Whether you’re planning a staycation or hitting the road for a camping or cottage adventure, you can take a few easy steps to make it a healthier summer.
Embracing sunshine, before and after
One of the simplest joys of summer is feeling the warm rays of the sun on your winter-weary skin. However, it’s important to practice sun safety by protecting your skin from the damaging UV rays that come along with more exposure in the warmer months. Unprotected skin can age more rapidly and increase the risk of skin cancer.
When it comes to sunscreens, there are some fantastic natural products available on the shelves of your local natural health retailer. Opting for natural products is important because many conventional sunscreens contain harmful ingredients that get absorbed through the skin: Oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate and octocrylene, among others. These have been measured in blood, urine and even breast milk.
The most widespread chemical, oxybenzone, has been linked to skin allergy symptoms and hormone disruption. This is why industry insiders emphasize how important it is to choose a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in the ingredients list, especially when choosing sun-screen for your kids. When applied, these compounds lie on the surface of the skin and reflect potentially damaging UVA and UVB rays without being absorbed by the body.
Even when we do our best to avoid sunburns, they sometimes do happen. Practicing proper after-sun care can reduce the pain and irritation of sunburn and help to heal the delicate layers of your skin. Coconut oil, for instance, is a pure and simple moisturizer that is rich in medium-chain triglycerides, which have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that complement the skin’s protective barrier.
The great Canadian outdoors is famously breathtaking, with the exception of the tiny insects that can rob us of our sanity and send us running back to safety indoors. To combat these nasty pests, people often turn to bug sprays packed with chemicals that include DEET. Although effective, these conventional products have been linked to health concerns including eye and skin irritation, and, if used improperly, neural damage.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil taken from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia, a tree native to Australia. Tea tree oil is most often used topically for its antimicrobial properties, and to treat skin conditions such as dandruff, acne, lice and minor skin infections. The natural bug-repellant properties of the oil make it a must-have for your next camping trip.
Did you know it can also be used to soothe the itch and irritation of bug bites when they do happen? Take a small bottle of tea tree oil with you on your next camping trip and apply a drop of the oil directly to the bite for relief.
Another useful essential oil for the outdoors is eucalyptus oil. You can easily make an effective and natural bug repellant at home with eucalyptus oil and just a few simple ingredients:
Mix one cup of witch hazel, one cup of distilled or boiled water, and 30 to 50 drops of eucalyptus oil in a spray bottle.
Shake and spray on your clothing before going outside.
The flavour of barbecue without the health concerns
What better way to savour warm weather than to cook and enjoy a meal outside? Few things beat the aroma and flavour of a summer barbecue. Unfortunately, research suggests that barbecuing foods, meat in particular, can introduce potentially harmful carcinogens.
The fat in meat is the prime culprit in health concerns when it comes to barbecuing. When grilled at high temperatures, it forms carcinogenic compounds that linger in the meat. And when melted off, the fat is deposited back onto your food by way of the smoke rising from your barbecue.
Look for leaner cuts of quality meat and cook them at lower temperatures for longer. What little fat is present in your meat will only form dangerous compounds at high temperatures, so this method will still have delicious results without the worry. Keep in mind that larger portions will take longer to cook, so opting for smaller cuts of meat and grilling more of them will reduce the cooking time of each piece.
Choosing a vegetarian menu will also reduce your exposure to the risky compounds. This is because the carcinogens form in the fat of meats, which are non-existent in veggies. In addition, grilling vegetables will provide the many benefits you can expect from consuming quality produce.
Where possible, choose organic for reduced exposure to pesticides and other unwanted toxins. Make sure to keep your grill clean because the charred residue from previous barbecues can deposit the dangerous compounds onto your veggies.
No matter what you’re doing to embrace the joys of summer, you can take a few simple steps to maintain your healthy lifestyle. Visit your local CHFA Member health food store for mineral-based sunscreens and natural bug repellent options, and remember to balance your barbecuing with high-quality meats and organic vegetables.
Michelle W. Book is the in-house Holistic Nutritionist and spokesperson for the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), an organization dedicated to educating Canadians about the benefits of natural health and organic products. As a busy professional with a young family, Michelle strives to spread the message that small changes in our everyday lives can have significant, positive effects on our health.