Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Garlic

Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Garlic

Our first line of defense for fending off colds and flu…

It’s officially cold season. At least in my house. Yes, it’s early… not even officially fall yet, but while it may occasionally still feel like summer outside, the weather has that noticeable bite in the air and more and more friends are reporting coming down with something. Cold, flu, what-have-you, whatever it is, I don’t want it, so I’ve been filling up on immunity boosters like ginger, lemon, raw honey, and tons of fresh garlic. The latter may have more of a reputation for making your breath a special kind of pungent, but when seasonal illnesses are making the rounds, a clove or two of garlic should be our first line of defense for fending off colds and flu. Used for centuries to stave off viruses, garlic is prized for its antibacterial and antiviral properties that could potentially improve immunity and shorten sick time. Read on to learn why you should be stocking a few heads of garlic in your pantry all year round, and learn how to make an immunity-supporting garlic tea:

What is garlic?

Native to Central Asia and in the same genus as onions (Allium), garlic has been used for thousands of years as both a seasoning and herbal remedy in traditional medicine. Garlic’s scientific name is Allium sativum and the plant is characterized by its white bulb, which grows underground; purple pom pom flowers; and curly scapes, which can also be harvested and eaten (and should be harvested and eaten — they’re delicious). While garlic plays a role as a key seasoning all year ‘round, it’s especially valuable come autumn and winter, when temperatures and immunity are low. Similar to root vegetables, the garlic bulb is where all the plant’s energy is stored, making it an ideal addition to your cold-weather nutrition and wellness arsenal.

What are the benefits of garlic?

Besides adding a spicy, pungent aroma and flavor to all variety of culinary exploits, garlic has been used for thousands of years to treat everything from cold and flu, to acne, to yeast infections. Prized for its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties largely thanks to allicin, the sulphur compound found in garlic, which could help the body detoxify from heavy metals, prevent acne, support immunity, and could prevent oxidative damage to cells. Studied since the ‘40s for its ability to fight disease and bacterial infection, allicin is responsible for garlic’s pungent smell. The allicin found in garlic is a cold-season must-have, and can be consumed as either an over-the-counter supplement or fresh in the form of whole garlic added to teas, soups, and broths. While supplements are a good second defense when fresh garlic isn’t available, fresh garlic is always the way to go for flavor and effectiveness.

How do I use garlic?

My favorite way to use garlic is fresh, tossed into all manner of soups, stews, sauces, sautes, stirfrys, salads… pretty much any- and everything that could use a savory boost. Fresh cloves are always strongest, with the most potent amounts of allicin, but when in a pinch, pre-chopped garlic can be used for flavor. However, there are plenty of ways to harness the power of garlic specifically for cold season. Try pressing several cloves and adding to a simple broth, or making the tea below for when your immunity needs a little (or a lot) of extra support:

Garlic Immunity Tea

[serves 1]

Ingredients

1-2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced into pieces

Juice from ½ lemon

Small chunk fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

Raw honey, to taste but generous

8-10 oz filtered water

Method

Place the garlic, ginger and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain into a mug and add lemon juice and honey.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Sweet Potatoes + Sweet Potato Toast, 3 Ways

Wellness Encyclopedia: Sweet Potatoes + Sweet Potato Toast, 3 Ways

Learn all the reasons you should be sweet on sweet potatoes…

My love affair with sweet potatoes began with my first Whole30. Before that, I’d never eaten them, save for the occasional, unpleasant Thanksgiving fork-full of sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows at my grandmother’s house (a more confusing dish I dare you to find). For unknown reasons (reasons likely related to their affiliation with marshmallows), they were practically banned from my mother’s table, so it wasn’t until that initial Whole30 that I was introduced to how truly incredible sweet potatoes can be in both flavor and nutrition. Now, these power-packed roots are a staple in my diet, and as fall draws closer and the weather cools, they’re ever more present on my table. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and minerals key to powering us through the colder months. Think of a root as the powerplant to what grows above the earth’s surface, brimming with energy and, in the case of sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, carrots, and their ilk, deep beneficial nutrition. As we enter into September and the leaves begin to turn (no joke: yellow and orange leaves were spotted in Central Pennsylvania this weekend), whether we’re fully aware of it or not, our diets will likely turn towards more warming foods to prepare our bodies for the months that lie ahead. Learn all the reasons you should be sweet on sweet potatoes below, then scroll to the bottom for three easy sweet potato toast recipes.

What are sweet potatoes?

Only distantly related to regular white potatoes, sweet potatoes are a perennial vine that boasts gorgeous trumpet-like flowers and a delicious edible root. Thought to be native to Central and/or South America, remnants of sweet potatoes dating as far back as 8,000 years have been found in Peru. Often confused with yams, sweet potatoes typically have lower sugar content and are smaller than yams, which are native to Africa and are typically not grown in the US. Yams boast white flesh and rough skins, and can grow up to eight feet in length! Additionally, it’s safe to eat sweet potatoes raw, whereas yams are toxic unless cooked properly.

What are the benefits of sweet potatoes?

Rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in your body, sweet potatoes could boost cellular turnover for younger-looking skin and help protect eyesight from macular degeneration (pro tip: adding a little fat, like coconut oil or olive oil, to your sweet potato will boost absorption and conversion of beta-carotene). A natural prebiotic, fibre-rich sweet potatoes feed the good bacteria in your gut, promoting better digestion and regularity and helping to eliminate bloat. The anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes could boost brain function and protect against degeneration of brain tissue and prevent memory loss, these same pigments have been linked to collagen production, potentially reducing the signs of aging. While many are quick to write off starchy root vegetables like sweet potatoes, research has shown that they could actually improve blood sugar regulation. Because we digest them slowly, thanks in part to their high fibre content, blood sugar is kept at a steady state instead of spiking and dropping the way it would with other carbs and starches.

How do I use sweet potatoes?

One of my favorite – and unexpected – ways to use sweet potatoes these days is by tossing a handful of steamed sweet potato into a smoothie. They’re a creamy, low sugar alternative to banana and delicious combined with a dash of cinnamon, a splash of nut milk, and your favorite protein powder. Sweet potato also lends itself well to soups, salads (try roasting some up and serving with arugula), baked goods, and they can be used in place of white potatoes in most cases. And while sweet potato fries are in fact delicious, it’s important to keep in mind the healthiest way to enjoy these delicious roots is as unadulterated as possible: steamed, baked skin-on, or lightly dry roasted. Try the recipe below for a new take on toast that will keep your belly happy and feeling full ‘till lunch:

Sweet Potato Toast, 3 Ways

Ingredients

Sweet potatoes (1 medium sweet potato makes about 3-4 slices)

To prepare the sweet potatoes: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse and dry sweet potatoes. Slice sweet potatoes lengthwise, about ¼ inch thick and place on baking sheet. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until bottoms are slightly browned and pieces are cooked through but firm.

PB-Banana-Cacao:

Natural peanut butter or nut butter of choice

1 Banana

Cacao nibs

Cinnamon

Method

Spread sweet potatoes with nut butter and top with banana slices. Sprinkle with cacao nibs and cinnamon.

Avocado “Toast”:

Ripe avocado

Cumin

Sea salt

Black pepper

Method

Layer slices of avocado on top of sweet potato slices. Sprinkle with cumin, sea salt, and black pepper.

Blueberry-Almond Butter:

Almond butter

Blueberries

Nutmeg

Method

Spread sweet potato slices with almond butter and top with blueberries and nutmeg.

Enjoy!

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Grapes + Renewing Grape Face Mask

Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Grapes + Renewing Grape Face Mask

Before you pass over that purple or light green cluster yet again, take another look…

Consider the humble grape. At this point, this little fruit – or cluster of fruits – may feel a bit… played out. After all, grapes have a habit of showing up all over the place: as raisins, jelly, jam, good puns, wine. Like apples, grapes are one of those produce items we’ve grown so used to, our eyes often skim right over them at the market, opting instead for something more exotic. But before you pass over that purple or light green cluster yet again, take another look. The simple grapes sitting before you come from a long and complicated history, with their first domestication dating as far back as 8,000 years ago. What’re more, they could be the key to gorgeous, youthful looking skin. Intrigued? Read on.

What are grapes?

Thought to have been originally cultivated in the Middle East over 8,000 years ago, grapes are botanically a berry and have been used as food and to make wine for nearly equal amounts of time. The yeast that occurs naturally on the skin of the grapes is what causes the fruit to turn alcoholic, which eventually led to the discovery of turning grapes to wine. Now, the majority of grapes worldwide are destined to be made into wine, though a small percentage is reserved for those of us who still like to eat them straight from the vine.

What are the benefits of grapes?

We’ve all heard of the heart-healthy benefits of red wine, but did you know the same benefits could be reaped by simply eating dark red grapes? Packed with antioxidant-rich polyphenols like resveratrol, grapes — specifically the skin of dark red and purple grapes — could benefit heart and skin health. The flavonoid quercetin present in the skin of dark red grapes has been found to potentially reduce LDL cholesterol and grape’s high polyphenol content has been shown to possibly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The resveratrol found in grapes could also boost brain power, helping to increase blood flow to the brain and neutralize free radicals. Grapes are also a rich source of skin-friendly alpha hydroxy acids, which boost cellular turnover and help heal damage caused by the sun, while collagen-promoting anthocyanins found in the skin of grapes could reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Takeaway: Don’t peel your grapes. One more takeaway? Rich in insoluble fibre, grapes could aid in digestion and tonify the digestive tract, helping your digestion work more efficiently.

How do I use grapes?

Lucky for us all, grapes are pretty versatile! While hot summer days are still upon us, I recommend popping a bunch of fresh grapes straight into the freezer for a healthy alternative to more sugary frozen treats (just make sure you wash ‘em first). Grapes are also an excellent accompaniment to salads, can be reduced to make sauces and glazes, and can be tossed into smoothie and juice blends. Dark red and purple grapes boast the greatest benefit, and as soon as grapes are turned into a different product — think raisins, wine, jelly, etc. — their overall nutrition goes out the window (raisins are still a good source of insoluble fibre, but bear in mind their sugar content is sky high). So the next time you’re in the produce aisle, don’t pass the grapes! Pick up a bunch and enjoy them as is, and know you’re doing right by your body and mind.

Renewing Grape Face Mask

Ingredients

Small handful dark purple grapes

1 egg white

1 tsp oat flour or oatmeal

Optional: A few drops of grapeseed oil

Method

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Use your fingers or a clean mask brush to apply to face, avoiding the eye area. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with cool water and follow up with your favorite oil or moisturizer.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Flax + Why You Need to Grind Flax Seeds

Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Flax + Why You Need to Grind Flax Seeds

These little seeds are more than just a convenient dupe for eggs in a cookie recipe!

The first time I learned about flax seeds was back in college. I had just picked up a brand new vegan cookbook from Border’s (remember Border’s?) and flax seeds played a major part in so many of the recipes, especially as an egg replacement, I had to learn more. Turns out, these little seeds are more than just a convenient dupe for eggs in a cookie recipe! Packed with omega 3’s, antioxidants, and tons of fibre, these little seeds are an important addition to any diet, not just for vegans. Though the original cookbook now feels a touch outdated (So. Much. Soy.), I’ll forever be thankful for the knowledge of flax seeds that it passed along to me. Learn all about these incredible seeds below:

What is it?

Flax has a long history, one that’s centuries old (we’re talking 30,000 years). It’s been consumed as food for over 6,000 years, though its use to make fibers and oil could date farther back, as far back as the Paleolithic period. Most of us know flax in its textile form as linen, and as linseed oil (often used by oil painters) in its oil form. Boasting pretty blue flowers when it’s in bloom, flax grows in colder climates and is believed to have been first cultivated in the fertile crescent. Flax has been popular as a culinary addition for decades, and is especially valuable as an egg replacement for vegetarians and vegans, though the nutty seeds and meal is a tasty addition to a huge variety of foods.

What are the benefits?

Flax seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, also known as alpha-linolenic acids (ALAs). The ALA present in flax seeds promotes a healthy gut and digestive system, along with healthy skin and hair. High in fibre but low in carbs, flax could also help heal the gut, keep you feeling full longer, and improve digestive health overall. Along with nourishing skin, hair and nails with healthy fats, flax also delivers a healthy dose of B vitamins, which could improve symptoms of psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.

How do I use flax?

Flax is super versatile and an easy way to boost nutrition in smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, yogurt, and more. However, the key to getting all that good nutrition from the seed to your body is using ground flax instead of whole flax seeds.

Why grind your flax seeds? Whole flax seeds are nearly indigestible by the body, meaning they’ll pass through your system intact. While, yes, you’ll probably chew some, because they’re so small, flax seeds easily enter the digestive system whole. Unless you’re using them as a garnish or in a seed mix, I recommend always grinding your flax seeds, which you can do with a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, or purchasing pre-ground flax seeds, often labeled as “flax meal” (Bob’s Red Mill is a favorite brand of mine). Along with making the nutrients housed within the seeds more bioavailable, grinding your flax seeds also releases the mucilage gum found within the seeds, a gel-forming substance believed to benefit the intestinal tract.

Flax meal mixes easily into almost anything and for the most part is nearly indetectable. I love throwing a tablespoon of ground flax into my smoothies as a quick way to boost nutrition and add healthy ALAs to my daily routine.

How to Make Vegan Flax Eggs

Ingredients:

1 tbsp ground flax seeds (grind your own or purchase pre-ground, often labeled “flax meal”)

2 ½ tbsp warm water

Method

Combine flax meal and water in a small bowl and stir to combine. Allow to set for 5 minutes. This makes 1 flax egg — increase measurements to make more.

Flax eggs can’t sub for regular eggs in all recipes, but work well for things like cupcakes, cakes, quick breads, pancakes, brownies, etc. Chia seeds can also be used in place of flax!

Flax-Honey-Clay Face Mask

Materials:

1 tbsp ground flax seeds (grind your own or purchase pre-ground, often labeled “flax meal”)

1 tbsp raw honey

1 tbsp bentonite clay or pink clay

Rosewater

Method

Place flax, honey, and clay in a small non-metallic bowl and stir to combine. Add rosewater a little at a time until mixture forms a thick but spreadable paste. Apply to face and neck, avoiding eye area and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. When you’re ready to remove it, wet hands and gently rub in circles to allow the flax to exfoliate. Rinse completely before patting skin dry and following up with your favorite moisturizer.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Avocados & Avocado/Honey Face Mask DIY

Wellness Encyclopedia: Avocados & Avocado/Honey Face Mask DIY

Read more about the incredible, edible avocado below, then scroll on for an easy face mask recipe you can whip up in minutes…

By now, I think most of us can agree: Avocados are awesome. Few fruits or vegetables have experienced such a dramatic PR shift over the past two decades, in fact, the rise of the avocado can only be compared to that of the “incredible, edible” egg. Once believed to be the basis of bad health, avocados spent a solid decade unfairly blacklisted from our plates. Imagine all the guacamole we were missing out on! Now, avocado toast is as commonplace in our diets as a bowl of cereal once was, and for good reason: Avocados are nutritional powerhouses. They satisfy without sugar, keep us feeling full, and best of all, the healthy fats they were once maligned for are now understood to make our skin glow and hair shine from the inside out. Today we’re celebrating these unique fruits by diving into what makes them great.

What exactly are avocados?

Botanically, the fruit of the avocado tree (aka the avocado) is a large berry with one large seed and is thought to have originated in the Tehuacan Valley in Puebla, Mexico up to 15,000 years ago. The fruit ripens on the tree, but only matures when separated, either by being harvested or dropping naturally, so plan ahead and choose hard avocados at the grocery store — these are most likely the freshest and will likely ripen after a few days on your countertop. It’s no secret that avocados have experienced a boon in popularity over the past several years (the per capita consumption in the US increased from 1 pound to 7 pounds in the span of six years) — so much so that it’s difficult to believe they were once victim to bad PR due to their high levels of healthy fats.

What are the benefits of avocados?

The low-fat diet craze of the ‘80s and ‘90s painted avocados as fat bombs akin to hamburgers and, well, anything else that featured any semblance of fat, healthy, natural, or otherwise (remember how everyone stopped eating eggs at one point? Same thing). At the time, it was thought that fat content in food equaled fat in the body, it wasn’t yet understood that different types of fats exist with different functions and different effects on the body. Trans fats and refined polyunsaturated fats? Those are the ones to avoid, most often found in processed foods, but the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, nuts, and — you guessed it — avocados, has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, and could even help with weight management. Rich in monounsaturated fats, avocado is thought to help regulate blood sugar levels, potentially helping to reverse insulin resistance, reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, and reduce the risk of stroke. Avocados are also rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K, which impact metabolic function and keep skin looking healthy. The high levels of fibre present in avocados also contributes to all the benefits listed above, along with keeping the gut healthy and aiding with digestion. Avocados are one of the richest sources of protein of any fruit, with the lowest sugar content, making them ideal for smoothies and post-workout nutrition, as they won’t cause blood sugar to spike and keep you feeling full and satisfied through to your next meal.

How to I use avocados?

A better question: How don’t you use avocados? Whether applied topically as a moisturizing hair or skin mask or tossed into a smoothie, avocados lend themselves to pretty much all areas of life! Let’s start with breakfast, shall we? Toss them into the afore mentioned smoothie as a satisfying, low-sugar alternative to your usual smoothie banana. Add some avocado to a savory bowl of oats, or use a scoop of guacamole in place of cheese in your next omelette. Lunch options? Sure, you could do everyone’s favorite, avocado toast, or you could roast a sweet potato and toss some avocado on top with a bit of homemade salsa (pro tip: make your own salsa, it’ll cost you pennies per serving and is to much better). Dinner? Add some avocado to salads or in place of cheese wherever you may usually use cheese. Don’t forget dessert! Avocado is easily whipped into chocolate mousse with the addition of cocoa powder and a bit of coconut sugar. For outside nourishment, mash ripe avocado together with a few simple ingredients for a super moisturizing hair or face mask. Not sure where to start? Try the simple recipe below to rejuvenate summer-parched skin:

Avocado-Honey Face Mask

Lactic acid in yogurt gently sloughs away dead skin while avocado and honey moisturize summer-parched skin

Ingredients

¼ avocado

1 tbsp plain yogurt

1 tsp raw honey

Method

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix/mash together until well blended. Use a brush or your fingers to apply mixture to face, avoiding the eye area. Relax for 10-15 minutes, then rinse with cool water and pat dry. Follow up with your favorite oil or moisturizer.

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This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. 
Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Cherries + Cherry Recovery Smoothie

Wellness Encyclopedia: Cherries + Cherry Recovery Smoothie

Cherries are more than their garnet-colored flesh and delicious flavor would lead you to believe…

Late summer might just be my favorite “season” at the farmers’ markets here on the East Coast. Tables and stalls of local producers are overflowing with ripe peaches and nectarines, fresh flowers cascade from their baskets like tidal waves, every shade of green imaginable is represented by the cornucopia of vegetables available, and on more than one seller’s table the prize of August sits — fresh cherries. It’s not just the outdoor markets cherries commandeer come August, grocery stores and even corner markets all seem to procure them, the fruits practically begging to fill a bowl and be lazily eaten under the canopy of some shady tree somewhere, the difficult-to-navigate pits forcing those eating them to slow down and just enjoy it… And probably have a pit spitting contest too (just be sure to aim for the compost). As you might imagine with any lucky fruit or veggie lucky enough to be chosen for a Wellness Encyclopedia post, cherries are more than their garnet-colored flesh and delicious flavor — turns out they’re super good for you, too! Today — and for the remainder of August for that matter — I’m celebrating cherry season. Read on to learn how these pretty stone fruits can benefit you, then be sure to whip up the recipe below the next time you need a little recovery time post-gym session.

What are they? The cutest stone fruit (or drupe) in the Prunus genus, cherries are believed to be native to Turkey before they were eventually exported to Europe and later, North America. Late summer is typically cherry season in North America, making August the perfect time to pick some up at your local market. The most common cherry available is the Bing cherry, but a wide variety exist, including sunset-colored Rainier, Coral, and Tulare, with most cherries coming from either Prunus avium (sweet and/or wild varieties) or Prunus cerasus (sour varieties).

What are the benefits? Your first tip-off that cherries might be kinda-sorta really good for you should be their dark outer skin. Generally, most fruits and veggies that feature dark or deeply hued outer skins contain high levels of antioxidants, collagen-boosting anthocyanins, polyphenols like quercetin, and carotenoids — cherries included! Cherries are also rich in vitamin C, which not only boosts immunity but aids in cellular turnover, keeping skin looking healthy, youthful and smooth. If you have trouble sleeping, try drinking a small glass of tart cherry juice before bed, as it’s been found to contain phytochemicals that aid in sleep, including melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. Athletes and casual exercisers can both benefit from the anti-inflammatory powers that cherries are believed to possess — cherries and tart cherry juice can help reduce muscle damage and increase healing time after intense exercise, and as a bonus, you might get the best sleep of your life after a good workout and some cherries! Try the restorative smoothie below after your next workout.

How do I use them? Like most stone fruits, cherries are incredibly versatile and work well in both sweet and savory recipes for any time of day. Try them in savory grain bowls nested next to avocado, walnuts and arugula, or tossed into a bright salad with almonds and crunchy romaine. Cherries are easily reduced to a sauce or glaze, and depending on direction can be used to top something sweet (like ice cream) or savory (like a protein). Use them as you would any fruit for dessert recipes, or take the healthy route and add them to juices, oatmeal, chia puddings, and of course – smoothies! …psst, like the one below.

Cherry Recovery Smoothie

Ingredients

1 handful fresh dark cherries, pits and stems removed

1 scoop protein powder of choice (either plain or vanilla)

1 cup frozen steamed veggies (I recommend either cauliflower or zucchini — or both!)

8 oz coconut water

1 tsp coconut butter

¼ tsp almond extract (optional)

1 cup ice

 

Method

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into a cup and enjoy! Top with unsweetened dried coconut flakes if desired.

 

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This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. 
Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.

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Wellness Encyclopedia: Pineapple + The Easiest Pineapple Recipe Ever

Wellness Encyclopedia: Pineapple + The Easiest Pineapple Recipe Ever

In the heat of August, is there anything quite as gorgeous as a bite of fresh pineapple?

With its sunny yellow hue and juicy sweet taste, to me, fresh pineapple is the only answer to the question of what to eat on a blistering hot afternoon. It’s the perfect snack to have on hand all summer long — from the beach, to picnics, to the ideal dessert when it’s 8pm and somehow still sweltering. As we enter into high summer, my pineapple consumption has increased exponentially with the heat, so I thought it was time to finally give this incredible fruit its day in the sun. Along with being super delicious and super affordable, pineapple boasts incredible benefits for the whole body — it’s more than its tropical flavor! Read on to learn why the humble pineapple (a whole, unpeeled, as-is pineapple!) deserves a place in your market basket the next time you’re browsing the produce section.

What is it? Native to Brazil and Paraguay (and possibly the Caribbean), pineapples are part of the Bromeliaceae family, the same family as most air plants (which makes total sense as soon as you look at the top of a pineapple and a tillandsia side by side). Pineapples begin their interesting lives as large flowers, consisting of over 200 blooms for most fruits. As the flowers mature, the fruits of each flower join together, with the ovaries of each flower transforming into berries which bind together to make a single pineapple (told you it was interesting). Pineapples are classified as multiple fruits (or collective fruits) consisting of coalesced berries, which means each flower produces a fruit/berry, but these mature into one large fruit (figs and breadfruit are another example of this). Phew! It’s a lot to take in, but next time you’re eating a pineapple, you can think about how you’re really eating a bunch of berries joined together.

 

 

What are the benefits? While some people turn to orange juice to fight off a cold, my family swore by pineapple juice (which might explain why it took me years to warm back up to it). But! My mother wasn’t wrong — one cup of pineapple contains 105% DV of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant and immune booster. Along with potentially boosting overall immunity, the vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B1 in pineapple can help scrub the body of free radicals, aiding in cellular turnover and resulting in healthier cells from the inside out, healing sun damage and possibly reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Pineapple’s high level of bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme, soothes and relaxes tense muscles and connective tissues, aiding in everything from pain relief, arthritis relief, wound healing, and tendonitis. Bromelain has also been shown to be a powerful digestive enzyme, aiding in the absorption of nutrients and in the healing of digestive disorders.

 

 

How do I use it? Before listing all the delicious ways you can use pineapple, first allow me to make the case for purchasing a whole pineapple instead of pre-cut chunks or — shiver — canned:

Price. In peak season a whole pineapple can usually be bought for somewhere between $1.99 and $2.99, a far more economical choice than purchasing pre-cut chunks, which you’ll end up paying a premium for, sometimes upwards of $5.99 per pound. You’ll save some cash if you’re willing to spend five minutes of your time cutting it up yourself. Plus, you’ll earn some IRL fruit ninja bragging rights.

Taste. Canned pineapple can’t hold a candle to the fresh stuff. If you don’t believe me, do a taste test. Unless you’re making a pineapple upside-down cake or some type of drink, canned pineapple is actually pretty awful. Choose fresh whenever possible. Fresh pineapple is like summer’s prize for making it through the winter. You win!

Now that I have you convinced, how do you use fresh pineapple? Besides cutting up a big bowl of it and devouring it right then and there, fresh pineapple is surprisingly versatile, lending its sweet and tropical flavor to everything from sweet to savory. The next time you make salsa, try tossing in some diced pineapple for a new twist, or add pineapple chunks to kebabs before throwing them on the grill. For a summer-ready dessert that won’t leave you feeling stuffed, dip pineapple chunks in melted dark chocolate and sprinkle with dried coconut before popping in the fridge to set. Add pineapple to smoothies, chia pudding, or overnight oats, or top with plain yogurt for a tropical breakfast. Or, try the recipe below — it’s one of my favorite summer treats and takes all of five minutes to throw together.

 

 

Spiced Fresh Pineapple

Ingredients:

½ to 1 whole pineapple, peeled and cubed (this video will show you how to choose and cut a whole pineapple)

Chili powder

Lime wedges

Dried unsweetened coconut

Method:

Place pineapple cubes in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with chili powder and toss to combine (start off slow, then add more to taste). Divide pineapple between serving bowls and top with dried coconut. Serve with line wedges to squeeze on top. Enjoy!

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Follow Julie on Instagram + check out her blog.

This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. 
Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.

Free People Blog

Wellness Encyclopedia: Probiotics vs. Prebiotics (And Why You Need Both)

Wellness Encyclopedia: Probiotics vs. Prebiotics (And Why You Need Both)

Adding pro- and prebiotic foods to your diet is incredible, and the rewards are well worth the little effort involved…

Quick: How are you feeling today? Take a quick mental scan, I’ll wait.

So? How’s everything doing?

Maybe you feel great (I certainly hope you do). But perhaps you’re feeling a little off. Are you bloated? Or experiencing a bit of brain fog? Maybe your immune system has felt weak lately or you slept poorly last night and are having a tough time shaking it off. We’ve all been there. But it wasn’t until fairly recently that a connection was drawn between the symptoms listed above and the bacteria chilling out in our guts. Things like poor diet, a round of antibiotics, and a stressful lifestyle can all take their toll of our bodies, resulting in imbalanced gut bacteria and a host of nasty symptoms that can persist for weeks and sometimes years. Over the past few years, more and more research has shown that a diet rich in probiotic foods and high quality probiotic supplements goes far beyond aiding in digestion. Along with processing the food we eat, our digestive tracts houses 80% of the immune system, and weakened immunity can wreak havoc on all areas of the body. Unfortunately, taking a daily probiotic or drinking some kombucha isn’t enough. Like any living organism, all that good bacteria we’re getting through probiotic foods and supplements needs to be nourished. With prebiotics. It may sound complicated, but adding pro- and prebiotic foods to your diet is incredible and the rewards are well worth the little effort involved. Today we’re discussing the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics, how to tell the difference (it’s easy), and why you need both.

What are they? Probiotics are pretty recognizable. Perhaps you’re heard of superstar strains Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium? Found in probiotic supplements and in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass, and natto, these strains (and more) of beneficial bacteria take up residence in the gut and help the body absorb nutrients, break down food, and ward off infection (fun fact: there are more bacteria in the gut than there are cells in your body). When everything is functioning properly, the good bacteria in your gut overtakes the bad, creating enzymes that destroy bad bacteria, yeast and other enzymes. Before modern agriculture, antibiotics and chlorinated water, our bodies had no trouble producing the bacteria we needed, but now our digestive tracts could use a little help, which is why it’s important to intentionally add probiotics to your routine, either through the probiotic-rich foods listed here or a high quality supplement.

But if we’re feeding ourselves all that good bacteria… who is feeding the bacteria? Like any living thing, probiotic bacteria has to eat to stay healthy and strong, which is where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are a special type of fibre, called oligosaccharides, found in certain fruits and vegetables. Oligosaccharides are a type of fibre that can’t be broken down by digestive enzymes or gastric acid; instead, they make their way to the gut where they’re feasted upon by the good bacteria, increasing their numbers and effectiveness. Probiotics are great on their own, but add in prebiotics and they become superpowered, allowing our bodies even more nutrient absorption and boosting overall health. Prebiotics are found in vegetables like raw asparagus, green bananas, garlic, leeks, kale, onion, dandelion greens, and jicama.

What are the benefits? Because 80% of the immune system is located in the gut and has the power to influence all systems in the body, probiotics can help improve overall wellbeing and some very specific symptoms. The first thing you may notice after beginning a new probiotic regimen is decreased bloating. Probiotics help breakdown and process the food we eat, aiding in intestinal motility (elimination) and gastric acid production, which decreases gas while improving digestion overall. Adding more probiotic-rich fermented foods or supplements to your diet may also help clear up acne and other skin issues such as eczema while improving immunity across the board, as these conditions are often tied to immune response and probiotics boost immune function. You may feel more awake and energetic, as probiotics help produce the vitamins B12 and K2, and help kill off candida overgrowth, which can cause low energy, bad breath, and yeast overgrowth.

Adding prebiotic foods to your diet will help the good bacteria in your system function at optimal levels while delivering a hearty dose of added vitamins, minerals and nutrients to your system. And because the good bacteria will be working so efficiently, they’ll deliver these nutrients faster right where they’re needed.

How do I use them? First and foremost, if you’re planning on adding a supplement to your wellness routine, it’s important to find the probiotic that works best for you. When looking for a probiotic supplement, seek out a high quality brand that contains at least 80 billion CFUs (colony forming units) and at least 10 different strains of bacteria — you want the bacteria to make it past the gastric acid in your stomach and be able to diversify once they reach your gut. If you have specific health concerns, do some research beforehand to find out which strains are especially helpful in treating specific needs.

Even if you’re taking a probiotic supplement, it’s always a good idea to add plenty of probiotic-rich foods to your diet. This helps add biodiversity to your gut bacteria, while delivering additional nutrients. Go for “sour” foods such as unfiltered apple cider vinegar, plain kefir (water, coconut or traditional organic dairy), plain yogurt (look for “live and active cultures” over “active cultures” — you want ‘em moving and shaking), kombucha, and kimchi. Avoid “fermented” foods that contain large amounts of added sugar, like sugary yogurts, as candida and yeast feed off these added sugars, exacerbating the problem, some naturally-occurring sugars, like those present in yogurt and kombucha are OK. If need be, add some fruit or nuts for a little extra flavor.

Prebiotic foods are the easiest part. Opt for fibre-rich vegetables, such as jicama, kale, leeks, onions, dandelion greens, underripe bananas, asparagus, garlic, broccoli, Jerusalem artichoke, and go raw whenever possible.

+ Be sure to check out more Wellness Encyclopedia posts!

Follow Julie on Instagram + check out her blog.

This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. 
Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.

Free People Blog

Wellness Encyclopedia: Arugula + Arugula Plum Summer Salad

Wellness Encyclopedia: Arugula + Arugula Plum Summer Salad

It’s time to give a little love to the workhorse greens that carry all the fixings from fork to mouth…

Last week I found myself in possession of some greens, freshly grown and generously gifted by a neighbor. Lettuces, herbs, and some particularly alluring arugula, the plants had obviously thrived in the sandy soil where they were grown, but it wasn’t until they made their way to the salad bowl that their true colors were allowed to shine. These were no ordinary, run-of-the-mill, store-bought baby greens! Everything tasted greener, fresher, brighter, but the arugula! The arugula was so spicy, peppery and pungent that it could barely be eaten raw. So accustomed have I become to the mild baby arugula available in the grocery store that can so easily be made into a salad all on its own that the real thing — the real, grown by loving hands plant — was a brand new experience. Turns out, arugula is a lot more complex than I could have imagined. As we enter into salad season — the season when the thought of turning on the stove is enough to make you start sweating preemptively, when cold salads in every variety are what’s eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — it’s time to give a little love to the workhorse greens that carry all the fixings from fork to mouth. Read on to learn why arugula deserves a place at the table — and in your bowl — this season. The benefits might surprise you.

 

 

What is it? Arugula, also called rocket, is a member of the Brassicaceae family (along with kale, turnip, and broccoli) native to the Mediterranean region, specifically Morocco. With a unique spicy, peppery flavor it’s a common sight on the summer table as it thrives in sandy, dry soil and, depending on the region, is considered to be either an herb or a lettuce and treated as such (sometimes added sparingly as a garnish, sometimes taking center stage as the main dish). Arugula’s electric flavor inspired excitement in at least one culture, earning it the label of aphrodisiac by the Romans and Egyptians for its ability to awaken drowsy people, and was mixed with boring, mood-killing lettuce in Medieval times to dampen its otherwise too-stimulating properties. These days, arugula is most commonly found in the produce section, though it’s an easy plant to grow and one that rewards with an even more pungent flavor profile than what’s available in stores.

 

 

What are the benefits? For a simple, seemingly everyday green, arugula boasts some pretty surprising rewards. Rich in vitamin C, it can help ward off summer colds by strengthening the immune system and increase cellular turnover and collagen production in the skin. Rich in antioxidants, arugula can help scrub the body of free radicals and boost the body’s ability to flush out toxins. Rich in vitamin K, arugula could also boost brainpower and strengthen your bones — vitamin K has been found to ward off brain degeneration and build and strengthen healthy bones. The high profile B-complex vitamins present in arugula could also aid in speeding up the metabolic process, as B vitamins have been shown to increase cellular turnover and the production of red blood cells.

 

How do I use it? Arugula lends itself beautifully to a variety of culinary uses and can stand on its own as a side (try it mixed with lemon and good olive oil) or as part of a dish (try tossing some fresh arugula on top of a homemade pizza just as it comes out of the oven). It’s delicious tossed into pastas and added to salads and is hearty enough to even be sauteed — the peppery flavor adds a unique profile and counterbalance when paired with fresh fruit, seafood, or even a sweeter balsamic dressing.

Arugula Plum Summer Salad

[serves 1-2]

Ingredients

1 large handful baby arugula

2 cups mixed baby greens

½ cup chopped red cabbage

4-5 radishes, chopped

2 plums, pitted and sliced

Small handful of walnuts, chopped

Optional: Goat cheese, crumbled

Method

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine (pro tip: a big bowl makes all the difference when it comes to a great salad). Top with salad dressing of choice (I recommend good olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar). Serve with a crusty baguette or favorite gluten-free bread. Makes one large serving or two smaller side salads.

+ Be sure to check out more Wellness Encyclopedia posts!

Follow Julie on Instagram + check out her blog.

This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. 
Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.

 

Free People Blog

Wellness Encyclopedia: Cauliflower + Danny Seo’s Cauliflower Brownies

Wellness Encyclopedia: Cauliflower + Danny Seo’s Cauliflower Brownies

Cauliflower is finally receiving the attention it so deserves…

Quick: Picture the most nutritious vegetable you can think of. What comes to mind? A rainbow of goodness? Something dark and leafy? Maybe broccoli or brussels sprouts. Probably kale. Perhaps bright purple cabbage. Definitely not cauliflower (unless of course, you took inspiration from where we all know this article is headed). Long relegated to the “pale foods” corner of the nutritional pyramid along with potatoes and parsnip, which for a long time were considered nutritionally void, cauliflower is finally receiving the attention it so deserves, occupying not only the produce section but the freezer aisle as well, as riced cauliflower becomes more widely available and appreciated. A nutritional powerhouse that shares the same species with the cruciferous veggies listed above, cauliflower is versatile, affordable and, above all, delicious. Though it may fall somewhere at the end of the food rainbow (think of it as the clouds on either end), cauliflower packs a virtuous punch when it comes to vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Today I’m sharing just a few reasons why you should love this simple veggie and a delicious and unexpected way to use it from Danny Seo’s new cookbook Naturally, Delicious

What is it? In the same species (Brassica oleracea) as broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage, cauliflower is an annual edible plant with a dense white head similar to that of broccoli, though the two differ as broccoli heads are made up of tiny flower buds and bright green leaves. A nutritional workhorse, cauliflower has recently gained wider attention for its versatile flavor and unique nutritional profile, rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.

What are the benefits? Cauliflower is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes vegetables dense in glucosinolates or sulfur-containing compounds that support detoxification and are thought to potentially reduce the odds of developing certain types of cancers. Cauliflower is rich in a variety of vitamins, including vitamin K, which can help prevent blood clots, and vitamin C, for boosted immunity. The high amounts of fibre in cauliflower aids in digestion and the same glucosinolates that support detoxification also encourage the liver to release protective enzymes that neutralize free radicals and protect the gut lining.

How do I use it? Cauliflower is incredibly versatile, so much so that you can toss it into smoothies and baked goods without altering the flavor too much (I say “too much” because there can be too much of a good thing — too much cauliflower tastes like, well, cauliflower). Add frozen cauliflower to smoothies in place of, or in addition to, bananas as a thickener and nutritional boost. Pureed cauliflower can also be added to baked goods, soups, stews and sauces as a thickener and to boost the nutritional profile. Cauliflower is also incredible on its own — try it raw or roasted, or use it in place of rice as a low-carb, paleo-friendly substitute.

Flourless Double-Chocolate Cauliflower Brownies

From Naturally, Delicious by Danny Seo

Ingredients

½ head cauliflower (about 1 ½ cups florets)

½ cup organic milk, room temperature

1 cup fair-trade bittersweet chocolate chips, melted

½ cup butter, melted (plus more to grease pan)

3 organic eggs

½ cup grade B organic maple syrup

1 cup pecans, ground

¾ cup coconut flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp baking powder

⅛ tsp sea salt

*A note from Julie: To make these brownies vegan, substitute plant milk for milk, coconut oil for butter, and 3 flax eggs for eggs.

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.

Add the cauliflower and milk to a high-speed blender and puree until smooth. Add in melted chocolate, butter, eggs and maple syrup, and blend until combined.

In a medium bowl, combine the ground pecans, coconut flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.

Gently fold the wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Cool before slicing.

**Another note from Julie: Serve with ice cream or non-dairy ice cream and fruit! Enjoy!

+ Be sure to check out more Wellness Encyclopedia posts!

Follow Julie on Instagram + check out her blog.

This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. 
Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.

Free People Blog