Detox Your Liver for Vitality

Your liver is frequently under appreciated, yet is one of the most important organs in your body! The liver has hundreds of different functions, two of the primary being to store vital nutrients for your body and to filter and breakdown chemicals that would otherwise be harmful to our bodies. As our world has become more industrialized, we are now more commonly exposed to both natural and unnatural substances that our livers must filter. These substances can come from a variety of sources, be it chemicals (pesticides, industrial chemicals, solvents, toiletries etc.), drugs and medications, or poor diet (including alcohol, caffeine, and sugar). Exposure to these substances can lead to your liver being overburdened, and an overburdened liver can lead to chronic fatigue, allergies, improper digestion of food, body aches, headaches, brain fog, depression, and fatty liver disease. Some, including myself, argue that an overtaxed liver will result in a toxic body, promoting the ideal environment for almost all chronic diseases and disorders!

There are a number of options to consider when it comes to finding a protocol to help detoxify and cleanse your liver. Some protocols are more extreme than others, so always choose the option you feel most comfortable with. Small changes in your lifestyle can have a dramatic effect on how you feel and your quality of life. That being said, some of the more ‘extreme’ options can be more effective than other ‘less extreme’ options.

Diet and exercise are the foundation of a quality life and is one of the most important protocols for keeping your liver in tip-top shape. Processed foods lack essential nutrients your body requires to function optimally — this includes allowing your liver to work its magic and keep your body clean! Additionally, most processed foods contain preservatives in the form of chemicals, which put a great strain on your liver to eliminate. Usually, they also contain sugar, another substance your liver must eliminate. Keep your foods as simple and whole as possible to provide yourself with the most amount of nutrients, and test yourself for food intolerances and allergies — these foods can put an enormous strain on your entire body, not just your liver. Be sure to include high quality fats in your diet, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or even butter! Your liver works in conjunction with your gallbladder, the organ responsible for digesting fats. If you give your body the proper fats it needs, your gallbladder will release bile for digestion. The magic is that bile is actually created from the toxins your liver removes from your body! Limiting or eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and sugar consumption will also take tremendous strides in detoxifying your liver.

Milk Thistle

Herbs and cleansing foods are another facet to consider to detoxify your liver. Milk thistle is one of the most well known and well researched herbs when it comes to aiding and cleansing your liver. It contains numerous antioxidants and compounds that not only help your liver function more optimally, but also help prevent your liver from absorbing any dangerous compounds it filters while it works. Two other herbs include artichoke and dandelion, both which have been used for thousands of years to promote better digestion and aid the liver. These three herbs can be found at health food stores in whole, capsule, or tincture form, and are frequently placed together in various tonics. Adding specific foods known to help cleanse the liver can also be a great asset to liver detox. Such foods include dark leafy greens, including the three herbs above in their whole form, other green vegetables (such as cabbage and asparagus), garlic, turmeric, citrus fruit, carrots, beets, and apples in their various form. Apples contain two important substances for helping to detox the liver: pectin, a form of soluble fiber, and malic acid, which can help fat digestion and help break down gallstones in your gallbladder.

Dandelion

Liver cleanses and fasting are the more ‘extreme’ methods of detoxifying your liver, and different variations can also be more ‘extreme’ than others. Such variations can include the olive oil liver cleanse, coffee enemas, apple juice fasting, vegetable juice fasting, and water fasting. Each of these techniques deserves their own post, as each requires its own unique protocol while being conducted. Look for a series of upcoming articles beginning this week, starting with the olive oil liver cleanse!

7 Fall Foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure

Although high blood pressure is one of the most common ailments to affect the modern world, it is also one of the most easily remedied conditions; changing your lifestyle is the key! Reducing the amount of processed foods you consume, along with increasing the volume of whole and natural foods you consume, combined with moderate exercise and adequate rest, are the corner-stones to reducing high blood pressure and maintaining a healthy, energetic life. Fortunately, Fall provides a bounty of  foods that are not only tasty, but have just the right ingredients to get your blood pressure on track.

Be sure to check out: 7 Foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure and 5 Ways to Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication for more tips for lowering blood pressure naturally.

Acorn Squash, and other winter and fall squashes such as pumpkin, butternut squash, kabocha, and banana squash, are a delicious addition to any meal (or as a meal!) for those looking to lower and maintain healthy blood pressure. Acorn squash boasts an impressive amount of the minerals magnesium and potassium, as well as some calcium. Adequate amounts of these minerals are important for maintaining healthy blood pressure, as they directly help to regulate proper blood vessel function (and thus blood pressure). In addition, acorn squash contains numerous other beneficial nutrients, such as Beta-carotene and Vitamin C. Both these nutrients are important for helping to reduce inflammation in your body — reducing levels of inflammation is also important for reducing high blood pressure, but also important for reducing your risk for all other diseases, especially heart disease. Not sure how to eat acorn squash? Try roasting it in the oven and preparing the seeds. It’s simple to prepare, and you can prepare all the winter squashes the same way!

Brussels Sprouts are commonly despised by children and adults alike, yet are one of the most health promoting foods you can consume! When it comes to blood pressure, they’re almost ideal! Brussels sprouts contain an impressive amount of potassium, one of those all-important electrolytes important for regulating blood pressure. Being a member of the cabbage family, they also contain large amounts of Vitamin C, Beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, and beneficial phytonutrients that decrease inflammation and help reduce your risk for all forms of cancer. Most people are introduced to Brussels sprouts steamed, which is perhaps the least appetizing way they can be prepared. Try cutting your Brussels sprouts in half, coating them with a bit of olive oil, tossing them with your favorite spices (a generic seasoning spice is wonderful), and roasting in the oven at 400°F for tasty vegetable dish!

Apples are said to keep the doctor away for good reason! This fruit seems common place in the face of other ‘superfruits’ (like pomegranate and açaí) that we tend to forget it’s substantial health benefits. Apples contain a unique kind of soluble fiber called pectin. Pectin has been linked to lowering high cholesterol levels, reducing body inflammation, improving elimination, and reducing high blood pressure. Apples also boast a respectable amount of Vitamin C and an antioxidant called quercetin, which has been shown to increase oxygen availability in your lungs, thereby increasing overall endurance and relieving stress on your body. Try eating apples raw, baked or sauteed, or even make your own apple sauce!

Pumpkin Seeds, also known as pepitas, are usually available year-round at most grocery stores, but can be made fresh during the Fall! Pumpkin seeds contain large amounts of magnesium, an important mineral for maintaining healthy blood pressure and blood flower. A single serving of pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup) can contain as much as 50% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium! Pumpkin seeds also boast significant quantities of Vitamin E and zinc, two important nutrients required to promote optimal health, including supporting a healthy libido. Pumpkin seeds are especially beneficial for men, with numerous studies suggesting that consuming pumpkin seeds regularly will help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. You can eat pumpkin seeds shelled (pepitas), or prepare your own by saving the seeds from jack-o-lanterns and roasting them in the oven. This can also be done with any seeds you save from other winter squashes, such as acorn squash!

Sweet Potato, while not considered as villainous as the potato before it, is frequently served loaded with large quantities of fats and brown sugar. But like the potato, it is extremely beneficial to helping to reduce high blood pressure. Sweet potatoes contain ample amounts of those important electrolytes magnesium and potassium, and also a hefty quantity of Vitamin C. Sweet potatoes take the nutrition level up from potatoes in that they also contain large amounts of Beta-carotene, helping to reduce your body’s inflammation. In addition, sweet potatoes having a lower Glycemic index than potatoes, making them a more ideal choice for those looking to regulate blood sugar. Eat sweet potatoes steamed or baked, and try to avoid them fried as sweet potato fries (a new trend) or candied (as frequently served for Thanksgiving).

Kale is a nutrient powerhouse of a vegetable. Like the Brussels sprout, it is also a member of the cabbage family. I had a recent article about the full health benefits of kale, but it’s so nutritious it was worth mentioning again! Kale contains a very large quantity of potassium, but also contains large amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, and Omega 3 fats — all of which are important for regulating a healthy blood pressure, and largely work in conjunction with each other! Since Kale is a member of the cabbage family, be sure to cook it the majority of the time you consume it, such as by steaming or sauteed lightly.

No Fall, Winter, or holiday treat is complete with the blood pressure reducing herb that is Cinnamon! While cinnamon is largely known for being delicious, it is most frequently touted for helping to regulate blood sugar levels. However, more recent studies have also shown cinnamon to be an important addition to helping regulate healthy blood pressure levels. The blood pressure regulating effect of cinnamon has been shown to be even more powerful for those looking to regulate blood sugar levels. While it is unknown exactly why cinnamon is beneficial for regulating blood pressure, it likely has to do with lowering overall inflammation in the body. Sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal in the morning, or especially on your baked apples and acorn squash!

The Health Benefits of Kale

Dark leafy greens are widely known to be the most nutritious of vegetables, but even among the greens, kale may stand alone as the single most nutritious vegetable! In recent years, kale has gained tremendous popularity as a go-to vegetable for its outstanding nutritional profile, versatility in dishes, and delicious flavor.

As with most vegetables, kale is grown in a number of varieties: leafy green, dinosaur, curly, and even ornamental for your garden. Kale belongs to the Brassica family of vegetables, which includes other cruciferous vegetables known to be nutrition all-stars, such as asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. Among vegetables, cruciferous vegetables are widely touted for their anti-cancer properties. Numerous studies have been conducted and repeated showing a strong correlation between the consumption of eating cruciferous vegetables and a lower risk of all forms of cancer. This lowered risk is regularly attributed to the phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables, of which kale is especially abundant.

The health benefits of kale are attributed to its large concentration of various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Kale is incredibly rich in Vitamin K, an important fat-soluble vitamin that can dramatically reduce of your chances of developing cancer, but is also important for numerous bodily functions, including helping to regulate blood clotting and reduce blood pressure. A single cup of cooked kale can contain as much as 1300% of your recommended daily intake! Kale is also abound with beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A, another important nutrient connected to reducing your risk for cancer, as well as nearly all other age-related and degenerative diseases. That single cup of cooked kale can contain as much as 350% of your recommended daily intake! Kale is also a nutritional powerhouse when it comes to Vitamin C, manganese, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Potassium and magnesium are crucial minerals for optimum bodily function, especially when it comes to regulating blood pressure and lowering your risk for heart disease. Recent studies suggest that the calcium contained within kale is easily absorbed by the human body, making it an ideal food for those looking to maintain bone health.

Dark leafy greens, including kale, have been revered throughout history for their medicinal properties. They are frequently considered to be ‘liver cleansing foods,’ perhaps in part to their large concentrations of folate, a vitamin known to strengthen your liver, which in turns helps to cleanse and detoxify your body as a whole. Dark leafy greens are also widely known for their anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce all degenerative diseases, but also help remedy conditions such as arthritis and pain, and reduce your chances of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Kale can be prepared in a variety of ways. One of the most common methods of preparation is the lightly steam it, perhaps alone or accompanied by other vegetables. Likewise, you can also saute it lightly in a vegetable medley. A method of preparation that is gaining popularity is to create ‘kale chips.’ These ‘chips’ are created by wetting your kale and coating it in various ingredients, such as other vegetable powders (onion, garlic, carrot, bell pepper, etc.), ground seeds or nuts (sunflower seeds and cashews being the most popular), and nutritional yeast. After coating, the kale is then either dehydrated or cooked at a low temperature as to not burn. This is a unique, delicious, and nutritious method for eating kale. While you can make your own kale chips, they are now more easily located at numerous health food stores. You may find you like them more than potato chips!

Kabocha Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Kabocha Pumpkin Soup

By Chef Jamie Woolner

As I’ve mentioned, I looooove fall…mostly for the squash. With all the squash to choose from, pumpkin has to be my favorite. When the holidays come, I use it as an excuse to make pumpkin-themed everything. I have a friend who swaps cooking days with me, and we come up with new pumpkin-themed meals every week. When I tried this pumpkin soup by Chef Jamie, I begged him to share the recipe. Kabocha is a Japanese pumpkin, and it has a wonderful, creamy texture. It is the perfect base for a hearty, filling soup that will warm you during the chilly days of fall.

Serves 5

Ingredients:

1 Whole Kabocha Pumpkin cut in half (found at your local Japanese Market)

2 sliced onions

2 garlic cloves, mincedScooping out kabocha squash

2 tsp pumpkin spice

Salt tt

4 cups water

1/2 cup cream or dairy substitute (optional)

2 tsp olive oil for sautéing

Special Equipment:

Blender, Ladle, Sheet Pan, Stock Pot, Sauté Pan, Knife, Cutting Board, bowls for hold ingredients, wooden spoon

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pumpkin halves-cut side down-on a greased baking sheet. When the oven is ready, put in thRoasting Kabochae pumpkin halves and cook for about 45 minutes, or until a butter knife slips through easily.

2.) While the pumpkin is cooking, heat a pan with the olive oil and sauté the onions on medium heat. Once the onions are colored nutty brown and translucent, then add the garlic. Cook for one more minute, being sure not to burn the garlic.

3.) Once the pumpkins are soft, scoop out the seeds and discard. You can also wash the seeds clean, then toast until crunchy and slightly browned, and use them as a garnish for the soup. Once the seeds are removed, scoop out the meat and place into a blender. Blend in four stages; at each stage add a quarter of all of the following ingredients: pumpkin meat, sautéed onion, garlic and water.  Blending Kabocha

4.) Once you’ve finished blending, add the blended ingredients to a large pot. Simmer and reduce. The soup is down simmering once it can coat the back of the spoon, but isn’t as thick as mashed potatoes. If you are adding cream, add it now. Season the soup with salt and pumpkin spice and finish with toasted pumpkin seeds, milk foam, caramelized onion or a combination of all three.

Note: Season well once you have the consistency you want. Remember, not too thick, not too thin. The soup should coat a spoon thinly and remain their like cream consistency.

Kabocha Pumpkin Soup

Chef JamiChef Jamie Woolnere Woolner studied culinary arts at The Art Institute of California. He has cooked in many restaurants making Japanese, Latin, Italian, and American cuisine. Currently he owns and operates Pizza of Venice, CA, where he supplies events and restaurants with custom pizzas. You can find his company on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/povpizza

Roasted Acorn Squash with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Balsamic

Although I love summer, fall is my second favorite season. I love the smells, the colors, and the cooler nights. But really, my favorite part is the squash. I love almost all kinds of squash…spaghetti squash, acorn, pumpkin, butternut…I love them all. They’re full of nutrients and fiber, and they’re more filling than many other vegetables.

I made this particular recipe with a friend. She had bought some acorn squash and wanted to experiment. Our favorite part was the pan-toasted pumpkin seeds. Once I discovered pan-toasting, I toast almost every nut and seed this way. It’s quick and easy, and is less damaging to the sensitive oils. And best of all, it’s so tasty! So please enjoy, and let me know if you have any suggestions to make it even more delicious.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

2 medium acorn squash

4 tablespoons olive oilPumpkin Seeds

salt and pepper, to taste

¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

***Optional: ¼ cup fresh parsley, sage, or mint leaves, torn.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Cut squash in half, and spoon out seeds (and the stringy stuff) and discard. Cut squash into 1½”-thick slices. Coat slices with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Lay slices on a baking sheet.

3. Place in then oven and roast for about 30 minutes, turning slices over halfway through. They should be golden brown on both sides, and soft enough to eat.

4. Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds, turning them often so they don’t burn. They should brown slightly, but still be a little green. Once they’re down, place them on a paper towel to soak up excess oil.  Season with salt. Roasted Acorn Squash with Pan Toasted Pumpkin Seeds 5. Place squash on serving plates, and sprinkle toasted pumpkin seeds on each piece. Drizzle on balsamic vinegar. (Don’t over-do it, vinegar goes a long way!) If you are using any fresh herbs, lightly sprinkle those on as well.

6. Serve warm and enjoy!

Pomegranite Marinade on The Blissful Chef

Check out my recipe for Pomegranate Marinade and Veggie Kabobs on the awesome website The Blissful Chef. Try marinating just about anything for a tangy, sweet and rich flavor. I discovered this recipe on accident, and ended up making portabella burgers that impressed everyone!

http://theblissfulchef.com/2012/09/guest-post-pomegranate-marinade-and-veggie-kabobs/

“The Blissful Chef” herself is my dear friend Christy Morgan, who happens to be one of the best chefs that I know. Her cookbook Blissful Bites is a staple in my kitchen. Filled with simple, healthy recipes, I’ve learned how to cook everything from gluten-free grains to lotus-root chips. I’ll be making a recipe from her book this month, so look for a grain-free take on pasta coming soon.