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Benefits when building with natural materials

 

Farm to Building

Several years ago, I worked in some of Toronto’s most innovative kitchens. Certainly, in my youth I was captivated by the culinary arts and have since wondered how it informed my interest and subsequent career in architecture. The past year has revealed to me an obvious thread: the transformation of materials.

In both cuisine and architecture ingredients are transformed. In both professions there is an understanding about materials used   where they come from, how they can be transformed, and how they must be appreciated. There are parallels between sustainable architecture and sustainable food.

Where materials come from: local or organic?

Farm-to-table is a social movement with which many are all familiar, characterized as serving local food through direct acquisition from the producer, incorporating food traceability. There’s a strong environmental case for food traceability.

Few materials are created equal, and when it comes to food, “food miles” actually make up just a small portion of an ingredient’s carbon footprint – just 11% according to the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF). How the food grows comprises roughly 83% of its carbon footprint. To summarize the DSF’s research, the ideal choice seems to be food that is organically (responsibly) grown, and the benefit of local ingredients is simply a bonus.

The same may be true for building materials; let’s look at wood as an example. Wood is a fantastic material. It is renewable, can be sourced sustainably, and actually sequesters carbon. But not all wood is as environmentally-friendly as you may think. If sustainability is important to you look for wood products with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. FSC is an indication that the wood has met stringent harvesting and environmental standards. It prohibits illegal logging, forest degradation, and deforestation in protected areas, and is the only framework supported by NGO’s such as Greenpeace and WWF.

How materials can be transformed: embodied energy

When it comes to buildings, significant amounts of energy are required to process raw materials. Embodied energy is the energy consumed by all of the material processing required for the production of a building, including mining, processing, manufacturing, and transportation. Every building is made of a complex list of processed ingredients, all of which contribute to its total embodied energy.

A great practical example is to strip back the layers of a typical house and look only at its structure: steel studs versus wood studs. The University of Bath has concluded that the embodied energy and embodied carbon of steel are more than three times that of sawn softwood. Therefore, responsibly-harvested wood studs can be much less demanding in embodied energy levels. When you add up all the structure, insulation, finishes, and itty-bitty components of a house, choosing the right materials goes a long way in reducing your carbon footprint- those materials also need to perform well, be durable, and non-toxic.

How materials must be appreciated: high-performance, healthy, and beautiful

Nutrition is 99% invisible. We don’t need a nutritional breakdown of a Big Mac to know the value of its contents. The same is true in buildings: the products you can’t see usually provide the most value.

Building to high performance standards with natural materials will always satisfy your appetite. In a cold climate (like Toronto) this means using above-Building Code levels of insulation, airtight, high-performance windows, and efficient mechanical systems. Making it look appetizing is simply the dressing on the salad.

This article was contributed by Mike Mazurkiewicz for Sustainable TO

 

 

Raw Vegan Mock Tuna Salad from Love Wild Live Free

Eating a fresh and raw salad in the summertime is one of the healthiest and easiest ways to stay cool from the gut-wrenching heat. One of my favourites is a refreshing raw vegan mock tuna salad.

Love Wild Live Free, a vegan food and lifestyle blog by Avra Epstein, offers a yummy raw mock tuna salad recipe that uses affordable, fresh ingredients to make a light (but filling) meal that will leave you vying for more. This raw recipe uses organic ingredients and also includes kosher dill relish with live probiotics, an easy way to get additional bacteria that keep the gut healthy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw sunflower seeds
  • 5 tablespoons RawFoodz French Onion Dip
  • 2 celery stocks, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 2 tbsp Kosher dill relish (with live probiotics)
  • 2 tsp Dulse Flakes, or Nori Flakes
  • 1 tbsp finely minced onion (red or sweet white)
  • Pink Himalayan Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • (use organic ingredients)

Directions

  1. Rinse sunflower seeds and place in to a medium size bowl. Fill with filtered water, leaving a few inches of space above. Cover with a clean towel, secured with an elastic band. Allow to soak 6-8 hours.
  2. After the soaking time is up, rise sunflower seeds again. Add to food processor and pulse to chop into an even consistency, scraping down with a spatula as necessary. You do not want to over process otherwise you will end up with a creamy consistency. Instead, you’re going for a crumbled consistency that resembles flaked tuna.
  3. In a large mixing bowl add chopped sunflower seeds and the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
  4. Serve chilled and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Enjoy this delicious salad and experience the rejuvenating feeling of eating raw and healthy foods.

Would you try these vegetable masks?

Facial masks are refreshing and give your skin the rejuvenation it needs as the seasons change.

To shake things up and get away from buying a facial cream potentially full of chemicals, why not try a natural vegetable cream? Though imagining mashed up vegetables on your face is a bit gross, the result of treating yourself to a hydrating organic facial will be well worth smelling like tomato paste or garlic for a couple hours….or days.

Food Fresh Avocado Avocados Fruit Organic

Avocado Body Mask

  • 2 avocados
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • Two fresh lemons grated
  • ¼ cup coconut oil

Mix all ingredients in blender until smooth. Apply to face for 10 to 15 minutes and rinse off. Refrigerate remainder and use every two to three days. Avocado is very hydrating and will leave your skin silky smooth.

Vegetables Carrots Basket Market

Carrot Facial Mask

  • 2-3 carrots
  • 4 tbsp honey

Cook carrots and mash with honey, and apply to your face. Leave for 10 minutes and rinse with a cool cloth. Carrots are great for the skin because of their Vitamin A content and they are hydrating.

Tomato Paste Facial

  • Tomato
  • Dash of water

Blend tomatoes until smooth, but not the consistency of juice. Apply to face and leave for 10 minutes and wipe dry. Tomatoes will regenerate the skin and give it a new glow.

Garlic Face Mask

  • ½ tbsp. corn flour and ½ tbsp. sandalwood powder
  • Squirt of Lemon juice
  • ½ tbsp garlic paste
  • Dash of almond milk

Mix all ingredients and add a dash of almond milk to make into a gooey dough. Apply to face and leave for 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water. Garlic is rich in Vitamins A, C, and E and protects the skin from sun rays.

Kale Face Mask

  • Two leaves of kale
  • Almond milk
  • ½ tsp honey

Blend all ingredients together until smooth and rub on face. Leave for 10 minutes and rinse. Kale contains a lot of hydrating nutrients and will leave the face feeling refreshed and moisturized.

Vegetable facial masks aren’t just fun to make, they are also a lot less expensive than the spa alternative. So, for your next girls night, why not try them out!

Would you try any of these veggie facials? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Celebrating Women: Entrepreneur Dyana Biagi

Building a business from the ground up is no laughing matter, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it while smiling all your way to the top. Founder and CEO of Aji Gourmet Products Dyana Biagi is one of the friendliest and most charismatic people out there, and she really defines what it means to build a business with an affirmative attitude.

Biagi sells a Colombian hot sauce commonly known as Aji and it is positively sizzling with popularity along the west coast. She began the business when her family migrated to Canada in October 1999. “I wanted to keep a little piece of Colombia. When we had our own little place, I made Aji. It is a typical condiment in all of Latin America and I thought this would be my little bit of Colombia at meals,” Biagi says. “When parent get-togethers started happening, someone said you bring the guacamole. I told them ‘I’m not Mexican, but okay!’ and I decided to put the Aji in it. The people at the party were blown away. They thought it was delicious.”

From there, Biagi began selling the product at farmer’s markets in British Columbia around the Lower Mainland and quickly noticed that Aji was a hit. Her husband joined in to help sell the product at markets, and after her son, Nicholas Gonzalez, graduated, he joined in as well. Now a family business, Aji has expanded exponentially and is in over 100 stores, including Whole Foods in B.C. and Save on Foods. The next step is to launch into the United States.

Biagi believes family is imperative to the success of her business. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my family,” she says. “Starting a business on your own is really tough. If you start a business, I think that it would have a greater chance of succeeding with family support.”

The social climate of the farmer’s markets are also like a big family, according to Biagi. Instead of the typical competitive cut-throat attitude that exists in many business markets, the grassroots approach in the farmer market community in Vancouver is very inclusive and accepting. “At the farmer’s market, we are a family. We see each other every Saturday and Sunday, and there is always a little bit of time to talk to each other,” Biagi says. “We are all there rain or shine and I’m open to helping anybody who needs. I don’t doubt in helping them find jars, labels, information, or grant money.”

Despite the obstacles of building up an organics product in a competitive market, Biagi is a mentor to other women on how to never give up on your dream. “Persistence is definitely important. You need to keep going and not give up after the first mishap,” Biagi says. “I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs, but I believe in my business. I want Aji to become a staple in North America and I believe in it.”

Aji regularly gives silent auction items to several charities, including the Parkinson Society B.C. Ronald McDonald House Spinal Cord Injury B.C. CBSA UBC Land and Food Systems Society, Crossroads Hospice Society, and JDRF Rocking for Research Gala for diabetes. Biagi and her family also foster exotic birds from a rescue called Grey Haven in the Lower Mainland area. They have had one of their Macaw parrots, Hobbes for seven years, something that reminds Biagi of being back home in Colombia.

In her spare time, Biagi loves to horseback ride and has a degree in Equine Studies. She is also an avid photographer and loves to cycle. Biagi is an example of a female entrepreneur that has embraced her culture and passions and fused them into making an amazing product that is becoming successful. She also reminds us of the power of family and persisting through obstacles with a winning smile. Aji truly is an inspiration for all product entrepreneurs working hard at farmer’s markets across Canada. Follow your dreams, you never know what can happen next.

“The day I walked out of that store with my supplies when I first decided to make Aji, I never thought I’d get to where I am, but yet here we are.”

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The ultimate healer: Tumeric and Ginger Anti-inflammatory Tonic

With the fluctuating weather lately, everyone seems to be getting sick. Instead of popping a ton of Advil and chugging cough syrup, why not try a juice? This anti-inflammatory tonic should help you heal in a natural and organic way using fresh ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 2tsp fresh turmeric
  • 4 carrots
  • 1cm fresh ginger
  • 1 orange
  • ½ lemon
  • 3 stalks celery

Directions:

Simply add all ingredients into a food processor with 1/2 cup water and blend until smooth. Enjoy in sips as the drink will be very concentrated, but will clear your system immediately.

Drinking homemade juices with the soothing spices of turmeric and ginger will strengthen your immune system and flush out nasty toxins from your immune system without using immune-suppressants such as cough syrup. Vitamin C found in oranges and lemons will also help heal a cold in no time. Enjoy this fresh juice and hopefully you are better for spring  just around the corner!

Share with friends: vegan spinach dip with homemade beet chips

Winter blues got you down? What better way to cheer yourself up then have a few friends over for a delicious vegan snack? Everyone loves a good shareable!

One of my all-time favourite dips happens to be full of iron and antioxidants; the classic spinach dip. Vegan-izing this smooth vegetable dip is easy, and it will make it even healthier. If you go even further to pair it with beet chips — suddenly it is a vegetable party! No need to worry about over-indulgence!

Spinach Dip:

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cups baby spinach leaves, tightly packed
2–3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup roasted and unsalted cashews
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup nondairy mayonnaise (try Vegenaise)
1 (12-oz.) container organic silken or soft tofu
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
2 tsp. dried minced onion
1 can whole water chestnuts, diced

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat and add olive oil. Add the spinach and garlic and sauté until wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Tilt the pan and drain off the additional liquid.
  • In a high-powered blender or food processor, place the cashews, almond milk, and lemon juice and blend until smooth and creamy. Add the non-dairy mayonnaise, silken tofu, sea salt, pepper, and onion. Pulse about 7 to 10 times. Add the cooked spinach and blend until slightly green but not fully incorporated.
  • Fold in the water chestnuts. Transfer the entire mixture to a heat-proof baking dish. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes, or until warmed through.
  • Serve in a bowl

Beet Chips:

Simply cut the beets into thin slices, drizzle lightly in olive or coconut oil and sea salt, and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until crispy. Enjoy with the spinach dip!

 

RECIPE: Mouth-watering savoury vegan cookie

Are you tired of only having sweet vegan baked goods?

Chef Katherine Kooks is breaking new ground in the vegan cookie market by choosing to create a savoury baked good instead of a sweet cookie. Using several healthy ingredients, her savoury vegan cookie is a protein power punch that has distinct garlic and onion flavours, but maintains the chewy texture of a cookie. It is unlike any baked good I have found in a vegan bakery.

Savoury Onion Garlic Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup oats

1 cup quinoa flakes

¼ cup chia seeds

¼ cup flax seeds

¼ cup hemp seeds

1 small Spanish onion

2 cloves of garlic

1/3 bunch thyme

Pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Soak the chia and flax seeds in ½ cup of water for 20 minutes until a paste is formed.
  2. Combine dry ingredients and flax/chia seed combination. Mix well and let stand for five minutes.
  3. Saute garlic and onion and remove from heat.
  4. Roll out dough with a pin and use a cookie cutter to make uniform cookie shapes.
  5. Place in the dehydrator at 145 degrees for one hour.
  6. Unplug and flip the cookies. Reduce temperature to 115 degrees and let run for 10 to 12 hours.

Katherine Kooks has started selling her cookies at markets in Toronto, and following her on Instagram will give you a heads up on where this ingenious gluten-free and soy-free snack is headed next!

Gardening 101: growing fruits and vegetables to plant now!

Planting fruits and veggies is a great way to spend time outside soaking up the sunshine — not to mention the delicious produce you’ll get out of it. Garden lovers know that Ontario has certain fruits and veggies that thrive in the region and many of them have to be planted, well, about now.

Gardening may seem time consuming but it teaches the value of patience and generates a newfound understanding of the hard work that goes into growing your own food. It is an initial investment but once you are in the swing of things, it is easy pea-sy!

First off, it is essential to determine when the last frost date is in your area so that you don’t accidentally kill your plants prior to their growth. The general date for Ontario is May 15th,, but last frost can range anywhere from May 15 to May 21. The farmer’s almanac, or otherwise known as the gardening bible, has a handy online tool to help out with the timing of seed planting. You can plug in your specific city, and it will lay out the specific plant times for various vegetables and fruits according to the weather that year.

Making a gardening plan or chart helps to plan out a planting schedule, so that you can ensure your plants are compatible. Tomatoes, for example, should not be planted beside potatoes because the soil quality weakens the sensitive tomato plants. Leafy greens are often compatible with most plants. In your plans, also remember to assess which plants need sunnier spots as opposed to more shade. Leafy greens can thrive in the shade, which allows you to plant vegetables like peppers, peas and carrots in the sun.

Provided by Slow Food Nation
Provided by Slow Food Nation

Let’s begin with leafy greens, which can be planted the earliest due to their hardiness in the colder Canadian climate. Lettuce, spinach, kale and cabbage can be planted in mid-march and harvested as soon as the beginning of June. If you get a head-start (no pun intended) on your these vegetables, you could be enjoying a homegrown salad just as summer arrives. Chard is also a great choice for a hardy leafy green. It will survive until hard frost and is more resilient than spinach. It’s important to remember that the soil temperature must be at least five degrees for the leafy greens to thrive. This can be easily determined by purchasing a thermometer and ticking it into the soil prior to planting.

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Peas, onions and potatoes can be planted once the soil reaches an internal temperature of 10 degrees. These veggies can be planted in mid-may and will yield successful crops. Excluding potatoes, the rest of the veggies also grow quickly and can be harvested as early as July. Potatoes can be harvested in late August and are often used in yummy fall harvest soups. Potatoes are very resilient and can grow in a variety of climates, which makes it a safe bet for any type of garden.

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More sensitive vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as most fruits, should be planted later in the season to ensure they obtain enough sunlight. Plant strawberries and tomatoes indoors first and transfer them outside in mid-June. Once you get them outside, make sure to tie them near a sturdy structure. Tomatoes are a vine-stalk vegetable and need to be propped up to thrive well in the garden. Though tomatoes are finicky, they grow very well in Ontario. The soil must be minimum 20 degrees for tomatoes.

If you want to try something a little more adventurous, try planting watermelon in late June. Be sure to have enough room for watermelon because it is a sprawling plant.

With fruits, insects may become an issue and natural pesticides can help keep bugs out of your garden. Vegetable or canola oil and garlic are natural repellants that can be mixed with water and applied. If cared for, strawberries can yield fruit for the whole summer and blackberries will provide a yummy supply of treats come fall.

Get that green thumb out and try your hand Get outside and try your green thumb out for a great outdoor experience this summer season. Whether you stick with just growing easy-going leafy greens or attempt the more specialized fruits and veggies, the outcome will be delicious. Trust me, there is nothing better than eating and sharing fruits and vegetables you grew yourself.

What’s your favourite fruits and veggies to grow? Let us know and post in the comments below!

Toronto goes green at Green Living Show

The Metro Convention Centre was an environmentalist’s paradise this past weekend, packed with green vendors, discussions about important issues and electric cars ready to be test-driven.

The Green Living Show was held from April 15 to 17 and was packed full of green enthusiasts. The decor was clean and crisp, with several green plants dotting the venue. It was a large indoor show to navigate and it kept my daughter and I busy all day. There was a lot to see at the show and among my favourites were the presentation of the Canadian Green Car Award, Every Tree Counts, and the Ecoparent Village. There were also several delicious samples offered by different food vendors to keep us energized throughout the day.

As an environmental buff and a deep hater of the car, the Canadian Green Car Award was the highlight for me. The winner of the 2016 Canadian Green Car Award, an award given to the best plug-in hybrid available on the market, the Chevrolet Volt. Other winners on display were the Nissan Leaf for the best battery-electric car, and the Hyundai Sonata for the best hybrid.

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My daughter “driving” the Nissan Leaf.

We got to explore the Nissan Leaf further, which was on display in the plug n’ drive area. Guest attendees could practice plugging the vehicle in to the charging station. It was a nice ride, and had a slick black interior. The vehicle was indiscernible from a regular vehicle aside from the front where the electric charger is plugged in. It was fun to take pictures in the car and see its features up close and personal.

The NudyPatooty Booth
The NudyPatooty Booth

There were several great products for women in the show. One of the most interesting companies was Damiva, who provided a lubricant for vaginal dryness of menopausal women. The product has no hormones and is an organic alternative. Another one of my favourites was NudyPatooty, a shirt made with organic bamboo that can be worn under silk shirts to avoid sweat stains, which is a very innovative idea. It would be the perfect solution for those nervous presenters who are concerned about ruining that silk blouse at a business meeting.

If you are attending a high-fashion event that requires a gown, but you don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars, check our Rentfrockrepeat. Rentfrockrepeat is a company that rents out designer dresses to help women save costs and recycle expensive clothing.

After a bit of shopping, my daughter and I stopped at the EcoParent village. It was a nice reprise from walking and conversing with vendors, which can become monotonous for children. This area provided Montessori-sponsored toys for kids to play with and it was a hit with my little one. The wooden puzzles and games are a refreshing type of play, and brought me back to the good-old days pre-iphone and gameboy. There was also colouring and crafts. The area was quite small, but it was nice to see organic toys available for the kids.

"Every Tree Counts" exhibit of trees around the city.
“Every Tree Counts” exhibit of trees around the city.

The Green Living Show emphasized on the importance of trees in Ontario. Several booths were dedicated to protecting trees and the importance of planting. There was a large area called “Every Tree Counts”, which taught adults and kids about the importance of parks and trees. Tree planting is often forgotten amidst larger issues such as cap and trade or snazzy new organic products, so this was a smart addition to the show.

The only disappointment was the food area, dubbed the Pollinators’ Plate Food & Drink Pavilion. There was only one vegan option. The Grow-up was provided, which is a delicious vegan eatery but the rest of the food was laden with dairy and meat products. At an environmental festival, I expected more than one vegan alternative. To be limited to one choice definitely didn’t suit the theme of the afternoon. There was also a display of live bees in a slim glass case at the front of the food area for people to look at. Bees are easily stressed in lighted areas when creating honey in the hive and this was not the most animal-friendly decision on the part of the organizers.

The Green Living Show was definitely worth a visit to find cool sustainable products, listen to environmental discussions, and look at the newest electric car market. The show itself demonstrates how mainstream the discussion about the environment is becoming. Gone are the days of backyard granola talk. Instead, big stakeholders are looking into the future of financial and moral gain and, as it so happens, it’s green.

Sick of cough syrups? Try the holistic approach to rid a cold

Curing the common cold would be a miracle, but for now, we would all settle for preventing and getting rid of the symptoms it’s associated with. For many people, pumping our bodies with over-the-counter drugs isn’t an ideal option. Finding natural remedies to alleviating symptoms and using a holistic approach may be for you.

Natural medicines have been used as a powerful healing tool for thousands of years. This natural method uses a holistic approach that embraces the body as an interconnected network of symptoms rather than focusing on specific medical issue to be addressed.

The Textbook of Natural Medicine, written by Joseph E. Pizzorno Jr., one of the world’s leading authorities on science-based natural/integrative medicine, discusses five doctrines that help patients from a holistic standpoint: Do no harm, find the cause, doctors as teachers, treating the whole person, and preventative medicine.

Pizzorno suggestions that doctors recognize the cause of illnesses and that they can be linked to individual choices or lifestyles, such as nutrition and mental health. Treating the whole person rather than simply stifling symptoms is vital to a holistic approach. This includes the physical aspect of the body, as well as the diet, genetic factors, the environment, and other causes. Natural medicines can tackle various areas of the body at once and can help prevent illness.

Read below for suggestions on combatting the common cold using natural medicines:

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Peppermint

Peppermint is a combination of spearmint and water mint that creates a hybrid plant with medicinal properties. It can help treat the common cold, indigestion, fever, and headaches. The essential oils from the peppermint can relieve respiratory issues and make it easier to breath. A good option is to inhale the vapours to directly access the breathing pathways.

Peppermint tea also acts as an antiviral medicine and helps to fight immune infection while soothing the throat. The tea contains high levels of polyphenols, which are micronutrients that help to strengthen the system and fight infection.

Echinacea_3

Echinacea

Echinacea is a popular herb for the common cold and grows throughout North America. According to the Textbook of Natural Medicines, the herb is a useful immune system booster because it increase the ability of macrophages to destroy diseased cells. Macrophages are a particular type of white blood cell that destroys bacteria that infects the immune system. Echinacea helps macrophages recognize the foreign bodies in the blood and alerts other parts of the network within the immune system to destroy unwanted bacterial matter. It is also a safe product for children.

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Garlic

Garlic’s properties include antibacterial components that can help alleviate certain cold symptoms. Garlic is shown to fight against the toughest type of bacteria — Gram-Negative. Gram-Negative bacteria has an outer membrane that makes them more stubborn than their counterpart, Gram-Positive. Luckily, Garlic attacks both equally.

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Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper is actually a tropical fruit that can grow up to three feet high. It is produced in South America and helps with sore throats and sinus congestion. Cayenne Pepper is a powerful medicinal that can also be used as an aid for mouth and throat soreness during chemotherapy.

VitaminC

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important medicine in the onset of a cold, but it has a limited role to stop a cold that has already engulfed the immune system. A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics says that vitamin C can lower the change of a cold by eight per cent in adults and 13 per cent in children, which makes it a great preventative vitamin for children who are constantly around illness during the winter months at a daycare or school.

Taking the time to understand how and why natural products and medicines can help prevent illness can lead to a stronger connection and understanding of the human body. The added plus of the holistic method is a healthy and wholesome life without over-the-counter medications. Here’s hoping your January is free of the common cold!