Eating Around the Flu

By Rachel Sircy

First, before I dive into my main subject, let me clarify a statement from my last blog post. I am kind of a skeptic when it comes to certain alternative medicines and home remedies. However, I am a believer in many herbal remedies and I definitely believe that a person can eat (and exercise) their way to better health. Benjamin Franklin said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I believe this is true and this describes my outlook on homeopathic remedies. They are the ounce of prevention that is worth the pound of cure. I believe that you should try to prevent illness with diet, exercise and herbal remedies and reserve trips to the doctor for when you are sick and the herbal stuff isn’t doing the trick. I don’t believe in any fad diets and I especially don’t believe in any concoction that is supposed to cure anything that ails me. If a person claims to have answers for everything from warts to stage 4 cancer, they are just trying to sell something. Or, that’s my feeling on the subject anyway. And that goes for conventional medicine as well as homeopathic remedies.

So, I said all of that to say, I don’t think that essential oils are ineffective or useless. Melaluca oil killed my pet beta fish almost instantly (I was trying to cure a vicious fungal infection that he had), so I know that the power of essential oils isn’t just hype. They definitely have their uses. Not for poor, sick beta fish, but certainly for other things.

…anyway, on to this week’s post.

The post last week was all about how I was on a horseradish kick. I’m still on a bit of a kick and I’ve found that a bit of the fresh ground horseradish with some Duke’s mayonnaise is awesome on an egg sandwich. Beware, though, of eating it first thing in the morning. It could tear your stomach up and, actually, while I’m thinking about it, horseradish isn’t recommended for people with ulcers. I am the kind of person who eats egg sandwiches for lunch and dinner, so that would be when I would recommend eating it. It’s also really good on a grilled ham and Swiss cheese sandwich.

This week’s post is about some other foods that you can eat to help prevent sickness this cold and flu season. Here are some of the things I’ve been eating lately:

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Of course, there’s the horseradish and I’m also a big believer in Echinacea, especially in tea form. Echinacea is the one and only herbal remedy that I’ve ever heard praised in a biology class. I was in college and our professor told us that it works better than vitamin C to prevent and shorten colds and flus. It’s a great immune system booster.

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This huge pile of minced garlic went into a chicken dish that I made. I’ve been cooking with as much garlic as possible, not just to prevent respiratory infections, but also because garlic contains compounds that aid in heart health. Garlic is also supposed to be an immune system booster, but remember, you need to buy cloves of garlic and chop it yourself. To get the most out of your chopped garlic, let it sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking with it. Apparently when garlic is chopped and left to sit, a compound called allicin forms. Allicin is the compound that boosts your immune system and can help prevent a cold. You’ll notice, when you let your garlic sit that it’s scent changes. It gets stronger the longer that you let it sit. My Reader’s Digest Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs recommends that you consume 3-4 cloves per week for prevention of sickness and 1-2 cloves per day if you are already sick. Yeah, you’re going to smell funky if you eat 1-2 cloves per day, but I bet you’ll feel better.

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This is a delicious bowl of cabbage soup was made by my mother-in-law. Now, I don’t advocate the Cabbage Soup Diet. Almost every reputable source of medical information that I’ve found on the internet (including the Mayo Clinic, which is the source that I trust the most) says that the Cabbage Soup Diet is a really, really bad idea. However, if you don’t go crazy and eat nothing but cabbage soup for months on end, then a bowl of cabbage soup is actually pretty good for you. Cabbage, after all, is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables also include broccoli and cauliflower and are related to – guess what? Horseradish! Cruciferous vegetables, like horseradish contain glucosinolates, which is a compound that may aid in the prevention of cancer. Not to mention that cabbage contains a lot of vitamin C, as do the tomatoes in the soup. So, it’s kind of a win-win food for your health. As long as you don’t eat it and nothing else. Really, don’t do the Cabbage Soup Diet. Losing weight isn’t that serious!

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This is the chicken dish that I made with all that garlic. The herbs on the chicken are oregano and thyme. Thyme is supposed to have anti-microbial properties and so it is recommended for respiratory infections and for the prevention of colds. I’ve also had thyme tea, which you can make by simply putting some dried thyme in hot water and steeping for 10 minutes or so. It’s not your usual tasting tea, but it’s really not that bad. I don’t know if I’d go for the tea unless I was already sick. But the great thing about trying to eat for your health, is that when you cook a dish that consists of a lot of garlic, thyme and lemon (these basic ingredients make up the marinade for this chicken) it’s not only healthy, but it tastes great, too.

There are a ton of other remedies out there. You can also use supplements to help you in this season of nastiness. I take one Zinc tablet every day and my husband takes capsules containing dried Echinacea since he doesn’t care for the tea. Elderberry can be used either in powdered form in a capsule or as a syrup, or you can sometimes find it as an extra ingredient in Echinacea tea. I really like the combination of Echinacea and Elderberry tea, but each person’s tastes are different. If you’re a tea fanatic like me, Traditional Medicinals and Yogi teas are a great place to start if you’re looking for herbal remedies. There’s basically a tea for every ailment that you can think of (but no one tea is a cure-all).

What I’ve shared here is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. So if anyone else has an good remedies or recipes, please share them with us!

True grit

by Jeanne Reynolds

 What makes people successful – Talent? High IQ? Money? Luck? Genes?

 No, no, no, no and no. All those things help, but the true driver of success is grit.

At least, that’s the opinion of Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor who’s been studying this stuff for years. And the more I read and think about it, the more I believe she’s exactly right.

225px-True-GritDefinition here: Grit is a combination of unshakeable motivation, persistence and determination. Simply put, it’s sticking with it. Never giving up, even when it gets hard.

I’ve become fascinated with this concept since hearing Duckworth talk about it recently on National Public Radio. She’s done tons of testing with students and teachers, adults and kids. Unfailingly, whether in school, work or life, it turns out high performance is most closely tied to high levels of grit.

I’ve seen this play out in my own life. Take running, for example. I’m slow, and I didn’t T330_189554_Runningbecome active in the sport until later in life. But somehow I’ve managed to run 21 marathons, including five Boston Marathons. I tell people distance running doesn’t require talent – it only requires you to keep moving. That’s grit.

And because I’m pretty gritty (take the Grit Scale Test to get your score) there’s a good chance I’ll get that children’s book that’s been in my head since age 9 down on paper and submitted to a publisher one day.

Can you get grittier if you’re not hard-wired that way (Hey, marathon running isn’t for everyone. I get that.) or help your kids develop more grit? Probably. One way is to develop a growth mindset. It’s a concept developed by Carol Dweck that says our ability to learn isn’t fixed. In fact, our brain grows in response to challenge. The key is believing failure isn’t a permanent condition. We have to be allowed and willing to fail, so we can learn and start over with the lessons learned. (Note to helicopter parents: See that word “allowed”? You might need to back off so your child can develop grit.)

Programs like Girls on the Run that teach girls how to train for a longer-term goal may help. You can also try some online exercises like this this one.

I think the idea of grit as what determines our success is great news for most of us. I enjoy doing many things I don’t necessarily have an innate talent for: running, singing, golf, playing the flute, writing, cooking. But that’s OK, because talent and smarts apparently don’t matter as much as getting back up when I fall down and taking the next step.

As Duckworth says, “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”


Weather Rant

By Chaunte McClure

I was hoping this post would celebrate the one to two inches of snow forecasted for today. Instead, I’m whining because the flurries I had the privilege of seeing vanished as soon as they touched a surface.

The winter scene was beautiful while I sat in my car with the engine running, enjoying my chicken salad sandwich. Sadly, the snow lasted about 10 minutes before turning into a wintry mix, and back again to snow for another short span. All this while my sister, an elementary school teacher, is calling me from home sharing weather updates for the Midlands and bragging about her day off. Yes, I’m a little jealous, but I’ll get over it by Friday and I won’t be mad at her or the meteorologists who kept me on my times; however, I do have a heartfelt message for the weathermen.

Dear meteorologist,

My heart just can’t handle the disappointment anymore. When I see the snowflake in your weather graphic, I get uber excited and look forward to the ground being blanketed with snow. I mean, I dream up a day at home on the bed with my laptop and a throw, having snow conversations with my Facebook friends and peeping out the window watching it gracefully fall from the sky. Do you know the last time I took a picture of snow-covered Columbia? I think it was in 2010; two governors ago! Something has to change. I mean, you get me all worked up, then nothing happens. I know, it’s not your fault, right. The track changed and areas north of us got most of the white stuff. I guess that’s what happens when we live in a city that’s known to be Famously Hot.

Snow 2010 in Columbia

The glorious snow of 2010

With one more winter month ahead, I remain hopeful and I’ll still rely on you for an accurate forecast. Please, just don’t disappoint me again.


A Southern girl who wants at least an inch of snow.

Introducing the Nation’s Newest STAR: Columbia, South Carolina

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Allow me to introduce the state’s first STAR certified community, my employer, the City of Columbia.LOGO_Best_star_seal_3star_r

STAR Communities, the nation’s leading framework for sustainability and certification program for evaluating local sustainability, recently recognized the City of Columbia for achieving a three-STAR rating. This achievement makes Columbia the first STAR-certified community in South Carolina and only the 64th in the country.

STAR Communities provides support as localities benchmark progress, and a robust third-party verification process ensures accountability. STAR helps communities evaluate their strengths and weaknesses across seven areas: the built environment; climate and energy; economy and jobs; education, arts and community; health and safety; and natural systems. There are over 500 outcomes and actions that comprise the evaluation.

Several items stood out among Columbia’s sustainability initiatives:

The December award presentation was the culmination of a two-year journey that began in September 2015. Personally, this was the first major project I took from start to finish after returning to work from my rehabilitation from a ruptured brain aneurysm in March 2015. And while the certification is certainly a personal victory, it’s also a big darn deal for the City of Columbia and our community partners.

STAR Award to City Council

With the certification, Columbia becomes a member of a pretty exclusive club. Fewer than 70 local governments have been certified with STAR Communities. Other STAR certified communities in the Southeast include Atlanta, Birmingham, Louisville, Memphis, Raleigh and Winston-Salem.

“We are incredibly excited and proud to be the first city in South Carolina to achieve a STAR rating,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “Our City staff and community have proven their commitment to making Columbia increasingly sustainable across a variety of performance areas, and this recognition provides us with an assessment backed by data that will help us determine our next steps. Through our Climate Action Protection Campaign (CAPC) and other programs, we will continue in our bold commitment to protecting our planet and fulfill our responsibility to our children, their children and beyond.”

The City’s participation in STAR was underwritten by grant from Siemens Cities Center of Competence (CoC), which is dedicated to working with cities to undertake key challenges as cities strive for economic growth and long-term sustainability.

For additional information, check out the City of Columbia’s STAR dashboard.

Come Alive!

By Shannon Boatwright

“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.” 

– The Greatest Showman


I’m one of the millions that has fallen completely in love with the movie “The Greatest Showman”.  Yes, I am a teacher of the fine arts, so one would think, well of course you like the movie, it’s a musical! Anyone close to me knows that I am a huge fan of Hugh Jackman, yet that’s still not the main reason why I adore this brilliant movie.   I have fallen madly in love with this film and its music, because of its message.


Just take a look at the lyrics from the song, “Come Alive”…

You stumble through your days
Got your head hung low
Your skies’ a shade of grey
Like a zombie in a maze
You’re asleep inside
But you can shake away

‘Cause you’re just a dead man walking
Thinking that’s your only option
But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day
Sun is up and the color’s blinding
Take the world and redefine it
Leave behind your narrow mind
You’ll never be the same

Come alive, come alive
Go and ride your light
Let it burn so bright
Reaching up
To the sky
And it’s open wide
You’re electrified

When the world becomes a fantasy
And you’re more than you could ever be
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
And you know you can’t go back again
To the world that you were living in
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
So, come alive!

I see it in your eyes
You believe that lie
That you need to hide your face
Afraid to step outside
So you lock the door
But don’t you stay that way
No more living in those shadows
You and me we know how that goes
‘Cause once you see it, oh you’ll never, never be the same
We’ll be the light that’s shining
Bottle up and keep on trying
You can prove there’s more to you
You cannot be afraid

Come alive, come alive
Go and ride your light
Let it burn so bright
Reaching up
To the sky
And it’s open wide
You’re electrified

When the world becomes a fantasy
And you’re more than you could ever be
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
And we know we can’t be go back again
To the world that we were living in
‘Cause we’re dreaming with our eyes wide open
So, come alive!

Come one!
Come all!
Come in!
Come on!

To anyone who’s bursting with a dream

Come one!
Come all!
You hear
The call

To anyone who’s searching for a way to break free

Break free!
Break free!

I mean come on! Wow.  I’d say this song pretty much reaches out to about 90% or more of the population. How many of us live without following our dreams? How many of us do not live up to our potential?  We bottle things up, we live within ridiculous confines and stereotypes, we allow others to dictate how we live and hold us back from our own personal dreams; and this happens on levels small and large. Too many of us are asleep on the inside, thinking it’s our only option to live within the narrow minds of those around us. Don’t be that zombie, living day to day in a cloud of survival. It’s time to recognize that we do have the ability to create happiness and success for ourselves and break free!

Major cheesiness there, I know, I know. But listen, here’s why the messages throughout this entire movie are so powerful…

It’s all about being yourself. Your true self. And being proud of who you are. We’re all different and WE ARE MEANT TO BE DIFFERENT!  We all have different talents to share with the world, different amazing bits of beauty, inside and out, to share with others.  There is certainly more to us than living within the restrictions of what others consider “the norm” or acceptable.

This movie presents a message of acceptance and the fact that everyone deserves a chance to shine. And by golly, if there is a dream within you, one that keeps poking at your gut, mind and heart, that’s the world telling you to pursue it! At some point, you have to take the risks to follow your heart and give your dreams a chance. We’ll learn from failure along the way, but that’s how we create success! By allowing ourselves to experience the things that help us to reach our dreams, we will develop a confidence in our unique beauty and abilities.  BUT, we’ve got to take that step to flip the switch if we want to truly brighten up our dark days!

I think it’s time. Ride your light and allow yourself to be electrified. It’s ok to take baby steps as you redefine your life, but let’s get out of the maze and ride our light.

It’s time to…Come Alive!

Well Done…

By Stacy Thompson

I apologize profusely to the administrators of this blog for my late submission, but those that read my last post will understand…a few days ago I realized a dream and made it to the Rooftop of Africa – and I will forever be changed for the better because of it.

After an exploratory day in Moshi, followed by a tour of a coffee and tea plantation, our group was hesitantly getting to know one another while already beginning the process of mentally preparing ourselves for the challenge ahead…which wasn’t too far from our minds or our sight (the view from our lodge made the challenge inescapable…)

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The following day we took to the trail and began the greatest adventure with three days of hiking, covering nearly six thousand feet and thirteen miles among a background that transitioned from bamboo rainforest to moorland.  An acclimatization hike to Zebra Rock took us from Horombo Hut and 12,340 feet to over 14, 000 feet and a taste of the heights we would soon soar to…

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Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards – Kierkegaard

Our hike continued forward and onward to Kibo Hut – 15, 520 feet – and a ride through “the Saddle” a wide, flat plateau with our destination peaks looming ahead and a light meal awaiting us in the final hours before the final ascent.  Our pace deliberately slow, we could see up ahead the challenge of the mountain ahead while our minds repeated the Swahili phrase “Pole, Pole” (“Slowly, Slowly”) to ensure we met our goal.

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We dined on soup and some bread around 5 pm before retiring (all 12 of us men and women together in the ultimate bonding experience!) to a room of bunkbeds and our sleeping bags to catch a few hours of rest – knowing that we were to be awakened at 11:00 pm to start the arduous climb.  Yes, we were told that the purpose of the late-night start was to reach our goal at daybreak, but in truth the journey through the scree slope is best taken without seeing the angle of the climb (pretty much straight up!) and the distance to be traveled (over 3,000 feet) – exhaustion and freezing temperatures tell the body to sleep, but the overwhelming drive to reach the top combined with the constant vigilance of the Tanzanian guides keep one foot in front of the other until the most glorious sight of an African sunrise is seen on the horizon – as said sun begins to rise, our goal becomes a reality; as the scree ends and the boulders are overcome, Gilman’s Point is reached…

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In the end it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years. –Abraham Lincoln

So Gilman’s Point (18,652 feet) is a legitimate summit, as is Stella’s Point (18,885 feet), however, just a few short feet (OK, about 500 feet, and with severely decreased oxygen levels) away is Uhuru Peak – the real, true Rooftop of Africa and the ultimate goal – I’m not going to lie, the last hour wasn’t easy, but was made infinitely better by the glacier view.  Looking out over the clouds is surreal and being surrounded by volcanic cones nearly overwhelming, but the focus to attain our goal remained (despite the oxygen-deprivation, sleep-deprivation and overall exhaustion!!).  After over eight hours of hiking, straight up, in mostly dark, we reached the highest peak…

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Yes, that’s me, celebrating the only way I know how – by displaying the garnet & black!!


Life is either a daring adventure…or nothing at all – Helen Keller

So six years ago my mother decided (after getting her Medicare card in the mail) that life was too short to just sit back and make a bucket list – it was time each and every day to live that bucket list.  So she climbed a mountain, with no experience, with no expectations, but simply because she needed to try and do it.  After she climbed Kilimanjaro, I admit that although I was unbelievably impressed, I didn’t really understand what drove her to do it.  Later that year I joined her in climbing a mountain (Machu Picchu)…and have done so every year since then.  Climbing the physical mountain is an accomplishment and our ultimate goal, but overcoming the physical challenge is so much more than that – even though I love our trips together and the days we spend on the trail, I enjoy even more the hours spent in the stairwells and trails (modest inclines that they may be) preparing for each trip.  The challenge my mother undertook to conquer the World’s Highest Free Standing Mountain was not just a jump-start to a bucket list, but a new progression of a mother/daughter bond that will only continue to grow in the years to come.

Well Done…

As I was descending and had reached the forest once again, I passed a Tanzanian guide with two very well-groomed (recently showered) hikers – as he passed, we greeted each other with the traditional Swahili “Jambo” (hello) – he then asked “So you climbed the mountain?” to which I replied “Yes, yes I did.”  He then asked “did you make it to the top?” and I replied “yes, yes I did” – there was a pause, and I heard him quietly say “Well done” – those two words filled me with so much pride and a sense of accomplishment I will never forget.  Well done – yes, yes indeed.

Healthy Horseradish

By Rachel Sircy

So, I’ve been on a weird kick lately. I’ve suddenly become obsessed with horseradish. My affinity for the stuff actually began a couple of years ago when someone from work introduced me to Wasabi coated dried peas. You can occasionally find these treats made by a company called Fusia at Aldi and I know that Whole Foods also carries Wasabi chickpeas from a company called Saffron Road. I highly recommend both products. Actually, I might recommend eating your own hand if you cover it in Wasabi.

Anyway, Wasabi is a cousin to the European horseradish root that is commonly grown in the US, and my point in that seemingly pointless story above is that I didn’t eat horseradish as a kid. My grandfather did sometimes on roast beef or something like that, but Grandpa also ate squirrel meat and headcheese and he didn’t manage to convince me that any of those things were good either. I think I remember smelling horseradish sauce as a kid and thinking that it smelled like an over-chlorinated pool, so I wouldn’t eat it for a long time. The introduction to Wasabi was the thing that got me thinking that horseradish might not be so bad after all. My first taste of horseradish sauce was last Easter at my in-laws’ house. They don’t eat the stuff themselves, but for some reason they always keep some of the Inglehoffer horseradish sauce in the refrigerator for guests and they just happened to put some on the table to go with the Easter ham. I figured if it was related to Wasabi, it couldn’t be that bad and that was the moment I fell in love with the stuff.

Now, since then I’ve used horseradish sauce sparingly – putting it on the occasional piece of ham or roast beef or even steak as a nice break from the usual A-1. But in the past couple of weeks I’ve started using gobs of it (that is dangerous, by the way, if you’re not used to it) on everything from ham sandwiches to boiled eggs and not just because I enjoy the taste. You see, for some reason my immune system decided to go on strike this cold and flu season and since about September, I’ve had a pretty continuous string of sinus infections and respiratory illnesses. What does horseradish have to do with sinus infections, you may ask? Well, try a half of a teaspoon of horseradish the next time that you have sinus congestion. It’s like an atomic bomb going off in your nose – my face actually turned red when I took a big bite of it – but I promise you that you will be able to breathe easier afterward.

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Here’s the German-style horseradish sauce. It’s milder and goes well with pretty much anything

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I found this stuff at Publix. It doesn’t even have a brand name, that’s how serious this stuff is. It’s just the grated horseradish root with some vinegar and salt mixed it.

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For anyone who’s not familiar with it, this is what the grated root looks like. I’m pretty sure it could peel paint off the walls. Just opening the jar makes our whole apartment smell like it. Tastes pretty good though.

Apparently, the thing that my grandfather didn’t tell me when he was eating horseradish sauce (the stuff he had was always homemade from someone or other’s garden) is that horseradish has been used for years to cure sinus congestion and even sinus infections. I didn’t know that horseradish had such powerful medicinal benefits until I was trying to find an alternative cure for my own never-ending sinus infection this year. In the back of an herbal encyclopedia that my mother gave me, I saw horseradish listed among the curative herbs used for hay fever and sinusitis. According to this herbal encyclopedia, horseradish is high in Vitamin C and contains compounds called glucosinolates that work to thin mucus. A buildup of mucus in the sinus cavity can become a veritable playground for the kind of bacteria that will blossom in to sinusitis. Eating horseradish regularly as a condiment can keep mucus from building up in your nose and causing sickness. Horseradish also has antimicrobial properties that can apparently work like a mild antibiotic once it’s eaten. The glucosinolate compounds in horseradish are also credited with being able to help your body detoxify carcinogens and thereby ward off cancer.

Now, I’m a bit of a skeptic sometimes when it comes to herbal remedies and I never believe anyone who tells me that a particular product or plant or whatever will cure anything that ails me. Once, someone was trying to convince me of the health benefits of essential oils, but they lost me almost immediately when they tried to explain to me that I had to keep the lid tightly screwed on the bottle of the oil because the compounds in the oil are actually alive and that the “living oil” might try to escape – kind of like a genie in a bottle. Yeah. I haven’t purchased any essential oils to date. However, having said that, I do believe that God put natural medicines on earth and that getting as close to what He created to heal us is probably the best thing that we can do for our bodies. I don’t know much about horseradish, but what I do know is this: during my last bout with a sinus infection, I suddenly started craving horseradish like crazy. I was so sick at the time that I really hadn’t eaten anything except tomato soup and I didn’t feel like having ham or roast beef, but I couldn’t shake the craving for the horseradish. Once I started to feel well enough to eat regular foods again, I started putting horseradish on everything and since then I haven’t had any more issues with my sinuses. (I’m knocking on wood right now) So, I thought I’d share what I’ve been learning and maybe help some others through this awful cold and flu season. Also, horseradish and Wasabi just taste good, so why not eat some?

If you want to do some research on your own, there are a lot (I mean a LOT) of natural remedies websites out there that have a deep love for all things horseradish. I mostly got my information from The Reader’s Digest Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs (This book is not as hokey as it sounds. I usually don’t do my research with books by Reader’s Digest but this book seems pretty solid in it’s information) and from a blog post or two that I found on Rodale’s Organic Life’s website.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Until next time, let this quote from Hippocrates to start off all your healthy resolutions. Happy New Year!