Category Archives: Health & Fitness

Get Cultured

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Bonjour les belles,

Probiotics have been popping up in the media as of late, and I wanted to reiterate the fact that they are so essential and beneficial to our bodies. In addition, I wanted to share some recipes I have been utilizing lately that contain probiotics.

First things first: what are probiotics?

~ According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, probiotics are varieties of live microorganisms, for example bacteria and yeast, that naturally live in our bodies. Microorganisms tend to have a negative connotation, but they actually have immense health benefits and help our bodies function properly. For example, bacteria that are normally present in our intestines help digest food, destroy disease-causing microorganisms, prevent diarrhea caused by infections or antibiotics, help with irritable bowel syndrome, and produce vitamins.

*A lot of research has been done on probiotics, and a lot more is on the horizon. If anyone would like more information on the subject, I am more than happy to provide you with studies.*

Fun Fact: Microorganisms in the human body outnumber human cells by 10 to 1.

Where can I find probiotics?

~ As I mentioned, we naturally have them in our bodies already, but it certainly would not hurt to help your body out and ingest additional probiotics. Dietary supplements exist, but I would recommend first trying to incorporate into your diet food/drink that contain helpful microorganisms naturally. However, I am not a doctor, so please consult your health care provider first.

~ If you are trying to get natural probiotics, the following are popular (if you are not making these yourself, PLEASE make sure they are not pasteurized; you need the live and active culture/fermentation for microbes) : yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, and anything pickled.

Fun Fact: Kefir is fermented milk, but you can also make “water kefir”. To make you will need sugar, and grains, which can be bought online at a reputable store. I have heard etsy also has reliable sources for these grains. The “common ground fair” in Maine is also a good location to find tasty kefir.

Ok! Now the fun stuff. There is this wonderful company in Bristol, Rhode Island called Hope & Main, and they offer a wide variety of classes on a regular basis. I recently attended one (taught by Susan and Bleu) that focused on fermented foods, and it was amazing. If anyone lives in the area and is interested, I highly recommend you check this company out for future classes.

From this class, I learned how to make sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha and I am pleased to share my gleaned knowledge with you all.

SAUERKRAUT

  • Ingredients: depends on how much you want to make, but I would  say start with 1 head of tight, heavy, organic cabbage. Peel off the outer leaves until they are slightly stuck to the head, then remove the core and slice thinly.
  • Use a ratio of 1 head cabbage: 1 T (sea) salt; it should taste like oversalted salad. Mix and massage with hands. The reason for this is that the salt pulls out the water and wilts the cabbage. Continue massaging the cabbage until water pools at the bottom of your bowl and leaves look shiny.
  • Pack cabbage and pooled water into jars. You will need enough water in the jar to completely submerge the cabbage to prevent molding. If you do not have enough water, make a brine: 1T salt: 1/2 gal water. Pour water on top with ~ 1.5″ space at top of freeze line.
  • That’s pretty much it! Leave lid loose on jar or cover with cheese cloth.
  • Temperature is important: high 50s, low 60s are ideal conditions for nutrients; temperature >65 creates too yeasty of a product. Basements and closets are great for this.
  • It takes about 3 weeks for the cabbage to fully ferment, but you need to push down the cabbage below water level daily for the 1st 2 weeks. This is very important as it prevents molding. A tamper is good for this, but anything that gets the job done is fine.

This is an anaerobic process, which means oxygen is not desired. This is why keep the veggies submerged is crucial, as they won’t be touched by oxygen under water.

  • You will notice in ~3 days the cabbage will look like it is cracking with air. This is a good sign. Over time, the product will get less salty and more sour.
  • If you are making larger batches, stoneware is a good investment. I personally own a 2-gallon Ohio Stoneware crock (bought at Ace hardware) with a lid and weights.
  • After the fermentation process is complete, move the sauerkraut to wide mouth glass jars with a lid. I find that plastic lids are best here, as they do not rust.

KIMCHI

  • The same process as sauerkraut applies here; you need to liberally salt your veggies and make sure there is enough brine to completely submerge ingredients.
  • Ingredients for one batch (~ 2 quart jars): 1/2 c shredded carrot, 2 Napa “Chinese” Cabbage (cut out core), 3 cloves garlic, 1 bunch scallions, ginger (as desired), 1 large daikon radish (grate/shred), red pepper flakes/seeds (as desired), salt
  • Mix all ingredients together in a crock and then either keep in crock or transfer to jars, depending on how you are storing during fermentation process.
  • The sweeter the vegetable, the quicker the process. This means kimchi takes less than 3 weeks to ferment; usually between 1 1/2 – 2 weeks. As long as the product no longer tastes salty, and you like the taste, it is good to go!

    Gingered carrots are another tasty recipe to try.

KOMBUCHA {Fermented Tea}

  • Start with a SCOBY -> symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This is the liquid starter, or “mother” and is fed with sugar. The best way to obtain a SCOBY is to take a piece of one from someone you know that currently has one.
  • Ingredients: 1 gallon purified water in pot, get hot but not quite boiling (~ 8 min), black or green tea bags or loose tea, steep, remove and drop heat until ~ room temperature (cool to the touch). Do not put the SCOBY in until water is cool, or you could kill it.
  • After water cools, pour into a glass jar – ideally with a spout – then add the SCOBY and sugar. A good ratio is 1 c sugar:1 gallon water; brown sugar or not processed is best. Do not use metal! Only use a wooden spoon to stir.
  • Your SCOBY will need to breath, so do not put a lid on the jar. Instead, use a cheese cloth or a kitchen towel with a rubberband on top to secure. It is also best to store your mixture in a pantry or place with no sunlight.
  • You will notice that the SCOBY forms a seal on top of the mixture. This is to prevent from outside contaminants.
  • Depending on the temperature where you store the SCOBY and personal preference, time will vary until completion. A good timeline is 7 t0 30 days; a longer brewing time will result in less sugar and a more vinegar-y tasting beverage. Taste test mixture regularly to help decide.
  • When your kombucha is ready, wash your hands, remove the SCOBY (store in a ziploc bag in fridge with 1/4 cup of brew – this will serve as a starter for the next batch) and use a funnel to pour brew into separate glass jars. Again, no metal. Fill the jars as much as you can, then cover for a few days to get carbonation.

That’s all she wrote, folks! Creating probiotic friendly foods is really much easier than you would think, and the benefits certainly outweigh the costs. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to ask! I don’t have any good photos of my endeavors to date, but I may post some in the future.

 

Anti-Stress Smoothie

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Feeling a little stressed? Meh, it happens; not fun, but it comes with being well, human.

In my opinion, stress is something that absolutely needs to be combated, whether you get it out of your system by working out (my method), writing about it in a journal, or as I would like to address in this post, eating or drinking certain things that could help alleviate stress.

Anti-Stress SmoothieThat, my friends, is an “anti-stress smoothie”. It’s delicious, nutritious, and is proven to help combat dreaded stress.

What’s Inside: For one large serving
– 1 cup blueberries
– 3/4 cup homemade almond milk
– 1/2 cup chocolate frozen yogurt
– 1 medium banana
– 3-5 ice cubes
– 1 tablespoon honey
– sprig of lavender (for garnish)

It’s not even necessary to include instructions; simply combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, then garnish with lavender – and whipped cream if you have it (I didn’t) – and enjoy!

Aaaand, just to help give you a little giggle, here’s a picture of my cat with bread on her head.

She's So Happy Looking...

She’s So Happy Looking…

Remember: deep breaths. Namaste.

Snack This Out: Snapea Crisps

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Yes, you saw that correctly. “Snapea Crisps” are made from 70% whole pea, and somehow Calbee turned those darling green guys into an incredibly delicious, healthy alternative to potato chips. I’ve always been a fan of raw sugar snap peas, but these are extra crunchy, and they satiate that salt craving that so many of us have, myself included.

ImageCompared to regular potato chips, Snapea Crisps have 40% less fat, are a good source of fiber (3g compared to 1g), and have much less sodium. They also boast 4g of protein per serving (22 pieces).. pretty darn good for a lightly salted and baked Snap Pea!

So instead of grabbing a bag of Lay’s next time your grocery shopping, try these puppies out!

Spice of Life

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So, I love Indian food. I think I can say without hesitation that it is one of my favorite cuisines out there. It is relatively healthy, has a lovely kick, and just so much flavor! Plus, the spectrum of flavors (and colors!) blows my mind.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

Spices are an important part of Indian cuisine, and have been used historically for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Ancient Ayurvedic medicine relied on many natural remedies, and the health-boosting ingredients are still used in Indian cooking today to create food that is not only bursting with flavor but good for you as well.

Some of the common spices and herbs used in Indian recipes are as follows:

AMCHUR –Dry mango powder made from unripened, sun dried fruit. Tart flavor and carries all the nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins found in whole mangoes. Rich in iron, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E, and aids digestion.

BAY LEAVES –Very aromatic leaves that come from the cassia tree. They have a rich, woody flavor and light floral scent. It has many antibacterial, digestive, and antifungal properties, and is thought to benefit patients with diabetes and arthritis. In addition, they have been known to help with stress and anxiety.
 
BLACK PEPPER – An old, classic spice. Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and is thought to aid in digestion, boost metabolism, and help clear congestion.

CARDAMOM –Cardamom pods contain small, black seeds with a strong, versatile flavor. They are used in many Indian dishes, drinks, and desserts. Cardamom has also been used traditionally to treat ailments of the teeth or gums, aid in digestion, and pulmonary congestion as well as a breath freshener.
 
CAYENNE PEPPER – Made from dried and ground hot chili peppers. High in vitamin A, and contains vitamins B6, E, C, and potassium. It also has anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties, and can boost your metabolism.
 
CINNAMON – Obtained from the inner bark of a certain tree; used in the production of chocolate and to flavor a variety of desserts and savory dishes. Cinnamon is also thought to help regulate blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and have antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
 
CORIANDER – Comes from same plant as cilantro (but are the fruits)! Used in a variety of world cuisines. The fresh, fragrant leaves have a stronger citrus flavor than the fruits, and are often used in garnishes and chutneys. May be ground and used as a flavoring agent. Coriander is a source of calcium, iron, and magnesium, and is used as a home remedy to treat colds, to help regulate blood sugar, cholesterol, and free-radical production.
 
CUMIN – A member of the parsley family. Its seeds are extracted from the plant’s fruit and used whole or ground. It has a distinct earthy, peppery flavor. Cumin is believed to aid digestion and enhance appetite. It is also a source of iron and antioxidants, and may even boost the immune system and help the liver’s natural detoxification process.

FENUGREEK LEAVES – Native to South Asia and Southeastern Europe, fenugreek leaves resemble clover leaves.  They have been found to slow absorption of sugars in the stomach and stimulate insulin, helping lower blood sugar.  They have also been seen to be beneficial in treating kidney ailments, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, as well as aiding in digestion.
 
GARLIC – Garlic has a characteristic flavor that lends itself to a wide range of cooking. It is rich in sulfurous compounds, manganese, vitamins B6 and C, and selenium. Garlic has also been shown to have many health benefits, including the ability to help regulate blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to boost cardiovascular health.
 
GINGER – A versatile flavoring agent in many savory dishes, as well as teas and desserts. Also known for its various antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and is often used in home remedies for colds, and to relieve certain types of arthritic pain and motion sickness.
 
MINT –Used to flavor a variety of savory dishes, teas and desserts. A distinctive sweetness and cooling aftertaste. Also thought to have medicinal value, and to help to alleviate stomach pain and mild congestion. It can also provide relief from nausea or headaches, and is a natural stimulant that may help ward off fatigue.
 
NUTMEG  A fragrant spice made from the large ground seeds of an evergreen tree. Unique flavor that is both sweet and savory. Nutmeg also has anti-inflammatory properties and may aid in digestion.
 
TAMARIND – The tamarind tree yields fruit pods that are reddish brown when ripe. A sweet and sour taste. It has B vitamins, potassium, calcium, and antioxidants. Also thought to help lower cholesterol, promote heart health, and help fight against common ailments such as colds and fevers.
 
TURMERIC – Typically boiled, dried, and ground into a rich yellow-orange powder, but may also be used fresh. Earthy, lightly peppery flavor and  used to season and color many dishes in Indian cuisine. Turmeric has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and has been used in ancient medicine to treat stomach and liver ailments, arthritis, and of skin conditions.

Good stuff, right?! If you live in the Rhode Island area and ever have a hankering for delicious Indian cuisine, let me know and I will certainly give you recommendations!

Garlic: The Onion Gen{i}us

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Bonjour,

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted some juice recipes. Lately, I’ve been on a kick where I am looking out for my skin. I’ve  been purchasing all natural, locally made face washes and skin moisturizers, and it seems only logical to translate this ideal to what I ingest. You are what you eat, right?

Garlic seems to be a crucial ingredient in juices when nourishing the skin is concerned. Below are two that I came across. I know they may not be the most appealing ingredients, but it’s way cheaper and less painful then various other procedures!

(1) GARLIC VEGETABLE JUICE

  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • 5 carrots
  • 1 large tree broccoli
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 large bunch kale

Peel the garlic and juice along with the rest of the veggies. I would recommend juicing garlic first, so that the rest of the ingredients clear the garlic scent from your juicer.

(2) GARLIC APPLE JUICE

  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • 2 apples (Granny Smith)
  • 1 bell pepper (Red)

Peel the garlic and juice along with rest of ingredients. Again, probable best to juice the garlic first.

*NOTE: You may think you can handle more than one clove of garlic, and I 100% bet that you can. However, stick to one. It’s the ideal amount to have in one day.

Now, let’s table about why garlic is so awesome, especially when eaten raw. Better yet, when juiced. I know it may not smell that magnificent, but it really is worth the stink.

Fun Fact: To reduce garlic breath, try wrapping garlic cloves in greens when juicing, such as spinach or cilantro. It would appear that chlorophyll binds to the stinky smell; because science.

~ Garlic has an anti-microbial effect, which also helps the immune system.
~ Garlic is an excellent source of vitamins, including A, B-complex, and C. It also supplies minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, calcium, copper, potassium, and iron.
~ Garlic contains anti-oxidants, which helps neutralize free radicals in the body.
~ Garlic contains amino acids, essential oils, and trace minerals including germanium, selenium, and tellurium.

Additionally, it has been mentioned in literature that garlic helps (but does not cure) the following disorders:

  • Common Cold (helps relieve congestion)
  • Thrombosis (garlic acts as an anti-coagulant)
  • Cholesterol (reduces build-up of plaque in arteries)
  • Diabetes (lowers blood sugar levels)
  • Fungal Infections (ex: athlete’s foot or ear infections)
  • Peptic Ulcer (it’s good against the bacterial stomach parasite that causes the ulcers)
  • “Wind” (small amounts can help relieve gas in stomach

Beneficial Morning Rituals

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Yikes! My blogging average has not been very good lately, and for that I apologize. Summer was crazy and Fall has started on an equally crazy note. Maybe sometime soon I’ll find the time to update and share some pictures (fingers crossed).

Anyway, how is everyone?

This is going to be quick – much to get done!! Every morning, I spend a little bit of time reading some articles, and this morning I came across this one, that talks about 7 things to do for a good morning ritual. If you want to read the article in its entirety, click the link. If not, here’s a summary of the recommendations:

The morning ritual that will make you happy all day…

  • Have something to look forward to: Plans with a friend are always good.
  • Manage your mood: Don’t check email. Do what gives you a feeling of control.
  • Eat breakfast: If you eat nothing and end up killing someone, well… I hope it’s not me.
  • Do something you dread: You’ve got the willpower. And you’ll feel so much better afterwards.
  • Send a “thank you” email: Yes, it’s that simple. Really.
  • Plan how you’ll deal with challenges: Think about the worst that could happen and it probably won’t.
  • Kiss somebody you love: If this makes you late for work, feel free to blame me

That’s all the time I can spare for now, folks! Enjoy the rest of your day 🙂

Body Worlds Vital

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Baby Loves <33

How is everything?! I wanted to share with all of you an AWESOME exhibit that I went to the other day. It’s called Body Worlds Vital and is currently in Rhode Island — I believe until January — so those of you that are in the area, I highly recommend you check it out. It’s relatively inexpensive and you’ll definitely learn something from it.

For those of you not in Rhode Island, keep an eye on where they go next. It travels all over the world and hopefully will come to you! If not, read on, as I will share some pictures and fun factoids. Happy learning!

The Orthopedic Body

Above is the “Orthopedic Body”, posed as a dancer. It is fitted with various artificial joints. Orthopedics corrects skeletal deformities.

Football Player
The Skin Man

Directly above is the “Skin Man”. The skin is our largest and heaviest organ. Despite being a few millimeters thick, we cannot obviously survive without it. It protects us from micro-organisms, stops us from drying out, regulates our temperature and provides information about how the outside world feels. Ageing of our skin happens when special elastic fibres within it are damaged. This causes the skin to lose its youthful recoil and stay in permanent wrinkles. The main cause of elastic fibre damage is UV light from the fun. This is why tanning, however good it may look in the short term, actually speeds up the ageing process -_- Repeated exposure to cigarette smoke alos seems to damage skin over time and enhance wrinkling.

"Relaxing"

Arteries

Thoracic Cavity

Directly above is a cross-section of a Thoracic Cavity. The bronchial passages in the lungs lead into clusters of tiny air sacs (alveoli) that give the lungs a sponge-like appearance. Each alveolus is surrounded by a network of capillaries where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged. Each lung contains 300-450 million alveoli. Spread out flat, they would cover an area of about 850-1,300 square feet.

Gymnast

Pretty neat, right?! Some other interesting tidbits of knowledge I picked up:

  • The human hand has 27 bones, controlled by 37 skeletal muscles. They allow for a wide variety of movement with exceptionally fine control and a powerful gripping action. In particular, it is our ability to bring the tips of our thumb and fingers together that gives human hands their unique dexterity.
  • That “pins and needles” sensation you get is usually caused by sitting or lying in a way that restricts the blood supply to the area. Normal feeling is restored by changing position and letting the blood back in. The numbness is replaced y that prickling sensation, as the nerves wake up again and start sending messages to the brain and spinal cord.
  • The knee joint bones are not a perfect fit. To fill the gap, they have two crescent-shaped cartilage wedges called menisci. Only the outer edges are supplied with blood and therefore regenerate poorly following an injury.
  • A muscle can only shorten and relax. When we move, different muscles act on opposite sides of a joint, pulling it in different directions in which it can move. For example, the biceps flexes the elbow, while the triceps at the back of our arm does the opposite and extends the elbow. When the biceps contracts, balancing activity in the triceps inhibits excessive movement. This makes our movements fluid and controlled.
  • The cerebrum is the largest part of our brain. Almost two thirds of the brain’s surface are hidden in the furrows. Spread out flat, the cerebral cortex would cover about 16 square feet.
  • The biggest risk factors of a stroke are high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity and high cholesterol levels.
  • Twins are conceived when a fertilized egg divides into two embryos or two fertilized eggs develop simultaneously. In the former case, the twins share the same genetic code and are identical twins. They are always of the same sex. In the second case, the twins are fraternal. They are genetically as similar or different as any other non-identical siblings and always have their own placenta.

Now you know! The body is an amazingly wonderful thing and I love learning more about it. Treat yours well 🙂