Spices That Add More Than Just Flavor

(photo by Pratiksha Mohanty)

We typically only think of spices only in terms of flavor, what they can add to a dish concerning only our taste buds. But they're so much more than that! They've been used for ages not only to spice up a meal, but also as fundamental tools in medicine. Loaded with nutrients and health benefits, spices are such a powerful tool we have at our disposal, if we'll only utilize them. Try adding some of these into your diet and reap both the nutritional and palatable benefits:

Vibrant in color, turmeric is fantastic for fighting inflammation in the body, supporting liver function, and soothing joint pain in cases such as arthritis. Ever heard of golden milk? It's a delicious tea recipe that's been around for thousands of years, often used as a healing tonic. Try it for yourself! It's a delicious, sweet treat that's great right before bed. I also sprinkle a little turmeric on my eggs at breakfast!
Recipe to try: Turmeric Pancakes

Ginger has been used for medicinal purposes for as long as it's been around, being both anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal, great for blood pressure, and beneficial to digestion and nausea. I mean, who hasn't been sick with a stomach flu and had their mom rush out to the store to by a bottle of ginger ale? Ginger pairs great with sweets (think gingerbread and gingersnaps), but it can also add a lot to savory dishes.
Recipe to try: Homemade Ginger Ale

Metabolism booster and flavor powerhouse. Cayenne can clear up congestion and and has cancer-fighting properties. Now, personally, I'm a total wussy when it comes to spiciness, but if you can handle it, definitely consider adding some more cayenne into your diet.
Recipe to try: Watermelon Cayenne Juice

There ain't a tree bark that's tastier than cinnamon. Like the others, it's anti-inflammatory and full of antioxidants. And cinnamon not only tastes great when paired with something sweet, but when consumed it also slows the absorption of glucose in the body, meaning less of a blood sugar spike.(This isn't exactly an excuse to gorge on Cinnabons, but you get the picture.)
And despite whichever kind you use (there's Cassia, the more common, cheaper version or Ceylon, known for being the "true cinnamon" that's higher quality and more expensive) the most important aspect is the freshness of the spice. Here's how to identify "real" cinnamon if you're curious, though.
Recipe to try: Paleo Cinnamon Rolls

Shoutout to all the spices that do so much more for us than just make a dish tastier!

xo Mel


How You Can Help Save the Bees

(photo by Eric Ward)

Not to be dramatic or anything, but there's a lot of Bumblebees and Honey bees dying out there. Like, a lot. The bee population has been on the decline since the 1940s, and in the United States alone, 44% of bee colonies were lost in 2016. (Here's an interactive map that shows their decline.)

Now if you're like me, you might say to yourself "wow, that's terrible." And you'd be right. These tiny pollinators are immensely important to ecological balance, but due to human interference, loss of habitat, and maybe even cell phones, they don't seem to be doing so well these days. But bees aren't only good for honey and beeswax. They're absolutely vital to our ecosystem. Without these little guys pollinating for us, you might wanna say goodbye to cherries, apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, squashes, mangos, avocados, cocoa, and countless other foods. And some crops like almonds are entirely dependent on bee pollination.
I feel as if we're an interesting and delicate position at the moment; the pendulum could very well swing to either side. So what can we do about it? How can we help out our bee friends? I've complied a list of 7 simple things you can do to help bees thrive:

1) Plant some flowers
Probably the easiest tip, simply planting flowers, shrubs, and trees help bees more than you'd think. Find out what types of flowers are native to your area, and focus on cultivating those. Here's an awesome site where you can put in your zip code, and get tons of information on which types of plants are best for the pollinators (bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, etc) in your area! The bees get some pollen, you get pretty flowers. Win, win.

2) Buy local honey
Instead of buying that squeeze bear, check out your local health food store for some honey that's been produced locally. Supporting your local beekeepers is a great way and tasty way to save the bees. Invest in ya local bee community. And if you can't find anything local (you really should be able to), check out my favorite brand of raw honey.

3) Go organic
Roundup isn't any better for a bumblebee's body than it is for yours and mine. It's all part of supporting the larger ecosystem. And buying organic food isn't just beneficial to your health. By buying organic, you're helping support clean produce that hasn't been grown with the use of herbicides and pesticides.

4) Make a bee hotel
A bee hotel is basically the birdhouse equivalent for bees. You probably seen them in someone's yard every now and then. You can purchase several different kinds online, or what I think is the more fun route, try making one yourself! (And if you really wanna go hardcore, consider starting beekeeping. This is an eventual goal of mine, but as of now I'm good with just eating raw honey.)

5) Learn to love weeds 
We're a society slightly fixated with perfection. We like our front lawns green, freshly cut, manicured to a tee, and not a dandelion in sight. But this meaningless obsession has taken its toll.
According to Wikipedia (great source, I know), a weed is "a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, 'a plant in the wrong place'". But did we ever stop to think that these plants aren't in "the wrong place", but that we're the ones moving into their terroitory? Does that mean I think we should leave the land completely as it is, not attempting to touch or plant anything? Of course not, but if we're going to cultivate a home for honey bees to live in, we need to respect the ecosystem in which they thrive. And what we call weeds (dandelions, thistles, and clovers) are often an important part of a bee's diet.

6) Stop using pesticides 
I think we as humans definitely took a wrong turn when we, in our arrogance, started screwing around with a beautifully balanced and incredibly designed ecosystem. And pesticides are kind of a slap in the face to that system. We can't expect to vastly change the laws of nature without reaping the consequences. Not only are them harmful to our bodies and soil, but pesticides also weaken the immune systems of pollinators. Not cool.

7) Squash your fears, not the bees
Bees can be scary, especially if you have allergies. But like many other non-aggressive creatures such as snakes and spiders, fears of them are generally unfounded and typically the cause of bad personal experience or social conditioning. Being stung is painful and a generally-not-fun experience, but just because you've been stung by one doesn't mean bees are "bad", and they won't harm you when left alone. Learn to respect bees, their space, and all they do for us and our food. Bugs aren't our enemies.

But, as always, do what you can. Don't think any step you can take will be too small. Planting a pot of lavender on your balcony isn't any less meaningful than being a full-time beekeeper. Every bit helps. Change is change, no matter how small.

Thanks for reading!
xo Mel

(photo by Kelsey Krajewski)

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