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Want a Nontoxic Garden this Spring?

Creating a garden that is free of pests but does not rely on pesticides is simple – and better for your family and the planet! Try these three techniques for a safe, thriving garden this year!
If you are planting a garden, try natural, nontoxic approaches to pest control:

  1. Pyrethrum. This mixture of insecticidal compounds found in some species of African chrysanthemums controls aphids, whiteflies, stinkbugs and mites. You should be able to find pyrethrum products in your local garden center (some will say they contain "pyrethrins.") Check labels carefully to make sure you choose the product intended for the crops you're growing or the pests you're trying to eliminate.
  2. Neem. From the seeds and leaves of the neem tree, Azadirachta indica, which is native to India, the compounds neem contains (such as azadirachtin) act as insect repellents. Neem is nontoxic to animals and humans and beneficial to bees. Although neem products are somewhat more expensive than most synthetic pesticides, they are worth it for both personal and environmental health.
  3. Insects. Consider adding beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantis to your garden (both are commonly sold at garden centers).

Also ask your local garden shop about simple soap solutions you can spray on plants to help eliminate insects, and about pheromone traps (useful against some insects, including Japanese beetles). You can always use netting or pick or brush insects off manually or wash them off with forceful streams of water.

Good News About Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Aside from the fact that they enable you to avoid pesticides used on conventionally grown produce, a new review has found that organic fruits and vegetables often provide higher levels of health-protective antioxidants. While the authors haven’t claimed that organic fruits and vegetables are necessarily better for your health than conventionally grown produce, they did point out the antioxidants have been linked to a lower risk of cancer and other diseases in previous studies. This contradicts the results of earlier reports that found no nutritional advantage to organic fruits and vegetables. The new investigation is a statistical “meta-analysis” of the findings from 343 previously published studies. It concluded that overall, organic crops contained 17 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops and that levels of flavanones (a nutrient abundant in citrus fruits) were 69 percent higher in organic produce. Surprisingly, the review also found that organically grown foods, particularly grains, were lower in cadmium, a toxic metal that sometimes contaminates conventional fertilizers.

My take? While this review's authors made no claims for the health benefits of organic foods, their conclusions illuminate the potential differences between organic and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. We haven’t had many studies that directly compared organic and conventionally grown foods and found that that one is better than the other. We know there is evidence of pesticide residues in 71 to 90 percent of conventionally produced foods, however, compared to 13 to 23 percent of organically grown foods, and pesticides are definitely not good for you.

Eating Anti-Inflammatory Made Simple
Take the guesswork out of a healthful diet with Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging. Our shopping and eating guides, over 300 recipes, tips and videos follow Dr. Weil's recommended anti-inflammatory principles for promoting better health, from head to toe. See what it's about - start your free trial today and save 30% when you join!

Carlo Leifert et al, “Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses.” British Journal of Nutrition, June 2014 26:1-18. [Epub ahead of print]

Environmental Working Group – 2014 Shopper’s Guide with Dr. Weil (Video)

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes an annual Shoppers Guide. It consists of two lists - one of the "Dirty Dozen" produce varieties that have most pesticide contamination, the other of the "Clean 15" that are the least contaminated. Here's my discussion of why shoppers should be concerned about pesticide levels, and how the Shopper's Guide can help them avoid these worrisome chemicals.

More information:

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Dr. Weil Recommends: The Healthiest Oil

Olive oil, once used in the U.S. primarily by immigrants from Mediterranean countries and adventurous gourmets, is now mainstream. In 2013, Americans consumed over 338 metric tons, about ten times the amount used in 1982. This is good news, as olive oil has multiple health benefits:

• It has the highest percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat of any edible oil.

• Quality brands contain abundant antioxidants - substances that have been shown to provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer effects.

• If you're watching your weight, adding extra olive oil to your diet can help you feel full longer.

• Regular consumption of olive oil may help increase concentrations of a bone protective protein known as osteocalcin.

Plus quality extra-virgin olive tastes wonderful: the vibrant green treat has probably helped many Americans realize that there is no need to sacrifice sensory pleasure in pursuit of healthy eating. One easy way to get more olive oil is to use it instead of butter in low temperature cooking, on top of fresh vegetables or as a salad dressing.

When buying olive oil, choose small bottles of certified organic oil. Check the label for the ICEA (Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale, which means Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute) logo, or that of another organic certification body such as the USDA's green-and-white ORGANIC logo.

How Much Milk Do You Drink? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the health benefits of organic milk: Is Organic Milk Heart Healthy? Check out the article and tell us how much milk you typically drink during the day.

The Future of Organic Foods (Video)

Dr. Weil speaks about the future of organic foods and how there needs to be a change in the way we choose what we eat. If more people become involved and make their voices heard with organic foods, there can be great change in the way food is grown and consumed. We eat what is cheap and available, but by making changes we can live a healthier life and eat healthier foods.

Learn more about organic foods and find out which foods you should always buy organic.

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Our Organic and GMO-Free Policy

I strongly support organic farming, which avoids the application of synthetic chemicals to food crops, and uses no genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

To this end, my company, Weil Lifestyle, LLC, has been diligently working since early 2012 to make nearly all of its Vitamin Advisor products organic and GMO-free by early 2015. We are moving quickly toward that goal, with plans to introduce 17 certified-organic and non-GMO supplements in our supplement line by the end of this year.   

We actively support rigorous testing and verification programs for dietary supplement ingredients so that manufacturers can make trustworthy claims of organic and GMO-free status.

Read more about GMOs from Dr. Weil...