Nourish

Think Nutrition is Just So You Look Hot? Think Again!

Most people watch what they eat because they are intent on changing their bodies. No one questions what a poor diet does to the body; however, it doesn't just stop there. I like to conceptualize food as fuel for your body and brain. Food directly impacts the chemistry of your brain!  A diet high in processed foods, unhealthy fats, and low in nutrients can contribute to depression, irritability, negative moods, anxiety, low energy levels, and anger. Most people don't know how good they should really feel. I believe that happiness is our natural state. We are here to enjoy out lives, not suffer through it. You are not a prisoner of your body, and there are natural approaches to balancing the body and brain. Food is not the whole solution (hence my whole body and mind approach to wellbeing); however, it is a large piece of the puzzle. On a side note, I do believe that medications serve their purpose, but there are many people who don't want to take them, and probably don't need to. There are other less invasive approaches that work with the body. The body knows how to heal itself. When given proper supports, the body will do the repairing.

Nutrients found in our foods provide the essential biological building blocks for our brains called neurotransmitters (think, brain food). Neurotransmitters are chemicals that cause our cells to fire, and are necessary for everything we do, think, and feel.  Our neurotransmitters are linked to our diets, and therefore, you can promote the production of essential neurotransmitters through food. In addition, chemicals in the food we eat and the environment we live in impacts the brain and contributes to imbalances. Deficiencies in neurotransmitters can be the result of genetics, poor nutrition, and/or chronic stress.

What to take from all of this? Eat nutritionally dense foods, and remove as many unnatural ingredients and chemicals as possible from your diet. 

Did you know that psychopharmacological drugs that target depression, anxiety, and ADHD work by increasing or decreasing our neurotransmitters?  

- Dopamine and norepinephrine are natural energizers and can help you focus.  A deficiency can be associated with a depressed mood.

- Serotonin stabilizes our moods and helps with sleep.  Deficiencies in serotonin may lead to irritability, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression.  

- GABA is a natural sedative.  A deficiency in GABA is linked to anxiety.  

- Endorphins are natural pain killers and lead to feelings of wellbeing and a healthy mood.

There are diets that target specific deficits; however, I personally believe in a whole food approach.  This approach does not consist of counting calories, obsessing over meeting specific requirements, or trendy diets.  It means eating a variety of real foods-- the ones found in nature!

My nutrition philosophy:

- Eat real food with an emphasis on leafy greens, veggies, and fruits.

- No fad or trendy diets;

- Ditch the scale and stop counting calories;

- No deprivation;

- No quick fixes like detoxes or cleanses (cleanses have their place, but are not meant to ever be a substitute for a healthy everyday diet. This is a lifelong journey.)

- Shift your focus to what you CAN eat, and not what you can't eat;

- Eat nutritionally dense food that is easy for your body to digest;

- Avoid processed foods that are not truly meant for consumption;

Longterm changes in diet and lifestyle;

Want to learn more? I recommend reading "The Food-Mood Solution," by Jack Challen. I also recommend anything that Natalia Rose, a clinical nutritionist, has written. I own all of her books and frequently go back to them, but "Raw Food Life Force Energy" is my favorite. She focuses a great deal on restoring life force energy within the body and brain so you can feel your best. And because it needs to be said, please consult with your medical doctor, psychiatrist, and psychologist (whoever is on your team!) before making any dramatic nutritional/lifestyle changes. If you are currently taking medication you need to always use extra caution. In addition, if you'd like to decrease or stop taking medication work with your medical doctor! They are there to help you. 

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Raw Almond Milk for a Healthy and Happy Brain!

"Your brain is about 60% fat.  If you don’t consume enough healthy fats, think about what this means for your brain… It’s not good."

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I use raw almond milk as the base for most of my smoothies.  Sometimes I make different bases, but I always come back to almond milk because it’s my favorite… and it’s also really good for you!  Almonds are loaded with protein, fiber, healthy fats (fats that are crucial for brain health and brain development, but more on that later), vitamin E, calcium, manganese, and magnesium… but I don’t just stop there with my almond milk.  I also include coconut oil.  Coconut oil is antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and an excellent source of energy for the body and brain.  It also lowers the risk of diabetes, is good for your cholesterol levels, and supports a healthy metabolism.

Yes, you can buy almond milk at the grocery store, but then it has been processed and pasteurized.  Unfortunately, processing and pasteurizing strips the milk of its nutritional value.  Make your almond milk from scratch to get all of the nutrients and health benefits.  The closer your food is to nature, and the less processed foods you consume, the better you will feel!  

Almond milk contains the good type of fats for your body and brain.  Studies have supported that healthy fats are critical for the developing brain and for maintaining brain health. Your body cannot create these fats on it's own-- you must get them from the foods that you eat.  Your brain is about 60% fat (giving new meaning to the term fat head!).  If you don’t consume enough healthy fats, think about what this means for your brain… It’s not good. The myelin sheath that covers the neurons in your brain are largely composed of the fat, oleic acid.  Almonds are a great source of oleic acid.  Without getting too detailed, the myelin sheath protects and insulates the nerve, and increases the rate that a message travels through the nerve.  Basically, you want your myelin to be in good shape!  It is critical and essential that babies and children consume enough healthy fats for their developing brains.  Unhealthy fats have been shown to actually cause damage to the brain in high quantities.  We want to avoid that!  Eating healthy fats such as those found in almonds and coconut oil will also protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Almonds also contain two vital brain nutrients—riboflavin and L-canitine.  These nutrients have been shown to increase brain activity, which results in new and strengthened neural pathways.

You can drink almond milk like regular dairy milk, or it can be added into smoothies, ice creams, and even coffee.  Go wild with your almond milk!  Play around with the quantities of the ingredients to get the milk that tastes best to you.  There are no rules here.

 Raw, imported, and unpasteurized almonds & coconut oil (solid when room temperature is below 70)

Raw, imported, and unpasteurized almonds & coconut oil (solid when room temperature is below 70)

My recipe:

-         4- 4.5 cups water

-         1 cup organic almonds (soak almonds overnight or for several hours prior to making your almond milk.  I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always plan ahead, but it’s best for optimal digestion.  Also, always buy organic and raw almonds!

-         1 heaping tablespoon of good quality raw and organic coconut oil (good quality coconut oil should smell fragrant and delicious in the jar)

-         1 whole vanilla bean (or less if you want less vanilla, or a small splash of vanilla extract)

-         Sweets: either a splash of real maple syrup, a good quality organic agave syrup, 3-4 medjool dates (remove the pits!), coconut palm sugar, or whatever else you’d like.  I do not give an exact amount because it really depends on what you like. 

-         Small pinch of salt

*Blend the almonds and water in a powerful blender until completely blended.  Strain into a bowl with a fine mesh bag.  You can either dry out the solid almond paste and use as almond flour, feed it to your dogs, or toss it.  My dogs love the almond paste!  Maybe yours will, too.  Now transfer the liquid back into your blender.  Add the remainder of the ingredients and blend!  If you want your almond milk to be chocolate, add a few teaspoons of raw cacao (raw, unprocessed chocolate) into the blender.  You will likely want to add some more dates, maple syrup, or agave if you add the cacao.  Cacao is loaded with nutrients, and a food that everyone should be eating!

Do you make your own almond milk?  If not what is holding you back?  Give it a try before you decide whether or not you like it. 

Green Juice 101

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If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I make and drink a lot of green juice.  I strongly believe that everyone needs green juice in their life.  Here's why: green juice is loaded with minerals, enzymes, and nutrients.  It is energizing, alkalizing, oxygenating, and hydrating.  It has been shown to pull waste and toxins out of the body.  There is no digestion required, meaning it does not take a bunch of energy in order to extract all of it's goodness.  It's ready for your body to use.  

A lot of people think that green juice is gross.  When I walk around with my green juice sometimes people stare at me.  But I promise you this: if it tasted awful, I would not drink it daily. Even my husband likes it, and says it's delicious! If you make it right, you'll love it, too. 

Here are some green juice guidelines:

1) Always use organic ingredients!  You do not want your green juice to be loaded with chemicals and toxins.  The goal here is to pull waste out, not put more in.

2) You need a good liquid base. Cucumbers are ideal because they contain a significant amount of water.

3) Pick your greens, and mix up your greens daily.  My favorite greens are lacinato kale, spinach, cilantro, and parsley.  Other great greens are romaine (for a lighter green), and chard.  I have tried spicier greens like mustard and dandelion, but have not had much luck.  If you try these greens, maybe only add a few pieces.

4) Pick your sweet.  This is the trick to green juice.  Add apples, pear, or pineapple.  The more sweet, the less green your drink will taste.  I love adding in two apples.  The alternative is to add some stevia into your juice at the end to reduce the amount of sugar you take it.

5) Add some citrus.  I always use a lemon, sometimes two!  My husband believes that lemon and limes are the trick to a great green juice.

6) Add ins.  I LOVE loads of ginger in my green juice.  Turmeric is another great option.  Ginger is a warming root.  Adding it into your juice will heat you up-- a great option for the colder months.  Lately I have also been adding in some cayenne pepper.  It is another way to heat you up, and boost your immune system.  Think of add ins as giving your juice even more nutritional punch.

7) Juice is not meant to replace meals.  Think of it as a vitamin.  Try to drink your juice on an empty stomach to receive the full benefits.  The two best times are either in the morning before you eat, or later in the afternoon several hours after lunch.  I tend to drink my juice at this time.  It energizes me for the days I work long hours, and when I practice yoga late in the day.  It is far superior than an afternoon cup of coffee!

My best advice it to just play with your juicer.  The more practice you have, the better you will get.  If you make something that doesn't taste great, add some more apples or a lemon.  

Drinking green juice is one of the best things that you can do for your body!  You will have more energy, think more clearly, and just feel great.  Give it a try.  Feel free to play, and have fun! 

My favorite go to green juice recipe:

6-8 stalks lacinato kale

1 whole bunch cilantro

1-2 cucumbers

1 lemon

1-2 apples

A chunk of ginger (about a 2 inch piece or more)

 

Pink Love Chip Smoothie

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To love others your must love yourself first!

I made this delicious smoothie on Valentine's Day.  It was a huge hit at my house.  While I was creating it in my kitchen, I thought about how you must love yourself in order to love others.  Taking care of your body, and nourishing your body with healthy food is one way to show yourself some love.  Providing those you love most with health and nutrition is also a wonderful way to spread the love on Valentine's Day.  

Recipe as follows:

Roughly 2 cups of fresh almond milk

Frozen strawberries

Frozen raspberries

About 2 tbsp raw cacao powder

1 heaping tbsp maca powder

1 heaping tbsp acai powder

Spoonful of coconut oil

One vanilla bean (whole)

Splash vanilla extract

Splash maple syrup

Pinch of salt

Cacao nibs (as much as you'd like!)

 

The recipe is more like a guideline rather than exact measurements.  Add more or less fruit depending on how thick you'd like it. The same goes for cacao. Do you like things chocolately? Add extra cacao powder. Don't have maca or acai?  No big deal.  It will still be great.  Blend everything together. At the end, add cacao nibs, but turn the blender off quickly to keep them in chip form. Poor into a fancy glass and enjoy!!