Nutrient Rich Food Substitutions

29 Jun

Lately I have been doing more research and putting more thought into the nutrient content of the food I eat.  Since my mission is to respect my body by feeding it with quality foods, I should also be thinking about how to take in the most nutrients from those foods.  I want the fruits, vegetables legumes and grains I eat to really count and offer my body as many vitamins and minerals as possible.

How you choose, store and prepare food all has an effect on the nutrient levels.  In the grocery stores and at the farmers markets, we are offered a wealth of options.  Choosing the best from all these options can be challenging.  After doing some reading and research of my own, I have begun to learn which foods to choose to get the most nutritional value.

Keeping this in mind, I developed a meal choosing the most nutritious varieties I could find of each a starch, vegetable and legume.  Read below on what each item is and why it’s a better choice.

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Black (Beluga) Lentils

What are they?

Black lentils are also referred to as Beluga lentils, getting their nickname from the Beluga caviar that they look similar to when cooked.

Why are they better?

These small, round black lentils contain anthocyanins, which is a powerful antioxidant that is also found in berries.  Lentils offer essential vitamins and minerals and are a good source of protein.  They contain 9 grams of fiber per 1/4 cup which will keep you feeling full throughout the day.

Where to find them?

Look for them in the health food store or the bulk section of your grocery store.

Purple sweet potatoes

What are they?

These beautifully colored root vegetables actually come from a plant in the morning glory family.

Why are they better?

Anthocyanin is what gives the sweet potato is purple color.  As we know, this phytonutrient fights free radicals in your body which can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases.  In addition, similar to traditional sweet potatoes, they are a good source of fiber, calcium and complex carbohydrates.

Where to find them?

Look for purple sweet potatoes at a specialty produce store or at the farmers market.

Arugula

What is it?

Arugula is a member of the cabbage family.  It is a dark salad green with a slightly mustard and peppery flavor.

Why is it better?

Arugula is higher in antioxidants than most green lettuces.  It also contains more calcium, magnesium, folate and vitamin E than most salad greens.   The many phytonutrients it contains are known to have anticancer properties.

Where to find it?

Arugula can be found in any major supermarket or your local farmers market.

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5 Tips for Choosing Perfect Produce

5 May

veggies

When you are eating fruits and vegetables, it is important to take into account the nutritional density of what you are eating.  By choosing correctly at the market, you can assure that you are getting the most nutritional bang for your buck.  Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way to choose not only the tastiest, but the most nutritious produce at the market.

garlic onion

  1. When choosing garlic and onions, choose ones that have the outer wrapping intact.  Also take size into consideration, smaller sized onions contain a greater concentration of nutrients.  Interestingly enough, the skins of the onions are the most nutritious part, so you can save them and use to flavor soups or stews.carrots
  2. Carrots with their green tops attached are fresher and sweeter than those without.  This is also a bonus because you can use the carrot greens in your salads, smoothies or to make a delicious pesto.  However, to find carrots with the greens attached you probably have to visit a farmers market because leaving the greens cause the carrots to dry out faster so many companies remove them before shipping to the supermarkets. potatoes
  3. Potatoes and sweet potatoes with a deeper colored flesh and a darker colored skin are higher in antioxidants.  Sweet potatoes are generally higher in antioxidants and have a lower glycemic index than regular varieties.  Keep in mind that the skin contains 50% of the antioxidants so buy organic, scrub well and eat those skins!tomato
  4. Tomatoes grown organically contain higher levels of vitamin C and the essential antioxidant lycopene.  Look for smaller sized tomatoes with a dark red color, as these will be the richest in lycopene. broccoli
  5. Broccoli should have dark green crowns and tightly closed buds.  You want the stem to be firm and bright green.  Broccoli begins to break down once it is cut, so avoid the pre bagged florets and opt for the whole crowns instead.

Now that you have a few more pieces of information you can hit the markets and choose the vegetables that will give you the most nutritional bang for your buck.  I will soon follow up with important tips on the best way to store and prepare foods as well.  Stay tuned!

 

**A great resource for nutritional information is the World’s Healthiest Food website. Established by the George Mateljan Foundation, this site share scientifically proven information that is independent and not influenced by commercial interests.

Mayan Inspired Recipes

1 Feb

 

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Recently I took a trip down to Tulum, Mexico. Located on the Gulf coast in the Yucatan peninsula, Tulum is an area with a large population of Mayans.  The Mayan culture is a fascinating one with a long history.  Their influence is seen all around, most notably in the impressive, ancient ruins that are still standing all throughout the peninsula.  Through this we can see their impressive achievements in design and architecture.  However, it is important to take note of what they contributed to the culinary world as well.  After spending time learning about both the ancient and present day Mayans, I was inspired to create recipes that honored this beautiful culture.

Cacao

Cacao beans have a long history with the Mayans as they were seen as a sacred gift of the gods and used as currency.  The beans were roasted and made into an elixir sometimes used in spiritual ceremonies.  While biking through the Tulum, I came across a permaculture center and cooperative which had all kinds of great locally grown commodities.  A large bag of cacao beans sat on a table and I knew I had to bring some back to experiment with.  I understand that raw cacao beans may be difficult to come by depending on where you live.  However, you could substitute cacao powder which can be found at Whole Foods, your local health food store or bought online.

choc truffles; ingredients

Mayan Cacao Truffles

1/2 cup cacao beans

8-10 dates

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp coconut oil

1/4 tsp cayenne powder

~ First, grind the beans into a powder.  (I did this with my NutriBullet, but if you have a coffee grinder, that would work better)

~  Add in the dates, cinnamon and cayenne

~ Drizzle in the coconut oil and pulse until a dough forms

~ Using a tablespoon, scoop out dough and roll into a ball.  You can roll them in chopped nuts or shredded coconut if you choose

~ Keep refrigerated until ready to eat

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Avocado

The ancient Mayans occupied Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula which is where the avocado originates.  Avocados were an important part of their agriculture and were known to be one of their favorite foods.  Packed with good fats and essential nutrients such as fiber and potassium, it’s clear to see where the Mayans got their strength to accomplish incredible feats in architecture.  You too can reap the benefits of the mighty avocado with this simple guacamole recipe.

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Zesty Guacamole

1 avocado

1/4 cup cilantro

Juice of 1/2 lime

Sea salt to taste

Pinch cayenne pepper

~ Scoop avocado into a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well

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Food photography by: Matt Ordeshook

Healthy Skin Recipes: Radiant Raw Tacos

14 Jan

When it comes to having beautiful skin, it should be natural, effortless and reflect your healthy inside.  Eating a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and free of processed food will fuel your body with vitamins and nutrients essential for internal health and external beauty.  Incorporating certain foods into our diets can help us achieve that beautiful, healthy glow that we all seek.

Nuts are a great source of good fats which are essential for skin health.  Walnuts in particular have a high level of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation, while the omega 9’s  improve blood circulation.  These healthy fats can also protect against harmful UV rays.  Vitamin E is another beneficial compound in walnuts which is a powerful antioxidant and accelerates healing.  People suffering from skin ailments such as eczema can find relief from applying walnut oil topically.

My recipe below for raw tacos is an example of how you can incorporate walnuts into your diet in an interesting way.  These will give you all the flavors of traditional tacos but with a new, healthy twist.  Using red cabbage as the taco shell adds an extra dose of antioxidants.  Skin healthy fruits such as tomatoes and avocados also make an appearance in this dish making it an anti-aging powerhouse meal.

raw wanut tacos

Radiant Raw Tacos

1/4 head red cabbage

Walnut Meat

2 cups walnuts

1 tbsp liquid aminos

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chili powder

pinch paprika

sea salt to taste

  • Place all ingredients into your food processor, pulse until it is a crumbly consistency, similar to that of ground meat

Tomato Peach Salsa

3 tomatoes

1 peach

1 med onion

1 jalapeno

1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup cilantro

sea salt to taste

  • Chop the tomatoes, peaches, onions, jalapeno and cilantro.
  • Add into a bowl with the vinegar and sea salt, mix well

Chunky Guacamole

3 avocados

1 small tomato

1/2 onion

1/8 cup cilantro

1/2 lime, juiced

sea salt to taste

  • Chop the tomato, onion and cilantro, set aside
  • Mash the avocado, mix in the veggies and season with lime juice and sea salt
  • To assemble the tacos, layer walnut meat on the bottom and top with salsa and guacamole

 

 

3 Plant based Lunches to Take on the Go

11 Dec

These days it seems that everyone is always so busy.  In the workplace, employees are constantly given ever increasing workloads and expected to somehow keep up.  This busy lifestyle extends to outside the office and into our personal lives as well.  Juggling friends, relationships, kids, hobbies and personal projects, our days are packed full and a busy schedule almost seems to be a badge of honor.  When we run around from one activity to the next, we exhaust ourselves and self care takes a backseat.

One thing that can get overlooked in the midst of a busy day is eating right.  Running from meeting to meeting doesn’t leave much time for you to properly nourish your body.  Picking up a quick, fast food meal probably seems like the best option.  However, if you think ahead and put in just a little bit of time the night before, you can be prepared with healthy food to fuel those hectic days.

These are three of my favorite things to make for lunch that travel well and take only 15 – 20 minutes to prepare.  Each one has a recipe example, but these are all things that can be made to customize your personal tastes.

1. Chickpea salad pita

vegan_chickpea_salad_pita

Chickpea salad has to be one of my favorite things to have for lunch.  There are so many variations of it you can make and it’s easy to prepare.  Chickpeas are high in both protein and fiber making it the perfect fuel to eat in the middle of the day.  The texture mimics that of chicken salad, so this is something that would satisfy herbivores and carnivores alike.  A good chickpea salad often consists of the vegetables, seasonings and a dressing to bind it all together.  Just mash the beans to your desired consistency and add in the rest of the ingredients.  See the chart below for some suggestions on how to make a great tasting salad.  Simply choose one from each column, mix, match and create your favorite.

Vegetable                 Seasoning                          Dressing

Broccoli                      garlic                               veganaise

Onion                      rosemary                             olive oil

          Olives                       oregano                         dijon mustard

Celery                    curry powder                        tahini

Carrot                           dill                                     miso

   Tomatoes                nutritional yeast              liquid aminos

 

2.  Stuffed avocado

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The rich fat content of avocados makes it easier for the body to absorb certain fat soluble vitamins.  With 6-7 grams of fiber per half, avocados will fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied until dinner.  Pair this with a peppery arugula salad, which is an antioxidant powerhouse,  and you’ve got yourself a delicious and well balanced lunch.  Like the chickpea salad, you can customize this one to your liking and use whatever vegetables you have on hand.   Below is the recipe for my southwest stuffed avocado.

Southwest Stuffed Avocado

2 avocados

1 can black beans

1 cup tomatoes, diced

1/2 onion, chopped

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tsp cumin

sea salt to taste

~ slice the avocados and remove the pit, squeeze a small amount of lime juice on each half to prevent oxidation

~ mix the beans, tomato, onion and spices together and stir well to combine

~ scoop the bean mixture into the avocado and serve

 

3.  Zen veggie bowl

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Chock full of vegetables and hearty grains, veggie This one is pretty hard to mess up since it’s pretty much just made up of whatever you happen to like and have on hand.  Below is layout of how to make a perfect veggie bowl and some examples for each category.  When you are done, you will have a complete, well balanced meal.

Layer 4 – protein 

[lentils, chickpeas, black beans, tempeh, tofu]

Layer 3 – vegetables 

[broccoli, zucchini, tomato, peppers, eggplant]

Layer 2 – grain 

[quinoa, brown rice, cous cous, farro]

Layer 1 – greens 

[spinach, chard, kale, arugula]

Dressings: tahini garlic dressing, balsamic vinaigrette, liquid aminos, miso, pesto

Now that you’re armed with healthy fuel for your body and mind, go out there, tackle the day and share your greatness with the world!

Breathe Easy… 5 Steps to Healthy Lungs

3 Nov

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Breathing is essential for life.  It is the first thing we do when we are born into this life and continue until we leave this earth.  Each breath is sacred, an opportunity to inhale life giving oxygen and chi and exhale toxins.   The lungs are our vital organs that make it possible for us to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.  Most people equate lung health to lifestyle choices and environmental factors.  These are certainly important factors, however like any other organ in our body, the lungs need proper nutrition to be healthy and function fully.

As a part of healthy lung month (it was October, but better late than never, right?) here are specific foods and lifestyle changes you can implement to support lung health.  With knowledge of various toxins and prevention methods we can breath easy and set ourselves up for a healthy future.


  • Maintain a healthy diet

Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes provides your body with essential vitamins and antioxidants that your body needs to detox itself.  Below are some specific foods that are especially important for lung health.

~ Ginger

ginger

Ginger is widely used as an herbal remedy in alternative medicine.  Used to treat ailments such as common colds and upset stomachs, ginger has also been shown to  suppress the proliferation of cancer cells.

~ Broccoli

broccoli

Broccoli, like other cruciferous vegetables, are packed with antioxidants which inhibit enzymes that damage DNA and cause cancer.    Studies have also found that certain plant chemicals in broccoli can restore damage pathways and help clean harmful bacteria from the lungs.

~ Carrots

carrots

Carrots receive their orange coloring from the carotenoids they contain.  These important antioxidants have been shown to cut the risks for developing lung cancer.

~ Garlic

garlic

A study published in the Cancer Prevention Research Journal found that participants who consumed raw garlic two or more times a week had a 44% decreased risk of developing lung cancer.

  • Stay hydrated

Water is essential for all bodily functions.  Drinking an adequate amount of water keeps your lungs hydrated and the blood moving to and from the lungs.

  • Exercise at least 30 min a day

Improving your cardiovascular health helps lessen the work your lungs have to do.  Do something each day to get your heart rate up and blood pumping.  Make it an activity you enjoy so that it becomes a fun part of your day that you look forward to.

  • Practice deep breathing

Deep breathing exercises have many benefits.  Not only will it help you to be present and mindful, but you will be increasing your lung capacity allowing your body to take in more essential oxygen.  Focusing on fully exhaling the breath will allow you to maximize the cleansing effect.

  • Be mindful of environmental toxins

Outdoor air pollution may be the first thing that comes to mind here, but it’s actually indoor air pollutants that can be the most dangerous. Asbestos is a particularly dangerous toxin which causes an aggressive cancer, most often affecting the lining of the lungs, called mesothelioma.  The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance is just one of the many valuable resources out there for information, support and prevention against environmental toxins.  Along with proper nutrition, staying mindful of these lesser known dangers is essential for a healthy home and family.

Subpar School Lunches and Healthy Alternatives

30 Oct

A few weeks ago I attended a training event where lunch was provided.  It was a general boxed lunch that was distributed to all attendees.  I was surprised at what was inside and thankful that I had brought my own food to eat.  The boxed lunch consisted of a sandwich, pasta salad and cookie, all of which were highly processed.  This meal was created with little to no thought given to the nutritional balance, cost was most likely the deciding factor.

After hearing several people mention that they were tired soon after lunch, it was clear to me that this was due to the sugar and processed carbohydrates that were the majority of the meal that they just ate.  Refined flours rush into our bodies and causes a spike in blood sugar and a crash soon after.

Many people might see this meal and think it’s perfectly healthy, which shows exactly what is wrong with the food system.  Processed substances are often masquerading as healthy choices and marketed to us that way as well.  What they don’t tell you is that the sugar that’s added for taste and the chemicals used to make it shelf stable are making you overweight and sick.

Meals full of processed food are especially concerning when they are served to children in schools.  Often with only a small, sad salad bar as a healthy alternative, children are choosing these processed meals instead and consuming them every day.  Chemicals in food are especially dangerous to young bodies that are still growing and developing .  In addition to possible health problems, additives have been know to cause an increased risk for hyperactivity.  Feeding children lunches like this is just setting them up for failure.

Let’s take a look at this lunch and see what dangers and lurking inside…

Traditional school lunch

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Turkey and cheese sandwich –

In other words, processed meat and cheese in between two pieces of refined carbohydrates.  The recent statement from the World Health Organization on the link between meat consumption and cancer is all over the news.  They have finally stated what we’ve known for years but many chose to stay blind to.  Another organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)  classifies processed meat as a group 1 carcinogen.

The processed white bread is almost as bad as the meat.  Made of refined grains, these carbohydrates get broken down as glucose (aka sugar) in the body.  In turn, the pancreas secretes an elevated amount of insulin to break down the sugar.  This spike in blood sugar and insulin is taxing on the body, especially one that is still growing.

Pasta salad –

This is just more refined grains and carbohydrates, was there not enough in the white bread?

Cookie –

Not only is there refined flour in here, but sugar as well.  This gives them a double dose of insulin spiking blood sugar.

Almost nothing in this meal is providing your body with any essential vitamins or nutrients.  Aside from the apple (which ironically was the one thing most people left behind) everything in this meal has been made in a factory.  Also, there are no vegetables at all!  I’m not counting that sad piece of lettuce on the sandwich.

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Now, here are some alternatives that are affordable and easy to prepare.  Here is my upgraded, healthy school lunchbox and the nutritional benefits of each item.

ZENutrition school lunch

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Chickpea salad pita –

A whole wheat pita filled with a chickpea salad is worlds better than the turkey sandwich in the first lunch. When choosing a pita, be sure to read the ingredients and choose one without preservatives.  I find it’s best to store them in the freezer and just toast them up as I need them.  Since there aren’t chemicals added, they tend to go bad pretty quickly.  The chickpea filling mimics a chicken salad.  Like chicken, it provides protein but also fiber as well.  It is so simple to put together and you can make it using whatever you have on hand.

Quinoa salad –

Quinoa is a better choice than the pasta salad.  It offers the carbohydrate fuel that the pasta does, and also adds a number of vitamins and minerals that are essential for young, growing bodies. Potassium, calcium and B vitamins just to name a few.

Raspberries –

You can round out your meal by adding whatever fruit is in season.  I added raspberries because they are a healthy treat and an excellent source of vitamin C which helps growing bodies fight off infections.

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Stay tuned for kid friendly recipes that are perfect for the lunchbox.

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