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Turmeric: The Wonder Supplement

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Many of my personal training clients often complain about inflammation and joint pain. Whether it’s from the occasional muscle soreness or more chronic inflammation, turmeric can provide major relief.

 

What is it?

Turmeric is a bright yellow aromatic powder from the plant in the ginger family. It’s what gives the yellow color to Indian curry and is used as a spice in many Asian dishes. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and it contains many anti-inflammatory properties and is a strong antioxidant.

 

The amount of curcumin in the turmeric spice is very low (~3%) so that is why it is necessary to take a supplement with higher levels of curcumin. It is not easily absorbed into the bloodstream so be sure to look for an extract that contains black pepper to aid with absorption.

 

What are the benefits?

Curcumin contains many anti-inflammatory properties. Many studies have shown that curcumin fares equal or better to some well-known over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs but without the side effects (think digestion/stomach issues). Several of my clients with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis take this supplement daily to help with their chronic inflammation.

 

Curcumin also acts as an antioxidant helping to fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause oxidative damage and are related to many diseases in the body. Curcumin not only helps fight free radicals but it also helps boost the body’s own activity of producing antioxidant enzymes.

 

Other studies have shown that curcumin aids in the production of a brain growth hormone which can help delay or even reverse age-related diseases in the brain. In addition, there are studies that show it helps to strengthen the lining of blood vessels which aids in blood pressure regulation and other heart related diseases.

 

You can find turmeric or curcumin in your local pharmacy or health food store. It has made a world of difference for many of my clients.

The Many Benefits of Ashwaganda

Thursday, September 10, 2015

 


As a certified wellness coach I am constantly researching and experimenting with foods and supplements that will keep me at my healthiest. I’m a firm believer in taking herbal supplements to provide your body with added nutrients that you may not be absorbing through your food. Given that every person has a different genetic makeup and varying differences in lifestyles, there is no one supplement that fits everyone. However, ashwaganda is one supplement that will benefit most everyone in a positive way.

 

What Is Ashwaganda?

Ashwaganda is in the same plant family as the tomato with oval leaves, yellow flowers and small red fruit about the size of a raisin. The root and berries are made into the extract (gel, pill or dried form for tonics) that are ingested daily. Ashwaganda is commonly called ‘Indian ginseng’ and is known for its restorative benefits particularly to the immune system. It has been used in eastern medicine for over 2,500 years. It is a powerful adaptogen herb which essentially means that it helps restore, balance and protect your body.

 

Benefits

There are hundreds of studies on the many benefts of ashwaganda which include balancing hormones, reducing stress and anxiety, stabilizing blood sugar, reduce brain cell degeneration, improve immune response and prevent and treat cancer. (See Below for specific studies)

  •  
  • - Research from the Asha Hospital in Hyderbad found, in a study of 64 people with chronic stress, that Ashwagandha supplementation for two months decreased stress by 44% and decreased depression and/or anxiety by 72%.
    - Tokyo University of Technology researchers found that Ashwagandha slows the process of melanocyte stem cell phosphorylation, giving it the potential of blocking skin cancers.
    - Jamia Hamdard University researchers found that Ashwagandha reduces oxidative damage related to brain cell damage – making it useful for reducing dementia and Alzheimer’s risk.
    - Eight weeks of Ashwagandha supplementation increased endurance, respiration capacity and metabolic efficiency among cycling athletes, according to research from Guru Nanak Dev University.
    - Research from Texas’ Baylor University found that Ashwagandha reduced inflammation related to type I diabetes.
    - Research from the College of Pharmacy at University of Hawaii performed assays that found that Ashwagandha inhibited cancer-related cytokines.
    - Researchers from Jamia Hamdard University’s Pharmacy Faculty found that Ashwagandha reduces oxidative stress related to type 2 diabetes.
    - Researchers from Malaysia’s University Sains found that Ashwagandha reduced fatigue and increased general well-being among patients who were undergoing chemotherapy.
    - Researchers from Pakistan’s Quaid-i-Azam University found that Ashwagandha inhibited cancer cells from growing.

 

Many people (women in particular) often have hormone imbalances leaving them feeling tired, stressed, irritable and fighting to lose stubborn pounds. Since ashwaganda is an adaptogen it helps to balance thyroid levels so it can either stimulate a sluggish thyroid or slow down T3/T4 production depending on the body’s specific need.

 

Ashwaganda also contains powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals that cause aging. This can be particularly helpful for the aging population to help prevent neurological diseases such as Alzheimers and dementia.

 

One of the more recent studies compared ashwaganda use to certain anti-depressant and anti-anxiety pharmaceutical drugs and found that it had comparable results. Plus, ashwaganda does not have the adverse side effects as those pharmaceutical drugs.

 

If you do suffer from chronic stress, mood swings, hormonal imbalances and low energy I strongly recommend you to try ashwaganda. Of course, consult your doctor if you are taking any pharmaceutical drugs specifically prescribed to treat any of the above issues as there could be some adverse side effects.

 

Here is the ashwaganda extract that I take daily: Ashwaganda root

A Little Spice Makes Everything Nice

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

 

Let’s talk about health benefits of a few of my favorite spices: cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. Cardamom originated in India and is available in most grocery stores (ground) and specialty health food stores (pod and plant). It is rich in Vitamins A & C as well as potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. It is well-known for having anti-carcinogenic properties as well as being good for cardiovascular health. It is also an anti-depressant and is often one of the essential oils used in aromatherapy.


 

Cardamom Tea

4 cardamom pods

4 black peppercorns

4 clove

1 cinnamon stick

4 slices fresh ginger (quartered)

*Heat all ingredients in 2.5 cups of water for 2 hours. Strain and serve with a teaspoon of honey and a splash of milk (sub almond or coconut milk for dairy free)

 

Have Nausea…Take Ginger! Ginger is the cure-all for all types of nausea including morning sickness, alcohol hangovers and motion sickness. It can also be used to aid in digestion. It originated in Southeast Asia more than 5000 years ago but spread quickly to other regions as its healing properties became more widely known. Traditional Ayurvedic (meaning life knowledge in Sanskrit) hailed ginger as a gift from God. It also has anti-microbial properties so it can be helpful when fighting a cold or other immune-suppressing illness.

 


 

Ginger Salmon

1 Filet wild caught Salmon

1 stem fresh chopped ginger

1 garlic clove chopped

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

S&P to taste

*Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly rub evoo on salmon then add garlic and ginger plus salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 15-20 minutes until salmon flakes off easily. Serve with a side of baked asparagus or other green vegetable and/or brown rice.

 

The use of cinnamon goes back to around 2000BC when Egyptians used it as a perfuming agent in the embalming process. Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of the cinnamomum tree. Those stems are dried and during the drying process they roll up into sticks. The sticks can be used alone or they can then be ground up to form the powder we most commonly use in various recipes. Cinnamon contains large amounts of polyphenol antioxidant making it a huge superfood. It also has anti-inflammatory properties to help the body fight infection and repair tissue damage. Cinnamon has also been linked to reduce heart disease, lower blood sugar and blood pressure as well as cholesterol. Try a teaspoon in your coffee in the morning!

 


Basil Cinnamon Peaches

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup raw sugar (Or use 3 tablespoons of honey or agave nectar)

3 strips lemon zest (1-by-2-inch strips)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 3-inch piece cinnamon stick

3 ripe but firm medium peaches, halved lengthwise and pitted

1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

*Combine water, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and cinnamon stick in a large nonreactive saucepan (see Note); bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Add peach halves. Return to a brisk simmer, cover the pan and simmer, turning the peaches occasionally, until they are tender when pierced with a skewer or paring knife and the skins are loosened, 20 to 25 minutes (depending on the ripeness of the peaches). Transfer the peaches to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Return the liquid to a boil and cook until reduced to about 3/4 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in basil and let cool to room temperature, about 40 minutes.

Slip off and discard the peach skins. Place the peaches in a storage container and strain the cooled syrup over them. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

Spring Is in the Air & On My Plate

Monday, April 27, 2015

 

Spring is in the air and I love being able to throw together a quick salad using whatever fresh fruits and veggies are on hand. You can mix up just about any combination of fruits to go on a salad. I typically stick with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil drizzle as a dressing since the creamy ones tend to be loaded with saturated fat and excess sugar and/or salt. Plus the light vinegar and olive oil allow you to really taste the mix of the fruits and veggies which should be the stars of the dish anyways.

 

Pear & Blueberry Salad

1 cup spinach or kale (or mix of both)

1 Bartlett pear chopped

½ cup blueberries

1 roma tomato sliced

Sprinkle of feta cheese (or omit if dairy free)

Sprinkle of sunflower seeds (~2 tbsp)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1tbsp aged balsamic vinegar

*(You can mix the vinegar and oil together to blend them before drizzling over salad if you prefer)

 

Layer the ingredients in that order in a salad bowl and enjoy!

Time to Veg Out

Monday, March 16, 2015

Farm Fresh Veggies

 

I woke up this morning craving fresh tomatoes. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting a homegrown tomato freshly picked off the vine with a dash of salt and pepper then you know exactly why I’m craving tomatoes! It is a little piece of heaven and totally moan-worthy in my book. J That being said it’s time to start working on my garden so I can have tomatoes ready for the summer. And for those of you who don’t have the time or the desire to plant a garden those tomatoes are just a click away. One easy way to get fresh veggies is to sign up for a local community supported agriculture (CSA) program. You can easily Google a program in your area and there’s a good chance that there’s a local farm nearby that has a program or offers onsite pick up of fresh farm veggies. And did I mention farm fresh eggs?!

 

For those of you that are in the Charleston area here are a few programs you can check out.

  • -Ambrose Family Farms: This is my personal favorite and I try to do either the winter or summer share program depending on my schedule. I would recommend the medium share for a 4-person family. Plus you can always head to the Stono Market on Main Road if you want more veggies.
  • -Legare Farms
  • -Gruber Farms

 

For my Columbia, SC peeps….try these

 

There are a few other large retail companies that are now partnering with local farms to provide customers with access to fresh produce. Check out Overstock.com and search for ‘produce’ and add your zip code to see if there is a program near you. There is also a Costco-like retailer, ThriveMarket.com, which also sells fresh veggies and a wide range of other products that you can have delivered to your door. There are free shipping options with both of these retailers to make it a little more cost efficient.

Everyone should have access to fresh produce regardless of where you live. And buying fresh farm veggies is usually very inexpensive and you’re supporting local business so it’s a win for your wallet and for your local community.

Heart Healthy Oatmeal Casserole

Friday, February 06, 2015

Eating the same bowl of oatmeal for breakfast can get boring so I decided to mix it up into a hot casserole. You can use any type of berries (preferably ones in season) and also substitute any type of milk.

 


Serves 6 (Double the batch for a larger breakfast crowd)

1.5 cup of rolled oats

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

½ tsp aluminum free baking powder

¼ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup honey or agave (can eliminate if you want to reduce the sugar; I used just a drizzle on top)

1 cup coconut milk (any milk will work)

1 egg

1 tbsp soft butter

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-2 bananas, sliced into ½-1” pieces

1.5 cups blueberries

 

Heat oven to 375°. Coat a 9x11 baking dish with butter (or light baking spray)

Mix oats, cinnamon, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and set aside

Whisk milk, egg, vanilla extract together and set aside

Place sliced bananas on bottom of dish in a single layer

Add ~1/2 of the berries on top of the bananas

Spread the oatmeal mixture on top of the fruit evenly

Add the rest of the berries and then slowly pour the milk/egg mixture on top of the entire dish

(You may need to shake the dish a few times to make sure the milk mixture is evenly distributed across the entire casserole)

Sprinkle the walnuts on top and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until slightly golden brown and bubbly

Drizzle honey on top after removing from the oven

 

Heart Healthy Benefits:

  • Eating oatmeal can reduce the ‘lousy’ cholesterol (low density-LDL) and also helps to lower blood pressure
  • Blueberries contain flavonoids that help prevent plaque build-up in the arteries as well
  • Adding cinnamon to your food (or coffee) can help control your blood sugar

Super Foods to the Rescue!

Monday, January 19, 2015

There’s a lot of contradicting information out there in regards to foods and nutrition. There are, however, some really great ways to keep your body operating at its best. One easy way to do this is by incorporating as many SuperFoods into your diet as possible. It may sound complicated but these foods are likely already a part of your diet and you don’t even know it. Check out my SuperFoods recipe blog for some tasty recipe ideas too.

 

Beans

Eating beans may help reduce cholesterol levels and reduce certain cancers like colon, breast & prostate. They contain a highly concentrated amount of a certain phytonutrient called polyphenol which acts as an antioxidant and is also anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic. Fava beans, pinto/black beans and garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are a few of my favorites.

Blueberries

If I could pick one SuperFood that I had to eat everyday it would be blueberries. I’ve spent some time in upstate NY in the summer and the local farmers market has the best fresh berries. Some of the sidekick berries include cranberries, boysenberries, raspberries, strawberries and cherries. Eating a cup daily can prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, senility and degenerative eye diseases. This is THE most powerful disease-fighting antioxidant than any other fruit or veggie. You can add these to yogurt for a great boost to your breakfast; to an afternoon smoothie; or even eat a handful on the go.

Broccoli

Many people I’ve talked with still have a negative stigma about broccoli. It might be because that was the one food that our parents made us eat even though we hated it so we still revolt against it today. Hopefully you’ve outgrown your dislike of this vegetable because just ½ cup to 1 cup daily provides a natural protection against cancer. They contain powerful antioxidants that help to fight cancer. There’s also a study that found that eating broccoli more than 2 times/week provided a 23% lower risk of cataracts. If you aren’t a huge fan of broccoli, you can try Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale or cauliflower.

Wild Salmon

There’s been a great debate about eating fats and one of the ‘good’ fats known as polyunsaturated fat helps to increase the good cholesterol, control hypertension, prevent cancer, mitigate auto-immune disease and relieve depression. These polyunsaturated fats known as Omega3 and Omega6 are greatly concentrated in wild salmon. Eating this fish 2-4 times/week will give you the needed Omega fats and help maintain good health. One important note is to beware of farm raised salmon due to environmental concerns over the toxicity levels of raising these farmed fish. ( http://draxe.com/the-dangers-of-farmed-fish/ ) Although many improvements have been made over the years to raise clean farmed fish, the known benefits are directly related to wild salmon. Some other sidekicks include Alaskan halibut, canned albacore tuna, sea bass, oysters or clams.

 

By adding these foods into your diet on a daily/weekly basis you are well on your way to ensuring that your body is well-defended from many diseases.


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