Guest Post: Celebrating Earth Day with Ashlee of SimplholisticWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

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Hi! I’m Ashlee of @simplholistic, and I’m here to share my favorite ways to celebrate Earth Day!

I am so excited because my favorite day of the year is upon us – the day we get to honor all things dirty and organic. Some people live for Christmas, Halloween or the first day of spring, but I live for Earth Day. This is the one day that everyone is reminded of the importance of our big blue and green earth. Even folks who aren’t excited about Earth Day hear all about it because it is the hype of the moment. Though we’ve only been recognizing Earth Day since 1970, today the holiday is on the calendar in more than 193 countries. This means that, as it should be, this party is global. Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate.

Get dirty. Many people are obsessed with killing germs these days, but antimicrobial sprays and disinfectants are not always good for our health. We need daily micro exposures to dirt if we want to be healthy. I’m not just saying that. Dr. Axe is the genius behind this one. Have you ever head of SBOs? These are Soil Based Organisms that are readily available in our soil. When you eat organic, raw produce there’s a good chance you’re also eating SBOs. This is good news. SBOs are shown to be anti-inflammatory and help regulate the immune system. Basically, we need to eat more dirt! No, you don’t have to go outside a grab a rich handful. But I do recommend eating local, organic produce frequently and worrying less about germs.

Enjoy Nature’s Bounty. Celebrating the planet by enjoying her gifts is an awesome way to commemorate Earth Day. Here are a few ideas:

  • Stock up on produce, honey, or meat, from the local farmers market to support your community.
  • If you are a city slicker, get outside and go hiking, camping or fishing. Even just taking a few moments to enjoy a stroll in a nearby park can be very relaxing.
  • If you’re planning an event with family and friends, consider making sustainable choices. This may look like not using straws, using reusable dishes, carpooling or eating raw for the day.

Eat Clean. This is one of my all-time favorite ways to care for our Earth. Each day we get three chances (or more if you’re me) to choose with our forks. By this I mean we get three opportunities to eat clean, ethical and sustainable meals that will either nourish or deplete our bodies. Having a positive relationship with food is really important. When we eat clean we feel better and have more energy to hike, run, play and get out.

Support Conscious Brands. Support Earth Day with your dollar by choosing sustainable brands in the grocery store. As you might have guessed, I love Made in Nature. Made in Nature snacks are organic and non-GMO. They are also free from preservatives, pesticides, sulfur, additives, colors and artificial flavors. Their Dried Fruit has nothing added, unlike some other brands, which add sugar. Another cool thing is that Made In Nature fruit is picked at the peak of ripeness. This means that in addition to tasting delicious, you are getting fruit with optimal nutrients. Woohoo!

Here are a few of my favorite Made In Nature Snacks:

  • Ginger Masala Chai Coconut Chips
  • Maple Vanilla Coconut Chips
  • Super Berry Fruit Fusion
  • Mulberries 

In the name of Eating Clean and Supporting Conscious brands, I created a delicious trail mix recipe using Made In Nature ingredients. Even better, you can make it with just your hands and a bowl. That’s right, no oven or sticky sweeteners. It is so simple, it takes less than 2 minutes. Give it a try, your belly and the Earth will thank you.

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About Ashlee. Ashlee is a certified Nutrition Consultant with Simplholistic. She has been living a healthy lifestyle for over 3 years now and swears by the power of whole foods. She loves to spend time with her husband, teach health classes, travel to warm locations and make smoothies bowls. Gut health and peace of mind are her passions and she loves to work with like-minded friends. Her blog simplholistic.org is where she showcases her research, recipes, and adventures fueled by good food. 

These 7 Foods Can Help Relieve Seasonal AllergiesWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

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If you’ve got a scratchy throat that won’t go away or a lingering cough that seems determined to slow your mojo, there’s a good chance your spring cold is actually spring allergies. Seasonal allergies impact more than 17 million adults every year. And just because you don’t recall suffering from allergies in the past does not mean you’re immune. Allergy season is getting worse every year thanks to climate change, which is extending the number of warm months. Plus more CO2 in the air from greenhouse-gas emissions feeds plants leading to an increase in pollen. “Sometimes that pollen is more potent and more allergenic than it was when there was less CO2 in the atmosphere,” writes Organic Life Magazine.

While you can turn to over-the-counter drugs to help mitigate symptoms, side effects including drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth and more, may make you say no thank you. Luckily, when Mother Nature attacks she also provides relief. Some of the best allergy remedies can be found in the produce section of your grocery store. Here are a few to consider for keeping sniffles at bay.

Broccoli. This crucifer is rich in vitamin C, a natural antihistamine. Reminder, histamines are what the body releases to rid foreign substances from the body. They are the body’s defense system that triggers sneezing, coughing, tearing up, itching, or whatever else is needed to get the offending particle out. Antihistamines block the release of histamine and keep your body from thinking it’s under attack.

Broccoli sprouts. Remember when we said CO2 is making pollen more potent? Broccoli sprouts may be your defense. Research shows these tender greens contain an extract that protects against the diesel exhaust particles that can up the body’s allergic reaction ante.

Apple Cider Vinegar. This favorite home remedy can help with allergies too by breaking up mucus and supporting lymphatic drainage. Here’s a prescription from Dr. Axe: “Three times per day, mix one tablespoon of ACV with one tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and a half-tablespoon of local raw honey and drink.”

Dark Leafy Greens. The phytochemical content in kale, collards and Swiss chard is shown to ease allergy symptoms. The body absorbs the beneficial compounds best with fat so consider sautéing in olive oil or drizzling with dressing rather than eating plain.

Onion & Garlic. We love any reason to consume garlic and onions – be they roasted, caramelized or simply sautéed. During allergy season load up on these alliums because, in addition to being delicious, they’re packed with the natural antihistamine quercetin.

Parsley. Parsley contains the special flavonoid apigenin, which in addition to being anti-inflammatory is also shown to have anti-allergenic capabilities. That’s not all, eating parsley is also shown to increase the naturally-occurring hormone adiponectin which can minimize allergies.

Pineapple. Bromelain is the powerful enzyme in this tropical favorite. Research shows bromelain can help reduce allergic reaction by easing sore throats and irritated sinuses. Pineapple is also rich in Vitamin-C another known antihistamine.

How to eat mostly vegan (if you’re not ready to fully jump in)Written by Kelsey Blackwell | Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

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A vegan lifestyle is shown to decrease inflammation, improve cardiovascular health, level blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and a host of other benefits. Still, even with the overwhelming evidence, adopting a plant-based diet is tough for many. It can be hard to imagine saying goodbye to bacon – FOREVER. The good news is you don’t have to. Receiving the health benefits of going veg. is not a zero sum game. Even being vegan 50 percent of the time, or eating one vegan meal a day, is enough to boost energy, shed pounds and generally feel better. Here are some tips to ease in whether or not your goal is eventually to go whole hog.

Stock up. Rather than focusing on what you’re trying not to eat, get excited about the foods you can enjoy with impunity. Consider indulging in a flavored nut milk, try a new non-dairy cheese and stock the pantry with delicious vegan staples such as maple syrup, nutritional yeast, and satisfying sun-dried mangos.

Put vegan on the menu. Plan vegan meals you’ll look forward to eating like this Dried Cranberry and Roasted Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad, or this Vegan Sushi Rice Bowl, or this Cashew Cardamom Chia Pudding. Yum!

Make the swap. Consider cutting meat out or replacing it in a recipe you already know and love. Meat can be replaced with more vegetables like mushrooms and cauliflower, or you can try alternatives like tofu, seitan, and tempeh.

Snacks! We love a good snack, and in our humble opinion, vegan snacks are truly some of the most delicious. From dessert-like dates to crunchy kale chips, when organic fruits and vegetables are the star, it’s easy to deliver. For the lowdown on what makes a healthy snack, check out our interview with Made In Nature’s own resident nutrition guru and product developer, Mitch Thisius, RD.

Find your tribe.
The best way to attain any goal is to not feel like you’re doing it alone. Find your tribe and share challenges, wins and good recipes. You’ll find support with our Facebook family and/or as a member of many online groups specifically dedicated to vegetarianism and veganism.

5 Breakfast Ingredients to Supercharge Your MorningWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Chia Pudding

We could all use a little boost in the morning, right? Beyond the usual cup of joe or green tea, one of the following five ingredients may also help put a little pep in your step – and, bonus, they’re delicious!

Chia – These tiny seeds sure pack a punch! Chia is a complete protein and rich in fiber, potassium and calcium. In fact, just one tablespoon of chia contains 5 grams of fiber. That’s not all, these little seeds are also a vegan source of essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkle chia in cereal or smoothies, or allow the seeds to soak overnight for a tasty tapioca-style pudding.

Goji BerriesDid you know goji’s offer a complete source of protein and amino acids making them one of the most nutritious berries on the planet? They also contain trace minerals, B vitamins and vitamins E and C. Sprinkle goji’s on your morning cereal or, enjoy them our favorite way – straight from the bag.

CoconutIf you’re new to the coconut craze, prepare to be impressed. This amazing seed (yes, it is a seed) delivers on all fronts. Coconut water is rich in electrolytes and potassium. Coconut oil delivers healthy saturated fats for sustained energy and coconut meat is high in protein and fiber. Whatever way you choose to add coconut to your diet, your body will thank you. Just be sure you’re selecting unsweetened, organic coconut. We could eat these for breakfast every day.

Cacao – We’re talking about raw cacao beans or powder, not the sugary, chocolate bars found on the candy aisle. On its own, cacao is an amazing health food rich in antioxidants, magnesium, iron, chromium, manganese, zinc and copper. And, according to nutrition expert David Wolfe, it’s nature’s number one weight loss, energy-boosting food. Check out his TEDx talk about chocolate here. Try cacao powder or nibs in a smoothie for a delicious chocolatey boost. We also like it dusted on crunchy coconut chips.

Maca Powder – This super root from Peru offers a host of benefits including helping to balance hormones for PMS and menopause relief, decreasing stress, enhancing strength, and boosting stamina and libido. Because it doesn’t grow in many climates, you’re most likely to find it in powder form in your grocery store. Try it in a smoothie. Here’s a recipe.

6 Foods to Speed Recovery Post WorkoutWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Monday, March 27th, 2017

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After a good sweat, there’s nothing better than kicking back with a delicious post-workout snack to relax and recharge. Whether you’re a smoothie gal or prefer something heartier, consider adding one of the following ingredients for a nutritional boost to speed recovery and support muscle repair.

Turmeric. After an intense workout, the body can be inflamed and filled with lactic acid. To come back into balance, consider eating turmeric. This bright orange root contains curcumin an antioxidant with demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties. Found in the spice aisle, turmeric can be sprinkled on vegetables or meat or added to a smoothie.

Dates. Potassium stores can also be depleted after working out. Without enough potassium you may experience weakness, tiredness and leg or muscle cramps. No thanks! While bananas are the food most associated with high levels of potassium, dates also deliver on this front. In fact, one date offers 167 mg. of this key nutrient. Not only that, dates are also high in fiber which supports satiation and healthy digestion.

Popcorn. Who doesn’t love a bowl of popcorn? If you need another reason to indulge, here are two. As a whole grain, popcorn is rich in fiber and antioxidants. And because it’s a carbohydrate, it’s also a good source of glycogen, the body’s favorite energy source. After a workout, glycogen stores can be low leading to feelings of fatigue. Enjoy popcorn to get your bounce back.

Peanut Butter. After working your muscles, it’s key to feed them to help them rebuild. Protein is the best way to do that. While peanut butter is one of our favorite protein sources with 4 grams per tablespoon, really any nut butter will deliver. Smear it on fruit or toast or add a spoonful to a smoothie. Here’s one of our favorite recipes.

Sweet Potatoes. You really can’t go wrong with a sweet potato. They’re delicious and nutritionally dense. These vibrant tubers are packed with vitamins and nutrients including vitamins B6, C, D, iron, magnesium, and potassium. They’re also an excellent source of fiber and a medium sweet potato contains approximately 2 grams protein.

Almonds. Almonds are another great source of protein. A handful of almonds (roughly 22 nuts) packs 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Almonds are also especially convenient since they don’t require temperature-controlled storage. Keep some in a gym bag for an easy and nutritious snack right after your workout. Eating a handful before a meal can also help curb hunger cravings and prevent overeating.

How to Snack Like a Nutritionist (and Other Between-Meal Tips)Written by Kelsey Blackwell | Friday, March 24th, 2017

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We love to snack, and while we think we’re pretty good at, it never hurts to get a second opinion. To get the scoop on just how to get the most between meals (and what to look out for), we spoke with our resident nutrition guru and product developer Mitch Thisius, RD. As the mastermind behind several of the healthy snacks and meals on our website, Mitch spends many days in the test kitchen tasting and perfecting healthy recipes that also deliver on nutrition. Hey, it’s a tough job…wink.

Q: What is a snack?
MT:
First, it’s helpful to define a meal. Most Americans eat three meals, or larger servings of food a day. A meal should contain a balance of macronutrients, which are the nutrients we get calories from in food. These macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats and proteins. For example, for the typical American, a meal will consist of meat, a starch and a vegetable. Ideally, a snack is just a smaller version of this. You don’t want to get your calories all from one source such as all from carbohydrates, or just a huge chunk of protein. You want to have a balance because your body needs a blend of these nutrients throughout the day. This is going to help you stay satisfied longer. A snack is usually something that’s going to tide you over for 1-3 hours. Once you’re consuming more than 500 calories, that’s more meal territory because that could sustain you for several hours.

Q: Is it o.k. to snack?
MT:
The rules are definitely loosening between meals and snacks. Some people only snack – that is they eat small meals throughout the day and no big meals. Some people eat two big meals and snacks. It’s really individual. Snacking is a great way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs to run optimally. In this sense, snacking is essential for health. Unfortunately, some people think of snacks as a “break” or time for indulgence and choose less-than-ideal snacks that are often excessively high in salt and sugar.

Healthy snacking can actually help you not overeat during meals. If you’re starving by the time lunch hits, your chances of overeating are greater. A good weight loss technique that I suggest is to eat something light like a piece of fruit an hour before a meal. This will help curb hunger hormones, and when you do sit down to eat, you’re more likely to stop when you’re actually full.

Q: Are there negatives associated with snacking?

MT: There are. This is usually based on two things: what we’re snacking on and why we’re snacking. Studies show that when you snack on junk food this can actually make you more hungry and intensify cravings for unhealthy foods. I advise people to avoid foods with “empty calories,” which are calories that don’t deliver nutrients like vitamins, minerals, healthy fats or fiber. When you’re eating whole foods like fruits and vegetables, that’s a good way to avoid “empty calories.” If you’re buying packaged foods, take a look at the nutrition panel. If a food doesn’t offer any essential nutrients, you know it’s not what your body needs. Having a craving once in awhile is totally natural, and it’s fine to satisfy that craving. The key is being able to satisfy your hunger as well.

The other problem is snacking for the wrong reasons. It’s easy to overeat when you’re bored, anxious or stressed. Eating can have a calming effect. But even if you’re snacking on the right things, eating too much of these foods is not good.

Overeating spikes blood sugar, which over time leads to weight gain, insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes and heart disease. You want to fuel your body but you don’t want to over fuel it. If you’re snacking only when you’re hungry and eating foods to help you curb that hunger, that’s totally healthy and there aren’t many negatives.

Q: When should you snack?
MT:
That’s really customized for each person depending on their lifestyle and activity level. In general, a good time to snack is when you’re hungry.

Personally, I don’t typically eat a big breakfast because it makes me a little nauseous to eat too much early in the morning. I eat just a small amount with my coffee, to get my metabolism going. Then, when I get hungry, I’ll have a mid-morning snack to tide me over until lunch.

Q: What do you look for in a snack?
MT: 
You want your snacks to include at least two of the macronutrients. Protein is often the one that gets overlooked because it’s harder to get in snack form. I suggest nuts and seeds, which can provide a lot of healthy protein and healthy fats. Just as important as getting a balance of nutrients is trying to eat real foods. If you’re eating real food that’s minimally processed, you’re getting more fiber, which helps you stay satiated, as well as the vitamins and minerals.

Q: What do you snack on?
MT: 
I’m a habitual snacker. I have lots of favorite snacks. Obviously, I love all the products we make at Made In Nature. We use only organic, whole-food ingredients, and everything we make is really convenient. It really doesn’t get better than that.

Some other favorites are yogurt and cottage cheese mixed with fresh or dried fruits, nuts or granola. I like mixing nut butters with vegetables and fruit. Since I was a kid, one of my all-time favorites has been ants on a log. You just smear peanut butter on celery and sprinkle with raisins. It’s got the crunch, (which is an important element for many snackers), fiber, protein and healthy fats from the peanut butter. Apple with nut butter is also great. Smoothies are another big one for me. I like to take frozen fruit and mix it with yogurt or milk and blend it up. This is such an easy way to get a good serving of fruits and vegetables.

How to Get Kids to Eat Veggies (Without Hiding Them)Written by Kelsey Blackwell | Saturday, March 18th, 2017

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With the luck ‘o the Irish in the air, what better time to talk about our favorite things that are green — VEGETABLES! Yes, we know that not all veggies share this hue, but many of them do, and the darker their verdant color, often the healthier they are. If you’re here, we suspect this is not news to you. Perhaps you even share our zeal at the prospect of a bowl of roasted brussel sprouts or tender spring greens? The question is, how might you get your kids to proclaim such excitement at the V-word?

There must be something special in the air because we’ve uncovered a few ways to help you make kale more convincing than just a word to wear on a sweatshirt. Give these tricks a try at your house and who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky?

Just say, yes! To butter, cheese, and other kid-friendly flavor favorites. Just because you wouldn’t dream of dipping asparagus in barbecue sauce, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious – to a small person. Let you kids pair their greens with whatever sauces and flavors they enjoy. Chances are, once the food becomes less “weird,” they’ll no longer rely on additional flavors to make it palatable.

Who’s really in charge here? Let kids make a meal from a selection of veggies. This works especially well for anything that will be rolled up, like burritos, spring rolls and wraps. Chop up tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, salad greens and whatever else you have on hand and invite kids to get creative. If your kids tend to opt for the same vegetables every time, make selecting one new item a game. Pick one new vegetable to add to their meal and have them try to guess what it is.

Try something new. Rather than the same old sautéed or steamed vegetables, think outside the box with how they’re served and even the shapes they take. A grilled kebob is a lot more fun to eat than a plain old side of vegetables. Using cookie cutters on bell peppers and cucumbers sure makes them more fun to dip.

Enlist a new personal shopper. At the grocery store, let your child help select what you buy from the produce section. At home, they can also be in charge of washing and helping to select what seasonings are used to prepare their vegetables. The more involved a child is in the preparation process, the more likely they’ll be interested in giving this food a try come dinner time.

Does working out on an empty stomach help you burn more fat?Written by Kelsey Blackwell | Thursday, March 9th, 2017

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If figuring out what to eat (or not) before a big workout causes you to break into a premature sweat, we understand. With so much nutrition advice out there, it may be difficult to know what’s best for you and your body. Will hitting the go button on an empty stomach cause you to burn more fat? If you do eat something, would a bowl of oatmeal or a protein bar better help you go the distance? When is the optimal time to nosh on something so you feel fueled but not weighed down during your workout?

Let’s take a closer look.

 

Should you workout on an empty stomach?
Proponents believe that before even your morning Cup of Joe, lacing up and hitting the road for light, sustained cardio can boost weight loss. The idea comes from bodybuilders who employ this technique. Why? Glycogen, a stored carbohydrate, is depleted in the morning. Because this is the body’s preferred energy source, if it’s not readily available there’s greater potential for the body to burn stored fat as you workout instead. However, if glycogen is completely depleted, the body will turn to your muscles for energy, which is BAD NEWS.  Burning muscle means you’re creating more room to store fat. You’ll also feel weaker and look flabbier. No Thanks!

Writes Men’s Health Magazine:

“DO NOT train on an empty stomach. Yes, many bodybuilders do it, and they’re huge. But they’re also bodybuilders, and thanks to good genetics, a high level of muscle mass, and–sometimes–steroids, muscle burning isn’t as big a problem for them. If in fact you do burn more fat on an empty stomach, and let’s say you avoid burning up any muscle for fuel, it’s still not going to get you the best results in the least time. Scores of studies and a ton of evidence as presented by the world’s best trainers shows that brief, intense workouts are best for making drastic and lasting changes to your body–building muscle and burning fat. You’ll be able to burn more calories in a session if you train after a solid meal, and you’ll support muscle mass, which burns calories all day long just by sitting on your body.”

 

Okay, I got it. But what should I eat?
When it comes to working out, carbs at your BFF. Yeah! But before you reach for that bagel, remember all carbs are not created equal. The key is to opt for a mix of both simple and complex carbs. Reminder, simple carbs like fruit and milk give you a quick burst of energy. Complex carbs like oatmeal, brown rice and potatoes keep you humming along at a steady pace. Adding protein will further help to stabilize blood sugar.

 

When should I eat?

It really depends on your body. Some people can eat a big meal before a workout and feel great. Others need a few hours to digest. In general, nutritionists recommend you consume a light snack an hour before you work out. If you eat a bigger meal, wait 2-3 hours before working out.

Here are some of our favorite pre-workout snacks that deliver, simple and complex carbs and protein.

 

Do you have a favorite snack that supports your workout regimen and tastes delicious? We’d love to hear about it. Please share your go-to in the comments.

Gear up for National Nutrition Month with 5 Surprising Super FoodsWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Monday, March 6th, 2017

Mocha Espresso Smoothie  Tart cherry, apple and cabbage slaw made with Made In Nature organic dried tart cherries, red cabbage, green cabbage, apple, and carrot, with an apple cider vinegar, honey, and lime juice vinaigrette.  vegan-sweet-potato-toasted-coconut

Does anyone else have Spring Fever? As the sunlight lingers a little longer each day and a certain chill leaves the air, we can’t help but look forward to summer. Luckily, we know it won’t be long before shorts and flip-flop season is upon is. To gear up for making the most of the warmer weather to come, we’re putting special attention on health by teaming up with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for National Nutrition Month. For the month of March, look here and on our Facebook page and Twitter feed for specific ideas on how you can  “put your best fork forward” to nourish mind, body and soul.

To get things started on the right foot, below are 5 favorite recipes we hope may inspire your menus this month. You may be surprised by the super food ingredient that makes them stand out. Who says healthy and delicious are not synonymous?

 

Mocha Espresso Smoothie
Super ingredient, Cacao:
Contains 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries and is the highest plant-based source of iron. Cacao is also rich in magnesium and calcium.

 

Stuffed Breakfast Tomatoes
Super ingredient, Roasted Tomato: Cooking tomatoes dramatically boosts beneficial lycopene.  Lycopene is an antioxidant that is a shown cancer fighter and also supports eye health.

 

Tart Cherry Apple and Cabbage Slaw
Super ingredient, Cabbage: This rainbow salad is rich in many healthful ingredients including carrot, apple and tart cherries. We love that it uses both red and green cabbage, which contain glutamine, an anti-inflammatory agent shown to reduce joint pain, fever and even help manage allergies.

 

Cranberry and Plum Stuffed Turkey Burgers
Super ingredient, Turkey: Aside from being a low-fat source of protein, regular turkey consumption is connected with a decreased risk of pancreatic cancer. Be sure to select, free-range, organic meat if possible.

 

Double Baked Sweet Potato and Toasted Coconut
Super ingredient, Sweet Potato: Did you know that sweet potatoes contain more Vitamin A than any other food? Vitamin A plays a key role in maintaining vision and supporting brain function. It’s also a known immune booster.

Clean Eating 101 with the Conscious CleanseWritten by Susan Thanavaro | Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

 

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Clean eating may be all the rage these days, but it can be hard to decipher exactly what it means and even harder to make it part of your daily routine. As part of National Nutrition Month, we sat down with Jo and Jules of the Conscious Cleanse to talk about what it means to eat clean, and get their top tips for stocking your pantry with healthy eats. They’ve also shared a recipe to get you started (which uses our Unsulfured Organic Dried Apricots).

If you’re looking for more, sign up for the next Conscious Cleanse, which starts on March 8th. Click here to register for their two week, whole foods based Spring Forward Cleanse, which will help you spring clean your body, mind, and pantry.

 

Clean eating has been a popular buzzword lately, and it has taken on many different meanings. What does clean eating mean to you?

Clean eating means taking it back to the basics. It’s about eating REAL food. It’s becoming confusing to navigate the world of healthy eating and nutrition because there are so many conflicting messages out there. We believe that if you start putting whole foods into your body, like an apple, a salad or a chicken breast you can revolutionize your health. Keep it simple and you’re on your way!

 

Do you have any advice for someone who is a beginner to clean eating or just starting out?

Instead of thinking about all of the food you’re going to be taking out of your diet, reframe your thinking to focus on what you’re going to add in. We like to make veggies the center of our food universe. Our Conscious Cleanse food plate has ⅔ of the plate filled with veggies and the other ⅓ is a non gluten grain, animal or veggie protein.

 

When stocking up your pantry, what guidelines do you generally follow to ensure you’re eating clean?

We ask our participants to think about where a food came from. Did it come from the earth? Can you imagine an animal eating this food out in the wild? Although we may all love it, there is no pizza bush 🙂

If you think about shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store, that will point you in the right direction. Make sure to stop in the produce department for a head of lettuce and then grab carrots, fennel or parsnips for roasting. In the bulk food section get your nuts, dried beans and non-gluten grains. Then check out the fish or meat counter for salmon, bison, lamb, cod or your favorite organic or wild protein. Another staple is a healthy oil like coconut or olive oil. There are also some fantastic hidden food gems in the center of the store, so we’ll often times make direct suggestions of brands that make healthy packaged food. Made in Nature is one of those awesome clean brands.

 

What are some of your favorite clean eats when it comes to snack food?

We’re obsessed with little bite sized snacks that take less than 10 minutes to make.  Our latest creation is Sunshine Bites. One of the things that makes these bites so great are the cashews. They provide a bit of protein and healthy fat which keeps you full and satisfied for longer. We also love the sweet and tangy flavor that the apricots add to the bites. It’s hard to find organic unsulfured apricots, so we were thrilled to find Made In Nature’s Apricots. When in a pinch, we put a little raw almond butter on them for a easy sweet treat. 

Sunshine Bites Recipe

Yield: 20 servings

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Ingredients:

2/3 cup raw cashews

1 cup dried apricots (purchase organic, unsweetened, unsulfured)

½ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut, plus more for garnish

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Zest of 1 lime

pinch sea salt

pinch ground turmeric

Instructions:

Soak cashews for four hours. Drain and rinse. In a food processor combine all ingredients. Pulse to combine until a sticky dough is formed. Spoon out about a ½ tablespoon amount of mixture at a time and roll into a ball with your hands. Roll in coconut to coat. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Who Says Eating Vegan is Work? Here are 20 Tasty and Convenient MealsWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Monday, February 27th, 2017

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Sure, adopting a vegan diet means you’ll likely be preparing more food at home, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to your kitchen. There are plenty of convenient and healthy food options that can keep you fueled without taking too much time away from the many other things on your plate. And, bonus, because vegan meals are often loaded with essential vitamins, minerals and fiber to keep you full, you’ll have more energy to cross items off your to-do list. Here are some of our favorite and totally easy vegan breakfasts, lunches, dinners and more.

BREAKFAST

LUNCH

  • Make a sandwich: Spread whole-grain bread with hummus and top with your favorite veggies. We like, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, pre-washed salad greens and sprouts.
  • Grab some soup: Some grocery stores now offer a vegan soup option in their deli. If yours doesn’t, scope the refrigerator section. Many brands now offer organic, vegan ready-to-eat refrigerated soups. Here’s one of our favorites.
  • Make a burrito: All you need are tortillas, refried beans, your favorite vegan cheese and salsa. Throw in some avocado and veggies like kale, red pepper and sweet potato for more flavor and a boost of phytochemicals and vitamins.
  • Salad: Find salad bar and go to town! Or, prepare this Butternut Squash Quinoa salad at home.

DINNER

  • Go Italian. It doesn’t get much easier than pasta, marinara and a healthy sprinkle of nutritional yeast or vegan Parmesan.
  • Make a quick stir-fry. Throw your favorite veggies into a hot skillet. Cook until they begin to brown and their color brightens, then toss with soy, sesame oil and a pinch of red chili flakes or Sriracha.
  • Order in or take out. Many Chinese and Thai restaurants offer vegan options.
  • Dress up a Sweet Potato. Here’s an indulgent way to do it.
  • Whip up a satisfying salad

SNACKS

  • Apple smothered in peanut butter
  • Granola with Cranberries and Raisins
  • Hummus with snap peas, carrots, red pepper strips and cucumber slices for dipping
  • Salsa and your favorite tortilla chips
  • Edamame drizzled with sesame oil and sprinkled with kosher salt
  • Air-popped popcorn drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with your favorite seasonings. Or, go Indian with this Spicy Coconut Mango blend.

Is Your Child Stressed? Know The SignsWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

When you’re stressed, you may reminisce about the care-free days of childhood. Everything was much simpler then, right? Actually, maybe not. Though we may not remember all the challenges we faced while growing up, or now consider such fears silly, at the time, these issues may have had a significant impact on our lives. Stress can impact anyone at any age. Separation from parents can cause preschoolers anxiety. As we get older, academic and social pressures can lead to stress. Kids are also particularly attuned to the stress of parents. If the news, work pressures, or general feelings of overwhelm have you frazzled, kids may pick up on and also experience these feelings.

Because our ability to name feelings develops with age, young children are not able to communicate when they are stressed. Instead, parents must be attuned to physical and emotional clues that can be indicators.

stress-children

The U.S. Library of Medicine lists the following signs of childhood stress:

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Anxiety, worry
  • Not able to relax
  • New or recurring fears (fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of strangers)
  • Clinging, unwilling to let you out of sight
  • Anger, crying, whining
  • Not able to control emotions
  • Aggressive or stubborn behavior
  • Going back to behaviors present when a younger age
  • Doesn’t want to participate in family or school activities

Physical Symptoms:

  • Decreased appetite, other changes in eating habits
  • Headache
  • New or recurrent bedwetting
  • Nightmares
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Upset stomach or vague stomach pain
  • Other physical symptoms with no physical illness

The next step is to help your child understand and manage whatever is arising for them. Consider the following tips from KidsHealth.org to help your child identify and manage stress.

Notice out loud. Tell your child when you notice that something’s bothering him or her. If you can, name the feeling you think your child is experiencing.

Listen to your child. Ask your child to tell you what’s wrong. Listen attentively and calmly — with interest, patience, openness, and caring.

Comment briefly on the feelings you think your child was experiencing. For example, you might say “That must have been upsetting,” “No wonder you felt mad when they wouldn’t let you in the game,” or “That must have seemed unfair to you.”

Put a label on it. Many younger kids do not yet have words for their feelings. If your child seems angry or frustrated, use those words to help him or her learn to identify the emotions by name.

Help your child think of things to do. If there’s a specific problem that’s causing stress, talk together about what to do.

Listen and move on. Sometimes talking and listening and feeling understood is all that’s needed to help a child’s frustrations begin to melt away.

Just be there. Kids don’t always feel like talking about what’s bothering them. Sometimes that’s OK. Let your kids know you’ll be there when they do feel like talking. Even when kids don’t want to talk, they usually don’t want parents to leave them alone.

Be patient. As a parent, it hurts to see your child unhappy or stressed. But try to resist the urge to fix every problem. Instead, focus on helping your child, slowly but surely, grow into a good problem solver.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests reaching out to a professional if your child:

  • Is becoming withdrawn, more unhappy or depressed
  • Is having problems in school or interacting with friends or family
  • Is unable to control his or her behavior or anger
  • Offering these techniques early can set children up to know how to healthily deal with stress in adulthood.

Offering these techniques and resources early on can set children up to learn how to healthily deal with stress in adulthood.

Could Cutting Calories Slow the Aging Process? Here’s the Latest ScienceWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

vegetables-fruit-calories-aging

From tales of The Fountain of Youth to modern day serums and creams that promise to smooth and plump, humans have long been interested in arresting the aging process. Naturally, a healthy diet and active lifestyle can go a long way towards promoting life and fostering a youthful glow, but this may not be the only key. A recent study published in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics suggests that how much one eats may actually slow the aging process.

In the study, one group of mice were given unlimited access to food, while the other consumed 35 percent fewer calories. Results showed that the mice eating a calorie-restricted diet lived longer, experienced more energy and fewer diseases. According to scientists of the study, “the restriction caused real biochemical changes that slowed down the rate of aging.”

 

What is the calorie, aging connection?

The study authors found that when ribosomes – the cell’s protein makers – slow down, the aging process slows too. The decreased speed lowers production but gives the ribosomes extra time to repair themselves.

“The ribosome is a very complex machine, sort of like your car, and it periodically needs maintenance to replace the parts that wear out the fastest,” said Brigham Young University biochemistry professor and senior author John Price. “When tires wear out, you don’t throw the whole car away and buy new ones. It’s cheaper to replace the tires.”

Reduced calorie consumption was the key to slowing ribosomes, at least in mice.

 

Hmmm … but what about in humans?  

These findings aren’t entirely shocking. Another study conducted in 1972 found that residents of the Japanese island Okinawa naturally consumed 17 percent fewer calories than the average Japanese person. The Okinawans lived an average of a year and a half longer than those on the mainland and were 60 to 70 percent less likely to die of heart disease, cancer and cerebral vascular diseases.

Still, before you start diligently counting calories, the study authors warn that calorie-restriction has not been properly tested on humans and suggest instead that their findings impart the importance of a healthy diet. “The essential message is understanding the importance of taking care of our bodies,” study authors told Science Daily.

 

What is a “healthy” diet?

We like Michael Pollan’s Three Simple Rules for Eating:

  1. Eat Food: That means food that is unprocessed and doesn’t come from a factory. Shop primarily from the perimeter of your grocery store.
  2. Not too much: One key to not overeating is making sure your meals are satiating. Protein and fat send signals to your brain that you’re full faster than bread, pasta and fruit. Make sure your meals include both.
  3. Mostly Plants: Make plants the superstars of your diet. Rather than thinking of protein as the main, consider meat and fat as the side dish.

Beyond Meatless Monday: 5 Tips to Be a Weekend VeganWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Thursday, February 16th, 2017

meatless-monday-weekend-vegan-kale-salad

Trying to health up your diet? Cutting animal products may be one way to do it. Research consistently shows that people who eat a vegan diet, that is refrain from all foods that contain animal products and byproducts including eggs, dairy and sometimes even honey, have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and many other health ailments. If the thought of permanently cutting meat from your diet makes your stomach growl, there’s more good news. A recent Harvard study found that just swapping out one daily serving of beef for nuts could reduce the risk of dying early by as much as 19 percent. Cutting out meat periodically is also shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 20 percent according to Consumer Reports. Not only that, eating more veg is better for the environment. Did you know you can save more water by not eating a pound of meat than from refraining from taking a shower for 6 months?

While Meatless Monday is a great way to dip your toe into plant-based eating, going animal-product free for a full weekend is a more powerful way to reap the benefits of this better-for-you lifestyle. We know the thought of adopting a new diet – even for just a few days – can be a lot to swallow. Here are some easy and gentle tips to get started. Who knows, you may just find that the bevy of delicious and healthy options ahead of you lead your weekend veganism to stretch into Monday and beyond.

 

Start with an open mind

Going vegan does not mean salad is your only option – though fresh greens topped with organic ingredients are pretty tasty. Almost any dish can be made vegan with a few clever substitutions. Still, when you first start eating vegan, we caution against trying to replace your favorite recipes with their vegan counterparts. You’re much more likely to enjoy your new diet when you’re not reminiscing about the meals you used to eat. Take your palate around the globe and consider new ingredients, preparation methods and spices. We’re particularly fond of this vegan tagine. For inspiration, collect recipes from vegan bloggers. Here’s one of our favorites.

Stock up

Tofu? Tempeh? Nutritional Yeast? Greens?  Rice? Quinoa? After selecting the vegan recipes you’d like to prepare, hit the grocery store the day before your vegan-eating start date to purchase everything you’ll need. This way, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running come Saturday morning. What’s worse than realizing you’re short an ingredient when you’re in the middle of cooking?

 

Consider exotic produce

Let curiosity be your guide. Never had a particular fruit or vegetable? Bravely, give it a try. At worst, you can spit it out and never buy it again. At best, you discover a new favorite and impress your friends with your produce prowess. Here’s a guide for how to use less common vegetables.

Budget extra time

Starting any new endeavor requires an initial investment of time before feeling confident and comfortable. A new diet is no exception. Begin gently by allowing yourself extra time for tasks like grocery shopping and cooking. Get in the kitchen before you’re starving to allow for leisurely food preparation. This will also minimize the likelihood of grabbing something unhealthy when hunger strikes.

 

Cut convenience foods

Sure, Oreos, bagels and brownies are vegan, but that doesn’t mean they’re good options for your vegan weekend. It may be tempting to opt for convenience foods when eating vegan – especially if cooking your own meals seems daunting. But the health benefits of a vegan diet are quickly diminished by indulging in foods that contain excess sodium, hydrogenated fats and sugar. If cooking your own meals makes you nervous, remember to start simply. A roasted sweet potato topped with sautéed veggies or roasted chickpeas is delicious, simple and packed with nutrients. Here are 30 easy and filling vegan recipes to get you started.

7 Fabulous Ways to Love Yourself This Valentine’s Day (and Everyday)Written by Kelsey Blackwell | Monday, February 13th, 2017

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“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance, ”said Oscar Wilde. Why not then, show yourself how much you care this Valentine’s Day? Whether this holiday finds you solo or with a partner in crime, any healthy relationship starts by realizing you’re the apple of your own eye. Here are 7 ways to treat yourself right this V-day and everyday.

Get Your Glow On
That is, your post-workout glow. If you’ve never been to the gym on Valentine’s day, you’re in for a treat. It’s usually gloriously empty. Don your red, white and pink workout gear, queue up your favorite beats and enjoy the options before you. Not a gym rat? Grab some friends for a V-Day run, snowshoeing adventure or impromptu dance party.  Or, if you’re not crowd adverse, pop into any of the Valentine’s Day-themed yoga, spin, or dance classes in your ‘hood.

Take Yourself On a Date
No date? No problem! Sometimes your own company truly is the best company. Plan some quality time for just you. Maybe that’s sitting in a café with a new book and a steaming mug of something? Or, maybe it’s setting up your own one-night stand in a fancy hotel, enjoying a leisurely bath and room service.  The only requirement is that your date makes you excited. To avoid crowds and a likely sea of couples, steer clear of restaurants and movie theaters — or not. You’re in the driver’s seat!

Enjoy a Day Off
Take a day to love yourself in all the ways that make your heart pitter pat. This is the time to engage all the senses. Break out the candles, essential oils, and your softest, comfiest clothes. Start the morning with breakfast in bed, then maybe an afternoon message and nap. From there, let pleasure be your guide.

Write Yourself a Love Letter
How do you love thee? Let thee count the ways, literally. Set aside some time to wax poetic on all the ways you love yourself. Don’t hold back; the beauty is in the details. Recount times when you displayed compassion and/or were of service to another. Think about your traits. How do you crack yourself up? How do you take care of yourself? What goals have you achieved? What goals are you working towards? Think about the special people in your life and how you nurture those relationships. Keep your letter in a special place and refer to it often – especially those days when you’re feeling not so top notch.

Surround Yourself with Beauty
Beauty is as beauty does. Let yourself soak it in in a special place that makes you come alive and awakens your creativity. Maybe that’s watching waves crash at the beach, or smelling the sweetness of a redwood forest? Perhaps it’s viewing art at a museum or seeing a ballet? After your beautiful experience, set aside some time to reflect and create your own expression of beauty.

Go Tech Free For a Day
What if you were out of communication for a full day? No phone, no email, no Skype or Zoom? What might you do with that deposit in time? Allow yourself to go analog, if not for a full day at least a few hours, and connect with the physical world beyond the screen. Research shows that cutting screen time is not only beneficial for improving our social interactions but also calming the nervous system. Who knows, you might decide to adopt some tech-free time everyday.

Get Mindful
Spend some quality time with yourself in a meditative way. Meditation has several benefits including helping to promote feelings of wellbeing and reducing stress. If you’ve never tried meditation before, here are some general instructions to get you started. Don’t be surprised if during your first time, focusing on the breath is particularly difficult. Learning to tame the mind improves with time.  Follow up your meditation session with a walk outside using your senses to tune into your environment. What do you see, hear, smell and feel?  How might you carry this experience into your day-to-day?

14 Valentine’s Day Recipes that Beat a Box of ChocolatesWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Valentine’s Day is all about indulgence. While we love a heart-shaped box filled with sweets and treats as much as anyone, there are many more delicious ways to show your sweetheart you care – especially if your Valentine is you. Ditch the crowded restaurants and chocolates filled with mysterious ingredients and whip up your own indulgence at home. We have you covered for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

valentines-day-recipes-raw-truffle-balls

A Lovely Way to Start the Day


Save some dough and the long lines of V-day brunch and enjoy more cuddle time at home. Any of these recipes is sure to get your loved one in the mood, or eat them in bed yourself while watching a movie featuring your celebrity crush.

Potassium-Protein Morning Shake
More energy on Valentine’s Day is a good thing, and this shake delivers with dried bananas, oats and almond butter. What will you do with that extra boost? That’s for you to decide.

Ricotta & Greek Yogurt Pancakes with Goldenberry Basil Syrup
Nothing spells I love you like a stack of pancakes made just for you. Go the distance with these extra-fluffy, extra-tasty Ricotta and Greek Yogurt Pancakes with Goldenberry Basil Syrup. Yum!

Honey Date Loaf
Ask your honey on a date with a sweet slice of Honey Date Loaf made in their honor. Bake this breakfast the night ahead and be one step closer to impressing your date come V-day morning.

Banana Coffee Crepes
Who’s not wowed by crepes? The pancake’s sophisticated French cousin is light, airy and often filled with things that make people happy. This recipe infuses the favorite with coffee (yes coffee!) and organic dried bananas.

Black Mission Fig & Goat Cheese Hard Boiled Eggs
Everyone loves deviled eggs, so why not enjoy them for breakfast? This spin on the hors d’oeuvre classic brings sweet mission figs and tangy goat cheese into the fold for a decidedly delicious (and unexpected) morning meal.

Treat Yourself to a Fancy Dinner

Everyone knows that dinner out on Valentine’s Day can crowded, pricey and underwhelming. Save the time and get cozy in your own kitchen. Nothing spells foreplay like chopping, stirring and tasting together.

Cuban-Style Paella
Shrimp, scallops and chorizo, oh my! While paella can sometimes be a time-consuming affair, this recipe makes it a snap, though just as scrumptious.

Dried Cranberry & Apricot Braised Lamb Chops
Who wouldn’t swoon over this festive garnet braise featuring tender lamb shoulder and dried apricots and cranberries made plump from any favorite pinot? The recipe calls for one cup of wine. What will you do with the rest of the bottle?

Squash and Fig Stew
It’ll be hard not to get comfortable when the smells from this stew of butternut squash, grass-fed beef, onions and dried figs, begin wafting from the kitchen. A kick from a hint of jalapeno will make it even easier to lose a layer.

Fig and Goat Cheese Pizza
Everyone loves pizza, and here’s a way to make it V-day worthy.  Fancy figs, goat cheese, arugula and thyme come together in a snap for this delicious vegetarian meal.

Say Yes, to Healthy Indulgence

Be sweet on your sweetheart or give in to your cravings with impunity. The most delicious desserts are naturally guilt free because they use only the highest quality, organic ingredients.

Goji Berry Truffles
Sweetened with maple syrup and infused with nutrient-rich Maca (which, ahem, is shown to support sexual function) these dark cacao truffles are easy to make and so packed with healthy ingredients it’s easy to forget they’re dessert.

Raw Truffle Balls
You really can’t have too many truffles on Valentine’s Day, and these little delights are free of refined sugar and surprisingly made with fiber-rich dates, apricots and raisins. Go ahead, have two or five.

Warm Chocolate & Coffee Figgy Pudding
It doesn’t get sexier than this dark, decadent, sophisticated, warm winter dessert. For the full experience, we strongly suggest you pair your pudding with cognac while sitting by a roaring fire.

Fig & Port Gelato
We think ice cream is a welcome treat any time of year. Rather than reaching for a pre-purchased pint, let Valentine’s Day be your inspiration to try your hand at the churning wheel. This recipe brings together Golden Calimyrna Figs and ruby port for fabulously pink, gourmet scoops.

Chocolate Dipped Candied Apricots
Double dipped chocolate apricots are easy, healthy and fun. We like to cover ours in nuts and seeds, but we won’t tell if you pull out the heart-shaped sprinkles.

5 Healing Foods We Can’t Get Enough OfWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Monday, February 6th, 2017

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said, “let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” We couldn’t agree more. While every whole-food ingredient delivers its own unique blend of healthful vitamins, nutrients and minerals, the following 5 healing foods may be effective in addressing the health challenges of many of us face today.


Turmeric

turmeric-healing-foodsBenefits: Reduces inflammation
This vibrant root, which is a quintessential ingredient in curries and a cousin of ginger, is also an inflammation fighter. This is because of curcumin, the compound in turmeric that gives it its bright color. In one study turmeric extract supplements were just as effective as ibuprofen in easing the pain associated with knee osteoarthritis.

Try this:  Because the flavor of turmeric is subtle and earthy, Turmeric makes a colorful addition to many dishes. Add it to scrambles, roasted vegetables, rice, greens and soup.

Garlic

Health Benefits: Fights bacterial and viral infections, controls yeast.
There’s a reason this ancient root has been used for thousands of years around the world as both a food and medicine. Considered in some circles to be “poor man’s penicillin,” garlic contains several compounds with antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Because it also contains high levels of vitamin C, it is also a natural immune booster.

Try this: Garlic is delicious and versatile so it’s easy to consume regularly. Try roasting it, which brings out its naturally sweet and nutty flavors and makes it easy to spread on a baguette or add to soups, salads and dips. 

Dark Chocolate

Health Benefits: Lowers blood pressure, boosts brainpower and lowers BMI
We love chocolate and chocolate loves us! Numerous studies show flavanols, the antioxidants inherent in cacao, deliver a host of benefits including helping you lose weight! In one study, frequent consumption of small quantities of dark chocolate was associated with a lower body mass index.

Try this: To reap chocolate’s healthful benefits choose bars with a high cacao content (70 percent or more), which is indicative of higher amounts of flavanols. Here’s one of our favorite chocolate-featuring recipes.

Figs

black-mission-figs-healing-foodsHealth Benefits: Regulates blood sugar, supports healthy metabolism, eases anxiety, stress and depression.
Figs are a source of magnesium, which is a vital nutrient needed for muscle, nerve and bone health.  Unfortunately, due to diets that are often void of magnesium-rich foods, and the magnesium-depleted soil much of our food is grown in, magnesium deficiency is common.  Make sure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient to support bodily function and mental wellbeing.
Try this: While figs are a good source of magnesium they’re not the only one. Magnesium is also found in: Almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, dulse, filberts, millet, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens, and garlic. For an easy and tasty, magnesium-delivering treat, try our Figgy Pops which contain magnesium-rich figs, pumpkin seeds and dates.

Sesame Seeds

Health Benefits: Support healthy blood pressure and balance hormones.
These tiny seeds pack a considerably nutritious punch. Sesame seeds are rich in many nutrients including copper, manganese and calcium. They also contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin, which are members of a group of special fibers called lignans. Sesamin has been shown to prevent high blood pressure, naturally lower cholesterol and positively impact sex hormone production.
Try this: Sesame oil is one of our favorite ways to flavor roasted vegetables. Tahini, which is ground sesame seeds is a common ingredient in hummus. You might also try adding it to a smoothie. Here’s one of our favorite recipes featuring sesame seeds.

Before you go gluten free ask these 5 questionsWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

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Perhaps you know many people who’ve adopted gluten free diets. Maybe you’ve even had a nutritionist advise you against eating gluten or dabbled with ditching it yourself. If you’re considering going gluten free, you’re not alone. In a recent survey, roughly 30% of Americans said they were trying to cut back or avoid gluten in their diet. Meanwhile, only 1% of the population has actually been diagnosed with Celiac Disease – the condition that can cause intestinal damage from eating gluten. Those without a Celiac diagnosis who cut gluten are considered PWAGs (people without celiac disease avoiding gluten) — a group that’s steadily risen over the past five years. In fact, though rates of Celiac Disease have remained flat since 2009, the number of PWAGs has tripled to nearly 3.1 million.  Why are so many keen on cutting out this protein which is found in wheat, rye barley and many other foods?

According to the non-profit organization Beyond Celiac, a gluten sensitivity is associated with symptoms such as headache, foggy mind, joint pain, and numbness in the legs, arms or fingers. By ditching gluten, those issues presumably disappear.

Still, according to a recent article in Forbes, “the benefits of following a gluten-free diet remain uncertain for people without gluten-related health issues while nutritional concerns have also been raised about resulting deficiencies in iron, calcium and fiber consumption.”

How do you know if going gluten free is right for you?

  1. What is your motivation?
    Are you experiencing health challenges associated with gluten sensitivity? Do you want to lose weight? Are you trying to eat healthier? A gluten-free diet is not supportive of weight loss nor is it necessarily healthier than diets that contain gluten.
  2. Do you experience signs of gluten-sensitivity?
    Are you symptoms indicative of having trouble digesting gluten, or could it be something else? Read more about gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease.
  3. Have you tried heirloom grains?
    Processed white flours are particularly hard on the gut and shown to lead to inflammation. There is evidence that some ancient grains lack the toxicity of modern wheat grains. You might find that switching out white-flour products for heirloom or sprouted carbohydrates reduces inflammation and other symptoms.
  4. Have you spoken to your doctor?
    Your doctor or a registered dietician can help you determine if a gluten-sensitivity is a likely factor in the health issues you’re experiencing, or if another food, or lifestyle habit may be at the root. A professional can also advise which nutrients may need to be supplemented with a change in diet, and help you monitor your symptoms over time. Plus, you’ll likely be more successful if you’re not going it alone.
  5. How dedicated are you?
    It takes roughly 23 days for the body to recalibrate after eating harmful foods. That means that to accurately assess how your body behaves without gluten, you must strictly cut gluten for at least this period of time. Because gluten is in many foods, that means getting comfortable reading food labels and being extra cautious when dining out. Dipping in and out of eating gluten will not give you a clear picture of how your body behaves without it – even if it’s just a small amount.

If You’re Vegan You May Be Deficient In One Of These 5 Key NutrientsWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Monday, January 30th, 2017

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While a vegan diet is certainly beneficial for your health – numerous studies show plant-based eating prevents a number of diseases including Type II Diabetes and heart disease – vegans are often low in many key nutrients needed to truly thrive. These deficiencies can result in depression, lethargy, headaches and more. Below we take a closer look at 5 key nutrients all vegans should ensure they’re getting enough of. While we’ve provided recommended doses, if you suspect a deficiency, consult with your doctor to assess your levels and determine what amount is right for you.

B-12

What it does: B12 is needed to make red blood cells and prevents anemia. The body cannot make B12 on its own and relies on animal-based foods, fortified foods and/or supplements for this nutrient.
Signs of deficiency: weakness, tiredness, lightheadedness, pale skin, constipation or diarrhea, nerve problems like numbness, depression
Vegan sources: In addition to supplements, there are many vegan foods fortified with B12. These include non-dairy milks, meat substitutes, breakfast cereals, and one type of nutritional yeast.

Recommended dose: The National Institutes of Health suggests women and men 14 years of age and older receive 2.4 micrograms daily. Go here for complete dosing recommendations by age.

Calcium

What it does: We all know that calcium is integral for strong bones and teeth, but calcium is also needed to support blood clotting and regulate nerve fibers in muscles. Muscles can cramp and even fail without enough calcium.

Signs of deficiency: muscle cramps, difficulty swallowing, fatigue, course hair, chronic itching, numbness or tingling in the extremities. Find a full list of calcium- deficiency indicators here.

Vegan sources: Blackstrap molasses, collard greens, tempeh, turnip greens, calcium fortified plant-based milks. This guide includes the amount of calcium found in each of these foods plus additional sources.

Recommended dose: The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults age 19-50 years and men 51-70 years receive at least 1000 mg of calcium per day. An intake of 1200 mg of calcium is recommended for women over 51 years of age and for men over 70.

Iron

What it does: Iron plays a key role in the production of red blood cells, which are essential for carrying oxygen throughout the body.

Signs of deficiency: exhaustion, pale skin, shortness of breath, restless leg syndrome, headache, anxiety
Vegan sources:
Beans, broccoli, raisins, wheat, tofu and iron-fortified cereals. Getting enough iron can be especially challenging for vegans because plant-based sources of iron aren’t as easily digested as iron from meat. Foods rich in vitamin C, such as mulberries, can help your body absorb iron.

Recommended dose: The National Institutes of Health recommends that women age 19-50 years receive at least 18 mg of iron daily; men 19-50 should receive at least 8 mg.

Omega-3 fatty acids

What it does: Omega-3 fats support heart health. These fats, which the body does not produce, have been shown to be helpful for lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving blood vessel function, and, at higher doses, lowering triglycerides and easing inflammation.
Signs of deficiency:
dry skin and hair, soft brittle nails, difficulty paying attention, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and inflammation. Read more here.  

Vegan sources: Hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, flaxseed oil, mustard oil, seaweed and leafy vegetables. You may also consider a vegan omega-3 supplement.
Recommended dose:
The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults eat at least two servings of oily fish per week, which equates to roughly 500 mg.

Vitamin D

What it does: Nearly every cell in the body interacts with Vitamin D. It’s shown to reduced inflammation and play an important role in bone health by helping the body absorb calcium.

Signs of Deficiency: exhaustion, difficulty thinking clearly, frequent bone fractures, muscle weakness.
Vegan Sources: The body produces its own vitamin D in response to sunlight. Getting outside for just 10 minutes of sunshine 3 to 4 times a week is a good place to start, though it’s challenging to satisfy your vitamin D needs from the sun alone. Foods that contain vitamin D include shitake mushrooms and fortified oatmeal, breakfast cereals, almond milk and tofu. In many cases supplementation is also helpful but be sure to select a supplement that’s vegan. Many are made with fish oil or lanolin, a waxy substance secreted by glands found in a sheep’s skin.

Recommended dose: The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults over age18 receive 1,500 to 2,000 IUs Daily. Go here for complete dosing recommendations.

Winter Blues? 5 Things To Help With Seasonal DepressionWritten by Kelsey Blackwell | Monday, January 9th, 2017

winter-walk-seasonal-depression

In the winter, long nights and, in many places, inclement weather make many hunger for the warm rays of summer. We’re especially prone to feel a little low post holiday season when it can feel that there’s not much to look forward to but months ahead of more cold and grey. If you’re finding that winter weather has got you feeling tired, irritable and hungry for comforting high-carb foods, you may be experiencing SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. This condition impacts roughly 4 to 6 percent of the population. Another 10 to 20 percent have mild SAD, and if you’re a woman, you’re 4-times more likely than a man to experience it. If the winter doldrums have got the best of you, consider the following activities, which may help boost your spirits until spring comes along. While these suggestions may be helpful for anyone experiencing a mild case of winter blues, if your condition is more serious or persists beyond a few days, consult a physician.

1. Simulate the sun. Experts agree that winter depression is often caused by lack of exposure to sunlight. If your city is under cloud cover for several days at time, consider a sun substitute. Light therapy, where participants sit in front of a prescribed light for a specific duration of time, can be an effective treatment for SAD. If you suspect light therapy might be helpful for you, speak with your doctor first who can help you choose a light box and suggest a duration of time.

2. Get outside anyway. When temperatures drop, motivating yourself to get outside isn’t easy, but if you do, you may experience significant benefits. Getting a few breaths of fresh air is shown to improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD and reduce stress.

3. Establish a routine. “Anyone can benefit from a morning routine, whether you have depression or not,” said Renee Garfinkel, PhD, in an article published by everydayhealth. “When you’re living with depression, establishing a morning routine may need to be more of a conscious choice. Depression can make you wonder why you should bother getting out of bed at all. Having a routine that feels automatic can give you less time to dwell in that mindset.” Make your first task something that’s easy to accomplish such as 5 minutes of stretching or drinking a glass of water. Here’s an example.

4. Kick the carbs. Recent research shows that eating refined carbohydrates – white bread, white rice and sodas – may raise your risk of experiencing depression. What’s more, when we are depressed we’re more likely to reach for these comfort foods. “Luckily, the opposite also appears to be true,” according to an article in Health. “Those who ate lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and dietary fiber appeared to see their risk for depression drop.”

5. Plan a vacation. Dreaming of a warm sandy beach? Make that dream a reality, and soak up some surprising benefits, by starting your vacation planning during the dead of winter. Research shows that just thinking about your next getaway can significant boost your mood.