What Spices Can Do For Your Health.

Any good cook or respectable foodie knows that a meal is not complete without spices. Not only do they improve flavor, but they can add some additional vitamins and minerals to your diet you didn’t even think about when adding your various pinches and dashes. Not to be confused with the various “miracle” claims that many people and companies try to make when it comes to herbal supplements. So, while Cinnamon won’t cause you to lose 10 pounds in 10 days, it does have the “highest antioxidant strength of all the food sources in nature.” And that is just one example! Below is a table full of spices, each one a link to the various nutritional benefits they offer. Click on your favorites to find out what benefits you are adding to each meal. Enjoy! 🙂


Allspice

Anise seed

Bay leaf

Black pepper

Capers

Caraway

Cardamom
Carom (ajwain) seeds
Cayenne pepper

Chili peppers

Cinnamon

Cloves

Cocoa beans

Coriander seeds

Cumin

Fennel seeds

Fenugreek seeds

Horseradish

Jalapeno peppers

Mace spice

Mustard seeds

Nutmeg

Saffron

Sichuan peppercorns

Tamarind

Vanilla beans

Wasabi

Special thanks to nutrition-and-you.com for providing the much needed information above.

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Using Healthy Living to Combat Depression

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Depression is one of the leading causes of lapses in workout routines. When we feel sad from whatever life may throw at us it makes it very hard to get motivated to even get up in the morning, let alone exercise. But I urge you to try, because medical science has actually shown that getting up and committing yourself to positive, healthy tasks like exercise can actually help you deal with your depression. It’s no cure by any means, but it will help you get there. Here are some of the reasons why:

1.) Distraction: Whatever it is you might be sad about; one of the best ways to cope is to try and get it off your mind. There is a healthy amount of time to be sad about something after it happens. But after that time we want to get back to our daily lives and it can be very hard when our own thoughts are haunting us. The best way to get rid of those thoughts? Distract yourself! Get out with friends, enjoy your favorite hobby, and hit the gym. You can focus on something else for a while to help take some of the stress caused from depression off your back, even if it’s just for part of the day. You deserve to have some normalcy in your daily routine.

2.) Self Esteem Boost: When you work out and see results, it makes you feel good. Plain and simple! It’s your hard work paying off and you deserve to feel good about looking good because of it. You also know it is making your body healthier too, so you also feel good about taking proper care of yourself. Exercising to feel better is a prime example of how to properly deal with negative emotions. I guarantee you will walk out of the gym feeling better than when you came in, mentally at least!

3.) Energy Increase: One of the main problems when one is depressed is dealing with the lethargy that comes along with it. It makes it hard to get anything done in your life while you are sad. Luckily, exercise has been proven to gives us increased amounts of energy as we commit to our routines on a regular basis. According to WebMD, “In a study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics in 2008, University of Georgia researchers found that inactive folks who normally complained of fatigue could increase energy by 20% while decreasing fatigue by as much as 65% by simply participating in regular, low-intensity exercise.”

So it’s pretty clear by now; exercise can help fight depression with promising results. But it’s up to you to get up and make it happen. Do it alone if you have to, or share the struggle with some good friends. Either way it sure beats sitting around feeling worse hoping that it somehow goes away on it’s own. Don’t let your depression get the best of you. Instead, get the best of your depression! We’re all rootin’ for ya! 🙂

Getting Your Healthy Groove Back

Diet and exercise are hard; we all know that. Even those of us that dedicate weeks, months, sometimes even years to it can find ourselves slipping off our routine from time to time. Too often, however, that slip turns into a fall that we don’t get up from quick enough, if at all. Some of us might suffer an injury that keeps us out of the gym for a while, while others might just lose motivation and discipline. Whatever your reason might be, this lapse can cause us to ruin all of our hard work and place us right back at the starting line. Where can we find the motivation to do it all over again and stay on track? Three words my friend: START RIGHT NOW. Here are some steps to help you make it a bit easier to get your groove back.

1.) Start small. Just cut out the junk food and soda and start taking walks in the morning with some light weights and stretching. No one is expecting you to be an athlete right away!

2.) Get good sleep. Being well rested helps a lot when trying to find the motivation to get up and start a new, healthier day.

3.) Start back up with a friend. Whether they are just starting out too, or already have a routine, it’s more fun to work out with friends. They help keep you motivated and make the effort to stay dedicated a little easier.

After a couple weeks of this you should be able to start amping up your routine a bit more to include a more demanding workout to get the results you desire. This phase is made much easier by slowly easing your way into it. Before you know it you will be back into your old routine and feeling like a champion again. I hope this quick guide helps you get started. Good luck! 🙂

Does Eating More Often in Smaller Amounts Help You Lose Weight?

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Much like the BS pseudoscience behind drinking tons of water, the rumors about losing weight from eating more small meals through the day instead of your three regular meals is also a load of tofu. It’s not based on proven research. The truth about your meal frequency boils down to simple nutritional math “The thermic effect of food is directly proportional to caloric intake and the foods you eat, and if caloric intake and food choice is the same at the end of the day, there will be no metabolic difference between eating six meals or three.” (1)

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This is another classic example of wishful thinking getting in the way of actual nutritional science. It’s one of those “tips” you often come across in many health/diet/fitness articles that offer cheap, quick ways to lose weight. While I enjoy the thought of such ideas being true the sad fact is that I cannot make them true. All I can do is remember the cold hard truth; only hard work, diet and exercise, can make you lose weight naturally. Your meal frequency has little to do with it.

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This is not to say you couldn’t use a little tweaking in your eating schedule to help you along the way while you work towards your health goals. Eating a meal for breakfast in the morning, for example, has proven to be a good start to the day since it gets your metabolism going and gives you energy. (2) Another example would be how eating late at night right before bed is not good for weight loss since your metabolism slows down while you sleep and you often feel less hungry in the morning when you need to eat a good breakfast. Be careful though, that second one boarders very close to our original point in the article; calories can’t tell time. (3)

In the end what matters is what you eat, not how often you eat it. Cutting an apple in half and eating it in two meals won’t make a difference compared to eating it as one. Maybe someday, probably when we are discovering perpetual motion and turning iron into gold. Until then, just stick to 3-5 healthy meals a day with good exercise and you will be just fine. 🙂

Focus on Fiber

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The word “fiber” usually goes in one ear and out the other, even among nutrition enthusiasts. We hear it so often that it’s not even a buzz word anymore. In an effort to keep myself from losing my focus on fiber I decided to do some new research on the subject and see how it helps people lose weight and maintain good health.

Fiber has a couple key areas of the body where it shines brightest as a health benefit; your cardiovascular system and your digestive system. Both of these systems are incredibly important to us. Without them we would not be alive today, and keeping them healthy will aid us in living a longer, more comfortable life.

Let’s start with digestion. How does fiber help the digestive system exactly? Well, according to Dr. Mercola (or Dr. Fiber as he was known as in med school) fiber is unique in the sense that your body does not digest fiber like it does other foods.(1)

“Soluble fiber, like that found in cucumbers, blueberries, beans, and nuts, dissolves into a gel-like texture, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fiber may help with weight control. Insoluble fiber, found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots, does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination. Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.”

Dr. Mercola goes on to add his list of 9 reasons why Fiber is good for you. Check out the article here if you would like to learn more.

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The digestive benefits tend to explain all of the other benefits if you think about it. It doesn’t take a nutritionist to figure out that your whole body will benefit from eating healthier foods instead of fatty junk foods loaded with chemicals and sugar. By eliminating those bad foods you are also combating against all of the related health problems they can cause, like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased risk of stroke, digestive problems (like IBS and hemorrhoids), and diabetes.

So don’t get bored with fiber. Fall in love with it all over again by trying some of these delicious high fiber recipes! Click the links below to check them out. Thanks for reading!

High Fiber Recipes for Any Occasion.

1.) Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus

2.) Fiery Fish Tacos with Crunchy Corn Salsa

3.) Quinoa and Black Beans

4.) Best of Everything Veggie Burgers

5.) Muesli

Want even more? Try this link here to Allrecipes.com’s high fiber section.

Seafood Gumbo Recipe

My seafood gumbo recipes is by far one of my favorites. While it’s not SUPER healthy since I use shrimp and imitation crab meat (both high in cholesterol) you can easily leave the meats out, or use a leaner option, as well as dial back on the salt to make this dish quite healthy for you. I recently cooked it for a cold winter weekend and decided to write it down so I could share the recipe. I hope you give it a try and enjoy it as much as I do. Special thanks to my wellness coach, Nikki, who inspired me to do so in an effort to keep my health blog from gathering too much dust!

Step 1.) For a base you will want to fill your crock-pot or large soup pan with filtered water until it’s about half full. Set it on a low-medium heat and add the following ingredients:

1 can organic tomato paste (BPA free if possible).
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry white chardonnay.
1 tsp Rosemary
1 tsp Basil
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Thyme
2 tsp Chili Powder
2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp garlic salt
1 tbsp creole seasoning
1 fresh lemon cut in half and placed in the pot.
1 can Rotel (original)
Let this come to a boil then reduce to low heat and allow to simmer for about 30 min.

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Step 2.) While you are simmering your base you can begin chopping up your vegetables. I like to use whatever I have in my fridge. The more variety you can fit on your cutting board or food processor, the better. as long as you don’t fill more than about 4 cups then you should be ok. Here is a list of what I used in my last batch that is a good base to go by, but feel free to add to it if you’d like!

I sliced the following in my food processor:

4 cloves fresh garlic
6 stalks of green onion
1/4 fresh white onion
5-6 stalks fresh celery
4 Jalapenos (remove the seeds if you do not prefer a lot of heat!)
1/4 red pepper
1/4 orange pepper
1/4 yellow pepper
1-2 fresh, peeled carrot

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Step 3.) Once you have your veggies chopped up you can begin cooking your seafood. This is another chance for you to really use whatever meat you like as they all can be good with gumbo. I prefer seafood the best, but chicken and pork can also be delicious. I like to do it in a separate pan to really help bring out the flavor before adding it to the base. In my medium sauce pan I added the following:

12 oz bag shrimp (precooked, thawed, with tails removed)
8 oz back of imitation crab meat. (real crab is an option here but more expensive and can be more labor intensive if using the legs)
1/4 cup white chardonnay
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 lime cut in half and squeezed into the mix then place the remains on top for added flavor.
1 tsp italian spice blend (normally a mix of basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and other similar spices)
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp minced fresh onion (white, red, or green)
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 tbsp minced jalapeno
1 tbsp fresh/dry cilantro

You will want to stir and let this simmer on a low heat for about 15-20 min or until desired tenderness is reached. I like my shrimp rather firm so I go for about 15 minutes or more but since it’s pre-cooked you can do 9-10 just fine. You can also use uncooked shrimp/crab for a longer cooking time (about 30+ minutes) for extra flavor.

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Step 4.) Once your base is done (feel free to let it simmer for a bit longer for added flavor if you’d like!) you can add the veggies and seafood to the pot. You can add more filtered water if necessary. Stir everything and let the batch continue to simmer on low heat for about 5-10 more minutes. I like my veggies to have a bit of crunch so this is a short amount of time. You can go for about 15-20+ minutes for softer veggies if that is what you prefer.

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Step 5.) Enjoy! I like to eat mine with chopsticks and drink the broth. So delicious!

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Additional Options to this recipe include:

– Using wild rice. About 1/2 half cup is a good, healthy addition to the mix. Just make sure to cook it separately or use a larger pot with more water. It normally adds about 45 minutes prep time to this recipe unless you cook it with the base.
– Beans are also a good addition to this recipe. From black to chili beans (dried, not canned) any bean is a good bean for gumbo. I like to use the 15 bean mix they sell at most stores. Just remember they take a while to cook so add about 1.5 hours of prep-time to this recipe for doing so.
– Remember than any and all vegetables/meat go great with this recipe so mix it up if you’d like!

Heavy Holidays

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It’s pretty hard to avoid fats and sugar during the holidays, let alone the rest of the year. Even the strictest of health nuts can be caught caving a time or two around those big family feasts. The trick is not to avoid the food, but to prepare healthier meals!

No I’m not talking about tofu turkey or making salad instead of ham. I’m not one of those vegan dictators. It’s fine to enjoy a little sugar and fat once in a while as long as you continue to eat healthy the rest of the time and burn it off with your daily dose of exercise. What I’m talking about is reducing the overall amounts of sugar and fat in each meal. Instead of putting a whole stick of butter and a cup of cheese in the mashed potatoes, maybe only use half instead. Substitute with some olive oil and low fat cheese. Add some fresh herbs and spices, or chopped green onions, to add flavor and a bit of extra nutrition instead of just salt alone. You would be surprised how many extra health perks you can hide in your meals and have them still tasting great, if not better!

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As for the meats, just try to make sure to keep your portions under control. There is a lot of fat in meats and it can add up quickly over the holidays, clogging your arteries in a heartbeat (pun intended). Going for leaner meats can make a big difference without cutting back on flavor. A few examples would be meats like wild salmon, venison, or meat cuts with the “loin” in the name (tenderloin, loin roast, loin chop, sirloin, etc).(1) But the classics like Turkey and skinless chicken are still pretty lean compared to most. Don’t feel too guilty with them on your plate!

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When it comes to the sweet stuff, including drinks, cutting back is really all it takes. Choose water/tea over soda, and one dessert a day is enough. If there is more than one choice, just take small portions of each. That way you get to enjoy a little bit of everything without overdoing it. Don’t ruin all of your hard work eating carefully at dinner by going overboard on the sugar!

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Remember to drink lots of water/unsweetened tea to help fill you up during/after a meal. It will help you resist the urge to binge by making you feel justifiably more full. More importantly, it also helps with digestion (2), which your system is going to be pulling overtime shifts for during the holidays. Some of the most important secrets to eating healthy are the most simple: chew your food well, don’t snack between meals, and drink plenty of fluids. Your digestive track (and your love handles) will thank you!

Sources:

1.) HEALTHY LEAN MEATS. The Paleo Diet Team – http://thepaleodiet.com/healthy-lean-meats/#.VnmJTLYrJpg

2.) Does drinking water during of after a meal disturb digestion?  Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/digestion/faq-20058348

Don’t hate, Percolate!

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Like millions of people around the globe, I love coffee in the morning. As I studied on how to improve my health and diet I ran into a lot of concern over BPAs in plastic and canned goods that can get into food and cause health issues down the road. It didn’t take long for me to begin wondering if my plastic coffee maker, the classic drip style I had used for years, was leeching plastic into my body one cup at a time. Sure enough after doing some research I found that my fears were not unfounded. The solution? Percolators. Well, among a few other more expensive options, like french style coffee makers as well which not only cost more, but are also more labor intensive, so… I took the more simple and cheaper route.

Percolators are probably something you remember your parents or grandparents using. You see them in old movies as well. Just about any camper who needs that morning cup of joe has one as well. They are still made to this day and with a little shopping around online you can find one in no time. Here is one that I really liked.

While your surfing the net about coffee, check out these other important topic links while you are at it! I grabbed these from the same site that talked to me about BPAs in coffee makers, EcoWatch. They are pretty awesome. Give this article and theirs a G+ please! 🙂

Importance of organic coffee: http://ecowatch.com/2014/08/04/why-you-should-drink-organic-coffee/

Shade grown coffe is better? http://ecowatch.com/2014/05/22/shade-grown-coffee-is-better/

Day 60 – Finish Line!

Well, my last day was yesterday. Now that my diet is over I will continue with how I have been living until the day I die. Looking back on it I’m surprised in what I have actually accomplished.

1.) Lost 23 pounds total
2.) Fixed my sleep schedule so that I get about 8 hours every night.
3.) Lowered my dependence on medication (I was on 3 medications I am now only on 1).
4.) Increased my overall energy levels throughout the day.
5.) Increased my endurance by a huge amount.
6.) Help reduce my asthma problems.
7.) Lowered my stress levels quite a bit.
8.) Improved my digestive system.

Day 59 – One Day Left!

Well tomorrow is my last day for my new healthy lifestyle. I said that if I could do it for two whole months then I would be able to do it for life. I’m happy to say that it looks like that is exactly what is going to happen. 🙂

It’s been a fun and informative journey for me. I have learned a lot about good health and how to achieve it properly. I really appreciate all the support my friends and family have shown me along the way, and I hope that they continue to do so as I mosey on into the future of my new healthier life.

So what will I be doing with my blog? I plan to continue writing, but it probably will not be daily. I will most likely switch to doing it on a weekly basis, giving me more time for research on specific topics. I also hope to keep readers posted on my developing exercise plan in hopes of both getting and sharing advice. Oh, and let’s not forget the occasional recipe and food spotlight!

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