We are a sleep-deprived nation. A recent study revealed that 70 million Americans do not get adequate sleep.  Experts say we need seven to nine hours a night consistently, but many of us get about five to seven. Furthermore, while our bodies were made to recover from one interrupted night’s sleep, studies now show that less than optimal sleep for a few nights in a row can change your sleep pattern, weaken your immune system and lead to an increased likelihood of weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, loss of long-term memory and more. Even one off night can increase your blood sugar levels and impair your sensitivity to insulin.

Sleep is directly linked to many mental processing functions including maintaining a positive mood (and managing irritability, anxiety, anger and depression), brain activity, learning, memory, concentration and our ability to handle stress. Many experts now say sleep is as important to your health and wellness long-term as a healthy diet and exercise.

Let’s look at what happens in a typical night of sleep.

Sleep Cycles and REM
Our bodies know whether we are awake or asleep through nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, which act on nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain. Some neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, are produced in the brainstem, where the brain and the spinal cord connect. These keep parts of the brain active while we are awake. Other neurons located in the base of the brain appear to turn off the signals that keep us awake. A chemical known as adenosine is now shown to build up in our bodies and cause drowsiness; it then breaks down while we sleep. Healthy functioning of these neurons is required for normal sleep cycles.

There are five phases of sleep: They are known as sleep cycles 1,2,3,4 and REM (or rapid eye movement.) We pass through all five, building up from 1 to REM and then begin the cycle all over again. We spend about 50% of our total sleep time in stage 2, about 20% in REM and the remaining 30% spread out across the other sleep cycles. (Infants spend 50% of their sleep in REM.)

Stage 1 sleep is very light sleep, where we drift in and out, our eyes move slowly, our muscle activity slows down and we can be awakened easily. We may make sudden muscle contractions in this stage or remember visual image fragments. In Stage 2, eye movement stops and brain waves become slower. Stage 3 brings in very slow waves, known as delta waves, as well as some smaller faster waves. In stage 4, we are almost exclusively in a delta wave phase.

Stages 3 and 4 are considered to be deep sleep and it’s hard to awaken someone from those stages; those awakened don’t adjust immediately. It takes a few minutes for them to stop feeling groggy and disoriented. In this phase, kids may experience night terrors or bedwetting and adults and kids both may sleepwalk.

After stages 3 and 4 deep sleep, we enter REM during which, true to its name, our eyes move rapidly in many directions. Our muscles become temporarily paralyzed and our breathing becomes irregular and more rapid and shallow. During REM, we dream.

Each sleep cycle takes 90-110 minutes on average, with our first REM cycle typically occurring 70-90 minutes after we fall asleep. During the first cycle, the REM period is relatively short, with longer periods of deep sleep. But as we progress through the night, REM cycles get longer and deep sleep cycles become shorter. By the time we awaken in the morning, most of our time is spent in sleep stages 1, 2 and REM.

Caffeine, diet pills and other stimulants can cause insomnia, or an inability to fall asleep. Alcohol can help you fall asleep, but keeps you in lighter stages of sleep and limits deep sleep and REM. Antidepressants can suppress REM sleep cycles. Heavy smokers often stay in lighter sleep stages and have less REM sleep. They may also wake after three to four hours due to nicotine withdrawal. Temperature changes disrupt REM as well.

Research shows that if we miss one normal REM heavy sleep cycle, the next time we sleep, we will go quickly into REM and stay there longer, to make up for lost sleep. But after a couple nights of disrupted sleep in a row, our bodies will no longer compensate and drop into REM. They will simply adapt to the new sleep cycle, shifting the sleep balance away from the healing and restorative deep and REM sleep cycles.

Spending less time in the healing deep sleep cycles affects your immune system, as your body cannot repair, restore and rebalance as it is meant to with less time in deep and REM sleep. Research also shows a number of interesting connections between health and insufficient sleep, including metabolic function and cardiovascular disease.

Sleep and the Connection to Health
In one study, after only three nights of deep and REM sleep suppression, participants became less sensitive to insulin; they required more insulin to dispose of similar amounts of glucose, but the body did not compensate by increasing insulin levels. They had reduced glucose tolerance and an increased likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. The study equated the decrease in insulin sensitivity to gaining 20 to 30 pounds.

Recently, a groundbreaking study showed that the body’s metabolic functions could be disrupted by only one night of inadequate sleep. In this study, participants were examined after a normal eight-hour night of sleep and also after a night of only four hours of sleep. The study revealed that “Insulin sensitivity is not fixed in healthy subjects, but depends on the duration of sleep in the preceding night,” according to Dr. Esther Donga, of the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and lead author of the study.

Another study monitored participants after two nights of regular sleep and then five nights of sleep restriction. After five nights of only getting four hours of sleep, the results indicated a statistically significant decrease in the heart rate variability, which can result in cardiological and non-cardiological diseases, according to Siobhan Banks of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

A recent study of insomniacs showed that sleep deprivation also increased the risk of hypertension. Those who slept for less than five hours had a 500% higher risk for hypertension than those who slept for six hours or more. Insomniacs with sleep cycles of five to six hours a night had a 350% higher risk of hypertension than normal sleepers.

Another study revealed that four nights of REM sleep deprivation reduced cell proliferation in the part of the forebrain that is responsible for long-term memory.

And a 16-year study revealed that women who slept for five hours a night were 32% more likely to gain weight (defined as an increase of 33 pounds or more) and 15% more likely to become obese versus women who slept for seven hours.  Six-hour-a-night sleepers fared a little better, with a 12% increase in major weight.

If you struggle with falling asleep or sleeping through the night (many people say they are able to fall asleep but then wake up at 2am and find themselves unable to fall back asleep again): Try magnesium.

When I experienced sleep disruptions from hormonal imbalances a few years ago, I read about magnesium as a potential solution. (If you are going through perimenopause, magnesium may become your new best friend!) Magnesium and calcium need to be eaten/taken together in balance, typically a 1:1 ratio, but  many of us are calcium heavy and magnesium deficient, which can disrupt sleep.

In fact, new studies say 99% of Americans are magnesium deficient, a topic I covered in a separate article. This isn’t surprising considering how dairy-heavy our diet is and how many people take calcium supplements to support bone health. Even if you take a calcium/magnesium combo, it is likely that you aren’t shifting the ratio, just your total intake.

If calcium and magnesium are 1:1 in the supplement, you’re likely still imbalanced; you just added more of each to the mix. But many are heavier on calcium than they are on magnesium, increasing the existing imbalance even further. Getting them into balance at whatever level you are at is the key, which means more magnesium for most of us.

I bought magnesium and took the standard dosage and found it let me sleep continuously through the night. I have since recommended it to many people who have reported great success. At the time, I bought whatever I could find at the store, which was elemental magnesium from Doctor’s Best. I still take it as does my son who has suffered from migraines.

Now more research has been done on magnesium and one doctor has achieved amazing results using a specific form of magnesium known as magnesium chloride. Dr. W. Davis, an author and cardiologist practicing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, reported that “sleep was induced rapidly, was uninterrupted, and that waking tiredness disappeared in 99% of the patients. In addition, anxiety and tension diminished during the day” after supplementation with magnesium chloride.

Some women I know prefer liquid magnesium, which you rub on your body and allow to be absorbed into your skin, over taking pills. But while different people take different forms, most all report improvement in sleep quality when taking magnesium. So if you are struggling with restful sleep through the night, it is definitely worth a try.

Even though our busy lives tempt us to put off sleep in favor of getting more things done, if you want to live a longer, healthier life, make a good night’s sleep a priority: you’ll have more energy—and feel better—tackling your tasks the next day. Adequate deep restful sleep ensures the body can heal and repair and perform the many functions required for good health: making sleep a priority is one of the best things you can do to stay (or become) fit and healthy.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!



Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal and a free copy of Inger’s bestselling ebook at www.IngerPols.com/freegifts

Photo Source: courtesy of imagerymajestic / Free Digital Photos


Why Detoxification MattersI’ve had the issue of detoxification on my list of articles to write for some time because it’s such an important part of a healthy lifestyle. The foods we eat, the chemicals we put on our face and skin, inhale in our homes and outside, and ingest through our cooking have been shown to cause cancer, lead to sex changes in animals, and overwhelm our immune systems.

We all need to find some simple ways to minimize our exposure and to help our bodies rid themselves of what we’ve already been exposed to (even babies are born with a toxic load already from their mother’s exposure: more on that in a moment.)

I was finally spurred into action by the recent petition France made to the European environmental ministers demanding that they develop an official strategy around endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruptors are “products and everyday objects, such as detergents, plastics, cosmetics, textiles, paints, contain substances with endocrine disrupting properties…  that interfere with the hormonal regulation of living beings and affect reproduction, growth, development, behavior, etc.”

France argued that “the effects of some chemicals on the human body are now sufficiently documented” saying an official stance is needed to protect its citizens from their harms,  “especially among sensitive populations – pregnant women and young children.”  What we as adults can handle is one thing, but infants can bear much less.

Sweden and Denmark immediately backed France in demanding regulation of these “stealth chemicals.” Sweden took it one step further, filing a lawsuit with the European Court of Justice. Sweden’s environmental minister said, “We have decided to sue the Commission because we want the court to force the Commission to deliver the scientific criteria so we can start moving toward a poison-free society.”

Wow! The idea that the toxic chemicals that disrupt our systems are being regulated or that these European countries are calling for that regulation is amazing and exciting. That’s not going to happen soon in U.S. unfortunately. But hopefully, if the regulation goes through, Americans will begin to demand that the government regulate the toxic chemicals that are disrupting our systems and share the health risks openly with citizens so they can make informed decisions too.

Endocrine disruptors pose challenges to us because they are basically “fake” hormones that sit in the hormone receptor sites and block our hormones from entering. Each hormone has a job or jobs to do, such as starting or stopping a process of some kind. When the fake hormone takes its place, the processes that should occur do not and are “disrupted,” causing a host of health concerns in the body at the same time that the true hormone travels through our blood looking for a place to land, leading to high insulin or estrogen levels for example.

Many people think that they aren’t exposed to that many toxins or that the exposure levels are not really a problem. But a study almost ten years ago by the Environmental Working Group  (EWG) studied the umbilical cord blood of babies and found that they had an average of 200 contaminants in their blood upon birth.

The EWG tested over 400 chemicals from industrial and consumer products including pesticides, heavy metals, flame retardants used in furniture, blankets and clothing, one of the chemicals that makes Teflon non-stick cookware, and more.

In total, they found 287 chemicals in the babies’ blood including 209 chemicals that had never before showed up in cord blood. Since it’s estimated that 2000 new chemicals are introduced every year, who knows what the study would reveal ten years later. (I definitely hope they do a follow up soon!)

A more recent study in 2011 tested pregnant women and their babies for the presence of genetically modified food chemicals and found that 93% of pregnant women had these chemicals in their blood and 80% of the umbilical cord samples from babies contained the GMO chemicals at birth.

And before you think, well, I eat organic and live healthy so that doesn’t affect me, a Canadian study in 2006 tested people from all areas of the country and found chemicals present in all of their blood. One of the participants was an Indian chief in a remote rural tribe in Northwestern Quebec and he too tested positive for chemicals, even though he lives far removed from urban pollution and processed foods. You can read the whole fascinating report at http://environmentaldefence.ca/reports/toxic-nation-report-pollution-canadians

We can’t escape these chemicals: even chemicals banned more than 20 years ago are still showing up in our blood. They travel through the air via weather patterns, through our water supplies, leach into the ground and impact our food supply, are used on so many of the products around us including clothing, furniture, and in plastics, cosmetics, and foods.

While we can’t avoid them, we can, however, minimize our exposure by choosing organic foods and using organic health care and house hold products, filtering our water (especially if you have fluoridated water, as the medical journal the Lancet declared fluoride to be a neurotoxin this week), avoiding plastics and never allowing hot food or water to come in contact with plastic, and cooking with glass or ceramic and avoiding non-stick coatings.

In addition, since many of these chemicals stay in our fat cells, that means they stay in the fat cells of the animals we eat. Hormone-free, antibiotic-free, pesticide-free meat that is grass-fed or in the case of chickens, pasture-raised and not vegetarian fed, wild deep sea fish that are not farm-raised, or wild meats such as bison or venison are best.

Look for the list of fruits and vegetables that you must buy organic that I wrote about earlier this Spring and avoid packaged and processed foods as much as you can. Nitrates in meats are another harmful toxin so avoid packaged and processed meats and choose less fatty fish. The Environmental Working Group publishes lists of fruits and vegetables as well as guidelines for healthy fish and even guidelines for cosmetics and you can find them at www.ewg.org

The body is meant to detoxify small amounts of toxins on a daily basis, usually while we sleep. That makes getting a really good night’s rest important to allow your body to perform this vital task. But the amount of chemicals that we are exposed to these days is greater than our bodies should have to bear. If we’re healthy, the body will get by, but as we are exposed to more and more, if our immune system is compromised in any way, the body will struggle and a myriad of health conditions can occur including cancer.

In addition to eating well and drinking lots of water to help our bodies flush out toxic substances, one of the most important things you can do to support your body in detoxification is sweat. Exercise to the point of sweating, take a sauna or a steam bath regularly and try to minimize use of antiperspirants. Antiperspirant is a very recent invention, one that is blocking a very important body function.

If you sweat a lot, try just using a deodorant, preferably one without aluminum. Aluminum is a toxin and when you put it on your armpits, your body will absorb it rapidly. And while aluminum is a big AVOID, there are many other chemicals in antiperspirants and deodorants such as propylene glycol, parabens, fragrances dyes and more: daily exposure can do long-term harm. You can learn more in my article on Why Your Cosmetics and Toiletries Matter As Much (or More) Than Your Food.

There are natural antiperspirants as well and if you must use one, definitely find an organic version. But if you can save the antiperspirant for the occasional big presentation days and use a deodorant most days instead, your body will still be able to release the toxins as intended.

If giving up your favorite food or skin product leaves you quaking, just make as many good choices as you can in other areas. If you need to hold onto a few near and dear products, it’s ok. Your body can deal with small amounts: it’s the cumulative effect or exposure to so many different chemicals on a daily basis that is of concern. But go green and organic in as many other products and areas as you can. And be sure to work up a sweat. Your body will thank you!

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!



Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.IngerPols.com

Photo Source: courtesy of Praisaeng / Free Digital Photos


The Saturated Fat MythEvery once in awhile, a study comes out blasting saturated fat and declaring it to be the cause of heart disease and other health concerns. This drives me crazy because it’s not true and typically there are serious flaws in the research. Saturated fat performs critical roles in the body (yes, we need it: more on that shortly) but it has been made a villain due to some poor research conducted many years ago leading to a myth that remains in place today.

If animal fat was so bad for you, how could we have survived all these years dependent on it? Let’s look at what saturated fat is and why it causes so much concern.

Saturated fat became the “bad guy” of heart health back in the 1950s when Dr. Ancel Keys published his hypothesis in a research paper in which he linked saturated fat to heart disease. Unfortunately, as is all too often the case, the research was flawed. Dr. Keys picked through the data and used only some of it: he looked at the intake of saturated fat based on data from six countries that he personally selected and made a case on only that limited data that consumption of saturated fat was tied to heart disease mortality. It took off from there.

That may well have been the case in the six countries he selected to make his case (though he didn’t look at all the other factors) but he chose to ignore data from 16 other countries that disagreed with his theory. It’s been argued that his paper was released to support the marketing strategy for Crisco, which was being introduced in the marketplace as a plant-based fat for frying and cooking to replace lard and butter.

In order to make Crisco more appealing to consumers, an argument needed to be made that a plant-based product was better than an animal one. There wasn’t a reason to justify that marketing until Dr. Keys paper came out and Crisco sales took off.

Regardless of the reason for the paper’s initial release, had Dr. Keys included the data from all 22 countries without bias, he would have shown that the highest consumption of saturated fat was linked to the lowest risk of heart disease, exactly the opposite of what he claimed! His hypothesis has not stood up since then either, despite the fact that the myth remains.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a study done by Dr. Ronald Krauss which analyzed 21 existing studies that included nearly 350,000 people and found “no significant evidence that eating more saturated fat increases a person’s risk of heart disease or stroke.”

A British report looked at data from ten large studies which included more than 400,000 men and women over several years. They found that the number of heart attacks and strokes were smaller among those who consumed the most (whole fat) dairy products and a recent Swedish study confirmed the same result.

Saturated fats provide the building blocks for hormones and for our cell membranes. They make you feel full when you eat a meal so you don’t overeat calories, they are carriers for our fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, they are the fuel for the heart and they rovide energy when we need it for exercise or exertion. Saturated fats are also required for mineral absorption, for converting carotene to vitamin A and for many other functions and processes in our bodies. We need saturated fat and we’ve depended on it for thousands of years.

Other than faulty research (which likely had a food company marketing angle much like the raw milk smear campaign that led to pasteurization in order to sell dirty milk that was otherwise unsellable), the only reason for saturated fat to be labeled a “bad guy” is that the meat and milk we ingest today is very different than that which we consumed one or two generations ago.

Animals today are bombarded with growth hormones, antibiotics, and environmental toxins like pesticides in their food, their environment and their health care. These toxins remain in the fat cells of the animals we eat. When we eat the animal fat or drink milk, we take in all of these toxins and they too can remain in our fat cells, and so the cycle continues.  The cumulative result of eating these toxins over time can lead to a number of health problems including inflammation, cancer and heart disease.

Most of us eat large quantities of meat, milk and especially cheese every day and what the animal (beef, fish, chicken, pork, turkey, fish or otherwise) eats, we eat. That used to be good and it kept us healthy. Animal feed today, however, includes GMO products including lots of corn, and whatever else they can afford when corn costs are high (or sometimes even when they are not) including gummy bears, oreos, deceased animals or other fillers.

If you are trying to eat well and avoid such foods but yet you eat traditionally raised animal meat (and this includes chicken and pork as well as beef), milk or cheese, you haven’t avoided them at all!  This is the only real concern that whole fat milk or cheese or eating animal fats poses to your health.

Grass fed beef and milk products have not been shown to lead to heart disease; they’ve actually been shown to keep you healthy and can definitely be part of a balanced diet. Beef labelled as grass fed can be purchased now in most stores. It costs a little more, but it is totally worth the investment in your health!

(For example, Trader Joes sells a pound of grass fed beef for $6.99. They also sell pre-made grass fed hamburger patties in the frozen section, 4 for about $5.99.) If you can’t find grass fed beef, or if you are more adventurous, try bison, elk and venison as these animals remain wild and so still eat a natural diet.

Finding milk from grass fed cows is a challenge still despite efforts and may send you to a local farm or farmer’s market. If you are lucky and you can get raw milk, even better. Cheese and butter from grass fed cows, however, can increasingly be found in stores; if not from raw milk, then in a pasteurized form. (If you don’t remember why pasteurized milk poses a challenges, you may want to re-read my article on milk: Not Your Parents’ Milk.)

The good news with butter and cheese is that if you buy European, most European products come from grass fed animals. Cheeses from France and Switzerland are typically made the traditional way, with milk from cows or goats allowed to roam free and eat their traditional diets. European cheese are plentiful and you can also find raw milk cheese, which offers even more health benefits, in mainstream supermarkets.

Finding grass fed butter from an American farm in a grocery store in the U.S. is very hard, even at health food supermarkets. If you can find a local farm, great: I love to support local! If not, brands such as Kerrygold butter from Ireland are readily available and are made from milk from grass fed cows.

Please note that organic butter does not mean it comes from grass fed cows, just as organic chicken and eggs do not come from chickens fed a natural diet. It just means the food the animals were fed meets organic standards: better than gummy bears, yes! But they were still fed grain or animal flesh or filler instead of their natural diet of sun-soaked, vitamin D-rich, grass.  You have to look for the words grass fed: if they are not there visibly on the label, then the product isn’t made from grass fed cows.

Many people are avoiding red meat thinking it poses health risks from saturated fats and are turning to chicken instead. But chicken is also rich in saturated fat and the diets and farming conditions of chickens are even worse than cattle, so if you are really trying to eat healthy, red meat that is grass fed is a much better choice today than most “white” meats.

I have found it very difficult to find any chicken or eggs in a store that are not fed “vegetarian feed” fed instead of their natural diet of grass and bugs, even if they are labelled organic. If you can find it, it is usually very expensive. If you can find it and you can afford it, that’s definitely the way to go. If not, definitely choose organic, but keep in mind that even organic products will have a higher ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids, which can lead to internal inflammation.

If you are trying to feed a family on a limited budget, grass fed beef, venison, elk or bison is usually a healthier and more economical option than finding the equivalent in a chicken, turkey or pork offering. Prices and selection will vary depending on where you live, but don’t be afraid to include saturated fat in your diet especially if you can find a good affordable option.

I wanted to keep this article focused on what you really need to know about saturated fats and I’ve shared that here with you now. But if you are curious about what saturated fat really is and want to read on just a little longer, I’ll provide a quick overview of the three kinds of fats and how they are different below.

Fatty acids fall into three groupings: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Each type is made up of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms to fill in the spaces around them.

Saturated fatty acids are acids where all of the spaces around the carbon atoms are completely filled, i.e., saturated. As a result, they are very stable regardless of temperature. They are found mainly in dairy, red meat and chicken, but also in tropical oils like red palm oil and coconut oil. We can also make some saturated fat from eating carbohydrates.

Monounsaturated fats are fatty acids have a double bond between two carbon atoms and they are missing two hydrogen atoms. They are called mono because of its single carbon double bond and unsaturated because not all of the spaces are filled: two hydrogen atoms are missing. Because the chain can bend at the double bond point, when you mix a large number of these chains together, it won’t be dense or compact; there will be room in between.

As a result, these acids are usually liquid at room temperature and are relatively stable, though not as stable as saturated fats because they are not packed as tightly. The most common monounsaturated fat is oleic acid and examples are olive oil, avocados, peanuts, cashews, pecans and almonds. Your body can also make monounsaturated fat from saturated fat as needed.

Polyunsaturated fats are missing several hydrogen atoms and they have two – or more – double bonds. As a result, since there are more than one double bond, they are called poly, meaning many. At each double bond, there is a kink in the chain, so they tend to be very loosely packed and remain liquid, even in colder temperatures. The good polyunsaturated fats are found in whole food sources such as nuts, seeds, fish, algae, leafy greens and krill. These are the foods that have great health benefits for us.

However, it’s really important to distinguish that not all polyunsaturated fats are healthy. While the good forms can yield great health benefits, other forms of polyunsaturated fats are not so good for us and can do great health harm. These are the polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils such as soybean (a staple in packaged goods), corn, sunflower or safflower oil. They are highly unstable fats and they can go bad, or turn rancid, easily when exposed to heat and light.

When they turn rancid, such as when they are heated or fried, free radicals are created which travel around in your blood causing damage to just about everything they interact with. Free radical damage has been tied to cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cataracts, tumors, and aging.

We need all three types of fats for a healthy body, so don’t be afraid to include saturated fats in your diet: just be sure to choose fats from good sources and try to avoid processed polyunsaturated vegetable oils.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!



Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal and a free copy of Inger’s bestselling ebook at www.IngerPols.com/freegifts

Photo Source: courtesy of SOMMAI / Free Digital Photos


It’s my favorite time of year! Not just because the weather is finally warming up but because it is time for the Environmental Working Group’s annual release of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 fruits and vegetables. As we turn the corner, (finally!) toward Spring, it’s a perfect time to talk about choosing the fruits and vegetables and the tradeoffs between your health and your finances.

As a result of the diminished nutrient profiles in foods due to modern farming practices, we need to eat more fruits and vegetables than ever. You may remember a prior article in which I shared research that to get the same level of nutrients from two peaches eaten back in the 1950’s, today you’d have to eat 53!

We are all trying to make our money in this tough economy stretch as far as it can, so it’s good to know that there is some produce that you can buy conventionally grown; being able to purchase it at your regular store or when it’s on sale means you can really save some money.  Other fruits and vegetables, however, absolutely should be bought organic, as it’s worth every penny of the investment in your health to avoid the toxic pesticides they contain.

Every year, the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, releases a list of the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables known as The Dirty Dozen. They also provide a list of the Clean 15 that you can feel safe about buying conventionally grown. The list changes every year as some dirty produce does get cleaned up and some clean produce begins to show signs of pesticides.

Everything not on one of these two lists is a use-your-best-judgment call: buy organic if and when you can, especially if it’s something you don’t peel. The more important avoiding pesticides is to you, the more items on the “in- between list” (meaning anything not found on either of the two lists that follows below), you’ll probably want to look for organic.

If it’s not a big priority for you at the moment vs. other health considerations, if you don’t have growing children, if you cannot afford it or it’s not a regular purchase, it’s ok to consume the conventional produce on the “in-between list” periodically as long as you wash it well or don’t eat the skin.

To the extent that you can, buy local and support your small farms whenever possible especially if buying conventional; the further food travels, the more it will be sprayed to ensure it makes the journey without spoiling and the less time it’s allowed to ripen and reach nutritional maturity.

The Clean 15 (These can be bought conventionally grown if you’re watching your expenses.)

Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas –Frozen
Sweet Potatoes

It’s important to note that most genetically modified produce such as corn and soy is used to make packaged goods and doesn’t end up in the produce aisle. Some produce will be labeled with a sticker that begins with the number 8, which indicates it’s genetically modified and should always be avoided, but it’s not a requirement and so most produce will not have such clear markings.

According to the EWG, small amounts of GMO Produce such as zucchini, papaya and sweet corn do make their way onto the shelves.  If avoiding genetically modified foods is a priority to you, these should also be bought organic, even though papaya and corn make the “clean” list as far as pesticides go. (While we love an occasional sweet corn on the cob, because corn is so pervasive in foods these days, we limit it to a couple times a season, really enjoy it when we do, and always buy it organic even though it’s on the clean list.)

The Dirty Dozen (ALWAYS buy organic)

Sweet Bell Peppers
Nectarines – Imported
Cherry Tomatoes
Snap Peas – Imported

Kale and Collard Greens
Hot peppers

The first thing you’ll notice about The Dirty Dozen is that many of these are the fruits and vegetables your kids or grandkids eat most. The impact of the pesticides will be even greater upon their developing bodies and because they eat from this group regularly, it’s even more important to invest in organic options if there are kids involved. (And keep in mind, this means products made from these fruits as well such as apple or grape juice, and apple sauce, etc. These should be purchased organic as well.)

More and more stores are adding organic produce; these are the fruits and veggies to look for wherever you shop and make it a rule to invest in organic versions. Trader Joes is pretty good at stocking these if you have access to one nearby, but even there, it’s hit or miss. There are many times of the year I cannot get organic apples for my kids’ lunches and so we have to switch to something else until they come in because I will not buy conventional.

If you cannot find fresh organic versions of the Dirty Dozen, look for frozen organic strawberries, spinach or peppers. If you can’t get organic peaches or nectarines, try plums or another fruit on the clean or in-between list and wash it really well with fruit and veggie wash if you’ll be eating the peel. (Conventional or organic, clean, dirty or in-between, always wash your produce with a fruit and veggie wash and never eat any fruits or vegetables until you have!)

Also try visiting local farms or farmers markets and talking to the farmers. Many smaller farms follow organic farming practices but cannot afford the time and expense of applying for organic certification. Again, even if not certified organic, local produce will have more nutrients and is a better choice than heavily sprayed conventional produce that travels from far away.

Finally, last year, the Dirty Dozen list had some additions that didn’t meet the full criteria but were commonly found to have toxic pesticide contamination. This year, two vegetables made their “plus” list: hot peppers and leafy greens such as kale and collards.

These vegetables show pesticide residues of organochloride pesticides that are toxic to the nervous system and as a result have been phased out of agriculture. They make the list because residues still linger in farm fields and have been found on conventional produce sold in stores, so these should also be purchased as organic.

Last year, domestically grown summer squash such as yellow crookneck squash and zucchini made the plus list too. But this year they have removed it from the highest level of danger list, finding pesticide levels to have improved.

As produce season gets under way, enjoy the 9-13 servings per days of fruits and vegetables your body requires for optimal health, but invest in the best form you can of the dirty dozen and you can save some pennies on the rest!

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!



Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal and a free copy of Inger’s bestselling ebook at www.IngerPols.com/freegifts

Photo Source: courtesy of SOMMAI / Free Digital Photos


We have all read and heard about the many benefits of exercise.  Exercise has been shown to lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, improve cognitive function, fitness, improve your mood and reduce depression, and reduce the risk of cancer. It’s also been shown to change the T cells in cancer patients from unhealthy to healthy and create a low sugar environment that discouraged the growth and spread of cancer cells in patients who are already diagnosed.

So if you’re looking for an excuse to re-start your exercise plan, there are many! But did you know that if you are sedentary throughout most of your day, your risk of health concerns is much higher, even if you are a rigorous and religious exerciser?

Research shows that long periods of sitting have negative effects on our health that are not fully erased even if we demonstrate healthy habits after work. Movement, it turns out, is even more important for good health than exercise. Especially since I just read a statistic that more than 50% of men and women don’t engage in vigorous physical activity for more than 10 minutes a week which is not enough to attain any real health benefit. If you’re in that group, moving is even more important!

But even if you work out, it’s moving throughout the day that seems to make the biggest difference. USA Today recently reported the results of a study that revealed that the risk of heart failure was more than double for men who sat for five hours a day outside of work and didn’t exercise as compared to men who sat for less than two hours a day and were physically active. Men with the lowest risk were those who exercised the most and sat for less than two hours a day.

But while this may seem to highlight that men who exercise more are healthier, the study also confirmed that a regular fitness routine did NOT erase the effects of sitting for long durations. The study followed 82,000 men for 10 years and found that the increased risk correlations to sitting were true no matter how long they exercised. It wasn’t the exercise that made the difference: it was the amount of time spent sitting that played the biggest role in the men’s health risks.

Whether you are exercising regularly or not, if you want to improve your health, you should create time for movement breaks throughout the day. According to James Levine, co-director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, “If you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting too long.”  Dr. Joseph Mercola thinks even an hour is too long. He recommends that you take a movement break every 15 minutes and suggests setting a timer at work or using a phone app to remind you to get up and walk or stretch.

If you think about it, it makes total sense. As we evolved away from chasing our food (and being chased by it!) and settled down, we still lived in a state of constant movement. Cooking, weaving, gathering, building, everything we did in our day was movement. Even if we sat to mend something we would then get up to stir the pot or get more material. Even in more recent years as we built businesses that were more stationary, the business owner would check out his fleet or land or livestock, on foot or on horseback. Ladies would take long walks in the garden, as would couples after dinner, and for a special occasion, the entertainment after dinner would involve dance.

Taking frequent breaks throughout the day to get up and stretch your body will  release tightness from your muscles and keep energy (and blood and oxygen) flowing smoothly throughout your body. A stretch, some simple calisthenics or yoga poses will go a long way. If you can, take a little time to go for a walk.

While a nice long walk during lunch or after work is a great health option that can also provide a forum for social interaction or emotional reconnection with a friend or loved one, little intermittent walking breaks throughout the day can improve your health… and your creativity.

A new study from Stanford University revealed that our ability to solve problems creatively, or our divergent thinking creativity, increases during and after walking. Researchers put 176 college students into groups and asked them to generate as many possible solutions in a set time by coming up for different possible uses for an object. The scores were evaluated on their originality, whether other participants also identified that same solution, and their appropriateness, or whether the ideas were actually realistic.

The participants took the test while sitting, being pushed in a wheelchair, or walking inside or outside for a period of 5-16 minutes. They found that participants scored 60% higher when they were walking than sitting, whether it was indoors or outdoors and that their creative thinking levels remained elevated for a period of time after their walk.

So the next time you are sitting at your desk working hard to solve a problem, rushing to finish a report, or struggling to find an answer, take a few minutes to get up and go for a walk. The answer just might come to you more quickly and your health will be improved as well.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!



Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal and a free copy of Inger’s bestselling ebook at www.IngerPols.com/freegifts

Photo Source: courtesy of photostock / Free Digital Photos

© 2012 Inger Pols, Inc. Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha