Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Keeping the Tops

Excuses are both dangerous and brilliant.  I am often inclined to use them at workout time.  "I'm too busy" or "I'm too tired" are frequent visitors at these times, although "I really just want to lie down and put my feet up" is the authentic voice behind the excuses.

However, I often quickly tire of the "living healthy is too expensive excuse."  For me, living healthfully - and sustainably - is exactly the opposite: a simple, healthful lifestyle saves me money.  Growing organic vegetables and herbs in my little container garden and a commitment to living greener and reusing not only enhance my family's well-being and that of the planet, but bring about many opportunities for financial savings.  Once you embrace the idea of living with less waste, you begin to see how much you have been throwing away - literally and figuratively.

Hopping through farmers' markets this weekend (I've been known to hit multiple markets in one Saturday morning jaunt), I found some fabulous organic carrots in gorgeous hues of yellow, orange, and red.  The kindly farmer asked if he could remove their tops and when I said that I would be using them, it sparked an interesting conversation on the many ways they can be used and consumed.  (Yes, there are some questions about allergic reactions to carrot greens - or any greens containing alkaloids - so stick to organic).  Lovely carrot tops/greens can be used to make stock, pesto, or in this delicious Carrot Top Chimichurri which was aided by fresh cilantro from the garden and some garlic and peppers on hand.  It's super easy with your food processor and a little bit goes a long way.  You can add in some cumin or paprika for an extra kick.  We're enjoying it on some leftover pulled pork.  Enjoy - and save those tops!

Carrot Top Chimichurri (from Rosemarried.com

1 large handful of cilantro 
Carrot greens (from the 4 carrots)
1 serrano chili, stem and seeds removed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Salt & pepper, to taste
The juice of 1 lime 
1/4 cup olive oil

To assemble the chimichurri, pulse the garlic cloves and serrano chili together in a food processor. Add in the carrot greens, cilantro, salt, pepper, and lime juice and process while pouring the olive oil in a steady stream. Blend until the mixture is well combined.

Contributed by Nancy Peplinsky, Founder and Director of the Holistic Moms Network, and mother to two amazing boys. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Social Isolation Will Kill You

Eat organic?  Exercise regularly?  Are you mindful and present?  You may be healthy -- or you may not be as healthy as you think.  Are you lonely?  If so, you're among a growing percentage of our population.  According to a recent study of people 45 years old and older, more than 40% of us are lonely, up over the past 20 years.  What's more is that loneliness impacts mortality as much as obesity or a lack of physical activity, yet not enough of us are dedicating our time to preventing it.  PLOS Medicine published an article showing that "individuals with adequate social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival compared to those with poor or insufficient social relationships. The magnitude of this effect is comparable with quitting smoking and it exceeds many well-known risk factors for mortality (e.g., obesity, physical inactivity)."

If you're spending hours each week at the farmers' market or in the garden to feed yourself good food, or logging in time at the gym, you need to be spending just as much time enriching your social life and sense of community in order to gain this healthy advantage.  And, no, social media doesn't count.  Although young adults "feel" connected through social media outlets, such as Facebook, it's a deceptive illusion.  Research shows that the more time people spend on Facebook, the more lonely they truly are.  

Matthew Lieberman, social psychologist and neuroscientist, argues in his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, that social connection is the very foundation for happiness and satisfaction.  In a  fascinating look at social connection published in The Atlantic, author Emily Esfahani Smith writes:

"Social connections are as important to our survival and flourishing as the need for food, safety, and shelter. But over the last fifty years, while society has been growing more and more prosperous and individualistic, our social connections have been dissolving. We volunteer less. We entertain guests at our homes less. We are getting married less. We are having fewer children. And we have fewer and fewer close friends with whom we’d share the intimate details of our lives. We are increasingly denying our social nature, and paying a price for it. Over the same period of time that social isolation has increased, our levels of happiness have gone down, while rates of suicide and depression have multiplied."

So how do we overcome the social isolation problem?  Our self-focused culture and media emphasis on "me time" don't help.  We need to step up, overcome apathy, and get active in our neighborhoods, communities, and towns.  Whether volunteering for a local organization, serving on a town or school council, or joining a social group, getting connected requires a small step for a big reward.  Health has many facets and it's time this one makes our to-do lists.