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Posts Tagged ‘Right Nutrition’

Winter Greens Power Pesto

 

Well, the dark green leafy veggies are in full swing, able to endure the onset of winter weather! Kales, Collards, and Chards galore are piled up in the produce isle all over the northeast and elsewhere for many more months to come. 

Stir-fries, salads, soups, smoothies…. There’s really nowhere you can’t use this green goodness. Our new favorite… sauces!

Did you know you can make a pesto with garden greens using the usual recipe?

Adding heartier greens such as kale, collards and/or spinach boosts the benefit exponentially. Dark leafy greens have more vitamins and minerals per calorie than any other food, they’re incredibly iron rich (addressing fatigue), Vitamin K rich (needed for bone health) and surprisingly chock full of Vitamin C.

 

Now here’s the best part – chopping dark greens for pesto triggers a chemical reaction, activating certain antioxidants and phytominerals that stimulate the body’s own antioxidant response, making this pesto a powerful cancer fighter in particular!

 

So it’s not just what you eat, but also how you prepare it. Coarse chopping breaks down the cell walls and releases the cancer fighting benefit.

Mix that with the anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties of parsley or the blood-cleansing action of cilantro you’ve got a full-spectrum superfood!

EASY POWER PESTO RECIPE:

* Two cups of green leaves (mix dark greens and Herbs for maximum health benefit remove the stems)

* 1-2 cloves of garlic

* ⅔ cup of extra-virgin olive oil (you can add more or less to reach preferred consistency)

* The juice of ½ lemon

* ¼ cup of any type of nut or sunflower seeds (a new favorite is pecans)

* A pinch of salt

* ¼-½ cup Parmesan cheese (optional – leave the parm out and the recipe is vegan)

Place the nuts, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and cheese together in the food processor and pulse until the ingredients are chopped but not blended. Add the greens at the end and be sure not to overwork them to maintain maximum nutrition, incredible flavor, and create a gourmet appearance.

Don’t have a food processor? No problem. Simply chop the greens and nuts, mince the garlic, add the other ingredients and mash with an old fashioned mortar & pestle or simply mix everything together in a bowl for a rougher consistency.

Leave to sit for 20+ minutes to allow the flavors to mingle, and the dark greens to fully activate.

 

Enjoy as a veggie dip, a sauce for pasta or as a marinade for veggies, fish, tofu and more.

 

Photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash

Creamy & Delicious Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

There are so many reasons to love Fall, but perhaps most of all, the changing of the seasons marks the harvest; a time when an abundance of delicious fruit and vegetables arrives at the Farmers Market, including apples, figs, persimmons and winter squash. Butternuts, delicata, sweet pumpkin pie varieties & big orange carving pumpkins are piled up in abundance, freshly picked from the field.

With so much amazing produce and cooling weather trends, it is easy to spend time in the kitchen in front of the oven making warm soups and stews that nourish the body and soul. Taking time to make a healthy and satisfying soup or stew is a perfect way to stay healthy as we head into the holiday season. One of my go-to faves is butternut squash soup with coconut milk. Super creamy and ridiculously flavorful, this soup warms the body to the core and leaves the pallet appreciating the burst of flavors with each new bite.

 

Ingredients

 

  • 2 medium butternut squash sliced in half with the seeds removed

  • 1 onion

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 2 celery stalks

  • 1 – 2 apples

  • 1 – 2 tbs coconut oil or any high-heat cooking oil

  • 4 cups veggie broth

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • 1 tbs sage

  • ½ tsp cinnamon

  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

  • ¼ tsp black pepper

  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper

  • salt to taste

  • extra coconut cream, cilantro or parsley, roasted pumpkin seeds, and/or red pepper flakes to garnish

 

Directions

 

  • – Roast the butternut squash in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for  approximately 45-60 minutes, until it turns golden brown. I like to use Pyrex glass dishes but you can also use cookie sheets with parchment paper. Either way, place the squash with the flesh side down. An optional step is to coat the squash in a small amount of olive oil (or other cooking oil)—this simply adds some extra flavor. 

  • – While the butternut is roasting, dice the onion, celery, and apples. Sauté them in the cooking oil until they are browned.

  • – Take the butternut out of the oven and set aside to cool. Once you can handle the squash, scoop the meat out into a blender. Puree the roasted butternut with the can of coconut milk. Set aside a little bit of the coconut milk for the garnish.

  • – Then, add veggie broth and the blended squash mixture to the soup. Add your seasoning and puree the soup with an immersion blender. If you do not have an immersion blender, wait until the soup cools and blend in a regular blender.

  • – Taste the soup and salt to your satisfaction. If the veggie broth is salty enough, you may not need to add any.

  • – Garnish with extra coconut cream, cilantro or parsley, seeds, and/or red pepper flakes.

The Five Pillars of Water

 

Beyond the practice of sipping water throughout the day lies a realm of hydration that encompasses the entire body. Soak in water, nix the plastic single use bottles, and practice ancient yogic pranayama techniques that will leave you in tip top shape.


1. RIGHT NUTRITION: Sip Room Temperature Water And Warm Herbal Tea Throughout The Day


To stay hydrated, focus on assimilation rather than quantity. Drink water when you are thirsty and sip instead of chug. If you are drinking too much water at one time, you may find yourself dehydrated despite your efforts. Several trips to the restroom per hour suggest that you need to slow down. After all, our bodies can only assimilate about 2-3 cups of water per hour, or 200 ml (a little less than 1 cup) every 15 minutes.


Consuming too much water at one time causes the kidneys to overwork, placing unwanted stress on the body.


Help your body absorb water by adding chia seeds, fresh ginger, and/or a small pinch of sea salt to your water. Although too much salt in the diet is dehydrating, salt is actually essential to your body’s water absorption process. Learn more here: The Skinny on Salt


Once you are sipping instead of chugging, you can go deeper by considering our top Ayurvedic recommendations. Ayurvedic science recommends consuming only room temperature or warm beverages, which means that ice water can become an occasional indulgence rather than a regular practice. Ayurvedic practitioners also suggest consuming little or no water at mealtime. Drinking ice water and taking in too much liquid during mealtimes cools or dilutes our digestive fire (or Agni). Since so much of our health depends on healthy digestion, this is sage advice. That said, we know that leaving ice out of your beverage is not always possible… or desirable. To begin, consider applying the 70-30 rule. If 70% of the time, you are drinking room temperature water or warm tea, you are doing superb!


Last but not least, watch out for sugar and caffeine in your bevies!


If you are drinking coffee regularly, you may need to sip even more water throughout the day to make up for the dehydrating effects of caffeine. Sugar is another beast to contend with. The body converts sugar to stored fat and wreaks havoc on your insulin levels. If you find water difficult to drink, consider adding some fruit or sprigs of mint to your water to add flavor.


Here’s the summary: Drink room temperature water or tea throughout the day when you are thirsty. Pay attention to your current habits, especially around caffeine and sugar, and begin to replace old habits that no longer serve you in your life with new, healthier habits.


2. Right Movement: Flush Out The Toxins


Hydration is about balance in the body. If you are practicing yoga asanas and exercising regularly, you will help your body flush out toxins and prevent water retention.


Hydrating after yoga practice and exercise will help you to receive the full benefits of the practice. Yoga asana and exercise require adequate nutrition, including additional water post workout. Replenish your body with healthy foods and water post-movement and your body will thank you.


3. Right Relaxation: Sip and Soak Away Your Stress


As the days get longer and the weather warms up, we tend to spring into action, sometimes overextending ourselves. Taking time away from chaos and turning inwards to meditate and relax can help our bodies to absorb and assimilate the water and food we consume. Pay particular attention to relaxation during hot days and plan for sipping water or herbal tea all day long.


Consider booking some bodywork, soak in water, get some gentle exercise by taking a swim in cooling water, and head to bed early. The result? Increased energy and ojas, the Ayurvedic term for the vital essence that supports our immune systems, vitality, libido, and strength.


4. Right Breathing: Practice Sitali


Deep in the Himalayas, ancient sages observed and imitated the world around them in the noble attempt to master body, breath, and mind. They noticed the curve of a bird’s lower beak, a new green leaf uncurling, and the hiss of a cobra—and emulated those shapes and sounds in a practice called sitali (the cooling breath). In this pranayama, the inhalation is moistened as it passes through the curl of the tongue (alternately described as a bird’s beak and an uncurling leaf), so that you are “drinking” water-saturated air.


Sitali cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and soothes a pitta imbalance.


Besides building breath awareness, this practice is said to calm hunger and thirst and cultivate a love for solitude. Sitali also cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and, in the parlance of ayurveda, soothes a pitta imbalance, which is common in the summer months. In addition, this practice reduces fatigue, bad breath, fevers, and high blood pressure. Learn how to practice Sitali: Click Here

*Content taken from YogaInternational.com


5. Right Intention: Drink Filtered Tap Water


Did you know that the Pacific Garbage Patch and the Eastern Garbage Patch have doubled in size in the past decade? We have plastic islands out in the ocean twice the size of Texas that are made up of tiny pieces of plastic that look just like fish food (opposed to a solid mass of plastic). Animals mistake the plastic for food. Plus this toxic soup disturbs marine food webs and ecosystems. Here’s one simple thing you can do to make a difference: Nix the single-use plastic water bottles and replace these with an eco-friendly reusable water bottle. Fill the bottle with tap water and sip throughout the day to stay hydrated.


Our Fav Water Bottles:

 

Top 5 Summer Superfoods

So what is a superfood? Superfoods are whole, unprocessed foods that contain a concentrated amount of nutrients. They are nutrition powerhouses. These incredible, natural packages have superpowers such as warding off cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and more! When you consume seasonal superfoods regularly, your skin will glow, your digestion will be incredible, and your inner superpowers will be unleashed as your mind clears and your body thanks you.



Here our our top 5 summer superfoods, plus quick tips for incorporating them into your daily diet. 


  1. Spinach (and other dark, leafy greens)



    Ahhh, the queens of alkalization! Dark leafy greens have been #1 on any reputable list of healthy foods for quite some time now and they are still at the top today. Spinach is often recommended, because it is mild in flavor and can be added to smoothies. That said, kale, arugula, beet greens, Swiss chard, lettuce, and dark green herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro) are also incredible sources of nutrition! Brimming with key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, low in calories, and full of fiber, dark leafy greens keep the whole body system in tip top shape.


    Add greens to your smoothies, make delicious salads, sauté greens with garlic and olive oil, or make trendy kale chips in your oven! For inspiration, check out our fav Green Smoothie recipe. Consider making this delicious Summer Greens Power Pesto for extra nutritious flavor!


  2. Blueberries



    These sweet blue treats contain a concentrated amount of fiber, potassium, magnese, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Blueberries contain the most antioxidants among commonly consumed fruits or vegetables! So what does this all mean? They help protect our bodies from cancer-causing free radicals and are chalk full of nutrients that support the immune system, nervous system, circulatory system, and digestive tract. They help our brains and our hearts. Need I say more?


    Add blueberries to your morning smoothies, cereals, or yoghurt. Eat blueberries as healthy snacks throughout the day. Check out this Summer Smoothie Bowls recipe and enjoy!


  3. Tomatoes



    Juicy red tomatoes are a sign of summer. Entirely different from out-of-season tomatoes harvested across the globe, in-season tomatoes are sweet, flavorful, and contain an abundance of nutrients and antioxidants that fight disease and keep us healthy. They are also a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect us against breast and prostate cancers.


    Add fresh tomatoes to salads, sauce, salsa, and soup! Enjoy fresh with a pinch of salt, or top with mozzarella and basil for a delectable treat!


  4. Watermelon



    Sweet and juicy watermelon is a blissful delicacy on a hot summer’s day. Watermelon’s superpowers include nutrients and antioxidants that promote heart health and bone health, and aid in the prevention of prostate cancer. Watermelon has an alkalizing effect on the body and can act as an aphrodisiac! Each bite provides incredible hydration. True to its name watermelon is 92% water. Providing vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium, watermelon is a fun and delicious guilt-free summer treat. Feel free to enjoy watermelon all summer long!


    Check out this Watermelon Smoothie recipe for inspiration or try watermelon salad with our fav Sexy Summer Watermelon Salad recipe.


  5. Avocados



    Hass and Anaheim avocados are the commercially grown varieties that are in season during the summer months. Not only delicious, they contain one of the healthiest fats there is: monounsaturated fatty acids.  Plus avos are chalk full of vitamin K, C, E, B5, and B6. They also provide a significant amount of folate and more potassium than a banana. Since our brains are made of fat and we need healthy fats to protect our heart, a daily avocado may be the easiest and most delicious choice we could make for our health. And don’t be fooled by the word “fat.” Avocados can help with weight loss!


    Add avocados to smoothies, salads, guacamole, salsas, and more! Check out this Simple Summer Salad recipe for inspiration.


 

*Photos from Dr. Axe, California Avocados, and Authority Nutrition

 

Hydrate The Ayurvedic Way

Want to create a healthy body and glowing skin?


Look no further. Hydrating the Ayurvedic way can help you achieve your optimal wellness.  


By now you’ve probably heard the recommendation to drink eight glasses of water per day. But the reality of hydration is more complex. After all, each of us has a unique constitutional makeup, with diverse needs. We each have different habits that may dehydrate our bodies. Plus, there are quick and easy tips to help your body to absorb water and stay hydrated you won’t want to miss.


Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, looks at the human body as a whole system, affected by seasonality and our environment. Moreover, Ayurveda sees the physical body as both a cause and effect of a person’s energy, state of mind, emotional health, and spirit. 


Ayurvedic practitioners approach health and wellness topics from a holistic perspective. 


According to Ayurvedic science, the physical body and everything that interacts with the body is made up of a unique balance of the five great elements (water, fire, air, earth, and ether or space). Each person’s elemental constitution affects all aspects of their multidimensional being. 

A person’s original constitution is called Prakriti.This is the inherent elemental makeup of a person determined at conception, akin to eye color or height. A person’s Prakriti is described as having a specific balance of three doshas: Vata (Air), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Earth). Each of us is made up of each of the doshas, our Prakriti reflects our individual formula, as unique as our fingerprint. 



So how does this work? If you have a Pitta predominant dosha, for example, you have a lot of fire in your body relative to earth and air. You tend to digest and metabolize food quickly. And your body may run hot. Additionally, you may be prone to rashes or acne. With so much heat running through, a “hot” temper and a quick intellect may define aspects of your personality. 


If you are curious about your personal Ayurvedic constitution, check out this online quiz. Plus you can learn more about the doshas and your Prakriti in our Five Pillars’ article, Intro to Ayurveda. And, if you want a professional assessment, consider working with an Ayurvedic practitioner.


So how does your constitution relate to hydration?


Discovering your Ayurvedic dosha can help you to better understand your body’s tendencies. Even without turning to Ayurveda, you probably know if you experience water retention on the one hand or if you tend to become dehydrated easily on the other hand. A person who tends to retain water may need to balance their body with exercise, foods, and drinks that act as healthy diuretics, while the person who tends to be dehydrated may benefit from learning about the body’s water absorption process. The goal of discovering the doshas is creating deeper self-awareness and, in this case, discover a balanced approach to hydration and its impact on your overall health and wellbeing.


When you understand your own constitution and personal tendencies, you can begin to create healthy hydration habits that benefit your body. 


Vata: People with predominant Vata constitutions have a tendency toward dehydration and need plenty of water and tea throughout the day. Since the qualities of Vata are cool, dry and rough, sip warm liquids and add hydrating oils to the skin each morning create balance.


Suggested bevies to pacify Vata? Add some fresh ginger to your water. Sip water with chia seeds to help with absorption. To increase flavor, add sliced strawberries or raspberries.


Pitta: People with predominant Pitta constitutions run hot, tending to sweat and metabolize nutrition quickly, thus losing liquids at a rapid rate. To stay in balance, consume room temperature liquids and cooling foods, especially during the hot Spring and Summer months. Also, when overheating, cool the entire body with dips into water and cold showers.

Suggested bevies to pacify Pitta? Sip on cooling cucumber and watermelon water or juice. Add a few sprigs of mint and lemon to your water to enhance flavor and soothe digestion.


Kapha: People with predominant Kapha constitutions tend to retain water and metabolize nutrition slowly. Qualities of Kapha are cool, smooth, soft, slow, and stable. To increase digestive fire and stay in balance, consume warm liquids and add heating spices such as ginger and a dash of cayenne to create a spice water to sip all day long. When the body retains water, yoga asana, exercise, and saunas can help water to move through your body.


Suggested bevies to pacify Kapha? Enjoy some steaming decaf chai, add ginger, lemon, and a splash of cayenne to your water, and sip on warm tea throughout the day.



ॐ See you on the mat ॐ



*images taken from:

jeevalifestyle.com

realfoodwholelife.com

lifehack.org

shareably.net

drtayade.com

TeaSource Chai Spice Blend | Chai Tea

mapi.com

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

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.

 

 

 

Four Ayurvedic Practices to Boost Your Immune System

Leaves blanket the ground creating an artful display of fall colors. Hearty root crops and winter squash are abundant at the farmer’s market. According to Ayurvedic wisdom, autumn is the vata season, known for its cool, light, dry, moving, and erratic qualities. There is incredible momentum, movement, and vitality that occurs with when the wild vata winds blow, generating transformation. And yet, we can also find ourselves forced to stop in our tracks as colds and the flu spread through schools and workplaces like wildfire during this time of year. To go forth with steady confidence and healthy bodies, favor a vata pacifying lifestyle which boosts the immune system and brings the body, mind, and spirit into balance. Check out these four tips to be well and stay calm.

 

One: Begin to see food as medicine.

Incorporate a vata pacifying diet this fall, which consists of foods that are warm, moist, smooth, and nourishing. Fresh, cooling crudites were perfect for the hot summer, but the crisp fall air invites forth a natural desire to nourish ourselves with warming butternut squash soups, more protein, and hearty stews. If you are already in the practice of eating fresh, seasonal foods and shopping at the farmer’s market, you may notice the natural shift toward heartier produce that balances the vata dosha.

Freshly cooked veggies are easier for our bodies to digest and assimilate than raw produce. Minimize stress and support easy digestion by consuming lightly cooked foods that are warming and soothing. Sip ginger tea with meals to aid digestion, or make a healing, anti-inflammatory turmeric-honey tea to support the immune system. Go deeper with this recipe from 101 Cookbooks.

Begin to see your vegetables as vessels for healing herbs and spices. Each of the ancient, lasting cuisines around the world incorporate delicious, healing herbs and spices into meals. Oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary make their way into Italian sauces. Turmeric, cumin, ginger, and cayenne spice up Indian fare.

Food is so much more than fuel and nutrients. Many of the aromatic herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, anti-fungal properties. As we spice up our recipes and savor the incredible flavor of international cuisine, our meals become medicine that support the immune system, keeping seasonal colds and the flu at bay.

Try cooking a healing coconut-milk curry with plenty of spices and seasonal vegetables. For inspiration, view this recipe: South Indian Style Vegetable Curry. For more information about Ayurvedic wisdom, check out this article: Vata Pacifying Diet.

 

Two: Wake up before sunrise and create a morning routine.

Routine balances the vata dosha. The early morning hours before sunrise are the vata time of day, inspiring movement and energy. Practice pranayama, sun salutations, yoga postures, and meditation first thing in the morning to stimulate your body’s cleansing systems and set the tone for your day. Sip room temperature or lukewarm water with lemon first thing to stimulate and balance your digestive tract.

Poses that work on the colon (the bodily seat of vata), intestines, pelvis, lumbar spine, and sacroiliac balance vata by bringing energy back down into the base of the torso. Spinal twists and inversions of all kinds soothe this dosha. Sitting and standing forward bends are choice poses, particularly for insomnia; boat, plank, staff, and plow are also powerful vata-reducers. To support grounding, work with standing poses such as mountain, triangle, warrior, and tree. Avoid back bends, such as bow, cobra, pigeon, and arch, which increase vata, or hold them briefly. If you enjoy vinyasa, do sun salutations S-L-O-W-L-Y. Let child’s pose lead you back to your innate innocence and trust. End your practice with a long Savasana (20–30 minutes); it is really okay to do NOTHING for a while.

Selection taken from Kirupalu’s Yoga and Ayurveda article. 

Three: Give yourself a thorough rubdown.

A self-massage with warming sesame oil may provide the moisturizing nourishment your skin needs to maintain its healthy glow this fall. Plus self-massage boosts the immune system, improves circulation, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the body and mind. Follow the sesame-oil massage with a relaxing bath or shower. For more information on balancing your skin and body, check out Five Pillars’ recent article by Erika: Defeating Fall Dryness.

 

Four: Practice alternate nostril breathing.

Alternate nostril breathing is very balancing year-round, but particularly supportive during the vata season. Check out this video to go deeper:

 

 

Our Favorite Plant-Based Food Blogs

Are you inspired to eat more plant-based meals?


These three plant-based food blogs are chalk full of enchanting seasonal recipes that make ditching animal flesh tasteful and easy. Each author embraces her own creative spin, drawing from international cuisine and local flavors.


Two common fears people have when they are including more plant-based cuisine are:

1) going hungry
2) missing out on essential nutrients such as protein


For years, I thought eating healthy meant going hungry. Discovering how to seriously enjoy plant-based meals with these mind-blowing food blogs helped me to overcome my fears and live nourished.


Prepare yourself for a perspective shift as you come across recipes ranging from Coconut Bacon BLT to In the Buff Smoothie Bowl to Roasted Red Pepper Mac & Cheese. These inspired chefs have taken your favorite meals and turned them into delectable, healthy plant-based treats full of protein and superfoods.


Ready to dish up some inspiration? Check out our three favorite plant-based food blogs.

 

1. 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson

 

Heidi Swanson offers beautiful inspiration for cooking with whole, natural foods. Her blog shares recipes by season, ingredients and mealtime categories. So if you find yourself leaving the farmers’ market or grocery store with three bundles of kale or a bagful of shelling peas and feel joyfully overwhelmed by all of your fresh produce, you will find an array of recipes to help you create a delicious feast that everybody will love. Her recipes are meatless and plant-based, though you will find recipes with and without dairy products. We love her artful pictures and lengthy archive of innovative recipes that will leave you feeling full and energized. She makes wellness seem easy and fun!

 

2. Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon

Angela Liddon’s award-winning blog is designed help you find your inner and outer glow by indulging in mouth-watering, awe-inspiring plant-based recipes. Featuring over 500 recipes, Angela’s goal is equal parts pleasure and health. She says, “I thrive on a diet made up of whole, plant-based foods that are minimally processed and organically grown whenever possible. I make room for dessert, believing a balanced diet can still include indulgences like chocolate or sweet treats (in moderation—usually!).” So if you are ready to discover meat-free, dairy-free and even gluten-free meals, snacks and desserts, look no further. Your journey will quickly become about all of the incredible food you can happily enjoy rather than the foods you are trying to avoid. Check out her Summer Glow Buddha Bowl and Chocolate Raspberry Dreams Breakfast Parfait to get started!

 

3. Post Punk Kitchen by Isa Chandra Moscowitz

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Isa Chandra is the bestselling author of Isa Does It, Veganomicon & Vegan with a Vengeance. Plus she has a restaurant you should go check out called Modern Love based in Brooklyn and Omaha. She makes cooking and eating vegan food fun and delicious. Whether your looking for comfort foods, dessert, or you are seeking so fresh goodies to feel your best, Isa Chandra offers it all.

Craving something sweet? Check out her Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies and savor.

Desire a wholesome meal with some delectable flavors? Check out her Nirvana Enchilada Casserole.



 

 

 

*Featured image & article images taken from 101cookbooks.com, ohsheglows.com & IsaChandra.com.

Yoga 101: What To Eat Before Yoga Practice

Do you wonder what to eat before you practice yoga? After all, we are often twisting, strengthening, extending, and bending our bodies into many different shapes that have profound effects on our organs, including our stomach and digestive tract. This can lead us to avoid food before practice. However, we are often expending significant energy in class, which requires adequate nourishment. So what to do?


Deciding what to eat before yoga practice is highly personal. What works for someone else might not work for you. However, there are some general nutritional principles to consider.


1. Digestion 101:


Digestion time varies between individuals. To build maximum energy, consider eating healthy, balanced meal two to three hours before you practice yoga, which allows your body to be nourished and your stomach to be empty. If you are practicing first thing in the morning, try to allow at least 30 minutes to digest your food before you step onto your mat. When you are running short on time, consider eating a light snack that is easy to digest.

Although raw veggies are delicious and healthy, the fiber takes a lot of energy to break down and assimilate. To avoid gas and bloating, you may want to steer clear of high fiber foods such as cruciferous veggies and legumes (beans, lentils, peas) before you practice.

Most importantly, pay attention to your own experience so you can discover what works best for you.

Which foods nourish you and how much time do you need to enjoy your practice without bloating, gas, or a stomachache?

Short on time before class? Consider making our Favorite Green Smoothie, or enjoy a piece of fresh fruit. Have 10 minutes? Try our Summer Smoothie Bowl for complete nourishment!



2. Learn About Macronutrients:


There are six macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals.


1. Carbs include grains, starches, sweeteners, fruits, and veggies. They burn relatively quickly for fast energy.

2. Protein can be found in legumes, veggies, seeds, and animal products. Protein helps build and repair your muscles.

3. Fat comes from fruit, vegetables, seeds, and animal products. Fat takes the longest to digest and is essential for the functioning of your brain and heart.

4. Water is so important. After all, you are made of 60% water. Learn more about hydration: The Five Pillars of Water and Hydrate the Ayurvedic Way.

5. Vitamins are often thought of as small pills and tinctures at most grocery and drug stores, but they actually occur naturally in the food you eat. If you eat a balanced diet, your food likely contains the vitamins you need to stay healthy. The more colorful your fruits and veggies, the more vitamins they contain.

6. Minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulfur. Plus there are trace minerals such as iron and zinc. They are found in the foods we consume and keep the body in tip top shape. Want to make sure you are getting your minerals? Nuts, beans and lentils, and dark leafy greens are the foods containing the most minerals!


Why is this important? Digestion time varies based on the macronutrients you eat. Plus your body and energy responds differently to each macronutrient. Fat takes the longest time to digest, for example, while carbohydrates provide quick energy and easier digestion.


So what to do? Consider consuming a light, balanced meal of healthy carbohydrates and protein before you practice for optimal energy. Give yourself enough time to digest. Beyond comfort and ease in your belly, this way of eating will give you adequate energy to move through a yoga sequence. Plus nourishing your body before you practice will help tone and strengthen your muscles.

You can follow a practice with a healthy and balanced meal to help your muscles repair and your mind to focus throughout your day. A healthy post-asana practice meal includes a balance of all of the macronutrients.

As always, pay attention to your own experience. Which foods are easy to digest and give you adequate energy before you practice? And which foods make your body feel nourished after you practice?

3. Eat Real Food:


These days we can spend each meal dining from a package. However, protein shakes and energy bars are not real food. That said, they can be wonderful supplements to meals. A simple way to think about eating real food is to avoid foods that come in a package. Another simple consideration is to eat from the rainbow. See if you can eat as many colors in one meal as possible. The color in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple foods is indicative of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting antioxidants.

4. Listen to Your Body:



Your body will lead you home, if only you slow down long enough to listen. Your body tells you when you are hungry and when you are thirsty. It may even tell you exactly what it wants to be eating. Plus your body lets you know when you are satisfied. Paying attention to the language and signals of your own body will become easier the more you practice yoga. The mind-body connection that we cultivate when we practice in yoga helps us off the mat and at the table. As we begin to tune in and listen, the signals of hunger and satisfaction coming from our bodies grow louder and clearer. Equally helpful, yoga helps to develop discernment, giving us the capacity to choose healthy foods that nourish our bodies, our minds, and our souls.


Although it is important to learn the basics of nutrition, it is equally important to develop body wisdom. Returning to the knowledge you knew when you were a child will lead you home to your healthiest self as an adult. Eat when you are hungry. And stop when you are satisfied. Then pay attention to how you feel during your practice and learn from your own, direct experience.


 

The Skinny on Salt

Little by little, the chef adds salt until they find the perfect balance of savory, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Salt seasons our favorite dishes and creates delicious flavors when we cook. 


Understanding the world of salt can help you create satisfying meals and a healthy body. 


By now you’ve probably heard the advice to watch your salt intake. After all, too much salt in your diet causes water retention and raises your blood pressure. Increased blood pressure may strain essential organs in your body, creating a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. 


Learning about the perils of certain substances can cause us to react in extreme ways, cutting out entire food groups or nutrients. But our bodies depend on some salt to survive, so we cannot take an all or nothing approach. Like most things, there is a middle ground to discover.


Image taken from https://www.etsy.com/market/himalayan_salt


Salt is a mineral made up of the elements sodium + chlorine. When we get just enough salt, the sodium helps to regulate water balance helping us stay hydrated, supporting digestion, and keeping our blood pressure in a healthy range, supporting the circulatory system. So when it comes to salt, too much or too little causes problems. If you exercise vigorously, attend hot yoga classes, or take saunas or steam baths regularly, consider adding a dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon to your water for a hydrating sugar-free sports drink.


Salt, alongside sugar, is added to many packaged foods to boost flavor. And most of us are consuming much more salt (and sugar) than we need when we eat processed and packaged foods. To stay healthy, eating whole, unprocessed foods and taking time to cook balanced meals may be the ticket for longevity and a healthy life. 


Building some knowledge around salt is key. How much can we consume? Is it important to purchase idolized salt? And, what type of salt should we be using?



How much can we consume? 

Healthy individuals need 1,500-2,000 mg of sodium per day to keep the body in prime shape… only 3/4 – 1 teaspoon! People diagnosed with high blood pressure or congestive heart failure are often prescribed a low-salt diet by their physicians to prevent further complications.


Since the daily quota is so small, choosing the type of salt is important. And becoming aware of sodium added to packaged and processed foods can be eye opening. Moving toward real foods and away from packaged foods will prevent the water retention and blood pressure changes that occur with excess salt.


Is it important to purchase idolized salt?

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “We can get iodine naturally by eating saltwater fish and seafood, kelp and other sea vegetables as well as vegetables grown in soils that contain iodine. Dairy products also provide iodine if the animals graze on plants growing in iodine-rich soils. However, don’t depend on processed foods that are high in sodium for iodine – the salt they contain is not iodized. Many Americans are iodine deficient so it’s a good idea to use iodized salt.”


What type of salt should we be using?

Not all salt is created equal. Table salt is stripped of minerals and contaminants and then mixed with aluminum compounds that have anti-caking properties. Sea Salt, on the other hand, comes in refined and unrefined varieties without additives. You can go to the grocery store and see pink Himalayan salts, sea salt from different places around the world, kosher salt, and table salt. There are so many varieties of salt, it may feel overwhelming. To help you sift through all of these incredible choices, here is a quick overview of your healthy options, created by Dr. Andrew Weil in his article Sizing Up Salt?


Kosher salt: This coarse-textured salt dissolves quickly and can be used for any kind of cooking. Kosher salt is not “kosher” in the sense that other foods may be – the name comes from the fact that it is used for drawing the blood out of meat, a step in the koshering process. 

Sea salt: Natural sea salt comes from evaporated seawater and is harvested all over the world. Depending on where they come from, commercial brands of sea salt usually contain a variety of trace minerals that may influence the taste and color of the product. Raw sea salt is often grayish-white, sometimes pink or orange. Sea salt can be fine or coarse in texture and comes as crystals and flakes. 

Fleur de Sel: Another prized salt. Fleur del sel means “flowers of salt” in French and is so-called because the crystals look like lacy snowflakes. Fleur de sel is white because the salt crystals don’t come in contact with the clay beds in which seawater concentrates. It is harvested from the surface of the water where it forms when winds are calm and the weather is warm.

Many other types of salt are available, including pink salt from Peru and the Himalayas, red salt from Hawaii, black volcanic salt – all with distinctive trace minerals – as well as smoked and other flavored salts. 

Read more: Click here

 

Our Choice?

Although the nutrient value is the same, we prefer sea salt over table salt for regular cooking because it contains fewer additives and offers trace minerals retained from the natural harvesting process. Plus Himalayan, black volcanic salts, or Flour de Sel can be mixed into special dishes or offered as a beautiful display of seasoning options at the dinner table. 

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