Drink Your Way to a Healthier New Year

With the New Year just around the corner, and the” heaviness” of holiday eating weighing us down, many of us set resolutions to exercise more, stress less, and lose weight (often by crash dieting).  Rather than going on a fad diet, or cutting your calories back to an unrealistic, un-maintainable level, try making smaller life-style changes.

One of the best, and perhaps easiest, life-style changes a person can make is to begin incorporating healthy, live foods into their daily routine.  When thinking of a food as “living” or “dead,” there are two important aspects to consider; will it nourish my body and will it expire in a reasonable time period.  Unless food is preserved in a historical manner ( e.g. fermenting or canning), it should be unable to “survive” in your pantry for years at a time.  This extended shelf life, in most processed foods, can be attributed to chemical additives and preservatives that often promote inflammation and toxic overload in our bodies.  While these processed foods can be found in most meals throughout the day, a main offender is often breakfast and/or snacks.

My proposal, to you, is that rather than reach for a granola bar, bagel, donut, or sugary strudel, make yourself a Green Smoothie!  Packed full of fruits, and vegetables (hence the green part), this smoothie is quick and easy to make, provides tons of essential vitamins (including Vitamin-C), minerals (Magnesium and Potassium), healthy fats (Omega-9’s), and fiber (to help remove “Bad” Cholesterol and leave you feeling fuller longer).

Green Smoothie Recipe

Green Smoothie

1/2 Apple

1/2 Banana

1 Handful of Frozen Mixed Berries or Tropical Fruit

1 Handful of Spinach

1 Handful of Kale (Stems Removed)

Dash of Cinnamon

1/2 Avocado (optional – makes smoothie creamier)

1 C. Water

Loosely combine all ingredients in a blender and process until a smooth consistency is obtained.  Add additional water, as needed, if smoothie remains chunky/thick.  Substituting additional spinach for equal parts kale may also help to resolve any texture issues, as kale can be a bit more fibrous.  Drink the smoothie within 20-30 minutes of blending to receive the most health benefits from your “living” food.

TIP:  It is always best to rinse the blender out immediately after use, to avoid stubborn stuck on pulp.

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The Tropical Life

It was 1972 when Harry Edward Nilsson III told listeners to “put de lime in de coconut, you drink ‘em bot’ togedder, put de lime in de coconut and you’ll feel better, put de lime in de coconut, drink ‘em bot’ up, put de lime in de coconut and call me in the morning.” What Nilsson didn’t know was that not only was he writing a catchy song, which will stick with you forever, but that he was giving you some of the best nutritional advice around.

Limes

Although many people think of limes as the lemons unwanted cousin, there truly is an inherent value in incorporating more limes into your daily diet. Like most citrus fruits, the lime is a significant source of Vitamin-C, providing nearly 32 percent of your recommended dietary allowance. Vitamin C is considered the “grandfather” of antioxidants, helping to boost immunity and limit inflammatory causing free-radicals in the body. Vitamin C is also essential to the development and repair of soft tissues such as muscle and cartilage. Other antioxidants provided by limes include Vitamin A and Vitamin E.

Limes also provide vitamins and minerals that are essential in supporting, and developing, healthy and strong bones. These include low levels of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin K. In addition to helping with bone support, Magnesium plays a vital role in metabolism (ATP production), inflammation control, DNA repair, regulation of muscle spasms (including the gastrointestinal tract), and repairing connective tissue. Recent research has even shown that magnesium deficiency has a high correlation to artery plaqueing, and is a much greater risk factor than having elevated cholesterol levels.

coconut

When people think of coconuts they typically think of shredded sweetened flakes, macaroons, and pina coladas. However, as research continues to amass on the many benefits of coconuts (both health and non-health related), numerous products are starting to emerge and become easily accessible on the market. These products range from unsweetened coconut flakes to coconut water, oil, milk, sugar, and flour. Each of these products is very different, and can be utilized in its own unique and varying application. Coconut oil is a very stable, saturated fat, which makes it an ideal option for cooking. Due to its increased stability, coconut is the only oil that will not oxidize under heat, meaning no free-radicals are formed. Contrary to popular belief, traditional forms of saturated fat are actually heart healthy, and are an essential component of cell walls. The inflammation associated with omega-6 rich “vegetable oils” is much more detrimental to our everyday health than saturated fats. Due to its ability to combat free-radicals, coconut oil is also highly valuable in combating skin damage when applied as a lotion.

People that are actively “dieting” may also like to know that coconut oil, and coconut water, consumption has been linked to improved weight loss. Not only is coconut oil rich in electrolytes, without the added sweeteners and artificial ingredients of many sports drinks, but it is an excellent source of medium chain fatty acids. MCFAs are typically smaller than long chain fatty acids, found in many common vegetable and seed oils, which makes them easier to absorb by our cells. MCFAs are typically easier to digest and are shunted directly to the liver where than can be instantly converted to energy. This conversion process gives your body the fuel it needs to function without causing a spike in insulin that is often associated with grains and sugar. Lastly, coconut oil has been found to be abundant in lauric acid, a form of MCFA that is present in breast milk and thought to be one of the main sources of its immune boosting ability. The list of benefits go on and on.

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On a side note, while it is widely known that excess alcohol consumption is detrimental to your health, research suggests that individuals who consume no alcohol throughout life are likely to have higher levels of inflammation. So, responsibly and within moderation, feel free to put de lime in de coconut (with a little rum) and drink ‘em bot’ up.

Scratch Made Chili Seasoning

With winter upon us, and the cold wind knocking at our doors, it is safe to say that “soup season” is upon us.  While “soup” is unique in that there is so many varieties, ranging from chicken noodle and tomato, to gumbo and chowders, no “soup” is as hearty and fulfilling as chili.  Made properly, chili can be a highly nutritious, and relatively affordable meal.

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The average chili contains: Beans (which while slightly inflammatory, contain a large amount of fiber that is both Gastro- and Heart Healthy), Ground Beef (which if organic and grass-fed, contains a significant amount of anti-inflammatory Omega-3’s, and CLA fatty acids, that significantly help to reduce the risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s), Tomatoes (which help to combat prostate cancer with Lycopene), and perhaps the most important aspect of chili, the seasonings (cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, and chili powder).

While it is easier to simply go to the local grocery store and buy a packet of pre-made chili seasoning, making your own mix can not only save you a few pennies, but can also spare you the “natural flavors,” additives (like hydrolyzed yeast – think MSG), anti-caking agents (like silicon dioxide), trans fats (partially hydrogenated soybean oil) and preservatives (like citric acid).  The recipe below works well for both chili and tacos, and can be adjusted to satisfy each individuals personal taste preference.

Chili Seasoning

  • 1/4 C. Garlic Powder (anti-inflammatory)
  • 1/4 C. Onion Powder
  • 1/4 C. Chili Powder (contains anti-inflammatory capsaicin)
  • 1/4 C. Ground Cumin (helps improve hypoglycemia and digestion of fats)
  • 1 T. Crushed Red Pepper (also contains capsaicin, which can boost metabolism)

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Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly in an airtight container.

Add as much seasoning to chili base as you see fit.

Enjoy!

A Healthier Sports Drink

It is a well known fact that a large portion of the human body is made up of water.  In fact, it is estimated that water comprises nearly 50-75% of the average person, with a large portion being stored in the muscles and bones.  Water is essential for all bodily functions, including proper muscle function, digestion, blood flow, and waste removal.  One simple test to ensure that you are well hydrated is to analyze the color of your urine.  If the urine is a dark yellow, you are typically dehydrated, while clear urine indicates that you are getting enough liquids throughout your day.

A common reason that someone becomes dehydrated is that they typically wait too long to drink water, relying on the feeling of “being thirsty” rather than periodically drinking water throughout the day.  More often than not, people confuse the sensation of being thirsty with being hungry, overeating when they should actually be drinking more water; this hinders digestion as more food needs to be broken down with inadequate water to support the process.

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When talking about dehydration, it is important to note that it only takes a loss of 2-3% of the body’s water supply to activate the thirst response.  Perhaps, even more surprising is the fact that it takes a water loss of just 1 % to impair both mental performance and physical coordination.  This, along with other serious health risks (such as heat stroke) is why it is essential to stay hydrated during athletic competition.  One of the best ways to do so is by making your own all natural sports drink (see recipe below) that provides the benefits of the big name products, but without all the added preservatives and artificial ingredients.

Homemade Cherry Sports Drink

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  • 5 T. Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate
  • 2 T. Lemon Juice
  • 2  1/2 T. Raw Honey (local honey may boost immunity against common allergens)
  • 3  1/3 c. Cold Water
  • 1/4 tsp. Himalayan Sea Salt (provides important electrolytes/minerals)

 In a quart size bottle, combine first four ingredients.  Add salt and shake to thoroughly combine.  Chill and serve.

A Healthy Holiday Addition.

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash w/ Cranberries & Feta

Looking for a healthy alternative to those “candied yams” covered in brown sugar and marshmallows?  Try this healthier, yet delicious, alternative.  The following dish is loaded with good-for-you foods, including garlic (a strong anti-inflammatory that has been shown very effective in combating arthritis related pain) Cranberries (contain polyphenols, which may play a role in cardiovascular and immune system health), and Cinnamon (has been shown to safely reduce blood pressure and blood sugar levels.  It is also suggested that smelling cinnamon can boost your IQ level).

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Ingredients:

1 Large Butternut Squash, peeled & chopped

Olive Oil

Salt, Pepper, & Garlic Powder

2 C. Fresh Cranberries

2-3 T. Honey

1/4 C. Crumbled Feta

Ground Cinnamon, to taste

Fresh or Dried Parsley (optional garnish)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400.

  2. Lightly drizzle olive oil over baking sheet.

  3. Add cubed squash to baking sheetand drizzle with additional oil.

  4. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, to desired preference.

  5. Roast squash for 25 minutes, remove from oven, and add cranberries to baking dish.

  6. Return to oven for 10 – 15 minutes, until cranberries have started to soften/burst.

  7. Remove from oven and lightly sprinkle cinnamon over dish, along with honey, and feta.

  8. Garnish with parsley and ENJOY!!!