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.

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.

 

 

 

How to Pleasurably Cut Back on Holiday Sweets

Escape. Running woman refuses to eating tasty cakes. DietingSweets seem to be just about everywhere during the holiday season– between the holiday parties, the family gatherings, the strategically placed treats at the supermarket, and the vacations– the variety and bounty of sugar can be difficult to resist. How many of us end up eating foods around the holidays that we actually don’t want to eat simply because they are in front of us? We see it, eat it, and have a physical reaction—we just don’t feel good—but this can also be psychological– we feel bad/guilty/gross/oh my! In part we feel this way because we did not act according to what is important to us. Cutting ourselves off completely from sweets can feel un-festive and bad as well though. In addition, it may not be a realistic goal for many who have never successfully done that before. This blog therefore contains an eating strategy for those of us who are either not ready or don’t want to go cold turkey but are committed to being more intentional and disciplined in our holiday eating.

Many of us have one holiday treat that we really lust after. Mine is pumpkin pie— a fluffy, custardy pumpkin pie whose filling is so silky I could put it on like lingerie. Perhaps your treat involves chocolate or festively decorated gingerbread or candy canes or rich egg nog… In any case, how many of us end up eating all of it? At the office holiday party, we load our plates with whatever draws us in in that moment. For example, how many of us have eaten those powdery Italian wedding cookies that make an appearance this time of year even though we know they’re usually not that good.

This holiday season be choosy. Invest only in the thing you love and get monogamous with your favorite sweet. Let it be your primary source of sweet pleasure. Select one thing— chocolate Bon Bons, gingerbread, even that Italian wedding cookie—and refuse all other temptation. This increases the likelihood that you will ultimately consume less. In addition, your body has to work harder when you eat a lot of different kinds of foods and it becomes harder to realize when you are satisfied and when to stop eating.

In addition, each rendezvous between your favorite sweet and your tastebuds will be much sweeter. This is not to say that you should eat every last bite of your chosen treat available on the table or even as much as your heart desires in that moment. To the contrary! Start with a small amount. Eat slowly—make it a marathon and not a sprint. Relish in it. Savor. Every. Bite. Notice how the quality of this one compares to others you’ve had. What do you appreciate about this one, this moment?

Bringing more consciousness to your eating and cutting back on the things that do not serve you will not only help you to navigate the holidays with ease and enjoyment, but it also starts you off on a less guilty, more pleasurable New Year. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015!

Maintaining Energy When You Just Want to Hibernate

Happy and Fun African WomanIt is official. What I call ‘hibernation syndrome’ has officially set in. This is what I call the phenomenon that develops each time the cool winter air blows into town and all many of us wants to do is to curl up in (or with) something (or someone) cozy. Plans start to be cancelled more frequently, errands are postponed, movement becomes limited and exercise time is traded for couch time.

Like other mammals, humans’ bodies change during the cold weather months and our lifestyle and body’s needs change. It is important to listen to your body but it can be easy to slip into unhealthy patterns. Here are a few tips to maintain energy and a healthy lifestyle if hibernation syndrome strikes you:

  1. Move your bowels regularly. I know, not the sexiest of topics but a sedentary lifestyle may not make you feel sexy either… Moving around less, especially if you’re eating rich holiday foods or warming but heavy stews, can lead to a slower metabolism. Because your body is processing food more slowly, constipation can easily happen. Here are some ways to prevent this from happening or address it when it does occur:
    1. Integrate fiber-rich foods each day. Cooked, dark, leafy greens are great, flaxseeds that you grind yourself (a small coffee grinder does the job well) sprinkled on plain yogurt. Almond milk with chia, flax and pumpkin seeds can help clear things out as well.
    2. Keep your inner flora lively. Even if you are tired, your body needs good bacteria to work for you to digest your food. Good bacteria can be introduced through fermented foods such as sauerkraut or other raw, pickled vegetables. You can find them at the store but be sure to buy ones that do NOT contain vinegar, citric acid or sugar. Fermented foods are actually really easy to make yourself and a great way to preserve some of the autumn produce through the winter months. Sandor Katz has some great recipes on his blog and in his book, Wild Fermentation.
  1. Move your hips regularly. Just because you are not at the gym or bopping around outside, doesn’t mean that you can’t remain active.
    1. Buy or stream low-cost or free dance and exercise classes, like Gaiam’s Wake Up Workout, or Crunch gyms’ Crunch Live. Wii has fun dance and workout games as well.
    2. Stream gentle movement classes. If you’re feeling lower energy and you want to support your alignment, you might try Katy Bowman’s low-cost movement classes.
    3. At the very least, get out of your seat every 15 minutes. Stand up, roll your hips and neck around, change positions when you return to where you sit, or change where you sit. Move to the floor, a balance ball, a chair instead of the couch. A good way to ensure that you move frequently is to drink a lot of water or herbal tea.
  1. Reduce the quantity of food you eat (unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have an eating disorder, or already eat small amounts of foods in which case, skip this one.) The average American tends to eat more during the winter months according to Dr. Rallie McAllister but there are many reasons why we may not need to eat as much in the winter months.[1] As mentioned above, you may move less so you do not need as many calories.[2] In addition, the food you are eating is likely to be denser and heavier: a bowl full of lentil soup for example can be more than double the calories of a bowl of gazpacho.[3] Here are a few ways to adjust your eating according to the new season:
    1. Experiment with eating smaller portions. If you eat heavier, denser foods in the winter, such as stews, potato and root vegetables, eat smaller portions than you would in the warmer months. Take what you might normally take and then put a quarter of it back. After you’ve eaten this portion, wait 10 minutes and see if you are still hungry. If so, take a small amount more, i.e. a couple of tablespoons of the squash puree, half a potato, etc.
    2. Stay warm. Sometimes we might feel an unconscious instinct to eat a lot because it is a way to put on weight and keep our bodies insulated from the cold. There are other ways to stay insulated without gaining weight. This can be accomplished by eating cooked, warming foods and not cooling, raw foods, drinking hot beverages, maintaining good blood circulation by regularly moving your body, and having the right clothing.
  1. Have on-hand warm winter clothes that you are excited to wear. In addition to potentially helping to curb over-eating, good winter gear may just give you more incentive to go out, even when Jack Frost is nipping at your toes.
    1. Clothes that keep you warm: for this, we turn to the animals who are able to stay outside without needing a coat. My favorites are tightly woven wool and silk. These materials when kept close to our skin are amazing insulators. There are a variety of price points for winter gear and the warmest of the warm can get expensive quickly. Online stores often have deals, like Amazon for silk long underwear or eBay for brands like Ibex, which makes lightweight but SUPER warm wool clothes. This type of clothing is an investment but one that can save you money on having to buy multiple layers.
    2. Clothes that you make you feel HOT or fun. Find yourself a sexy sweater, maybe there’s a furry color involved, or a fun-colored hat or pair of gloves (Freezy Freaky anyone????) Having clothes you want to wear can make the difference between a night sitting on the couch with a large bowl of popcorn and a night accomplishing all of your errands or bopping around with friends.

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[1] Colette Bouchez. “Control Your Winter Appetite.” WebMD.

[2] See the USDA’s guidelines for estimated calories needed for a sedentary lifestyle as compared to an active lifestyle.

[3] One cup of lentil soup is approximately 136 calories according to CalorieCount. Two cups of gazpacho is approximately 59 calories according to the same source. Please note that I cite this calorie comparison only as a means of displaying the density of the foods we tend to eat during the cold months as compared to the warm months. I do not incorporate calorie counting into my health coaching philosophy.

“Violet! You’re turning violet!” or, How I Turned Orange from Eating Too Many Orange Vegetables

Concerned young woman looking in mirror

As it turns out, Roald Dahl’s violet-colored plot twist in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was not pulled from thin air. People can actually turn a different color from eating certain foods, especially this time of year when colorful vegetables abound. I know some people enjoy their pumpkins and fall produce like it’s nobody’s business (you know who you are!) so I thought I’d share a bit more about this largely harmless condition.

When I was in my early twenties, I worked for a museum and, as happens with all jobs, I went through a very busy time at work. I was at the office for 10-12 hour stretches and felt like I couldn’t break for lunch so my response was to nosh on a bag of baby carrots dipped in Hampton Chutney Co’s cilantro chutney. (It is made with coconut and chiles and dates among other things and it is highly addictive.) It was delicious and easy and filled me for the day.[1] When I wasn’t working, I would nest at home and eat copious amounts of a kabocha squash, a Japanese winter vegetable I’d just learned about. It was hearty and sweet, as if a potato and a butternut squash had a baby, and I could not get enough.

One day at work I went to give one of my co-workers something from the archive and as I handed it to him he asked what happened to my hands. “What are you talking about? Nothing.” “You’re orange,” he said. I looked more closely and realized that he was right. I immediately called my mom, who is a nurse, and she told me to check the bottom of my feet as well. Sure enough, they glowed like the setting sun. She asked if I’d been eating a lot of orange vegetables and, after telling her about my carrot and squash obsessions, she told me that there was a good chance my skin was taking on the color of the vegetables as a result of carotenosis, a condition caused by the consumption of copious amounts of beta carotene. In light-complexioned folks, carotenoids cause skin to turn a yellowish-orange color, not unlike a light spray tan. In darker-complexioned people, the skin turns a yellowish-brown. Luckily, my new chameleon qualities were the only side effect I experienced but I was definitely curious to learn more.

Beta carotene is found in orange-yellow vegetables (e.g. pumpkins, carrots, and winter squashes such as butternut, acorn, spaghetti and honeynut), as well as tomatoes and dark, leafy greens. It converts to Vitamin A in the body and can be helpful to the skin, tissues, lungs, mucous membranes, as well as vision.[2] Beta carotene is also an antioxidant of the carotenoid variety which means that it supports the immune system. In addition, regular consumption can help prevent some kinds of cancers[3] and regulate blood sugar. Some scientists and nutritionists believe that you can gain these benefits from eating at least 5 servings of beta carotene-filled fruits and vegetables per day but this is not conclusive and the FDA has not issued a recommended daily allowance.[4]

Various medical studies show that carotenosis is not harmful when it develops from eating a lot of beta carotene-rich vegetables and fruits.[5] Carotenosis from beta carotene supplements however can lead to more serious issues such as hypervitaminosis A, or having too much Vitamin A in your system. This can be particularly dangerous during pregnancy and has been shown to lead to birth defects in some women.[6] Pregnant women are thus advised to source their beta carotene from fruit and vegetable if possible. If you must take supplements, including a multivitamin, talk with your doctor about safe dosages.[7]

Because my carotenosis occurred from natural sources, I was fine. I cleared the condition and my skin returned to normal by avoiding beta carotene rich foods for a few weeks and by diversifying my diet. I integrated brown and white vegetables such as potatoes, pears, daikon or white radishes, turnips and parsnips, as well as proteins of all forms and whole grains. Just because my health was not affected by carotenosis however, it is still not a good idea to eat pumpkins at every meal. Most nutrition experts recommend a varied diet with an array of colors and types of foods. However, if you’ve recently been indulging in a colorful-vegetable kick and you’ve noticed a soft glow that you have not seen before, try changing your diet before the oompa loompas come for you.

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[1] Health coach’s disclaimer: While eating a simple diet during stressful times can be helpful for maintaining energy levels, I do not recommend replacing meals with baby carrots and chutney. Baby carrots are processed foods and thus do not contain as many nutrients as fresh carrots. In addition, the dates in the chutney combined with the sweet carrots contain a high amount of sugar. I also advise eating a diet rich in a variety of types of foods (i.e. a mix of proteins, vegetables, and whole grains.)

[2] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002400.htm

[3] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=63; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/999.html

[4] http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/betacarotene

[5] http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/can-much-betacarotene-cause-yellow-skin-2041.html; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8449701; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-4362.2003.01657.x/abstract;jsessionid=504472D38568D43F3B1A2CB671A08516.f03t03

[6] http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400486/Eating-Too-Many-Carrots.html; Dr. Holly Roberts. Your Vegetarian Pregnancy: A Month-by-Month Guide to Health and Nutrition. New York: Fireside, 2003. p. 52

[7] See http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/betacarotene

Game of Tongues: How to Develop Your Palate (& Have Fun)

Closeup of lips with red lipstick holding pepperminThe tongue is perhaps one of the more complicated parts of the human body and innumerable blog posts could be written about this magical muscle. This particular post will focus on the particular experience we have when tongues touch food as well as ways to expand this experience (or just have fun).

The process of tasting occurs when something (i.e. food) stimulates receptors on the tongue (taste buds) that then send a message to the brain. The brain interprets the transmission as “Taste!” and associates it with a specific kind or kinds of taste: sweet, salty, bitter, sour. [1]

The tongue learns many other things when it touches something: it learns the temperature and texture of the substance, it evaluates the substance according to our likes and dislikes, and sometimes it can detect whether or not a food is harmful to us. This complex muscle has plenty of time to evolve because taste is one of the first senses to develop in humans. Many believe that babies put just about everything in their mouths in order to understand the world around them. As Robin Goldstein, Ph.D. says, “Babies don’t just put things in their mouths for pleasure or comfort; they also use their mouths for exploration. They learn about objects by tasting them, feeling their texture and experimenting with them.” [2]

Certainly, not every toy needs to be tasted or opening licked. (See for example, this hysterically awesome Discovery article, “Things You Shouldn’t Lick,” which was written in response to eye-licking trends in Japan.)  But when was the last time you used your tongue to explore and learn more about the world and the food in it?

Especially as the weather starts to grow colder, here’s a fun game to play while you’re bundled inside. This can be totally G-rated and played with a friend or you can modify it and turn it into a sensual game. To add some extra spice to the game, if your partner agrees, throw a blindfold into the mix. It can also be fun to play on your own. Ask a friend to identify some foods you’ve never tried before or just create a shopping list yourself, and rock out on a solo expedition!

Game of Tongues

  1. Choosing the foods: Create a list of foods and beverages that have different textures and temperatures and hit different notes on the palate (sweet, salty, sour, bitter). Be sure to choose foods that you know your partner is not allergic to and that will not burn their tongue or crack their teeth. Have your partner do the same, creating a list for you. Here are a few ideas: sweet/smooth- peach nectar; sweet/salty/crunchy- good quality chocolate bar with fun things inside like brown butter or sea salt and almonds; sour/sweet- mangoes w/chili and lime, kumquat; sour/salty/crunchy- pickled green beans, kimchi; sweet/bitter/smooth- Aperol (an alcoholic beverage), grapefruit with all of the white pith removed—just the pods of juiciness; bitter- arugula, mustard greens, cocoa nibs; cold/smooth- frozen cherries; warm/chunky- baked mashed yams.
  1. Preparing the food: Remove foods from any packaging and put in glasses or bowls so they are not easily recognizable.
  2. Blindfold your partner if they’ve agreed to it in advance.
  3. Ask your partner to lick the item and describe it. Here are some prompting questions if they need help: What did you notice about the texture? Tell me about the temperature. Does it remind you of anything you’ve tasted or smelled before?
  4. Have your partner take a small bite or sip and roll it on your tongue: What new do you learn? Describe it. Can you guess what this is?
  5. In between the foods, have your partner suck on a lemon wedge and drink a few sips of water in order to clear their palate.
  6. When you’ve gone through everything, identify for your partner the foods they ate and debrief: What did they want more of? What would they eat again? What about the taste/texture/temperature did they enjoy?
  7. Switch! Now it’s your turn.

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[1] HowStuffWorks.com; University of Texas Health Science Center; Stanford University Psychology Department.

[2] Robin Goldstein, Ph.D. “Into the Mouths of Babies,” Washington Parent. September 2010.

 

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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From the Garden: Eggplant for Your Delayed Aunt Flow

EggplantSeptember is perhaps one of the best produce months because we have the overlap of the end of the summer leaves, squashes, and cruciferous vegetables and the fall roots and squashes. Among the new plants we can eat fresh are eggplants (aka, aubergine, brinjal, bengan, elabatu).

Like other purple and red skinned produce, it is loaded with antioxidants. It is also high in fiber so it cleanses the digestive tract and is rich in Vitamin C and its skin is tauted as a excellent for the skin because it protects cells from inflammation. (See Feed Your Skin, Starve Your Wrinkles by Allison Tannis)

Eggplants hold a special place in women’s health. Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda recommended eating it if you want to bring on menstruation. For some, it works just by eating it once or twice. For others, it may take regular consumption to have an effect. (For more reading on this, see Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford and The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Michael Tierra.)

Some but not all practitioners believe that eggplant is best avoided if you have painful cramps, once your period starts, and during pregnancy. If you have questions as to whether it is right for you, as always, consult a natural health practitioner such as an acupuncturist, Ayurvedic healer, or integrative doctor. (If you would like recommendations in NYC, let me know.) This is also not to say that eating eggplant will cause a miscarriage. If you have made the choice to terminate a pregnancy, eating eggplant may not be the solution you are looking for. Feel free to contact me if this is an area where you would like support.

Eggplants are especially delicious roasted but if you’re not ready to turn your oven on just yet, here is a simple stovetop side-dish that includes cumin seeds which are a great source of iron according to one of my favorite sites, The World’s Healthiest Foods. The iron in cumin is helpful for building blood and thus helpful support before, during, and after menstruation. ¡Buen apetito!

  1. If you have a hard time digesting peels and/or you really do not like to eat the peel, peel the eggplant. Otherwise, just peel off a few strips and leave some of the peel on to gain from the antioxidants in the purple shell.
  2. Dice small-ish eggplant into 1-inch cubes, about 2 cups
  3. SIDENOTE: Many culinary traditions recommend salting eggplant before cooking in order to reduce the bitter taste as well as oil absorption. For the purposes of using eggplant as a healing food, consider NOT salting the eggplant as salt can inhibit circulation and the purpose of cooking this superfruit is to improve blood circulation.
  4. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil of your choice over low heat. (Extra virgin olive oil, ghee, or untoasted sesame oil are my favorites for this dish.)
  5. Add 3/4 Tbsp cumin seeds and ½ Tbsp crushed, dried rosemary in a sauté pan or wok and toast until fragrant, about 5 mins.
  6. Add eggplant to the sauté pan, coating the egpplant well in the oil and fragrants.
  7. Cover and sauté over low heat, approximately 15 minutes, tossing regularly until the eggplant are tender and a fork easily goes through and each piece is brown.
  8. If you have not eaten much salt or salty (often prepared) food that day and you generally do not have issues with blood pressure or blood flow issues, add a pinch or two of salt in the middle of cooking.
  9. Serve with a sturdier whole grain like millet or brown rice or fish. Click here to download the latest guide and app to determine which fishes are sustainable and healthy.

 

From the Garden: Greens, Greens, and More Greens

bunches of greensChard, and lettuces, and dandelions, and mustards, oh my!!! Take your pick of greens because they are popping up in abundance for the next several months. Baby versions of kale and arugula are ideal for salads. More mature collards and chard can be easily and quickly sautéed. All of these are packed with iron, calcium, Vitamin C, fiber and various other heart-healthy nutrients.

If you’re heading to a BBQ or picnic, capitalize on the seasonal freshness and throw together a quick salad because there is a good chance you will be the only one to bring something green. This is especially great if you are eating meat off the barbie because greens help break down the protein and will give you energy so you can keep the party going longer. Here is a recipe for a quick and easy salad that is packed with flavor as well as nutrients.

Quick Greens Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cucumber, sliced very thin
  2. ½ cup of pumpkin seeds
  3. 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  4. 2 tablespoons of ume plum vinegar
  5. 5 oz (5 cups) of baby kale (whole) or mature lacinato kale (chiffonaded-- cut into very thin slices)
  6. 1 avocado
Instructions
  1. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop each half into a large bowl.
  2. Add the kale to the bowl and massage the avocado into the kale, as if you were mixing together a hamburger or veggie burger mixture. This tenderizes the dense leaves like you would meat and helps the kale break down so it is easier to digest and the nutrients are more readily available. Really get in there and massage for a solid 3-5 minutes depending on whether you’re using baby or mature kale.
  3. Add in everything else and mix well.
  4. Taste.
Notes
  1. If you want more seasoning, add more vinegar, a small amount at a time (1/2 tsp at a time) because it can become too salty very quickly.
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From the Garden: Dandelion Greens

Foraged edible dandelion flowers and greens in bowlMay marks the beginning of fresh greens season in the Northeast, and top on the list of nutrient-rich, super foods are dandelion greens. Rich in calcium and iron, Vitamins A & K, amongst many other nutrients, they can be helpful for restoring minerals during and after your period. Herbalists recommend drinking an infusion of dandelion greens starting in the third trimester of pregnancy to increase milk production. Dandelion greens also deep clean the liver, they are a diuretic and are used to break up kidney stones, and they regulate blood sugar so they are great additions to a spring detox.

This super food has a bitter bite that can be mellowed by combining the leaves with something a bit richer, like nuts, or something sweeter, like beets.

To eat, wash the leaves and cut off the bottom stems, then mix some of them raw into a rich basil pesto or your favorite salad mix, sauté them lightly with your favorite healthy oil and garlic, use them instead of spinach in cooked dishes, or incorporate them into your morning juice.