Perfect for hot September evenings! A refreshing dessert with the slightest hint of Fall. I made this for my book club gals recently... we certainly devoured it... It is vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free and almost raw. Enjoy!
We all know stress is BAD for us, but many of us don’t really know why that is. Or if we do, we don’t know the extent of it or how to properly deal with it! If you haven’t looked into the facts you’ll find them pretty fascinating.
A quick overview of the stress response cycle:
Our bodies are wired to protect us from dangerous situations involving predators and dangerous aggressors. Back in the day, when a lion or bear was chasing after us we had to either fight the beast or run for our frickin’ life (our fight or flight response).
What happens in our body when we are in a dangerous situation like this? An itty-bitty region at the base of the brain called the hypothalamus rings an alarm. This alarm triggers the adrenal glands sitting on top of our kidneys to release a flood of hormones into our system. Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol pump through our body signaling all kinds of stress responses. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure and blood-glucose levels rise, our energy surges, digestion halts, our immune function is altered, and our brain prompts us to feel things like fear and motivation.
All of this is meant to help save us from acute dangers. With the help of our body’s stress response we have the power to fight or flee our threat. That... or we die… After the danger is eradicated our body relaxes, our hormones find their normal state of balance, the response cycle completes itself, and takes its bow. We experience relief, there is an emotional applause and our body is left feeling oh so sweet.
Here’s the problem. In our society we are not able to fight or flee from our dangers because they have taken on a new form. We very rarely combat acute threats (a.k.a. lions and bears); rather we deal with the chronic threats brought on by the ways of modern society. We are experiencing low-grade stress for longer periods of time and there is no end in sight. Our hormones never get a chance to rebalance because the stress response cycle never has its ‘grand finale.’ There is no bow, no applause, no relief and our bodies pay for it BIG TIME. A long term surge of stress hormones can wreak total havoc, leading to many serious health concerns including anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal issues, sleep problems, mood disorders, weight gain, heart disease, and the list goes on.
How do we move through the stress response cycle when dealing with modern societal pressures? Well first things first, we can’t press PAUSE! So often, we are told to “deal with it,” or “just relax,” or “sleep it off” but these suggestions do not solve the problem, rather they simply pause our stress response cycle. In her fabulous book, “Come As You Are,” (please read this, it is gold) Emily Nagoski, health behavior and women’s sexuality expert, discusses the stress response cycle in relation to human sexuality. However her message (all of her messages) reaches far beyond sex and she makes a brilliant suggestion! She explains that in order to fully move through the cycle we must COMMUNICATE to our BODY that we have “ESCAPED THE LION.”
*exercise of any kind
*the sharing of affection
*a good cry or “primal scream” (My personal favorite.)
*bodily self care such as massages, long baths and doing your nails
*progressive muscle relaxation – a two step process involving the tensing and relaxing of muscle groups in the body.
*sensorimotor mediation – body-focused meditation
All of these things speak directly to our body. This physical body connection is so important!
For those of you creative types (we all are creative 'types' by nature, truly) I might add a suggestion to the list...ART! Acting, singing, playing a musical instrument, drawing, writing and dancing can be powerful ways of communicating with our bodies. For me these channels have always been a huge outlet and form of stress relief. They give you permission to be totally authentic and release whatever the heck is bottled up inside. Dancing in particular as it is pure, primal, bodily communication at its best.
The very first step in this relief process is to listen to our body and recognize when stress has overcome us. After noting its presence, we can make a conscious effort to move the stress response cycle forward and complete the story. So, this week, move your butt, paint your nails, have a good cry, boogie at the bar with good friends (or at home with your kids), and sing a diddy in your shower…or maybe 'retch' an emotional ballad… Let it all out and be well.
I hope these thoughts find your ears in a sunny disposition free of stress, but if not I hope you can relate and make use of some of this great information! Thank you to all of the amazing health experts who are passionate about helping us relieve stress and create the healthiest and most peaceful version of ourselves.
Always with love,
All too often I find myself gulping back giggles as I remind my husband that, unbeknownst to him, he was indeed ‘my first client.’ Feigning bewilderment he will accuse me of conniving manipulation and devious, woman wiles. Underneath he is grateful… I think… While he may not find my teasing as amusing, he knows there is truth to it. You see, when my husband and I first met he DID NOT eat vegetables. Really. Getting him to branch out of his comfort zone was like coaxing a three year old. Five years later, after gradual introduction, and I dare say sneaky tactics, he is a total vegetable stud!
I share this story and the following tips with empathy. Whether you are looking to revamp your own diet, coerce a resistant loved one, or use sly tactics on your children, I hope these simple ideas get you thinking out of the box.
1. Blend vegetables into your smoothies.
This might be the easiest way to sneak vegetables into your diet, especially for those with an aversion to their taste! Mixed with fruit and nut milk, veggies can be undetectable.
My favorite recipe:
5 oz. plain almond milk yogurt
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
5 large luscious organic strawberries (1 1/3 cup)
1/3 cup frozen wild blueberries
2 cups spinach
1 tsp. chia seeds (or more)
2. Bake them into bread.
You’ve all tried zucchini bread and carrot cake. The Internet is full of great recipes! A favorite of mine is my mother’s homemade broccoli bread. Yum!
3. Puree vegetables into soups and sauces.
Pureed soups are a wonderful way to get vegetables in and are especially good for texture-wary folks like my husband! Pea, carrot, and leek soup are my personal favorite, however there are many delicious options to choose from. Another trick you might try is to simply add a cup of vegetable puree to a basic broth recipe as a thickener. For example adding blended cauliflower to chicken soup!
Spruce up your sauces with purees as well, unless of course you like to keep your vegetables chunky! Try adding mushrooms, peppers, onions and other greens to your marinara sauce. Add pureed leeks and cauliflower to your alfredo. Make Macaroni and cheese with a vegan sweet potato and carrot cheese sauce!
If you haven’t tried this nifty kitchen tool yet, do! With the help of a spiralizer you might ditch the grain pastas and substitute (or supplement) with a wide range of vegetables. Zucchini, beats, carrots, broccoli stalks, and many other sturdy vegetables will work, as well as various squashes and yams. Colorful veggie pasta makes for beautiful plating and invites children to redefine, "Taste the rainbow!"
5. Make vegetable "rice" (or buy it!)
With a food processor you can easily turn raw veggies into ‘rice.’ Cauliflower rice is amazing. Carrots also work great. If you don’t have a food processor, you are in luck. Trader Joe’s sells ‘riced’ cauliflower fresh and frozen. Easy peasy.
Tip: After you’ve processed your vegetables into small bits and pieces sauté them with a bit of olive oil, fresh garlic and spice! Limiting cooking time to 2-3 minutes will keep your ‘rice’ al dente. This makes a great side for your proteins and in my opinion is much tastier than plain rice.
6. Boil vegetables with your pasta
When your pasta has only a few minutes left to boil, toss in some raw vegetables. Boil for a couple minutes and strain everything together. This reduces not only cooking time but also the amount of dirty pans you’ll have to clean at the end of the night. I love adding broccoli and peas to my pasta dishes, whether they be smothered in marinara, ghee, or creamy vegan cheese.
Tip: I put this suggestion last for a reason. Boiled vegetables retain the least amount of nutrients, as many of their minerals and vitamins are water-soluble. Try not to boil your vegetables for too long, as the longer you cook them the fewer nutrients they will retain.
Hopefully these suggestions inspire some healthy home cooked meals full of micronutrient-rich vegetables. Get those babies in however you can and please share your own creative ideas below. I’m always looking for new ways to dupe my husband! ;)
For those of you who can't do dairy like me, this vegan style mac and 'cheese' will rock your socks. :) Thick and creamy, savory and sweet... Even my cheese-devouring husband (who was very nervous to try this his first time) LOVED it. He turned to me and said, "What a nice surprise!"
These are a staple in our house! I grew up hating peas, however when I met my husband and found out they were one of the ONLY 'vegetables' he ate, I had to make it work! He's come a long way with his veggie intake, but this recipe is still one of our favorites. Enjoy these as a side or as a stand-alone meal. I love to have fresh-baked, grain-free bread or a slice of sprouted, gluten-free toast on the side!
These are so simple and delicious. Grain-free, fluffy and extremely light. Serve with any of your favorite pancake toppings for a perfect weekend treat. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
One of my clients was shocked when I told her how delicious veggies could be in a smoothie! Though it is grey... and snowing in Chicago, I couldn't help but blend this baby up and dream of the sunshine. We are so close! What are your favorite veggie smoothies? Share your inspiration below!
Why do we need to detox? We are no longer living in a purely natural world, breathing clean air and eating natural foods. From the chemicals sprayed on our produce, cooked into our processed food or mixed into our household cleaning supplies and body cosmetics; to the pollution of our water and air by fluoridation, fracking, mining, and the burning of fossil fuels… we are BOMBARDED with toxins. Our body was masterfully designed to cleanse itself from toxicity, but in today’s modern world it simply cannot handle such high levels. We are now seeing the effect on our health and even more scarily on our children’s health.
I admit, I write from a personal place as right now two of my 'near and dear' are battling cancer, and as an early childhood educator I see more and more children suffering with allergies and learning disabilities. Did you know studies have shown toxic pesticides to be present in mothers’ breast milk?[i] Others are showing that environmental chemicals may be linked to obesity and diabetes (after diet and lifestyle factors of course).[ii] It is no secret that the American Cancer Society and the WHO acknowledge the effects of pollution on our bodies and its relation to cancer.[iii] While this all sounds a bit scary, we can help our bodies cleanse from this toxic overload!
While serious detox protocols may be necessary in some cases, I believe there are more simple, gentle and healthier ways of aiding our body as it cleans and renews itself. Here are some ideas to incorporate into your life!
Historically, sweating has been used as an effective way to heal and promote health both spiritually and physically. Worldwide traditions included the Native American and Aboriginal sweat lodges, Roman bath-houses, Turkish steam baths and Scandanavian saunas.
Our skin is a very important eliminative channel, and sweating is extremely valuable in the detoxifying process. Sweating in all forms can be beneficial, however some may be much more effective. While exercise and traditional saunas are both wonderful ways to ‘get your sweat on,’ many people tout the effectiveness of the infrared sauna. By heating the body from the inside and causing a deeper and more ‘cellular sweat,’ your body can produce sweat composed of up to 20% toxins.[iv] That’s a lot! When using sweat as a detoxifying channel it is very important to replenish the body with purified water and natural electrolytes! It is also key to support the body’s detoxification process with a clean and nourishing diet.
Because of a biological process called autophagy, which literally means that the body is ‘eating itself,’ fasting can play an important roll in toxic elimination. When this process of autophagy occurs the body is cleaning out toxins, debris and recycling parts of damaged cells.[v] While many of us cringe at the thought of skipping a meal or have learned that smaller meals more frequently speed up metabolism, giving our bodies the space and time to purge toxins (stored in our fat cells) can have an extremely positive effect on our health.
When I say fasting I don’t mean 40 days and 40 nights, nor do I mean even just one day!
Intermittent fasting is a very simple way to incorporate this detox strategy without reducing your calorie intake. This just means that you find a 15-16 hour chunk of time to let your body rest from processing food. Most of these hours you are sleeping so it can really be quite painless. Here’s how you do it. If you love breakfast, eat ‘yer’ breakfast but then stop food intake around 4 or 5 PM. Let your body rest until you wake up the next morning. If you can do without a meal right when you wake up, let your eating time range from around 11 AM to 7 PM. Give your body a rest for the remaining hours in the cycle.
You can practice this one time a week or 7 times a week. It is up to you! Just think, historically as mammals we are biologically used to going much longer periods of time without food. If you eat an ample amount of healthy fats you will not be hungry during your intermittent fasting. If you are eating all empty carbohydrates and sugars… well that’s another story. So try not to!
Drink Purified Water:
A lot of toxins are water-soluble! By drinking purified water you can help the elimination process. Do make sure that your water is clean, as unpurified water can actually be the source of toxic overload! Take flint Michigan for a horrific example. Ugh! Also avoid drinking out of plastic water bottles as much as possible!
Eat Detoxifying Food:
As I said in my last post, food choice is one of the best ways to cleanse our bodies! Eat LOTS of leafy green vegetables. Choose organic produce. Cook only organic, grass-fed/grass-finished and pasture-raised beef, organic pasture-raised poultry and eggs. Cut out processed foods and get creative cooking in your own kitchen. Pay attention to the ingredients in your grocery store purchases. If you don’t understand something on the food label don’t eat it! Incorporate fresh green juices and morning superfood smoothies as meal replacements. There are so many good recipes on the Internet and even more in your own head!
Sip Botanical Blends:
Experiment with herbal tea blends. There are botanical options for all of our body’s eliminative channels! While studying with the Green Wisdom School of Natural and Botanical Medicine, I obtained a great list of herbs for beginners. Here are a few suggestions for your individualized plan. Keep in mind that roots and seeds must be steeped longer than leaves, about 20 minutes versus 5. Herbs are strong medicines, so if you are not sure how to use them it is important to work with a community herbalist. The following are gentle and safe.
Nettle – Blood, Lymphatic
Dandelion Root – Blood, Lymphatic, Skin
Fennel Seed – Skin
Licorice Root – Digestive, Respiratory
Oregon Grape Root – Kidneys, Liver, Gall Bladder
Parsley Root – Kidneys, Liver, Gall Bladder
Oh my gosh, AND BREATHE!!! Please detox with focused deep breaths IN NATURE. Fill your lungs to the brim. Let the fresh air expand down towards your belly (don't stop at your chest) and then release all the crap your body wants to rid itself of out through your lungs. How could I forget this simple, simple suggestion. I guess that makes 6. ;)
Though we live in a world that seems to allow money and industry to preside over our health, by dumping poison into our environment and into our blood, we have the capacity to keep ourselves clean, happy and healthy. We also have the power to create global change! With knowledge we’ve got great power! While technology can be daunting at times, it is a glorious tool for social advancement. Power to US for educating ourselves, for taking care of ourselves and for demanding a better world for all. I am oh so excited for what we can do as consumers, lovers and protectors of our bodies and this earth. The wave has already begun!