Do You Breakfast?

HoneymoonBreakfast is, by far, my favorite meal of the day.  If I didn’t have to rush out the door each morning for work, I’d take the time to prepare poached eggs, migas or cinnamon french toast with strawberries (paired with a coconut milk cappuccino or mimosa, of course!).  Getting to enjoy breakfast is one of my favorite parts of vacation and the weekends.

But reality is most of us just don’t have time for that. Most of you, I can imagine, skip breakfast altogether most mornings.  I’m sure you’ve heard it time and again, but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.  It jump starts your metabolism, gives you energy, and prevents the hunger that puts you in a bad mood or causes you to overeat later in the day.  Plus, a healthy breakfast gives your body the best chance of absorbing those vitamins and minerals more easily at the start of the day, cutting down on your cravings later.

When my doctor told me last Fall that I needed to add 80 grams of protein into my diet each day, I knew that I would have to find a way to increase my intake at breakfast.  I thought I would share a few of my quick go-to favorites for those of you looking to mix up your routine:

Poached Eggs on Sprouted Wheat Toast with AvocadoPoached Eggs

If you have an egg poaching pan, this option is as fast and easy as boiling an egg.  While the eggs are cooking, I toast a piece of sprouted wheat bread (read why here), slather with organic butter or coconut oil and then top with sliced avocado.  It takes me about 7 minutes total to throw together this delicious, filling meal.

On a side note, I always make sure to buy free-range, organic, soy-free eggs because they are the most nutrient-dense.  I get this local brand at Whole Foods/Natural Grocers and love them; you truly can taste the freshness: Coyote Creek Farms.

Egg Bacon Muffins

I originally found this recipe on one of my favorite health blogs, Wellness Mama, and I love its versatility.  It is so incredibly easy to mix up a batch and throw in whatever extra vegetables are in your fridge.  Also, bacon!  I will make these on Sunday night for the week.  I usually eat a couple of these at a time – wrap them in foil and warm a few minutes in the toaster oven, then eat them in the car.  If you want to nix the bacon for whatever crazy reason, you can also just whip up some eggs, throw in some diced veggies and bake in muffin tins for mini frittatas.

“Bento Box”Bento Box

This is another one of those easy make-ahead options that you can put in a container to grab on your way out the door.  Simply boil a couple of eggs (can’t boil an egg? try this!), throw in a few berries for an antioxidant boost and then I add a muffin or two that I’ve baked on Sunday.  This gluten-free banana muffin is one of my favorite & totally healthy recipes – you can add in a couple tablespoons raw honey if you like it sweeter or some dark chocolate chips and nuts for some texture.

Greek Yogurt & Grain-Free Granola

Yogurt and GranolaGreek Yogurt is a yummy way to get some great protein in the AM with 15 g in 1 cup.  I personally love the Wallaby brand made with organic whole milk from pasture-raised cows and no artificial ingredients. Then, I top with some grain-free granola and fresh berries.  I recently found this Wildway Granola at Whole Foods and fell in love… it’s not cheap but it’s packed with fiber & protein (8g), is completely raw, has no added sweeteners. It is made entirely of fruit, nuts, and seeds, so is gluten-free, paleo and truly the healthiest pre-made version of granola you can buy.  P.S. I also love this as a late night protein snack to help me fall asleep.

GoMacro Bars

If you want an option with zero prep, try these tasty, wholesome breakfast bars.  My favorite is the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip with 12 grams of protein.  I love this brand because they are organic, GMO-free, soy free (try finding another protein bar that is, especially with chocolate), free of refined sugar AND are reasonably priced compared to other options.  The whole mission of GoMacro is to provide a “macrobiotic” or minimally processed, found-in-nature product. You can buy them individually or by the case for a discount at Whole Foods or Natural Grocers.

Any other healthy breakfast ideas? Please share – I am always looking to mix it up!

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Lemon Essential Oil

In my last post, I included a reader poll on future blog topics and the majority has spoken….you want to learn more about essential oils.  So, I’ve decided to start a series on oils, focusing on different ones and how I use them.  Today, I’m going to start with one of my favorites – LEMON

Lemon OilLemon essential oil is highly concentrated – cold-pressed from the rind, it takes 75 lemons to make one 15ml bottle. If you have heard about the benefits of drinking lemon water each morning, lemon oil is an easier alternative to stocking up on lemons each week, and the lack of citric acid can be easier on your stomach and teeth. Just a drop of lemon essential oil in a glass of water can have a lot of benefits first thing in the morning:

  • Rehydrates your body after 8 or so hours of no water, reinvigorating your body and brain
  • Helps flush your digestive system & promotes stomach acid production to aid in digestion throughout the day
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Calms the body, reducing stress and helping your adrenals prepare to tackle the day
  • Gets vitamin C into your body first thing, boosting your immune system
  • It’s a powerful antioxidant, which combats free radicals in the body – learn more about that here
  • Suffering from post-nasal drip?  Lemon in hot water with raw honey can soothe a sore throat.
  • Note: I only ingest the Young Living brand of essential oils as not all brands are safe internally

My husband and I love citrus scents, so it’s one of my favorite oils to diffuse and fill our home with a lovely energizing aroma.  It’s a great air freshener to get rid of odors… I have been really thankful for it when we’ve left trash in the house during a weekend away, returning to that awful permeating smell; a few minutes in the diffuser does wonders. On that same note, (although I must be the only one who does this) if you accidentally leave your laundry in the wash for a few minutes too long before moving it to the dryer or the dryer doesn’t fully dry your bulky load of towels, you know that your clothes will smell terribly musty/mildewy.  Instead of rewashing, rub some lemon oil on a dryer sheet and throw it in the dryer to make your laundry fresh and clean again – it’s amazing!

In addition to the two ways above, there are many other ways that you can use lemon oil around the house. I mix my own totally safe & cheap all-purpose cleaner & disinfectant to use all over – the kitchen, bathroom and windows/mirrors (streak-free!).  It’s a simple mixture of one part white vinegar, one part water and 10-20 (depending on your “part” size) drops of lemon oil in a spray bottle.  The lemon helps a lot with the vinegar smell, but if you still can’t stand it, there are plenty of other recipes on Pinterest.  You can also make your own easy furniture polish by replacing the water with olive oil in the mixture above, adjusting ratios as needed depending on your wood varnish and how well it absorbs.  Polish with a microfiber cloth to protect and clean your wood furniture. Depending on how much you want make at a time, you may want to use a glass spray bottle as citrus oils can eat through plastic.  And one last cleaning tip – lemon oil can help remove anything sticky, including gum from hair.

Beyond being a staple in my medicine cabinet & under-the-sink, lemon oil is also a go-to in my cosmetic drawer.  I mix it with coconut oil to use as a face moisturizer each morning; it helps balance my oily skin and helps heal any blemishes.  Lemon oil is known to improve circulation so is great for making cellulite disappear (hello, nearing swimsuit season) and I’ve heard it helps with varicose veins as well.

I literally use lemon oil every day and don’t know what I would do without it.  Interested in giving it a try?  Learn more about purchasing essential oils here.

How do you use lemon oil? I’m always wanting to hear more ways essential oils help people!

In the Summertime when the weather is hot…

I love Summer.  The sunshine is life-giving to me!   I can’t imagine anything better than spending time at the pool and lake with the warm sun on my skin.  Plus, it’s mostly allergen-free, so unlike most of the year, I can spend lots of time outside without regretting it later.  Anyone else share this passion with me??

Unfortunately for a lot of people, the summertime has a bad rap.  The beautiful sunshine has been villainized; we are advised to minimize our sun exposure and when we must be outside, cover every inch of ourselves with sunscreen every hour so we don’t get the big, bad cancer.  Funny how effective the “c” word is into scaring us into submission.

Coincidentally, our nation is currently experiencing epidemic levels of vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D is a valuable nutrient that comes from the sun and helps our immune system protect our bodies from a multitude of diseases, including cancer.  Actually, some research studies have proven that sun exposure can decrease our chances of getting cancer.  Add to that the fact that there is no proof that sunscreen protects against cancer and that sunscreen itself contains dangerous chemicals and carcinogens, the case against the sun is quickly diminishing.

Okay, now of course, the sun can be dangerous; it is a burning ball of fire, after all. You can’t simply sit outside for hours in direct sunlight and not expect to be hating yourself the next day.  Sunburns do cause cell death and can damage your skin.  It’s important to develop a healthy relationship with the sun…

After a winter indoors, your skin will need to be acclimated to the sun.  The best way to do it is spend 15-30 minutes at a time out in the sun (without sunscreen), getting exposure little bits at a time.  Your skin will respond as it is supposed to, the melanin will become tanned and protect you more and more from the sun naturally.  People with fair skin get Vitamin D faster and reach the maximum level of exposure sooner, so then it’s time to find some shade.  But most people can work up to being able to spend hours in the sun without harm.

If you are going to be out in the sun for longer than your skin is ready for, or your children need protection, consider using natural sunscreen options instead of those loaded with chemicals.  Personally, I use straight up coconut oil whenever I am in the sun for longer than half an hour.  It has minimum SPF so it still allows me to get Vitamin D and my skin tans easier when I use it so that I can build up my natural tolerance to the sun faster.

Lastly, a healthy diet is the best way to avoid a sunburn.  A diet high in antioxidants will protect your body from sunshine’s free radicals that cause cell damage.   So feel free to snack away at those sun-ripened berries and dark chocolate!  Avoiding foods that cause inflammation are another way to protect yourself – grains and Omega-6 vegetable oils being the main offender.  People often blame the sun for their wrinkles, collagen breakdown/premature aging and sun spots, but it’s actually an inflammatory diet that causes these issues.  Eat a diet high in healthy Omega-3 fats (found in animal fats, fish, coconut oil and organic raw dairy), the building blocks of your skin.

Now, get out there and enjoy the summer sunshine without fear!

Read more from my sources here:

Scientists Blow the Lid Off Cancer & Sunscreen Myth

4 Ways You Are Screwing Up Your Sun Exposure

Avoid Sunburn, Tan Better

Benefits of Sunbathing to Pregnancy and Nursing

I Heart Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil Miracle

Beginning in the 1960s, research began to emerge that some forms of saturated fat can increase blood cholesterol.  In general, saturated fat became feared as a major cause of heart disease, clogging our arteries and killing us slowly.  Coincidentally, at that time, the farming and production of soy products domestically was becoming a huge industry and the American Soybean Association was seeking to eliminate imported tropical oils from the market.  By the 1980s, the government and media jumped on the bandwagon against coconut oil and vegetable/canola oil became the “healthy” choice.  As a result, our products changed and we were no longer getting the nutritional benefits of coconut oil in our food. Since that time, our nation has actually seen an increase in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.

How do you decide what to believe when it comes to your health?  This is the ultimate question I get when I tell people I write a wellness blog because there are so many contradictory opinions and “facts” out there.  Since I seem find myself always going against the grain on what’s generally accepted as healthy, I have to explain my rationale a lot.  While there’s much more that plays into my beliefs, it usually comes down to this: look at the facts and the research, but focus on the sources.  Personally, I am less likely to believe information coming from a medical journal published by a pharmaceutical company or a government recommendation based on profit to the economy.  Often, the source of the information really sheds some light on possible motives involved in the dissemination of that message.  For example, compare the likely credibility of a doctor who supports some drug and just happens to make lots of money from said support versus the doctor who is standing up against their institution and risking losing their job or research funding because of it.  While it may seem like a dramatic example, I find it all too common in my research.

Okay, back to the topic at hand: enter our current world of everything canola oil and a country dying of chronic illnesses. The Coconut Oil Miracle opened my eyes to all the health benefits the fruit has to offer – it’s pretty amazing and we’ve really been missing out.  What I loved about the book is that it uses research based on real cultures: “Coconuts (and coconut oil) have been used as a major source of food for thousands of years by millions of people in Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, and Central America.  Traditionally these people have had much better health than those in North America and Europe who don’t eat coconut.”  The book also explains the science behind why the fat in coconut oil is so beneficial to us.  The main reason it’s so beneficial is that it’s comprised of medium-chain and short-chain fatty acids, which our body breaks down for energy rather than storing as fat like the long-chain fatty acids in vegetable oil.

Let’s talk for a bit about free radicals. Free radicals cause cellular damage as they seek to steal electrons from other molecules, causing a chain reaction creating more free radicals stealing electrons.  They attack our cells, causing damage and mutations.  Ultimately, they cause degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, failing memory, reproductive problems, aging… the list goes on. We encounter free radicals throughout our environment and some occur naturally so they cannot be completely avoided, but many of the additives and toxins in our food promote their destruction.  It’s important to limit your exposure to free radicals and incorporate antioxidants into your diet as they’re the only way to stop them. Vegetable oils contain a high amount of free radicals because they are chemically unstable and oxidize so easily.  Coconut oil, on the other hand, contains none of these and also helps fight the ones you experience in your environment by giving you a boost of antioxidants, plus it’s safe and still beneficial after heated during cooking – a rarity among oils.

The book goes on to detail all the proven health benefits coconut has and the list will astound you:

  • “Coconut oil protects the heart and arteries from injury caused by bacteria, viruses and free radicals.  By removing the cause of arterial injury, coconut oil prevents further damage, allowing the arterial walls to heal, thus not only reducing the risk of heart disease but actually promoting healing.”
  • An New Caledonia island study revealed that islanders near ports eating modern foods “had an incidence of dental cavities of 26 percent, and those who lived inland and on a diet of native foods an incidence of 0.14 percent.”  These islanders with phenomenal dental health ate lots of coconut and “never brushed their teeth, never flossed, never used antibacterial mouthwash and never saw dentists.”
  • “Today people are suffering and dying from illnesses that science predicted 40 years ago would be wiped off the face of the earth…. Experts say our overuse of antibiotics is largely to blame: antibiotics encourage proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria.”  “Even the super germs are vulnerable to the lifesaving coconut derivatives. The unique properties of coconut oil make it, in essence, a natural antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiprotozoal food.” *emphasis added
  • “By far the best and richest natural sources of lauric acid are coconuts and coconut oil.”  Lauric acid kills lipid-coated microorganisms like HIV, measles, herpes, influenza, leukemia, hepatitis C, staph, and strep, just to name a few.
  • The medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut oil work for our immune system just like they do for newborns from a mother’s breast milk.  MCFAs kill bacteria that causes a multitude of STDs, staph, food poisoning, meningitis, ulcers and sinusitis.  They also defend against parasites that can cause food allergies and chronic fatigue.
  • The vegetable oils that you consume attack your thyroid and make you fat.  Replacing those oils with coconut oil, which adds MCFAs to the mix and increases your metabolism, can actually help you lose weight.
  • “Polynesian women are famed for their beautiful skin and hair, even though they are exposed to the hot blistering sun and chafing of the ocean breeze every day.” Free radicals in our food and environment cause advanced aging to occur, but the antioxidants in coconut oil work to combat that. Coconut oil also protects your skin from germs, acts as a healing agent and is an incredible moisturizer.  I use it as a lotion, as a hair conditioning treatment, and as my sunscreen – it “enables the body to adjust naturally to sun exposure, naturally increasing the body’s tolerable level over time.”
  • Coconut oil is considered a catch-all healing medicine in many countries, helping with digestive issues, nourishment to newborn babies, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, diabetes and liver disease.

So how can you incorporate coconut oil into your diet and routine?  The book recommends 3 1/2 tablespoons daily… you can cook with it (replace any oil with it, same amount), put it in your coffee (if you love lattes, check out this amazing recipe), or use it on your skin.   You’ve got to put this book on your reading list… it’s such an easy read and there is so much more information and case studies that will really amaze you.

Will you give coconut oil a try?  Let me know what you think… I’m hoping you all become just as obsessed as I am!

Source: The Coconut Oil Miracle written by Bruce Fife, C.N., M.D.

The Time I Did A Juice Fast

fat-sick-and-nearly-dead

If you’ve ever seen Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, you’ve probably wondered about the benefits that juicing and a raw diet could provide for you.  Joe Cross was overweight and experiencing health issues that doctors could not find answers to (but had no problem prescribing him lots of pills for); finally, he met a natural doctor that told him that eating well was the only way to heal himself of his autoimmune skin disease.  So he decided to go on a 60 day organic juice-only fast, followed by months of only fruits, veggies, nuts and beans. He loses an incredible amount of weight and experiences an amazing health transformation. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend watching it on Netflix – it’s very inspiring.

Fresh juice is nothing like the high fructose corn syrup sweetened and artificially flavored and dyed stuff you find in the grocery aisle.  When you juice from real fruits and veggies, you are getting tons of  real nutrients.  You can pack pounds of these healthful, fresh items into just one juice. Plus, since you’re juicing out the fiber, your body is able to quickly absorb all those vitamins and nutrients rather than spending energy to digest them. If you believe in eating the hunter-gatherer way, then fasting is especially important as, naturally, there were times when food could be hard to come by. Our bodies are designed to need a break every once in a while.  And raw, fresh foods are part of the Four Pillars of World Cuisine.  The raw fruits and veggies in juice provide our bodies with potent antioxidants essential to combating harmful free-radicals (the molecules that cause every kind of disease, especially cancer).

Bonus: The major ingredients in my juices were 4 of the 5 best alkaline foods – lemons, cayenne pepper, leafy greens and apples.  Why does that matter?  Basically, our bodies are designed to keep a neutral pH level, but with all of the processed foods we eat, we often end up being highly acidic.  Being acidic can majorly affect your health by diminishing your immune system, causing fatigue, pain and even cancer.  The more alkaline and less acidic foods (the list may surprise you) you can eat to balance out your system, the better!

So, I had watched documentaries, read articles about and heard of friends doing juice fasts/cleanses and wanted to try it for myself. Although it was recommended to “pre-cleanse” by weaning off meat, dairy, sugar, wheat, etc., I didn’t.  Let’s be honest, most of us try a cleanse because we’ve been eating junk.. I did the cleanse because I wanted to break my taste for those things and get back on track. I did eat a little healthier and did no alcohol or caffeine as well as only eating fish and veggies for the 48 hours before so it wouldn’t be too bad of a shock.

Fruits and Veggies Pre-JuiceI had looked into buying all the juice for my cleanse from a couple of local companies like JuiceLand and Skinny Limits, but when prices were coming up at $175-200 for an organic cleanse, I looked into the DIY option. I found some recipes online here and here that imitated the well-known BluePrint cleanse, borrowed a Jack LaLanne Pro juicer from a friend and then went shopping. I only spent $68.61 on organic fruits and veggies.  So worth it.  Now, the juicing took about 3 hours total, but considering I usually spend about an hour and a half each day preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner, that’s really not any different.  It was super nice to come home from work and have my “meal” already made and let my husband fend for himself.   I started with all these fresh vibrant fruits and veggies, which was more produce than I usually buy in a whole week.

At the end, I had a little over 2 days worth of juice:

  1. Breakfast: Green Juice – Kale, Spinach, Romaine, Parsley, Apple, Cucumber, Lemon and Celery
  2. Morning Snack: Pineapple-Apple-Mint Juice
  3. Lunch: Green Juice
  4. Afternoon Snack: Agave-sweetened Lemonade with Cayenne Pepper
  5. Dinner: Green Juice
  6. Evening Snack: Cashew-Vanilla-Cinnamon Milk (which is blended, not juiced)

Juice

Biggest surprise?  How much I liked the juices. The green juice was delicious… a little celery-y, but super yummy. The cashew milk that everyone seems to love was the most disgusting thing ever. I only had it the first night and barely kept it down. I had more green juice the second night.

Biggest regret? Not starting an awesome compost pile with all the fruit and veggie pulp that the juicer collected.  Guess I’ll have to do it again!

Was it awful? Overall, I was really hungry the whole time, which is normal, but tough. Watching tv was hard and commercials made me crave donuts and pizza. They say that since your body is being detoxed, you could feel terrible… I really didn’t. In fact, I had more energy than ever. During the fast, I was kind of wondering if it was worth it and it wasn’t until afterwards that I realized it was.  I totally lost my desire for junk food and coffee and alcohol, and felt sick whenever I had those things, which definitely helped my self-control.  I also lost 4 pounds which I have easily kept off since.

Ultimately, I would recommend the experience to anyone, especially those suffering from sickness or trying to break bad food habits. I will absolutely be purchasing a juicer and making juice part of my normal routine so that I get more nutrients into my diet in a delicious way.  But, if I ever do a cleanse again, I’ll want a buddy… it was hard to do it alone!

So, what do you think? Would you ever try a juice cleanse?