Call me crazy, but the second thing on my mind (after tank tops) when the sun shines for the first time in spring is, well, nothing other than cleaning. No one or nothing is safe near me at this time of year. From my GI tract to my closets, everything gets a good old-fashioned scrubbing. Here are a few foods that aren’t just one-trick ponies; they will keep your insides and your home squeaky clean and chemical-free. I know, it sounds weird, right? Believe it or not, some of my favorite cleansing foods work just as well on your countertops as they do in your body.
This condiment is a staple in my pantry. I use it for everything; salad dressings (delicious on cucumbers), a mayonnaise substitute (tuna salad’s BFF), and a marinade for meat (Tendertown here we come) to name a few. Aside from being uber tasty, vinegar helps you digest your food and can improve absorption and utilization of essential nutrients in the body. In other words, you get more bang for your buck from your food when you have a little of this acid with it. Even more impressive, white vinegar is a source of potassium, calcium, magnesium and pectin (who knew?). And now for your home. Don’t think your bottle of white vinegar will only be used to dye Easter eggs this season. Vinegar can be used as a natural cleaner to de-funk just about anything. Mix it with a little water and it’s amazing on glass (have you noticed it’s been added to a very well-known chemical glass cleaner?), stovetops (it’s actually used in restaurants all the time to get stovetops grease- and streak-free) and anything from shower doors to floors, windows, toilets and drains. Now that’s a powerhouse cleaner. So after giving your next salad (and your insides) a vinegary kick, treat your windows to a streak-free shine. A clean house is a happy house.
My love for this little antioxidant-packed citrus fruit is no secret. I start every morning with a tall glass of lemon water, and I love squeezing it on fish, chicken, salads and even steamed veggies. Why, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Not only does it add amazing flavor (and hardly any calories) to your food, but lemon contains pectin which has been shown to aid in digestion and weight loss. It’s also a detoxifying food for the liver that helps flush out toxins and energize the digestive tract. It’s also loaded with antioxidants that can boost the immune system, which may help prevent that springtime cold. Once you’re done squeezing, hold on to your old lemon peels and use them around the house as a natural cleaner. Throw a few peels down the garbage disposal, turn it on, and voila, a clean, fresh-smelling disposal. Toss them in a spray bottle with water and you have a natural countertop spray that cuts grease and grime. Lemon can also be used in your laundry room. Rub some on spots and toss in your machine for a powerful stain fighter. Stock up on these inexpensive kingpins to freshen up your home and your body.
Aside from giving your cookies a little fluff, baking soda isn’t used much in cooking and doesn’t have many nutritional benefits to speak of. I’m no Debbie Downer, so I found many ways to spruce up your beauty routine with this one-buck box. Sprinkle some on your toothbrush and scrub your teeth (then rinse and spit) for some (chemical-free) pearly whites. You can also use it as a mild exfoliant in the shower, or to clean your feet and underarms after an intense workout (it’s OK, we all get stinky sometimes). Once you’re nice and beautiful, let spring fever take over and get cleaning. We all throw a box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb stinky odors, but I like to add a box to my freezer, pantry and the shoe closet (pee-yew). Not only does baking soda absorb odors, it has many other uses around the house. Mix with a little water and you have a homemade grout cleaner (get scrubbin') and a cleaner for both sterling silver and ceramics. Pesky red wine stain on your carpet? Not a problem for this Arm and Hammer. Pour some over a wet wine stain, and as it dries it sucks up that vino straight from the fibers. Then, vacuum up for a stain-free carpet.
There’s nothing like good old monounsaturated fatty acids for heart health, and olive oil is chock-full of them! These fats have been shown to improve cholesterol levels (less gunk to stick to your arteries, hence cleaner valves), protect against heart disease and lower blood pressure. If you ask me, this is one mighty oil. Aside from all the benefits to your heart, olive oil is gentle on the digestive system and may even help prevent gallstones and soothe ulcers. Whew, that’s a whole lot of internal cleaning. Now for your home, move over Pledge; a little olive oil will bring the shine right back into your wood. Mix three parts olive oil with one part vinegar or lemon juice and smear on a soft rag for a natural furniture polish. A little side note: You might want to add a few drops to your moisturizer to keep your skin plump and vibrant. The fats in olive oil prevent water from evaporating off the skin, which means you are left with an extra-smooth finish.
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