Probiotics – What’s the Deal?

You ARe whatAs of late I have been asked several times why someone would even bother taking a probiotic and what the benefits could possibly be.  After explaining it for the 3rd time in just a handful of days I figured it might be worth wild to explore the benefits of probiotics in a blog post.

Just starting it is important to understand that our bodies are full of various different forms/strains of bacteria at any given point.  We often plug these guys into two categories “good” and “bad” bacteria.  Our body’s goal is to achieve and maintain balance or homeostasis, so too much of one or the other can trigger our bodies to go into action and to attempt to start balancing things out.   The problem is with all the “food” (processed, chemically latent, chemically preserved items) we have at our finger tips we tend to have more of the bad stuff than the good.  Another way we can throw this delicate balance for a loop is the use of good ol’ antibiotics, antibiotics are non-discriminatory meaning that they wipe it all out not just the bad stuff.

So what is up with probiotics?

1. Absorption: probiotics can assist in the body’s absorption of nutrients (vitamins and minerals).  There are some vitamins (such as the Bs) that are made in our intestines.  A healthy balances of intestinal bacteria (good and bad) is what helps our body’s do this optimally.

2. Immunity: balance is always key. There is a pretty strong relationship between what is happening in your gut and how capable your immune system is.  If your breakdown and absorption of food is compromised, plus your intestinal ecology is all out of wack your body will have a hard time supporting your immune system.

3. Lady Health:  having unbalanced intestinal flora can lead to infections, and for us ladies yeast infections and urinary tract infections can be an issue when an imbalance is present. Probiotics can be used orally or vaginally to help bring balance back to the body and ward off infections of this type in the future.

4. Digestion: these little bacteria guys do wonders in breaking down food. If you are often finding yourself feeling bloated, gassy, etc.  Maybe try introducing some probiotics to your life to assist in the break down of food. Some studies have even shown that the use of probiotics might help to increase tolerance to dairy.

5. It doesn’t have to be a supplement. Probiotics are living organisms that get this don’t have to come in a pill! Sure a supplement will give you that boost you might be looking for, but having foods such as Kefir, Kimchi, Komboucha (lots of Ks!), Sauerkraut, etc in your diet might just give your body the sustainability it needs to stay healthy and operate optimally.

So basically probiotics can be a great addition to an already healthy supportive diet.  There are many different strands and varieties out there, and variety is the spice of life, so maybe go get yourself a kombucha or load up on some delicious organic sauerkraut and see what a properly balanced belly feels like for you.

Are you still interested?  If so check out some of these articles:

Harvard Health
Berkley Wellness
Huffington Post

 

Food Time – A Many Mushroom Risotto

I don’t know if you knew this about me but I LOVE mushrooms. I think they are one of the greatest things out there, cooked, raw, mashed into a paste anyway you can think it up I want to eat them. So a couple of weeks ago during a meal prep day I decided to make some delicious Many Mushroom Risotto, and it was so tasty!   Just for the fun of it I made this one vegan and trust you don’t lose any of the delicious creaminess or flavour you would get had I used butter and cheese, plus it cuts the fat/calorie content so it ends up being a super healthy meal.

Enough talk, I am sure you are all salivating so here is the recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Many Mushroom Risotto:

Serves 8-10 as a main meal

mushroom risotto1.5 cups Arborio rice
2 tbsp oil (I used grape seed oil it’s better for frying)
4 cups Vegetable stock (I use homemade, but if you need to get store bough get organic)
1 small Yellow Onion, diced
3 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
3 Leeks, white and light green parts chopped
1 Tbsp fresh Lemon Juice
4 sprigs of Thyme, finely chopped
1 Portobello Mushroom, diced
*4oz (250g) Cremini Mushrooms, diced
*4oz (250g) Oyster Mushrooms, diced
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Prepare all ingredients so that you can easily toss them in, a lot of stirring is involved and you don’t want to let your risotto burn because something wasn’t already chopped up.

2. Heat half the oil in a large skillet or stew pot.  Once oil heats up add in all of your mushrooms, cook them down until they are soft 5-7 minutes.  Once cooked remove and set aside.

3. Add other half of oil to pan and heat, once heated add in leeks, onions and garlic cook for 2-5 minutes until the onions become soft and translucent.

4. Add in arborio rice stir in dry rice for about a minute to coat with all the juices that are going on in the pan.  Add in 1 tbsp of lemon juice, stir until evaporated.

5. Add 1/2 cup of broth to the rice mixture and stir until completely absorbed, then add in another 1/2 cup of broth.  Continue this until all of the broth is gone, stirring constantly. This should take 20-25 minutes and is a great arm workout, for one arm at least.

6. Once all broth is added into the mixture add the cooked mushrooms, fresh thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until well combined and serve immediately.

*these sizes are just one prepackaged container of mushrooms, also if you want to add more go for it, it will be super delicious!

Let me know what you think of this recipe.   I hope to be back blogging on a regular basis shortly.  School is starting to calm down (not really but I keep telling myself this) and my work and life schedule is starting to actually find a nice balance.  I hope to bring you more updates, workouts, yoga routines and recipes soon.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Food Friday – Freezer Meals

I have talked a load about meal prep in the past so I don’t want to get into that today. I do however want to give some food making time saving ideas.

Recently I have gone back to school and started teaching yoga, all while keeping my day job and yup meal prep can often feel like the last thing I want to do but I know in the long run it will save me some time. So after speaking with a good friend we settled on a great way to do meal prep and keep some variety in our lives.

Starting with just the two of us writing emails back and forth figuring out our guidelines we formed a little two person freezer meal group.

What’s a freezer meal group? It is a group where people with common interests in food get together and bulk make some meals for sharing. When we stared our group we agreed on a couple things:

1. We would make healthy clean meals
2. We would give the other members of the group the power to say no to certain ingredients or meals as a whole. For dietary restriction reasons and taste, no one wants to get stuck with something they can’t or won’t eat.
3. Portion would have to be enough for a meal and left overs for a second meal. We also got specific on the size of dish for casseroles and such, we picked something that would be easy to make and still provide enough food.
4. We would exchange food stuffs once a month.

Pretty simple right! It has also been fun to challenge myself to keep finding tasty healthy meals that will do well in the freezer and it has saved me am infinite amount of time.

Now this idea isn’t a new one and it isn’t something I came up with off the top of my head. I have seen multiple blog posts about it but to be honest it always looked like more trouble than it was worth. Perhaps it was because those groups always had a minimum of 4 people and they always seemed to cook together.

Either way we have found something that works for us and I am sure happy we did. On nights where I have my own gym session, am teaching a yoga class and still have to come home and study meals that can just be popped into the oven have saved my life. Also knowing that the meals are clean and healthy makes me feel even more excited about their convince.

Just another example about how clean eating doesn’t have to be hard and complicated.

Have you ever tried something like this? Would you be interested in hearing more about this or what types of meals we make? I would love to hear back from you.

Happy Friday!

Clean Eating Update

I am coming into my 34th day of clean eating from my Digestive Spring Clean and I am starting to feel pretty fantastic.  I was able to stick to my clean eating program while sick, and in all likelihood it probably helped me to recover from my cold a lot faster than I would have normally.

After getting over my sugar withdraw everything has been pretty spectacular.   My eczema (reappearance from my not so optimal food choices) is almost all cleared up, my digestive system is starting to feel way less taxed than normal (less bloating and general uncomfortableness), my face is clearing up and a whole bunch of other positive benefits like more energy and better sleep.

I also think my new organic food delivery has a lot to do with this.  Yes, I am eating clean and changing my diet has a lot to do with starting to feel better and yes, I have started taking my vitamins and supplements again. However the food box that is delivered opens me up to a larger variety of different organic and non-GMO products.  I mean when I do the groceries I load up on vegetables and fruits but being completely honest I go for the same ones time and time again.  With the food box I get a varied assortment of different fruits and vegetables that I would likely only buy on occasion or never (what do you do with a star fruit?) Which leads me to an important part of clean eating, which is mixing it up.

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I find that when I start modifying my eating I end up finding a handful of things that work for me and then just stick with them until I become so sick of them I pretty much never want to eat them again.  Not only do I get bored of the foods I am eating but I am also limiting the type and amount of nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that I am feeding my body.

Our bodies are complicated amazing things that require support from a wide array of nutrients to function and if we want our bodies to function optimally we, as the owners of said bodies, have to do what we can to provide ourselves with a variety from various sources.

So give it a try this week. When you are doing your weekly grocery for the up coming week try and add two items (fruit or vegetable wise) to your cart that you normally wouldn’t select.   Pick something bright and colourful, or maybe it is that yucca everyone is always talking about.   Regardless of what it is try two new things, maybe make it a bit of a challenge for yourself, picking more and more and more new things each week to keep a healthy mix of vegetables and fruits in your diet, who knows you might find a new favorite food.

Happy Thursday Everyone!

 

Food Friday – PB&J Treats

So I know last week I said I wouldn’t have much time to post recipes but after making these delicious treats there was definitely no way I couldn’t share them with you.

With Easter happening and aisles and aisles of chocolate eggs, jelly beans and other tasty sweet treats my Digestive Clean Up challenge was well challenging. So I did some looking around and eventually concocted a treat that would satisfy my sweet tooth and not derail all of my effort over the past month.

So here they are some tasty clean eats in the form of PB&J cacao cups.

20140417-214845.jpgMakes approximately 10 minis or 5 large.

1/3 cup organic coconut oil
1/2 cup organic caco powder
Splash (about 2 tbsp) maple syrup*
Jam
Organic peanut butter or nut butter of choice

Method:

1. In a sauce pan melt coconut oil and stir in cacao and maple syrup. Melt slowly, there is no need to boil.

2. Line a muffin tin with paper or tin cupcake liners. If you have a silicon tray that will work great too and no liners will be required.

3. Take 1-2tsp of the coconut/cacao mixture and poor into muffin tin. Depending on the size of muffin tin you have selected you may need more or less. You just need to coat the bottle of each muffin liner with the mixture. Place in freezer for 15 minutes.

4. Once “chocolate” bottom is set add a dollop of PB and jam and cover with the remaining “chocolate”. Place in freezer for at least 2 hours.

5. Serve and enjoy.

*maple syrup…I did put this in my recipe but upon reflection I wouldn’t do it again. The coconut oil has its own sweetness and it would have definitely been more than enough on its own. Also if you like dark chocolate you will be a happy camper.

Note: the jam doesn’t have a load of sugar in it so it will freeze completely. I loved this however my husband wasn’t such a big fan. If you aren’t a fan of biting into something frozen place your treat in the freezer for 20 minutes before chowing down.

Also the chocolate is made of coconut oil so it will melt quickly so don’t leave it out on the counter for too long.

Well I hope you like these tasty little treats. And remember although they aren’t filled with processed sugars, preservatives and chemicals they are still treats so do your best to resist eating them all in one sitting. I found keeping them freezer where I wasn’t likely to look often helped with this.

Happy Easter and have a great weekend everyone.

Food Friday – Vegan Wraps

With my new weekly food boxes I am getting loads and loads of foods I wouldn’t go out and buy on a regular basis, which is forcing me to experiment more, vary my vegetable sources more, and to get a little bit more creative with my meals to make sure I don’t let anything go to waste.

With our second shipment of rainbow chard I figured it was time to see what else I could do with this delicious green besides juicing or sautéing. So I got on the internet and started researching how to make a gluten free wrap with the leaves of the chard and what I made was so delicious.

Now there are many components to the wraps I made, however you can make it as simple or as complicated as you would like.  But if you are going to make this recipe I would recommend maybe trying it on the weekend or when you have a bit more time on your hands.  With making the slaw, bean spread, quinoa etc. it took me about an hour and 20minutes before I had a final product for eating.  I am sure this would go a bit faster if you had a friend helping you chop everything up so if you have the opportunity get your friends involved.

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Now let’s get down and dirty, here are all the fixings for the wraps.  Also a little side note the black bean dip is DELICIOUS with veggies, so if you have extra don’t fret just chop up some carrots and enjoy.

Black Bean Dip

20140403-061450.jpg1/2 can black beans
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp garlic Farm Boy salad dressing
2 tbsp Cilantro

Blend in food processor until smooth set aside until assembly.

Carrot and Beet Slaw:
beet and Carrot SlawIngredients:

1 Beet chopped into match sticks
3 large Carrots chopped into match sticks
1 lemon juiced
2 tsp Olive Oil
2 tsp fresh Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Process:

I used a mandolin to chop the beet and carrots into match sticks, but you can also use a grater or if you want to take the time to chop it all up by hand that is an option too.  Once everything is chopped, juiced and ready combine all raw ingredients into a large bowl.  Add parsley, salt and pepper and toss.  Set aside for later.

Other Fixings:

20140403-061515.jpg1 cup Quinoa cooked according to package.
1 small Zucchini sliced
1/2 can of black beans
Sprouts of your choosing
Any other veggies you like, sliced for easy rolling.

Prepare and set aside for wrap making.

Preparing the Rainbow Chard:

Chop off the hard ends. Flip the leaf to the vein side and slice off some of the thick stem end, this will help you to wrap them.

chard prepGet water boiling in a large pot and fill your sink up with freezing cold water. Blanch the chard leaves.  Place the leaves in the boiling water for no more than 2-3minutes, then immediately transfer them into a cold water ice bath.  I did this with one leaf at a time so that I had a bit more control over the cooking time.

Dry them off and get ready to assemble your wraps.

Assembling Wraps:

20140403-061554.jpg1. After drying off the leaves lay them flat on a cutting board or other hard surface.

2. Spread the bean dip down the center of the leave and then I would recommend placing quinoa and beans first so they kind of stick to the dip.

3. Add all other fixings, zucchini, sprouts, carrot slaw and wrap.  Starting at the end with all your fixings fold over the sides (inward) and being rolling. You will want to keep curling in the outer edges so you get a nice tight wrap without anything falling out.  The first one might feel like a disaster but trust me you will get the hang of it.

20140403-061526.jpgI ate mine with a fork and knife but if you want to get in there and get dirty feel free to attack these bad boys with your hands.

Happy Friday!  I hope you enjoy these veggie packed tummy filling meal.

 

 

Sugar Cravings are the Worst

Putting all things in perspective sugar cravings probably aren’t the “worst” but they can get pretty brutal at times. Between the headache that seems like it will never go away, the intense compulsion to eat any baked goods in your vicinity or the extreme irritability that comes with withdrawals it is hard to pick which is worse.

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Now I am someone that generally eats fairly healthy. I always do my best to eat loads of fruit and vegetable, whole grains, complex carbohydrates,and lean proteins but that isn’t to say I don’t indulge every once in a while. Unfortunately, as I have stated in the past my last “indulgence” has lasted for months so as a special treat I am currently going through delayed sugar withdrawal.

I have done cleanses and clean eating challenges in the past and I would have to say with the exception of my first cleanse ever (10 years ago) this will be ranking as one of my worst sugar withdrawals of life.

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I find myself sitting here picturing floating Easter chocolate, licorice and red velvet cake hoping that my berry smoothie with satisfy my need for sweets knowing it won’t because there is no refined sugar in it. I think the worst part of it (besides knowing this would happen when I was eating all the food mentioned above) is knowing that besides doing a handful of things (like putting cinnamon in everything) there isn’t much I can do but wait it out and just waiting is a terrible feeling. But alas I have done this to myself so no complaining.

Have you ever experience this from sugar, wheat or dairy (they are my big three)? Or any other food that you find yourself craving intensely after cutting it out or reducing it from your regular diet? Let me know I would love to hear it.

Happy Thursday everyone!