How to Change Your Brain

Sure, you can change your mind, but can you change your brain? Science says, “Yes!”

According to a great article I read recently, there are a number of things that have been shown — through scientific studies — to make a difference. Read on for a list of seven things that may actually improve your brain:

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1) Exercise
Everyone knows that they should exercise, but most people think of their waistline, not their brain, when they hop onto the treadmill. It turns out that physical activity is a very important factor when it comes to brain health and cognitive function. In fact, exercise is linked to greater brain volume, improved thinking/memory skills, and a decreased risk of dementia! According to a study published in the journal Neurology, older people who engage in vigorous exercise tend to have similar cognitive test scores to people who are 10 years younger!

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2) Foods and Spices
Here is another aspect of our health that tends to be dictated by our waistline: our diet. Eating lots of processed carbohydrates and sugars certainly affects our figure, but it also affects our brain! In a study conducted at UCLA last year, researchers found that feeding fructose water to rats with brain damage actually impeded their recovery…and that even healthy rats experienced cognitive decline when placed on the same diet. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids (think fish, eggs, walnuts, etc.) seemed to reverse some of the damage! Another study showed that turmeric — a spice found in curry dishes that is touted for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties — may be linked to a reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

While there is probably not a single food or spice that will turn the tides, a diet that is high in whole foods and low in sugar is probably your best bet at maintaining health. Given the fact that about 1/5 of our energy resources are dedicated to powering the brain, we should give it some consideration when we reach for a snack!

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3) Vitamins and Minerals
Of course, any vitamin or mineral that is good for your body is good for your brain, too! However, there are a few that are more directly related to brain health: vitamins D and B12 and iron. Science may not be able to explain precisely why our brains need vitamin D, but it has shown that a lack of it is linked to cognitive decline. Similarly, vitamin B12 deficiency can have negative effects on the central nervous system and lead to memory loss. Iron plays an important role throughout the body because it carries oxygen to all of our cells! Keep in mind that while supplements may seem easier to take, your body is actually better able to absorb vitamins and minerals that come directly from food. Click here for an a-to-z list of vitamins and minerals and the foods that contain them.

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4) Coffee
Most of us are probably happy to think that our coffee addiction is actually doing something good for our bodies! Beyond simply keeping us alert, coffee consumption can actually reduce the risk of depression, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. Next time someone tries to hassle you about being a coffee addict, just tell them you are getting your daily dose of antioxidants!

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5) Meditation
There may be thousands of years’ worth of anecdotal evidence to prove the value of meditation, but the experimental evidence to go with it has only arisen in the last decade or so. Studies have shown that meditation may be related to increased brain volume in certain parts of the cerebral cortex. Furthermore, it is associated with decreased activity in the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for our response to fear or stress) and the default mode network (which is active when our mind is wandering). Those who practice meditation regularly can expect improvements like increased attention and concentration!

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6) Education/Mental Activity
This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when people think about “improving” their brains. Things like learning a new language, playing an instrument, or doing a crossword/sudoku puzzle are all helpful (and fun)! Not that any of these things can necessarily prevent disease, but they can reinforce our cognitive reserve — that is, the mind’s resilience or ability to function adequately in spite of damage.

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7) Sleep
We are pretty big fans of sleep here at Lifekind, so this may be my favorite thing on the list! We spend about 1/3 of our lives sleeping, so it makes sense that it would have an effect on our health. Lack of sleep has a negative effect on the body and the mind and has been associated with things like poor attention, difficulty learning, and decreased creativity. There is plenty of debate about precisely how much sleep is needed, but seven hours is a pretty good rule of thumb!

With all of the hard work that our brain does around the clock, it certainly deserves a little extra attention. Even though we might not be able to fit in all of the items on this list every day, it is at least nice to know that there is something we can do to improve our most complex (and intriguing) organ!

Gots Certified Products – Good News for Organic Shoppers

In the world we live in, sadly we can’t always take things at face value. Take, for example, the term “organic.” As you may have read in our recent blog about the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), technically only textiles that are certified organic can be called organic. But with the growing number of “natural” and “organic” products available, it is easy to become a little skeptical…after all, is anyone really holding all of these companies accountable?

It turns out, the answer is “yes.” A few months ago, in the US District Court of Virginia, GOTS won a civil action against a number of companies that were mislabeling and/or falsely advertising their products as “organic.” The case led to a permanent injunction that impedes the unauthorized use of the GOTS logo. Within a matter of weeks, GOTS had also filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to detail the prevalent misuse of the term “organic” in relation to textiles. You can read the full article here.

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This is good news, not only for manufacturers of truly organic products (like Lifekind), but also for consumers everywhere! As Herbert Ladwig, the GOTS Managing Director, put it: “The lawsuit and FTC complaint should send a clear message to the textile sector that unauthorized and unsubstantiated claims that textile products are ‘organic’ or GOTS-certified will not be tolerated.” This lack of tolerance for misleading claims means more transparency in textile marketing… and that should give consumers more confidence when shopping for things like organic clothing or bedding.

Of course, as a consumer, it is still a good idea to do your homework and to verify organic claims (especially with large purchases, like mattresses). Keep in mind that you can always search directly for producers and products in the public database on the GOTS website.

Happy organic shopping!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we wanted to share a few dessert recipes that are perfect for topping off the taco bar buffet. These recipes are simple enough to be whipped up by tomorrow, but delicious enough to be enjoyed at any time of the year!

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– Watermelon Sorbet –

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
6 cups watermelon
2 tbsp lime juice (about 1 lime)

Directions:

1) Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar; then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

2) Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to room temperature (should take about 45 minutes).

3) Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour, until chilled.

4) Meanwhile, place watermelon and lime juice in a food processor and combine until smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove seeds (push any large watermelon chunks through the sieve).

5) Combine the watermelon puree and sugar-water mixture, then pour into a shallow metal pan. Freeze for about 30 minutes, then stir mixture to incorporate the ice crystals. Repeat process every 30 minutes until all of the liquid is frozen, then allow the mixture to harden in the freezer for 1-2 hours before serving.

**Recipe found on Her Campus.

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– Margarita Ice Cream –

Ingredients:

15-oz can coconut milk
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup lime juice (about 3 or 4 limes)
1 tsp lime zest
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 tsp orange extract
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

1) Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk.

2) Freeze using an ice cream maker, or use the method described in step 5 of the recipe above.

3) Prepare glass serving dishes by rubbing the rim with a lime wedge and inverting on a plate of salt (optional).

**Recipe found on One Green Planet.

We hope these quick and delicious recipes will help liven up your Cinco de Mayo celebrations! We also hope you get a chance to take part in one of our other favorite Mexico-inspired traditions this week…the siesta!  🙂

Lifekind Customizable Wool-Wrapped Natural Shredded Rubber Pillow

Hands down, the Customizable Wool-wrapped Natural Shredded Rubber Pillow is our bestselling pillow. It combines the best qualities of natural rubber and wool, creating a divinely comfortable pillow with medium support. The pillow’s zippered closure makes it possible to remove some of the rubber to customize it to your best comfort level. Made from natural rubber latex, with Naturally Safer® pure wool in the outer chamber. Handmade in the USA. 

Like our natural rubber mattresses, the natural rubber used in our pillows comes from the sap of the rubber tree and does not contain synthetic rubber, often referred to as “latex” or “styrene-butadiene rubber” (SBR).

The Teal Pumpkin Project

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For those of you who plan on passing out treats on Halloween this year, here’s an opportunity to think outside the chocolate-and-candy-corn box! The Teal Pumpkin Project — a national campaign launched by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in 2014 — is on a mission to make this holiday fun for ALL! According to the FARE website, an estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies…which means that one in every 13 children may not be able to eat the brightly packaged candy that’s been taking over grocery store aisles this month. PrintIt’s all about community! By encouraging people to pass out non-food Halloween treats, the Teal Pumpkin Project aims to include those who can’t eat candy because of food allergies (or one of many other possible reasons). Here’s all you need to do to be part of this:

1) Provide non-food treats to trick-or-treaters,

AND

2) Paint a pumpkin teal and place it in your front yard to show your participation.

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Click here to read more about this project, download signs and flyers, and even put your house on the Teal Pumpkin Project map. Even if you’re not planning to pass out candy this year, you can help by spreading the word or donating to FARE.

Here’s wishing you a fun and inclusive Halloween!

The TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).

Easy Pumpkin Ice Cream Recipe

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Cooler weather has finally arrived, and if you’re anything like me, you may be feeling a little torn between seasons. I’m not quite ready to let go of the late nights and river trips that come with summer,  yet I love the clothes and food that come with autumn…namely, any food that contains PUMPKIN!

Well, I have a solution to your inter-seasonal woes: pumpkin ice cream. It combines the best parts of both seasons, and it’s even pretty healthy!

This is one of those no-fuss recipes that only calls for a few ingredients and doesn’t require a lot of fancy kitchen gadgets — my kind of recipe. The bananas give it a wonderful, creamy texture without the use of dairy or gluten. I love the flavor of maple syrup, but you can always substitute honey (use about 1/4 cup). Also, you have a few options when it comes to the pumpkin puree. You can either use the stuff from a can or make it yourself (the preferred method). Pumpkin packs a full punch of vitamins and minerals, so the fresher the better! (Click here for a how-to lesson on preparing pumpkin puree.)

Here is the recipe:

  • 4 bananas, sliced and frozen (overnight will do)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves

Use about 1 1/2 tsp of pumpkin spice from the store if you don’t have the individual spices on hand. Easy!

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Combine ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a sealed container and freeze for about 24 hours. Allow the ice cream to soften a bit before scooping and enjoy.

Happy autumn!

 

Microplastics: No Small Issue

Leading a “green” life is certainly a process. Every day I hear of some new catastrophe that is threatening our already-fragile planet. And while I’m learning to pick my battles — or at least be realistic about how many battles I can take on at once — there are some topics that really hit home. One issue that really grabbed my attention when I first learned about it is the issue of microbeads (also known by the more generic term “microplastics”).

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In case you hadn’t heard, microbeads are the tiny plastic pieces found in many personal-care products. While these tiny scrubbers can certainly help you get smooth skin, they also pollute our waterways (their small size makes them very difficult to filter out). Finding out that microbeads are one of the biggest contributors to the garbage patch — and oceanic pollution in general — launched me on a months-long journey to replace my microbead-laden facial scrub with a natural alternative. After a few years and a LOT of failed attempts at using things like coffee grounds or cold-pressed honey, I have finally settled into a happy natural-exfoliation routine (turns out there are some pretty great options in the organic section that are less messy)!
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Fast forward to the present and we’ve made considerable headway in the effort to eliminate microbeads: several major companies have pledged to phase them out of their products, and some states have passed legislation banning the manufacture and sale of products containing them (hooray for the recent victory in California)! However, we’re not out of the woods yet. And in case I was in danger of becoming complacent, I have just learned of ANOTHER way in which these microplastics are finding their way into the ocean: through synthetic clothing.

According to good ol’ Wikipedia, there are two types of microplastics: primary microplastics, which are made intentionally (like microbeads), and secondary microplastics, which are the result of the break-down of larger plastic materials. The synthetic clothing fibers I am speaking of fall into this second category. And while it comes as no surprise that big pieces of plastic break down into smaller pieces, I can honestly say that I never gave much thought to the fact that the plastic polluting our oceans could be coming from the clothes I wear to yoga class (what a terrible irony)!

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According to this article, a single piece of synthetic clothing can shed approximately 1,900 microfibers every time it is washed! Dr. Mark Anthony Browne, an ecologist with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), arrived at this number after conducting an experiment in which washing-machine wastewater was examined to determine the microplastic content after a regular cycle. Even more shocking is the fact that Dr. Browne went on to study the plastic debris found on 18 shoreline sites around the world and found that 85% appeared to be consistent with the type of fibers shed by synthetic clothing. This means that the plastic pollution we are causing unwittingly — in the form of secondary microplastics — is more of an issue than the pollution being caused by the intentional manufacture of primary microplastics (like microbeads). Check out this video to find out more about how these microplastics affect habitats, wildlife, and humans.

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So what can we do about this? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but there is nothing worse than finishing an article that opens your eyes to some terrible calamity happening in the world and then being left without any suggestions about what can be done or info about what is already underway. The simplest suggestion is this: wear natural fibers. Organic cotton is a versatile and practical option for most day-to-day clothing, and its breathability makes it more comfortable than synthetics anyway. When it comes to technical wear — that is, the clothing we wear for exercise or in extreme weather conditions — there is nothing better than merino wool! Wool truly is cool in the summer and warm in the winter (which is why we love to use it in our bedding here at Lifekind).

Of course, changing your clothing doesn’t solve the issue of all of the microplastics that have already found their way into the ocean, nor does it prevent the pollution that is likely to be caused by the millions of synthetic garments already in existence. Fortunately, there are organizations in place that you can partner with to help raise awareness and address these issues. One such organization, 5 Gyres, is busy petitioning our legislators, organizing clean-up efforts, and even launching research expeditions that you can be part of! The ecologist that I mentioned before, Dr. Browne, is heading up a campaign called Benign by Design that aims to form a collaboration between clothing manufacturers, textile suppliers, and environmental scientists to find low-impact, cost-effective alternatives to the fabrics being used today. You can help this cause gain momentum by spreading the word!

Microplastics may be small in size, but the impact they have on the environment (and therefore on YOU and ME) is huge. We can’t afford to let this one slip past us, so let’s step up and do our part to get microplastics out of our waters!

How to Choose the Perfect Organic Pillow at Lifekind

Ever wonder how to choose the perfect organic pillow?  Cotton, Wool, Rubber, Buckwheat?

Watch our organic pillow video to see some of the organic pillow options offered at Lifekind:

For more information on pillows, check out https://www.lifekind.com/blog/how-to-choose-the-perfect-pillow/

 

What’s in a Name?

That which we call organic by any other name would be as clean…right? Well, maybe not. The other day I ran across an article on the SFGate website that got me thinking about the importance of the language used by manufacturers of “organic” nonfood items. As the author of the article pointed out, there is a clear set of standards that makes the distinction between organic food and that which is genetically modified, irradiated and/or exposed to pesticides. That is to say, any food item that bears the name “organic” must actually live up to it! Unfortunately, the same is NOT true when it comes to nonfood items. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does little to oversee use of the term “organic” on items that are not edible (and neither does the Federal Trade Commission, for fear of “duplicating” USDA duties). So basically, there are no government regulations set in place to distinguish between the truly organic and the naturally-sourced “chemical soup” when it comes to cleaning products, personal care products and textiles. Calling your shampoo “organic” could be about as subjective as calling your computer “cute.”

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So, what does this mean for the consumer?

Should we even bother shelling out the extra cash for products that may or may not be as pure as they claim to be…? The good news is that there ARE third-party certifications out there that can help us make informed decisions about our organic purchases. When it comes to personal care products, the National Sanitation Foundation and the American National Standards Institute have formed a private certification called “NSF/ANSI 305.” And for those who live by the adage “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin,” the USDA label can be found on personal care items that are composed of at least 95% organic “food.” For textile products — items like clothing, sheets and mattresses — consumers can verify purity by looking for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certifications.

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Other things to look out for…

Organic” is not the only term that can be misleading. The term “natural” is generally assumed to mean that an item is minimally processed and does not contain particular additives. However, this word does not have an established legal definition…therefore, there is no standard by which to substantiate this claim — whether we are talking about food or nonfood items. Similarly, terms like “green,” “eco-friendly,” and “earth-friendly” have no real meaning because there is no scientific or regulatory basis for them.

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Using our resources…

Taking the time to research products that are truly organic may seem like a chore, but it is certainly worth the extra effort. Keep in mind that most certification programs not only oversee the ingredients that go into the products, but also the way in which those ingredients are obtained. So when we choose items that are certified organic, we are not only protecting ourselves and our families, but also our environment. Let’s take advantage of our educational resources, so that we can be better stewards of earth’s resources!

** Use the links on this page to learn more about third-party organic certifications and find lists of the manufacturers who hold them. Also, check out this website for some excellent information about deciphering the language used by manufacturers of bedding and mattresses.