Ras el hanout: A Warming Spice Blend for Your Holidays

ras el hanout

As some of you may know, I have a slight addiction to cooking shows and, during several Chopped and Top Chef marathons, I heard mention of a North African spice mixture called ras el hanout. My curiosity was piqued so I followed the trail.

Ras el hanout translates from Arabic to ‘head of the shop’ because the mixture is made from the top quality spices one might find in a spice shop. Ingredients vary slightly by region and even by shop but, at their base, they generally include clove, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, fenugreek, and cumin. Some ras el hanout blends also include rose petals, fennel, or coriander. You really can’t go wrong with any of these and oh, my warm spice-y goddesses! This stuff if GOOD!

In addition, each of these spices has powerful healing properties—turmeric for general immune system strength and inflammation, ginger for gut healing, clove for respiratory and bacterial infections, cinnamon to regulate blood sugar… Ras el hanout thus helps serve as an excellent preventative for bad germy invasions and other illnesses.

This spice blend can be found in some grocery stores or you can make your own. Below is a recipe to bring North African flavors to your holiday table. These spice-y shallots can replace canned onions on your great aunt’s green bean casserole recipe. They’re also delicious on a ginger-y butternut squash puree or mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Crispy Ras el Hanout Shallots
Serves 4
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 medium shallots, peeled and cut into ¼” thick slices
  2. 1 tsp. organic sunflower oil (or another high smoke point oil)
  3. 1 tsp. ras el hanout
  4. a pinch or two of salt (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. This takes so little time to prepare that you might even preheat the oven 5 minutes before you begin cutting the shallots.
  2. Slice shallots into 1/4-inch slices.
  3. Separate the layers of the shallots into rings as best you can.
  4. Toss with oil and ras el hanout.
  5. Spread out the spiced shallots evenly on a cookie sheet.
  6. Roast until they just start to turn crispy, about 20 minutes. Toss halfway through using a spatula to ensure even browning.
  7. Toss with optional salt and serve warm.
Notes
  1. I highly recommend doubling this recipe because they are so addictive that half of my shallots never make it to the plate.
  2. Photo: © fkruger
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Office Tips to Bring the Sun to You

Young businesswoman at the beach

Craving the sun but stuck inside? Wish you could be outside but feel like you can’t leave your office? Here are a few office tips to bring the sun to you and get you through the work day while everyone else plays hookie and enjoys their vacation:

  1. Sip a Pineapple Juice Spritzer at your desk by mixing 6 oz. pineapple juice with a few splashes of seltzer. To give your day a little extra kick, grate a big piece of ginger into it.
    2. Close your office door and stream your favorite beach mix on Spotify or Soundcloud while you enter data into that spreadsheet.
    3. Be creative in what you wear under your work clothes to jazz up your day. Wear your bikini top or a sexy halter underneath your work clothes.
    4. Ping your ladies to gather at 5pm for some shenanigans. If there’s warm sunshine outside, make the most of the remaining time with the sun and reward yourself for making it through the day. If it’s cold outside, find a spot that will transport you to the climate you need– visit the tropical room at the Botanical Garden, watch a movie set in a beach-y climate, or go to a Tiki Bar-themed restaurant.

 

From the Garden: Fresh Herb Chermoula

(Or, What to do with the rest of the fresh bunch of herbs slowly going bad in your refrigerator)

Many cuisines include a condiment that has as its base fresh herbs, garlic, and oil: Italy has pesto, Latin America has chimichurri (often includes vinegar), and many Arabic cultures have a version of chermoula. It makes sense because the oil stretches the longevity of the herb. Garlic further preserves the leafies because of the bulb’s antibacterial properties. These pastes add nutrients and brightness to whole cooked grains, savory pancakes or fresh herbsgriddle cakes, roasted vegetables, eggs, fish, seafood, poultry, or meats (especially BBQ’d!)

Here is my easy adaptation of chermoula which includes a jalapeno instead of the most classic dried red pepper or cayenne. I like jalapeno because the green pepper brings an added freshness and there is something very satisfying about roughly chopping something and throwing it into a food processor. My favorite combination of greens is dill, mint, parsley and spinach but playing with different combinations can be really fun.

Chermoula
Yields 1
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 packed cups of a mix of fresh herbs (dill, mint, cilantro, parsley, basil, chives, tarragon) and/or light leafy greens (spinach, chard, beet greens)
  2. ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  4. Juice from one lemon
  5. 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, toasted or 2 tsp of ground cumin
  6. 1/3 tsp of salt (optional)
  7. 1/4 to 1/3 of a jalapeno, optional, amount depends on your desired spice level, remove seeds if you want it even less spicy)
Instructions
  1. Wash herbs and greens and dry fully. You will need to do this a few hours in advance.
  2. Throw everything in a food processor and buzz until it forms a loose paste. Taste and see if it needs anything (more jalapeno? more garlic?) I’d advise against adding more salt because it will taste saltier as it ages.
Notes
  1. This will keep in a tightly-sealed container in the refrigerator for about two weeks.
  2. It also freezes well so the ice cube tray trick works. (Put the paste in olive-oil coated ice cube trays and pop out individual cubes to defrost as needed.)
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Photo credit: © Gorilla – Fotolia.com

5 Tips for Healthy Snacks on the Go

Woman looking through her purseWith health coaching clients and workshop participants, I discuss an eating spectrum. Food and beverages that are not particularly nourishing are at one end. Next to it is a point on the spectrum where we find foods that might provide some nutrition but, for example, also contain ingredients that might not serve us well. On the other side of the scale are foods that can provide nourishment.

Snacks can be tricky. What do you do when you had a light lunch and are having a late dinner with a friend? Or you have to run to an appointment and can’t sit down for a full meal but need some sustenance? It is easiest to find options that fall on the not-particularly-nourishing side of the spectrum.

Here are five tips for eating that fall on the other side of the spectrum: foods that provide you with nutrients and sustain you. You may only find foods that fall within some of these guidelines. If you can find foods that adhere to all five tips, rock on. Your body and energy levels will thank you for it. (And they do exist!) If you can find a snack that falls within only some of these guidelines— well, some effort can still make a difference.

  1. Whole foods—foods or beverages that came from the ground, off a tree or a bush, or otherwise contained oxygen at some point
  2. Five ingredients or less—simple foods require less work to digest and your body can access the fuel and nutrients you need from the food more quickly
  3. No or low sugar—foods with sugar, even sugar found in fruit, can lead to energy roller coasters. (These days, I sometimes get the sugar shakes from eating an entire apple. Instead, I only eat half an apple at a time or I go for fruit with less sugar such as strawberries or oranges.)
  4. Only whole fats (no hydrogenated fats)—this is perhaps the hardest to find if you are also going the no sugar route. Almost all chips and even some roasted nuts have some sort of processed oil added.

Three (Undercover) Broth Substitutes

© bst2012 - Fotolia.com

You are craving something warm and comforting but you’ve used up your last box of broth or have no defrosted, homemade stock supply. The idea of going outside into the cold makes you very, very sad so what do you do?

Here is your cheat sheet of broth substitutes that can stay in the pantry or refrigerator for up to a year, are 100% natural, and are even nutritious:

  1. Pickle juice: Do not throw away the remains of your pickle jar once you’ve finished your fermented vegetables! This rich liquid typically contains spices, salt, and luscious juices from the vegetables, i.e. things that you would find in a vegetable broth! The differences of course are that it also contains a lot of acid that is either produced from the natural fermentation process or added in the form of vinegar. (For what it’s worth, my favorite to use is kimchi, or, spicy Korean fermented vegetables.) Pickle juice tends to be quite salty so for every cup of broth that you would typically use, use 1/3 to ½ cup of pickle juice and fill the rest with water. The amount you use depends on how potent the pickle juice is so try a taste first to see how potent the flavors, acids, and salt are. If you pucker your lips or feel the need to exclaim, “Whoa!” use less. You can always add more. If you decide to add more juice later in the cooking process, make sure to bring the soup to a boil and let it roll for a few minutes before serving. This will mellow out the strong acidic taste. Note as well that vinegar and other very strong acids can toughen some ingredients such as beans or meat unless they are cooked together for a very long time. Best use: soups with vegetable, noodles or grains.
  2. Miso: Miso is a fermented paste used in various Asian cuisines. In the US, miso can be found in refrigerated jars or in powder form. Miso is most often made from soybeans but some are made with chickpeas, barley and/or brown rice, among other things. Miso that has been fermented for at least 6 months can be rich in antioxidants and as a fermented product it contains good bacteria as well as a form of Vitamin K that has been shown to strengthen bones. I highly recommend using the refrigerated kind over the powder if you want to benefit from its nutrients. Although not a hard and fast rule, generally the darker the miso, the longer it has been fermented and the more nutrients it contains. The lighter the miso, the sweeter it tends to be. Miso is naturally salty so you can reduce or omit altogether additional salt. Miso can last in the refrigerator for up to one year without issue but be sure to check the sell-by date. [1] Note that it maintains its nutrients only if it is not heated so if this is important to you, remove from the heat and stir in a tablespoon of miso for every cup of water. [2] Best use: soups with beans, tofu, meat, fish, chicken, pork, vegetables, noodles or grains
  3. Dashi: Dashi is a Japanese product made from dehydrated seaweed (kombu) and dehydrated fish flakes (bonito). Dashi may sound more like fish food than human food but this product is the cornerstone of a lot of Asian cooking, such as most Japanese soups, sauces and Vietnamese pho. The flavor is complex but light and smoky while also ocean-y without being fishy (if you make it correctly). Dashi makes an amazing base for your favorite noodle or vegetable soup. It requires a few more steps than the other options in this list but the ingredients can keep in a dry pantry or refrigerator in tightly sealed containers for up to a year. Here is a pretty decent overview and recipe. [3] Best use: soups with tofu, fish, meat, vegetables, noodles or grains

Disclaimer: The photo above meant to be humorous and is not intended to role model or advocate that you put a bowl on anyone’s head, especially a bowl containing hot soup. That can be dangerous.

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[1]  http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=114

[2]  http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/RCP00228/Miso-Soup.html

[3]  http://www.cooktellsastory.com/apps/blog/show/1334738-dashi-basic-stock-

 

Bone Broth for Building Energy and More

Bouillon, broth, clear soup

One of the latest nutrition trends hitting American cities and diets is bone broth. The New York Times recently published an article about it and New Yorkers can now snag a shot of mineral-rich goodness on their way out for the night. [1] While bone broth may be a recent discovery for hip restaurateurs and 21st century popular diet-makers, bone broth has long been used in various cultures around the world as a staple health elixir, particularly to support women’s health.

So what it is? Bone broth is made from animal bones boiled in water on their own or with select vegetables or herbs. Vinegar and salt are often added to help break down the bones and heat is applied for long periods of time, generally 6-48 hours, so the nutrients can leech into the liquid. Unlike a boxed or canned stock that you might find in a grocery store, bone broth is generally made with more bones than vegetables or meat. [2]

In some parts of China bone broth is called “longevity soup” and is taken for ailments of the digestive tract, to address weakness, and to reduce joint inflammation. Bone broth is part of postpartum recovery regimens in Hong Kong and “Good broth will resurrect the dead,” is a South American proverb according to Dr. Joseph Mercola. [3]

The widespread use of bone broth speaks to its many healing properties. Rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, and many other trace minerals, bone broth nourishes the blood and is ideal for building energy and vitality in people who have just had surgery, are menstruating or about to menstruate, or who have just had a baby. Many natural and holistic healers also use bone broth to help boost fertility. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine for example, the marrow from the bones is said to build the kidney energy which must be strong if conception is to take place. [4]

The luscious gelatin that the bone broth contains has also been shown to help re/build joints and sooth connective tissues, including the lining of the stomach and intestines so whether you have a torn ligament or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bone broth may just help. How does it work? The jiggly gelatin that bone broth becomes when it cools essentially is made of all of the proteins, collagen, and goodness contained within the animals’ marrow and ligaments so the animals’ parts are essentially helping to rebuild your similar parts. Many people turn to supplements for these nutrients but bone broth provides a more bioavailable and digestable form. [5]

Before I share a recipe to make your own bone broth, I need to underscore how incredibly easy it is to make this. I demonstrate how to make bone broth in some of my cooking class workshops and people are overwhelmingly surprised at how simple this is and how little time it takes to make. In addition, it freezes well and is delicious on its own, as a warming drink on its own, or as the basis for soups or stews. Bone broth and stock can generally be used in recipes interchangeably but the amount of bone broth you use depends on how concentrated it is. If you’ve made a particularly rich and gelatinous broth, use a smaller amount, approximately 3/4 to 7/8’s the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, and dilute it with water.

Bone Broth Recipe

I actually base my chicken bone broth recipe on Weston A. Price Foundation’s recipe. I make a few tweaks but to learn those, you will need to attend one of my workshops. 🙂

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[1]Julia Moskin. “Bones, Broth, Bliss: Bone Broth Evolves from Prehistoric Food to Paleo Drink.” The New York Times, January 6, 2015.

[2]  Sally Fallon Morell. “Broth is Beautiful.” January 1, 2000.

[3]  Paul Pitchford. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd edition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2002, p. 296; Aviva Jill Romm. Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2002, p. 179; Dr. Joseph Mercola. “Bone Broth—One of Your Most Healing Diet Staples.” December 16, 2013.

[4]  See for example: Aimee Raupp, “Using Homemade Bone Broth for the Treatment of Infertility.” Acupuncture Today. October, 2012, Vol. 13, Issue 10; Margarita Alcantara, “Traditional Chicken Bone Broth: A Recipe to Build Qi and Blood for Immune Building, Fertility, and Postpartum.” May 6, 2013.

[5]  RW Moskowitz. “Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease.” Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. October 30, 2000(2): 87-99; Mercola “Bone Broth.“; Dr. Josh Axe. “Bone Broth Benefits for Digestion, Arthritis, and Cellulite.”

Turmeric: An Anti-cancer, Anti-inflammatory & Blood-building Powerhouse

Fresh turmeric

To me, turmeric is the golden nugget of medicinal foods. Its healing properties abound and it has been used in its native South Asia for thousands of years to address a variety of ailments from common colds to cancer, as well as heart and circulation issues, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, chronic joint pain, and as a poultice on cuts and scrapes.

Most people in North America know turmeric in its dried form, as a key ingredient in yellow curry powder, but turmeric is also increasingly available in its original root form. Like its cousin ginger, it grows in knobs underground and it looks a lot like ginger on the outside but the inside is a deep rich orange. Turmeric is generally more bitter than its yellow relative but it is also less spicy.

It is precisely this rich color that signals its powerful healing properties. Like other brightly-colored vegetables such as blueberries, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes, turmeric is loaded with antioxidants. Studies have recently begun to proliferate about turmeric’s anti-cancer properties and in fact, it purportedly contains more cancer-prevention compounds than other antioxidant-rich vegetable or roots according to a study published on Pharmacology Online. [1] It uses these compounds not only to starve certain types of cancers of the genes they need to grow but it also incites some cancer cells to kill themselves. [2]

Powerhouse almost seems too tame a word for the superhero that is turmeric. It also can help you feel like a superhero because of its anti-inflammatory properties. A key component of turmeric, curcumin, blocks some of the proteins that build up and cause pain. It thus makes a great addition to a post-workout smoothie, and is increasingly being used to prevent and treat chronic joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis. [3]

Turmeric is also used to address PMS, calm uterine cramping, and help bring on menstruation by stimulating blood flow and balancing hormones. Its support for the circulatory system has been previously mentioned in my blog about treatments for varicose veins but turmeric is also used by herbalists to address ectopic pregnancies and as part of treatments to shrink fibroids. This is in part due to turmeric’s rich Vitamin B6 content which tones and fortifies blood vessels. [4]

Before diving into recipes and ways to integrate this amazing food into your diet… A warning: Turmeric’s rich color can stain sometimes temporarily but sometimes permanently. If using the root, be careful with porous surfaces that you care about (like wood, ceramic and certain knives). A bit of salt or baking soda usually remove its rich tannins but this type of abrasion may scratch the surface. In addition, it may take a while for the stain to come out and sometimes repeated use alone will ultimately remove the stain.

And now for the fun part….

Turmeric Root Tea
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 2-inch piece of turmeric
  2. 1-inch piece of grated ginger
  3. 1 cinnamon stick
  4. black pepper
  5. raw honey
Instructions
  1. Grate turmeric into 10 oz of water.
  2. Bring to a boil with grated ginger, cinnamon stick, and a pinch or two of black pepper.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, strain and add a few drops of raw honey.
Notes
  1. This becomes a rich-treat when made with your favorite milk instead of water. (I like almond, hemp, or coconut milk beverage.) Just be sure to warm it on a lower heat and do not allow the mixture to come to a full boil.
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Turmeric Powder in Indian Dal

Dal is a classic, warming Indian dish made from lentils or mung beans. It always contains a mixture of spices but turmeric is definitely the star. Check out this interesting article with a recipe at the bottom: Felicity Cloake. “How to Make the Best Dal.” The Guardian. 2 June 2011. [FYI, 400 grams of mung beans = a little bit less than 1 cup.]

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[1]  Sheel Sharma, et al. “Fortification of Traditional Recipes with Antioxidant Abundant Food Stuffs and Their Acceptability Evaluation.” Pharmacologyonline 3: 1374-1383 (2011) p. 1377.

[2]  Robin Rose Bennett. The Gift of Healing Herbs: Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2014, p. 453; Dr. Claudia Welch. Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2011, p. 185; World’s Healthiest Foods. Turmeric.

[3]  Dr. Joseph Mercola. “Curcumin: The Spice That is Better Than Drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis.” June 16, 2012.

[4]  Susun S. Weed. Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health The Wise Woman Way. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing, 2011, p. 271; Dr. Robert E. Svoboda. Ayurveda for Women: A Guide to Vitality and Health. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2000, p. 83; Lisa Gallant, “Turmeric: The Golden Goddess.” California College of Ayurevda.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Colds, Acid Reflux, Diabetes, and More

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is to me an under-appreciated wellness-booster in American households. Studies have yet to be conducted to prove ACV’s effectiveness however many people for hundreds, if not thousands of years, have found numerous benefits from internal consumption of apple cider vinegar.* In addition, good quality ACV is easy to find and relatively inexpensive. [1]

apples, vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is made from apples that are crushed and allowed to ferment. The best kind to use in the remedies outlined herein is organic unfiltered, unpasteurized ACV such as Bragg brand.* This type of ACV is a bit cloudy and may have some things floating in it. These are good bacteria and safe to consume, not unlike the particles you will find in kombucha, a fermented tea beverage now widely available in stores throughout the country.

Here are 3 ways a shot or two of apple cider vinegar a day can benefit your health:

1. AVC can help dry internal damp conditions: excess mucous, Candida, fungus, some fibroids or tumors. These ailments fall within the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) category of damp presentations. The theory is that an excess of fluids are not properly being released or cleared from your body leaving your body vulnerable to viral, bacterial, or fungal overgrowths as well as masses that are fueled by fluids. ACV’s bitterness is drying and the good bacteria that grow as a result of its fermentation process can help fight off the bad guys. [2]

2. AVC acts as an antacid for mild acid reflux. This may sound counterintuitive because apple cider vinegar is so acidic but some believe it to have alkalizing (meaning antacid) effects on the body and it can help as part of a larger regimen for addressing occasional, mild cases of acid reflux as well as some cases of chronix reflux, or GERD. The reason for this has not been proven but I can say from firsthand experience that I was able to kick my antacids to the curb as a result of my daily ACV shot. (Check out RefluxMD for their theories.) [3] This is particularly noteworthy for women because chemically produced antacids, while often helpful and sometimes irreplaceable can have long-term side effects including our ability to absorb important nutrients and they can lead to more serious conditions such as kidney stones. [4]

3. ACV regulates blood sugar and supports some diabetes treatments. This is an application for ACV that has been scientifically studied and proved that ACV effectively prevents some starches from entering the bloodstream thus regulating blood sugar. A secondary outcome of these studies shows the ways that ACV consumed prior to meals leads to weight loss. [5]

The dosage and recipe for each of the ailments is essentially the same: 1 tsp. to 1 tablespoon of ACV in 6 to 10oz of room temperature water, before each meal, 1 to 2 times/day. If you are wary of the sour taste, I strongly recommend you start with one teaspoon in 10 oz of water and see how your body reacts. Immediately chasing it with half a teaspoon of raw honey can help or you can stir the honey into your drink. If you’re not into the shot, try using ACV in a salad dressing or within another raw recipe that contains several ingredients. As always, feel free to be in touch with questions or comments or to share your favorite ACV recipe. Good luck!

*A few disclaimers:

  • Always check with your doctor before beginning treatment or remedies especially if you have chronic or acute issues and receive a diagnosis.
  • Do not take ACV straight as it can damage the esophagus. Always dilute in another non-acidic liquid such as water.
  • AVC is not advised for people who are generally frail or weak as it has a detoxing effect.
  • Some health practitioners believe pregnant women should only consume pasteurized apple cider vinegar.
  • ACV is not meant for daily consumption for lengthy periods of time as it is quite powerful and can lead to dependency. Symptoms may return when you stop regularly consuming ACV. Paul Pitchford, a nutrition expert and TCM practitioner, rather suggests dietary changes as a more moderate and sustainable method for maintaining long-term health. [6]

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[1]  At time of publication in January 2015, a 32 oz bottle that can last for several months is available online for $4.69.

[2]  Paul Pitchford. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd edition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2002, p. 205.; “Apple Cider Vinegar Cure?” on Candida-Cure-Recipes.com.

[3]  “Apple Cider Vinegar for Acid Reflux” on RefluxMD.com.

[4]  “Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease In-depth Report.” on TheNewYorkTimes.com.

[5] Carol S. Johnston, PHD, Cindy M. Kim, MS and Amanda J. Buller, MS. “Vinegar Improves Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care. January 2004, vol. 27 no. 1, pp. 281-282; Andrea M. White, PHD and Carol S. Johnston, PHD. “Vinegar Ingestion at Bedtime Moderates Waking Glucose Concentrations in Adults With Well-Controlled Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care. November 2007, vol. 30, no. 11, pp. 2814-2815.

[6] Pitchford pp. 108, 205, 314.

A Luscious Pre- or Post-Workout Smoothie to Build Muscle

SmoothieAccording to many professional trainers and sports doctors, working out may not be enough to build muscle. When we eat and what we eat pre- and post-workout can impact how much muscle we build or don’t build. Some of the things recommended for exercise lasting 45-minutes or more are:

— Eat within one hour of exercising, both pre- and post-workout

— Eat proteins and some carbohydrates that digest quickly in order for the muscle-building nutrients to reach your muscles quickly. Muscles are made of proteins and amino acids which start to break down during intensive workouts so if you do not do this, your body may draw on existing muscle to replenish itself after exercise. [1]

The smoothie recipe below includes whole foods that can help build muscle. Just throw everything into a blender and blend on high speed for 30 seconds.

  1. Quickly absorbed proteins: Yogurt and Milk (1½ cups total combined) Not only does this contain the essential proteins touted by all as essential muscle-builders, but the good bacteria in the yogurt will help quickly breakdown all of the goodness in your smoothie. The yogurt to milk ratio depends on how thick the yogurt is because if the yogurt is very thick, the smoothie can start to taste like banana bread batter. If your yogurt does not contain pectin, use 1 cup cow yogurt and ½ c. cow milk. Cow milk contains the most amount of protein of the milk options. In addition, I could not find non-dairy cultured products that contain sufficient protein except for cultured soy but I cannot in good conscious recommend these soy products because of their effect on hormones. (Stay tuned for that blog…) If you are lactose-sensitive and/or trying to reduce your carbon-footprint, you might try cultured goat milk with almond milk. There is one in the New York City-area from Coach Farm that is delicious in this smoothie when combined with Pacific Food’s Organic Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk. The cultured goat milk is thin though so add an extra ½ banana if you go that route.
  2. Quickly absorbed carbohydrate: Banana (2 medium-sized bananas) Glycogen is derived from glucose, a sugar molecule, and it is the primary fuel for exercise. It depletes as you work out and is one of the primary things you want to consume in order to restore your energy. Bananas are an excellent source of easily accessed glycogen for your body according to personal trainer and exercise writer, Mike Samuels. [2] While loaded with nutrients, the fiber in whole grains can take a while to breakdown and can slow down the breakdown of proteins. Bananas however are a good source of carbohydrate post-workout because they provide the needed sugars of a carbohydrate without a lot of complex fibers. Bananas are also an optimal carb because they contain potassium which is said to support heart health. Some believe bananas prevent muscle cramping as well. [3]
  3. Vitamin B6: Pistachios (1 tablespoon) Vitamin B6 helps break down proteins and carbohydrates and help get these things to your muscles quickly. It is also said to reduce inflammation in addition to supporting the nervous system which is activated during workouts. [4]
  4. Anti-inflammatory: Turmeric powder (1 tsp.) This powerful powder typically used in curry blends is derived from a root similar to ginger. It has long been used for its inflammatory properties and a 2009 study showed that turmeric’s pain-relieving effects comparable to ibuprofen. [5] Part of what enables turmeric to work its magic is that it thins the blood. This may be of concern for some people who have blood-clotting issues or who have recently had surgery or will have surgery. Turmeric is also contra-indicated for gallstones. If this is you, check with your doctor about regular turmeric consumption.
  5. Electrolytes: Salt (a small pinch) As is commonly known, you lose essential salts through your sweat so adding a pinch of salt will not only replenish your eletrolytes but it will also make you subtly thirsty for more fluids. [6]

 

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[1] There seem to be much debate about the precise window within which one should eat as well as the precise ratio of proteins to carbs but it seems clear that eating within one hour cannot hurt and waiting may hurt. Will Brink, “The Latest on Pre-Post Workout Nutrition” (2003); Alan Albert Aragon and Brad Jon Schoenfeld. “Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:5.

[2] Mike Samuels, “Should I Eat Bananas if I Want to Build Muscle?Livestrong.com, June 18, 2014.

[3]Bananas.” The World’s Healthiest Food.

[4]How to Help Your Body Absorb Protein.” Golden Gate Obstetrics and Gynecology blog. September 25, 2013; “Pistachios.” The World’s Healthiest Food.

[5] Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine August 2009;15(8):891-7; Anahad O’Connor, “The Doctor’s Remedy: Turmeric for Joint Pain.” New York Times, Oct 19, 2011.

[6] Marie Spano. “Postexercise Recovery—Proper Nutrition is Key to Refuel, Rehydrate, and Rebuild after Strenuous Workouts.” Today’s Dietitian. Vol 15 No 11, p. 18.

 

 

 

Warm Milk with a Spice Kick

Some of you faithful Wooden Spoon Wellness blog readers may remember this oldie but goodie from last year’s enewsletter, The Monthy Mix. It’s so delicious that I think it deserves a comeback. Enjoy!

Warm Milk with a Spice Kick
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 10 oz. of your favorite milk or milk alternative (I like almond milk or coconut beverage for this one)
  2. 4 cardamom pods
  3. 1 cinnamon stick
  4. 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  5. ½ tsp. of raw honey
Instructions
  1. Heat milk and spices over medium-low heat.
  2. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Strain and stir in the honey.
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