heather Stapleton, the Dan and Bunny Gabel Associate Professor of Environmental Health at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

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“All of the under-sink reverse osmosis and two-stage filters achieved near-complete removal of the PFAS chemicals we were testing for,” Stapleton said. “In contrast, the effectiveness of activated-carbon filters used in many pitcher, countertop, refrigerator and faucet-mounted styles was inconsistent and unpredictable. The whole-house systems were also widely variable and in some cases actually increased PFAS levels in the water.”

“Home filters are really only a stopgap,” said Detlef Knappe, the S. James Ellen Distinguished Professor of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at NC State, whose lab teamed with Stapleton’s to conduct the study. “The real goal should be control of PFAS contaminants at their source.”

PFAS have come under scrutiny in recent years due to their potential health impacts and widespread presence in the environment, especially drinking water. Exposure to the chemicals, used widely in fire-fighting foams and stain- and water-repellents, is associated with various cancers, low birth weight in babies, thyroid disease, impaired immune function and other health disorders. Mothers and young children may be most vulnerable to the chemicals, which can affect reproductive and developmental health.

Some scientists call PFAS “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment indefinitely and accumulate in the human body. They are now nearly ubiquitous in human blood serum samples, Stapleton noted.

The researchers published their peer-reviewed findings Feb. 5 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. It’s the first study to examine the PFAS-removal efficiencies of point-of-use filters in a residential setting.

They analyzed filtered water samples from homes in Chatham, Orange, Durham and Wake counties in central North Carolina and New Hanover and Brunswick counties in southeastern N.C. Samples were tested for a suite of PFAS contaminants, including three perfluoroalkal sulfonic acids (PFSAs), seven perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs) and six per- and poly-fluoroalkyl ether acids (PFEAs). GenX, which has been found in high levels in water in the Wilmington area of southeastern N.C., was among the PFEAs for which they tested.

Key takeaways include:

  • Reverse osmosis filters and two-stage filters reduced PFAS levels, including GenX, by 94% or more in water, though the small number of two-stage filters tested necessitates further testing to determine why they performed so well.
  • Activated-carbon filters removed 73% of PFAS contaminants, on average, but results varied greatly. In some cases, the chemicals were completely removed; in other cases they were not reduced at all. Researchers saw no clear trends between removal efficiency and filter brand, age or source water chemical levels. Changing out filters regularly is probably a very good idea, nonetheless, researchers said.
  • The PFAS-removal efficiency of whole-house systems using activated carbon filters varied widely. In four of the six systems tested, PFSA and PFCA levels actually increased after filtration. Because the systems remove disinfectants used in city water treatment, they can also leave home pipes susceptible to bacterial growth.

“The under-sink reverse osmosis filter is the most efficient system for removing both the PFAS contaminants prevalent in central N.C. and the PFEAs, including GenX, found in Wilmington,” Knappe said. “Unfortunately, they also cost much more than other point-of-use filters. This raises concerns about environmental justice, since PFAS pollution affects more households that struggle financially than those that do not struggle.”

Sources:

Duke University

Journal article

Image: Pixabay

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Why Decluttering Is Good For Our Mental Health

By Sara Tipton

As Americans, we have a lot of clutter.  I know I used to!  But decluttering has many benefits, including those that positively impact our mental health.

As a society, we are busier and more stressed-out than ever.  This makes it easy to see why the Kon Mari method of decluttering and minimalism trends are so popular right now. And to be fair, they aren’t popular with everyone. Some people just always have a lot of stuff and will always have a lot of stuff. Have you ever been in a house that is so filled with stuff it makes you anxious? I have. And that feeling prompted me to get rid of more than two truckloads of stuff in 2019, and change my habits for good!

But by making changes to eliminate unnecessary clutter, it made me feel lighter.  Not like I weighed less, but I was less stressed out.  And there’s scientific evidence to show that clutter can cause stress while those who declutter get an improvement in their mental health.

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Is Minimalism the True Secret to Happiness?

In an article by Right As Rain, Brenna Renn, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and acting assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington discussed the phenomenal effect decluttering has on our mental well-being.  “I do think that we are hardwired as humans to look for patterns in our environment and to find comfort in predictable patterns and occurrences,” Renn says. “That may be the underpinning of where this interest in decluttering is coming from. If we can make our home environments these predictable environments, it might support our mental health.”

Ready Nutrition touched on this very subject previously too:

Your Environment is Key To Your Happiness: Finding the Balance You Need to Simplify Your Home

Environmental wellness is living a lifestyle that is respectful of our surroundings and reflects our desired mental state. It encourages us to live in harmony with the Earth by taking action to protect it and promotes interaction with nature and your personal environment. This can all be started by adopting a more minimalist lifestyle. But don’t worry if you can’t live with only 30 or 45 items, start slow, and you’ll be surprised what you can live without.

Living with less does two very powerful things for us as human beings. It reduces our consumerism and therefore reduces our waste and the destruction we do to the Earth and it saves us money. It also helps us get control of our personal environment and live more simply and intentionally.

And all of that has net positive benefits for our mental health. Because clutter can be distracting, as Renn explains, clearing it out may help us focus better. Take, for example, a messy cubicle or a home office that’s 10 feet from a pile of dishes and laundry that needs folding and it’s no wonder you’re having trouble getting anything done. “I think about clutter as visual static,” says Renn. “When you’re in between radio stations, the static can be very distracting.” That’s why once it’s removed, a sense of focus returns to what used to be chaotic static.

The clutter can be distracting, too, and clearing it can help you unwind and de-stress. “If it’s the case where you want to lie down and read or watch a movie or listen to music but your living room is cluttered, it’s going to be hard to immerse yourself in that activity. You’ll be pulled to that stack of clutter or the boxes you haven’t unpacked,” says Renn.

People who have a lot of stress or anxiety issues could also benefit from a more tidy home with free space. “People with anxiety are already hypervigilant to any sort of stress response. Their stress alarm is already dialed up. Anything like clutter or anything disruptive in their environment could be one more thing that tips the scales for them,” she says.  Renn added that decluttering is not a cure for anxiety disorders, but is simply one action, in addition to seeking medical care, that may help ease troublesome symptoms.

It’s also important to remember that clutter is subjective. For some, a stack of mail on the counter doesn’t really count as a mess, whereas others can feel stressed out when a single item on the bookshelf is out of place.  Keep YOUR personal ideas of clutter and what it is to you in mind when you begin the process of simplifying your life. Don’t try to make your home look exactly like the one you see on Pinterest.  Try to make it neat and tidy to YOUR standards, not someone else’s.  The goal here is to improve your environment, not get stressed out because you can’t meet the standards of a staged home.

If you’d like to try decluttering, you should start small. Don’t just throw everything out.  Go room by room, and spend a whole day thinking about if you should or want to keep certain things. This is all about peace of mind, and if getting rid of some your stuff stresses you out, don’t try it!  Do what’s right for you.  Let’s face it: decluttering isn’t for everyone. We are all different and one-size-fits-all trends don’t cut it for all people.

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on January 8th, 2020

Image: Pixabay

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Health Benefits of Rosemary & How To Grow Rosemary in Winter

By Sara Tipton

Rosemary is a delightful herb for cooking that also contains many important health benefits.  As one of my favorite herbs to flavor food, having rosemary around is essential! But living in a very cold wintry climate often makes growing it difficult, but it can be done, and is well worth your effort!

About Rosemary

Rosemary is a fragrant evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean. It is used as a culinary condiment to flavor food, to make perfumes and other cosmetic items, and it is often used for its potential health benefits. Rosemary is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, along with many other herbs, such as oregano, thyme, basil, and lavender. It is a perennial plant, meaning it’ll live for more than two years.

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Rosemary is typically prepared as a whole dried herb or a dried powdered extract, while teas and liquid extracts are made from fresh or dried leaves. The herb has also been hailed since ancient times for its medicinal properties. Rosemary was traditionally used to help alleviate muscle pain, improve memory, boost the immune and circulatory system, and promote hair growth.

Nutritional Information

While rosemary does taste good, it also offers some nutritional benefits as well.  It is also a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin B-6.

But, if taken in very high doses, rosemary can cause vomiting, coma, and pulmonary edema.  While extremely rare, it would take a massive amount of the herb to cause any kind of side effects, but it is important to be aware of this.

Possible Health Benefits

Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are thought to help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation. It is also thought to improve digestion, enhance memory, and protect against brain damage. Rosemary can also help protect against brain aging and adding rosemary extract to ground beef reduces the formation of cancer-causing agents.

How To Prepare an Herb Garden in Winter

Growing Rosemary Indoors, Year-Round

Keeping your rosemary alive indoors over the winter can be tricky, but it also can be done! Unlike the aloe vera plant, rosemary will not thrive under neglect. If you live in a warmer climate, think USDA plant hardiness zones 7-10, you may think it’s easy to keep a rosemary plant alive, and you’d be correct. However, I’m firmly in zone 5, and temperatures can dip to the negative 20s for several days in January and February. Single-digit temperatures are far from uncommon where I live, so I had a few things to learn. But this advice will help those who want to keep a rosemary plant indoors during the winter too!

Rosemary is a native Mediterranean plant, hailing from a region of dry, well-drained soil and hot, sunny temps. Rather than pulling moisture from the soil, it often gets it from the humidity in the air. Knowing this tidbit should help to understand the best way to get a rosemary plant to thrive!

Tip#1 – Choose a pot that fits the plant and increase the size as your herb grows.

Tip #2 – Make sure the pot has a drainage hole and a drainage pan, and use well-drained potting soil. I like to mix organic cactus soil mix with worm castings. Tenth Acre Farms agrees with this, as it appears she uses the same soil in a zone 6 climate.

Tip #3 – In addition to growing your plant in a pot with a drainage hole, you should also add a layer of gravel or small rocks to the drainage pan, so that the pot actually sits on top of the rocks, rather than in the pan. You don’t want the soil to have any contact with the drainage pan, and that is too wet for rosemary.  Remember: rosemary likes moist air and dry roots.

Tip #4 – Put your rosemary near your sunniest window!  This herb loves the sunshine and needs as much as it can get, especially during the winter!

Tip#5 – While your rosemary is indoors, water the soil every two weeks (if the soil is dry), but ALWAYS keep water in the drainage pan with the rocks in it. Because the plant likes to absorb moisture from the air, it will enjoy the water as it evaporates from the pan.

Tip #6 – Fill a spray bottle with water and mist the foliage once or twice a week. This will help mimic the Mediterranean environment rosemary thrives in!

Tenth Acre Farms had an additional tip that is worth sharing! She suggests using a bag if your plant is struggling to thrive indoors where the air is often much drier. You can actually cover the foliage with a plastic bag for a time to hold in more moisture and to reduce the shock of the transition from outdoors to indoors.

These tips should help get your rosemary plant growing and keep you supplied with nutritious and delicious herbs over the winter!  Best of luck, herb lovers!

Do you have a piece of advice to help rosemary lovers? If so, share it with Ready Nutrition readers in the comment section!


This article was sourced from Ready Nutrition.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Health Benefits of Rosemary & How To Grow Rosemary in Winter

By Sara Tipton

Rosemary is a delightful herb for cooking that also contains many important health benefits.  As one of my favorite herbs to flavor food, having rosemary around is essential! But living in a very cold wintry climate often makes growing it difficult, but it can be done, and is well worth your effort!

About Rosemary

Rosemary is a fragrant evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean. It is used as a culinary condiment to flavor food, to make perfumes and other cosmetic items, and it is often used for its potential health benefits. Rosemary is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, along with many other herbs, such as oregano, thyme, basil, and lavender. It is a perennial plant, meaning it’ll live for more than two years.

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Rosemary is typically prepared as a whole dried herb or a dried powdered extract, while teas and liquid extracts are made from fresh or dried leaves. The herb has also been hailed since ancient times for its medicinal properties. Rosemary was traditionally used to help alleviate muscle pain, improve memory, boost the immune and circulatory system, and promote hair growth.

Nutritional Information

While rosemary does taste good, it also offers some nutritional benefits as well.  It is also a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin B-6.

But, if taken in very high doses, rosemary can cause vomiting, coma, and pulmonary edema.  While extremely rare, it would take a massive amount of the herb to cause any kind of side effects, but it is important to be aware of this.

Possible Health Benefits

Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are thought to help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation. It is also thought to improve digestion, enhance memory, and protect against brain damage. Rosemary can also help protect against brain aging and adding rosemary extract to ground beef reduces the formation of cancer-causing agents.

How To Prepare an Herb Garden in Winter

Growing Rosemary Indoors, Year-Round

Keeping your rosemary alive indoors over the winter can be tricky, but it also can be done! Unlike the aloe vera plant, rosemary will not thrive under neglect. If you live in a warmer climate, think USDA plant hardiness zones 7-10, you may think it’s easy to keep a rosemary plant alive, and you’d be correct. However, I’m firmly in zone 5, and temperatures can dip to the negative 20s for several days in January and February. Single-digit temperatures are far from uncommon where I live, so I had a few things to learn. But this advice will help those who want to keep a rosemary plant indoors during the winter too!

Rosemary is a native Mediterranean plant, hailing from a region of dry, well-drained soil and hot, sunny temps. Rather than pulling moisture from the soil, it often gets it from the humidity in the air. Knowing this tidbit should help to understand the best way to get a rosemary plant to thrive!

Tip#1 – Choose a pot that fits the plant and increase the size as your herb grows.

Tip #2 – Make sure the pot has a drainage hole and a drainage pan, and use well-drained potting soil. I like to mix organic cactus soil mix with worm castings. Tenth Acre Farms agrees with this, as it appears she uses the same soil in a zone 6 climate.

Tip #3 – In addition to growing your plant in a pot with a drainage hole, you should also add a layer of gravel or small rocks to the drainage pan, so that the pot actually sits on top of the rocks, rather than in the pan. You don’t want the soil to have any contact with the drainage pan, and that is too wet for rosemary.  Remember: rosemary likes moist air and dry roots.

Tip #4 – Put your rosemary near your sunniest window!  This herb loves the sunshine and needs as much as it can get, especially during the winter!

Tip#5 – While your rosemary is indoors, water the soil every two weeks (if the soil is dry), but ALWAYS keep water in the drainage pan with the rocks in it. Because the plant likes to absorb moisture from the air, it will enjoy the water as it evaporates from the pan.

Tip #6 – Fill a spray bottle with water and mist the foliage once or twice a week. This will help mimic the Mediterranean environment rosemary thrives in!

Tenth Acre Farms had an additional tip that is worth sharing! She suggests using a bag if your plant is struggling to thrive indoors where the air is often much drier. You can actually cover the foliage with a plastic bag for a time to hold in more moisture and to reduce the shock of the transition from outdoors to indoors.

These tips should help get your rosemary plant growing and keep you supplied with nutritious and delicious herbs over the winter!  Best of luck, herb lovers!

Do you have a piece of advice to help rosemary lovers? If so, share it with Ready Nutrition readers in the comment section!


This article was sourced from Ready Nutrition.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Eating Blueberries Every Day Improves Heart Health

Eating a cup of blueberries a day reduces risk factors for cardiovascular disease – according to new research led by the University of East Anglia, in collaboration with colleagues from Harvard and across the UK.

New findings published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that eating 150g of blueberries daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15 per cent.

The research team from UEA’s Department of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, Norwich Medical School, say that blueberries and other berries should be included in dietary strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – particularly among at risk groups.

The team set out to see whether eating blueberries had any effect on Metabolic Syndrome – a condition, affecting 1/3 of westernised adults, which comprises at least three of the following risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, low levels of ‘good cholesterol’ and high levels of triglycerides.

Lead researcher Prof Aedin Cassidy, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Having Metabolic syndrome significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes and often statins and other medications are prescribed to help control this risk.

“It’s widely recognised that lifestyle changes, including making simple changes to food choices, can also help.

“Previous studies have indicated that people who regularly eat blueberries have a reduced risk of developing conditions including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This may be because blueberries are high in naturally occurring compounds called anthocyanins, which are the flavonoids responsible for the red and blue colour in fruits.

“We wanted to find out whether eating blueberries could help people who have already been identified as being at risk of developing these sort of conditions.”

The team investigated the effects of eating blueberries daily in 138 overweight and obese people, aged between 50 and 75, with Metabolic Syndrome. The six-month study was the longest trial of its kind.

They looked at the benefits of eating 150 gram portions (one cup) compared to 75 gram portions (half a cup). The participants consumed the blueberries in freeze-dried form and a placebo group was given a purple-coloured alternative made of artificial colours and flavourings.

Co-lead, Dr Peter Curtis, said: “We found that eating one cup of blueberries per day resulted in sustained improvements in vascular function and arterial stiffness – making enough of a difference to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by between 12 and 15 per cent.

“The simple and attainable message is to consume one cup of blueberries daily to improve cardiovascular health.

“Unexpectedly, we found no benefit of a smaller 75 gram (half cup) daily intake of blueberries in this at-risk group. It is possible that higher daily intakes may be needed for heart health benefits in obese, at-risk populations, compared with the general population.”

Article by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Southampton, the University of Surrey, and the University of Cambridge. It was funded by the US Highbush Blueberry Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).’Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardio metabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome – results from a 6-month, double blind, randomized controlled trial’ is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Scientists Uncover the Secret to Making Great Chocolate

“Mixing ingredients for several hours produces smooth molten chocolate by breaking down lumps of ingredients into finer grains and reducing friction between particles.”

By University of Edinburgh

The science of what makes good chocolate has been revealed by researchers studying a 140-year-old mixing technique.

Scientists have uncovered the physics behind the process – known as conching – which is responsible for creating chocolate’s distinctive smooth texture.

The findings may hold the key to producing confectionary with lower fat content, and could help make chocolate manufacturing more energy efficient.

A team led by the University of Edinburgh studied mixtures resembling liquid chocolate created using the conching process, which was developed by Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt in 1879.

Their analysis, which involved measuring the density of mixtures and how they flow at various stages of the process, suggests conching may alter the physical properties of the microscopic sugar crystals and other granular ingredients of chocolate. Until now, the science behind the process was poorly understood.

The new research reveals that conching – which involves mixing ingredients for several hours – produces smooth molten chocolate by breaking down lumps of ingredients into finer grains and reducing friction between particles.

Before the invention of conching, chocolate had a gritty texture. This is because the ingredients form rough, irregular clumps that do not flow smoothly when mixed with cocoa butter using other methods, the team says.

Their insights could also help improve processes used in other sectors – such as ceramics manufacturing and cement production – that rely on the mixing of powders and liquids.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved a collaboration with researchers from New York University. The work in Edinburgh was funded by Mars Chocolate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Professor Wilson Poon, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who led the study, said: “We hope our work can help reduce the amount of energy used in the conching process and lead to greener manufacturing of the world’s most popular confectionary product. By studying chocolate making, we have been able to gain new insights into the fundamental physics of how complex mixtures flow. This is a great example of how physics can build bridges between disciplines and sectors.”

Get a conching machine here.

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How to Build a Chicken Coop or Greenhouse From Cattle Panels for Under $200

Large DIY chicken coop or hoop house made from cattle panels for under $200

By Jeffrey Green

The chirping coming from inside the cardboard box gave away the surprise.  Several weeks ago my youngest son convinced my wife that we needed more animals. Without telling me, the person who does the chores for the critters, four puffy chicks barely bigger than an egg were presented to me like a gift. Apparently I wasn’t acting as excited as they hoped. My wife assured me “it could be worse, he really wanted a rodent.”

We actually love keeping chickens. It’s been a while since we had fresh eggs from our own hens. In the past, our chickens were easy to manage. They were fully free range during the day with a coop for evenings. Like chicken-shit-on-our-back-porch and roost-in-trees level of free range. There were fewer predators where we lived then. Now we live in Washington state where eagles will snatch chickens from the air. A chicken coop with a covered run is necessary.

We bought a small enclosed coop, but our Ameraucana chickens quickly outgrew it.

Getting a little crowded in here!

The chickens needed more space. None of the chicken coop designs online appealed to us. Although they looked nice with cedar wood siding and cute ladders to nesting areas, the covered runs seemed too small for us feral free rangers. And the chicken coop kits were expensive and still required assembly.

We wanted something bigger that can be moved if needed.The structure is light enough to move to fresh grass but big enough keep in place with bedding materials like straw or wood chips to prepare the ground for another garden bed. In the winter, we plan to wrap it in clear greenhouse plastic to help keep the hens warm.

I recalled a few YouTube videos on cattle panel greenhouses and cattle panel chicken coops. They appeared affordable and easy to build. So we made a materials list and got started. (See full material and tool list at the end of this post).

Materials cost around $190. We are NOT skilled carpenters and it only took about 6 hours to build. Believe me, if we can do it, you can do it.

The chickens are much happier!

Here are the 8 simple steps to building a DIY cattle panel chicken coop or greenhouse:

Step 1 – Frame the Foundation

It’s best to build on a flat surface.

At 8′ (96 inches) by 8’4″ (100 inches) the frame is suitable for a small cattle panel greenhouse or large chicken coop.

The frame is made with two-by-fours (96 inches x 100 inches) and fastened with deck screws and corner braces. The cattle panels are 50 inches wide so two of them fit perfectly in the frame.

Step 2 – Attach Cattle Panels

We attached two 10-inch pieces of two-by-two to the bottom of the frame in order to act as a shelf for the cattle panels to sit evenly in the frame.

We used 1 1/4-inch galvanized staples to secure the cattle panels to the frame.

We used zip ties to connect the cattle panels together where they met in the middle of the coop.

Step 3 – Build a Door

We used two-by-fours, deck screws, and mending plate fasteners for the door frame. Once the door frame was in, we secured the cattle panel to it using galvanized staples.

For the door itself is made from two-by-two boards secured with deck screws and corner braces.

Step 4 – Attach Poultry Netting

Using zip ties and a staple gun, we attached 3-foot tall poultry netting across the lower side walls.

Step 5 – Frame and Net Back of Coop

We used 2x4s, deck screws and corner brackets for the back framing. We wanted it sturdy enough to handle the weight of roosting boxes and a door to easily access eggs without going in the coop.

Step – 6 Attach Door and Netting

A simple gate latch fit perfect. It auto-latches so the chickens can’t get out and the dog can’t get it when feeding them.

Step 7 – Move to Desired Location

Our golden retriever, Koa, did our quality assurance check. It passed.

Step 8 – Attach Tarp to Roof

The 12ft by 16ft heavy duty tarp covered the entire roof area completely. We used zip ties to secure it to the chicken coop.

That’s it. Relatively simple for a couple of amateurs to build. It’s a suitable enclosure. We plan to add nesting boxes and perches.

So much more space!

Here’s the list of materials and tools used to build this DIY chicken coop:

Materials

2 – cattle panels (50inx16ft)
1 – heavy duty tarp (12ftx16ft)
2 – rolls plastic poultry netting (3ftx25ft)
2 – 2×4 studs (8ft)
6 – 2×4 studs (10ft)
3 – 2×2 studs (8ft)
1 – box 1 ¼-inch galvanized staples
1 – box 2 ¼-inch deck screws
1 – 100-pk zip ties (8 inch)
1 – door hinge
1 – gate latch
3 – packs corner braces (2-inch/4-pk)

By adding another 50-inch wide cattle panel, this design could make a very nice 8ft by 12.5ft hoop greenhouse. Replace the tarp and poultry netting with greenhouse plastic and you’ll have a nice set-up to extend your garden season.

Tools

Hammer
Electric hand drill
Jig saw
Staple gun
Tape measure
Rafter square
Scissors

Tell us your ideas to improve this design or share your favorite DIY chicken coop designs.

Jeffrey Green writes for Natural Blaze. Subscribe to Natural Blaze for health freedom and natural living headlines to your inbox. Follow Natural Blaze on Twitter and Facebook.

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Mobile Tiny Home Comes With a Detachable Greenhouse

By John Vibes

Olive Nest Tiny Homes is working to prove that the minimalist lifestyle can be comfortable and even luxurious as well.

More people than ever are interested in tiny homes, but there are still many misconceptions about the capabilities of the design style. However, as the years go on, more elaborate designs are being built that are just as comfortable as full-size houses.

The model shown in the pictures and videos below is known as the “Elsa” and sells for roughly $81,000.

The house is roughly 323 square feet in the main area, but that does not include the attached pergola trailer and greenhouse, which is 85 square feet.

This is the perfect tiny house for going off grid!

The house has a gray standing seam metal roof and matching siding.

4 glass panel front door.

You can stock your whole garden in this greenhouse.

It has enough space to store all of your vegetables for the year too!

Separate trailer pergola and deck with porch swing and wrap around planters.

Full-size gas range and oven with marble countertops.

Pergo flooring and pine floors in loft.

At night, the tiny home looks just like a real log cabin.

People who live in tiny homes generally adopt greener lifestyles.


By John Vibes / Republished with permission Truth Theory

This article was sourced from The Mind Unleashed.

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Nature’s Multivitamin: The Ultimate Guide to Sprouting

While many of us are awakening to the dangers (ahem chemicals) that are in our food sources, not enough awareness is being made about some of the dangers that lie in over-the-counter vitamins. That’s right, some of your vitamins could be doing more harm than good.

Finding the right supplements can be a tricky endeavor. But, what if I told you it’s really not? In fact, you could easily grow your own vitamins naturally from the convenience of your kitchen window. What am I talking about? I’m talking about sprouts.

Sprouts are Power Packed

Sprouts are nature’s multivitamin and provide the highest amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes of any of food per unit of calorie. They are commonly referred to as a complete food because they are packed with high levels of complete proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and extraordinary amounts of protein.

How Do Spouts Benefit the Body?

  • Assists in healing the body
  • Cleanse the body
  • Prevents diseases
  • Enhances the general functioning of bodily organs
  • Aids in digestion
  • Removes gas from the stomach

Some of our favorites are:

How To Get Started

You’re going to love this – almost anything can be made into a sprout (except for nightshade varieties like tomatoes and eggplants). The most common types of seeds to sprout include alfalfa, grains, peas, lentils, radish, broccoli, cabbage, mustard seed, garbanzos, quinoa, nuts, and red clover. Sprouts can be grown every week for continuous staggered batches. In fact, there are sprout kits available to help you expand your sprouting palate.

  1. First, you need something to let your seeds sprout in. If you have a large mason jar, that would work. We like adding a sprouting lid like this one to the top of our Mason Jar Sprouts to help with easy rinsing. If you plan on sprouting different varieties of sprouts, you may want to invest in a low-cost 4 tray sprouting kit like this one. For large seeds, like beans and legumes, consider adding them to a large wide-mouth jar. When beans begin to sprout, they will quickly take up a lot of room. For smaller seeds, using a quart-sized jar or the sprouting tray would work well.
  2. Next, you need to right kind of seeds. For optimum nutrition, I prefer to purchase sprouting seeds that are non-GMO and organic varieties.
  3. Now that you have your vessel and seeds picked out, it’s time to start sprouting. Simply add a tablespoon or two of seeds in a jar and fill it about ¾ full with cool water. Swish the seeds around and allow the water to drain from the jar or sprouting tray. Once the water has drained, cover with a mesh lid or cloth, secured with a rubber band, to allow air flow. Sprouting Tip: For larger beans like garbanzo or mung beans, allow them to soak overnight and then drain the water in the morning. Repeat the rinsing step twice a day for 3-4 days.
  4. Set sprouts in an area in the kitchen where it receives indirect sunlight. Ideally, sprouts prefer a temperature of about 65-80ºF. If the temperature is warmer with increased humidity, rinse sprouts more frequently.
  5. When sprouts are ready and have grown to the desired size, do a final rinse and drain them completely. They can be eaten immediately or transferred to a glass or plastic container and stored in the refrigerator for a few days. As a precaution, make sure the sprouts have drained completely before storing.

Sprout Safety

One of the biggest drawbacks to sprouting is their very short shelf life. Unlike other fresh produce, seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow. These conditions are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. Not to cause concern, but since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. Most of these outbreaks were caused by Salmonella and E. coli and occurred at growing facilities. The bacteria is usually present in or on the seed, and the bacteria can grow to high levels during sprouting, even under sanitary conditions at home.

To prevent this health issue, you can follow these safety steps:

  • Wash all sprouts thoroughly with filtered water before eating them.
  • If you’ve purchased sprouts at the grocery store, look for the International Sprout Growers Association seal on the package or if you are buying bulk, ask your grocer if the sprouts are ISGA-approved.
  • If the sprouts are pre-packaged, only purchase if the sell-by date is current or even a few days ahead.
  • Examine the sprouts to make sure the roots are clean. If the stem color is not white or creamy, do not purchase them. Do not purchase sprouts if the buds are no longer attached if they are dark in color or have a musty smell.
  • Smell the sprouts to be sure that they have a clean, fresh odor.
  • Keep the sprouts refrigerated.
  • After 2 days, compost them rather than consuming them yourself.
  • If you’re buying in bulk, ask your grocer about the sell-by date.
  • If you are sprouting seeds at home, follow the same guidelines described above. Learn about the source of your seeds, their ISGA-certification, and either have your grocer confirm high-quality standards for seed production or obtain contact information for the seed source and contact that company yourself.
  • Follow the above guidelines regardless of the type of seeds you are sprouting, i.e., apply the guidelines to mung, alfalfa, radish, broccoli, lentil, sunflower and all other types of sprouts.

Since the shelf life is around 2 days before the sprouts begin to break down, take advantage of having them and add them to salads, sandwiches, soups, and even bread for added nutrition.

It’s that easy, folks! Sprouts are what Mother Nature intended for us in terms of additional nutrition. They are low cost, easy to grow and can give you ample dietary nutrition on a daily basis.


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This article was originally published by Tess Pennington at Ready Gardens and was sourced from SHTFplan.com

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