Health from Food in its Natural Form

 

farm veges

For those of you have been following me, you know many of my posts come back to the same thing. There is no magic pill to a healthy diet. It’s all about eating food in its most natural form.  This New Year’s when you are deciding what resolution to make for your health consider the one that will be healthy no matter what you are trying to fight. Eating food in its natural form boosts your immune system and fights weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and all of the most concerning diseases.

Eat less processed foods and add more fresh fruits and vegetables. You don’t need that much meat to meet your daily protein requirements so eat a small amount of plain, non-processed meat.

I watched a tremendous show on PBS that you should see. It will make it clear for you. You can watch it online: http://www.pbs.org/show/in-defense-of-food/

Are Cleansing Regimens Safe?

Vegetables

This is the time of year when people talk about how they ate too much over the holiday and now it’s time to detox the body through cleansing.  I personally have never done a cleansing and many of the regimens don’t sound enjoyable.  From a nutritional standpoint some don’t make sense at all.

Fasting or eliminating certain foods from the diet results in a lack of basic nutrition. This stops the body from working properly and may delay the detoxification. This method will also sabotage any planned weight loss. When a person begins to eat again after a fast, the body is in survival mode and quickly puts the weight back on causing a yoyo diet.  Adding high amounts of fiber through juicing, tonics or using laxatives can be harsh to the system which may also stop it from working effectively.

The best way to cleanse the body is through drinking a minimum of 10-12 cups of water a day, increasing your intake of fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes, and decreasing heavy and processed meats. This method will increase the nutrient content of the body giving it the tools it needs to digest properly and flush out toxins. You will also feel an increase of energy which won’t usually occur during a fast. Exercising also increases the body’s detox efficiency.

The best thing about this simple way of cleansing the body is you don’t have to pay for special cleansing aids, it won’t take any extra time out of your day, you have plenty of great foods you can eat and finally…..you aren’t suffering!

Spinach Salad with Salmon Recipe

Spinach Salad w SalmonAfter eating a ton on Thanksgiving Day I find myself looking for something lighter for my next meal. This salad is one of my favorites and loaded with minerals and Omega 3s!

Fresh Spinach
1 Chopped Carrot
1/4 cup Chopped Celery
1/8 cup Chopped Red Onion
1 small Tomato Chopped
3 oz Cooked, Flaked Salmon

Dressing:
1/3 cup Olive Oil
2 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbs Soy Sauce

The fish will wake up your brain and increase your energy, the veggies with help you efficiently burn up the calories you took in, and since it’s low fat, it will kick start your weight loss that you promised yourself while you were suffering from a food coma.

 

 

 

Blueberries are the Favorite Superfood!

Blueberry

So you’ve heard that blueberries are a Superfood, but do you know what that means? That means blueberries are one of the healthiest foods for you, and if you ask me, one of the tastiest too!

Here is a list of possible health benefits you’ll find in blueberries:

  • Loaded with vitamins and minerals
  • Good for your brain
  • Good for your skin
  • Helps you lose weight
  • Prevents aging
  • Prevents cancer
  • Prevents heart disease
  • Increases Dopamine which make you feel good
  • Reduces pain
  • Prevents urinary tract infections
  • Prevents eyes from damage from oxygen
  • May reduce allergy symptoms
  • May help maintain blood sugar levels in diabetics

Phytochemicals in blueberries are responsible for most of these benefits. They are loaded with them!

When you buy blueberries you may want to buy organic. Pesticide residue is higher on blueberries than other fruits. Check the blueberries to be sure they are firm and free from mold before you buy them. Store them in the grocery store container and do not wash them until you are ready to eat them. Adding water increases the chances of mold during storage. If you buy a lot of blueberries you may freeze some. Spread them out on a cookie sheet making sure they don’t touch. This will keep them from sticking together when they freeze. Put the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once they are frozen hard, take them off the cookie sheet and put them in freezer bags.

Blueberries are native to North America so if you want fresh blueberries it’s fairly easy to grow them.  Blueberries are grown on a bush which can be planted anywhere in your yard. They make a nice hedge too. The trick to growing good blueberries is soil preparation. Blueberries need plenty of moisture so add compost and peat moss to your planting spot before you plant your bush.  Pinch off flowers the first year to allow the bush to expend its energy into growing thick and healthy roots and branches. In a couple years you will be rolling in blueberries!

There are so many ways to use blueberries.  Put them on your cereal, fruit salad, or green salad. Bake them in bread, muffins, scones or cobbler. Make pancake syrup out of them, juice them, add them to your smoothies or just pop them in the mouth fresh from the bush!

Nail Polish Dangers

Nail Polish

Do you use nail polish? I use it every now and then. For years I’ve heard concerns that the nail polish chemical phthalate was bad for your health. Many people ignored these concerns saying it couldn’t be absorbed in the body because the polish is applied to the nails which are considered dead material. If you still believe this, think again! Regardless, many polish companies changed the formula from phthalates to triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) to reduce risks.

Duke University and the Environmental Working Group just released a new study that shows the chemical TPHP was found absorbed in their test subject’s bodies 10 to 14 hours after using the polish.  A bigger concern is the body creates diphenyl phosphate (DPHP), another chemical, when the TPHP is broken down. That chemical level increases by almost 700%.

These chemicals disrupt the endocrine system responsible for development, metabolism and reproduction. With these changes in levels, young people might not physically develop properly and could have difficulty with pregnancy. With the changes to metabolism, it’s very possible this could also cause weight gain and could lead to obesity.

I just removed my toenail polish yesterday and now decided not to put it back on! The issue is although not all nail polishes have TPHP, not all nail polishes that have TPHP have it on their ingredient list. I’m sure this new study will prompt the FDA to require this information going forward, but it’s going to take a while for the bottles of polish at the stores to turn over so you can be certain you have a new bottle with the latest information. Online you can find a list of the polishes that use the chemical and I’m sure companies who don’t use TPHP will start advertising it. Do your research before putting your polish back on!

Pizza…. The Age Old Question

pizza

Is pizza bad for you? I get this question a lot. The answer is….it depends.

I eat pizza at least once a week. It’s simple to buy (or make) and if you pick the right type of pizza it’s also a healthy, well balanced meal. Here are the items that you should avoid on your pizza:

  • Pepperoni
  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Hamburger
  • Extra Cheese
  • Thick Crust and health forbid….Stuffed Crust!

You are probably saying….but what about the meat?! Choose these meat options instead:

  • Chicken
  • Canadian Bacon
  • Ham

Needless to say the best items you can put on your pizza are vegetables. Vegetarian pizzas have come a long way. You can usually find a Mediterranean style pizza, pizzas with roasted vegetables, some with spinach or kale and I’ve even come across a hummus pizza with roasted red peppers.

As far as sauces go, the standard red sauce is actually low in fat and higher in nutrients than white sauces or pesto, although a good olive oil and garlic pesto does have a higher amount of Omega 3 fatty acids and medicinal properties from the garlic. I’ve also seen barbecue and Alfredo sauce but these are not the healthiest options.

When it comes to crust, the thinner the better. The number of calories in your pizza increases dramatically with the thickness of the crust. Healthy flatbread pizzas have become very popular. And for those of you on gluten free diets, many pizza makers now offer gluten free crusts that are amazingly good.

To be sure you have the healthiest pizza possible you can make your own at home. There are premade crusts available in most grocery stores. Minimize the amount of cheese you put on your pizza. That will save you on fat, cholesterol and sodium. Put whatever toppings you want on your pizza and warm it in the oven. Let’s talk portion control. You’ve made this healthy pizza so don’t blow it by eating too many pieces. Two small pieces or one large piece is a good serving size. Save the rest for another meal. Pizza leftovers are the best!

So there you have it….the answer to the age old question. I’ve given you a license to eat pizza!
Simple, tasty and healthy!

Melons Help You Lose Weight

Melons

I didn’t realize the variety of melons out there until I saw this pile of melons at the farmers market.  You are probably familiar with the watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon, but have you ever seen a Galia, Canary, Xigua  or Casaba melon?

The good news is all melons are healthy for you. They contain a decent amount of Folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Potassium. They are low in sodium and virtually no fat.  What’s most exciting is they are only 50 calories per serving and a serving is a whole quarter of a melon! This is one of the greatest weight loss foods because it’s so low in calories and still makes you feel full due all the fiber.

Melons originated in Africa and Asia and eventually made their way to Europe. The vines are fairly easy to grow most anywhere in the United States. It’s necessary to water melons consistently so if you decide to give it a try I recommend using a timer drip irrigation system.

Pick a good melon by looking for any damage on the outside and feeling the skin for firmness. If it’s soft it’s overripe or bruised. Sniff the end of the melon. If it smells good and sweet, it’s ripe. For a watermelon, knock on the outside and it should sound hollow. Also the spot where the melon was touching the ground should be yellowish. If it’s still green, it’s not ripe yet.

I’ve tasted a number of these melons and still find the watermelon and cantaloupe to be my favorite. The others are not as sweet. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, and prefer a more complex flavors, give these other melons a try. You will probably really enjoy it and may even make them a regular part of your diet!

Nature Improves Sleep

hiking

 

Recent findings suggest the closer you live to nature, the better you sleep.

 

The study hasn’t confirmed whether it’s just the natural environment helping you sleep or if living in nature or green spaces results in you getting outside and being more active.

 

Sleep is so important to your health. Lack of sleep reduces your brain power. You not only lower your IQ, you may become forgetful and even depressed. Impaired judgement can also lead to accidents. Lack of sleep can cause weight gain, speed up the aging process and even increase the potential for heart disease.

 

If you currently don’t live near any green spaces, take some time during the day to get outside. It may improve your sleep and your health.

No Time to Exercise?

Gym

When people ask me how they can best lose weight or to change their body shape without dieting,  I always tell them that exercise is the way to get rid of body fat. Most of these people reply “but I don’t have time to exercise”.

How much exercise do you need to lose weight? The answer is any! Every little bit of activity you do will improve your body. While most doctors recommend a minimum of 30 minutes 3 times a week of exercise, research of newer workouts shows that there are significant benefits from shorter workouts as well.

HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is one of the more recent methods of exercise which can take as little as 4 minutes.  It starts with a quick warm up including a few toe touches, lunges, arm circles, etc.  This is followed by a number of different exercises done quickly with a certain number of repetitions. For example, do 20 push-ups followed by 20 sit ups follows by 30 seconds of running in place.  Once complete, you start over again.  There are many workout examples given online and I’m sure you’ve seen the TV advertisements for workouts that are’ transformational’ in just minutes a day. Some require weights and some only use the weight of your body to get your results.

Research has shown these workouts do more than burn calories; they are good for your heart and build muscle which helps burn fat more efficiently.

How do you start? Look online for a series of exercises that interest you. My recommendation is to wake up 15 minutes early to fit in a quick 10 minute workout. If later in the day works better for you then pick a time and stick to it. Start slow! Work your way up. This type of routine can hurt you if you overdo it as a beginner. Day two……take a rest. With intense workouts you need to give your body time to recover in between work outs. Complete this every other day until your workout becomes easy to you. Next, bump it up a notch. Try more difficult exercises or focus on more intensity. You can add more repetitions or add more time, depending on what you want.

The nice thing about this type of workout is you don’t need to join a gym, you don’t need to buy equipment, and you can change it up as often as you want. The best thing is it can be as little as 4 minutes if that’s all you can do. The idea is to just get some level of activity every day and put some effort into it.

Okra…The Little Known Superfood

Okra

Okra is one of those vegetables you rarely hear about and most people don’t seem to know how to cook with it. There are a lot of complaints about the mucilaginous quality (slimy) of okra but this is the component that makes okra great as a thickener in soups and stews. It’s a shame okra is so misunderstood because it has many health benefits that rank right up there with your best superfoods.

Okra is only 30 calories per cup. It has virtually no fat or cholesterol, is high in fiber, low sodium and actually has 2 grams of protein which is unheard of in the vegetable world! Okra is high in vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, A, K, and the energy producing vitamin Bs.

Here is a list of health claims that are based on the nutrient and antioxidant content of okra:
• Improves digestive processes
• Reduces ulcers
• Prevents colon cancer
• May assist in weight loss due to high fiber
• Prevents diabetes by normalizing blood sugar
• Prevents kidney disease
• May reduce respiratory issues due to immune boosting vitamin C
• Assists in a healthy pregnancy
• Lowers cholesterol
• Maintains eye health from the vitamin A
• Healthy skin due to antioxidants
• Protects against free radical damage
• Improves energy levels
• Improves mood

It’s believed that Okra was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians in the 12th century B.C and expanded in use from there. It’s an annual tropical plant that can grow to 7 feet tall. It made its way to the Caribbean and then to the U.S. when slaves were brought from West Africa. In the southern United States it became popular in a creole dish called gumbo.

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, which includes hollyhock and hibiscus. The flower of the okra plant creates the edible green pod which is best harvested when it’s about 4 inches long. If they grow much longer it becomes tough and stringy.
They are best eaten very fresh when the pods are tender. Store them in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Wash okra just before you use it not before. This should reduce the amount of slime build up. The fresher the okra the less slime you will have.

My favorite way to enjoy okra is fried in canola oil. I learned from an old southern gardener that the best way to prepare for frying is to sliced the pod into ½ to ¾ inch slices, dip them in milk and dredge each piece in cornmeal with a little salt and pepper. No flour needed. I lay out the pieces on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for 10 minutes. That reduces the chances of the cornmeal falling off during frying. Pour ½ inch canola oil in a frying pan (not a deep fryer) and heat to 400 degrees. Make sure the oil is hot before you add the okra. This will cook it quickly and keep it from absorbing a lot of oil. Drop the pieces in a single layer in the pan. Once it turns golden brown flip the pieces over like you would a pancake. Once the second side has browned, pull out of the oil and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. It only takes a couple minutes to brown. Although fried food is not something I usually recommend, having a little canola oil fried okra, when done right, is a nice treat. Plus you still get the health benefits listed above.

The other way I like my okra is in gumbo. My recipe is on my website. Other common ways you can eat it is steamed or pickled and cooked with corn, peppers and onions.
If you’ve never eaten okra I recommend going to a restaurant to try it for the first time. I know you will get hooked!