Blog Posts by Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

  • 12 Tips for Kicking the Refined Sugar Habit

    Sugar seems to be everywhere. Here are some steps to avoid it.

    I don't know of anyone who thinks that sugar is actually good for you, yet we average 130 pounds of sugar per person in the U.S. The question is, why do we eat sugary foods and drinks when we know it's bad for us? One researcher said the desire for fructose is wired into us because in nature, anything with fructose in it isn't poisonous. Another researcher demonstrated with MRI scans how your brain releases dopamine when you eat something sweet. Your body rewards you when you eat sugar by making you feel good; but giving up sugar can also have positive effects - effects that last far longer than the sugar high.

    Because I don't eat sweetened foods a lot, I can feel that effect dramatically at times. On the Fourth of July last year, I had several sweets throughout the day at a party and I did feel slightly euphoric, as I hadn't had so much sugar in a long time. (I felt great until I became sick the next day, probably a combination of the immune-lowering effects of sugar and not

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  • How to Hike with Your Dog: Tips, Rules and Great Gear

    Hiking with your dog can be a rewarding experience — for both of you! Now that spring has sprung, many of us are itching to be outside enjoying the great outdoors on a hike. And that goes for our four-legged friends, too. Hiking safely and responsibly with your dog is more involved than just hopping out of the car and setting loose on a trail. This advice will get you ready to tackle the trail with your dog, and teach you how to be socially and environmentally conscious while hiking.

    Is your dog ready for hiking?
    There are a few things to consider before you head out that will guarantee a safe, joyful trek.

    1. How strenuous is the hike? Your dog's age, stature, and fitness level are all factors that will determine if he or she can go on a trail with you, or what type of trail you select. Older dogs get achy joints and tire out faster than dogs in their prime. Meanwhile a tough hike may hinder proper development in puppies if there is too much jumping or scrambling before their joints and bones are fully formed. Shorter dogs may have a more

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  • The Science Behind Your Cat's Most Adorable Features

    Get the scientific scoop on those adorable paws, whiskers, noses and tongues! If you're a cat lover, you likely think every part of your feline friend is adorable - from his fuzzy paws to his tiny pink nose. But while we may exclaim over their furry ears and darling whiskers, these parts all serve a remarkable purpose that may go unnoticed at first glance.

    Get up close and personal with tiny kitty paws, noses and tongues through these macro photos and learn more about your adorable furry friend.

    Ears
    Cats' ears contain 32 muscles that allow them rotate their ears 180 degrees to pinpoint a sound. Although dogs are known for their hearing, cats' hearing is actually better because they can distinguish higher pitches and even detect tiny variances in sound. However, despite this stellar hearing, your cat still might not come when you call.

    A vestibular apparatus in a cat's inner ear acts as its balance and orientation compass so that it always knows which way is up. It's what allows cats to (almost always) land on their feet.

    Also see: Cat quiz: Can

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  • 10 Natural Cough Remedies

    Tea with honey and lemon combines several cough-soothing ingredients.Coughing happens when viruses, bacteria, dust, pollen or other substances irritate the nerve endings in the airways between the throat and lungs - which can be distracting and possibly painful. Fortunately, there are ways to sooth a cough naturally.

    A cough is the body's way of trying to clear the passages, and what a valiant effort the body makes in this endeavor. We can cough at speeds up to 60 miles per hour, and the average cough produces enough air to fill a two-liter soda bottle about three-fourths full. The air of a cough sprays out several feet and is accompanied by some 3,000 tiny droplets of saliva.

    While chronic coughs can be a sign of a serious illness, most people consider the common cough to be more of an annoyance than a health issue. Although side effects like chest pain, exhaustion, and incontinence can accompany a cough, the more vexing complaints often have to do with a cough's ability to interfere with your (and your household's) sleep and the propensity to

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  • 10 Health Benefits of Honey

    Honey is more than just a delicious treat — it's good for you, too!There is something undeniably enchanting about honey; the product of flower nectar transformed by bees, as if by alchemy - but in fact through the far less-poetic act of regurgitation - into a sweet, golden elixir. Honey has held sway over humans since ancient times.

    But aside from honey's seductive color and flavor, it has some scientific superpowers that add to its appeal. Honey has an unusual chemical composition, one which makes it keep indefinitely without spoiling; as is seen whenever ancient pots of honey, still perfectly preserved, are found during excavations of early Egyptian tombs. It is uniquely low in moisture and extremely acidic, making it a forbidding environment for bacteria and microorganisms. On top of that, bees add an enzyme, glucose oxidase, to it that creates hydrogen peroxide as a byproduct. According to the National Institutes of Health, honey is hygroscopic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and has remarkable debriding action. Who knew?

    Also see: The

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  • Elderly Golden Retriever, Baby Chicks Take Interspecies' Cooperation to Whole New Level

    The ultimate 'aww' moment: Champ snuggles with baby chicks. When 21-year-old photographer Candice Sedighan saw that a local feed store was going out of business and getting rid of its stock, she jumped into action. Why? Because included in the closeout were a dozen tiny chicks that would have likely been sold and raised for meat.

    While only planning to keep them until a safe and suitable habitat could be found, Sedighan still had a potential obstacle at home: her 11-year-old golden retriever, Champ.

    Yet when she introduced the babes to Champ, he responded with nothing but patience and kindness. Even though he had been a perky puppy and had never seen chicks before, he expertly took them under his wing, so to speak.

    Also see: 16 unlikely animal friendships

    "The wisdom and calm nature of senior dogs are unmatched," Sedighan told Today.com.

    Although most chicks raised for meat and eggs don't experience the nurturing nature of their mothers, they nonetheless crave affection. Champ's dozen took to cuddling and snuggling with the old

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  • 22 Surprising Uses for Turmeric

    You'll get plenty of use out of this spice-rack staple.

    One of the most fetching culinary spices, turmeric has an intense golden hue. The major ingredient in Indian curries, turmeric is the component responsible for curry's dizzying color; it's also commonly used to imbue mustard with its radiant glow.

    We're commonly reminded to eat colorful plant foods because their pigments, which are associated with antioxidants - the wonder nutrients that experts believe protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals and that also have important anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric's intense color makes it a front-runner in this group of foods; curcumin, a compound found only in turmeric, appears to be the magic ingredient.

    A cousin of ginger, this rhizome has a long history of use in herbal remedies, particularly in China, India and Indonesia. Many current studies are looking into turmeric to treat a whole host of health problems, and turmeric has ample other uses as well, as evidenced in the following applications.

    Also see:

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  • How to Introduce Your Child to a New Pet

    Your new pet may be scared and timid; advise children to approach with caution.

    So you've decided to get a new pet and now it's time to get your new furry friend acquainted with your two-legged children. How do you get started?

    Your kids will no doubt be excited about the addition of a new family member. So the important step now is to teach your kids the best ways to interact with your new pet.

    Here are some tips from the folks at Pets Add Life, a nonprofit arm of the American Pet Products Association that campaigns to promote pet adoption and ownership.

    Also see: How much do you know about these headline-grabbing pets?

    Use gentle hands. Teaching kids to be gentle is a huge contributor to the relationship they can have with a pet. Take the time to demonstrate the proper way to interact with animals, which is calmly (no loud noises) and with non-threatening hands, such as a low, closed fist or an open palm for the animal to sniff and become familiar with. Kids should never tug on pets and should avoid their ears, eyes, and mouth when petting and

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  • How to Take Care of Your Aging Cat

    Living with an older cat can be challenging, but with this vet's advice, you'll be back to cuddling in no time.As cats enter their elderly years, owners often encounter new and unusual problems. Dr. Annie Price of Ormewood Animal Hospital in Atlanta answers questions about two common issues: excessive salivation and overgrown claws.

    I have a 19-year-old house cat that salivates a lot when he sleeps. What is causing this? Should I take him to the vet?
    Excessive salivating could be caused by a number of health issues, especially if it is vomiting or not eating. Nausea, pain and even dental disease can lead to hypersalivation. During exams, we find a lot of cats with teeth that are just rotten, and it hurts. Common oral tumors also make it diff to swallow well and cats will drool as a result.

    Also see: 7 strategies for keeping your pets healthy and happy

    If the problem has persisted for a while, the cat may have eaten something that caused ulcerative damage to its mouth. Some houseplants can cause damage to the mouth and esophagus. Definitely schedule a veterinary exam and bookmark

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  • TB Transferred from Cats to Humans in First Documented Cases (But You Shouldn't Worry)

    The risk of catching TB from your cat is low; in rare cases, it's spread by coughing or through wounds.The first documented cases of people catching tuberculosis from their cats were recently revealed in England, but experts say cat owners have little to fear.

    The four cases were all linked to a cluster of sick felines in England, all of whom had bovine tuberculosis, which is carried by cows.

    Between December 2012 and April 2013, veterinarians identified TB in nine pet cats in Berkshire and Hampshire, and Public Health England said the people who caught TB were recovering.

    The report said the risk of the public catching TB from cats is "very low."

    Also see: 14 diseases you can get from your pets

    "This is an exceedingly rare, odd event, and there's no reason to be alarmed," Dr. Neil Schluger, chief scientific officer of the World Lung Foundation, told the New York Times. "Bovine tuberculosis represents maybe 1 percent of all the TB in the U.S., and the most common way to get it is drinking unpasteurized milk. Person-to-person transmission of TB is the only thing people

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