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7 Things You Didn't Know About...Spirulina

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Growing up, we had a small pond in the backyard. It was murky and bacteria-filled, and the thought of eating anything out of it was repulsive—which makes me wonder what younger me would think if she knew I pay a lot of money to eat pond scum now!

Spirulina, a single celled cyanobacteria (often mistakenly called a blue-green algae) that grows on the tops of ponds and is otherwise known as pond scum, is quite the superfood. While most people take it solely for detoxification purposes, more and more research is showing that its benefits reach much further than a detox.

Whether you've been using spirulina for years, or this is the first time you've heard of it, it's a truly fascinating superfood. Not only does it have unique and powerful health benefits, but it also has a long and interesting history, and has been used for a wide range of purpos—some of them pretty surprising!


Here are 7 things I bet you didn’t know about spirulina:

Meet Freekeh: The New Must-Try Super Grain

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Tired of rice? Bored with barley?  Does even quinoa or teff seem passé? If so, we'd like to introduce you to freekeh. Pronounced freek-ah, this little super grain is new to the West, but has actually been around for thousands of years. In fact, it was discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean region around 2300 BCE, and has been a favorite crop in Australia for many years. It’s only recently begun to pop up in U.S. health food stores, prompting many people to ask the question: So what is freekeh?

Unlike its celebrity sister, quinoa, freekeh is wheat, so it’s not advisable for folks with celiac disease. However, because it’s harvested while still young and green, it contains less gluten than other grains and may be easier for those with gluten intolerance to digest, according to Australian studies. This early harvesting also means that freekeh retains key nutrients and fiber, making it super nutritious.

The flavor of freekeh is very unique. The grains are roasted, which creates a nice crunchy texture and nutty flavor, different from any other common grains.

Now that you know what it is, you may be asking yourself why you should add freekeh to your pantry. Well, here are just a few of the many reasons :

The No-Equipment 15-Minute Pilates Workout for Beginners

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While yoga has been practiced for centuries in some cultures, Pilates is a relative newcomer to the fitness circuit. Named after creator Joseph Pilates, the system was designed in the early 1900s to offer resistance training and muscle toning for optimal health. It first caught on with ballet dancers as a way to stretch and warm up muscles, and then gained in popularity among people looking for low-impact, effective, and functional exercise. Through simple modifications to each exercise, you can make your Pilates workout as easy or as challenging as you like.

The health benefits of Pilates cannot be overstated. Some of the major ones include:

All-Natural Spring Cleaning Solution: Lemon, Vinegar and Baking Soda

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The weather is finally warming up and the flowers are blooming, which can only mean one thing: spring cleaning time is here! I have mixed feelings when it comes to spring cleaning. On one hand it feels so great to throw open the windows and scrub down my home from top to bottom. It’s a fresh start for the new season. On the other hand, home cleaning products can be very toxic and have strong, unpleasant odors. Even the all-natural brands leave my hands feeling itchy and dry.

This year, I decided to take a more natural approach to cleaning by challenging myself to clean my entire home using just three ingredients that I already had in my kitchen: lemons, baking soda, and distilled white vinegar. Though some nooks and crannies in your house might require you to use other cleaning products, these three ingredients do the trick almost everywhere else. It’s a chemical-free clean-stravaganza! 

What You’ll Need:

1 spray bottle filled with distilled white vinegar

1 spray bottle filled with half vinegar, half water

1 box of baking soda

6 to 8 lemons 

What Are the Signs I’m Eating the Wrong Diet for my Body?

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Hi, I’m Maria Marlowe, a Certified Health Coach and author of Detox without the Deprivation. This is my weekly “Ask Health Coach Maria” series, in which I answer frequently asked questions that relate to health and wellness. Have a question? Ask me here

Hi Maria,

I switched to a raw vegan diet about two years ago, and at first I lost a ton of weight and felt great. Now, though, I feel like I am starting to look older than I am, and while I’m thin, I don’t feel like I look “healthy.” Lately I’ve noticed that I have phlegm in my throat in the morning, which I used to get from drinking dairy, but now since I don’t drink dairy, I don’t understand why I’m getting it. What’s going on?! 

-Linda, New Jersey

Dear Linda,

Deciphering Diet Trends: What's Right for Me?

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Atkins. South Beach.  Jenny Craig. Weight Watchers. Gluten-free. Vegan. Vegetarian. That one my best friend is doing.

I don’t know about you, but for me all of these different diets, trends, and fads make my head spin.  And with all of the celebrity-endorsed books, it can be easy to fall prey to the age-old, “I’ll have what she’s/he’s having.”

While it’s important not to succumb to societal pressure to look a certain way, it is crucial for your health and overall well-being that you understand different dietary theories so that you can better understand your body and its needs.

I spent a long time navigating the “I’ll have what she’s having” diet, comparing the food on my plate and in my lunch box to what my peers were having.  My mind would be filled with questions like, “She has a salad every day for lunch and looks awesome, so should I be having a salad every day for lunch?” 

Green Cannellini Bean Dip

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I was pressed to deliver a green snack to a group of lower school kids for St. Patrick’s day, and having contributed guacamole one too many times, I made a DIY white bean dip a lot healthier by adding greens. I happened to have baby kale in my fridge, and this under-pressure mother took a chance that the kids would still eat it if it were green.

Apparently, St. Patrick’s day is our free pass to eating green. I say, take advantage, ladies, and boost your family’s foods now. You can stretch this out for at least a week or so (start with alien juice!) and use this as an excuse to go green with your kids (or spouse).

White cannelloni beans are a mild, high fiber source of protein, and adding tahini (ground sesame seeds) delivers a really nice boost of calcium for your kids and your own healthy bones. The kale offers more calcium, and dark leafy green goodness, high in antioxidants, and loaded with vitamins. This is a healthy fat, protein, and veggie all in one.


Wellness Today's 2014 Superfood Showdown: The Champion!

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Ladies and gentlemen, it appears we have a winner. After four weeks, 31 matches, and hundreds of your votes, we’ve found the Ultimate Superfood of 2014, according to Wellness Today readers and our Facebook fans. From sardines to spirulina, quinoa to kale, avocado to amaranth, superfood championship wannabes were cast to the side, and, yesterday the victor emerged, winning the final match against walnuts with a score of 34 to 19. Without further ado, meet your Ultimate Superfood of 2014: Cinnamon!

Though everyone has their different opinions on who deserved to win, and there were certainly some unexpected upsets along the way, nobody can deny that cinnamon is a worthy recipient of the title. We’ve written before about the health benefits of cinnamon, so we won’t go in-depth here, but here’s a quick recap of everything this super-spice can do for you:

How to Cut a Mango [VIDEO]

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Though it may not be summer yet, these spring-y temperatures feel downright steamy after this harsh winter! We’re celebrating the return of warmer weather with the ultimate tropical fruit: mango. It’s loaded with vitamins A, C, and E, and has been associated with everything from fighting cancer to promoting healthy digestion to improving your sex life (!)—plus it’s just incredibly delicious.

The one downside with this super-fruit is that its thick skin, large pit, and asymmetrical shape can make it a bit difficult to get at the flesh. What most people don’t know is that cutting up a mango is actually remarkably easy if you know the right technique.  In this video, Diana from Wellness Today shares her mango-cutting secrets with you, guaranteeing that your next tropical snack is as easy to prepare as it is wonderful to eat.

Watch now, and you’ll feel like you’re basking on a sunny beach in no time!