Friday, March 13, 2009

March 2009: Slough Off Your Winter Muck

March 20th marks the first day of Spring, yahoo! Are you as ready as I am for some warm sunny days? This newsletter will introduce some ideas on how to lighten up after a long heavy winter.

Slough Off Your Winter Muck

Tired of your winter muck? That's the dreary feelings of being cooped up and fighting the cold gray weather. The full sticky feelings of too much winter comfort foods. The lethargic feelings of laying around in winter hibernating the last four months. Or the exhausted feelings of trying to keep up with daily stress and holiday obligations when really all you wanted to do was hibernate.

Sloughing off that slothful feeling:
Spring is here and it's a time of new life! There is so much beauty in life and we're all so busy, it's sometimes easy to miss.

1. Go for a walk. Celebrate the budding trees and earth. Take off your sunglasses and let some sunshine into your eyes. Soak in 15-20 minutes of Vit D from the sun everyday on your hands and face (essential in preventing osteoporosis, plus it just feels good).

2. Sell your leaf blower on EBay and rake the lawn. Get some good old fashioned exercise and fresh air.

3. Sing loudly in the car, shower or wherever you can get away with it. In Chinese medicine, Spring is a time of energy rising that includes old emotions rising to the surface. Let out what you've been holding in.

4. Plant some herbs and discover the delight of eating your own fresh, alive, homegrown food while getting some relaxing nature time.

Spring food tips:
Eating in harmony with the seasons keep us feeling healthier and more balanced. Most of us naturally eat heavier in the winter. Our bodies crave foods that keep us warm and feeling cozy. My personal favorite cold weather indulgence is lasagna! In the Spring, we may feel a weight gain and congestion built up from those heavy foods, but we might not know what to do about it.

1. Spring is the season for green! Eat dark leafy green veggies every day. Try them steamed or simply in salads. Experiment with different lettuces, wild greens and fresh herbs.

2. Sprouts are for Spring! What are the animals eating this time of year? Sprouts! Nature provides the exact foods we need at the right time of year. Sprouts can be put into salads, sandwiches, even a little pile on top of a light soup. Not only are sprouts very cleansing, many are complete proteins!

3. Try a juice cleanse. Dedicate one day or more to your health. I've done a few kinds of detox cleanses and always feel great after. I lose weight, my skin glows, and I learn more about my inner self. My favorite book on cleansing is 3 Days to Vitality by, Pamela Serure. It walks you through how to give yourself a weekend spa treatment right in your own home. Feel free to email me if you want to try this or any other cleanse and need a little more help figuring it out.

4. Simply juice. If you are not up for a full-on cleanse, simply adding a vegetable juice to your diet will do wonders. You'll need a juicer and it can feel like a bothersome project at first, but once you get the hang of it and see how powerful these concoctions are, it's all worth it. With a bit of practice, it becomes easy and delicious. Remember, if you want to feel alive, eat live food!

Recipes of the Month: Green on Green

Super Cleansing Concoction
1/2 a cucumber
4 stocks celery
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
1 granny smith apple, cored
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger (opt)

Juice all in a juicer. Add ice or blend with ice in a blender to create a smoothie. Drink immediately.

Asian Bean Sprout Salad
4 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 red or green bell pepper
2 scallions
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp sea salt

Place sprouts in a large bowl. Use a glass or ceramic bowl, if available. Cut pepper into matchsticks. Chop scallions thinly.
Heat oil in a saucepan on medium. Add garlic and pepper flakes. Saute 30 seconds while stirring. Pour hot over sprout mix.
Whisk together vinegar, agave and salt. Pour over sprout mix. Toss well. Serve immediately. Crunchy, spicy, sweet!

* For bonus healthy Spring points: Serve the sprout salad over lettuce and top with fresh chopped cilantro!
Adaped from Moosewood Cookbook

February 2009 Chocolate is Love!

More than any other holiday, Valentine's Day makes me think of chocolate. I love chocolate! Here are some reasons why you might feel the same.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Food News: Chocolate is Love!

Chocolate. We love it, we need it, we give it, we give into it... There are nutritional chemical reasons for our "love affair" with chocolate.

Chocolate contains:

B-phenethylamine, the same chemical your brain produces when you are in love!

Anandamide, a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) synthesized enzymatically in the brain. It is known as "the bliss chemical" because it is released when we are feeling good. The name is taken from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means "bliss" or "delight." Chocolate also contains two other ingredients that inhibit the natural breakdown of anandamide, which could lead to heightened levels of anandamide in the brain.

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel relaxed.

Dopamine, another "feel good" brain chemical. Cocoa contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO Inhibitors) which help improve our mood because they allow serotonin and dopamine to remain in the bloodstream longer without being broken down.

Tryptophan, an anti-depressant amino acid.

Magnesium, a mineral that helps balance brain chemistry (as well as essential to heart and bone health).

Are you craving chocolate yet? But wait, there's more! Chocolate is high in antioxidants which gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease, cancer and acceleration of the aging process.

Now before you go out and decide to eat chocolate breakfast, lunch and dinner, of course, there are some cons to chocolate: Milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate, so milk chocolate is out as well as eating dark chocolate with milk.

Chocolate is high in fat, calories and usually sugar (which depletes the body of nutrients, taxes the immune system and adds empty calories).

Chocolate is a stimulant and if you are already stressed out, chocolate will intensify your jitters. Theobromine comprises between 1% and 2% of the cocoa bean. It stimulates the central nervous system similarly to caffeine, but on a smaller scale. Chocolate also contains caffeine. A 50 gram piece of dark chocolate (the size of an average chocolate bar) will yield between 10 and 60 milligrams of caffeine; an average 5-ounce cup of coffee can yield up to 175 milligrams of caffeine. (But what goes better with coffee than chocolate?)

If health is your excuse for eating chocolate, moderation is the best medicine in this case. Also, if you really want the benefits of the antioxidants, you have to eat the real thing. Highly processed chocolate has lost its nutritional value. The healthiest form of chocolate is raw, organic, unprocessed cacao beans (called "nibs") or cocoa mass. Here is a link to one source of excellent, high quality raw cocoa products.

Your next best choice would be organic dark chocolate with the highest percentage of cocoa liquor or cocoa powder and the lowest percentage of refined sugar (bitter or semi-sweet dark chocolate). There are lots of great bars like this on the market. Here is one example of a US brand dedicated to high quality chocolate, fair trade and environmental consciousness. Try different brands to see which flavor you like most and which aggravates your nervous system least.

One last comment, all the health benefits in chocolate can be found in other whole natural foods with much greater benefits, like an actual meal. If you constantly crave chocolate, your body is missing something more than just chocolate. Use your common sense, get a good health counselor, indulge in some quality chocolate once in a while... savor and enjoy!

Recipes of the Month: Chocolate Chicken and Cookies

Crock Pot Chicken Mole

1.5 lbs organic free-range boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 15oz can tomato puree
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp aniseed
3 tbs chili powder
1/2 tbs maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs creamy natural peanut butter
1 canned chipotle pepper, minced
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Turn the crock pot on high, and add the tomato sauce and peanut butter. Add all other ingredients accept chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the chicken breasts and immediately turn down to low. Cook for 6 hours. To serve, remove the chicken from the crock pot, shred with a fork, and put back into the sauce. Serve in warm corn tortillas with dark leafy salad greens and brown rice.
(Adapted from: Spark Recipes)

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. agave nectar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. whole wheat or oat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

Cream together first 4 ingredients. Sift in next 2 ingredients. Add nuts and chocolate chips; mix well. Drop a tablespoon of batter for each cookie onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Yields 1 dozen.