To Avoid Food-borne Illness, Wash Your Vegetables and Fruits

Blog_07162014_5767011_sIt’s midsummer in Minnesota, and despite the weather roller-coaster we’ve been riding, seasonal fruits and vegetables are ripe for the picking. Those of us with gardens are seeing tomatoes plump up and cucumbers and zucchini ripen overnight. Grocery store shoppers are enjoying fresher, more local produce, too. Before you sink your teeth into your favorite summertime fruit or veggie, take a moment to consider your safety. Whether you’re pulling your snack out of the ground or plucking it from a store shelf, all produce has been exposed to soil and water that may carry contaminants. If you’re buying from a store, your produce has been handled by many people and transported by truck or rail to your shopping cart. Hundreds of food products have been recalled by the FDA since the beginning of the year, including many fresh produce foods. The harmful bacteria salmonella and listeria monocytogenes are the primary offenders. How Do You Avoid Illness? Wash, Wash, Wash! To avoid getting sick from your favorite fruits and veggies, you need to get out the soap and water. Here are some tips for washing your produce.

  • Only wash produce when you’re ready to eat or cook it. Washing it before you store it may actually increase bacterial growth.
  • Wash your hands with warm soap and water before you wash your produce. You do not want to transfer germs on your hands to your food.
  • Clean your tools, including knives, cutting boards, and countertops, to avoid germ transfer.
  • Wash away bacteria. But bleach and dish detergents are no-no’s because produce can absorb the chemicals. I recommend washing your fruits and veggies with an organic, plant-based rinse.
  • Rub or soak vegetables to wash away bacteria. Firm fruits such as melons can be scrubbed with a brush.
  • Dry produce with a paper towel or clean cloth. This can also remove bacteria.
  • Trim outermost leaves of cabbage or head lettuce.

Produce-Specific Tips Some fruits and vegetables require extra care. Use these tips to make sure you’re washing your produce properly.

  • Soft fruits such as peaches and plums: Wash under running water and dry.
  • Firm produce such as apples and cucumbers: Wash well to remove any waxy preservative. Peeling is also an option.
  • Leafy greens:Discard outer leaves and soak the individual remaining leaves in water before rinsing them under the tap. Some people use vinegar on greens, but that will change the veggie’s taste and texture.
  • Grapes, cherries, and berries:Don’t wash these fruits until you eat or use them. Before you store them, get rid of any moldy or spoiled fruit. Wash under running water when ready to eat.

Summer is the time when many of us relish the tasty juiciness of fresh produce. Washing your fruits and vegetables will ensure that you’re safe while doing so. To learn more about keeping produce safe and healthy, contact me!

Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

Slather on Sunscreen to Avoid UV Ray Health Conditions

Blog_05202014_5130038sIt’s finally here—the warm sunshine of spring and summer! Minnesotans are trading their winter hats for baseball caps and mittens for gardening gloves. Before skipping outside to enjoy some sunshine, though, be sure to slather on some sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays.

What Are UV Rays?

The sun constantly emits ultraviolet, or UV, rays, some of which penetrate Earth’s atmosphere and reach Earth’s surface. They are strongest at midday during the spring and summer due to the sun’s angle. Latitude and altitude also affect the strength of UV rays. The closer to the equator we are, the stronger the rays are, and the higher we are, the stronger the rays because there is less atmosphere to absorb them.

Cloud cover can reduce—though not eliminate—how many UV rays reach the Earth’s surface. Some surfaces, such as pavement, water, and sand, can reflect UV rays, even into shady areas.

UV Rays and Your Health
Some UV ray exposure is beneficial to us. Sunshine helps us generate vitamin D, an essential nutrient. Too much sun exposure, however, can cause a variety of health conditions. UV rays can lead to skin cancer, cataracts, premature skin aging, and a suppressed immune system.
Fortunately, you can avoid too much sun and UV ray exposure with a few simple steps. Use a sunscreen lotion with a SPF of 30 and cover your skin to block out the sun’s rays. Instead of sun tanning, sit in the shade. Avoid tanning beds, too.

Sunscreen No-Nos
Sunscreen can be a helpful tool in avoiding UV ray-related health conditions. However, not all sunscreens are created equal. Here are a few things to avoid when choosing your family’s next bottle:
• spray sunscreens, because of incomplete coverage and risk to health if inhaled
• high SPF factors, since they give a false sense of security because they do not block UVA rays, only UVB ones, and may lead people to spend more time in the sun
• oxybenzone, because it may act as an estrogen if it is absorbed by the skin and enters the bloodstream
• retinyl palmitate, or vitamin A, since it can accelerate the development of tumors and lesions if used on skin exposed to sun

The next time you spend some time in the sun, make sure your sunscreen will adequately protect your skin. Contact me to learn more about UV rays, sunscreens, and your health.

Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

Toxic Cleaning Products Making You Sick?

Kindergarten teacher and children looking at globe in libraryRead about a 1st grade classroom going green!

What do many teachers and parents of elementary aged children complain about during the first few weeks of school in the fall? Often, after being healthy all summer, teachers and young kids catch the first colds of the school year. Mrs. C. was a first grade teacher at an elementary school in East-Central Wisconsin; in the fall of 2011, she commenced her final school year before retiring. Within a few months, she would convert her classroom over to green cleaning products. The results were amazing. I have attempted to capture her story in her own words as much as possible.

According to Mrs. C., “I started the conversion process strictly for personal reasons. I frequently have migraines, and the smell in the classroom would often seem to be a trigger. On many occasions, I would have nasal drip and feel as if I had a cold after being in my classroom for a while. In addition, my students would tell me that they had headaches and were feeling nauseated, or that the room just smelled bad. After considering the source of the bad smell, I made a decision. I banned the janitorial staff from bringing in any of the normal cleaning products that were being used throughout the rest of the school.

“I brought from home three cleaning products: an item called Sol U Mel (A multipurpose cleaner known for its deodorizing and cleaning power), Sol U Guard Botanical (a natural disinfectant) and Renew hand wash (A moisturizing hand wash that is not antibacterial). I used the Sol U Mel for cleaning any and all surfaces including the classroom sink. Also, we sprayed the natural-based disinfectant, Sol U Guard Botanical, on every single surface that was touched by the kids’ hands or mouths. This included door and sink handles, the pencil sharpener, the water fountain, the computer board and headphones, as well as the whisper phones. Last but not least, each time children left the classroom they washed their hands with the Renew hand wash upon reentering.” Before Mrs. C. brought in the natural cleaning products, it was pretty typical that each classroom teacher would have six to seven kids missing in any given day.

“By Christmas time the results were astonishing! My classroom had a zero truancy rate, which is when a child misses three days in a row. In addition, three-quarters of the students had not missed a single day; and on most days or weeks, I might have had only one child missing from school. Also–incredibly–I had not experienced a single migraine while at school. Better yet, the results continued throughout the year, making my last year teaching at this school a wonderful experience.”

Not only did these natural-based, green products improve the health of the entire class (and the teacher!), but they also were beneficial to the surfaces. It was common practice to use chlorine wipes continually to clean the tabletops in the classroom. Due to the harsh chemicals in the wipes, the laminate on the tables needed to be refinished every year. At the end of this year, however, Mrs. C’s tabletops were as good as new and could be used for another year.

Are you experiencing chemical sensitivity? Would you like to make your home, school or office a safer environment?

Want to know more?    I’d like to help you get started.

Hoping you’re breathing easy and living life to the fullest,

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

5 Golden Rules to Winter Health

As winter moves to spring we frequently see dramatic shifts in temperature and wind, and we haven’t been sick yet .. we begin to think we beat the odds of getting the flu. Stay healthy by following these 5 golden rules.

My research finds 4 things the doctors do to stay well during the winter season…. and 1 activity a 1st grade teacher has done to keep her kids healthy. I believe that if it is good for the doctors, teachers and 1st grade students it would seem rational that it would be good for us.



Get out more

What! I thought if I hibernated all winter I would avoid catching all of those bad bugs from all of those sick people. It seems as though a lot of people slack on outdoor exercise when the temperature drops. Healthy doctors make appropriate modifications to their routine; they don’t get up so early that they are cutting into sleep, which is totally counterproductive. Sleep is important to the immune system. So mark down appropriate outdoor exercise and fresh air as a must activity. The best example I can think of is take your dog for a walk then you and your buddy will be healthier and happy.

Don’t skimp on sleep

Sleep deprivation can significantly weaken immune system function, and that can make you more susceptible to infections. Going to bed at a reasonable hour ensures that you’ll go through cold and flu season with your immune system in top form. And if your dog likes to snuggle like mine, they will be very happy as well.

Clean up your act

Wash your hands; wash your hands, wash your hands … need to know anything else….! There is more, disinfect all work areas regularly and while there is controversy… doctors say get your flu shot.

Keep your hands to yourself

This is a tough one for those of us who are avid networkers … but it must be said … during cold & flu season try to shake as few hands as possible… what to do  … my grandchildren have taught me the fist bump … it works just as good, leaving everyone feeling just a bit healthier …

Use natural products

A 1st grade teacher cleaned, disinfected and deodorized her classroom with natural products. When her kids came in from their outside activities they washed their hands with a natural soap, one that cleans & moisturizes their hands. Most importantly she has now done this at 3 different schools over a 3 year period.  Natural based products, when integrated into our daily routines can improve your health.

Articles specific to these activities are and

Take action now and call Gene to talk about how  you can make your tomorrow healthier

Washing your fruits & veggies, WHY & HOW!

Toxic chemicals are on your Produce!

Thanks to improvements in farming, shipping and distribution, shoppers today enjoy a wider selection of fresh produce than ever before. However, pesticide residue on some fruits and vegetables can be a cause for concern. In fact, fruits and vegetables on the ‘highest levels’ list contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving.

 Most countries monitor residual levels of pesticides in produce, and establish legal limits for the safety of consumers. In some cases, however, these residual levels may be toxic for children, pregnant women and even pets. The US FDA maintains that consuming pesticides in low amounts is harmless, but some studies show an association between pesticides and health problems such as cancer, attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and nervous system disorders and say exposure could weaken immune systems.

 A study by Consumers Union, the publishers of Consumer Reports magazine, examines and rates the residual levels of pesticides on many common fruits and vegetables. A report by the Environmental Working Group, using data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has found that much of the health risks associated with pesticides are concentrated in a relatively small number of fruits and vegetables.

The good news … Wash all of your fruits and vegetables … !!! When asked, most consumers tell me I wash with water.  That isn’t good enough! The simple answer is you must use a detergent based cleaner to cut the chemicals, effectively removing them from the surface of your food. While there are many products on the market I advocate using a natural based dish washing solution. The difference will astound you. Complex issues, simple solutions!

To see how a professional cook and shopper washes her produce watch this short video by Stacy Klone of Kitchen Werks. Good advice from a proven source!

p.s. If you get frustrated reading labels or don’t know where to find high quality, low cost natural based cleaning products, call Gene @ 651.261.0251 to talk about what Paco uses and approves.