Champion Chia Seeds!

These tiny little seeds have gained huge popularity in the health community, and for good reason: they are nutrition powerhouses, easily digested, and make for an incredibly versatile ingredient you can use in almost any dish. Chia seeds contain 2 times the protein of any other grain, 5 times the calcium of milk, 2 times the amount of potassium as bananas, plus 3 times more iron than spinach! They are also high in fiber, phosphorous, magnesium, and are a rich source of anti-oxidants. One of the most celebrated nutrients in chia seeds is a hefty dose of Omega-3 fatty acids. These are considered essential fatty acids, meaning our bodies do not produce them on their own, so we need to consume them to get their benefits. Other foods that contain these EFAs are wild-caught salmon, walnuts, and quinoa. Check out just a few of the great reasons to start adding chia seeds to your diet today!

  1. The antioxidants in chia speed up your skin repair systems and prevent further damage, helping you prevent premature skin aging caused by inflammation and free radical damage.
  2. Chia packs 11 grams of fiber per ounce, fulfilling the recommended fiber intake the ADA recommends. Your body needs fiber in order to balance its insulin levels, as well as promote bowel regularity and healthy stool. It also forms a gelatin-like substance in the stomach, which can help you feel full sooner and aid in weight loss.
  3. The EFAs in chia seeds can also help reduce inflammation, regulate cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, making it extremely beneficial for heart health. They are also high linoleic, a fatty acid that helps the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K that you’re getting from all those fresh veggies!
  4. Chia seeds have anti-cancer benefits from something called lignans, a phytoestrogen that is believed to help reduce the risk of breast, prostate, edometrian, ovarian, and thyroid cancers.
  5. Chia ranks among the top plant sources of protein, making it great for producing lean muscle, burn fat, and balancing blood sugar levels. Additionally, because chia seeds are high in zinc, they help your body increase the production of leptin, a hormone that regulates your appetite and your energy levels.

One of my favorite ways to include chia seeds into my diet is making a super easy pudding that you can have for breakfast or as a little treat to satisfy your dessert desires. Here’s a single-serving recipe that you can easily double or triple. Once made, the pudding can stay in the fridge for a few days, so feel free to mix up a bunch and spoon it out as you like!

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup organic chia seeds
  • 1 cup organic unsweetened nut or seed milk (my personal favorite is coconut, which gives a thick, creamy texture)
  • Organic alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of cardamom

Topping Ideas

  • Organic fresh berries
  • Organic pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, or walnuts
  • Organic unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Organic cacao nibs
  1. Whisk ingredients in a Mason jar, stirring well for about 5 minutes until all seeds are coated. Close the jar and refrigerate for at least one hour (the pudding will continue to thicken the longer it sits, so feel free to leave it as long as you want)
  2. Garnish with toppings and enjoy!
chia seeds in dish

chia seeds in dish

When it comes to chia seed pudding, the flavor combinations are endless, so get creative and satisfy any cravings you’re having!

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Great Greens

Great Greens

When it comes to eating leafy greens, the question I am often asked is, “Which one is the BEST?”. We are always looking to get the most bang for our buck, especially when it comes to what we eat; most of the time we’d rather get one super-food than a whole bunch of produce to get a wide array of nutrients. Although some greens are more nutrient-dense than others, there is not one specific green that beats out all the rest. Because of this, it is important to rotate different greens throughout your diet. One general rule of thumb we can always follow is that the darker the leaf the more nutrients you will get. To help navigate the rest of the leafy green world here are the seven most common greens and a comparison of their vitamin and mineral levels.

  1. Kale has developed a reputation for being the healthiest plant we can eat, and while it is highly nutritious and versatile, it has lower calcium levels than spinach, collard greens, and arugula. Since it is a tough green that can be difficult to chew, and therefore fully digest and absorb, try either lightly steaming it or massaging raw kale with olive oil before eating.
  2. Popeye knew that spinach was a leafy green powerhouse, but he may not have known that it beats out kale in its levels of calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A & K, and folate. Plus, its mild flavor makes it a great addition to any meal, including smoothies!
  3. Swiss chard can add some great color to your plate with its rainbow of stems, plus, it comes close to spinach in its nutrient offerings. It is higher in sodium than other greens, so if you are trying to limit your sodium intake, you may want to add a bit less salt to your Swiss chard side dish.
  4. Romaine is perfect for salads because of its mild flavor and fresh crunch. While its not the most nutrient-rich green, although it is high in folate and Vitamin A, it can easily be mixed with other greens for a well-balanced and multi-textured salad.
  5. Collard greens are a staple in the southern US states, but deserve attention everywhere for their health benefits; they have twice the amount of calcium as spinach and are also high in potassium and magnesium.
  6. Arugula is a great way to add a little spice to your salads, as well as some good antioxidants and fiber. Its overall general nutritional value is lower than some other greens, but it combines beautifully with nutrient-dense spinach.
  7. Iceberg lettuce is basically crunchy water, although it does have a fair amount of potassium. While it’s not bad for you, I recommend opting for other greens to reap the most nutrients.

 

Here is a side-by-side comparison of these greens, created using information from the USDA Food Comparison Databases:

Calcium          Potassium      Magnesium    Vit E    Vit C    Vit A    Vit K    Folate

(mg)               (mg)                    (mg)             (mg)    (mg)    (IU)     (ug)      (ug)

Kale                24                  79                           8                  0.3       19       1598      113        23

Spinach         30                 167                          24                0.6       8         2813      145       58

Chard             18                 136                           29                0.7      11       2202      299       5

Romaine        16                 116                            7                 0.1      2         4094      48       64

Collards         84                  77                           10                0.8     12.7    1807      157      46

Arugula          32                  74                            9                 0.1       3         475         22       19

Iceberg            13                 102                           5                 0.1       2         361          17       21

*mg= milligrams        *IU= International Units      *ug= micrograms

lettuceAs you can see, not one of these greens contains equal amounts of all the nutrients you need for a balanced diet, so mix them up in order to get the most out of them. Get your green on!

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We may call it Breakfast, but really, it’s Dessert

pancakesDesserts have been masquerading as breakfast foods for years, particularly gaining ground in the in the 1950s during what was called the Golden Age of Cereal. This is when sugary cereals were heavily marketed to children, as well as their time-strapped, convenience-minded parents. This trend continued to rise with each passing decade and now an entire grocery store aisle is devoted entirely to these boxes of sugary, processed, artificial foods. One serving of Honey Nut Cheerios contains more sugar than three Chips Ahoy cookies; cereal should just be called crushed up cookies in a bowl.

But its not just cereal that’s the problem, a huge array of what we call breakfast foods truly are just desserts hiding in plain sight. For example, IHOP has a huge variety of pancakes with such flavors as NYC cheesecake or raspberry chocolate chip, which come with a whopping 83 grams (nearly 21 teaspoons) of sugar! You might think you’re making the healthier choice by picking a muffin from your local coffee shop, but those cupcakes sans frosting can contain about 37 grams of sugar, a little more than 9 teaspoons. Even if it’s organic, vegan, and/or gluten-free, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have plenty of sugar. Often, because of the ingredients that have to be eliminated to meet those dietary requirements, MORE sugar is added in order to keep it from tasting like cardboard.

So what about yogurt, that’s a healthy choice, right? While pure, homemade yogurt is a highly nutritious food, brands like Yolplait and Chobani have built yogurt empires by saturating their products with sugar. With flavor names like Key Lime Pie and Philly cheesecake, it’s not too surprising that these are nothing more than sugar bombs. Yolplait’s strawberry yogurt contains 18 grams, while Chobani’s blueberry fruit on the bottom yogurt contains 15 grams, the same amount of sugar as a ½ cup of Bryer’s vanilla ice cream! All this added sugar knocks out any good bacteria that was originally in the yogurt, so if you buy commercial brands, don’t expect to get any probiotic benefit from them.

And if you think granola is healthy, think again. Many brands pack at least 200 calories in each serving, and servings are usually listed as ½ cup (some are listed as low as ¼ cup, or 4 teaspoons!). However, most of us tend to eat much more in one sitting, or forgo measuring it altogether, and therefore could end up consuming 600 calories in one bowl. Bars don’t fare much better: a Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bar clocks in at 12 grams of sugar. For that same amount, you could eat a fun size Oh Henry candy bar!

Breakfast doesn’t have to be dessert; it can be filling and nutritious and provide the right kind of fuel you need to start your day. In America, we have been told by the food industry that breakfast=sweet, while in many other cultures, breakfast is made up of a variety of foods and flavors that we may not recognize as breakfast foods. For example, in Japan, breakfast often means a hearty mix of rice, fish, and miso soup: protein, vitamins and minerals, without any cookies-in-a-bowl or sugary dairy. Try thinking out of the box when it comes to what you fix for breakfast, you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

Organic eggs, particularly when eaten with vegetables, are satiating and nutrient-rich, thanks to the protein and fat from the eggs and the vitamins and minerals from the veggies. Anything that is low-fat, low-protein, and high-sugar is going to leave you feeling sluggish and hungry an hour after eating. If you want to have something with a bit of sweetness, try making a porridge out of millet, quinoa, or gluten-free oats, topped with fresh fruit and some nuts or seeds. Consider making smoothies using plenty of greens and adding a touch of sweetness with half a banana or a couple of dates. There are a myriad of recipes online that can inspire you to make the shift away from sugary breakfasts, so start searching and start experimenting today!

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Yoga For Back Pain Returns!

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Join me for this month’s donation-based benefit class!

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Last Fundraising Class of 2015 on December 16th!

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Join me this Wednesday for donation-based yoga for a great cause!

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