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Posts Tagged ‘Kitchen Medicine’

Spring Self Cleaning – Nice & Easy

As the cold of Winter sluggishly makes way for the energy of Spring, our bodies go through a similar process… Yearning to let go of all we’ve stored for the colder months, our body craves foods and practices that will help us detox and freshen up. Spring Cleaning starts from within!

Bitter greens, like arugula and dandelion, are the first edibles to sprout after the last frost, and it’s exactly these that we should be eating! An example of the genius and perfection of nature that we can use to inform our Right Nutrition. The bitter quality of these greens wrings out the liver and stimulates our digestive system. A far cry from the hearty curries, stews and casseroles that keep us warm December – February (or April this year!?), these young plants alert the body that winter is o-v-e-r! So, put Dandelion Tea and Arugula Salad at the top of your shopping list. Wash, rinse, eat, repeat! Mirroring the warming of the weather, the heating qualities of Ginger also help warm up and melt any stored abundance, while the light cooling qualities of cucumbers and the activating qualities of green tea can help lift us out of hibernation mode.


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Some Recipes to Get You Started:

Easy Sauteed Dandelion Greens

~ Arugala’s Greatest Hits, Courtesy of Marth Stewart

~ Spring Detox Smoothie

~ Easy Ayurvedic Cleansing Tea





As for Right Movement, the same principal applies: out with the old, in with the new! Our bodies crave TWISTS at this particular time.Twists give our organs a deep yet gentle massage, waking them up from sluggish functioning. Just like wringing out a wet towel, twisting enables our body to release stored toxins and acts as a general reboot, bringing about optimum functioning for the lighter, brighter season to come.


Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 3.29.07 PMTwo very basic but yummy options are Seated Spinal Twist and Reclined Spinal Twist. Getting a bit more advanced, you could opt for Revolved Triangle or Twisted Side Angle. Best not to go into deep twisting too early in the morning, before your body has a chance to get the Prana flowing… but practice a couple of these midday (or even at night as the body goes to sleep and into its rest/rejuvenate cycle) and your body will thank you!

Click Here To Check out Yoga Journal’s Encyclopedia of Twisting Shapes To Get Inspired

Or Try This Energizing, Twisty Sequence At Home

 

The Warm Up

Chai means, simply, tea, but order a cup in India and you’re likley to get a small hot glass of something sweet, milky and spicy. Masala chai, the popular variety that has made its way into lattes in the states, is warming, comforting and tastes like bliss.

It’s also great for you. Ginger aids digestion and works as an anti-inflammatory; cinnamon helps keep blood sugar levels low; and all the spices work to warm the body from the inside out, another way to keep our digestive system moving and blood circulation flowing.

Black tea and cow’s milk are the traditional choices but you can experiement with caffeine free teas (tulsi or rooibos would be delicious) and alternative milks.

Here’s a simple recipe you can make at home.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • ~2 tsps black tea per cup (can also use decaffeinated black or tulsi tea)
  • 1 inch of unpeeled fresh ginger, coarsely grated
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 14 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 8 to 10 whole black peppercorns
  • a few cloves
  • 1 to 2 star anise
  • 2 tsps fennel seeds
  • maple syrup or honey to taste

Directions

Bring water, ginger and cinammon to a boil. Lower to a simmer and add all the other ingredients, saving the sweetener (if needed) until the very end. Strain and enjoy.

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As with all things culinary, use your intuition and play around with proportions until you find the right blend. This is an easy recipe to scale up if you’re looking for a warm beverage to share with friends or keep simmering in a crock pot (bonus: your house will smell delicious). For hot chai first thing in the morning, prepare the night before.

Photos: Top photo by Alex Lau for Bon Appetit; chai wallah by Ira Zavyalova

Save Face

Our skin, our largest organ, absorbs what we put on it: The ingredients in our body lotions, shampoos, lipsticks and sunscreens eventually make their way into our bloodstreams. The products we use impact us in much the same ways as the foods we eat—turns out you are what you apply, too.

So, what’s in all those creams and concealers? For the most part, not stuff you’d want to put in your smoothie. The list of what to avoid and why is long; for an in-depth breakdown of common ingredients and what they do, visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics‘ comprehensive Chemicals of Concern list to learn about what’s in your lip gloss.

While the US food industry is attempting to keep up with consumer demand for transparency in labeling and regulations, the beauty industry is lagging behind. Label claims like “organic” and “natural” and even “FDA-approved” mean little to nothing at all, and, for now, it’s up to consumers to be their own fact and label-checkers.

Our advice: Keep it simple. Products with lengthy ingredient lists are likely to have more ingredients to avoid; a pared-down beauty routine—one with fewer products to vet and claims to investigate—is an easy way to feed your skin good food. If an ingredient is unpronounceable, look it up and learn more or move on.

Beauty Brands We Love

There are, thankfully, companies doing it right. We look for brands that champion holistic practices and pure products. Here are a few favorites: 

 

Earth Tu Face

Plant-based skincare from two herbalists in California. Their products are made from organic, high quality and food-grade ingredients.

Product we love: Virgin Coconut Oil + Cardamom Body Butter. 

 

Vitner’s Daughter

Winery owner April Gargiulo created her cult-favorite skin serum in an attempt to simplify her complicated skincare regime. It took two years of tinkering, but the result is a game-changing, nutrient rich face oil that uses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich plant ingredients to maintain and restore skin’s natural radiance.

 

Tata Harper

Made in small batches in the company’s laboratory in Vermont, Tata Harper products are packed with from-the-earth, active ingredients like red algae (for elasticity) and borage (moisture retention). Many of their ingredients are grown on their own bucolic farm.

Product we love: Be Adored

 

Living Libations

For love-infused products from two high-vibrational souls, look no further than Living Libations. Essential oils, a holistic oral healthcare line and self-proclaimed “renegade” beauty products are all meticulously sourced; the founders, husband and wife Ron and Nadine Artemis, believe that radiance is a birthright, and they manage to capture that philosophy in every offering.

Product we love: Seabuckthorn Shampoo and Shine On Conditioner

 

In New York we love visiting CAP Beauty in the West Village (they also have an excellent website), and Living Libations‘ newly-opened store in Venice Beach, Los Angeles. For treatments, questions, and holistic beauty coaching, pro-makeup artist and Ayurveda expert Jessa Blades is a bi-coastal treasure.

Top image: Splash Happy; all brand images from their own websites; the Living Libations image is Courtesy of CAP Beauty.

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 

Coffee Alternatives

Depending on who you ask, coffee is either great or terrible for you. It’s been linked to certain health benefits—like a lower chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes or Parkinson’s disease—and contains minerals like magnesium and chromium, both of which help regulate blood sugar levels. It’s also high in antioxidants.

But coffee, of course, contains caffeine. Caffeine consumption is so normalized that it’s easy to forget it’s a psychoactive drug, meaning it changes how our brain functions and affects our perception, mood and state of being. A central nervous system stimulant, caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, the body’s fight or flight hormone, which in turn increases heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow.

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Caffeine also increases our dopamine levels. A neurotransmitter—a chemical that transfers nerve impulses from one nerve fiber to another—dopamine controls the reward and pleasure centers in the brain, regulates movement and emotional responses, and controls where we focus our attention. In really simple terms, increased levels of dopamine makes us feel temporarily great; less dopamine, not so much.

Because it activates adrenaline and cortisol—the hormone that manages our stress levels—caffeine can be hard on our adrenals, the glands that secrete them. Unstable and spiked rates of both hormones cause blood-sugar fluctuations and create a generally volatile habitat for healing and restoration. If you suffer from inflammation, adrenal fatigue, or mood swings, eliminating or cutting back on caffeine may help alleviate those symptoms.

Still need a lift? There are other options. 

Rhodiola Rosea

A traditional Taoist herb prescribed in Chinese Medicine practices, rhodiola increases energy, has been shown to improve focus and actually lowers cortisol levels.

Maca

A Peruvian root rich in protein and Vitamin B12, maca can increase stamina, improve sexual function, and provide an overall boost. It’s also a source of several B vitamins, as well as Vitamins C and E, along with calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids.

Chicory

If you’ve ever had coffee in New Orleans, it may have been blended with chicory, the roasted root of a flowering plant. Chicory came into widespread use during a major coffee shortage in France; locals mixed the root with the coffee they did have to stretch their supplies farther. On its own, or blended with dandelion root (here’s a recipe for Dandelion and Chicory Chai), it serves as a convincing stand-in.

Caffeine Free Chai

A few weeks ago we posted a recipe for a traditional chai masala. Make it with a caffeine-free tea like rooibos or tulsi for a little lift without all the hormonal havoc.

Below are two recipes using rhodiola and maca from The Chalkboard, one of our favorite resources for inventive recipes and wellness tips:

How To Beat Fatigue: A Replenishing Tonic For Coffee Drinkers

The Coffee Dupe: A Mushroom + Maca Tonic To Counter Caffeine

As herbs like maca increase in popularity, be sure you’re buying from a distributer you trust. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, a company whose ethos and products we love is Sun Potion.

Photos: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images from the Huffpost; Caffeine compound illustration by Daniel Seex

 

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

Ayurvedic Oral Care: Jihwa Prakshalana and Swish

We are well documented fans of Ayurveda at Five Pillars (here’s an intro, if you’re curious) and especially love the ancient science’s approach to oral health.

Two simple practices we’re advocating: Jihwa Prakshalana (a.k.a tongue scraping), and oil pulling. Chances are you’ve heard of both. Oil pulling is a celeb fave (Gwyneth Paltrow approves) and tongue scraping is a practically compulsory part of any cleanse.

So why do them?

Tongue scraping is like popping into your dentist’s office for a quick cleaning. The ancient oral hygiene practice removes bacteria, toxins and dead cells from the surface of the tongue, one of the easiest places in the body for germs to brew.

While we sleep, our digestive system deposits unwanted toxins on the surface of our tongue. If these toxins aren’t flushed out or removed, they get reabsorbed, compromising our immune system and leading to digestive ailments and respiratory woes.

Brushing and flossing will help with the toxin removal, but sometimes these practices just move bacteria around. Better to scrape.

It’s very simple: Using a metal or copper tongue scraper (this one’s great), drag the curved blade down toward the tip of your tongue, rinse the scraper and repeat until the scraper stops picking up residue.

This is best to do in the morning, before you brush your teeth and right after…

Oil pulling, another straightforward practice with natural detoxifying powers.

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The idea is to swish (not swallow) up to 3 teaspoons of high quality, unrefined, cold-pressed oil like coconut or sesame for up to 20 minutes first thing every morning. Try swishing in the shower, while you steep your tea or while you make your bed. Don’t try to talk at the same time.

The actual pulling itself can take some getting used to, but working the oil around the mouth helps loosen the body’s overnight bacteria out from the teeth and gums, resulting in brighter teeth, stronger gums, fresher breath and a cleaner smile.

When you’re done, spit the oil out the window or into the trash to avoid a clogged sink. Follow oil pulling with tongue scraping, brushing and then flossing.

Your dentist will be impressed.

Photos: Tongue scraper from gaiaguy.com; coconuts from dontmesswithmama.com

Watermelon In A Glass

Watermelon is a powerhouse beauty food. Nutrient dense, it packs a high amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in a low amount of calories; plus, it’s collagen-boosting, libido-lifting and inflammation-reducing.

Loaded with lycopene, the phytochemical responsible for the fruit’s rich red flesh (the same one that’s in tomatoes), watermelon has been linked to lower rates of cancer and heart disease. It’s also got a crazy high water content (92%), so it’s an ideal summer snack when hydration is unequivocally important.

All that water plus a generous amount of fiber means watermelon is great for regularity and a healthy digestive tract. A clean inside makes for a glowing outside, and watermelon is doubly effective in promoting healthy skin: High in vitamin C it supports collagen growth, the protein that keeps skin vibrant and elastic. The fruit’s high vitamin A content also aids in the body’s production of sebum, which keeps hair shiny and moisturized.

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Blended Watermelon Summer Smoothie

Make it:  

  • ~ Find a ripe, juicy watermelon, and take note, watermelon rind is edible and just as good for you as the flesh. You can also keep the watermelon in the fridge for about 12 hours to chill it.
  • ~ If your blender is powerful enough, put in some of the rind and all of the flesh and turn it on high.
  • ~ Voila! Watermelon in a glass!
  • ~ Drink this light frothy refreshment right away, refrigerate or freeze and save for later.

This simple summer recipe is perfect on its own. It also lends itself to variations — you can add lemon, lime, cucumber or fresh herbs like basil, mint or rosemary.

But, for best digestion, do keep it simple. Ayurveda counsels against eating raw fruit with other foods; it’s best digested on its own, so eat it at least 30 minutes before other foods or two hours after.

Melon falls into its own category. It moves through the stomach more quickly than other fruits so eat or drink it on its own to avoid bloating or gas.

 

watermelon
Oh right, what was that about libido boosting? Watermelon has also been shown to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow to erectile tissue, so please, drink responsibly.

Photos from @livhungry and @alisontheodora

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

More is More!

The Standard American Diet (shortened to the tragically-appropriate acronym SAD) practically guarantees inflammation.

The food most Americans eat is full of pro-inflammatory compounds, yet lacking balanced nutrition and anti-oxidants that combat inflammation. We’re talking about refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour (which are nothing short of poisons for the body), as well as many of the unhealthy fats and oils, commercial dairy and hydrogenated oils found in most restaurants and prepared foods regardless of price point.

In balance, inflammation truly is the cornerstone of our immune response. But due to diet and lifestyle many of us become chronically inflamed which is not at all a good thing. 

Inflammation is a root cause for many chronic conditions including:

  • Arthritis
  • Neuro-degenerative Diseases
  • Thyroid Issues
  • Digestive Distress & Leaky Gut Syndrome
  • Food Intolerances and Allergies
  • Osteopirosis
  • Diabetes
  • Even Cardio-Vascular Diseases and Cancers

World-renowned doctors, including Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Mark Hyman, advocate living an “anti-inflammatory” lifestyle.

A great place to start is what we put on our plates.

By choosing anti-inflammatory foods we begin to support

  • rebalancing the system
  • regulating the immune system
  • and healing on the cellular level

So, while there are powerful elimination diets that can re-boot the system – we can also address inflammation by ADDING anti-inflammatory foods into our diet.

 

Here is our list of the top 13 foods to add:

 

Green Leafy Vegetables — Rich in antioxidants that restore cellular health
Celery — balances blood pressure, cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease
Beets — Their deep color indicates the powerful vitamins and minerals they contain. Chock full of antioxidants for cell repair, plus high levels of magnesium and potassium – a super food for vegetarians
Broccoli — the potent antioxidants in broccoli lower oxidative stress and helps reduce chronic inflammation
Bluberries — slow cognitive decline, improves memory and motor function
Pineapple — improves heart health, high in Vitamin C, B1 and that hard-to-find Manganese
Salmon — preferably Wild Alaskan, this fish is an incredible source of Omega-3s which reduce inflammation and lower risk of chronic diseases including cancer, arthritis and heart disease
Walnuts — the brain food, full of Omegas and manganese, protect against metabolic syndrome and type 2 Diabetes
Coconut Oil — research has shown the lipids found in coconut oil heal arthritis
Chia Seeds — heart helpers! Rich in Omega-3 and -6 which reverse inflammation
Flax Seeds — again with the omegas! But beyond that, also rich in detoxifying fiber and phytonutrients that aid in hormone balance
Turmeric — studies have shown this root to be more powerful than asprin and ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory. Add the powder to everything or use the root for tea
Ginger — breaks down accumulation of toxins in the body, lightening the load of the immune system

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Bon Appetit!