Browsing Category: Health & Wellness

DIY Honey Yogurt Body Wrap

Going to the spa is one of my favorite indulgences.  When I’m not up for dropping a chunk of change or in need of a quick fix I resort to at home spa treatments.  This recipe for a DIY Honey Yogurt Body Wrap found on Beauty Bets is a great way to soften and moisturize dry winter skin.  The best part is that it’s all natural and waaayyyy less expensive than a body wrap at a spa. I’m not certain but am guessing that the lavender and rose oils are probably optional, so if you don’t have them not to worry.

Honey Yogurt Body Wrap

4 c. plain yogurt (not Greek-style)
2 c. honey
2 c. aloe vera
8 – 10 drops each lavender & rose oils

1. Mix ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Using your hands, spread mixture over skin, paying attention to dry patches.
3. Tightly wrap masked areas with plastic wrap. This keeps your body heat in and pores open, allowing the mask to penetrate.
4. Wrap body in a towel or light blanket and relax for 30 minutes (I suggest laying in a clean tub).
5. To remove, rinse with warm water and pat dry with a clean towel.
6. Drink lots of water to rehydrate!

 

Intelligent Water Bottle

I am a huge proponent of drinking lots and lots of water.  When I started dating my wife in college, she was getting headaches all the time.  I started making her drink more water, and her headaches went away.  A lot of people don’t realize how dehydrated they are, and often wonder why they are feeling lethargic, why they have headaches, and even why the have recurring nausea.  This is a cool tool that I bought for my wife when she was pregnant with our second baby.  It is called the Hydracoach Intelligent water bottle.  If you want to make sure that you are drinking enough water, here is what this bottle can do for you:

  • Calculates your personal hydration needs
  • Tracks your fluid consumption through the day
  • Paces you to ensure hydration goals are met
  • Motivates you to stay properly hydrated
  • Enhances strength and endurance

 

This is an interesting book as well, that I thought I would throw in.  It explains real hard facts about why drinking enough water is so important.  It is called Your Body’s Many Cries For Water by F. Batmanghelidj MD

Curried Chickpea and Kale Soup

I’m always looking for new interesting recipes to get my daily fill of veggies in.  I love salads during warmer weather but am not too crazy about cold, raw veggies in the winter months.  I found this recipe for Curried Chickpea and Kale Soup on Once Upon A Cuttingboard and thought this not only looks healthy but really tasty!  Raw kale is not really my thing but it’s so healthy and I figure pureeing it as it calls for in this recipe would be great!  For the recipe click here.

Juicer Recommendation

I’ve been juicing and making smoothies for years.  I’ve found it to be such an easy way to ensure I’m getting all the fruits and veggies I need on a daily basis.  Recently, a friend asked me for a juicer recommendation as theirs was on its last leg.  My juicer is old, I’ve had it for years, and quite honestly don’t use it nearly as much as my Vitamix as I really prefer smoothies over juice.  I did some research however and found the Breville BJE200XL Compact Juice Fountain, which is a great value at $99 and wanted to share this for anyone else who may be in the market for a new juicer.  Based on the reviews:

  • It has an extra large feed tube (3 in) so you don’t have to do a lot of cutting with your fruits and veggies
  • Powerful (compared to other juicers in this lower price range)
  • Comes apart & cleans easily

 

 

Breakfast Salads

The idea of salad for breakfast is a huge turn off for most people, but I have a feeling that is going to change.  When most people think breakfast they think large quantities of carbs and protein.  This makes sense though, you want to load your body up with the fuel to get you through the day right?  I agree with that, but that does not mean that a good pile of greens can’t be added to the mix.  According to Cleveland Clinic Wellness, “Loaded with fiber and plenty of nutrients, morning salads can boost energy, stabilize mood, influence metabolism and benefit the immune and cardiovascular systems, explains Beth Ricanati, MD, medical director of the Lifestyle 180 program.”

So, I went on a mission to scour the web and pull together some of the most filling and delicious looking / sounding breakfast salads I could find.  Here is a list of my most alluring finds with links (below the image) to the recipes.  Enjoy!

Immune Boosting Foods

It is getting colder now, so the cold and flu season is upon us.  I have 2 kids in school right now, and their classmates are constantly coming to school sick.  So far, my family has been able to avoid catching any of these bugs, and I attribute most of it to our eating, sleeping, and water drinking habits.  I have compiled a pretty extensive list here of the top foods for boosting your immunity.  Try to ad as many of these to your family’s diet before you get sick, and enjoy the fall and winter!

Water – This is probably the most important if you ask me.  Without enough water in your diet, your body can’t flush all of the germs and viruses out of your system properly.  Try to drink at the very least 8 – 10 glasses a day.  Once the heat goes on, we tend to dehydrate faster, and because we aren’t sweating as much, we don’t feel the need to drink as much water.

Mushrooms – Mushrooms are probably the most overlooked of the immune boosters.  They contain the mineral selenium and antioxidants. In cases of severe flu, there has been a noted deficiency of selenium which helps white blood cells produce cytokines-proteins that help clear flu viruses out of the body.  Also, the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, found in mushrooms, play an important role in a healthy immune system. In traditional medicines from around the world, mushrooms are an essential piece to maintaining a healthy immune system.  Animal studies have also shown mushrooms to have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-tumor effects. “Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. This is a good thing when you have an infection,” says Douglas Schar, DipPhyt, MCPP, MNIMH, director of the Institute of Herbal Medicine in Washington, DC.  Don’t like mushrooms?  Here is a great mushroom pill that I give to my family, and really does the job:  Maitake Defense

Oysters and Fish – This one was a surprise to me while I was researching for this post.  Oysters are one of nature’s best sources of zinc.  Zinc has an antiviral effect, and is very important to many immune system functions, including healing.  Also, like mushrooms, selenium is plentiful in shellfish especially oysters, lobsters, crabs, and clams.  Salmon, mackerel, and herring are rich in omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation, increasing airflow and protect lungs from colds and respiratory infections.

Cabbage – This is a great source of immune-strengthening glutamine. And cabbage is in season right now. It also provides extra antioxidants and boosts your meal’s nutritional value.  You can also get cabbage from sauerkraut for a double dose of immune boosting.  Sauerkraut also contains live cultures like yogurt for a healthy digestive system.

Low Fat Yogurt / Kefir – Try eating a cup of yogurt, or a small bottle of kefir every day.  Make sure that the one you purchase says “live and active cultures” on the container.  Also look for vitamin D. Recent studies have found a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of cold and flu.

Almonds – A 1/4 cup of almonds may boost your immune system from the effects of stress. A recommended 1/4 cup serving contains almost 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin E, which is a great boost for the immune system. And, like mushrooms, they have riboflavin and niacin, B vitamins that may help you bounce back from the effects of stress.

Garlic – packed with antioxidants, it can be eaten raw or cooked.  One important tip when using garlic is to peel, chop and wait 15 to 20 minutes before using to activate the immune-boosting enzymes.

Green Leafy Veggies – Kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are immune-boosting foods that contain high levels of vitamin C, which not only packs a ton of powerful antioxidants, but can also help  fight infection, and regenerate the vitamin E that is already in your body.  These veggies also give you folate, which helps your body produce new cells and repair DNA.  You can also get a good amount of fibre from these.  Eat them raw, or lightly cooked.

Cruciferous Vegetables – Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, and Broccoli – One of the basics for immune boosting, they is full of nutrients that protect your body from damage.  They contain vitamins A, vitamin C, and glutathione. Not only are these rich in antioxidant vitamins that give an immune system boost, but they also contain choline.  Choline keeps your cells functioning properly and also helps support a healthy gastrointestinal barrier, keeping bacteria safely confined in the gut. Combine that with yogurt or sauerkraut which contain the live cultures that destroy that confined bacteria.  Cauliflower is particularly important when you are already sick because it is rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off infection.

Orange foods – Sweet Potatoes and Carrots are very high in beta carotene which wipes out damaging free radicals and supports your mucus membrane, which lines the respiratory and intestinal tracts. This makes it harder for bacteria to enter your blood stream.  Sweet potatoes also boast vitamin A, which is linked to slowing the aging process and may reduce the risk of some cancers.

Wheat Germ – Packed with nutrients, like mushrooms it contains zinc, antioxidants, and B vitamins. Wheat germ also offers a good mix of fiber, protein, and some good fat.  You can sprinkle some wheat germ into your yogurt for a delicious immune boosting breakfast.

Soluble Fiber – unlike the fiber that is found in wheat, whole grains, nuts, and green leafy veggies, soluble fiber helps fight inflammation, and has been found increase the recovery time from a bacterial infection.  Soluble fiber can be found in abundance in citrus fruits, apples, carrots, beans and oats.

Citrus Fruits – A great source of vitamin C to help boost immunity.  But, more importantly, grapefruit is packed with flavonoids which are natural chemical compounds that have been found to increase immune system activation.

Oats and Barley – These grains contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities.  They boost immunity, speed wound healing, and may even help antibiotics work better.

Watermelon – Hydrating and refreshing, ripe watermelon also has plenty of a powerful antioxidant, glutathione. Known to help strengthen the immune system so it can fight infection, glutathione is found in the red pulpy flesh near the rind.

Tea – Both Green and Black tea are loaded with disease-fighting polyphenols and flavonoids. These antioxidants seek out cell-damaging free radicals and destroy them. Mix a bag of black or green tea with an herbal tea like echinacea for an extra boost of immune system warriors.

Cinnamon – Cinnamon is an antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial warrior, so it does more than just boost the immune system, it can actually fight the pathogens that are making you sick.  I put cinnamon in my coffee every morning with some cayenne pepper to ad an extra immune boosting punch to start the day.

Cayenne – This wonderful spice stimulates those secretions that help to clear mucus from the nose as well as the lungs by cleaning the sinuses and making you sweat. When cayenne pepper is added to tea or coffee, it becomes useful in treating conditions of cold, cough and flu.  Cayenne pepper aids in blood circulation, encourages blood flow and maintains proper delivery of vitamins to all areas of the body. It also ensures the removal of waste from the blood.  Cayenne, like carrots and sweet potatoes is also high in beta carotene.

Make Your Own Fruit Leather

Real homemade fruit leather is a great (and tasty!) way to get an extra serving of fruit in, for you or your kids.  It is incredibly easy, and really doesn’t require much.  The only thing you might not have, that I would definitely suggest is a Silicon baking mat, or silpat.  If you don’t have one, you can get them here on Amazon in several different sizes and assortments of sizes.  Other than that, it is just a cookie sheet, an oven, and a blender.

There are varying methods to achieve the same end result, so look down to the bottom for a slight variation.  Ok, so here is how you do it!

Ingredients:

3-4 cups of fruit.  You can use any fruit you want, besides citrus, and the process is pretty much the same.  The only difference is the cooking time, which is dependent on how much water is in your fruit.  Since it’s apple season, we’ll talk about apples.

Sweetener, you can use agave, honey, or sugar

Lemon Juice (optional)

Cinnamon (optional)

The Process:

Preheat your oven to 150 to 175, depending on how low your oven goes.

Peel and core the apples. If you are using peaches, nectarines, plums etc, peel and remove the pit.

Put the cut peeled apples in a blender and blend until smooth.  Then just ad the cinnamon, and sweetener a little at a time until it gets to the right flavor that you like.  If the fruit is very ripe, I will omit the sweetener altogether.

Put your silpat into the cookie sheet.  Make sure your cookie sheet has edges on it.  If you don’t have a silpat, you can use wax paper, don’t worry, at that low temperature it won’t burn.

Pour the blended fruit onto the silpat and use a silicon spatula to smooth it out as best you can.  Then lightly bang the sheet on the counter to get it all to be level.  You want the fruit to be about 1/8 of an inch thick.

Place that in the oven.  You will probably get two sheets worth, so if you can’t get them on the same rack, you will have to rotate them every hour.

Bake for 3-6 hours, depending on how thick you have it on the tray.  You will know it is done when the center is not tacky.

Then pull it out of the oven, and let cool.  Once it is room temperature, peel it off, and use a pizza cutter to cut into strips.

Once you have your strips cut, you can place them on plastic wrap, or wax paper, and roll up!  Then just place your rolls in a mason jar, and they will stay good for up to a month.

The second version of this is mostly the same, but some people suggest cooking the fruit and using an immersion blender instead of simply blending the raw fruit.   I find this extra step unnecessary, but try it both ways and see which you like best.

Photo From http://asonomagarden.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Salad On The Go

We are BIG salad eaters at my house.  Dinner time here is usually a big salad, and a small protein on the side.  That way I don’t have to feel so bad when I dig into dessert!  I would like to have a salad with my lunch as well, but I just hate spending the money at a restaurant or deli on a salad that is usually inferior, and always seems to come with all kinds of stuff I don’t want.  Making my own salad is just so much cheaper, and I can make it just the way I like it.  But, how the heck do you bring a salad to work with you?  Here we have 2 great solutions!

Salad in a Jar!

It might sound like a strange idea, but look at the picture below and tell me that doesn’t look delicious!  I’m sure lots of people have done this, but I found it on www.fatgirltrappedinaskinnybody.com  The thing that makes this salad work is all in the layering.  You have to layer it in such a way that your dressing won’t wilt your vegetables.  When layered properly, you can make five of these on a Sunday night, and have one to bring every day of the week!  How is that for saving time?  Go ahead and make a different type of salad for each day, or use a different dressing, keep it fun!  For instructions on how to layer, and some good salad recipes check HERE.

 

Specialty Salad Container

This is a great invention, and I wish that I had thought of it.  This is a container made just for taking salad on the go.  What makes this specifically for salads is that it has a special little container built into the lid just for dressing.  Now, that is not so cool in and of itself, but, what makes it special is that you just turn a little dial on that container, and your dressing drops right down into your salad.  Then you just shake up the whole container, and you have a perfectly dressed salad ready to go!  Another nice feature of this thing is that it also has a place for an included ice pack to fit inside the lid.  Now, not only is your salad perfectly dressed, it is cold and crisp!  You can get them on Amazon for under $10.  If you want to check them out, go HERE.

3 Minute Coffee

Ahhh Coffee, besides water, it is the only thing many of us ingest every single day.  I never get sick of it, and I look forward to it every morning!  Sometimes at night, I will get excited for the coffee I will have the next day!  lol

Aside from the obvious reasons, there are some good reasons to drink coffee.  Coffee is a good source of antioxidants, actually it is the main source of antioxidants for most Americans.  According to HuffingtonPost.com “Women who drink a few cups of caffeinated coffee have a lower risk of depression than women who don’t drink any coffee, according to a Harvard study.”  For men, a “Harvard School of Public Health study shows that men who drink six cups of coffee a day have a 60 percent decreased chance of developing a dangerous form of prostate cancer, as well as a 20 percent decreased chance of developing any other kinds of prostate cancer. New research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research conference shows that coffee could help to ward off basal cell carcinoma, the most common cancer in the world. Drinking coffee is associated with a lower Type 2 diabetes risk, with more coffee consumption linked to a greater decrease in risk, according to an Archives of Internal Medicine review of studies from 2009. Drinking a few cups of coffee a day could lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by as much as 25 percent, according to a study published last year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

So, there you have some very good reasons to drink coffee in moderation.  Here is an easy and fast way to get your coffee to go in about 3 minutes.  It’s called the Impress Coffee Brewer, which is a kickstarter project, so it is not available yet, but I can’t wait for it to become available!  It is like a single serve French press, that is also a double wall insulated stainless steel to go cup!  So, all you do is put the grounds into the bottom of the cup, ad boiling water, wait 3 minutes, put in an inner cup, and voila! you are out the door with a coffee that will stay hot for hours.  Now that is faster, a lot cheaper, and a lot less wasteful than getting your coffee at a coffee shop!

Here are the specs on it:

• PIECES: double-walled outer cup, nesting inner cup with removable filter basket, to-go lid
• SIZE: 6″ tall, 3.375″ diameter (approximate)
• VOLUME: recommended 13 oz (max = 14 oz)
• MATERIALS: 304 Stainless Steel, food-grade Silicone
• MICRO-FILTER: 304 Stainless Steel, removable for washing
• CARE: Top-rack dishwasher safe

 

Cayenne Pepper Benefits

I loooove spicy food.  I use hot sauce like most people use ketchup.  One of my favorite spices is cayenne pepper.  I use it in a lot of dishes.  I even put it in my morning coffee! It is really quite delicious with some cinnamon and honey, what a way to wake up!  More importantly though, it is also very good for you.

Cayenne is a native plant to Central and South America.  It was not until Christopher Columbus encountered it in the Caribbean that it was brought back to Europe.  Although it is widely used in Chinese cuisine, it was not found in Asia or Africa until it was imported there by Ferdinand Magellan.  Cayenne was used as a replacement for black pepper which was extremely expensive then.  As mentioned on allrecipes.com:

“Early Spanish explorers found cayenne pepper pods in the Caribbean while looking for true pepper berries. In innocent confusion or perhaps to save face, the Spaniards named their discovery “pepper.” There is no relationship between the capsicum pods and the true pepper berries, but the misnomer “pepper” has stuck.”

Now, cayenne can be found almost anywhere in the world.  Cayenne has not just been assimilated into world cuisine, but has also included into the pharmacopeia of many traditional medicines.  According to The World’s Healthiest Foods:

The hotness produced by cayenne is caused by its high concentration of a substance called capsaicin. Technically referred to as 8-methyul-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, capsaicin has been widely studied for its pain-reducing effects, its cardiovascular benefits, and its ability to help prevent ulcers. Capsaicin also effectively opens and drains congested nasal passages.

In addition to their high capsaicin content, cayenne peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A, through its concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoids including beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is not only a potent antioxidant in its own right, but can be converted in the body to vitamin A, a nutrient essential for the health of all epithelial tissues (the tissues that line all body cavities including the respiratory, gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts). Beta-carotene may therefore be helpful in reducing the symptoms of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, its antioxidant activity make it useful in preventing the free radical damage that can lead to atherosclerosis, colon cancer, and diabetic complications, like nerve damage and heart disease.

While many people will avoid eating spicy food because of the perceived pain it causes, you actually can get used to the spiciness, which will enable you to tolerate more and more heat the more you engage with it.  I did say perceived pain.  That is one of the interesting things about capsaicin, the pain that you feel when you eat a hot pepper is a protein that is bonding to your nerves.  This sends a signal to your brain that your tongue or lips are being burned.  Actually, there is absolutely no damage being done to your tissue whatsoever, which is why I say “perceived” pain.  Many people think that eating lots of spicy foods can create indigestion, or ulcers, when in fact the opposite is true.  Again, to quote The World’s Healthiest Foods, eating cayenne pepper “may help prevent [ulcers] by killing bacteria you may have ingested, while powerfully stimulating the cells lining the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices that prevent ulcer formation. The use of cayenne pepper is actually associated with a reduced risk of stomach ulcers.”

All animals are effected by the perceived heat I spoke about earlier, accept for birds.  Interestingly, the plant protects itself from being eaten by animals whose digestion can destroy the seeds, eliminating the plants’ ability to reproduce.  However, birds do not destroy the seeds, and can fly for many miles to deposit the seeds elsewhere to reproduce.  That is a pretty incredible adaptation.

So, ad more cayenne to your diet, you will find that the more you eat it, the more you will be able to conquer the burn!  If you do find that the heat is too much for you, try eating yogurt, or drinking milk.  Casein a protein that is found in dairy has the ability to break that bond with the pain receptors I spoke about earlier.

Here is a link to Amazon to get a 1 pound bag of organic cayenne for $10!

See below the picture for a simple recipe for a delicious pumpkin soup kicked up with a little cayenne!

Ingredients:
  • 2 15oz. cans pumpkin puree
  • 3 14 1/2oz. cans chicken broth
  • 1 11 1/2oz. can pear nectar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbl. grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 tbl. finely chopped green onion
  • 1 tbl. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. ground cayenne pepper
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • chopped chives (optional)

 

Directions:
1. In a 6 quart sauce pan, combine pumpkin puree, chicken broth, and pear nectar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes.
2. In a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with chopping blade, process 1 cup pumpkin mixture with peanut butter until smooth. Return to saucepan with the remaining pumpkin mixture. Add garlic, ginger root, green onion, lime juice, salt and cayenne pepper; cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
3. Divide soup among soup plates and garnish with pumpkin seeds and chives, if desired.