Quick Easy Meals: Carbs

The most controversial element of a modern meal: The carbohydrate. In the last decade or so, the dreaded “carb” has become a macronutrient of dispute. (Previously, the most demonized macronutrient was fat.) The Paleo folks love to tell me how our caveman ancestors just ate meat and vegetables, and that carbs and grains are the cause of all modern ailments.

I hate the pull the “credential” card, but I do have a degree in Anthropology. I’ve read books upon books of pollen samples, indigenous garbage heap study, and bone/tissue testing. I’ve also stayed with tribal people, and read countless reports from field anthropologists. And you know what all of these studies have in common? That the food of tribal life was centered around a main carbohydrate source. (The only exception being the Inuits of Alaska/Cananda, since they spent much of the year in winter. But this is such a tiny tiny percentage of all tribal people, they are the exception and not the rule. They also showed signs of aging faster than almost all other tribes.)

Healthy CarbohydratesCarbs are a great energy source; our body uses them more efficiently than protein or fat. (Our body uses fat more efficiently than protein, protein is the least efficient source of energy, and our body has the most difficult time converting it to energy. That does not mean that we shouldn’t eat protein, but that shouldn’t be our prime energy source.)

But I digress, because the point of the video below is not to argue why you should eat carbohydrates, but how you can cook them quickly and easily. When tasks are simple and time-efficient, it’s more likely that you will follow through and eat home-cooked meals more often. If something is too difficult, most people will choose an easier option (like the drive-through or eating out.)

This video will give you some ideas, and I will follow up with quick meal ideas for protein and vegetables.

In summary:

Cook a large amount of a healthy carb on an afternoon off. Choose a designated day and time each week, and block off your schedule for your cooking prep day. I choose a different carb each week, so that I’m eating a variety of food. (Choosing seasonal food has bonus advantages.)
I’ll boil a bag of colored potatoes, a big pot of brown rice, or a large amount of gluten-free pasta. (Remember, for carbs, show-release carbohydrates that contain fiber will be healthier than quick burning white starch. So brown rice is better than white flour.) I refrigerate (or even freeze) the weekly carb, then come up with different dishes I can make with that.
For example: for brown-rice pasta, I can make:
*A oven-roasted vegetable pasta dish
*Eggs/cheese/mushroom pasta scrample
*Asian-style sesame pasta with tempeh and enoki mushrooms.

So the possibilities are endless….you can do the same thing with some organic, colored fingerling potatoes:
*Shepard’s pie
*Breakfast scrample with roasted turnips and cauliflower
*Olive oil, rosemary, and veggie oven roasted potatoes.
And since the potatoes/rice/pasta is already cooked, you just have to heat it up with the veggies! My meals take me an average of 15 minutes, since I have everything prepped ahead of time. A couple hours on a Sunday can save you tons of time and money the rest of the week!

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!

5 Ways to Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication

Blood PressureMany of us have, or know someone with, high blood pressure. Blood pressure medications are now the third most prescribed medication, and yet controlling your blood pressure is usually a matter of adjusting your lifestyle. Whether or not you choose to take blood pressure medication, adjusting your lifestyle will help you eliminate, minimize, or delay the need for medication.

Try adjusting your lifestyle with the following 5 suggestions. Add one at a time, and try incorporating them slowly, in a way that is most realistic and applicable for your lifestyle. Adding even a single suggestion to your repertoire will help significantly!

Exercise is an activity that will help aid many common ailments that affect our culture, and helping to reduce high blood pressure and maintain a healthy blood pressure is no exception! Aim for a goal of 30-60 minutes of moderate activity 5-6 days a week, whether this is aerobic activity (cardio exercises, walking, running, etc.) or anaerobic activityWalking (strength training), any exercise is beneficial! If this seems like a lot to start, aim for 15-30 minutes and work your way up. It is more beneficial to get your exercise throughout the week rather than all at once, so aim to spread out your activity as much as possible — you can even consider breaking up your day’s duration into multiple parts, such as 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. For individuals with high blood pressure, gradually build up your activity and intensity over time, as too much intensity too quickly can be risky.

If you have severe hypertension, it is especially important to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise regimen, as there may be some exercise restrictions specific for you.

VegetablesEating a Healthy Diet, like exercise, is a strategy that will help mitigate nearly all common ailments. Again, for lowering and maintaining a healthy blood pressure, this is no exception! When your body has all the essential nutrients it needs to survive, it will function more optimally. Reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet, and instead replace them with whole foods you make yourself, as simple and close to their natural form as possible. Be sure you add a full bounty of fruits and vegetables to your diet, the latter being most important for those with high blood pressure. Additionally, you’ll want to aim to eat some specific foods that will help to reduce blood pressure: foods high in essential minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium), a good amount of fiber, and high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

If you’re looking for some excellent foods to add to your cooking routine, be sure to check out: 7 Foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure.

Reducing Stress is often something ignored in our culture with a go-go attitude, but it essential for lowering your blood pressure. Besides, doing so will also help your overall well-being! Stress and anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure, but if you’re constantly stressed or anxious, your blood pressure will also constantly be raised! Take some time out of your day to identify what is stressing your most. Family? Work? Home? Friends? Think about what you can do to help reduce stress, and then take action and reduce it as much as possible. However, sometimes we have obligations we simply cannot give up that stress us. In this case, think of some alternatives. Take up some deep-breathing exercises, meditation, try yoga, get a massage, be sure you’re getting adequate sleep, or perhaps even see someone that specializes in helping to reduce stress (such as a therapist).

Losing Excess Weight is a tremendous key it lowering your blood pressure. When you have excess weight on your body, your heart and blood vessels must work harder to simply pump the blood to where it is needed in your body. Losing even just 5-10 pounds can help significantly, but making a goal to reach your ideal weight should be a priority! If you do decide to take blood pressure medication, losing weight will also help to make the medication more effective overall. In addition, keep an eye out for where you carry your weight: carrying excess weight primarily in your midsection increases your odds for high blood pressure. Make strides to lose those excess pounds, diet and exercise are key!

Reducing Sodium and Caffeine are two methods for helping to reduce your blood pressure. If your diet is primarily based around processed foods, it’s likely it contains a good amount of sodium. Replace processed foods with whole, natural foods as described in Eating a Healthy Diet (above), and you’ll help eliminate excess sodium. Once you’ve done this, if you still find you would like salt in your diet, try adding small amounts of unrefined Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, two types of salt that contain a significant quantity of minerals other than sodium. Additionally, add foods high in potassium and magnesium to help balance the sodium content in your blood. Limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day.Caffeine

When you ingest caffeine, the caffeine temporarily raises your blood pressure. In the same way that stress can raise your blood pressure, a consistent stream of caffeine also means a consistently spiked blood pressure. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and thus the effects will vary. However, caffeine can also be stressful for your adrenal glands, the organs that help us deal with stress in our daily lives. Stressed adrenal glands mean a more stressed body, and stress as a whole elevates your blood pressure. Try reducing the amount of coffee, tea, and soda your ingest on a daily basis. Be mindful of how you feel, and also monitor your blood pressure as you reduce you caffeine intake to see what intake is best for you.

Incorporate these suggestions into a balanced lifestyle and you’ll start to see results, whether your goal is to lower blood pressure or maintain it. Taking blood pressure medication is largely unnecessary, especially for the long-term. Your lifestyle is key. The decisions you make are yours!

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut!Saturated fats have been villainized in  as the definitive root of heart disease and the many other degenerative ailments so common in our culture. Yet, cultures throughout the world have eaten saturated fats throughout their histories. Coconut oil has been a victim of this treatment, being composed of nearly 90% saturated fats. Has it received an unfair treatment?

The coconut hails from the Pacific Islands, where it has been a food staple for thousands of years among the islands’ inhabitants. Coconut oil is the product of pressing the meat of the coconut to extract the pure fat. Similar methods are used to produce coconut cream (a pressing of the meat, but keeping a whole product and not merely extracting the oil) and coconut milk (a pressing/pureeing of the meat with a liquid, frequently the coconut’s own water). Various cultures throughout the Pacific Islands, such as the Trobriand Islanders, derive a large percentage of the calories from the coconut, from which nearly all their fat calories derive. And yet, these people have a near absence of heart disease or other degenerative diseases as our culture.

Research into the benefits and structure of coconut oil have produced surprising results. Such benefits include: improved immune system, boosted thyroid, more efficient digestion and metabolism, and increased weightloss. Additionally, coconut oil has been used in the tropics for skin conditions, and simply as a beauty aid for skin and hair. Coconut sports a unique profile of fat molecules, unique in almost all the plant kingdom. It is from its unique molecular structure that its benefits can be attributed.

Coconut TreeOther than mothers milk, coconut oil the most dense source of lauric acid known. Lauric acid is an important fat molecule for our bodies, especially as infants, as it helps to build our immune systems. Lauric acid converts in our bodies into monolaurin, a substance known to be anti-bacterial and anti-viral. This fact alone has led coconut oil to be proscribed to individuals with severely compromised immune systems, such as HIV patients.

Coconut oil’s other unique attribute is that is composed of mostly mono-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a saturated fat, and compose about 50% of the fat found in coconut oil. MCTs vary significantly from other fats in how our bodies metabolize them, whether this be saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, or polyunsaturated fats. Commonly, other fatty acids are considered to be long-chain fatty acids, which are large molecules that take a significant amount of energy for our bodies to break down. As such, they are much more likely to be stored as fat within our bodies. MCTs on the other hand, are efficiently broken down by our liver, and almost immediately utilized for energy. Benefits attributed to coconut oil such as increased metabolism, energy, and athletic stamina can be traced back to this fact. Additionally, coconut oil is now frequently recommended for Alzheimer and dementia patients because of its potential ability to help with cognitive function – a fact that can also be traced back to how it is metabolized.

Another benefit of coconut oil is simply that it is composed primarily of saturated fats. This in beneficial when it comes to cooking, as many commonly used oils for cooking are polyunsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats break down quickly when exposed to heat, and thus become rancid. This can occur even at seemingly light heat. Saturated fats break down much more slowly when exposed to heat, especially the more saturated they are by nature. Coconut oil’s 90% saturated nature makes it ideal for cooking, even at heats high enough for frying. Additionally, coconut oil is ideal for baking, as its highly saturated structure makes it ideal for prolonged exposure to heat. You may even want to consider using coconut oil exclusively for your cooking needs!

Liquid Coconut OilCoconut oil is again becoming a mainstream oil, and is now relatively easy to find. While you can find it numerous health food stores, it is now being offered at many more ‘conventional’ locales. When buying coconut oil, look for virgin cold-pressed unrefined oil. While other varieties can also be beneficial to your health, cold-pressed and unrefined oils are extracted at lower temperatures to maintain the integrity of the fat’s molecular structure, and unrefined to not contain chemical agents to help the extraction (which can be harmful to your health). Coconut oil is typically hard a room temperature because of its saturated nature, but can also be a clear liquid at above 70°F.

Give coconut oil a try, you’ll be wonderfully surprised, even if only for its flavor!

Self Testing for Food Allergies and Intolerances

Many common ailments that affect us can be linked to either a food allergy or an intolerance that go (mostly) unnoticed. Headaches. Flatulence. Poor bowel movements. Lethargy. Fatigue. Depression. Sudden weight gain. There are numerous indicators; many can be common among multiple people, but they can also vary on an individual basis. An allergy, an intolerance, or a sensitivity to a food all have one thing in common, however: once they are removed, a greater sense of well-being returns.

A food allergy differs from a food intolerance. A true food allergy can be measured by your doctor through a blood test. This test is conducted by measuring your immune system’s response by accounting for the amount of allergy antibodies in your blood, called immunoglobulin E (IgE), in response to an administered food. A high level of IgE indicates an allergy. Often, however, our bodies will not create a full immune response when a food is ingested or placed into our bodies, and thus these tests are not always accurate. A food intolerance can be a mild, prolonged immune response that is otherwise undetectable, but can also be a digestive system response. Both hamper your body’s ability to function at optimal levels. Common food allergies and sensitivities include foods such as grains, gluten (a unique protein in wheat, barley, and other grains), soy, milk (both the proteins and lactose), eggs, tree nuts, and peanuts (it’s really a legume!).

There are three common ways to self test for a food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity:

The Pulse Test is on the fastest and easiest ways you can see if you potentially have a food allergy or intolerance. Your pulse can be taken anywhere you can feel your pulse best, or have someone take it for you!

  • Upon rising and after being awake for about an hour, take your pulse for 60 seconds. This will give you your average resting pulse rate.
  • Just before a meal, relax and again take your pulse rate for 60 seconds. If you have been quite active throughout the day, later in the day it may be higher than usual. If it is higher, note that it is higher, but still keep in mind what your average resting pulse rate is. Then, chow down!
  • 30, 60, and 90 minutes after the meal, again take your pulse rate. It is important not to take your pulse immediately after eating, as your body is sending extra blood to your stomach to begin digestion, creating an increase in your heart beat. If the rate ranges at least 10 beats more than your resting pulse rate, you may have a food sensitivity to a food you ate. Create a journal and write down what you ate if this is the case (more on this below!)
  • The next step is to isolate all the foods you ate when you note an increase in your heart rate. Test them systematically with the same process as above. Any food with a continued elevated heart rate may pose to be problematic for your body, and may be best removed from your diet. You may want to try an elimination diet for this food. More on this below, as well!

Keeping a Food Journal is one of the most effective ways of tracking foods that may pose potential problems for allergies or intolerance. At its basis, it is simply logging all foods you take in over any given period of time, and also logging how to feel after you eat. Log how you feel immediately after eating, shortly after (30,60,90 minutes), before you go to bed, and when you wake up the next day. If symptoms such as headache, lethargy, dizziness, sneezing, body ache, or any symptom you might find peculiar or curious (even if you experience it all the time!), write it down! Try eating similar foods, and see if the same symptoms occur. As with the Pulse Test, you will want to try isolating each food and log how you feel in reaction to each. If and when you find a reaction, you may want to avoid this food entirely or try…

The Elimination Diet. This diet can also be referred to as a rotation diet, and is best utilized in conjunction with a food journal. Elimination diets can vary, but at their core they follow a simply procedure:

  1. Eliminate all foods from your diet that you believe may be causing your trouble, OR reduce your diet down to basic foods that are unlikely to cause most people trouble: fruits, vegetables, lightly cooked meats (if you eat them), and easily digestible grains (primarily white rice).
  2. Log how you are feeling in your food journal. Simply by reducing potential problematic foods and following a more simply diet, many people will note an increase feeling of well being. Be specific in your food journal. How do you feel? What is your mental energy like? Your physical energy? What are you not feeling?
  3. Slowly reintroduce potential problematic foods to your diet, one at a time, and keep them in their most simple form. For example, if you think soy may pose a problem, try eating some soybeans or tofu rather than a processed soy product. Note in your journal how you feel immediately after eating, and again before bed and the following morning.
  4. If you find you react to a certain food, you may want to avoid it for a while again, and then try reintroducing it once or twice more. If you continue to find you react to the food, it is probably best to eliminate it entirely. However, frequently an intolerance can develop from eating a food too often. By eliminating some foods for a prolonged period of time, you may find you tolerate it again at a later time. Try reintroducing it slowly, however.

Food allergies and intolerance can develop for many reasons. Sometimes our bodies are simply incapable of processing a specific food properly. Other times, various conditions can trigger our bodies to create an intolerance, such as emotions, stress, or even eating a specific food too frequently. It is always important to be mindful of the food we eat and the mental state in which we eat them. Choose your foods wisely, respect the signals your body gives you.

Sugar Substitutes – Are They Safe? (Part 2)

In this article we’ll cover the most commonly used sugar alcohols, Stevia, and how sugar substitutes may affect our appetites.

Be sure to check out Part 1 of this article here if you haven’t already! Get the lowdown on what a Sugar Substitute is, as well as info on the most widely used artificial sweeteners!

Sugar alcohols are a hydrogenated form of a carbohydrate, similar but slightly different to the molecular structure of other sugars. Unlike artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols are actually less sweet than sugar, with their sweetness compared to sugar varies depending on the sugar alcohol. However, because they taste much more similar to table sugar, they are frequently mixed with artificial sweeteners to create a taste comparable to table sugar. Additionally, sugar alcohols do have calories. On average, they contain approximately 2 kcal per gram. Because of this slight amount of calories contained, sugar alcohols can have an affect on an individual’s blood sugar levels. However, sugar alcohols are partially absorbed by our bodies in the small intestine (rather than almost immediately with common sugar), and so have a much more negligible effect on our blood sugar – again, a very important concern for diabetics. Depending on the country you live or purchase sugar alcohols, they can either be labeled as calorie free (as in the United States), or labeled as having few calories (as in Britain). A word of caution: our bodies are not able to fully breakdown and assimilate sugar alcohols, and thus over-consumption can lead to bloating, flatulence, and even diarrhea. Moderation is key.

Erythritol and Xylitol are two of the most commonly used sugar alcohols for food consumption, as they taste most similar to table sugar and have little if any after taste. Erythritol is approximately 60-70% as sweet as sugar, while Xylitol is approximately 90% as sweet as sugar. However, both are frequently labeled and sold as being the same sweetness as table sugar. Erythritol is more fully absorbed by our bodies than any other sugar alcohol, and thus has the least amount of flatulent or laxative affects. Research on Xylitol has been shown it to reduce harmful strains harmful micro-organisms. Specifically, it has been shown to reduce strains of Mutans streptococci, a group of bacteria shown to be a significant contributor to tooth decay.

Stevia is one of the newest sugar substitutes widely available for sale and used for food consumption in the United States, although has been used for decades to centuries in other countries (such as Japan). It is an herb of the species Stevia rebaudiana, and frequently referred to as sweet leaf. Stevia is approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar! Stevia does has marked aftertaste that some find undesirable, and is thus frequently mixed with sugar alcohols when used in food products. If small amounts of Stevia are used, the aftertaste is less marked. Stevia extract is used for processed food consumption, and is labeled as rebaudioside A. Stevia has been used for centuries by the indigenous people of Paraguay, where it was used a folk remedy to help control blood sugar. Recent research has validated this remedy, showing Stevia as being beneficial to help regular blood glucose levels.

Do Sugar Substitutes Affect Our Appetites? Various studies have been conducted through the years regarding whether sugar substitutes affect our metabolism in direct ways that could trigger our body’s desire to consume more calories or even directly affect our body’s metabolism and systems for storing fat. Sugar substitutes generally do not exist in nature (perhaps other than Stevia), and thus our bodies have evolved to associate a significant number of calories with a sweet flavor. Studies within the past few years on rats have shown that rats fed a surplus diet sweetened with saccharin (an artificial sweetener) gained more weight than rats fed a surplus diet sweetened with glucose or sucrose. When the rats’ core temperature was analyzed, the rats fed artificial sweeteners had a lower core temperature than those fed with glucose or sucrose immediately after eating. Core temperature is an indication of metabolism – a lower core temperature in rats fed artificial sweeteners indicated that the mechanism in the rats’ required to burn excess calories was not triggered, leading to lower overall metabolic rate. Additionally, the rats fed artificial sweeteners ate more total calories than rats fed glucose/sucrose.

While no studies have been conducted on humans regarding artificial sweeteners and metabolism, it is important to understand that artificial sweeteners recreate a taste our bodies are equipped to handle in a very specific manner. While we can’t say if they will in fact slow our metabolism, we do know that many people will crave more sweets the more they eat. Simply because a food contains artificial sweeteners, it does not mean it can be eating to excess – it still contains whatever calories it would have without sugar.

If you’re going to eat a cookie, eat a cookie. Don’t eat the whole box!

If you’re having trouble with sugar cravings, be sure to check out: Understanding Sugar Cravings!

Food Spotlight: Asparagus

Asparagus was once considered to be a member of the lily family of plants, and while it is now considered to be in its own family, it is still remarkably similar to other lilies such as garlic and onions. When we consume asparagus as a vegetable, we eat the young shoot of the plant. Once the bud at the end of the spear we consume opens, the plant creates a fern-like structure that would be too hard or ‘woody’ to eat. The exact origin of asparagus is unknown. We do know that it originates somewhere in the Mediterranean, where it has been consumed for thousands and thousands of years. It may have been consumed and cultivated to some degree as early as 20,000 BP in Egypt. It is depicted in ancient Egyptian friezes dating to approximately 3000 BC, and was consumed and cultivated extensively in Greece, Rome, Syria, and Spain. The vegetable was so prized by Emperor Augustus of Rome that he created an ‘Asparagus Fleet,’ whose sole duty was to haul the vegetable from the fields for the wealthy. The oldest surviving cookbook, De Re Coquinaria by Apiucius, which hails from Rome during the 4th or 5th century AD, contains a recipe for delicately cooking asparagus.

Fresh, young, growing shoots of plants are some of the most nutrient dense foods, and asparagus is no exception. Asparagus is abound with the nutrient Vitamin K, an essential fat-soluble nutrient that helps your blood to clot properly, prevents calcification of your arteries, prevents bones from fracturing, aids bruising, and aids in preventing bone-loss. A single cup of uncooked asparagus contains approximately 70% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin K! Asparagus is also rich in beta carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A, folate, iron, thiamin, copper, and manganese. One cup of uncooked asparagus contains only 27 calories, while containing 3 grams of protein, as well as 3 grams of dietary fiber!Asparagus has been so revered throughout the ages largely because of its medicinal properties. It is known as an excellent plant for detoxifying your system for numerous reasons. It contains large amounts of the amino acid glutathione, an important amino acid utilized by the liver as an anti-oxidant for cleaning up free radicals (toxins that create damage in your system). The large amounts of folate contained in asparagus have anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce pain and arthritis, as well as reduces your chances of heart disease and is essential for preventing birth defects for pregnant women. Additionally, asparagus has many diuretic properties, which help to aid constipation and keep you regular, as well as cleanse your liver and kidneys. Finally, asparagus contains inulin, a special form of fiber/oligosaccharide that help to feed beneficial bacteria in your intestines.

Asparagus can usually be found year-round with so many vegetables being imported from different localities and regions of the world. However, truly delectable and fresh asparagus is available only in the spring, when it is most abundant and thus also cheapest. Asparagus doesn’t face as many threats from pests as do some other plants, so it’s not absolutely necessary to get organic asparagus. That being said, the most nutritious and tasty asparagus can often be found only at a local farmer’s market because of freshness (where they tend to be less sprayed, anyway).

Asparagus is delectable simply steamed or baked, and is the perfect accompaniment to numerous dishes! Be sure to try Orange Roasted Tofu and Asparagus!

Sunflower Cake: Gluten Free, Grain Free, and Delicious!

This is quite an amazing recipe; it simply stunned me to have a great dessert that is not only gluten-free, but has no grains whatsoever! I first experimented with this recipe for a small get-together, and it was a huge hit! Not only is it loaded with nutrition from all the wonderful ingredients (especially those sunflower seeds!), but it’s quick and very easy to make. I’m not much of a baker, but with this recipe’s flavor and ease, it’s now been added to my weekly repertoire.

Amazing Sunflower Cake!

Below is the basic recipe for the cake. The basic recipe serves as a base that can easily be used for other recipes, or that can easily be varied. Try cutting some of the maple syrup or honey, or even utilizing one or two bananas instead, to reduce the sugar and create more of a ‘bread’ for more everyday use. Consider adding a can of pureed pumpkin (or fresh if it’s the season) and an extra egg to create Pumpkin Sunflower Cake. If you’re going dairy free, you can even use all coconut oil instead of butter! There are numerous possibilities that are waiting to be found with this recipe!

*This recipe is adapted from the Internal Bliss GAPS Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • Sunflower Cake2 1/2 cups soaked Sunflower Seeds (soak at least 4 hours, better if overnight, strain seeds but allow them to be damp)
  • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Butter (or all Coconut Oil)
  • 3 Eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons Honey
  • 3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 1.5 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 2 Teaspoons Nutmeg
  • 2 Teaspoons ground Ginger

Preparation:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350˚F.
  2. In a blender or food processor, grind sunflower seeds in batches until they form a paste.
  3. In a mixing bowl or in blender/food processor, mix all ingredients until well mixed.
  4. Grease a 9 inch baking dish or cake pan with coconut oil, and pour in mixture.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool, cut, and serve!

This cake is great warm, room temperature, or cold! Serve with fresh fruit, coconut cream, ice cream, or alone! Makes 12-16 servings.

Sunflower Cake

Metabolism! How does it affect me, really?

So often we hear people blame their metabolism for many things…their ability to eat anything and stay thin, or why they eat salad but can’t lose weight. But what is this “metabolism” thing, anyway?
There are actually several different “types” of metabolism. I’ll explain the basics, so that you can get a better understanding of the way your body deals with calories and energy.

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR): Very closely related to “Basal Metabolic Rate,” (but we’ll stick with RMR, as its easier to remember and pronounce), our RMR makes up the largest percentage of our metabolism. (Between 65%-75%!!!!) Your RMR is the amount of calories your body burns at “rest.” (So your energy expenditure when you are sleeping, sitting, basically doing anything that isn’t physical). This part of your metabolism is pretty constant. And a lot of it is genetic; hence why some people can just “eat whatever they want” and stay thin. But before you get upset that your RMR isn’t “naturally” high, there are certain things that affect it, (and there are parts of your metabolism that you do have control over!)
Things that affect RMR:

    • Age (our Resting Metabolism goes down as we age.)
    • Percentage of Muscle Mass (Muscle burns more calories than fat).
    • Sex (Not how much you have, but men tend to burn more calories than women, usually because of their percentage of muscle).
    • Height and Size (The taller and larger you are, the more surface area you have. The more surface area you have, the more calories you burn.)

Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): Your body’s TEF is the amount of calories burned by digesting food, processing nutrients and food storage. That’s right, eating burns calories! It makes up 5-10% of your metabolism. But before you make yourself Thanksgiving dinner every day, there’s a balance between eating too much and optimizing your TEF. Nutrient dense food (i.e. food that contains a lot of fiber, vitamins, Omega fatty acids, etc. compared to how many calories it contains), insures your TEF is running high while you’re not storing too many excess calories. Potato chips and candy are not nutrient dense…they have very little nutrients compared to their calories. So if a lot of “good stuff” is packed into everything you eat, your body will use its energy more efficiently. (Most “whole” foods). I also recommend eating smaller meals, as you will have less “extra calories” that will go into storage after you eat. (And you’ll probably have more energy, since your body won’t have to use all its resources to keep digesting.)

Physical Activity energy expenditure (PAEE): Can you guess what this is?? Exercise! Physical Activity usually makes up 15%-35% of your metabolism. Why such a large range of calorie burning? Because there’s such a large range of activity you could be participating in. If you spend your day off watching TV, a lot less of your calorie burning will come from PAEE. If you go jogging, lift weights, and then go dancing, your PAEE will make up a much larger percentage, and usually burn more calories. Physical activity is anything that requires physical effort. Construction workers often get their activity on the job. Europeans often walk and bike for transportation, getting their physical activity that way. But this isn’t just about weight loss, having a high rate of physical activity usually gives you more energy, as your body burns more calories even after you stop. Plus you get lots of the happy hormones, as exercise releases serotonin in your brain! (Bonus).
Of course you can overdo it, since it is using your body’s energy stores. (When hiking the John Muir Trail, I needed a nap after a few mountain peaks.) But most people in America under-do it, so find a way to get active, your body will thank you for it.

Note: I will be writing many more articles on the benefits of exercise, ways to avoid injury, the best work-outs for you, etc.