Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spa Girl asks, do you know what blueberries, dark chocolate and sunscreen have in common?

What kind of a question is this?

Who doesn't like blueberries and dark chocolate, but what does sunscreen have to do with this equation.  Blueberries, dark chocolate and sunscreen are three essential requirements of keeping your skin beautiful, supple and smooth.
But the most important way to keep skin gorgeous is to stay out of the sun and away from tanning beds. Sun causes skin damage, wrinkles, age spots and skin cancer, so with summer just around the corner you need a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays with a SPF of 15 or higher, and reapply often, especially if you are in and out of the water on those lovely hot days.

Dr. Joey Shulman writes in Canadian Living Magazine about the 5 best antioxidant-rich foods.
"We've all been told to eat foods that are rich in antioxidants for optimal health and wellness. But what are antioxidants? By definition, antioxidants such as vitamins A and C are substances that can help prevent the effects of free radical damage in the body. In other words, antioxidants can neutralize the process of oxidation and cellular damage which contributes to aging and disease. 
Some foods are extremely high in antioxidant content. I recommend consuming these foods on a regular basis to reverse the signs of aging and to help prevent – and even reverse – various disease processes such as cancer and heart disease, plus reduce blood pressure".  

The 5 best antioxidant-rich foods
 1. Berries 
In addition to being deliciously sweet, berries such as raspberries, blueberries and strawberries offer an abundance of antioxidant capacity. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are rich in proanthocyanidins, antioxidants that can help prevent cancer and heart disease. Eat them frozen in a morning smoothie, toss a handful over your morning yogurt or cereal or enjoy them as an afternoon snack.

2. Broccoli
Broccoli definitely takes the gold medal for most nutritious vegetable. This cruciferous vegetable contains more vitamin C than an orange and has more calcium than a glass of milk. In addition to minerals and vitamins, broccoli is filled with disease-fighting chemicals called phytonutrients. Sulforaphane, a phytonutrient found in broccoli, has been shown to lower the risk of many types of cancers. Try steaming or boiling broccoli and seasoning with basil, lemon or salsa for a delicious side dish. This powerhouse vegetable is a perfect addition to omelettes, salads or stir-frys.
3. Garlic
Garlic is used around the world as a delicious flavouring agent for any dish. The health benefits of garlic have been well touted for centuries, and raw garlic has been used as a natural antibiotic to kill off some strains of harmful bacteria. Garlic is also useful for decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol, removing heavy metals from the body, preventing cancer and acting as an antifungal and antiviral agent. One clove of garlic contains vitamins A, B and C, selenium, iodine, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium.

4. Green tea 
Green tea contains high concentrations of catechin polyphenols. These compounds work in the body with other chemicals to heighten levels of fat oxidation and thermogenesis (a state created in the body by burning fat as fuel). On average, you should try to consume a minimum of three cups of green tea per day for weight loss effects. Green tea has also been shown to be preventative against cancer, heart disease and high cholesterol. 

5. Tomatoes
Tomatoes are by far the richest source of a powerful anticancer agent called lycopene. In fact, research has shown lycopene to be an even more powerful disease fighter than vitamin E and beta carotene. Lycopene needs fat for optimal absorption to occur. Therefore, putting the healthy fat olive oil in your spaghetti sauce is an excellent trick to increase your lycopene levels. Start including more tomatoes in your diet in the form of sliced, whole, canned, stewed or sauced tomatoes or tomato paste.  
In addition to the list above, red grapes, spinach, carrots and whole grains also offer plentiful antioxidant content.
From antioxidants to sunscreen; how to decide which product is right for you can be a major dilemma when there are so many choices out there. 

Julyne Derrick, from one of my all time favourite, and trustworthy websites, says...
"I've done the research on sunscreen and compiled the best sunscreens on the market. Organic sunscreen, sport sunscreen, sunscreens safe enough for baby and the Best Sunscreen in the World. 

Research shows 90 percent of wrinkles are caused by the sun's UVA light and sun damage is the #1 cause of premature aging in women and men. The best sunscreens provide broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB-sunburn) protection. Look for either zinc or titanium minerals in your sunscreen".

Here is the link to Julynes sunscreen suggestions:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spa Girl says Grow Your Own...

The sun is out and the weather is finally starting to warm up, it's time to head to the garden.

This is the second summer I am growing a dedicated kitchen herb garden, a small wonderful plot just outside my back door.  I have always grown herbs as it is an easy way to incorporate fresh, nutritional goodies to my diet.  I use herbs in everything, from salad's to soups.  

The wonderful thing about herbs is that you can grow them anywhere, in pots on your balcony, in window boxes, your local community garden or like me in a small neat plot just outside my back door. And Herbs can be used not only for culinary delights, but for aromatic, ornamental and medicinal purposes.

I generally plant herbs I use everyday such as chives, mint, parsley, sage, cilantro, dill, thyme, basil, oregano and of course my favourite, rosemary. My sage plant is now many years old and is fabulous, I use it in all my cooking, and by the branch in the BBQ when grilling salmon.  I also dry it and use it throughout the winter.  Each year I grow one new herb and experiment with its many fascinating uses, not only in my cooking, but making wonderful herbal tinctures and teas and many other herbal remedies. It's like having your own apothecary!

Herbs can be annual, biennials or perennials. Annuals are good for one season only and include anise, basil, chervil, coriander, dill, summer savory; biennials live for two seasons and include caraway and parsley and perennials bloom each season, once established, and include chives, fennel, lovage, marjoram, mint, tarragon, thyme, sage and winter savory.

The most useful tips when deciding to where and how to plant your herb garden is to plant it close to the kitchen, in full, hot sunshine with good drainage and organic soil with little or no fertilizer. And water only when dry, that's it!

Over the last few years I have been transitioning my garden to a totally edible one.  I have collected a number of excellent books on edible flowers and last year counted over 25 edibles flowers that I use to flavour and add wonderful colour to my salads and soups and a hundred other dishes.

There are so many delightful and delectable rewards in planting a herb garden.  So check out the sites below, put on the gardening gloves, and get planting.

Growing Herbs and Edible Flowers

Selecting Herbs to Grow
Canadian Chefs and their Herb Gardens
Growing Herbs Outdoors
Canada's Medicinal Plant Industry
Medicinal Herbs Guide

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spa Girl checks out hyperbaric oxygen facial

Spa chatter vs. medical experts, who do you trust?

Whether its Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman or Madonna who has recommended hyperbaric oxygen facials on her Web site and in an interview with Harper's Bazaar this relatively new spa modality is capturing the imagination of Spa Girls around the globe.

However as chic as the oxygen facial may be, academic experts are skeptical. Dr. Christopher B. Zachary, a professor and Chairman of Dermatology at the University of California, School of Medicine, bluntly labelled it "snake oil."

Described as a luxurious marriage of state-of-the-art oxygen technology and restorative relaxation, intraceuticals rejuvenation oxygen infusions are intended to infuse moisture, vitamins and anti-oxidants into the skin through topical hyperbaric oxygen leaving the skin hydrated, pump and luminous for up to seven days.
Hyperbaric — meaning high-pressure— oxygen inhalation chambers have been used by doctors since the 1930's to push pure oxygen into the blood stream of oxygen-deprived deep-sea divers. Spas and dermatologists promoting O2 facials describe them as a way to force oxygen and moisturizers temporarily into the skin diminishing all those fine lines and wrinkles.

Needless to say there are many rewards for taking care of your skin and skin specialist are always researching new ways to help us look younger, hooray for that!  However as consumers we must be prudent to sort through the spin, do our research and know what is worth our hard earned money, not to mention our personal safety!

I am generally game to try something at least once, but at (up to) $500.00 a pop for a hyperbaric oxygen facial I sure want to check out both sides of this debate first.

Information in helping you make the right decision...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spa Girl says this one's for my MOM, a woman unquestionably ahead of her time!

There is definitely a movement to buy locally grown food, and the locavores are winning! It's not just about CARROTS anymore! 

If you listen to all the chatter about fine food these days you know the buzz words:  fresh, organic, natural, 100 mile diet, locally grown, regional food, food patriotism, and sustainability--to name but a few!  Everyone it seems wants simpler, less refined, chemical-free foods that will support overall good health. 

Local farmers and producers in the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA are working collaboratively to provide on-line resources.  Where I live, I shop all summer at the farmers market and all winter I have organic produce delivered right to my door, which I select and order on-line.  Delightful for so many reasons!

It is all about eating a balanced, healthy diet which many nutritionists suggests equals, 60% complex carbohydrates, 20% fat and 20% protein.  Today's spa cuisine is sophisticated and savvy and is as varied as a spa treatment menu.  The best of the best celebrate the joys of eating locally and  Chef's are looking to create a culinary experience that is aromatic, beautiful, flavourful, and of course nourishing.

Eating should be all about food that tastes good and is nutritionally balanced, low in salt and sugar, made with the best natural ingredients you can find, foods that support good health, boost lean muscle mass, which helps speed up the metabolism, like exotic lean meats, nutty grains, crunchy vegetables, sweet stone fruits and fragrant herbs, chillies and all those delightful citrus flavours.  

My mom always said variety, moderation and a good balanced diet was the key to successful eating.  She was also a big fan of home gardens and local markets.   Thanks Mom! 

A little taste of delightful Spa Cuisine: fresh asparagus are starting to pop their heads up in backyards and market gardens everywhere, here's a great recipe for Asparagus Soup--one of Spa Girls favourites!

  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 tablespoons butter divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 quart homemade chicken stock
  • generous grind of black pepper
  • 2 small garlic cloves, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • French bread and goats cheese
Clean asparagus; cut off tips and break off ends. Reserve ends. Blanch tips in boiling water about 2 minutes, then plunge into ice water; drain, set aside. Reserve stalks. In large skillet, saute onion in 2 tablespoons butter. Add carrots and celery; saute for 2 minutes. Add asparagus stalks; saute 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Puree mixture in blender. Heat remaining chicken stock in large pot; add asparagus ends, pepper, garlic, tarragon, and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain liquid, discarding solids. Stir pureed mixture into liquid. Melt remaining butter in a saucepan; stir in flour. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Gradually stir in milk; stir until thick and smooth. Stir in soup mixture; simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add reserved asparagus tips; heat through.

Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream, or I also like to toast a few slices of French bread, then melt, under the broiler, a chuck of goats cheese and float on top of soup!  Oh so good.

Happy Mother's Day Spa Girls...

For the Asparagus lovers...

How to choose locally grown produce at your farmer's market...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Spa Girl is a real stickler for Clean Spas

I have visited Spas all over the world and the one thing that I insist on is a hygienically safe environment. 
Most people make the assumption that in the Spa business they know how to maintain a safe, sanitary environment.  But it never hurts to double check, after all, it is your wellbeing you are putting into the hands of others.
The best way to assure yourself that the Spa you are visiting is 'taking care of business' is to politely ask to have a tour and ask a few questions along the way.
What to look for and what to ask...
  • Ask how they disinfect the equipment and hydrotherapy tubs and ask to see their sterilization room.
  • Ask to see a treatment room and make sure it is squeaky clean and check out the drain in the wet room.  No wanted hair here!
  • Make sure nail files are for one time use only, or disinfected between clients and that the ropes and slippers are being cleaned after each use.
  • Absolutely NO double dipping of anything!

Once you have satisfied yourself that the Spa you are booking into meets your clean index you can truly take Spa Girls motto to heart: Relax, Rejuvenate & Restore!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spa Girl is all a glitter for a Gold Facial

Indeed throughout history there are references to gold being renowned for its lavish and beautifying properties. In ancient Rome gold salves were used to improve the quality of skin and in China, the queen of the Ch’ing dynasty used a gold massage roller on her face every day.  Gold facials are also said to be based on the ancient healing art of Ayurveda a traditional medicine native to India, which leaves the skin looking firmer and radiant.

Here is what one expert has to say...

Gold slows down collagen depletion and the breakdown of elastins to prevent sagging skin. It stimulates cellular growth of the basal layer to regenerate healthy, firm skin cells and provide a tightening effect.
  • Reduces the Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles.
  • Reduces the Appearance of Sun Damage and Age Spots: Since 1929 Gold has been successfully used to treat rheumatoid arthritis by reducing inflammation. Gold's anti-inflammatory properties also decrease skin inflammation, thereby slowing down melanin secretion and reducing age spots.
  • Gold fights off damaging free radicals to help prevent premature aging of the skin.
For more on this gold facial delight, check out these websites...