Wednesday, December 28, 2016

7 Ways To Cope With The Holidays
And The Crazy World Around Us

The world is super crazy right now.
Here are some tips on how to cope.

Getting through the holidays can sometimes be enough of a challenge, but his year’s political and international events have pushed many of us to the brink.  If you are feeling unmotivated, hopeless, sad and anxious, you are not alone. But there are things we can do to try and lift the funk. Here are a few of them:

#1 – Fight Negativity with Positive Thoughts
Even with the election behind us, our thirst for minute-to-minute news has not abated even if it causes more anxiety.  So I could suggest that we disconnect, but in reality we won’t – and perhaps we shouldn’t because it’s important to stay involved with what’s happening around us. But just when I think my head is going to explode, I realize that there are still many things that I can be thankful for. So I make a mental list or, better yet, I write them down, post them on the bathroom mirror and keep a copy on my bedside table so I can begin and end the day with positive thoughts, such as: “I am in good health.” “My children are happy.” “ I have a loving husband.” “ I have 54 pints of tomato sauce I canned from my summer garden to enjoy all winter.”

I also think of visual images that make me smile, like the look on my grandson’s face when he opened a particular gift he wanted, or the memory of my dog Zoe guarding the foot of my bed in the morning. These affirmations and positive images bring me back to those things in my tangible world that bring me joy and away from thoughts that create fear and anxiety.

Before your head explodes, think positive thoughts.

#2 – The Power of Food 
The day after the election, my entire lunch consisted of a bowl of French fries. For those of you who know me, I can see you gasping! I chased it down with a Mai Tai (I was in Hawaii). I didn’t feel better. In fact I felt worse. I eventually came to my senses and started eating my usual clean diet. But we all know how stress and anxiety can lead to poor food and beverage choices and it can become a vicious cycle. Then comes the weight gain that leads to even more stress and anxiety.

A diet that will improve your mood, and help lose a few pounds too, should include “power foods” such as beans, salmon, kale and other leafy greens, berries, nuts and seeds, quinoa and other whole grains, avocados, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, onions and garlic, dark chocolate and mushrooms. Avoid fad diets and prepackaged meals and shakes. These can do more damage than good, in the long run.

It’s also very important to include fermented foods in your diet every day, such as raw sauerkraut or pickles, kombucha, miso, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, or yogurt. These power foods not only provide the critical nutrients you need, but they also create a healthy environment for your gut microbes. It turns out that these little bugs have a big affect on our mood!

From a DNA count, we are more microbial than human so it’s no surprise that research continues to discover the many ways that these microbes significantly affect our health. Researchers found that the micro-organisms in our gut significantly influence the body’s level of serotonin, the brain chemical that regulates how happy we feel. In fact, the pharmaceutical drugs Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil treat anxiety and depression the same way, by managing the body’s levels of serotonin. So maybe it’s best to ditch the pills and just eat a diet that will promote a good environment for our little friends!

Microbes can affect our mood

#3 - Get off the Couch
Sitting is the new smoking. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease, certain types of cancer, arthritis, and type-2 diabetes. Exercise can help prevent these diseases. In addition, exercise can help reduce anxiety and greatly improve mood.

I remember when I was a serious runner (serious for me), and would go out and run 3 miles in the hills or on a nearby track with my favorite tunes flowing in my ears. I would return home with rosy cheeks and a runner’s high. I can’t even describe how elated I felt.  Why did I feel that good?

It turns out that exercise causes the body to release endorphins, endocannabinoids and other “feel-good” brain chemicals that can ease depression. It also is a great distraction, unless of course you are watching a news program while you are on your treadmill. 

Although I don’t run 3 miles a day like I did 25 years ago, I find other ways to get my blood and lymph flowing and my endorphins to kick in. I love to take brisk walks, do Zumba, or jump on my new mini-trampoline. So find an exercise you love doing and start pumping out happy brain chemicals!

A race I ran in 1989

#4 - Connect with Friends and Family
When reading the book, Blue Zones, by Dan Buettner, I noticed that people who live to 100 or older, had one thing in common - they all had a network of friends or family and a sense of community that gave them a life purpose. In today's world, many of us live apart from our families and move from city to city for our careers. So it's important to create a network of friends and assimilate into your community as best you can. Meet like-minded people and work at creating relationships. You can't sit at home and wait for your new best friend to come knocking at your door. 

Eight years ago, after working and living in San Jose for over 20 years, my husband and I moved to Sebastopol and had to basically start over making new friends. None of our children or grandchildren live in California, so our friends are our main source of connection. Fortunately, we have many interests and have joined groups in the community that have lead to deep friendships – ones that give us support and comfort. I love this town and I feel like it’s wrapped its arms around us. 

Blue Zones

#5 – Know your Triggers
There are certain things that make individuals depressed. Each person is unique and has different triggers. I, for one, cannot watch thrillers or violent movies as they make me super anxious. I also avoid watching the nightly news right before bed. Despite it’s health benefits and ability to help me get a good night sleep, I can’t take melatonin for more than a few nights in a row. Even as very low dosages, it makes me sad and depressed. I also have a terrible reaction to cortisone, even in the form of nose sprays, since they can throw me into a deep state of depression when I get off it. Alcohol is also a depressant, although it is more depressing to think of not enjoying a glass of wine or sake each night with dinner, so I have to make sure I limit it to one glass or skip a night or two. Sometimes a trigger can be a person who upsets you or, for example, taunts you about your beliefs. What are your triggers? Can you avoid them?

#6 –Vitamins and Herbs that Calm or Induce Euphoria
In times of stress, our bodies quickly use up our B vitamins. Since they are water soluble, they need to be replenished daily so I take a good Stress B-complex. 

Vitamin Code Raw B-Complex

There are many herbs that calm the nervous system such as chamomile, skullcap, hops, lavender, clary sage, rosemary, valerian, California poppy, passionflower and more. Many are available, individually or in a combination, as a tea or tincture. Some, like lavender for example, may be used as an essential oil in aroma therapy.  Many of these herbs can help with anxiety-induced insomnia. As a sleep aid, I take a tincture that is a combination of skullcap, hops, California poppy, passionflower, and valerian. 

One of the most effective herbs to induce euphoria is cannabis. If you have a medical cannabis recommendation and happen to live in a progressive state, you can go a local clinic and pick up a strain described to have the following strain attributes: “happy, uplifted, euphoric, and relaxed.” For example, Sour Diesel, Blue Dream and Girl Scout Cookies, are THC strains (those with psychoactive effects) with these attributes. High CBD strains (those that do not cause psychoactivity), such as ACDC, Cannatonic, Ringo’s Gift and others, have been successfully used to treat anxiety. New vaporizers make smoking cannabis much less harsh. The advantage of smoking is that you can take a puff or two and get immediate results. If you are going to consume a tincture or other THC edibles, just be aware that they take several hours to kick in and it’s very easy to take too much. So start with a tiny, tiny dosage and wait a few hours before taking more. 

#7 – Put Things in Prospective
Being upset about politics, world issues, the planet, etc. is serious for sure. It can make us depressed, anxious, even sick as these pressures can definitely weaken our immune system. But other events closer to us can bring these into prospective. 

My cousin just passed away recently. She was from a very tight-knit family of six children and my 90-year-old aunt had to endure the pain of losing a child. To watch their tributes on Facebook each day, especially during the holidays, is heart breaking. And then there’s my dear friend’s husband who has been battling stage 4 colon cancer.  They have taken an alternative route of treatment that requires administration of numerous herbs, IV treatments, and more that have to be carefully scheduled nearly every hour of the day. Needless to say, this has turned their lives upside down. So we should put our anxiety and fears in prospective. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Paleo Fried Rice - Low Calorie and High Fiber
Vegan And Vegetarian Options

Grated cauliflower is used instead of rice in this recipe.

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Me, Write about Paleo?
As many of you know, I'm not a big fan of the Paleo diet. As I wrote 3 years ago in my blog post, "Why you should leave the Paleo Diet to the Caveman", I feel that a strict Paleo diet consumes too much animal protein and avoids some of nature's best foods - legumes and whole grains, which makes it difficult to get the amount of fiber that people should have. And with the number of meat meals prescribed, it is not an environmentally sustainable diet.

That said, vegans and others whose diet centers mostly around plants, can consume too many carbohydrates and that's not good for you either. Especially if they eat a lot of white rice and pasta. In our case, we've been eating the large amounts of potatoes and corn we harvested this summer plus when we eat out, it's almost always Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian or Japanese food so it's hard to avoid rice. All these carbs have consequences.

Recently, my naturopath tested my HbA1c (Hemoglobin A1c). The result was 5.6%, which is normal, but at the very high end. (Doug's was 5.4%). Pre-diabetes numbers are 5.7% to 6.4%, diabetes is 6.5% or greater. To be safe, she recommended I reduce my consumption of carbohydrates, especially at breakfast, and get more exercise. 

So here's a fried rice recipe with lots of veggies and no rice. There's an optional egg in there for a bit of extra protein.

                             *                             *                            *

Fried Cauliflower Rice
Vegan or Vegetarian (with the egg), Dairy and Gluten Free
[makes 4 servings]

1 cauliflower, quartered
2 carrots, peeled
6 scallions, sliced (1 cup)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger, or to taste
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sesame oil (divided)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 large pasture raised egg, beaten
salt to taste

Holding the cauliflower by the core, grate the cauliflower on a large grater. Discard the core. 

Grate the carrots.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the cauliflower, carrots, scallions and ginger. Season with black pepper. Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently. 

Add the soy sauce, mushrooms, and peas and cook until the vegetables are fork tender. 

If you are omitting the egg, add salt to taste, adjust seasonings (pepper and soy sauce) if needed, and serve.

To add the egg, move the vegetables to the edges of the pan making an empty circle in the middle. Add the teaspoon of sesame oil in the center and then the beaten egg. Sprinkle the egg with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Stir slowly for several minutes until the egg is cooked.

Fold the cooked egg into the rest of the vegetables. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.

Per serving with egg: 170 calories, 6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 53 mg cholesterol, 114 mg omega-3 and 2,155 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 9 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 9 mg fiber, and 324 mg sodium plus added salt.

Per serving without egg: 142 calories, 4 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 102 mg omega-3 and 1,547 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 1 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 9 mg fiber, and 307 mg sodium plus added salt.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Top 10 Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas
My Annual Picks for 2016!

Every year I share a few of my favorite things for gift ideas.

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Gift Ideas
For the last few years, I've been sharing gift ideas for your health conscious friends and family. After reviewing them, I still recommend each and every one. Check them all out!

See my 2013 post on Great Christmas Gifts for Healthy Cooking, or

my 2014 post on Chanukah and Christmas Gifts Ideas for Health-Conscious Cooks (Many gifts under $20 and $35) and,

last year's post, 10 Holiday Gift Ideas under $25.

Here are my picks for 2016:

#1 - Last year the kids bought me a Nespresso espresso maker with a milk frother. I love this little machine. It's super easy to use. Doug enjoys espresso and my favorite is a decaf cappuccino. The milk frother works great with non-dairy milk, especially soy and oat milk. It's pretty reasonably priced at just a tad over $100.

Nespresso Inizia Espresso Maker with Aeroccino Plus Milk Frother

#2 - Looking over my past gift ideas, I can't believe that I forgot to include the Yonanas Healthy Dessert Maker This simple machine makes a delicious dessert from frozen fruit that tastes just like gelato! It's amazing. Everyone we have served this dessert to has gone out and bought one - again, just a tad over $100. My favorite combination is frozen bananas and cherries. 

Yonanas Elite Frozen Healthy Dessert Maker

#3 - Kind Bars make a yummy gift. There are lots of flavors but do check each flavor for allergens. Most of them are gluten free but not all of them are dairy free. If you have friends or family who are on the go, this is a great gift.

Almond and Apricot Kind Fruit and Nut Bar
 is gluten and dairy free.

#4 - My favorite gift recommendation this year is a rebounder. It will especially come in handy after the holidays, when everyone is trying to lose those holiday pounds. My Stamina 38" rebounder is less than $50 and will provide hours of bouncy fun while helping circulate the lymphatic system.

Stamina 38-inch Intone Plus Rebounder

#5 - Saffron is a very luxurious spice. I love putting a little pinch in my rice cooker whenever I make rice. It's also the key spice in paella. But it is very expensive. I asked Doug to pick some up for me one day and he came home with a single gram of Pensey's saffron for about $20. You can buy illegal drugs for less! So I was very happy when I found this 2 gram tin of pure Spanish Saffron on Amazon for a little over $6 a gram. I've bought from this company twice now and I really like their product.

2-gram tin of Spanish Saffron

#6 - An aroma therapy gift set makes a wonderful gift. Here's a set that has an Essential Oil Diffuser bundled with a selection of JuJu Aroma Oils.

The Smiley Daisy Diffuser comes with lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, tea tree and sweet orange essential oils.

#7 - My office is not near the kitchen so when I want a cup of tea, I have to walk up the stairs and across the house. So I really appreciate this Brentwood Stainless Steel Tea Kettle.  You can spend a lot more on these, but this simple kettle costs less than $20 and does the job. The reason I selected this one is because the inside is stainless steel, not plastic. Many of the others on the market have plastic in contact with the boiling water. 

#8 - I use my kitchen scale every day. This inexpensive EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale has been working flawlessly for years and it's less than $20.

#9 - Garlic is a pain to mince. Since my friend Christine gave me her Pampered Chef Garlic Press, I've been pressing garlic in most every recipe now instead of mincing it. This kitchen jewel is also very easy to clean. 

#10 - For the wine lovers on your list, buy them a Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator. We love ours. If you have a wine that is a bit young, this aerator allows the wine to breath and gives it the depth that it would have gotten if it were aged. Plus it makes a cool sucking sound when you pour the wine through it which always entertains your guests!

Of course gift giving isn't everything. Enjoy a holiday meal with your friends and family and provide the love and support to each other that everyone can use about now.

Happy Holiday!

Monday, December 05, 2016

Bounce Away The Holiday Pounds
Your Lymphatic System Will Thank You

Bouncing burns calories and supports lymphatic circulation.

For delicious recipes to support weigh loss, download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen

Post Holiday Pounds
I had a great Thanksgiving as Doug, Linda and I ate and drank our way through the wonderful restaurant scene in Minneapolis. Don't believe me? Just look at my scale!

I can't blame all the added pounds on Thanksgiving. They've been inching up for a few months now. I got lazy with logging my calories on MyFitnessPal and I haven't been exercising as much as I usually do. (Turns out all that farming I did this summer didn't burn as many calories as I had hoped). I feel a need to take action now before the Christmas holiday does more damage!

The Lymphatic System
You might be asking why on earth this leads us to a discussion of the lymphatic system. Well, here's the story. 

I found a lump right above my collarbone a few months ago. Lumps are never a good thing so I ran straight to my naturopath who examined it and subsequently made me take a million tests. Turns out it was just a swollen lymph gland reacting to a sinus flareup and it subsided a few weeks later. But perhaps my lymph nodes weren't draining well enough because I haven't been active enough. It's just a theory, but if it motivates me to get off my butt, I'm sticking to it. 

The lymphatic system is a critical part of the body's immune system. In ways, it is similar to our circulatory system as it has vessels throughout our body and interfaces with various organs. But instead of having veins, arteries, and capillaries, it consists of lymphatic vessels. These vessels are connected to lymph nodes whose job is to filter the lymphatic fluids and rid them of toxins, cellular waste, bacteria, viruses, and other unwanted materials. At the same time, it delivers white blood cells throughout the body to fight infections. But unlike the circulatory system whose heart pumps blood throughout your body, whether you are laying on the couch or running a marathon, the lymphatic system depends on physical movement, the contraction of our muscles and gravity. 

Since there is twice as much lymph as blood, it's critical that we help it circulate throughout our bodies. A congested lymphatic system can lead to swollen lymph nodes, recurrent sore throats, a weakened immune system, muscle aches and pains, arthritis, and other disorders. 

Things that Help Lymphatic Congestion
The first thing my naturopath recommended was to start bouncing! Well that sounded like a lot of fun so I immediately ordered a mini trampoline. They come in various sizes. I picked a 38-inch Intone Plus Rebounder because it doesn't take up much space yet it's big enough that I feel safe. It also has two resistance tubes for upper body strength training. I actually use them to make sure I don't drift of the rebounder while bouncing and watching TV. This model also has a counter which tells you how long you work out and how many times you bounce.

Stamina 38-inch Intone Plus Rebounder

Depending on how vigorously you jump or jog in place, and how many pounds you weigh, you will burn anywhere from 120 to 170 calories in 30 minutes. Like any exercise, you will have to work yourself up to 30 minutes. But even bouncing for a mere 10 minutes a day can do a lot of good.

Other Things your Lymphatic System will Enjoy
Besides bouncing, here are some other things you can do:
* Stretching
* Any aerobic exercise
* Your lymphatic system will enjoy yoga, as its many twists and turns help facilitate drainage. 
Skin brushing will also stimulate your lymphatic system.
* Drink lots of water.
* A gentle massage, especially a lymph drainage massage, can get stagnant lymph back into circulation.

But hands down, bouncing is the most fun. And along with a healthy diet and journaling, I'm hoping I can drop my Thanksgiving pounds and more!