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Posts Tagged ‘Healthy Weight’

Healthy Holidays – Easy Tips For Mindful Eating

As the holidays ramp up we’re just moments away from the dreaded/delicious culinary decadence vortex: a busy calendar means more wine or cocktails at social and work gatherings, overindulging in brunches, lunches and dinners with family and friends. Pies, cakes, holiday cookies, gravy, roasts, and a cornucopia of veggie and grain side dishes each more incredible than the next, and all too wonderful to pass up.

I might have put on five pounds just writing that paragraph!

It’s the same cycle every year, and changing recipes to “low fat” versions of everything is just as ridiculous as trying to play hermit and hideout fasting until the whirlwind is over. Worse yet would be to enjoy everything in the moment, only to wallow in guilt and remorse later.

 

So what are we to do?

 

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Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has some advice, in the form of a small, simple and highly practical book aptly titled HOW TO EAT.

Bringing our mindfulness practice to our dining table (or office party or family gathering) is a powerful tool for not only truly enjoying the abundance of the season, but also staying balanced nutritionally and where weight is concerned. The simple tips shared in the book encourage “a joyful and sustainable relationship with all aspects of eating.” Meaning we can absolutely say yes to dessert, just so long as we pledge to actually enjoy it. This means, slowing down, tuning in, chewing and actually savoring each bite before we load the fork up for our next mouthful.

Scientific research is now revealing the effect of mindful eating on obesity and binge eating disorders. The results of this practice include not just enjoying each bite more, but supporting healthy digestion and cultivating an awareness of your levels of satiation – all of which also leads to portion control and maintaining a balanced weight. Simply by using the power of your attention.

 

You can click here for a little “taste” of the book, and also to purchase. The book also makes a sweet stocking suffer or hostess present – the type of gift that keeps on giving.

I recommend getting the book and savoring each usable piece of advice. And in the meantime, here are some simple tips:

 

Mindful eating is a before ~ during ~ & after process.
A process of tuning in.

 

Before, we can tune into the efforts of the chefs or bartenders, the efforts of the farmers and grocers and bakers who contributed their energies into the forthcoming morsel. The efforts of the soil and sun and water that all conspired to facilitate your nourishment. If we’re cooking we can make the kitchen into a meditation room, cook without rushing and cook with love. We can thoughtfully set the table, supporting enjoyment for all those who will sit at it.

 

During we can chew and enjoy, tuning into the dance of flavors and activating our healthy digestive process at the same time. According to Thich Nhat Hanh we can let ourselves pay attention to two things: “the food that we’re eating and the friends who are sitting around us and eating with us. This is called mindfulness of food and mindfulness of community… true community building.” The good news is our powerful multi-tasking brains can listen to what’s being said around the table while also tuning into what’s happening on our plate, on our fork and in our mouth. Give it a try and I’m sure you’ll find you’re able to enjoy what you’re eating even as you listen to your tipsy cousin recount an embarrassing story for the third year in a row. We can sit down – turn off the radio or TV – and tune into our body’s signals. This will help us feel when we’ve had enough.

 

After a meal we can once again remember gratitude, and allow the body to be nourished by the nutrients in the food and the energy of our company. We can take some time to “rest and digest” so our systems can properly absorb and assimilate what’s just happened, before rushing to our next meal or engagement and overly taxing the system. We can even think of the act of doing the dishes as a meditation, a pause for digestion and appreciation.

 

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Bringing mindfulness into the decadent deliciousness of holiday season is a way to keep your yoga practice going “off the mat” and truly continue to live a yogic lifestyle.

 

 

 

Summer Shape Up

 

Recently we were asked by Hamptons Magazine to share our top tips for getting in shape for Summer. They picked just one, but we want to share all 4 with you! While it may seem like beach time is months away, NOW is the time to start working towards that bikini bod.

 

Have fun & let us know how it’s going by sharing your process and progress on our IG or FB!


1. BE FIERCE!

Top yoga asana for getting in shape fast? Warrior III. Every… singe…. day. This powerful standing posture tones legs and hips, strengthens core, works the arms, and it’s even a fat-blasting cardio-vascular challenge! Practice this total-body workout 3x on each side, holding first for 30 seconds each (about 5 long breath cycles) and working up to 60 or 90 seconds.

 

2. BELLY BLAST, FAST!

Our core muscles respond to increased attention and activity faster than any other muscle group. Even just a 10-minute routine done 5 days a week will get noticeable results, fast! Plus, hit the mat a few minutes early and do a little core work (crunches, sit ups, Boat pulses, etc.) before your regular yoga practice — your abs will be activated and firing for the rest of class in a more efficient and more effective way.

 

3. SEASONAL RIGHT NUTRITION

Besides boosting workouts to burn off any extra winter weight, let your diet help shed excess from the inside. Add bitter leafy greens like arugula, baby spinach and dandelion tea to your menu to fire up liver function, which aids in detoxification and metabolization of fats. Plus – bitter greens have been shown to reduce cravings for unhealthy foods! Add either a green salad or a green juice to your menu every day.

 

4. GO WITH THE FLOW

Between the sluggish hibernation of Winter and the body-baring days of Summer, there’s a very helpful season called Spring. In Eastern traditions, Spring is the season of “Get Up And Go!” — plants are sprouting, birds and bees are busy, and it’s the perfect time to rev back up. Spring is a time to introduce more movement, whether it’s a flowing vinyasa class, long walks, runs, biking or spinning, focus on moving rather than just muscle building and let the natural energy of the season support your fitness goals.

 

A Heart-Opener You Can Eat

If you need convincing that chocolate, or, more specifically, cacao, which is chocolate in its purest state, is good for you, read our post on its physical and emotional benefits. And if you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day appropriate way to enjoy cacao on your own or with someone you love, here’s a recipe proven to warm hearts.

Cacao + Sea Salt Brownies

 

You need:

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut oil, firm, not liquid
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (or flour of choice)
  • good flaky salt to taste (I use Maldon)

Preheat the oven to 325°. Combine the coconut oil, maple syrup, cacao, and salt in a double broiler. Stir until shiny and free of clumps.

Remove from the heat and let cool a little. You should be able to comfortably dip your finger into the mixture. Add the vanilla and gently beat the eggs in one at a time. Stir in the flour.

Pour into an 8 x 8″ baking dish, either with parchment paper lining the bottom and sides, or coconut oil coating the dish.

Salt!

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Photos: Alison Baenen

The Benefits of Cacao

Cacao. Cocoa. Chocolate. All the same? Nope. Here’s the breakdown:

Cacao

The Theobroma Cacao tree grows pods that contain cacao beans. Chopped up, these beans become cacao nibs, a nutty, crunchy superfood you may have baked with or added to your smoothie.

Raw cacao powder is the unprocessed byproduct of cold-pressed, un-roasted cocoa beans. Pressing the beans removes the fat, which we know as cacao butter. Cacao is high in antioxidants and flavanols—good-for-us phytonutrients that are particularly abundant in cacao beans.

Cocoa

Natural cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted. Dutch-processed cocoa powder is cocoa powder that has been processed with an alkalized solution, making it less bitter, darker in color, and richer in taste.

While regular cocoa powder is closer to cacao than the Dutch-processed variety, both forms of cocoa have been processed and treated, ultimately stripping them of some nutritional goodness.

Unsweetened Chocolate

Like cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate comes from ground cacao beans, but unlike cocoa powder the cocoa butter hasn’t been removed.

Chocolate

The product that we think of as chocolate—in a heart-shaped box or pressed between a Graham Cracker and a marshmallow—is unsweetened chocolate (the kind that still has cacao butter in it) that’s been dressed up with sugar, milk fat and an emulsifier like soy lecithin.

The take-away: Not everything in your baking aisle is created equal. Raw cacao outranks all of its more highly processed cousins in health benefits and has the added distinction of being more traceable as a pure product–that means it’s easier to shop for and find fairly-traded, sustainably grown, pesticide-free, straight-from-the-source, single origin cacao than it is to find a truly vetted chocolate bar.

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Ashley Alexander’s cacao, banana and blueberry smoothie bowl topped with cacao nibs

Benefits of Raw Organic Cacao

Super High in Antioxidants and Iron 

On the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale, an NIH-developed chart that measures the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals, cacao is at the very top of the list. It has over four times the amount of antioxidants as goji berries, another top-performing superfood, and more than 40 times the amount found in blueberries. As a plant-based source of iron, cacao is also chart-topping. As a non-heme iron (one that doesn’t come from meat), cacao’s minerals are best absorbed when combined with a diet high in Vitamin C.

Rich in Magnesium 

When it comes to deficiency, Westerners are sorely lacking in magnesium, a mineral that’s key in keeping hearts healthy by regulating blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar levels. Magnesium also helps transform glucose into energy, providing clarity and focus while maintaining nerve function and keeping muscles relaxed and stress at a minimum. If you suffer from period-related mood swings or irritability, try increasing the amount of magnesium in your diet, which fluctuates throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. There’s truth to that monthly chocolate craving.

Calcium-Rich 

More calcium than a glass of milk.

Makes You Happy

Chocolate bliss. Cacao is high in chemicals that make you happy: serotonin, dopamine, anandamide and phenylethylamine. Neurotransmitters associated with happiness, relaxation and desire, these brain stimulators may even help to ease the symptoms of depression and lighten up dark days.

Photos: Cacao powder and beans; smoothie bowl by Ashley Alexander @gatherandfeast on thefeedfeed.com

Sugar Smarts

Back around Halloween we explored the effects of sugar on the body. In light of our most recent holiday, New Years—a time when many of us resolve to shift our diets or eat more mindfully—we’re picking the conversation back up.

While eating foods high in refined sucrose can wreak havoc with our blood sugar levels and cause foginess, anxiety and headaches, it can also lead to an overgrowth of candida.

Candida is a fungus found in trace amounts in the mouth and intestines that breaks down food and absorbs nutrients. All good.

But, when overproduced, candida can cause a system imbalance. It breaks down our intenstinal wall, enters our bloodstream and floods our system with toxins. This candida overgrowth can cause depression, digestive troubles, and leaky gut syndrome. Not so good.

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Common symptoms of candida

  • Indigestion: bloating, constipation or diarrhea
  • General fatigue and feelings of being worn down
  • Chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
  • Moodiness: irritability, anxiety or depression
  • Skin issues: eczema, psoriasis, hives, or rashes
  • Fungal infections like athlete’s foot or toenail fungus
  • Brain fog: anything from lack of focus and difficulty concentrating to ADD and ADHD
  • Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
  • UTIs or vaginal itching
  • Strong seasonal allergies or itchy ears
  • Autoimmune diseases: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, psoriasis, scleroderma or multiple sclerosis

What to do if you have it

Yeast feeds off sugar, so the first step is removing all sugars from your diet: Sweets, alcohol, flour, fruit, honey, maple syrup, dates, etc. Next, limit your intake of complex carbohydrates, like pasta and grains, as much as possible—no more than one cup a day.

With nothing to sustain it, the candida yeast will eventually die out. It’s a slow process that can take several months, so if you think you have candida overgrowth, see a functional medicine doctor for a blood or stool test to check your candida antibody levels and come up with a treatment plan.

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Maple sugar shack

The next step will be to heal the gut, a course that will likely mean taking probiotics on the regular (an excellent practice for everyone), avoiding inflammatory foods (like wheat, dairy, sugar, and booze), and limiting your intake of fermented foods, which provide fodder for both good and bad bacteria.

While candida overgrowth is an extreme example of what can happen to someone with a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar (heavy alcohol consumption, oral contraceptives, a high-stress life and a medical condition that requires taking antibiotics are other culprits), we may all experience spikes in our sugar intake and subsequent periods of bloating, fogginess, and mood swings. When that happens, look to your diet and see what can shift.

Photos: Candida yeast by Denni Bakardji 

Miso Tahini Chickpea Stew

I came across this recipe last winter through one of my favorite Instgram follows, Andrea Bemis of Dishing Up the Dirt, a farmer and foodie in the Pacific Northwest whose feed is full of her fresh-from-the-earth produce and enticing recipes in which to use them. After making this soup once I quickly elevated it to “regular” status and enjoyed it often through early spring.

What I especially like about Bemis’ cooking style is her focus on keeping it intuitive. This recipe calls for turnips and sweet potatoes, but it can easily be made with any root vegetables you favor or have on hand. White or purple potatoes, parsnips, beets and carrots would all work just as well. As with any soup and stew, this one is great to double or triple and freeze. Enjoy!

Miso Tahini Chickpea Stew

 

  • PREP TIME
    15 minutes
  • COOK TIME
    25 minutes
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 medium sized sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 medium sized turnip, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup chickpea miso (or white miso)
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 1 (14 ounce) can chickpeas, drained
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  • Minced cilantro for serving
  • toasted sesame seeds for serving
  • tiny dash of Sriracha for serving (optional)

Serves 4

  1. Combine the 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce heat to low and cook until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid and can easily be fluffed with a fork. About 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large dutch oven or soup pot add the chopped veggies, grated ginger and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Pour about 1/2 a cup of the hot water into a bowl and stir in the miso and tahini (this prevents clumping and helps thin out the mixture a bit). Add the thinned miso/tahini mixture to the soup. Taste the broth and adjust seasonings as needed. Add the chickpeas and spinach and stir until everything is well combined and the spinach wilts a bit.
  3. To serve place a generous scoop of the cooked quinoa into each bowl and top with the stew. Add a few healthy pinches of toasted sesame seeds, cilantro and a tiny dash of Sriracha sauce if desired.

Visit Dishing up the Dirt for more recipes and images of farm life. If you’re a fan of this recipe, keep your eyes open for Bemis’ first cookbook, due March 2017.

Images and recipe from Dishing up the Dirt

Candy Crush

A few weeks ago an article on sugar industry inter-dealings that took place half a century ago made national news. According to the piece, the Sugar Research Foundation funded studies in the 1960s that downplayed the maleffects of sugar and its link to poor coronary health and positioned fat as Public Health Enemy #1. The project concluded that cutting fat from the American diet was the best way to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Enter the low-fat and no fat craze of the past decades, a time when bold-printed claims on the front of packaged food became more important than the list of ingredients on the back. Whole milk, red meat, cheese, oils and butter were positioned as devious culprits, while fat-free, processed foods claimed health food status.

It’s a prevailing belief. The trendy Atkins diet shifted the blame to carbohydrates in the nineties, but the idea of fat as a health food will still sound far-fetched to most. And Americans’ sugar consumption? You don’t need a whistleblower to know it’s through the roof.

So what’s the story with sugar? Earlier this year we wrote about food cravings and how to understand them. Sugar, in short, makes us feel good, provides us with a burst of energy, and, ironically, actually helps us hold on to fat — an energy reserve for later use (good for hunter-gatherers, less important for driver-microwavers).

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But, what is it exactly?

Sugars have several names that all end in –ose. Fructose and glucose are naturally occurring carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables and honey. Lactose is a milk sugar.

What we think of when we picture sugar in the baking aisle or next to the cream for our coffee is refined sucrose. Unrefined sucrose is found in the roots of sugar beets and in the stems of sugar cane. To make table sugar those plants are harvested, processed and refined (a process that usually involves bleaching and crystallization), ultimately stripping them of minerals or nutrients. By the time it reaches your coffee cup it’s just pure, refined sugar.

What does it do in the body?

One of two things. Depending on the efficiency of your fat-burning cells, your body will either use the sugar as energy (fast metabolism) or convert it to fat and store it (slow metabolism).

Either way, when sugar enters the blood stream, the pancreas detects it, recognizes it as potentially problematic, and releases insulin to deal with it, primarily by sending it to the liver and muscles to use as fuel.

The more sugar we consume the more insulin we produce. And if we flood the body with sugar, like on a Halloween candy binge, the body may produce too much insulin in an attempt to get the balance right. All that insulin moves the sugar out of our bloodstream, causing our blood sugar levels to drop, triggering hypoglycemia, a sugar crash, which can feel like this:

  • Shakiness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating and chills
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hunger and nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred/impaired vision
  • Tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue
  • Headaches
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Anger, stubbornness or sadness
  • Lack of coordination

And how does the body respond to being in such a state? By asking for more sugar to right the balance, setting the whole process in motion again.

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It’s not an impossible cycle to break, but it does take effort, information and discipline. For starters, the more we can decrease our intake of added sugars, the better. To get an idea of how much sugar is in your diet already, check out sugarstacks.com, a visual aid that stacks foods against sugar cubes.

We’ll take a look at naturally-occurring sugars, like the ones found in sweet fruits, in an upcoming post on candida overgrowth — an excess of sugar-fueled yeast that can disrupt the gut and compromise the immune system — and geek out on the Glycemic Index.

Until then, binge wisely.

 

Photos: Top illustration; Clare Crespo’s candy mandala; doughnut

Simple Summer Salad

Early summer meals are the best. The farmer’s markets are stocked with late-spring finds like ramps, garlic scapes and asparagus alongside summer sweets like the season’s first tomatoes, fresh basil and tiny, tart strawberries. Summer cooking can be as simple as assembling — picking up a few fresh items you like and arranging them on a plate or tossing them together in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt and a nice glug of olive oil.

The recipe for this shaved asparagus salad is in the same vein. The flavors are bright and refreshing. The avocado and chickpeas are full of protein, while the lemon in the dressing is a natural detoxifier.

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As for asparagus, here’s the 101:

  • Great source of fiber and folate
  • Full of vitamins A, C, E and K
  • Rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and free radicals
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Helps regulate blood sugar

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Golden Roasted Chickpeas, Avocado and a Lemon-Miso Dressing 

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 cup or 1 can of chickpeas (if using dried, be sure to soak overnight)
  • 1 avocado
  • fresh lemon juice
  • turmeric
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • olive oil
  • miso paste (Miso Master makes a great chickpea-based variety if you are avoiding soy)
  • maple syrup or honey

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Toss with olive oil, salt and turmeric. Roast at 400° for 30-40 minutes until the chickpeas are firm but still fork-friendly.

Use a mandolin or a vegetable peeler to thinly slice or shave the asparagus. If this is too finicky, simply slice the asparagus very thinly with a knife.

For the dressing, combine lemon juice, olive oil, a dash of miso and a little bit of maple syrup or honey to taste. Use water to thin the dressing out if necessary.

Toss the asparagus in the dressing. Top with the roasted chickpeas and sliced avocado. Season as needed with salt and pepper.

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Photos: Alison Baenen 

The Deep Clean

A few weeks ago we wrote about a simple and nourishing one-day cleanse to mark the beginning of spring. As grounding and fortifying as a day spent in meditative mindfulness is, there may be those among us looking to detoxify a bit more rigorously. Colon cleanses require a few more steps and tools than a cleanse not specifically designed to flush toxins, but, they can be worth it for the deep clean and the built-in intrigue factor (You put what where?!).

In the past few years conventional medicine has embraced the idea that a healthy gut is key to our overall health and vitality. You may have heard that we are more bacteria than we are human — that is, we have fewer human cells than we do bacterial cells. Those microbes make up our microbiome, an essential processing system that does just about everything: regulate inflammation, detox, produce serotonin and dopamine…the list goes on.

So, gut as second brain? Absolutely. We’re actually twice as brainy as we think we are. The microbes in our belly have their own neural network, the enteric nervous system (ENS), that communicates with Brain #1, the central nervous system (CNS). When the gut is irritated or imbalanced it can trigger anxiety or depression in the CNS, meaning our bacteria impacts our emotional wellbeing. Another nerdy cool fact? These two nervous systems go way back: They arose from the same tissues during fetal development.

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Keeping our gut healthy, then, is crucial to strengthening our mind-body connection and ensuring our entire system stays vibrant. Our colon, a.k.a large intestine, is responsible for peristalsis, the final stage of digestion in which leftover food leaves the body. The theory behind colon cleansing is that food waste can get stuck in the walls of the colon, inhibiting the release of toxins and causing a build up of gunk. Flushing it out clears the way for smoother elimination and reduced toxicity. Win-win. Of course, there are those who argue against colon cleansing, fearful that too much flushing will rid the body of bacteria it needs so dearly. So, with any practice, do your homework, use moderation and listen to your gut.

Here are more of the possible benefits:

  1. Cleanses the colon and improves peristalsis
  2. Increases energy levels and improves mental clarity
  3. Mood lifter
  4. Helps eliminate parasites and candida
  5. Improves digestion and eases bloating and constipation
  6. Detoxifies the liver

And here’s the breakdown of ways to do it:

Colon Hydrotherapy

This is the big one. Colon hydrotherapy, also called a colonic or colonic irrigation, had a mass moment a few years ago when celebs like Ben Affleck and Beyonce touted them as part of their A-list body maintenance routine. Performed by a colonic hygienist, here’s everything you wanted to know about a colonic but were afraid to ask:

The hygienist places a speculum attached to two tubes into the client’s rectum. One tube connects to a large tank of filtered water (sometimes enhanced with lemon or hydrogen peroxide), and the other receives and takes out bodily waste and water, disposing of it the septic system. The water from the tank flows into the colon, loosening and moving along any residual food waste. It’s a totally clean/sterile process that will sometimes involve a bit of abdominal or lower back massage to aid in internal movement and relaxation.

A good colonic hygienist isn’t just there to perform the procedure; she or he will counsel about diet and lifestyle, and depending on what one witnesses coming out the second tube, will give targeted advice about foods to avoid. A session takes about an hour. Side effects can be nausea and fatigue; other people leave feeling light as air, fully energized. Drinking water before and after is key, and many people will schedule a colonic at the end of a cleanse, when the body has taken a break from serious food processing and the colon is free of recent food waste. It is also highly recommended to follow a colonic by taking a dose of probiotics.

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At-Home Enemas

The basic principle behind enemas and colonics are the same: use fluid to flush out the colon. The difference in an enema is that liquid is held in the body and then expelled, instead of a steady input-output stream. If colonics were buzzy a few years ago, coffee enemas are having a moment. A coffee enema can function as a powerful detoxifier.

Here’s how: Compounds in coffee (theobromine, theophylline and caffeine) travel to the liver and help it release bile by dilating blood vessels, opening bile ducts and relaxing muscles. Another possible effect: Coffee stimulates the liver to produce Glutathione S transferase, a detoxifier that acts like an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and natural blood cleanser.

In our earlier cleanse post we linked to a great step-by-step guide for doing an at-home coffee enema. Read the how-to here.

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Colon Flush

Perhaps the simplest and least invasive way to clean the colon (besides eating a clean, plant-based diet free of processed foods) is by doing a saltwater flush. Try it in the morning and give yourself time for the water to work its way through the colon (read: do not get on the subway if you’re still waiting to evacuate). The body absorbs the minerals in the salt as the solution moves through, helping to balance pH levels in the GI tract.

To make at home, simply add 1 tablespoon of high quality sea salt or Himalayan pink salt to 1 quart of room-temperature or warm filtered or spring water. Drink the solution slowly, but try to do it all at once. Lie on your side somewhere comfy and wait, sometimes up to an hour, for the solution to process.

As with all holistic health remedies, it’s great to discuss with your primary care doctor the effects, benefits, and what is right for you personally. But whether or not you choose to try a colon cleanse, the importance of a healthy gut and smooth digestion cannot be overemphasized. A great first step is eating mindfully, not only in terms of what but also how. Eat slowly, and chew a lot — digestion starts in the mouth. And consider adding a probiotic to your regular routine.

 

Pink salt photo courtesy of LaurenConrad.com

Why We Crave What We Crave

Hunger is as much a physical manifestation as it is a societal and emotional one. Biologically, our bodies are hardwired to want certain flavors, nutrients and combinations thereof. Culturally, we’ve learned to eat in celebration, in mourning, at social gatherings and sometimes in secret. We also seek out food in an attempt to shift our emotional state: sugar, chocolate and caffeine are expansive and uplifting; bread, pasta and gooey cheese are soothing and cushioning. So when we experience cravings, is our body telling us it needs something? Or is our mind telling us it wants something?

 

 

If that seems like a lot to unpack while deciding what to make for dinner, you’re right. Taking a moment to identify where our cravings come from means we get to address deep-seated patterns and make balanced and informed choices around something we do at least three times a day. Here are a few factoids to consider when cravings kick in.

The Two Tastes That Dominate Our Cravings are Sweet & Salty


Sugar cravings make sense on a couple of levels:

  1. Sweet foods flood the brain with dopamine, the chemical that makes us happy.
  2. In nature, sweet foods are energy dense, so we’re genetically predisposed to favor them.
  3. Sugar helps us store fat, a biological advantage for our ancient ancestors whose mealtimes were uncertain.

 

A salt craving can mean a few things:

  1. We’re dehydrated. Our bodies are 70% water and thirst often masquerades as hunger. Salt helps us retain water, so a salt craving could actually be a cry for more H2O.
  2. We’re conditioned. Most processed foods are super high in sodium, so we may be craving what we’ve been conditioned to think of as a “normal” saltiness.
  3. We need minerals like calcium, sodium, magnesium, zinc and other trace minerals to stay healthy. Since we don’t really know what zinc tastes like we fall for salt when what we really need is nori, kale, chard, or wild caught salmon.
  4. We’re fatigued. Salt cravings can be a sign of adrenal fatigue, especially if accompanied by exhaustion and serious under-eye bags. (If that sounds all too familiar, consider getting your cortisol and adrenal levels tested.)

And a chocolate craving? Minerals again. Raw cacao is rich in magnesium, which women need more of when they’re on their periods. Vindicated!

 

Here’s one more morsel: When we don’t get enough rest, our bodies produce more ghrelin, a.k.a. the hunger hormone, which the body secretes when the stomach is empty. Or when we’re exhausted. Makes sense.
Sleep more = eat better.

 

At the heart of any mindfulness practice, like Right Nutrition, is the ability to tune in to ourselves. Learning to listen to our intuition and our body’s own inner wisdom is a powerful tool. It’s also a muscle that, like any other, requires regular use. An effective place to start is around our relationship with food. Learning to ask and answer the question what am I craving right now is the first step to empowering ourselves as conscious choosers. As opposed to ravenous maniacs. We’ve all been there.

 



Amazing (enticing!) food gradient photography by Brittany Wright

Sweet & Sensible Indulgences

With the holidays past, many of us turn to New Year’s resolutions – and who’s kidding who? Most resolutions center on food and exercise. Well, after a whirlwind of indulgence and activity, it’s a great idea to get centered and ground into some healthful practices. Bringing attention back to Right Movement by reinstating your exercise and yoga practice is a great place to start, as is inviting balance back to your Right Nutrition. It’s relatively easy to choose a hearty soup instead of a big steak, or have salad for lunch instead of a piece of pizza. But what to do about dessert? If you’ve got a sweet tooth it can be much tougher to work towards your goals.

 

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Right Nutrition can and should include the delicious flavors of your favorite desserts. Here are a few twists on traditional recipes that transform a potential regret into a worthy, healthy indulgence.

 

 

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Frozen Hot Chocolate from Chocolate Covered Katie

A vegan spin on the delicious Serendipity standard, this playful treat is almost TOO easy to make


 


 

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Peach Crisp from Martha Stewart

This recipe brightens up  grey winter days with the bright summery flavor of peaches. Swapping out the butter cuts saturated fat, and you can try using coconut oil for an even healthier boost.


 

FruitCompote


Dried Fruit Compote with Ginger Syrup from Epicurious

This compote is great over ice cream or shortbread for dessert – and we love it over yogurt in the morning. Dried fruit is perfect for the season, as is ginger, which supports digestion and warms up the body.

All Hail An Inspired Caesar

shipsLong-time friend and collaborater Jamie Sydney is not only an incredible chef, but actively lives the yogic-lifestyle through her dedication to her physical wellness and spiritual pursuits. We were lucky enough to have her cater our Summer Wellness Retreat, and many a dinner has been inspired by her blog. By combining fresh and high-quality ingredients with a dash of creativity, Jamie’s recipes are always healthy, satisfying and above all, delicious!

 

Read on and delight your palate!

 

I love kale in Caesar salads, but sometimes the dressings can be too thick and rich. This salad is kind of like a Caesar, but the dressing has olive oil in it instead of mayonnaise so it is a little lighter.

The pine nuts add a nice texture and nutty flavor.  A good parmesan like parmigiano reggiano rounds the flavors out.

If you are not familiar with meyer lemons, they are a type of lemon that has more of an orange flavor. They are not quite as tart and offer a brightness that lemons don’t.

You can find meyer lemons in many of the specialty food stores. They are a bright yellow orange. I like to buy a bunch of them and put them in a bowl on my table because they are so pretty and always add an unexpected flavor to foods.

This is a great weeknight salad that you can serve on the side with a good grilled chicken or steak recipe.  Toss the salad 20 minutes before you serve it to allow the dressing to soften the kale and sprouts a little. Enjoy!

Shaved Kale and Brussel Sprouts with
Meyer Lemon Dressing

Serves 4

 

Salad:

1 Large Bunch of Tuscan Kale, washed, shaved thinly

2 Handfuls of Brussel Sprouts, shaved thinly

1 Meyer Lemon, Zest

¾ Cup of Shaved Parmesan

2 Tablespoons of Toasted Pine Nuts

 

Meyer Lemon Dressing:
Aromatic garlic still life, ingredients for aioli sauce2 Meyer Lemons, juice only (can use regular lemons as well)

3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

½ Clove of Garlic, minced or whole to marinate after the dressing is made

2 Tablespoons of Crème Fraiche

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

 

To Prepare:

1. Cut the kale leaves and brussel sprouts into thin strips. If the leaves are large, you should remove the stems because they will be too tough. Place the greens in a bowl with the zest, shaved parm, and pine nuts.

2. Whisk the lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the crème fraiche until it is mixed in with no lumps. With a slow and steady stream, whisk in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning.

3. Toss the salad with the dressing and taste for seasoning one more time. Garnish the salad with some more shaved parmesan and pine nuts.

 

You get more delicious recipes and lifestyle tips on Jamie’s website by clicking here.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Beyond…

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, shining a light on a health problem that knows no boundaries of ethnicity, geography or socio-economic status. We’re talking about an equal-opportunity disease that will effect one in eight women in their lifetimes, adding up to an estimated 220,000+ women each year in the U.S.A.

The good news is, awareness is growing, as is the number of women taking proactive steps towards prevention and regular screenings. Furthermore, fatalities have been on the decline since 1990 due to greater rates of early detection and continuous improvements in treatment options.

And by the way, it isn’t just women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. So men, please read on and consider incorporating the information below.

 

Is this a serious issue? You’re damn right it is. Is there anything we can do about it? You’re damn right we can.

Each of us is unique, with our individual health challenges and concerns. Our genes are distinct, our risks are distinct, and our strengths are distinct. There are certain factors that cannot be changed, but there are others known as Avoidable Risk Factors where we can have an impact.

It should come as no surprise that most recommendations for prevention fall under the diet and lifestyle categories, including:

~ Reducing Alcohol Consumption

~ Eating a healthy diet – specifically, higher in fruits and vegetables and lower in saturated fat

~ Scheduling regular screenings and regular mammograms once you hit 40

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So where does Yoga Fit in? A regular yoga practice can play a significant role in both Breast Cancer Prevention and Healing & Recovery

 

Yoga For Prevention & Health

~ Lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle have been shown to increase risk of developing breast cancer.

~ Being overweight or obese can increase your risk as well

~ A regular yoga practice contributes to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight

~ An active Yoga practice typically includes both strength building and also cardiovascular exercise, both of which boost immune function and have been shown to balance levels of estrogen and insulin.

 

Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors & Recovery

~ Restorative yoga has been shown to support the healing process by diminishing levels of cortisol in the body and facilitating the “rest and regenerate” actions of the body

~ Active or Vinyasa Yoga has been shown to enhance the flow of the lymphatic system, which not only flushes toxins away from healthy cells, but also helps deliver disease-fighting cells to areas of the body that are under attack

~ Perhaps most importantly, new studies are now showing a dramatic influence on quality of life for patients undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. There is often a significant psychological and/or physiological impact from these processes, and yoga has been shown to balance energy, support healthy sleep habits, alleviate anxiety and depression and boost overall mood.

 

YBC_Cover_HighIf you’d like to Go Deep on the subject, we recommend the book Yoga for Breast Care: What Every Woman Needs to Know by Bobby Clennell.

The book is information rich and highly practical, covering information on the many conditions women can encounter as well as yoga postures and breathing practices with specific healing applications. Plus, information on women’s health, menstruation, pregnancy, nursing and broader lifestyle recommendations.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Cilantro-Avocado-Lime Dressing

Have you heard that “eating from the rainbow” supports optimal health? Well, this recipe is as colorful as it gets! With Fall equinox just around the corner, we can already see the leaves beginning to turn as the incredible deciduous trees begin to put on their annual artful display. And seasonal foods also begin to transition into an explosion of Fall colors— the oranges of Winter squash (harvested throughout the Fall and stored in the winter), the reds of bell peppers, and the yellows of fresh corn on the cob.

 

Bright and delicious… and packed with incredible nutrition… this salad will not disappoint! The orange color in the butternut squash is indicative of vitamin A, which is essential for the health of your eyes and skin. This nutrient-dense superfood contains more potassium than a banana, supporting cell and tissue regeneration in the body. The bell pepper is full of vitamin-c and antioxidants, boosting your overall immunity. And fresh corn offers phytochemicals that support healthy vision, as well as fiber to cleanse the system.

 

The avocado and olive oil provide a lovely dose of healthy fats to help your body absorb all of these amazing vitamins and support your skin’s radiant glow. And don’t let the word “fat” mislead you! Avocado has been known to support weight-loss.

 

That’s not all! The lime and cilantro also boost your immune system. The lime alkalizes the body, while the cilantro balances blood-sugar levels and contains strong cancer-fighting antioxidants. Complete the rainbow by topping the salad with some blue borage flowers and purple nasturtiums.

 

Roasted butternut squash salad with cilantro-avocado-lime dressing is a perfect seasonal dish to prepare on Sunday to supplement lunches and dinners… or add quinoa or beans and turn this salad into a meal!

 

Bon appetit!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 large bell pepper
  • 2 ears of fresh corn
  • 1 bunch cilantro 
  • 3-4 limes
  • 1 avocado
  • olive oil
  • water to thin dressing
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: beans, quinoa, edible flowers

 

Directions:

 

Step One: For the Butternut:

 

  1. Peel the butternut squash whole. Then slice it in half  and scoop the seeds out. Chop the squash into even, bite-sized cubes.
  2. Toss cubed squash with olive oil and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and roast squash in the oven at 375* for 10 minutes.
  4. Turn the squash to the other side with a spatula and roast for another 10-20 minutes, until cooked through— soft on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside.
  5. Set aside to cool.

 

Step Two: For the Red Pepper, Corn, and Cilantro:

 

  1. Shuck the corn, remove all of the tassels, and slice the kernels off of the cob.
  2. Core the pepper and slice into small, bite-sized pieces.
  3. Coarsely chop ½ cup cilantro leaves.
  4. Place the red pepper, corn, butternut squash (room temp), and cilantro into a large salad bowl and toss with salt and pepper (to taste).

 

Step Three: For the Dressing:

  1. Squeeze the juice of 3-4 limes into a food processor or blender. Add 1 cup cilantro (with stems). Add the meat of 1 avocado and ¼ cup olive oil. Toss in a pinch salt and pepper to taste. Blend. Add water to thin the dressing to a desirable consistency.

 

Step 4: Portion out salad and drizzle dressing over each bowl. Top with a sprig of cilantro or parsley and edible flowers (nasturtium, borage, calendula).

 

Variation: Add quinoa or beans and turn this salad into a meal!

 

Simply Delicious Summer Recipes For A Gourmet Dinner Party

When crafting the menu for our Summer Wellness Retreat, co-founder Karen Mehiel and long-time collaborator chef Jaime Sydney wanted to not only come up with delicious dishes, but ones that upheld the pillar of Right Nutrition.

They began with quality, seasonal ingredients… then created some fun and balanced combinations… which allowed the preparations to remain super simple.

The results were palate-pleasing and packed with nutrition.

Below you’ll find recipes for a light and flavorful quinoa salad, perfect to pair with a nice piece of arctic char finished with a zesty lemon & herb green sauce.

The quinoa is a super-food, as we know, with a good bit of protein and twice as much fiber as other grains. The raw zucchini in the salad helps with cholesterol and weight management, plus delivers high doses of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and antioxidants for healthy skin, hair, eyes and immune function. Heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil has a strong concentration of polyphenols, which have both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Finally, the lemon and herbs alkalize and cleanse the entire body.

These dishes are flavorful, healthy and as gourmet as it gets… And they are easy breezy to prepare!


Roasted Arctic Char with Meyer Lemon and a Green Herb Sauce

*Serves 12

 

Ingredients

For the Fish: 

  • 12 Arctic Char Filets
  • 3 Meyer Lemons, zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

For the Sauce:

  • 4 Cups of Parsley leaves, washed and dried
  • 2 Bunches of Chives
  • 1 Lemon, juice only
  • 1 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 2 Pinches of Sea Salt and Ground Pepper

Directions

1. Place the char on a parchment lined baking sheet. Season the fish with salt, pepper, lemon zest, and olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 13-15 minutes or until done.

2. To make the sauce, pulse the herbs in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Add salt and pepper. With the blade running pour in the olive oil until it is blended. Cover the sauce until it is ready to be served. Serve on the fish or on the side.

 

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Green Quinoa with Arugula, Mint, Pistachios, and Raw Zucchini

*Serves 6

 

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups of Quinoa
  • 5 Cups of boiling water
  • ¼ Cup of Olive Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
  • ¾ Cup of Pistachios
  • 1/2 Bunch of Parsley, cleaned, chopped
  • 6 Mint Sprigs, leaves removed, cleaned, julienned
  • 1 Zucchini, diced into small squares
  • 1 ½ Cups of Baby Arugula
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Boil the water in a medium large pot. Add a few pinches of salt to the water  and cook the quinoa for 20 minutes (or until the grains open up). Set the quinoa aside to cool.

2. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix. Easy breezy.

 

Lunch1

 

 

The Best Green Smoothie

Sipping green juice and blending healthy smoothies is all the rage these days. Our bodies buzz with abundant energy as we soak up a rich blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Although the effects of juicing can be felt immediately, the leafy greens can taste bitter making this morning practice less than appetizing. 

 

The trick to cutting out the bitter undertones of raw leafy greens is easy breezy. Simply add a healthy dose of cinnamon.

 

When you add cinnamon, the bitter flavor disappears, not to mention this incredible spice boosts your metabolism, decreases blood sugar levels, reduces inflammation, has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, and is chock full of antioxidants. But don’t take my word… the proof is in the smoothie.

 

And remember, there is no need to suffer through the process of nourishing your amazing bod! Healthy foods and drinks can (and should) taste delightful… especially your green morning smoothie. This Green Goddess Smoothie is a perfect treat before yoga class and can pick up your energy during an afternoon slump. So, before you reach for the coffee or sugar, consider blending your greens.

 

Green Goddess Smoothie

 

Ingredients:

  • 2  cups kale (or spinach)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 heaping spoonful of cinnamon
  • 16 oz. coconut water (you can also use fresh apple juice to keep the smoothie local and seasonal)
  • 6-8 ice cubes
  • Boost the nutritional value by adding blueberries or fresh peaches to the mix or turn this smoothie into a meal by adding coconut milk or an avocado.

Directions:

  • Place the ingredients in a high powered blender and blend until smooth. Pour the smoothie into your favorite glassware and savor.

*makes 2 servings

 

sources:

*banner image taken from www.publichealthalert.org

*cinnamon image taken from npr.org

Sexy Summer Watermelon Salad

What’s better on a sultry summer night than a cool summer salad? Especially one that might also set the mood for a bit of romance! This watermelon salad offers a fun twist on a classic, by subbing basil for mint, and regular goat cheese for feta. The result is a delectable combination of flavors: sweet melon, savory cheese and bright basil, perfect for a date night al fresco.

Besides being delicious, this salad has a plethora of health benefits that will literally make you glow! True to its name, watermelon is 92% water and each bite is packed with potassium, vitamin A, B6, C, and more lycopene (a powerful antioxidant) than any other fruit or vegetable. This incredible superfruit has an alkalizing effect on your body, reducing inflammation and fighting disease. But that’s not all: watermelon is a natural aphrodisiac and may have viagra-like effects on the body. Watermelon relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow, so the sexy health benefits show up in the bedroom. But equally appealing, it improves circulation and overall sense of well-being.

Basil has incredible health properties that turn this meal into medicine. Basil improves digestion, is disease fighting, supports cognitive function and reduces inflammation. Oh… and it also happens to be a natural aphrodisiac, which may be why this summer herb became the “symbol of love” in Italy.

No ingredient in this recipe goes without perks. The olive oil provides the healthy fats that are necessary to absorb the abundance of vitamins and nutrients. The crumbled goat cheese provides some lovely protein. And the vinegar or lime juice also alkalizes the body.

Sexy Summer Salad

Ingredients:
  • 1 watermelon (approx. 5-7 lbs)
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar (for a variation, try lemon/lime juice)
  • ½ cup olive oil salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tbs. basil (ribboned, chopped or full leaves)
  • 4 basil sprigs (for garnish)
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
Easy Breezy Instructions:
  1. Make the dressing by whisking together the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Set the dressing to the side.
  2. Cut watermelon into cubes. Place in a large salad bowl. Add the chopped basil and crumbled cheese. Drizzle the dressing over the top. Toss the salad, so the basil, cheese, and dressing are distributed evenly.
  3. Portion the salad into four bowls and top with basil leaves

* Makes 4 large servings

* This salad should be served immediately. If you bring this recipe to a gathering, hold off on adding the dressing until mealtime.