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Day 1. Make Your Own Weed Killer
The most “natural” way to get rid of pesky weeds in your lawn or garden is to pull them. But if your back won’t take it, or you just don’t have the time, try this simple recipe instead. Mix 1 gallon of vinegar with 1 Tbs. dishwashing liquid, and spray directly on weeds. The acid in the vinegar will react with sunlight to burn the weeds up, and the dish soap helps the vinegar stick to the leaves. Plain old white vinegar will work, but higher acidity gardening vinegar is also available—just note that it must be handled carefully and isn’t as safe for kids and pets. It is acid, after all.
This mixture won’t discriminate between weeds and other plants, so spray carefully. And it won’t penetrate roots or contaminate the ground, so it may take several applications to make weeds completely go away. For areas where you don’t want anything to grow, such as cracks in sidewalks, add 1 cup of salt to the mixture.
Day 2. Feed Your Hair
If your diet is lacking in certain nutrients, you’ll see the effects in hair loss, slower growth, or dull, brittle locks. Collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, strengthens hair follicles and improves hair growth. Zinc, iron, biotin and other B vitamins, and omega-3 fats prevent hair loss, nourish hair, and improve strength and shine.
Day 3. Get a Better Brush
Rough or wiry bristles can cause breakage and damage the scalp. Use a natural bristle brush to help spread natural oils from the scalp down the length of the shaft to make hair smoother and shinier. If your hair is prone to tangles, use a brush designed to slide out knots without breaking hair.
Day 4. Protect Your Tresses from Environmental Damage
Shield your hair from heat styling, sun damage, chlorine, pollution, and dry air with a leave-in conditioner. Use a light, spray-on formula, and apply before blow-drying or styling. For extra protection, spritz hair with a spray sunscreen to protect from sun damage.
Day 5. Nourish Your Good Gut Bugs
We’ve all heard about the power of probiotics to promote overall health, but prebiotics are just as important. Essentially, prebiotics are the forms of fiber that encourage the growth of healthy probiotics in your GI system. They encourage your body to produce probiotics—this fiber is the “food” that feeds your microflora. In addition, taking in more fiber promotes health by mitigating insulin release, and it supports body fat reduction and decreases appetite. You can supplement with a prebiotic product and/or boost your consumption of prebiotic foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and legumes. [Editor’s note: for more on prebiotics, see 3 Ways to feed Your Microbiome]
Day 6. Repair Your Joints with Collagen
Collagen is a peptide (a short chain of amino acids), and it is the most abundant protein in the human body. While we used to consume plenty of collagen in our diets (mostly from less desirable parts of animals), we now consume far less. This makes collagen supplementation especially important.
Collagen promotes mobility and joint health, and many people also supplement with collagen for its benefits in supporting healthy skin, hair, and nails. Getting plenty of collagen also aids the repair and maintenance of connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments. Those who exercise regularly—or those who suffer from joint pain due to torn ligaments or tendons—may benefit from collagen supplementation. This helps provide the raw materials necessary for repair and maintenance before or after injury.
Day 7. Recover with Casein
This fraction of milk protein is digested more slowly than other types of supplemental proteins because it is a much larger molecule that “clumps.” This means that casein provides a slow, steady flow of amino acids that minimizes the spiking of insulin. It also helps prevent the catabolism of lean tissue when you’re trying to maintain muscle. In addition, it provides satiety for those trying to lose weight and/or control type 2 diabetes. Athletes and those trying to recover from activity should consider supplementing with casein shortly before bedtime to encourage muscle protection and growth.
Day 8. Green Your Health with Spirulina
This form of microalgae has been consumed for centuries for its nutritional and health benefits. While it looks like a plant, it’s really a bacterium, even though it has photosynthesis capability. Nutrient-dense in minerals and many B vitamins, spirulina provides benefits for those with diabetes, heart disease, and even ALS. Its amino acid content makes it a good source of protein as well. It’s also used for weight control and to support immunity.
Day 9. Go for CoQ10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant also known as ubiquinone because it is prevalent throughout the human body. While it’s found in many foods, most people do not consume an adequate amount of CoQ10. Ubiquinol is a specific form of CoQ10 that is easier to absorb. Found primarily in the mitochondria within your cells, CoQ10 helps your body generate more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy that fuels short-term intense activity. This is particularly beneficial for those who perform vigorous exercise.
Levels of CoQ10 lessen as you age, and they are often low in people with medical conditions such as heart disease and Parkinson’s, making it a good idea to supplement. CoQ10 helps destroy free radicals generated by disease and other stressors, supporting health as we age.
Day 10. Savor Sardines
These tiny fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids that lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other types of cardiovascular disease, and can decrease the risk of death from coronary artery disease by as much as 50 percent. Plus they’re high in protein, and studies show that eating adequate protein lowers heart disease risk by 26 percent. They’re also high in selenium, a key mineral for thyroid health.
Because they’re smaller than most other omega-3-rich fish, including salmon and tuna, sardines are less likely to be contaminated with heavy metals that can accumulate in the tissues of larger fish. Buy the boneless, skinless variety packed in water, and use them like tuna: mixed on top of salads, tossed with cooked pasta, or stuffed in a yummy wrap.
Day 11. Don’t Forget Your Vitamin D
This fat-soluble vitamin can be made by the body in the presence of sunshine and stored for future use. So most of us get adequate amounts in the summertime—although sunscreens block vitamin D production, so supplementation is a good idea all year round. Why? Because vitamin D, particularly the cholecalciferol (D) form, is crucial for the production of hormones necessary for general health and sexual function. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that destroys harmful free radicals, and research shows that vitamin D supplementation helps reduce the risk of colon, breast, and other types of cancer. Vitamin D supplementation can also improve the leanness of muscle tissue (yes, even muscles contain fat), and it may help increase strength.
Day 12. Go Paleo
Arguably the most “natural” diet a human can eat, the Paleo Diet focuses on foods that were available to our pre-agricultural ancestors. A perfectly Paleo kitchen is completely devoid of packaged or processed foods and artificial ingredients, consisting only of fresh foods that are rich in nutrients—including starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, but no (or few) grains, legumes, or dairy.
If you already don’t eat a lot of cereal, bread, and pasta, switching to a Paleo diet should be a snap. Studies have found numerous benefits: more energy, lower levels of inflammation, fewer allergies, healthier aging, and lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. Here are the basic Paleo foods:
- Meat: Game, grass-fed beef, or organic, pasture-raised pork and poultry. Meat raised this way is a source of healthy fats without toxic chemicals.
- Eggs: Pasture-raised.
- Fish: Preferably wild.
- Vegetables and fruits: In-season, local, grown without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides, and picked and eaten at their prime rather than being harvested early to extend shelf life during shipping and storage.
- Healthy fats: Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, natural fat from grass-fed animals, nuts, seeds, and avocados, and unrefined oils such as walnut, flaxseed, or macadamia.
- Sugars: No refined sugars, but a small amount of honey, dates, or other natural sweeteners is generally acceptable.
Day 13. Beware of Aging Running Shoes
If you’re a runner, you may have heard that shoes can last for 300–500 miles, but wear and tear depends on body weight, stride, and running style. The tread may be in decent shape, while the cushioning has worn out. If your legs or feet feel more achy than usual, your shoes could be over the hill—and that’s true for everyone, not just runners.
Day 14. Don’t Use Drugs to Push Through Pain
We’ve all heard the phrase “no pain, no gain,” but if you’re using drugs to “push through the pain” of exercise, you’re likely doing more harm than good. Over-the-counter medications can reduce inflammation and pain, but they can also lead to damage if you take them to get through a workout.
“They do not speed healing,” says Alan Shih, DPM, director of podiatry at Head to Toe Healthcare in Tucson, Ariz., “and they allow you to overstress damaged tissue.” Instead, try these supplements for healthy exercise:
- Magnesium: The mineral relaxes muscles and may help to prevent cramping. Take 500 mg daily.
- Ribose: Also called d-ribose, this natural sugar that’s produced by the body fuels energy production in muscles, helps them relax, and improves sleep. Take a powdered form, 5 grams three times daily for three weeks to increase cellular levels, then 5 grams twice daily for maintenance.
Day 15. Focus on One Exercise Goal
No matter what kind of exercise you do, it pays to concentrate on one goal at a time. If you’re a runner, aim to increase speed or distance at any given time. If you’re strength training, increase reps or weight, but not both. Focusing on only one goal will be more effective and is much less likely to cause injury.
Day 16. Don’t Ignore Exercise Pain
The classic treatment is RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. To relieve pain and inflammation, use an ice pack for no more than 20 minutes, every 4–6 hours. After 48–72 hours, heat does a better job at promoting healing.
Day 17. Take Protein Supplements at Mealtime
People looking to manage their weight with strength training and protein supplements should consume their supplements during a meal, according to a research review by scientists at Purdue University. “It may matter when you take your supplements in relation to when you eat, so people who consume protein supplements in between meals as snacks may be less likely to be successful in managing their body weight,” says Wayne Campbell, professor of nutrition science and senior author of the study, which was published in Nutrition Reviews.
The analysis found that while protein supplementation effectively increased lean mass for all groups, consuming protein supplements with meals helped maintain body weight while decreasing fat mass. In contrast, consuming protein supplements between meals promoted weight gain. The timing likely makes a difference because a person may tend to adjust their calories at mealtime to include the protein supplement.
Day 18. Guys, Get Over the Grill
These days, more and more men are taking responsibility for planning and preparing meals. But many lack basic cooking skills that go beyond grilling burgers. Cliff Pelloni, founder of Kitchen Dads, is out to change all that. Pelloni’s new book, Kitchen Dads the Basics: Have Fun in the Kitchen with Family and Friends Cooking Real Food, aims to help more dads learn the basics of cooking and have fun in the process. It focuses on using real food ingredients and dishes that can be made in a short amount of time and be put on the table quickly, and covers all the essentials, including pantry staples, equipment, basic knife skills, common cooking terms, and shopping tips—plus, more than 100 easy-to-make and delicious recipes.
Day 19. Be Aware of Keto Side Effects
A ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, is well known for being a low-carb, high-fat eating plan that prompts the body to produce ketones in the liver to be used as energy. According to Dr. Neal Malik, of Bastyr University, this diet was originally used in the 1900s to treat epilepsy, and today it’s used to treat a number of different health conditions. In the short term, it appears to be safe for otherwise healthy individuals. But, when switching from a standard American diet, which consists mostly of carbohydrates, there can be some side effects. Complaints range from:
- Fatigue (which could be the result of having low blood sugar due to the decreased intake of carbohydrates)
- Constipation (also due to reduced carbohydrate intake)
- Diarrhea (due to increased fat intake)
- Vitamin deficiencies
If you’re considering trying the keto diet for weight-loss, or any other reason, do so only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care professional.
Day 20. Use Essential Oils to Enhance Workouts
For an energizing blend (and great workout motivator!), start with essential oil of grapefruit, which has a subtle sweetness that belies its powerful metabolism-boosting properties. Then add mood-brightening and immunity-building lemon, and invigorating peppermint; the latter contains natural compounds that support respiratory function. In addition to opening airways for maximum oxygen exchange, peppermint’s refreshing scent has also been proven to reduce perceived effort while exercising and will help you eke out a few more reps. Blend equal amounts of the oils with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond or coconut oil, and apply under the nose, breathing deeply throughout your session to maintain focus and energy output.
Day 21. Get Lean with Whey Protein
The benefits of whey for male bodybuilders have long been known, but many women avoid the supplement for fear of “bulking up.” But that simply isn’t the case, according to a review of 13 different studies, which found that supplementing with whey promoted a modest increase in lean mass of less than 1 percent in women, without influencing fat mass.
“Although more research is needed to specifically assess the effects of varying states of energy sufficiency and exercise training,” says study leader Robert Bergia, “the overall findings show that consuming whey protein supplements may aid women seeking to modestly improve body composition, especially when they are reducing energy intake to lose body weight.”
Day 22. Keep Your Color
To prevent hair color from fading and keep your tresses shining all summer long, look for products containing these natural ingredients.
- Olive and Macadamia Oils, to instantly brighten all hair colors.
- Vitamin E to protect hair from environmental aggression.
- Panthenol and Xylitol to add strength and moisture to hair and retain vibrancy of hair color.
- Castor Oil to make hair more manageable and prevent color fading.
Day 23. Pick Your Own Fruit
Shopping at a farmers’ market is a great way to find locally grown, wholesome produce. But if you want to get even closer to the source of your food, look for a pick-your-own farm in your area. Also known as PYO or U-pick farms, these trendy agricultural establishments generally charge less than you would pay for prepicked produce, and also provide a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the weather. Many also host seasonal festivals, hayrides, and other fun activities. To find a PYO farm in your area—as well as information on what’s in season, canning and storing, and recipes—visit pickyourown.org.
Day 24. Bye-Bye Body Odor
Zinc supplements can help body odor disappear. The more you sweat or exercise, the more you lose of this important mineral. Signs that you might need more include poor immune function (e.g., frequent colds and flu), diarrhea, allergies, neurological symptoms, thinning hair, and acne. Zinc may also help reduce perspiration and sweaty feet. Try 30–50 mg daily.
Day 25. Go Ahead and Eat an Egg
For many years, eggs got a bad rap in the world of nutrition due to (often overblown) concerns about cholesterol. But a new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, finds that eating up to 12 eggs per week for a year didn’t increase cardiovascular risk in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
While eggs are high in fat, they’re also full of vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy omega-3s. The yolk is packed with nutrients, so there’s no need to opt for egg whites only. Also, eggs do not significantly raise cholesterol in the blood, the Mayo Clinic reports, and people who replace a grain-based breakfast with eggs have been found to eat fewer calories throughout the day.
Day 26. Reduce Stroke Risk in the Sauna
According to a recently published study in the journal Neurology, regularly taking saunas can substantially lower risk for stroke among middle-aged and elderly people. Most of us spend our days in climate-controlled spaces with air conditioning or heat, but there’s evidence that this may not be good for us.
An approach known as environmental conditioning centers around the idea that our circulatory systems are designed to help us adapt to different conditions, and a lack of stress on this system could be responsible for diseases such as stroke and hypertension. In the latest study, researchers followed 1,628 men and women between the ages of 53 and 74 for 15 years, tracking their cardiovascular health and stroke incidence. Participants were divided into three groups: those who took saunas once a week, those who took two or three saunas per week, and those who took four to seven saunas a week. That last group, with the highest sauna frequency, had more than a 60 percent reduced risk of stroke compared to the once-per-week group. And the middle group had a 12 percent lower risk of stroke than the low-frequency group.
Day 27. DIY Skin Savers
When temperatures soar and the heat becomes unbearable, our delicate skin needs some extra TLC in addition to sunscreen. If you’re feeling the need to nourish your skin, try out these at-home remedies developed by Omega Juicers:
- Face Mask for Overheated Skin—Blend 2 cups plain yogurt with 1 medium peeled cucumber, ½ medium potato, ½ cup cold brewed tea, and 2 Tbs. orange juice.
- Face Mask for Flaky, Sunburnt Skin—Blend 4 slices of fresh pineapple with 2 Tbs. coconut milk.
- Face Moisturizer—Blend 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup almond oil, 3/4 oz. (by weight) beeswax, and 1 cup aloe vera.
- Papaya Body Scrub—Blend 1/2 cup sea salt, 1 papaya, and 2 Tbs. olive oil.
Day 28. Eat Outside
The summer weather is calling to you anyway, so why eat indoors? According to a study published in PLOS One, exposure to nature can improve creativity and cognitive functions. “There is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time in a natural setting. We anticipate that this advantage comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli and a corresponding decrease in exposure to attention-demanding technology,” the study’s authors wrote.
For best results, try unplugging and getting away for a week. But even eating dinner outdoors can help. Make it special. Spread out a nice tablecloth and place settings, and whip up a favorite dish or two. Then spend an hour (or more) outside, away from TVs, laptops, and other distractions, and take the time to enjoy your food. According to the Slow Food movement, spending more time over a meal can improve digestion and reduce stress—and may help you eat fewer calories.
Day 29. Save Your Nails from the Sun
Sure, you slather sunscreen on your skin, and may even put protective products in your hair. But what about your nails? The fact is, too much sun on nails can cause discoloration and ridges. And it’s even possible to develop skin cancer underneath your nails. The solution? Natural, nontoxic nail polishes. Most polishes already contain some form of protection from UV rays, but for an extra dose of defense, look for a sunscreen topcoat with added UVA and UVB filters.
Day 30. Go Beyond the Water Bottle
We all know the importance of adequate hydration to good health, especially in the summer months. But that omnipresent bottle of water doesn’t have to be your only defense against dehydration. Many fruits and veggies also contain a significant amount of water in their raw, uncooked forms. Watermelon, which is 92 percent water, might seem like the most obvious, but the humble cucumber actually tops the list at a whopping 96 percent. Cucumbers are also high in fiber and low in calories, and they contain a generous amount of vitamin C, polyphenols, flavonoids, and other healthy compounds. Plus, what could be more refreshing on a hot summer’s day than a cool cucumber salad?