The importance of being a peach

Peaches may not be giant nor have the ability to magically transport us across realms, but they are as equally important as watermelon, pineapple and berries when it comes to healthy summer fruit. The fuzzy, sometimes white, sometimes peach fruit from the Prunus persica tree, is chock full of vitamins A and C and has fewer than 70 calories and three grams of fiber. peach-932777_1920

Originally from Asia, the origin of the fruit in America dates back to 1571, when Franciscan friars introduced them to St. Simons and Cumberland islands along Georgia’s coast, according to the Georgia Peach Council’s website. Since then, they have remained a popular fruit ultimately earning Georgia the “Peach State” moniker. Peaches are now grown in 47 U.S. states and come in two main varieties (white and yellow flesh).

Here are 10 ways a peach is the ultimate summer fruit.

  1. A ripe peach is perfect on a hot summer day
  2. It can be used in recipes from pies and salads to meat dishes
  3. It can be eaten raw or cooked
  4. Can help improve vision
  5. Improves digestion
  6. Has anti-aging properties
  7. Has a pleasant, fragrant smell
  8. Can be spread on toast
  9. Can aid in hyperactivity
  10. It’s soft and delicious

Peaches come in many varieties and can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, dried, canned and in jelly form. When choosing canned peaches look for labels with “packed in its own juice,” “lite,” or “no sugar added.” These are healthier choices.

 

For more information on the fruit, check out Georgia Peach Council and National Peach Council’s websites. Click here for recipe ideas.

 

10 uses for coconut oil before 9 a.m.

With the myriad of articles that have been published touting the benefits and multiple uses of coconut oil, it’s no wonder coconut oil users feel are obsessed with this natural oil. It can be used as a skin and hair moisturizer, a cooking oil, makeup remover and a bug repellent, to name a few. But how many more ways can we incorporate coconut oil into our daily lives? I’ve pulled from some sources and found some awesome ways to add a bit of the essential oil to your healthy morning routine.

  1. Coconut oil as coffee creamer. A teaspoon or so of oil can be added to your morning coffee as a natural sweetener. Note: The American Heart Association recommends no more than 13 grams of saturated fat, one tablespoon (found in coconut oil) per day.
  2. Coconut oil can be used to make a natural soap that is both moisturizing and antibacterial.
  3. After showering, try slathering up with oil to damp skin before toweling off.
  4. If you prefer baths, add a teaspoon of oil to your bath along with an essential oil like lavender.
  5. Use coconut oil as deodorant as an alternative to store brands that often contain harsh chemicals.
  6. Coconut oil as face moisturizer. Cleanse your face and add oil to moisturize dry winter skin.
  7. Or use coconut oil as a cleanser using the oil cleanse method by applying coconut oil to your face and then following with a warm, wet cloth.
  8. Mix coconut oil, lemon juice and a dollop of your favorite essential oil to naturally strengthen eyelashes while you sleep.
  9. Coconut oil as toothpaste. Apply to teeth along with baking soda and essential oils as a naturally cleansing alternative.
  10. Apply a bit of oil to chapped lips.

Sources: health.com, wellnessmama.com

The miracle of flax seed

Although the existence of magic can be debated, flax seed has truly magical properties. This tiny, ancient seed is believed to help lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease and breast cancer and even squash hot flashes. More than 300 new products containing flax seed were introduced in the U.S. and Canada in 2010, according to the Flax Council. So, why aren’t we eating more of this miracle seed?

Flax seed contains omega 3s, fiber, protein, and antioxidants. And the best way to extract these vital nutrients is by grinding the seeds and adding them to your favorite yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies. Healthyflax.org recommends two tablespoons of flax daily.

Flax seeds can be a great addition to many types of dishes. In fact, many healthy, sweet and savory recipes can be found on Eatingwell.com’s site. Check them out here.

Green city escape: Kyoto

 

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Cherry blossoms decorate a traditional home in Kyoto, Japan.

Few cities in Asia are as charming as Kyoto in Japan. The ancient Japanese capital offers much to green seekers from a bamboo forest to nature hikes and outdoor floating cafes and hot springs. All of this is cloaked in a historic city full of temples and shrines. If you visit Japan and seek a quiet refuge from Osaka, this is the place to be. You can choose to stay in any of the many areas of the city and base your itinerary on the local attractions. And it’s super safe so feel free to explore the city at night with many business owners and locals that speak English.

Eat 

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Soybean doughnuts for sale.

Kyoto is home to Buddhist monks, and as such, many restaurants and cafes are known for its vegetarian fare (kyo yasai), with tofu being the rule, rather than the exception. Enjoy a variety of tofu and veggie dishes including miso soup, vegetable tempura, yuba (skin of heated soy milk) and a brown sea veggie called hijiki.

Explore

Kyoto is also home to thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. In fact, there are more than 2,000 within the city. Start your journey at Teramachi Street, home to Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine and numerous other shrines and temples, then move to areas like Gion, where you can also explore a bit of Geisha history.

After exploring the many temples and shrines, take a stroll through the Bamboo Grove in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. Here, you can walk through towering bamboo stalks winding past small shrines and temples, leading uphill to Okochi-Sanso Villa.

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Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama.

Sleep

Sleep in a traditional Japanese inn called a Ryokan, where you can choose between Japanese and Western rooms and meals, with access to public baths (onsen). You can get a feel for the more traditional side of Kyoto and walk around in a yukata, or cotton kimono (www.ryokan.or.jp).  For a less traditional headrest, try sleeping in a capsule. One of the few capsule hotels that accommodate both men and women, Nine Hours Hotel (www.ninehours.co.jp) offers an alternative to a traditional hotel room and is located on the main drag in Kyoto. More like an upgraded hostel, it includes private showers, a break room and a computer lounge area. Although an attractive option for backpackers, it also offers a less expensive option for an overnight stay in the city especially for those interested in this unique experience.

Kyoto is a convenient stop on both the JR Line and Hankyu line that both run through central Osaka.

Green city escape: Oakland

A gondola on Lake Merritt. Courtesy of Visit Oakland, Barry Muniz

Oakland may be a little rough around the edges, but like a Tootsie Roll pop, perseverance will get you to the gooey center of all types of green activities. Here are just a few of the city’s urban spaces to explore.

Eat

Farmer’s Markets

Tour the many Farmer’s Markets in and around Oakland serving fresh local fruits and veggies as well as hot dishes in some locales. The Oakland Fruitvale Farmer’s Market even has crafts for sale by local artists.

Wood Tavern

True to its name, this wooden, rustic restaurant is a cozy place serving up plates of food made using local, sustainable ingredients. Try some of the seasonal salads or dive into one of the many main dishes for lunch, a mid-afternoon meal or dinner.

Actual Café

A neighborhood eatery with affordable options, this place serves up corn and pepper empanadas, veggie sandwiches and salads to its laidback clientele.  A no-laptop-on-the-weekends-rule encourages an interactive environment without modern distractions.

Explore

Old Oakland

What’s old is new again in this former downtown area where quaint shops and boutiques are housed within old Victorian structures. Eat, sleep, shop and play while exploring the older side of Oakland.

 Sibley Volcanic Preserve

Take a self-guided volcanic tour on Volcanic Trail or follow Pond Trail to view the ponds to the North of the preserve. Hiking and cycling trails are also available.

Lake Merritt

Channel your inner Venetian with a gondola ride on Lake Merritt, or paddle in a canoe or paddle boat around the city’s lake.  More of a landlubber? Take a walk or jog around the three mile path.

Kids

Oakland Zoo

This famous zoo attracts people from all over California with its exotic animals and exhibits. Tour the African Savannah with its gazelles and Egyptian geese or take a trek through the Rainforest exhibit and view tigers and a yellow anaconda.

Museum of Children’s Art

Unleash the mini Picasso in your child at the Museum of Children’s Art, where creativity is both hands on and colorful.  Kids can unleash their imagination through paint, crayons, paper and pencil and even Play-Doh.

Children’s Fairyland

There’s nothing like an outdoor fantasy land full of giant shoes, dragons and colorful miniature buildings to get your kids in a playful mood. This outdoor fairytale/live storybook play land invites kids to see hear and touch what’s around them while also enjoying daily puppet shows, train rides, a carousel and a mini Ferris wheel.

Information gathered from www.visitoakland.org

Green city escape: Washington, D.C.

Cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin with a view of the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C. Credit: Destination DC.

The capital city is home to more than politics, scandals and monuments.  As the presidential election draws nearer, check out what this former swamp city has to offer. Everything from national parks to historic canals and gardens await your visit!

Visit

Botanic Garden

A natural place to start, it boasts outdoor gardens and a year-round conservatory that is host to hundreds of species of plants and flowers in eight garden rooms under glass, totaling 28,944 square feet of growing space. Take a self-guided tour through the gardens or a guided or cell phone tour.

Tidal Basin

After visiting the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall, take a trip down the Tidal Basin in a paddleboat built for two, and catch a close-up view of the Jefferson Memorial.  If you’re here in March, it’s the best way to view the cherry blossoms that line the Tidal Basin, the city’s most popular tourist attraction in the spring.lotus-1867676_1920

Eastern Market

If you’re in town on a Saturday or Sunday, wind through Eastern Market. It’s DC’s oldest open market selling fresh fruits and veggies as well as crafts made by local artists.

Meridian Hill Park

Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, hosts a popular Drum Circle every Sunday where you can take part in playing drums along with the performers or just sit back and enjoy the beats along with the locals.

Eat

Busboys and Poets

Savor sweet French toast or opt for a veggie omelet at Busboys and Poets, which has a menu full of veggie and vegan options. The eclectic restaurant/bar/bookstore and entertainment venue offers a tasty brunch and people watching at its historic 14th street location.

Founding Farmers Restaurant

Located just three blocks from the White House, this restaurant offers local and organic dishes and vegan options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The pasta and bread are made from scratch.

For more ideas, check out www.washington.org and plan your next trip to D.C. For more tips on what to do in DC, follow me @niatravelwriter  

There’s an (eco) app for that?

There’s truly an app for everything, from grocery deliveries to at-home eye exams. In fact, more than 190 billion apps were downloaded in 2017. With all of these options I was curious to find out which apps actually helped to improve the planet. Here are my top choices. Bonus? They’re mostly free!

Thrive Market Shop Heathy – What’s better than food delivery? Not much. Especially when its healthy food being delivered to you. This app allows you to shop for organic food that caters to your specific diet and have it delivered to you  for half the price of grocery stores. Bonus? As if you need one. Thrive will sponsor a low-income family just for joining. (FREE)

Cruelty-Free – Contains a searchable listing of more than 300 U.S. and Canadian companies that offer cruelty-free cosmetic items, household objects and personal care items that are not tested on animals or made from animal parts. It was created through the “Leaping Bunny Program,” a label present on many makeup and skin care items. (FREE)

GoGreen Carbon Tracker – What’s your carbon footprint? Now, you can measure just what your impact is to the environment through this app, which calculates it based on information you input like your electricity bill. The more trees that appear on-screen, the greener you are! It also helps save you money by offering suggestions to lower your thermostat. (FREE)

Ofo – Find a bike. Ride a bike. It’s that easy. With no docking stations, it’s as easy as spotting a yellow bike on the street, tapping your phone, scanning the bike and taking off. (FREE)