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Friday, June 3, 2011

Cha Cha Cha CHIA!!

Yes, chia seeds as in the ones that grow chia pets! These super seeds are jam packed with nothing but nutritious goodness. Next time you're at your local health food store, be sure to grab a bag of chia seeds to start incorporating them into your meals.

Dr. Andrew Weil, explains the benefits of chia seeds wonderfully here: Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family that grows abundantly in southern Mexico. You may have seen chia sprouts growing on the novelty planters called Chia Pets, but historically, the seeds have been the most important part of the plant. In pre-Columbian times they were a main component of the Aztec and Mayan diets and were the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors. I've read that one tablespoon was believed to sustain an individual for 24 hours. The Aztecs also used chia medicinally to stimulate saliva flow and to relieve joint pain and sore skin.

Chia is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, even more so than flax seeds. And it has another advantage over flax: chia is so rich in antioxidants that the seeds don't deteriorate and can be stored for long periods without becoming rancid. And, unlike flax, they do not have to be ground to make their nutrients available to the body. Chia seeds also provide fiber (25 grams give you 6.9 grams of fiber) as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc.

Another advantage: when added to water and allowed to sit for 30 minutes, chia forms a gel. Researchers suggest that this reaction also takes place in the stomach, slowing the process by which digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates and convert them into sugar.
Chia is undergoing something of a renaissance after centuries of neglect. It was a major crop in central Mexico between 1500 and 900 B.C. and was still cultivated well into the 16th century, AD, but after the Spanish conquest, authorities banned it because of its close association with Aztec religion (Indians used the seeds as offerings in rituals). Until recently, chia was produced by only a few small growers, but commercial production has resumed in Latin America, and you can now buy the seeds online and in health food stores.

Because of its nutritional value and stability, chia is already being added to a range of foods. Research has shown that adding it to chicken feed makes for eggs rich in omega-3s. Feeding chia to chickens enriches their meat with omega-3s; fed to cattle chia enriches milk with omega-3s. Chia can also be added to commercially prepared infant formulas, baby foods, baked goods, nutrition bars, yogurt, and other foods. Another bonus: insects don't like the chia plant so it is easier to find organically grown varieties.

Information adapted from Andrew Weil, M.D.

Chia has a nutlike flavor. You can mix seeds in water and add lime or lemon juice and sugar to make a drink known in Mexico and Central America as "chia fresca," (see my altered recipe below). As with ground flax seeds, you can sprinkle ground or whole chia seeds on cereal, in yogurt or salads, eat them as a snack, or grind them and mix them with flour when making muffins or other baked goods. I find them tasty, easy, and an interesting addition to my diet.

Here are some other fun facts about chia seeds:

Easily digestible. You do not need to grind the chia seeds to digest it. It is a relatively easy to digest seed, whereas flax seeds are not. Often, one has to grind flax seeds to be able to process them in their digestive system. That is not the case with chia seeds.

Nutritious. Chia seed provides ample calcium and protein to your tissues. The seeds are also rich in boron, which helps the body assimilate and use calcium. The nutrients also support proper brain functioning.

Water loving seeds. The chia seeds are great for athletes because they are highly hydrophilic. Being hydrophilic means it absorbs large amounts of water. Chia Seeds can absorb over 10 times their weight in water making them a great enhancer in hydrating our bodies. They absorb the water we drink holding it in our system longer.

Slimming and trimming. The chia seed gels when becoming wet and this gel, when in our digestive systems, helps prevent some of the food, hence calories that we eat from getting absorbed into our system. This blockage of calorie absorption makes the chia seed a great diet helper. Eating the seeds also helps dieters by making them feel fuller faster so they will be less hungry!

Cleansing. Chia seeds provide antioxidant activity
Chia is a great addition to a detoxification program. Chia seeds are high in fiber and in healthy oils making them an excellent addition to many detox programs.

Versatile and mild tasting. Mix Chia seeds into yogurt, sprinkle them on cereal in the morning, add to salads, or even add them to your baking. There are many ways to add chia seeds into your daily routine!

'Coconut Lime Chia Fresca'

2 tsp chia seeds
2 cups coconut water
juice of half a lime

Combine all ingredients in a glass and stir to combine. Let rest for ten minutes. Stir once more and set aside for ten minutes longer. Serve chilled. (Serves 1-2)

Healthy benefits: electrolytes, minerals, omega 3’s, dietary fiber and low-sugar!

Keep it fresh!
- Lauren

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Play more, Eat less....

Remember when you were a child and you got so wrapped up in playing, imagining or creating that you didn't want to stop when it was time to eat? Do you remember leaving your meal half-finshed to run off and continue playing? Children innately understand that food is secondary to what is most nutritious and primary in life: fun and play.

As adults we seem to have lost our instinct to prioritize play. In our busy world, with its emphasis on work and responsibility, to be healthy and balanced we must work on more than just our bodies; we must feed our hearts, minds and spirits.

Have you noticed that when your body, mind and spirit are engaged in a creative project or happy relationship, your reliance on food seems to decrease? Likewise, when you are unsatisfied with your relationship, your job or other areas of your life, you may depend on food to cheer, soothe or numb you. When your life is out of balance, no amount of food can feed you where you truly need nourishment. The food that we eat is very important for health and balance, but what really feeds us---a full and fulfilling life --doesn't come on a plate.

What is fun for you? What makes you light up? What excites you? Make time for it this week. Even if you don't have much free time for fun, try approaching a "serious" activity with an attitude of play. This can greatly reduce stress and anxiety and bring more pleasure to your day. Take your focus off food, try adding more fun into your life and watch the magic unfold!!

Keep it Fresh!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Natural Allergy Relief

If you are one of the 35 million Americans that suffer each year during the pollen season, this article is for you! Seasonal allergies tend to occur during the spring and fall, when pollen and ragweed are at their peak. Each season, those who deal with allergies are often desperate for ANY solution to their suffering. Below is a more natural approach to relief instead of over the counter or prescription drugs.

Some of you may be familiar with Dr. Andrew Weil. He is one of the leading physicians in the health and wellness field right now. He is the author of several best-selling health and nutrition books including Spontaneous Healing, Eight Weeks to Optimum Health, Eating Well for Optimum Health and the cookbook The Healthy Kitchen. Dr. Weil is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, is Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at that institution.

Being a proponent of holistic and integrative nutrition, Dr. Weil is not a great fan of antihistamines, which don't change the allergic process but merely block its expression. He says that steroid nasal inhalers used for treatment of hay fever and other seasonal allergies can be very effective, but some of the steroids are bound to get into the rest of the body and these hormones weaken the immune system. His preference among conventional treatments is the non-prescription drug cromolyn sodium (Nasalcrom Nasal Solution). It works and is nontoxic. If that doesn't help, you may have to try a steroid nasal spray such as Vancensae, preferably for a limited time.

Dr. Weil also recommends trying some lifestyle modifications. All allergies have the potential to disappear if you make changes in both lifestyle and your mental state. Here are some of his suggestions:

Skip on the milk. Follow a low-protein diet and try to eliminate milk and milk products. Excessive protein can irritate the immune system and keep it in a state of over activity. The protein in cow's milk is a frequent offender.

Get hypnotized! Try hypnosis, which can lessen or completely prevent allergic reactions and facilitate the immune system's unlearning of its pointless habits (in this case, an inappropriate response to pollen, dust, mold or animal hair or other substances that cannot really hurt us).

Chill out. Consider whether stress impacts your allergy and, if so, take steps to reduce it. Dr. Weil has seen long-standing, severe seasonal allergies disappear when people switched jobs, left a relationship or otherwise eliminated a source of stress.

Dust-proof your home. Dust-proof your bedroom by eliminating wall-to-wall carpets, down-filled blankets, feather pillows and other dust catchers. Encase your mattress in an airtight, dust-proof plastic cover; dust your furniture with a damp cloth; and damp-mop floors regularly to pick up dust.

Get a HEPA filter. Consider buying an air filter. Dr. Weil recommends a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which removes particles in the air by forcing it through screens containing microscopic pores. These devices work well and aren't too expensive. Get one for the main rooms in your house, or move one from room to room regularly. Avoid air-filtering equipment that generates ozone (HEPA filters don't).

Invest in a neti pot. What could be simpler than rinsing away allergens with saltwater? Neti pots have been used in India for thousands of years to flush the sinuses and keep them clear. It’s an idea that takes some getting used to for most Westerners, but it’s a bit like using nasal spray. A little douse of saltwater can rinse away those prickly pollen grains and help treat allergies and other forms of sinus congestion. Refer to my old blog post regarding the neti pot for more information.

Ask your doctor about quercetin. A natural plant-derived compound called a bioflavonoid, quercetin helps stabilize mast cells and prevents them from releasing histamine. Quercetin also is a natural antioxidant that helps mop up molecules called free radicals that cause cell damage, which can lead to cancer. Citrus fruits, onions, apples, parsley, tea, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and wine are naturally high in quercetin, but allergy sufferers will most likely need to use supplements to build up enough of this compound to prevent attacks. The recommended dosage is about 1,000 milligrams a day, taken between meals. It’s best to start treatment six weeks before allergy season. Those with liver disease shouldn’t use quercetin, so please consult your doctor before using this or any other supplement — especially if you are pregnant or nursing.

Eat allergy fighting foods. A recent health study found that participants who ate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids were less likely to suffer allergy symptoms than those who didn’t regularly eat these foods. Omega-3s help fight inflammation and can be found in cold-water fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil, as well as grass-fed meat and eggs.

To help keep airways clear when pollen counts are high, add a dash of horseradish, chili peppers or hot mustard to your food — all act as natural, temporary decongestants. It’s also a good idea to avoid foods that you’re slightly allergic to until the air clears. Fighting off allergies can render the body hypersensitive to those foods, causing more severe reactions than usual.

Hopefully you will find some, if not a lot of relief from one or more of the suggestions above. My favorite thing to do during this season is to drink a cup of hot water first thing in the morning with nothing in it. The steam helps to relieve any congestion in my sinuses. Best wishes for a sniffle-free Spring for you!

Keep it fresh!
- Lauren

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cooling Summer Foods

The end of May means the beginning of Summer. Pools and beaches will be open and the weather will continue to warm up. The change of season means it is time to change up the foods we eat. We will want to start to eat foods that have a cooling effect on the body, to stay fresh during the coming months.

Instinctively there are certain foods that are more appealing to us in the summertime versus the winter months, but there is logic as to why. We tend to think of a food’s energy in terms of calories, but all foods were once alive and therefore have a living energy that effects our bodies’ response when we consume them. Therefore we can eat foods that have a cooling effect on the body during the warm months, and a warming effect on the body during the cold ones.

There are a few things to consider when choosing foods for these cooling effects. How it is grown, the color of the food, and how it is cooked. As a general rule, vegetables and fruits that take less time to grow, and grow above ground, have more of a cooling effect on the body, as well as a more uplifting and energizing effect. Some of these include, most leafy greens, lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, zucchini and yellow squash. Conversely, those that take longer to grow and grow beneath the soil have a more grounding and warming effect on the body. These include root vegetables such as potatoes and parsnips, onions, garlic.

Following what we know about cool colors and warm ones, the same general principle applies to foods. Foods that are blue and green in color are usually more cooling than those that are red or orange. Herbs can be considered as well. Spices such as cayenne, cinnamon and cloves are all warming, which is why we tend to crave them in the fall and winter months. Mint and cilantro have the opposite effect and are great in summer salads and salsas!

Cows, pigs, chickens etc are all warm blooded animals, so when we consume them they have a warming effect on the body. Fish are cold blooded and therefore seafood and seaweeds will have a cooling effect. But it is also important to consider the method in which all of the above foods are prepared. The closer a food is to its raw state, the cooler it will be. So the less it is cooked, the more cooling, and the more it is cooked, the more warming it will be. Therefore lightly steaming vegetables will keep them cool, while broiling, frying or baking will diminish their cooling properties.

Make your summer full of vibrant salads made from lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and you will keep healthy, cool and of course fresh all summer long!

Keep it Fresh (and Cool) - Jill