Healthy, responsible sun exposure is just as important as nutrition, exercise, and clean water when it comes to optimal well-being and vibrant health - I consider it an essential nutrient!
The key to healthy sun exposure is avoiding sun burns. With proper nutrition, natural skin care, and gradually increasing sun exposure at the beginning of summer you'll set yourself up for healthy glowing skin all summer!
We have evolved with the sun, so it doesn't make sense to avoid it like the plague, or to put extremely harmful chemicals on our skin in the form of sunscreens. People can be prone to skin cancer not from sun exposure, but because they are lacking nutrients - especially vitamin D and antioxidants - as well as a build up of toxins in the body, inadequate nutrition, getting too many sun burns, and overall less than optimal immune system functioning.
Tips for Healthy Sun Exposure:
1. Eat your fruits and veggies! Especially those with orange and red pigments. These pigments are powerful antioxidants and help your body produce more melanin - the pigment responsible for our skin colour. Melanin is produced from the oxidation of the amino acid tyrosine, so loading up antioxidants mitigates any negative effects of the tyrosine oxidation.
2. Natural Skin Care. If you wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your skin! Our skin is our largest organ –– we absorb what we put on our skin. The chemicals in conventional sunscreen are some of the most toxic ingredients we can come in contact with, but people have such fear of the sun that they don't think twice about covering their bodies in sunscreen (regardless of the ingredients). Moisturizers are not much better - best to choose organic and natural sunscreens, moisturizers, soaps, and all other personal care products.
To find out which sunscreens and skin care products are the safest please visit the EWG's website Skin Deep.
Pure shea butter and cacao butter are very moisturizing as well as having natural UV protection. For cacao butter application: at the end of your shower, glide a bar of cacao butter over your skin - not only will you smell like chocolate, your skin will also be silky smooth!
3. Gradual Sun Exposure. If you have quite fair skin it is best to gradually build up a tolerance to the sun in early summer. You are less likely to burn if you gradually expose yourself to the sun. Best times to begin are early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is not as strong. For prolonged periods of sun exposure it is a good idea to use natural sunscreens for people that are prone to burning.
4. Sufficient Vitamin D! If you live somewhere that is not sunny all year round it is a good idea to take a vitamin D3 supplement during the cloudy winter months. In the summer months we can get enough from healthy sun exposure, so if you find you are not outside that often you may want to continue with supplementation all year round. The darker your skin the more sun exposure you will need to make enough vitamin D. Vitamin D has many functions in the body, including immune system health. A healthy, strong immune system is essential for keeping cancer cells under control - destroying them before they become an issue.
5. Avoid sunburns. A healthy diet and responsible sun exposure will help prevent burns. A burn is your bodies way of telling you it was not able to produce enough melanin to protect from the UV rays. Eat more antioxidants, and use natural sunscreen if you are prone to burning.
What about wrinkles?! Again, I believe that if we are healthy and nourished from the inside out, our skin is more able to handle sun exposure without getting premature wrinkles. It is more important to stay hydrated, reduce chemical exposure, and eat a diet rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, and raw, plant-based foods.
I recently watched the documentary Fed Up and realize now how important it is to decrease the amount of sugar I eat. However, I have a sweet tooth so I am wondering what some healthier alternatives to refined sugar are?
Congratulations on deciding to take one of the best steps to improving your health! Cutting out refined sugars and flours is essential for optimal health throughout our life span.
We are programmed to enjoy and crave sweet tastes, and glucose is the only fuel our brain runs on, however, when our physiology was developing the only source of sugar was from whole, unprocessed fruits.
In our modern world, the food manufacturers have taken advantage of our innate preference for sweets and have essentially hijacked our brains by using large amounts of refined sugar in so many products - creating a society that is addicted to sugar!
The problem is that these refined sweets satisfy our craving for sugar but do not contain any other nutrients. Our bodies evolved to metabolize sweet foods that also contain an abundance of minerals, vitamins, fibre, and antioxidants. Filling up on empty calories is essentially leaving us over-fed and under-nourished.
The good news is that there are many healthier alternatives:
This is my favourite sweetener since you are eating the whole fruit and therefore also getting all the fibre and nutrients.
Looking for a liquid option? Just soak pitted dates in water for at least 30mins and then blend with the soak water. Adjust the amount of water to get the consistency you prefer.
Made from a starchy tuber, this low-glycemic syrup contains the prebiotic inulin.
A nutrient-dense sweetener as it also contains many minerals, these minerals are essential for your body to properly metabolize the sugar.
Sweeter than yacon syrup, and since it does not also contain the inulin it is higher glycemic as well. However, since it is sweeter you may not use as much.
Contains many vitamins and minerals, including: B vitamins, Vitamin A, Manganese, Zinc, and Calcium, as well as a group of antioxidants called phenolics. The darker varieties contain more vitamins and minerals (No. 2 & No. 3).
Raw, Unpasteurized Honey:
A very nutrient-dense and healing sweetener, however, given the current state of our bee populations I would want to know specifics about the practices of the bee farm:
Do they use pesticides? Do they leave some honey for the bees to eat or just take it all and replace with sugar-water?
If they are responsible bee farmers that are actually helping improve the health of bee colonies then maybe using honey once and awhile is okay, however, with so many other great sweetener options available I have decided to put my honey consumption on hold for now.
* Please note: if you are planting more flowers in your garden to help improve the bee populations please make sure they have not been sprayed with pesticides before you purchased them.
Coconut Sugar and Syrup:
Considered to be lower glycemic than cane sugar, coconut palm sugar is also rich in minerals. However, it is not going to contain the fibre that dates and yacon syrup contain.
There also may be issues with the sustainability of how it is harvested. Before purchasing I would want to call the company to find out more. If too much sap is taken, or at the wrong time, the tree may not be able to produce coconuts after!
Read more about the details of coconut sap production...
The leaves of the stevia plant do not contain any sugar at all, instead they just have an intense sweet flavour with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
The best choice for diabetics since it is sugar-free.
There are numerous stevia products on the market now and most of them are highly-processed white powders. The stevia leaf is green so your stevia powder should also be green!
Please keep in mind that when the body tastes something sweet it is expecting to metabolize sugar molecules, since stevia does not contain sugar it may confuse your body and end up taxing the adrenals.
I like to use stevia in combination with fruit or the other sweeteners mentioned above in order to decrease the total amount of sugar in a recipe, however, since the recipe will also contain actual sugar molecules it won't be confusing for the body.
Raw Jicama Fries
Raw Jicama Fries are an easy and delicious snack or side dish. No cooking required - just peel, chop, season, and enjoy!
Fuel up on healthy fats by tossing the fries with Garlic Chili Camelina Oil - 1 tablespoon contains 4g of omega-3!
Not a fan of spicy chili? Camelina oil also comes in Roasted Onion and Basil, as well as plain.
Jicama is a starchy tuber from Central and South America. Unlike potatoes, it is really delicious eaten raw, with a texture and taste similar to a non-sweet apple. Jicama contains inulin (a prebiotic), vitamin C, fibre, potassium, magnesium, copper, iron, and many other micronutrients.
Favourite Raw Jicama Fries:
1-2 jicama, peeled and chopped into french fries
2-3 Tbsp garlic chili camelina oil
1 tsp unrefined sea salt (or to taste)
1 tsp freshly ground black or white pepper (or to taste)
Wash, peel, and chop the jicama (please note that the peel is not edible). Place chopped jicama in a large bowl and toss with camelina oil, sea salt, and pepper. Serve as is or with your favourite raw vegan dip, my favourite is cilantro macadamia sour cream.
You can also use other cold-pressed, unrefined, organic oils, however, many of us do not get enough omega-3 so using an oil like camelina as much as possible is a good idea. Most vegetable oils are very high in omega-6, which we do need in small amounts, the problem is that it is a lot more abundant in the diet than omega-3 so we end up with an unfavourable ratio: the average intake of omega-6:omega-3 is 20:1 when it should really be closer to 2:1!
When using an unflavoured oil for this recipe, you may want to add additional spices, choose from: chipotle powder, chili powder, curry, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, dill, basil, cumin, coriander, cayenne, turmeric, etc.
Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days is an inspiring documentary that chronicles the journey of six diabetics as they switch from a Standard American Diet to a raw, vegan, whole-food based diet for 30 days while staying at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center.
Under the guidance of Dr. Gabriel Cousens the six participants are able to go off their insulin and essentially reverse their diabetes.
With all the talk about how much sugar and processed foods we are eating these days, and the rise of obesity and diabetes, this documentary provides hope and a new perspective for those that are told that they have an incurable disease.
"Simply Raw reveals, with startling clarity, that diet can reverse diabetes* and change the quality of people’s lives. The film captures the human drama and struggle of these courageous individuals making a quantum leap of faith from a traditional junk food diet to a raw vegan diet and it shows revealing moments of nurturing, compassion, and human spirit. It is a film about a life changing journey on a simply raw diet and how nature is the original medicine." Read more...
Shawna Barker BSc., RHN is a nutritionist, college instructor, and raw food educator.