How to Travel Like a Local in the Dominican Republic

How to Travel Like a Local in the Dominican Republic

How to Travel Like a Local in the Dominican Republic

We know what kind of traveler you are.

You bring the same appetite to street food as you’d bring to an upscale restaurant.

You’d rather find your way to the beach (or museum, shop, restaurant, etc.) yourself than go with a tour.

You’ll take a local’s advice over a guidebook’s every time.

Bottom line: You embrace local flavor. You want to travel like a local.

And you’ve picked the right place. The Dominican Republic offers some of the friendliest people, best food, most beautiful beaches, widest choice of accommodations and the most diverse range of activities in the Caribbean.

Here’s what you need to know to enjoy it all.

When to Go

There are no bad times.

June through December, roughly, is hurricane season, and some resorts close in October. But assuming no hurricanes, temperatures are steady, rooms are discounted and crowds are smaller.

March through July is shoulder season.

Santo Domingo on the southern coast will likely see frequent, brief rain that may continue into October. And days can get breezy. But temperatures are balmy. May and June will see partly cloudy days with an occasional afternoon shower.

Mid-December through February and the week before Easter constitute the high season, meaning higher prices and bigger beach crowds.

(Note that water sports are prohibited throughout the country during the week before Easter.)

What to Pay and Where to Stay

You’ll find accommodations in virtually every price range and category, from all-inclusive resorts and the Dominican Republic villas to hostels and budget hotels.

In the budget range, you can get by on about US$60 per person per day, including a hotel room or hostel for one person, meals, and transportation via local motorcycle taxis (motoconchos) and minibusses (guaguas).

In the mid-range, figure an average daily cost of US$110-$150, including first class bus transportation between cities and entertainment including guided tours.

With a luxury budget, average daily costs are typically north of US$200 for a luxury hotel or all-inclusive resort and upscale dining.

The local currency is the Dominican Republic peso, so don’t forget your currency conversion calculator.

And don’t be alarmed at the 28% service charge typically tacked onto your restaurant bill; it includes a 10% tip (though you can add more).

By the same token, hotels build in a service charge, although a couple of U.S. dollars per night for housekeeping will always be appreciated.

Where to Go and What to Do


Most resorts have beaches. But in a country noted for its beaches, you can do a lot better with a bit of traveling.

The calmest waters are those on the south side of the island. The beaches at Punta Cana, La Samana, and Puerto Plata are on the Atlantic and the water is likely to be a bit rougher, especially between December and February.

Specifically, Boca Chica is a gorgeous, white sand beach just a few miles east of Santo Domingo. But its proximity to the city is also its biggest deficit, as Boca Chica tends to be very crowded with families from the city.

Juan Dolio beach a few minutes further east is quieter. And there are plenty of alternatives, including the beach at the small town of Las Terrenas, Cayo Levantado near the Bay of Samana (only accessible by boat), El Rincon beach and – for a gorgeous coral reef and great diving – Playa Cofresi.

Wherever you go, remember that on Sundays, accessible beaches are likely to be more crowded with locals.

But the Dominican Republic is about a lot more than just beaches.

The Capital

Santo Domingo is the country’s capital and cultural center. It features museums, parks, upscale restaurants and street food, music and nightlife.

The Colonial City is a particularly fascinating historic area.

And Malecon, the seafront promenade, is a great place for a drink at sunset at one of the many hotels, casinos, and restaurants facing the Caribbean.


Unlike some Caribbean destinations noted for their beaches, the Dominican Republic also features mountains and lush jungle.

Mount Isabel de Torres is notable for its spectacular city views and the cable car ride to the summit. There are also steep hiking trails if you’re feeling adventurous.

The Cascades of Damajagua feature a series of pools and waterfalls. The climb to the top is strenuous and you may require assistance. But the payoff is an exhilarating slide back down to the bottom.

Sportfishing is also a major pastime in the Dominican Republic, and multiple operators operate zipline adventures and canopy tours in the jungle.

Other popular activities include diving with whales, swimming with dolphins, kiteboarding, mountain biking and dune buggies.

Finally, if you really want to travel the Dominican Republic like a local, take some time to brush up on your Spanish, the national language.

And whatever you do, don’t forget to send us a postcard.


2017’s Hottest Hawaiian Real Estate Trends

2017's Hottest Hawaiian Real Estate Trends

2017’s Hottest Hawaiian Real Estate Trends

Did you know that Hawaii has the lowest real property tax in the United States?

Compared to New Jersey, the state with the highest property taxes at $4,189, Hawaii’s annual taxes on a $178,600 home is $487!The average American household spends $2,149 on property taxes for their homes annually according to the US Census Bureau.

Yet, the average American household spends $2,149 on property taxes for their homes annually, according to the US Census Bureau.

Are you now interested in real estate in Hawaii? Read on to know the hottest Hawaiian real estate trends for this year.

Read on to know the hottest Hawaiian real estate trends for this year.

2017 Real estate in Hawaii trends

1. The market is heating up

Hawaii is leading the way in terms of home sales and maturing values.

Hawaii natives are moving to new cities, upgrading or downsizing, while buyers from the mainland are moving to the island full-time or securing a seasonal vacation home.

Thanks to a more robust economy, demand is going to continue to increase. Experts believe that more people will gravitate towards the Big Island and Maui in particular.

Maui is said to be perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, as well as those looking for laid-back, family-friendly place to live.

2. Single-family home and condo sales will continue to surge

In 2016, the median sales price of single-family homes on Oahu hit a record high, reaching $760,000 in June. Meanwhile, condo sales jumped 8.4 percent to 5,449 units sold compared to 5,028 units in 2015.

On Kauai, there were 568 single-family home sales in 2016, while there was a 1 percent increase in the sales of condominiums compared to units sold in 2015.

On the Big Island, there were 2,297 single-family homes sold last year and sales of condos jumped 6.6 percent to 707 sales in 2016.

Local market experts have good reason to believe that this trend will continue to be strong for 2017.

3. Oahu luxury real estate sales are up

When it comes to real estate in Hawaii, it’s not just single-family homes and condos that are seeing strong sales.

On Oahu, a total of 35 luxury homes were sold last January 2017, which was twice the number sold in 2016. Of these, 16 luxury properties sold in the $1.5 million to $1.9 million price range, 12 were in the $2 million to $2.9 million price range, three were in the $3 million to $3.9 million price range, and four were in the $5 million and above price range.

With the number of luxury properties in escrow at the end of January, strong sales are expected to continue in the upcoming months of 2017.

4. Interest rates on mortgages are going up.

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates on mortgages by a quarter of a point last December 2016. From a low of 3.5 percent to 4.25 percent for a 30-year, fixed rate loan, mortgage rates have increased.

What does this mean? If you’re waiting to see if the prices will decrease, you may want to hurry up and lock in a low rate while you still can.

5. Downsizing or right-sizing?

In downtown Honolulu, more couples are opting for condos and selling their larger homes. Right-sizing is said to be a great option for couples whose children have grown up and flown the coop.

With the currently strong market, it’s a good time to sell. Plus, there are plenty of activities such as walking and biking in the downtown and Chinatown area, not to mention the booming food and arts scene.

Need more info on real estate in Hawaii?

We know where to look. Whether you are presently looking to snap up a hot property in Hawaii or just shopping around for something that could suit you in the future, you can count on BHHS to get you there.

Download the BHHS Hawaii Mobile App on Google Play or the Apple App Store, or go to their Contact us page to see open house properties on sale now.


A Beginner’s Guide to Using Reddit

A Beginner's Guide to Using Reddit

A Beginner’s Guide to Using Reddit

It’s been referred to as ‘the front page of the internet’, so wanting to get involved with the Reddit community is completely understandable.

But when you land on the homepage for the very first time, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. Reddit is a site with its own rules, structure, and even its own language.

If you’re keen to get in on the Reddit action, read this quick guide and learn the ropes before you plunge in.

So what is Reddit?

Reddit is a content democracy based on a system of voting. It’s a place to learn the latest news and find a sense of community.

Once you start using it, you’ll find that Reddit is a culture more than a site, which means it’ll be difficult to grasp on day one. Like turning up on the first day of school and expecting to be accepted into the clique right off the bat.

There are lots of in-jokes and community references, and although these might feel a little alienating at first, they’re the very same things that’ll make you feel like part of the family further down the line.

How does Reddit work?

These are the channels on Reddit. If you’re new, you’ll automatically be subscribed to the top subreddits, like Technology, Music, and Gaming. As you continue using Reddit, you’ll find more subreddits to subscribe to.

These are customizable groups that you can put your subreddits in. They’ll sit neatly in your side nagivation bar so you can easily get to where you want to be.

Help improve the rank of items by upvoting them. If they get enough upvotes, they’ll appear on the Reddit homepage.

If something wasn’t helpful or interesting, you can give it a downvote.

The number of upvotes and downvotes on an item will affect its overall score. The score sits between the up arrows and down arrows. The number of upvotes minus the number of downvotes gives you that item’s score.

Karma is earned as you continue to use Reddit. It’s based on how many upvotes and downvotes your posts and comments have gathered since you opened your account.

Learn the Reddit Lingo

We weren’t kidding when we said that the Redditor’s have their own language. Here’s how to crack the code:

TL;DR – Too long, didn’t read
If someone has posted a wall of text, it’s not uncommon to see this in response.

HIFW – How I feel when…
Use this in tandem with a GIF that expresses your extreme emotional reaction to any given subject.

FTFY – Fixed that for you
Typically used when someone bests or outdoes a claim made by another Redditor.

OP – Original poster
This is used when referring to the person that originally started the thread or post in question.

ITT – In this thread
Use this when you want to generalize about the community within one specific thread.

Before you post…

Don’t forget to brush up on your Reddiquette. Don’t spam and never resort to asking others to upvote your content. Each subreddit has its own rules that must be followed, so don’t forget to check these out before you post.

Feeling Reddit ready? Head on over to the site and get involved with the global discussion.


Treats Can Be Good for You! 5 Health Benefits of Frozen Yogurt

Treats Can Be Good for You! 5 Health Benefits of

Treats Can Be Good for You! 5 Health Benefits of Frozen Yogurt

If there’s one food people can agree on loving, it’s frozen yogurt.

Frozen yogurt (more affectionately known as froyo) is more than just delicious. It’s an easily customizable dessert that comes in a variety of flavors. Some people love it for its taste, but there are more that love it for its health benefits.

There’s no denying that if you’re looking for a healthy dessert that froyo beats out ice cream. But have you ever thought about why?

Once you read this post you’ll know about the variety of health benefits it has to offer.


Tired of drinking milk to get calcium? Treat yourself with some frozen yogurt!

Froyo has an average of 178 milligrams of calcium per half-cup serving, it’s clearly an excellent source of calcium.

Calcium is well known for its positive effects on bones and teeth, but it does much more than keep them strong.

Calcium intake can help reduce the growth of excess cells in the colon, which in turn could help prevent cancer. Diets high in calcium can also aid in weight loss and help prevent obesity.

Low calories

If you’re counting calories it can seem like every day is a struggle to eat within your limits.

If you have a sweet tooth you’re limited to only so many options. Luckily dessert fans can rejoice, frozen yogurt is here to save the day.

Frozen yogurt itself is a very low-calorie food, even when it’s flavored. If you’re careful with your toppings and serving size, you can have a nice low-calorie dessert if you choose to eat frozen yogurt.

Improve digestive health

Do you feel like you’re sensitive to dairy? Do you miss enjoying frozen desserts?

Frozen yogurt could be the dessert option that you’re looking for.

Frozen yogurt is full of probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for the human body, and froyo is full of the two helpful organisms Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilous.

Those two probiotics can help break down lactose and be easier on the stomachs of people with dairy sensitivities. The helpful bacteria can also help balance the amount of microflora in the gut.

If you look for frozen yogurt that has the live and active culture’s seal, you’ll have a dessert that’s great for digestive health.

Froyo has tons of protein

Cookies, cake, and other desserts may be tasty but they don’t have much nutritional content. Traditional desserts are full of sugars and carbs, but frozen yogurt is full of protein.

Protein filled snacks can help you feel more satisfied. Frozen yogurt can be the perfect snack for people that need to feel full.

There’s a lot of protein in a half cup of frozen yogurt, more than enough to justify this sweet treat every once in awhile.

Low fat

Satisfying snacks that are also low in fat can be hard to come by.

On top of all the health benefits, froyo has to offer, its low-fat content may be the best.

Ice cream can be very fattening, but frozen yogurt has almost half the fat of ice cream. If you want to make sure that you’re keeping your fat content low, you can stick to non-fat flavors.

What health benefits of frozen yogurt do you like the best? Let us know about it in the comments section!


What it Means to Take Charge of Your Life

What it Means to Take Charge of Your Life

What it Means to Take Charge of Your Life

Our modern world can be a crazy, confusing and sometimes dangerous place.

It’s easy to get swept up in the chaos. But how do we avoid it?

Having to bring home the bacon, pursue or maintain a lasting intimate relationship, keep up a healthy lifestyle, build a successful career and lead a happy, fulfilled life seems like an impossible undertaking.

Does all this make you feel out of control? A victim of circumstance? Unable to take it all on and live the life you truly desire?

Do you look at other people who seemingly have it all and wish you could figure it out for yourself?

If it does, you are not alone.

Most people live their entire lives missing out on the vast wealth of joy available to us.

We get stuck in a job that just maintains us, but doesn’t fulfill us.

We “settle” for a relationship that at best feels safe and comfortable.

We eat unhealthy, “easy” food and don’t exercise because there “isn’t time” to do it right.

But don’t lose hope! It is possible to take charge of your life and have it all!

Where We Fail

How we manage the cornucopia of stress and responsibility of daily life is key.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up and rely on bad habits and quick fixes to ease our restless minds, hearts, and bodies.

You’ve made the decision you want to eat healthier. But you had a long day at work, and it’s just easier to turn off into that drive-through and start eating healthier tomorrow. Have you done this recently?

Maybe you determined you’d do some meditation to alleviate that daily stress. But a long day of taking care of the kids leads you to just have that cocktail or two before passing out to do it again the next day. Sound familiar?

An exciting new job opportunity arises in a field you’ve been wanting to explore. But the safety and comfort of your “survival job” pays the bills. So, you decide you just aren’t prepared, it’s too risky, and let the interview slide. Are you guilty?

All of these things are just a “flinch,” a way we push our true selves down and allow life to live us, rather than live life.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Reclaim Your Power

“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask yourself if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” – Deepak Chopra

All too often we allow our habits to control us. It’s time to reclaim your personal power and make a change.

Here are a few things that you can and will discover when you reclaim your power and take charge of your life:

  • Fear is not your enemy
  • Personal responsibility is more powerful than victimhood
  • Focus on what you want, not what you think you need
  • Forgiveness, of yourself and others, will lead you to freedom
  • Nothing lasts forever

I know you have the ability to take charge of your life and reshape it into that sparkling vision of happiness you deserve.

If you are ready to take the next step, Craig Beck’s Personal Power Coaching Club is the perfect place to start.

Get on the right track and become a part of Craig Beck’s Personal Power Coaching Club now.


What is Modbus and How Can You Benefit From it

What is Modbus and How Can You Benefit From it

What is Modbus and How Can You Benefit From it

If you’re looking for an easy to use, open serial communication protocol to implement with your electronic industrial devices, then you must have stumbled upon Modbus, at least once or twice.

Curious about what it is and how you and/or your company can benefit from it? Many companies and developers have grown to love this open serial communication protocol, and use it extensively in programming the electronic industrial devices they work on.

Let’s take a look at what Modbus is, and how you can benefit from it.

What exactly is Modbus?

Modbus was developed in 1979 by Modicon, the company behind the first programmable logic controller. In tech terms, it is a serial communication protocol.

In other words, Modbus is a way for electronic industrial devices communicate with each other. It allows information to be transmitted over serial lines between electronic devices. Devices can request information, as well as supply it.

Devices that request information using Modbus are called Modbus Masters, while those that supply information using Modbus are called Modbus Slaves. Modbus Masters can even write information to the Modbus Slaves.

It should be noted that there can only be one Master per Modbus network, but there can be up to 247 Slaves. Each Slave has their own unique address.

How much does Modbus cost and how is it used?

When Modbus was created, it was released to the public, making it an open protocol. This means that companies and developers are allowed to implement it within their networks and build into their equipment without paying royalties.

This fact has made Modbus the most commonly used way electronic industrial devices are connected. Regardless of the industry, your organization is in, Modbus can be used to help automate network communication.

There are also various versions available of Modbus that are used to address specific needs an organization. For example, Modbus TCP is used for Ethernet, and Modbus RTU and Modbus ASCII for serial lines.

How can Modbus help my company?

Modbus is great for any company within the manufacturing industry – regardless of what you manufacture. Your organization can benefit from Modbus, because it allows quick and efficient communication between devices in a network.

A scenario in which Modbus could be used is in transmitting signals from instruments and/or control devices and sending them back to a main control device.

A practical application of this would be an electronic industrial system that measures air pressure and transmits them back to a computer for analysis. Another way that it can be used is connecting a supervisory system to remote terminal units in a supervisory control and data acquisition system.

If your company has a real need for data collection and transmission to a main computer, or if it actively uses a supervisory control and data acquisition system then Modbus is definitely a serial transmission protocol worth exploring.

Those two scenarios are just a fraction of the possibilities that exist when Modbus is used in your company’s network. With Modbus, the possibilities for innovation and simplification are endless.


The Best Ways to Manage Your Cloud Storage

The Best Ways to Manage Your Cloud Storage

The Best Ways to Manage Your Cloud Storage

Have you been using cloud storage in your organization?

The cloud is a great tool and has been valuable for everyone utilizing it, especially businesses and IT professionals. But those pesky “storage full” messages aren’t so fun.

What can you do about it?

You could pay for more storage… again? Or be forced to organize and manage your data in different cloud sources? But whose job is it to keep track of all of that?

Those aren’t ideal solutions.

In this article, you’re going to learn the best ways to manage your cloud storage in a way that won’t make you want to pull your hair out.

How to Manage Your Cloud Storage

First, you need to get on cloud storage if you don’t already use it. You can even just start out with simple apps like Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. These are very easy to get going.

Using cloud storage will ensure your valuable documents and files aren’t lost forever if something unusual should happen… like your hard drive crashes.

Let’s be realistic here, your hard drive will eventually crash and it always happens when you least expected it or when you were just about to finally switch over to that cloud storage space.

Once you’re using cloud storage it is helpful to make sure you don’t have any duplicate files or unnecessary documents taking up space.

You just need to log into the storage application and clean up in there a bit. Again, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive are easy to navigate.

Maybe you’ve got storage in a few different places and you need a way to organize it all in once space.

Or you need a system to ensure your data is totally safe. Or you really need a good way to enable multiple devices to access the information in your cloud and for multiple employees to access it anytime they need it.

Hybrid cloud storage could help with this.

What is Hybrid Cloud Storage?

Hybrid cloud storage combines all the good reasons to have your documents stored in the cloud while attempting to combat with its shortcomings, like security or latency.

It puts all of your cloud storage into one place so you can easily manage and organize it. There are many options out there.

Finding the Right Management System

Are your documents stored out all over the place, still needing once central home where you know they are safe, organized, and accessible?

Maybe you’re using a storage management system that just isn’t working out for your needs?

Try HubStor, the cloud management system IT leaders choose and trust.

With HubStor you will see a dramatic reduction in storage and backup costs with our tiering, deduplication, and compression systems.

Compared to on-premises storage, our customers spent 76 – 87% less in storage costs.

You can egress and recover your data from our service at any time, we put you in complete control.

And you only pay for what you use.

No contracts. No cancellation fees. Zero lock-ins.

Click here to learn more about Hubstor.


The First Step to the Rest of Your Life: Choosing the Right Learnership

The First Step to the Rest of Your Life: Choosing

The First Step to the Rest of Your Life: Choosing the Right Learnership

Tired of unemployment? Sick of taking whatever job you can get? Ready to start making your own decisions to control your future?

Like many people, picking the right career for you is no easy task. But we have something that can help.

You might have heard about learnership programs but wondered if it’s right for you.

A learnership is a work-based program where you can study and train for the job you want while gaining valuable on-the-job experience.

Most people find that practicing the work they are learning at the same time is the best way to gain new skills.

Learnership programs are great for anyone interested in securing their future and getting the job of their dreams. Read on to learn how to choose the right learnership program for you.

Choosing the Right Learnership

What’s going to be the right career for you? What’s going to make you happy for many years to come?

The answer is different for everybody.

Check out the available learnerships for 2017.

These are a few things you can do to help you figure out what the best career and learnership will be for you.

Learn More About Yourself

If you don’t already know what kind of industry you’re interested in working in, this is a great first step.

Even if you have a degree, taking the time to learn your strengths and work preferences is helpful.

The goal in any career is to enjoy it as much as possible for as long as possible.

A common way to learn about yourself and your career and workplace preferences it to take online self-assessments.

There are tons of free online assessments you can use and many go into very detailed information. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Another great way to find out what work your personality fits best with is to hire a career development professional.

Hiring a professional can be expensive but sometimes your public library will offer career planning services for free. So make sure and look into all possible resources.

Research Your Industries

Once you have gained some good information on your personality and preferences, you should be able to build a list of ideal industries and maybe even positions that would work for you.

Take that list and start researching. You can make pros and cons lists for each position you are interested in and try to whittle down your list to a few of your top choices.

Once you’re working in an industry, you’ll most likely need to be constantly learning about it and staying up to date on changes and new technologies.

Deciding which industries in your list are interesting enough to you that you wouldn’t mind constantly learning about them is a good idea.

Find a Mentor

Now that you have an idea for what industries you think you’d be happy working in, you can find a mentor already working in your ideal job. You can find someone through social media or industry-specific networking sites.

Building a relationship with a mentor in your desired industry and interviewing them is a great way to gain a personal view of what your daily work will be like.

And as you get to know this person better, they might be able to tell whether or not you would enjoy the work they do.

These are just a few easy steps to choosing the right learnership for you. The best step you can take in changing your life is to jump right in and start working.


Are Nitrates In Your Food Bad For You?

Are Nitrates In Your Food Bad For You?

Are Nitrates In Your Food Bad For You?

It seems like every week there’s a new food issue people are concerned about. One minute experts are warning people about high fructose corn syrup, and the next they’re talking about the dangers of fat in food.

Recently more people have been worried about nitrates in food. Some people may think that concern over nitrates in food is relatively recent, but debates over its presence in consumables have been around since the 1970’s.  

Before you can understand the recent nitrate controversy, you need to take a quick science lesson.  

The difference between nitrites and nitrates.

Some people use the words nitrites and nitrates interchangeably, but they’re both different compounds. 

Both nitrites and nitrates are naturally occurring inorganic compounds made up of nitrogen and oxygen. The key difference is that nitrates have three oxygen molecules, and nitrites only have two.  

Nitrates are so common that they’re naturally found in soil, water, and air. They’re also incredibly versatile compounds.

Nitrates are used in a variety of foods.  They can be used for coloring food, and are widely used for preserving cured meats and dairy products.  

They’re also used for industrial purposes. You can find nitrates in explosives, fertilizer, and even some kinds of glass enamels. 

It isn’t very uncommon for certain compounds to be used for human consumption and industrial purposes.  But there’s something about nitrates and nitrites that make them dangerous.

A volatile reaction

Nitrates don’t pose much of a health risk to animals, it’s when they’re converted into nitrites that things change.

Nitrates are stable compounds, nitrites aren’t.  Once nitrates are converted into nitrites, it can turn into nitric oxide or nitrosamine. Both forms of nitrites have carcinogenic properties and are linked to a variety of other health problems.  

Nitrosamines only form in a specific environment, they must be near amino acids and in high heat.  Unfortunately, many popular cured meats are cooked under these conditions.

Since nitrates in food are such a controversial topic, some people may wonder how something that could be dangerous to humans is safely processed.

If you want to understand the rampant use of nitrates in food, you need to think about one of America’s most popular treats.  

Consider the hot dog

Like many nitrate-heavy foods, hot dogs are a quintessentially American food. They’re very popular, simple to prepare, and inexpensive to manufacture and buy.  You’ll find them at nearly every sporting event or BBQ, and cut up on nearly every child’s plate.

Despite the hot dog’s popularity, it is one of the worst foods you can put into your body.

If you want an example of an unhealthy level of nitrates in food, look no further than the hot dog.

Nitrates are an important part of the average hot dog.  Unlike some meats, it’s very difficult to process them without the use of nitrates.

There’s nothing wrong with the hot dogs themselves.  After all, it’s just meat and bread.  

The real problem is the way that they’re processed with nitrates.

Nitrates allow the hot dog meat to keep its pink color and prevent it from spoiling too fast. Without nitrates, it wouldn’t be possible to process and ship them the way our society does.

Nitrates in food is the new normal

Nitrates have become an essential part of the preservation process, and effect most meats they way they do hot dogs. Nitrates are also incredibly cheap. Using them is the easiest way to keep up with meat demand in the country.  

Almost every kind of meat you eat, regardless of if it’s cured, has been treated with nitrates.  If nitrates were only in one kind of food it would be simple, but they’re in nearly everything.

High levels of nitrates can be found in popular fruits and vegetables.  Naturally occurring nitrates in vegetables aren’t cause for concern, but synthetic nitrates are.  

Nitrates are popular additives in fertilizers. Fruits and vegetables that are grown in nitrate-heavy soil can easily pick up excess compounds.  

Nitrates are so present in food that some companies rely on using other additives to counteract their harmful effects.

Many people don’t know this, but hot dogs are processed with vitamin C (although most companies will list it as ascorbic acid on their labels) as a way to counteract the powerful nitrates.

It may be comforting to some that companies try to mitigate the damage nitrate loaded food can cause.  But others that are concerned about their health are going to want to cut as many nitrate-heavy foods out of their diet as possible.

If you’re ready to change the way you eat and live a healthier life, make sure you follow these tips.

Cut down on meat

Meat has earned a very prominent place in the American diet and it has very staunch defenders.  Some people can’t imagine cutting down on meat, but if they’re concerned about nitrates in food they’ll have to learn how to live without it.

There’s no denying that there is a link between certain cancers and meat consumption.  

In 2015 22 scientists in 10 countries published a report that linked red and processed meat to cancer.  Many scientists believe that meat’s cancer causing properties come from the way it’s processed and preserved.  

That study may be worrisome, but nobody is saying that meat is inherently bad. Lean meat can be very high in protein, and red meat can give you essential B-vitamins.

The real problem is the amount of meat most people eat.

A report by the World Health Organization found that the average American will eat 270.7 pounds of meat every year. That means that some Americans are almost eating their weight in meat annually.

If you can’t bear the thought of completely cutting meat out of your diet, you don’t have to.  Meat doesn’t have to be the entree, it doesn’t even have to make an appearance on your plate.  

You can get all of the vitamins and minerals you need with fruits, vegetables, grain, and dairy.  

Read labels (carefully)

People that want to avoid nitrates in food should become avid label readers when they’re shopping.

Today most companies aren’t simply going to list “nitrate” as an ingredient. There are plenty of “industry” terms they can use to make products look more appealing to health-conscious consumers.

If you pick up something and see “potassium nitrate” or “sodium nitrate” on the label, set it back down.  

Also be sure to pay close attention to the nitrate’s position on the label. If it’s one of the first few ingredients, that food has more nitrate than you want to eat.

Eat organic 

We’ve already talked about how some food manufacturers will label foods to downplay their amount of nitrite. 

If you want to play it very safe, you should consider only buying organic products. Organic foods can’t be produced with synthetic nitrates and nitrites, which could significantly cut down on health risks from the compound.

It’s also important to note that if you’re concerned about nitrates in food that you should be weary of the “natural” label.

Natural foods are nothing more than an advertising ploy.  Many natural foods can be loaded with harmful chemicals and additives. USDA certified organic foods need to meet strict standards, and you won’t find “creative” labels that downplay the presence of harmful ingredients. 

Load up on antioxidants 

Sometimes nitrates in food are unavoidable.  You may have to occasionally eat nitrates, but there is something you can do that can help fight against its harmful effects.

We mentioned before that antioxidants like vitamin C can help lessen the dangerous effects of broken down nitrates.  

Eat foods that are rich in antioxidants if you want to avoid the harmful effects of nitrates in food.  Antioxidants can help keep nitrates from breaking down into nitrides and other dangerous compounds.  Antioxidants also have a variety of other health benefits.

Go beyond food

If you’re worried about how nitrates in food can affect your health, you should be concerned about them in other parts of your life.

We mentioned before that nitrates can be found in nature and in industrial products.  Since nitrates are popular preservatives, some cosmetics companies will use them in make-up, lotions, and skin care products.

Because of its wide use in fertilizers, nitrates are being found in a surprising amount of local water reservoirs.  The water you use to bathe and cook could be loaded with dangerous nitrates.

If you want to ensure that you aren’t bombarded with nitrates, take action. A water filter answers the question of how you can keep your water clean.  They can remove harmful nitrates and make it safe to drink and use.  

Read cosmetics labels carefully, and consider using organic products.

No doubt about it 

As far as most scientists are concerned the debate over nitrates is over.  There’s an undeniable link between nitrate-heavy foods and cancer, people that want to lead healthy lifestyles should avoid them as much as possible.

Nitrates aren’t the only dangerous additives in foods.  People are concerned about artificial colors, phosphates, and other chemical compounds.  

Tell us about what you do to avoid harmful additives and eat clean and stay healthy.


Take Security into Your Own Hands and get a HIPAA Risk Assessment

Take Security into Your Own Hands and get a HIPAA

Take Security into Your Own Hands and get a HIPAA Risk Assessment

If your organization handles protected health information, or PHI, The Department of Health and Human Services requires you to conduct a risk analysis as the first step toward implementing safeguards specified in the HIPAA Security Rule, and ultimately achieving HIPAA compliance.

This includes all HIPAA hosting providers.

But what does a risk analysis entail exactly? And what must absolutely be included in your report?

The Health and Human Services Security Standards Guide outlines nine mandatory components of a risk analysis.

Conducting a thorough HIPAA risk assessment is extremely difficult to do yourself, though. You may well want to contract with a HIPAA auditor to help you.

Most people simply don’t know where to look, or they end up bypassing things because they don’t understand data security.

If the risk analysis is foundational to your security, then you don’t want to overlook key elements in the analysis.

There are nine components that healthcare organizations and healthcare-related organizations that store or transmit electronic protected health information must include in their document:

1. Scope of the Analysis

To identify your scope – in other words, the areas of your organization you need to secure – you have to understand how patient data flows within your organization.

This includes all electronic media your organization uses to create, receive, maintain or transmit ePHI – portable media, desktops and networks.

There are four main parts to consider when defining your scope.

  • Where PHI starts or enters your environment.
  • What happens to it once it’s in your system.
  • Where PHI leaves your entity.
  • Where the potential or existing leaks are.

2. Data Collection

Below is a list of places to get you started in the documentation of where PHI enters your environment.

  • Email: How many computers do you use, and who can log on to each of them?
  • Texts: How many mobile devices are there, and who owns them?
  • EHR entries: How many staff members are entering in data?
  • Faxes: How many fax machines do you have?
  • USPS: How is incoming mail handled?
  • New patient papers: How many papers are patients required to fill out? Do they do this at the front desk? Examination room? Somewhere else?
  • Business associate communications: How do business associates communicate with you?
  • Databases: Do you receive marketing databases of potential patients to contact?

It’s not enough to know only where PHI begins. You also need to know where it goes once it enters your environment.

To fully understand what happens to PHI in your environment, you have to record all hardware, software, devices, systems, and data storage locations that touch PHI in any way.

And then what happens when PHI leaves your hands? It is your job to ensure that it is transmitted or destroyed in the most secure way possible.

Once you know all the places where PHI is housed, transmitted, and stored, you’ll be better able to safeguard those vulnerable places.

Identify and Document Potential Vulnerabilities and Threats

Once you know what happens during the PHI lifecycle, it’s time to look for the gaps. These gaps create an environment for unsecured PHI to leak in or outside your environment.

The best way to find all possible leaks is to create a PHI flow diagram that documents all the information you found above and lays it out in a graphical format.

Looking at a diagram makes it easier to understand PHI trails and to identify and document anticipated vulnerabilities and threats.

A vulnerability is a flaw in components, procedures, design, implementation, or internal controls. Vulnerabilities can be fixed.

Some examples of vulnerabilities:

  • Website coded incorrectly
  • No office security policies
  • Computer screens in view of public patient waiting areas

A threat is the potential for a person or thing to trigger a vulnerability. Most threats remain out of your control to change, but they must be identified in order to assess the risk.

Some examples of threats:

  • Geological threats, such as landslides, earthquakes, and floods
  • Hackers downloading malware onto a system
  • Actions of workforce members or business associates

Again, even if you’re above-average in terms of compliance, you may only have a minimal understanding of vulnerabilities and threats. It’s crucial to ask a professional for help with your HIPAA risk assessment.

Assess Current Security Measures

Ask yourself what kind of security measures you’re taking to protect your data.

From a technical perspective, this might include any encryption, two-factor authentication, and other security methods put in place by your HIPAA hosting provider.

Since you now understand how PHI flows in your organization, and can better understand your scope. With that understanding, you can identify the vulnerabilities, the likelihood of threat occurrence and the risk.

Determine the Likelihood of Threat Occurrence

Just because there is a threat doesn’t mean it will have an impact on you.

For example, an organization in Florida and an organization in New York technically could both be hit by a hurricane. However, the likelihood of a hurricane hitting Florida is a lot higher than New York. So, the Florida-based organization’s tornado risk level will be a lot higher than the New York-based organization.

Determine the Potential Impact of Threat Occurrence

What effect would a particular risk you are analyzing have on your organization?

For example, while a patient in the waiting room might accidentally see PHI on a computer screen, it more than likely won’t have nearly the impact that a hacker attacking your unsecured Wi-Fi and stealing all your patient data would.

By using either qualitative or quantitative methods, you will need to assess the maximum impact of a data threat to your organization.

Determine the Level of Risk

Risks are the probability that a particular threat will exercise a particular vulnerabilit and the resulting impact on your organization.

According to the HHS, “risk is not a single factor or event, but rather it is a combination of factors or events (threats and vulnerabilities) that, if they occur, may have an adverse impact on the organization.”

So let’s break down the whole vulnerability, threat and risk connection. Here’s an example:

Let’s say that your system allows weak passwords. The vulnerability is the fact that a weak password is vulnerable to attack. The threat then is that a hacker could easily crack that weak password and break into the system. The risk would be the unprotected PHI in your system.

All risks should be assigned a level and accompanied by a list of corrective actions that would be performed to mitigate risk.

Finalize Documentation

Armed with the prioritized list of all your security problems, it’s time to start mitigating them. Starting with the top-ranked risks first, identify the security measure that fixes those issues.

Write everything up in an organized document. There is no specific format required, but the HHS does require the analysis in writing.

Technically, once you’ve documented all the steps you’ll take, you’re done with the risk analysis.

Periodic Review and Updates to the Risk Assessment

It’s important to remember that the risk analysis process is never truly done since it’s ongoing.

One requirement includes conducting a risk analysis on a regular basis. And while the Security Rule doesn’t set a required timeline, you’ll want to conduct another risk analysis whenever your company implements or plans to adopt new technology or business operations.

The bottom line is – a risk analysis is foundational to your security. You simply can’t be HIPAA compliant without one. If you have any tips you’d like to share, we’re all ears.