Strawberries…My Latest Health Obsession

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Earlier this month, I had the great pleasure to travel to California to delve into two of my favorite things: learning and eating delicious, healthy foods! I attended California Strawberries #GetRealinCA farm tour and culinary retreat in Monterey.

I can’t say enough positive things about this experience. I learned so much!

Monterey is a huge agricultural area—most of our country’s strawberries and lettuces come from there. The way that California Strawberries grows their strawberries astounded me. Every single strawberry plant is hand-planted and hand-picked. No machinery involved! The strawberries are non-GMO and they are packaged right on the fields!

 

IMG_7185I used to worry about eating non-organic strawberries because they are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, but I won’t worry about eating non-organic strawberries anymore; I learned that you would have to literally eat 1,508 strawberries a day to experience any effects from pesticide residues. Also, many of the farms grow organically, but they haven’t reached the three-year mark to get their USDA organic-certification.

The stories of the over 400 family farms that grow the majority of our country’s strawberries were so heart-warming. Many of these farmers are living the American Dream. California strawberry farming has given Latinos more ownership opportunities than any other major crop; you can read some of their stories here.

I have always known that strawberries are healthy—a cup of strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange. I learned so much more about their health benefits at this event. They are great for your heart. A recent study in Circulation (the journal of the American Heart Association) found that women who ate three servings of strawberries a week had fewer heart attacks. They are also super-low in sugar, making them a great choice for diabetics.

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And the culinary experience at this event was amazing. I learned that strawberries can be used far beyond dessert. I absolutely loved the entrée we were served—Wood-oven-roasted Alaskan Halibut with lentils, dandelion, and berry broth. Head over to my website and grab some recipes for an awesome strawberry-kale salad or the most delicious strawberry shortcake you ever had.

Here is a video that California Strawberries put together about our experience.

Thank you so much California Strawberries for this absolutely amazing experience; I learned so much!

 

Mitigate your Migraines through Nutrition

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June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. For those of you who suffer from migraines, I feel your pain. They can be so debilitating! But, guess what?! I have some nutrition recommendations that can help ease those pesky headaches!

Three of the most common causes of migraines are food sensitivities, chemical triggers and hormonal imbalances.

The most common food sensitivities that can provoke migraines are gluten and dairy sensitivities. Try eliminating gluten for two weeks and see if the headaches dissipate. Be careful because gluten is in a lot of foods that you wouldn’t expect it to be in like dressings, ice cream and soy sauce. See a full list of gluten-containing foods here. If the headaches still persist, try eliminating dairy for two full weeks.

Chemicals lurking in your food can also trigger migraines. Two common offenders are MSG and artificial sweeteners (yup, another reason to ditch the diet sodas). MSG is in so many processed products from soups to chips, even in most sausage! Wean off the processed foods; rid the chemicals out of your diet and you may just witness your migraines vanish!

Hormone imbalances are also common migraine triggers. Do you tend to get migraines around your menstrual cycle? If so, listen up! You probably have estrogen dominance. Load up on broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, kale, bok choy, cabbage). Get plenty of Omega-3s; befriend fish! And definitely consume foods with lots of magnesium: whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes. Reduce the refined and processed foods as well to get those hormones in balance>

Are you seeing a common theme in nutritionally treating many conditions? EAT CLEAN and RID THOSE PROCESSED FOODS first and foremost and then try the further recommendations.

I hope this helps! Migraines are the worst! Before I close, I also want to say to reduce your stress. Slow down. Go for a walk. Try yoga or meditation. Connect with friends and loved ones. Stress can definitely exacerbate migraines and many other health ailments!

 

 

 

Healthy Choices for Dad on Father’s Day

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We all want to make dad a delicious dinner for “his” day and often rich foods come to mind: bacon and eggs for breakfast, spare ribs or his favorite Reuben with homemade fries for dinner. Well, I have some great ideas of ways you can “treat” dad and not worry about giving him a heart attack in the process.

For his breakfast

Swap out the bacon for Canadian ham; it has way less fat than bacon and packs in 11 grams of protein. It’s berry season and few foods are as delicious as berry pancakes. Look for a whole grain pancake mix and sneak in a couple tablespoons of ground flaxseed for extra fiber and healthy omega-3 fats. Use coconut oil on the griddle instead of butter and reap the benefits that the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil boast, resulting in a perk to dad’s metabolism.

For his lunch

So maybe dad really wants a Reuben; no problem! You can make him a healthy rendition. The Thousand Island dressing in a Reuben is much of an assault on your health as the corned beef. And don’t think a fat-free Thousand Island dressing is your answer. Do you know how many chemicals are in that? Instead, look for a yogurt-based Thousand Island dressing.  Find a low-sodium turkey and use Alpine Lace Swiss, which is low in fat, for the cheese. And the remaining three ingredients are sauerkraut, mustard and rye bread. Try to find a hearty rye from a bakery for more fiber. And be generous with the sauerkraut; it is fermented and will boost those healthy bacteria in dad’s gut!

For his dinner

Guess what? Dad can still have steak for dinner, just look for a leaner cut! The Mayo Clinic has a great diagram, which shows the leanest cuts of beef, such as sirloin or flank steak. Steam up some asparagus on the side with a sprinkling of sea salt and a teaspoon of lemon juice for a delicious veggie side.

We hope your dad has a happy and healthy father’s day. Keep in mind that most days, a mostly plant-based diet is the best route to optimal health, but on days like Father’s Day, give the man what he wants, with healthy substitutions.

 

Sports-Mom Summer Essentials

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It’s HOT and your kids have sports games and matches that are INTENSE! How do you keep them safe in this heat and make sure they have enough energy to perform their best? Fear not, it’s quite simple once you get into the habit of prioritizing nutrition. Steer clear of the nutrition bars and sports drinks with a gazillion unpronounceable ingredients and go natural with these suggestions.

Fueling

Most kids love fruit. Fuel them for their sport one to two hours before their game with a delicious smoothie. Combine frozen fruit, almond milk, and Greek yogurt for a totally energizing boost. If you slice very ripe bananas and keep them in the freezer, that’s a way to make smoothies naturally very sweet without having to add sugary juices or other sweeteners.

Make extra of the smoothie and pack some along in mason jars in your cooler for energy boosts during the game or for a recovery drink after the game.

Hydration

Coconut water is a great way to keep your kids hydrated during the game; it has all the electrolytes needed to prevent dehydration. Remember the old Popsicle trick for hydration? Instead of the processed sugar and water combination, bring along frozen grapes or berries— kids love them!

Be sure your child is sipping the coconut water or downing a handful of berries every 10-15 minutes throughout the game!

Recovery

To keep your child energized throughout the match, and to help him or her recover after a tough match, be sure to pack along healthy snacks. I like the nut and fruit combo. Fruit tends to have potassium, an important electrolyte and their natural simple sugars helps to speed glycogen to your kids’ precious muscles, ultimately helping them recover.  Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fat, both important in recovery.

Try nut butter on an apple or banana. Make your own trail mix with raw nuts and dried fruit.

If you are struggling to find a combination your kids like or simply don’t have the time to throw something together, check out Setton Farms’ Pistachio Chew Bites! These are as natural as you can get!  They’re pistachios, cranberries, and a touch of salt; these ingredients are combined together into a sweet little treat; your kids would never guess how healthy they are! Each serving has six to seven grams of energizing protein; being lightly salted is a good thing for your kids as sodium is an important electrolyte; and they are totally safe (GMO-free and free of chemicals and preservatives).

Try out these tips and cheer as your child hits her home run, scores his goal, or simply tries her best! You can be your daughter or son’s number-one fan and know that you are helping them by giving them a nutritional boost!

Top-Five Nutrition Tips for Men’s Hearts

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As part of Men’s Health Month, I’ll be writing several blogs related to men’s health. Earlier this week, I wrote about prostate health. This entry gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to men’s health; after all, heart-disease is the top killer of men! Men, of all ages, please take your heart health seriously. Here are five easy nutrition tips to apply to protect your precious, beating heart.

Tip #1: Say Goodbye to Fast Food, MOST of the time!

According to a recent Gallop Poll, men ages 18-49 eat fast food at least weekly; try to cut that down guys! Fast food is high in salt and both hydrogenated and saturated fat, all of which are bad news when it comes to heart health. If you must eat out, opt for a sandwich shop where you can get a lean meat such as turkey.

Tip #2: Fill up on Fruits and Veggies

Potassium is super protective for your heart; two cups of fruit and two and a half cup of veggies today will assure you are getting a powerful amount of potassium to keep your heart healthy. The best picks are tomatoes, leafy greens, potatoes, bananas and squash.

Tip #3: Once again, Load up on Omega-3s instead of Fatty Meats

Sorry guys, but you really should exchange your steak for fish!

Fish is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association (AHA) states, “Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden death.  Omega-3 fatty acids also decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and lower blood pressure.” The AHA recommends at least two servings of fish a week. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Tip #4: Choose Red Wine over Beer

Red wine contains heart-protecting flavonoids. If you’d like an alcoholic beverage, red wine is the best choice for your heart!

Tip #5: Address Stress  

This isn’t necessarily nutrition advice, but it’s sound life advice. Managing stress is imperative when it comes to heart health. Studies show that chronic stress, especially the kind that creates feelings of fear or anger, is a risk factor for heart disease. Explore stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, relaxation exercises, meditation, and massage.

Guys, a healthy life requires a healthy heart. Apply these tips and eat your way to a healthy heart!

Guys, Please Protect your Prostate!

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Because June is Men’s Health Month, I have decided to dedicate some blogs to men’s health concerns. Today’s entry is about nutritional approaches men can take to protect their prostate. The prostate is about the size of a walnut; it is a gland that is part of the male reproductive system. As a man ages, it is very important for him to protect his prostate and be sure that it doesn’t enlarge; if it enlarges, the risk of prostate cancer increases exponentially. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 180,000 cases of prostate cancer diagnosed this year; prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States.

While it is the season of delicious, yet meat-heavy barbecues, men must make sure to consume some health-boosting (mostly) plant-based foods to protect their prostate. Here are some suggestions guys:

  • Love your Lycopene

Lycopene is a carotenoid found in red fruits and veggies, most notably tomatoes. Studies have found that lycopene can lower your risk of developing prostate cancer. Not a lover of fresh tomatoes? Tomato sauce has just as much lycopene!

  • Get Zany over Zinc

Several studies have found that men with enlarges prostates or prostate cancer have low levels of zinc in their blood; therefore, research indicates that zinc has a protective effect. Men, increase your zinc with these excellent options: sesame seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, or adzuki beans.

  • Achieve Victory with Vitamin C from Veggies

Research is finding that vitamin-C has a protective role against an enlarged prostate; interestingly, it is only vitamin-C from veggies (not fruit) that has this protective effect. Reach for bell peppers, which have more vitamin C than any other veggie. If bell peppers aren’t your thing guys, consider broccoli, kale, or Brussels sprouts.

  • OMG is Omega-3 Amazing

Although experts tend to recommend reducing meat consumption for prostate health, fish is the exception to the rule. A recent study showed that omega-3s can prevent prostate cancer tumor growth due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Great fish choices with high omega-3s include: wild-caught salmon, freshwater trout, anchovies, and sardines.

  • Boost your Health with Beta-Sitoserol

 Beta-what? Beta-sitosrol is a plant sterol found in avocados, pumpkin seeds, and pecans; this plant sterol has been found to reduce the risk of an enlarged prostate. What a great excuse for guacamole!

While most men I know don’t deliberately make food choices to protect their prostate, I ask that you do because a healthy prostate is very important, especially as you age and your risk of prostate cancer increases.