Category Archives: Mind•Body•Soul

Earth Girl Wellness – What’s a GMO?

What’s a GMO?

Written by Tina Hatcher, Earth Girl Wellness

Food manufacturers praise their products as Non-GMO. A television commercial portrays Triscuits as “Nongenemodiscuit.” So what’s with the Non-GMO trend? Is it worth our interest since most food marketing departments have long tried to lure us in with fancy wording to entice us to buy their product? Especially since many of these marketing ploys are only vain attempts to make a product inaccurately sound healthier? Earth Girl thinks the Non-GMO marketing trend is worth the added effort.

GMOs are “Genetically Modified Organisms.” Essentially natural food items (fruits and vegetables) have their genetic material altered to create a newer, “healthier” version of the food. Take corn for example. One species of corn has a piece of its genetic material taken and inserted into another species of corn to make it more resistant to drought, torrential rain, bugs, or undernourished soil. The new version of corn is then easier to grow in harsh conditions, creating higher crop production and lowering cost. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Cross-breeding of crops has been done for centuries to create similar results. So what’s so bad about that? Cross-breeding is a naturally occurring event. A farmer can put two similar breeds of corn together to make a new breed. Genetically modifying the corn is a scientific process occurring in a laboratory; two unrelated species are forced to combine. Think of it like this: You can create a new breed of dog by allowing natural puppy love to occur or you can create a “Frankenpup” by taking an eye from one and a leg from another.

As a point of debate, most of these new species are created to help bolster food supplies in challenging environments. Unfortunately, food executives have also used the technology to make a maximum amount of profit from their products. Most of the products containing GMO ingredients are of such poor quality, we shouldn’t eat them. But let’s push the point a little bit. What other ramifications can come from GMO products? Not a single GMO product can be labeled as organic and can’t really attest to the health of the nutrition or the potential harshness of the product to the land. There is not a single long term study which can validate the safety of these products. GMOs may not have dramatic effects on the current generation but can side effects show up in our children or our children’s children? Additionally, GMOs can ultimately eradicate normally occurring species of many fruits or vegetables. Cross pollination can occur across GMO farm and organic farms that are literally miles apart.

So how can you know if your food is safely free from GMOs? The most commonly genetically modified crops today are corn and soy. These are found in virtually every packaged product on the supermarket shelf! Earth Girl highly recommends putting any GMO product back on the shelf. Look for the Non-GMO Verified Green Seal of Approval and buy organic when possible. For more information on GMOs, go to The Non-GMO Project at www.nongmoproject.org.

For more info about Earth Girl Wellness, visit here.

Running for Your Health

Top Tips to Get Ready to Run

 You’ve made the decision to get in shape, and whether your goal is a full marathon or simply a few laps around the neighborhood, there are a few steps to consider taking before you strap on those shoes and head toward the finish line.

Here are a few tips to help get you ready for the big race:

Seek Quality Sneakers – Feet come in a variety of widths and sizes, so visit a specialty running store to find perfect-fitting sneakers. These may come with a hefty price tag, but there are no shortcuts for comfort and support while running long distances.

Make a Schedule – Try to aim for at least 10 hours of training per week, including three days where you run and two or three days of other physical activity such as cycling or strength training. To avoid exhaustion, be sure to include at least 1-2 “rest” days per week.

Stick with Water – Avoid sports drinks that are loaded with preservatives and sugars. You can’t go wrong with the hydrating power of water. As a rule, try to consume at least 6-8 ounces of water for every 20 minutes you run. Proper hydration after the run is also vital.

Go Online – Many websites have training guides for various skill levels or different types of races. If you have a smartphone, look for apps that can take you through day-by-day workouts to get you marathon-ready.

Nutrition – Filling your body with the proper amount of fuel can help ensure finish-line success. Load up on quality carbohydrates, such as beans, peas, whole-wheat pastas, whole-grain cereals, apples, brown rice, and root vegetables. Protein also plays an important role in a runner’s nutrition, so fill up on lean meats, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy, peanut butter and soy protein sources, as well.

By following these general rules, you’ll be able to focus on achieving your goal and enjoy the thrill of finishing the race. Find more tips for a healthier lifestyle at eLivingToday.com.

Get Outside!

The Return of America’s Toughest Road Marathon!

Are you ready for the most exciting annual spring athletic event to come to Roanoke this year? We couldn’t be more excited for the return of the Blue Ridge Marathon! This year’s event will take place on April 21 at 7:35am. It features a full marathon, a half marathon, a 10k, and a Carilion Children’s Family one mile walk/run! Courses begin and end in Elmwood Park, and each one is uniquely geared to be fun for every participant. Whichever path you choose, you are guaranteed to have a great time.

The full marathon (26.2 miles!!!) course takes runners through scenic views of the Blue Ridge parkway, Mill Mountain, and South Roanoke. “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” is also, arguably, the most beautiful. Marathon runners will receive free chip timing, access to “runners-only” food tent at the finish line, free event/runner photos courtesy of Game Face Media, an event shirt (if you registered by March 20), one complimentary beer ticket, live music at the finish, a free pair of Feetures! running socks, access to Fleet Recovery Zone massages and chiropractic adjustments, and more! If you’re thinking that 26.2 miles is not challenging enough, you may want to join the double marathon runners. This dedicated group starts running as early as 1 a.m. on Saturday. (There are limited registration spots available for the full and double marathons, so register as soon as possible!)

Not ready for the full marathon yet? That’s perfectly okay. The half marathon is also challenging, and features all of the freebies mentioned above. The best part: you get to break off and head to the finish line while the full marathoners continue for another 13 miles! All marathon and half marathon finishers receive a commemorative finisher’s medal. The top three male and female finishers in each age group, and the top three runners overall, will receive awards.

There is also an option to conquer the full marathon as a four person team. The 4-Person Marathon Relay allows a team of four friends to complete the course, one section at a time. All members of the relay team will get their own unique Blue Ridge Marathon Relay finisher’s medal and a marathon shirt. The first three teams, regardless of their gender or age, will be awarded a trophy at the end of the full marathon award ceremony.

Finally, the 10k option is a great way to get involved in the excitement without the daunting commitment of the full or half marathons. The course will still take you up to the Mill Mountain Star, and there will be awesome photo opportunities to commemorate your achievement. Once you finish your route, you can enjoy local food from food trucks, a beer compliments of the Blue Ridge Marathon team, and free live music. It doesn’t get any better than that!

For more information on the Blue Ridge Marathon, its rules and features, please visit www.blueridgemarathon.com. We can’t wait to see you there!

Earth Girl Wellness: Eat Healthy!

One of the questions Earth Girl most frequently gets asked is, “How do I encourage my household to eat healthier?” It is a great question and one with a variety of solid answers. It is usually best to provide feedback that is specifically tailored to each individual household since every family has a unique dynamic. Homes all have varying interest or talents to prepare meals, various schedules from serene to hectic, and everyone places a different emphasis on food in their budgets. However, there are three basic suggestions every household can implement immediately to ensure success.
1) Place healthy, easy-to-eat foods within arms reach every day. It is not unusual to hear advice that your cupboards and refrigerators need to be filled with healthy eating options. But as the saying goes…out of sight means out of mind! Place ready-to-eat, already prepared choices on your counter in brightly colored bowls or on seasonally decorated platters. Having the healthy choices in plain sight and/or in a high traffic area places a constant reminder to fill up on nutritious snacks. Red or green grapes, baby carrots, or a bowl of almonds can be quick grabs to nourish your body. Think of all the times it is convenient to grab candy from a dish…just change your habits to something healthy!
2) Water, water everywhere! Carry a water bottle with you everywhere. Water is free, has no calories and is arguably the most important essential nutrient the body needs. It keeps your belly full so you are less likely to eat unnecessarily. We often reach for something to eat thinking we are hungry when in fact, we are simply dehydrated. I often recommend an individual carry a water bottle around the house and at work, especially if a snack room or table constantly tempts her to reach for something unhealthy. You can’t reach for a donut if you already have water in your hands!
3) There are no forbidden foods! Teaching yourself and loved ones that it’s okay to indulge once in awhile is extremely important! Learning how to spread out indulgences and consume them in moderation creates a balanced lifestyle and diet. Plus, it’s no fun to never eat the foods you love! Purchase limited amounts of your favorite foods to have in your house for times you want to savor a beloved treat. If you have only one bag of chips in your house, you learn that if you eat them all in the first day you have none for the rest of the week. If you have a small handful or snack bag full once a day, you can have your salty yumminess all week! This is an especially important lesson for children and youth to learn early in life.
Earth Girl loves to recommend easy to use modifications to ensure a healthy household. My top three recommendations above can be utilized in any household regardless of time restrictions, budget, or culinary talents. Individuals of every age, fitness level, and motivation can put each suggestion to excellent use to create a healthier lifestyle!

Be Your Best Athletic Self!

In our country’s constant weight loss craze, it is easy to forget that there is more to exercise than the number shown on the bathroom scale. Being FIT is a goal everyone can aspire to, and here are some focus points to help you get there: FIT = Function, Intensity, Time!

Function: As spring begins to bloom, think about your favorite activities! Are you a hiker? A runner? A rock climber? Are you seeking more energy to accomplish your household tasks? Well then, being functional is important. In other words, prepare your body for the motion your activity requires. As a fitness professional, one thing that drives me nuts is watching people weight-train in a stationary position. Life doesn’t happen in one spot! Vary it up! Stagger the stance of your feet while doing arm and shoulder exercises. Try your squat exercises on one leg. Alternate your arms while doing rows; alternate your feet while doing push-ups! Remember: walking, running, and climbing usually happen one leg or one arm at a time. It is beneficial to, at times, train in the same manner. Keep this in mind while doing simple household tasks, such as bending down to pick up the laundry! You can equate this same action to doing sumo-squats or lunge-reaches in the gym. The majority of your activities aren’t done in a “stand-still” position. So, neither should your training.

Intensity: The intensity is the level of demand an activity places on your body. But don’t think of it too seriously! There are several ways to achieve this in your training. Try switching up the tempo! Monitor the speed at which you normally exercise: Is it quite monotone? Or, are you hopping around like a rabbit? Before you increase the overall time you spend exercising, change the tempo! Try a slower pace with isometric holds at the end of your movement.  For example: hold a push-up at the bottom to check your posture tightness. Then, try a more dynamic and explosive pace. Steadily increase the velocity of your jump-squat to increase your heart rate. Vary your tempo and intensity; keep your body guessing and wanting more!

Time: Remember ‘once upon a time’ when you were (if not still) single? You know how people said that you would find “the one” when you stopped looking? How annoying those people were (and right!). Well, my goal right now is to be equally as annoying and right! What if you begin to look at your fitness that way, and quit obsessing over the results? Give yourself the time you need to be your best FIT self. This means consistency along with patience. Stay in the moment! Enjoy your exercise and aim to be better at it each day. Don’t compare your performance or your body to others. Yes, we should all gain inspiration, but without comparison. This will make the improvement process that much more rewarding! You are a beautiful design. Know that whatever your body-type is, you can be heart-healthy, train athletically, and look fabulous! Give yourself the time to improve each day, and love yourself in the process.

Written by Bryan Christon

Heart Health Awareness Month

February is American Heart Month. According to the CDC, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. One in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent fatal complications from heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association lists several of these on their website, including:

Eat Smart: You can’t eat perfect foods all the time, but you can make healthier choices more often. Did you know that some single-serving fruits and veggies can actually be cheaper than vending machine snacks? Buy in bulk, freeze excess servings, and watch videos on how to prepare healthy snacks using a variety of produce. Check out healthyforgood.heart.org for several heart-healthy recipes that you and your family will enjoy!

Move More: You’ve probably heard that the ideal goal is to move at least 150 minutes each week. However, if that seems to daunting, try smaller time frames first. Look for ways in your day to move more. Sometimes it means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or incorporating 10-minute arm workouts at your desk with small weights. Every small decision you make to move adds up fast.

Be Well: Occasionally, we forget the combatting stress is a battle we must fight daily to keep our bodies healthy. Talk to your doctor and make sure you are getting enough sleep. Set aside moments in the day that you will not give into the urge to check social media. This would also be a great time to research the free yoga classes around Roanoke and learn to practice mindfulness. Make it a priority to take care of yourself.

The American Heart Association works year-round to reduce fatalities related to heart disease and stroke by providing preventative education, support, and funding for research. Generous volunteers and donors in the community help make that happen. Consider making a donation of time or money to help support their mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Visit www.heart.org for more information.

Earth Girl Wellness: Probiotics 101

The gut is the new brain…or so research is suggesting. The profound effects the health of your digestive tract has on your cognitive function is gaining momentum in the nutrition world. Regular elimination and the balance of microflora in your intestines has everyone grabbing for more fiber and probiotics. But what are probiotics? Are they really that important? Or are we falling prey to yet another dietary trap trying to grab money out of our pockets?
Your gut is filled with bacteria of all kinds. There is a delicate balance of more than 1000 types of bacteria living in your large intestines. This balance helps keep your intestines “moving along” and influences mood regulation and emotions. The millions of neurons (nerve endings) contained in our digestive tract are in constant communication with our brain. Keeping that communication open and smoothly transmitting requires a healthy gut. Probiotics and their far reaching effects on the colon aid in maintaining a healthy gut and the complex communication system of the gut-brain axis.
There are a wide range of sources that can provide your body with the appropriate balance of bacteria. Probiotics can be found in many foods, drinks, and supplements. Choosing a proper delivery method depends upon your preferences and lifestyle. Sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and several other fermented foods, such as sour pickles, are natural food sources that contain the healthy bacteria. Advantages to food sources include their close proximity to nature and lack of unnecessary colors and preservatives. However, not everyone has a desire to eat fermented (and sometimes spicy!) foods every day. Plus, yogurt often contains a large amount of sugar (a no-no on the Earth Girl list).
Kombucha is a fermented tea that provides an excellent source of probiotics. It comes in a variety of flavors and in easy-to-grab bottles. The taste can be too strong and off-putting for some individuals and the price can dent your wallet. Earth Girl suggests you shop around and try a variety of different manufactures to find one that appeals to you. Earth Girls’ favorite pick is the Synergy Trilogy. It is found at most super markets that sell organic foods.
A final source can be found in a supplement. Buyer beware when purchasing probiotics in a bottle. Several items to check for are the number of strains of bacteria (look for more than one strain), the volume of bacteria in the product (look for at least 1 billion per CFU), and when the product was made to ensure the bacteria is still alive (probiotics won’t work if the bacteria contained in them is dead). A few products that have been vetted and reviewed by Reviews.com include Islands Miracle-Ultra-30 Probiotics, MegaFood MegaFlora, Renew Life Ultimate Flora Extra Care 30 Billion, and Dr. Formulas Nexabiotic Advanced Multi-Probiotic.
In final analysis, Earth Girl Wellness recommends everyone consume a daily probiotic. It is a “no-brainer” when it comes to gut health and is simple to add to any healthy routine. Choose a delivery system that makes you happy! You will be healthier whether you enjoy a great Kimchi grilled cheese sandwich, an afternoon glass of kombucha, or throw back a few supplements with your morning glass of water. Your gut (and brain) will love you for it!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher

Local Hiking Trips

The Roanoke Valley and the surrounding area has so much to offer when it comes to spending time outdoors, there are plenty of ways to explore, but the most accessible are the hiking trails. There are so many different trails and scenery in this area, hiking through some is a great way to get to know the area and get daily exercise in a more enjoyable way.

A great place to go if you’re looking for a short scenic trip is Natural Bridge State Park. It’s great for people looking to get an easy start into hiking, families with children, or anyone looking for beautiful view. The hike itself has lot of stops, like the beautiful natural arch that is the Natural Bridge, an old mine, and a waterfall at the very end. It also has a lot to offer educationally like a Monacan Indian Village Exhibit set up along the path, not to mention that the bridge itself was once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Molly Armistead, experienced hiker and member of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, gives some of her recommendations of local hikes bellow:

Some other beginner hikes include many with a waterfall as the focal point. Cascade Falls, the hike itself is 3.5 miles round trip. The best and most memorable thing about this hike is the beautiful 69-foot waterfall at the end, and in the summer it’s a great swimming spot. The next hike she recommends for beginners is Crabtree Falls. This hike has a beautiful set of waterfalls. Crabtree even is said to have the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.

If you’re a beginner that’s less interested in waterfalls and wants a stunning overlook, Roanoke has trails for you too! Read Mountain Preserve is a moderate hike that leads to Buzzard Rocks- which gives you a view of the Roanoke Valley from a new perspective.

For a more advanced hike, get out and explore Apple Orchard Falls in Arcadia, VA! The trail can be amended in length depending on where you decides to start/finish. The end is home to a beautiful waterfall–one of the tallest in Virginia. Apple Orchard Farm offers some camping spots if you’re looking to make an adventure out of the hike. Roanoke also has the access to the Appalachian Trail, which is definitely a place for more experienced hikers.

Of course, no list about Roanoke’s hikes would be complete without mentioning McAfee Knob. It’s one the most photographed places on the Appalachian Trail. It has a beautiful rock ledge that is a great photo opportunity.

Armistead emphasizes that the most important thing about hiking is not leaving a trace. She explains, “Go into the woods and make memories, but when you leave make sure no one knows you were there.” She also adds that while hiking alone is something she does often, hiking is a great family activity and is great way to spend time together.

For more information about what hikes Roanoke has to offer check out Roanoke Outside or Roanoke Play.

 

Written by Lilith Turman