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Eat Your Way to a Glowing Complexion

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Your skin is a reflection of your inner health. Creams, serums, and lotions work to a certain degree, but creating beautiful skin from the inside out is a sure fire way to a glowing complexion. By incorporating foods with the right nutrients into your diet, your skin will be clear and bright, and wrinkles and signs of aging will diminish. Look for foods with the following nutrients and your skin will transform beautifully.

1. Beta-Carotene

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that gives the yellow-orange pigment to certain foods making them so rich in color. The human body converts it into Vitamin A, or retinol, crucial for skin health. Beta-carotene helps stimulate cell regeneration, which reduces wrinkles and improves skin color and texture. It also minimizes the effects of environmental damage from the sun and external pollution.

Sources in nature:

Carrots

Sweet potatoes

Persimmons

Squash

Kale

Spinach

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omegas are extremely important in hydrating your skin and regulating oil production. If you’re feeling dry and flaky (especially in winter months), incorporating quality sources of omega-3s into your diet can really help. Omega-3s are extremely anti-inflammatory and can soothe skin conditions like rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema. They can prevent the destruction of collagen and increase resilience to internal and external threats.

Sources in nature:

Coconut Oil

Avocados

Olive Oil

Hemp seeds

Flax seeds

Fish oil

Walnuts

Leafy greens

3. Vitamins C and E

These vitamins are imperative for a bright and glowing complexion. They increase collagen growth which gives skin its elasticity and protects against wrinkles. They can actually prevent your skin from harmful effects of the sun, and potentially reverse sun damage including age spots. Incorporating them into your diet will help you restore and maintain youthful skin.

Sources in nature:

Lemons

Grapefruits

Strawberries

Almonds

Spinach

Asparagus

Photo by Steven Spassov

 


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Nutrition for a Glowing Complexion

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The skincare industry is a multi-billion dollar giant. The research into ingredients intended to make you way more attractive than nature did is a full time job for thousands of people every day.

There are two sides to the coin that make this industry so lucrative. One involves the factors that create the need for these products, and the other is what people are willing to spend in order to look better. What’s interesting to note is that the same thing that creates the symptoms of poor and unsightly skin is the same thing that can heal it. This, my friends, is food.

You can slather on thousand dollar products made on the tiniest islands with the finest minerals from the Black Sea, or you can simply eat clean, whole foods. Poor diet is a huge factor when it comes to the condition of your skin. The biggest crater-creating culprits are dairy, gluten, sugar, trans fats, and salt. Eating a diet high in high-glycemic and processed foods undoubtedly results in unsightly skin and expedites the aging process.

The good news is that there are hundreds of options in nature that will without question greatly create and maintain a glowing complexion. By incorporating foods with the right nutrients into your diet, your skin will be clear and bright, and wrinkles and signs of aging will diminish. Look for foods with the following nutrients and your skin will transform beautifully.

1. Beta-Carotene

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that gives the yellow-orange pigment to certain foods making them so rich in color. The human body converts it into Vitamin A, or retinol, crucial for skin health. Beta-carotene helps stimulate cell regeneration, which reduces wrinkles and improves skin color and texture. It also minimizes the effects of environmental damage from the sun and external pollution.

Sources in nature:

Carrots

Sweet potatoes

Squash

Kale

Spinach

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omegas are extremely important in hydrating your skin and regulating oil production. If you’re feeling dry and flaky (especially in winter months), incorporating quality sources of omega-3s into your diet can really help. Omega-3s are extremely anti-inflammatory and can soothe skin conditions like rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema. They can prevent the destruction of collagen and increase resilience to internal and external threats.

Sources in nature:

Coconut Oil

Avocados

Olive Oil

Hemp seeds

Flax seeds

Fish oil

Walnuts

Leafy greens

3. Vitamins C and E

These vitamins are imperative for a bright and glowing complexion. They increase collagen growth which gives skin its elasticity and protects against wrinkles. They can actually prevent your skin from harmful effects of the sun, and have the potential to reverse sun damage including age spots. Incorporating them into your diet will help you restore and maintain youthful skin.

Sources in nature:

Lemons

Grapefruits

Strawberries

Almonds

Spinach

Asparagus


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Kitchen Tips for the Woman on the Go

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We live in a time of constant business. We rush from the coffee shop to work to yoga to happy hour to committee meetings on a daily basis, and repeat five to seven days a week. Living such intense lives requires that we fuel ourselves with only the best so that we can balance and maintain our demanding routines. Certain brands who’ve recognized this have developed products aimed to fulfill the needs of our society. These products will fill your tummy but don’t typically nourish your mind and body, and tend to be full of sugars and unhealthy additives. Here are some tips on preparing healthy options in the fastest and most efficient way possible, so that you won’t have to sacrifice when it comes to taking care of yourself along with your busy schedule.

1. Start your day off strong

Because you’ve been fasting for the last 5-8 hours, mornings are a great opportunity to nourish yourself with clean, whole foods. Fruit and nuts for breakfast are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and vitamins, and help to jumpstart your metabolism. Before you go to bed put a couple of peaches, some cherries, chopped pineapple or whatever you enjoy in a Tupperware, with a bag of mixed nuts and cranberries in your work bag. These are also great post-workout snacks and healthy afternoon treats. Being so easily transportable they’re great to keep on you at all times.

2.  Stock your kitchen the right way

Keep whole grains like rice, quinoa and farro in the house that you can easily use as a base to build up with vegetables and lean protein. Keep a bag or two of frozen mixed veggies in the fridge for those nights when you just don’t have any fresh ones on hand. Use condiments that you enjoy. Whether it’s a ginger soy sauce or a great pesto you found at the farmer’s market, the right condiment can totally transform an otherwise dull meal. Know what you like and keep it on hand. Buy pre-cut (not canned) fruits at the grocery store like cantaloupe and mango so that you don’t have to fuss with cutting them yourself, and so they’re always available to snack on.

3. Cook once and eat twice

Make a point to cook at least a couple of meals at home a week, and make extra so that you can pack it up in a Tupperware the next day and take with you for lunch. If you have even more, you can change it a bit the following night and have a quick dinner that’s easy to heat up.

4.  Shop for firm, crunchy vegetables

Buying veggies like peppers, carrots, onions, celery and cucumber is amazing because you can chop them all up right when you get home from the grocery and they’ll keep really nicely. When it’s time to prepare a meal you can just throw them in a pan and sauté them, mix them together in a salad, or have with hummus or any other dip. Find ones you enjoy and keep on hand for snacking or meals.

Being prepared is half the battle when it comes to eating well and nourishing your body. By making it a point to shop mindfully and think ahead when it comes to eating and snacking throughout your week you’ll have more energy, stop eating junk that leads to weight gain and other health issues, and will help you develop healthy and lasting habits.


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Baby Steps: How to Accomplish Anything

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Often times when I tell people I do nutritional consulting they launch into their wonderful plans for healthy living, but how they’ve never actually been able to make any of them happen. This issue is all too common. We all know what we need to do to be healthy – drink water, eat more greens, go to bed at a reasonable hour – but actually doing it can be so difficult! The problem is that so many of us feel that we have to wait until the right moment to get into a healthy routine. Unfortunately, when the time comes around to actually make those healthy changes we overload ourselves with way too many tasks, which sets us up for failure. We’ve got the right intentions, but no structure to support the actual achievement of those goals. The trick is focusing on one goal at a time so that eventually – typically after 30 days of consistency – the ‘healthy action’ stops feeling foreign and becomes routine. Here are some tips to turn those nice ideas into concrete healthy habits.

1. Pick one thing at a time

Choose one thing you want to change and start today. It’s much easier to implement a habit when you’re not trying to juggle multiple new things at once. Choose what you’d like to change, and plan to start today.

2. Remember your motivation

Whether it’s losing weight, sleeping better, having more energy, or improving your relationships, what motivates us is key to change. To keep in touch with your motivation, post reminders in your personal space, make a Pintrest board, or simply write down an affirmation each morning to help you stay focused.

3. Find some accountability

Giving up on something feels so much worse when you have to tell someone about it. Share your goal with a friend, partner or parent, and have them check in with you about it every so often. Knowing that someone else is (gently) keeping tabs on you gives you a much higher likelihood that you will stick to your plan. Hey, you might even inspire them to make changes of their own!

4. Get a buddy

Be the friend who inspires, and extend your good intentions out to others. Getting someone else on board creates a fun challenge for both of you. See who can cut out dairy for the longest. Start going to spin class instead of happy hour. Get up at 7 AM on a Saturday to hike Temescal. Having a partner can make it a lot more fun and can get you to go way beyond your initial expectations of yourself.

5. Do things incrementally

Unless you have the most extreme will power on the planet, trying to cut out sugar, gluten, and dairy all at the same time will be the biggest mishap of your life. Pick one thing you want to address and give yourself limits. If you’re trying to do less meat, try meatless Mondays. Then extend it to Tuesdays and so forth. If you want to cut down on sugar, commit to not eating refined sugar until 2 PM every day. Creating structure will help you know that you still have those indulgences to look forward to, but will prevent you from eating them as much as you would otherwise.

Once you tap into your capacity for healthy change, there’s no stopping you. Commit to one thing today, use these tools, and you’ll see positive shifts in all areas of your life.


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Have More Energy and Vitality in Your Daily Life

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It would seem that many of us are becoming old and tired very quickly. I’ve begun to notice that most people, when asked how they’re doing, respond with a sigh, ‘I’m ok, pretty tired.’ This normally begins in the early twenties and carries on into adulthood – unless we do something about it.

Most of us were born into perfect, healthy bodies. It is what we do to them over time that causes us to be tired, weak, and exhausted. Restless nights, cranky mornings, and afternoon crashes tend to be results of our own doing.

Here are some small changes you can make to brighten your days and get your energy flowing once again.

1. Start your day of with hot water and lemon, and three minutes of meditation

When you wake up in the mornings you’ve been fasting for the last five to eight hours. This is the perfect opportunity for a mini-cleanse to flush toxins from your body and hydrate your system.

Lemons are high in vitamin C which helps boost your immune system and neutralize free radicals associated with aging and disease, wrinkles and acne. Drinking hot water with lemon hydrates the lymph system responsible for secreting necessary hormones that regulate energy levels, hunger, metabolism, sleep and much more. It’s easy to do and will brighten up your body immediately!

I know, I know, meditation is for people who eat raw food and play hacky sack, BUT, many studies show that even a few minutes of meditation can generate happiness, improve concentration, maintain optimum blood pressure and benefits many other functions of the body. Starting in the morning, take three minutes to sit and calm the mind. For some simple tips on meditation: http://ow.ly/hEq8y. Beginning your day with meditation will activate your brain and flush obtrusive thoughts that obstruct clear thinking.

2. Confine snacking to nuts, fruit and other whole foods; AVOID refined sugars and carbohydrates

When you eat refined carbs and sugars your body works overtime trying to process the food you’ve just eaten. The body digests and converts food into sugar, and the more refined the food is the faster the conversion. The pancreas then begins to rapidly pump insulin to move sugar into the cells and store them as fat. This process is what creates the sugar highs and sugar crashes that most of us feel throughout the day when snacking on overly processed, overly refined products.

Not only do refined sugars and carbohydrates widen your waistline, they harm your brain by reducing production of chemicals that aid our memory, keep us alert, fight depression and anxiety, and improve our sleep. By switching your snacks to whole foods; walnuts, cranberries, grapes, hummus, and carrots provide an enormous benefit. Whole foods with a low glycemic load slow the conversion process, and the food is used as fuel instead of acting as an enemy.

Do yourself a favor and have small, tasty snacks with you at all times – at work, after the gym, out and about running errands. Changing your snacking style will absolutely increase your energy and reduce the unnecessary consumption of extra sugar helping prevent weight gain, bad moods, and poor concentration.

3. Cut down on meat

People tend to think that meat is a complete meal. While meat does contain a lot of protein, it lacks many essential vitamins and fats at the same time putting a huge strain on your digestive system.

Human being have long digestive tracts, as do all herbivores. Meat takes a very long time to pass through our systems. Converting meat takes a huge toll on our systems. Digestion is the most energy intensive process in our bodies, so eating meat once or twice or even three times a day takes a huge amount of energy  that could be used elsewhere.

I understand that meat is a big part of a lot of peoples’ diets, so I suggest gently reducing your intake. Begin by eliminating meat on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If that feels good, take it out of another day, and so on.

Although meat does provide us with a good amount of protein, we tend to overestimate how much protein we really need. If you are eating a well-rounded plant based diet (this doesn’t necessarily mean vegetarian, just that your meals begin with plants) including hemp seeds, nuts, legumes, lentils, mushrooms and green veggies, you’ll surely get plenty of protein. Since plant foods are so quickly and easily digested, you’ll have significantly more energy. They also provide you with vitamin D, magnesium, iron, antioxidants, vitamin C and tons of other nutrients that are great for your energy, skin, hormones, mental clarity, metabolism and more.

4. Make sure every meal includes a protein, fat and a carb

A lot of times when we end a meal we don’t feel satisfied, so our focus turns to finishing with something sweet or just continually eating throughout the day. This feeling of dissatisfaction is largely due to not eating a complete meal. Doing your best to eat a carb, a protein and a fat at each meal will help ensure that you feel satisfied and energized afterwards, and won’t crave food until your actually hungry again.

When many of us hear the word ‘fat’ we get concerned about weight gain, but healthy fats are extremely important for heart health, brain function, metabolism, healthy skin, and the absorption of important vitamins like A, C, K, and D.

Trans fats or hydrogenated oils MUST be avoided. This fat is used to extend the shelf life of processed foods foods. is one molecule away from being plastic. It harms your body the moment you ingest it. It thickens your blood and scars your arteries. Be sure to read labels and avoid hydrogenated oils and trans fats at all costs!

Protein can be derived from seeds, nuts, legumes, and green veggies. Fats from animals tensd to be high in saturated fat so good options are fish, nuts, coconut oil, avocadoes, and olive oil. Quinoa, rice, buckwheat, barley, or oatmeal are excellent examples of low-glycemic carbohydrates.

Examples (P = protein, F = fat, C = carb):

Breakfast – Two eggs (p), an avocado (p & f) and a slice of rye or whole wheat bread (c)

Lunch – Green bean salad (c) with goat cheese crumbles (f & p), pine nuts (f) and a palm-size piece of chicken breast (p),

Dinner – Sautéed zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, and kale (p) with olive oil (f) and rice (c)

5. Know your sensitivities and allergies

A lot of people know that they have sensitivities to dairy and gluten, but continue to consume them. I understand that it can be tough to get off things that are staples of our diets, but continually eating foods that don’t agree with us sap our energy as our bodies work overtime trying to break down and digest the foods that they don’t have the enzymes to aid digestion of that particular food.

To become more aware of your sensitivities, pay attention to any foods that gives you a headache, stomachache, acid or indigestion. If you can’t cut them out altogether, do it slowly and mindfully, If you’re allergic to dairy, replace your cow milk with almond, rice, hemp, coconut, or soy milk (be careful with soy however as that can actually be very hard on the stomach). If gluten bothers you make your cereal with nuts and seeds in the mornings, switch to rice pasta (I love Tinkyada), and try a gluten free tortilla for a wrap at lunchtime.

Try some of the suggestions above to realize your full potential. You’ll have so much more energy and mental clarity to wake up early, get your work done efficiently, play with your kids, go out with friends, try new exercise programs, and have an all around better quality of life.


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5 Beliefs That Lead Us to Gain Weight

I talk to people all the time who are so confused as to why they’re gaining weight. They tell me they don’t eat much and when they do it’s low fat, or they pay so much attention to calories and carbs that this should be thinner. They’ve tried so many ways of slimming down to no avail, all of which ended in frustration and usually a carb-fest. Why is it so hard for us to be thin?

Let’s look at the broad picture…

Americans are fatter than ever before and we’re getting larger by the generation. From the outside this would seem unlikely: everywhere we go we see new ways to lose weight, fat free foods, and gyms on every corner. We have access to the highest quality food and information about nutrition, but we continue to get heavier and sicker every single year. Of our $2 trillion healthcare budget $1.5 trillion is spent treating preventable diseases. If we are supposedly more educated, more active and more aware than ever before, why are we still gaining weight?

As food has become more of a hot topic it’s become much more complicated. The healthiest foods for us have one ingredient, are grown in the ground and have an expiration date. These foods are making up smaller fractions of our diets as they’re being replaced with complex, more elaborate versions of food.

What’s making things even more difficult are the multitudes of diets that are out there now: gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, Paleo, non-fat, low-fat, low-carb, GMO-free, blah blah blah. How are we supposed to eat anything when everything is bad for us??!

These diets lead people to eat all kinds of things that really aren’t good for them, and on top of that, dieting, as it turns out, is the biggest pre-cursor for weight gain.

Many things affect the way we do (or don’t) gain weight- genetics, environmental factors, our inner ecology, and our body types. The nice thing to know is that there are healthy ways to control our weight and give our bodies what they need, while still enjoying what we eat. For many people it’s the beliefs around food that lead to the development of sickness and weight gain in certain people. Here are some beliefs we hold as a society that lead us to unsuspectingly gain weight, and why it’s so important to change these beliefs.

1. All calories are created equal

A lot of people seem to believe that it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you watch your calories. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. What’s much more powerful than how many calories we consume is what certain foods cause our hormones to do.

Our hormones govern everything in our bodies. Hormones such as insulin, thyroid hormone, cortisol and estrogen regulate our weight, energy levels, concentration, immune response and more. The food we eat has an enormous influence on our hormones and has the power to disrupt their delicate balance, which can lead to lots of problems, one of which is weight gain. If your hormone balance is off this can increase cravings for sugar and carbs, encourage you to eat more in a sitting and more often, feel less satiated after a meal, and cause your body to store more food as fat. This imbalance will do much more harm to your waistline than an extra 100 calories from an avocado or olive oil will

For instance, something may be very low in calories, but still contain high-fructose corn syrup. What you’re eating may be low fat, but when it enters your body and you digest it, high fructose corn syrup causes a huge spike in insulin levels, which instructs your body to store fat. This accelerates insulin resistance and obesity, and causes resistance to leptin, the hormone that signals to your brain that you are full. The same effects happen from foods with artificial sweeteners, pesticides, hydrogenated oils, and refined flours and sugars.

Ingesting less calories will not prevent you gaining weight, especially if the foods you are eating are loaded with ingredients made in a lab. When the body detects a toxin it extracts it from the blood stream and puts it in a fat cell to protect the organs from the toxin. People who have very toxic systems tend to gain weight quickly because their body is doing it’s best to protect the vital organs from the toxins.

There needs to be a shift in thinking that values quality of calories over quantity.

Although there is no perfect combination for the right hormone balance, the right foods, consistent exercise, good sleep, and stress management will certainly help. High fiber, whole foods (leafy greens, mushrooms, ginger, flax, quinoa, and water, to name a few) help stabilize your metabolism, improve the efficacy of your kidneys and liver, strengthen your digestion, and reduce inflammation. These are the things your body needs to be thin and energetic, not fewer calories.

2. Fat free foods will help us lose weight

With so many items out there to choose from, food companies have devised clever ways to market their products. Unfortunately these labeling tactics can be deceptive and misleading. Because of our country’s obsession with dieting and being thin, a lot of foods are marked as low fat or fat free. What we fail to consider is how something with supposedly zero calories can still taste good. The way the food industry makes things taste good while having no calories or fat is to artificially enhance the flavor through processed additives such as high fructose corn syrup or aspartame. Things like yogurt, cereal, bagels, lean cuisines and sodas usually have these chemical additives in them.

Artificial sweeteners not only fail to satisfy your hunger the way real sugar would and leads to overeating, but they have an extremely high glycemic load resulting in insulin production and increased fat storage. They also inhibit the hormone leptin that increases your metabolic rate and signals to your brain that you’re full.

There are numerous other risks associated with consuming artificial sweeteners such as depression, anxiety, headaches and brain tumors, but for those most concerned with vanity they will most definitely lead to weight gain.

If you are eating something that comes in a package, flip it over and read the ingredients. If there are artificial sweeteners and chemical additives, there is a 99% chance that those ingredients will encourage your body to put on weight.

The lowest calorie foods are not advertised as such because they come naked, as they are, in the fruit and vegetable section. If fruit and vegetables are organic they are our best bet to reduce our chances of unsuspectingly consuming chemicals and additives that contribute to weight gain.

3. Dairy is good for us

I’m sorry to say this, but dairy has the nutritional content of cardboard.

There is a school of thought that full fat, whole milk and cheese provides enzymes and probiotics important for a healthy system. This may have been true when people raised their own cows but with commercial dairy this is typically not the case. There are many reasons not to eat dairy, so I’ll just make it straightforward:

· Dairy products are so highly pasteurized and processed that any nutritional value the might hold is completely gone by the time it hits grocery shelves.

· Dairy cows are injected with a genetically engineered hormone called rbGH to produce dairy year round instead of only when they are pregnant. This can lead to extreme weight gain in humans and also can be a precursor to diabetes and lead to heart disease or cancer.

· Milk from cows is perfectly suited to turn a 65-pound calf into a 400-pound cow within a year because of its high protein and mineral content. Unless you’re seriously trying to bulk up, you don’t need milk.

· If you are eating dairy from a cow that has been fed grain for some or most of it’s life, chances are that cow has spent its life very ill. Evolutionarily speaking, a cow’s stomach is designed to digest grass, not grain, so the grain creates an acidic environment in the stomach and cannot be properly digested. In order to prevent cows from becoming sick they are fed a steady flow of antibiotics. This is not a nutritious source of food.

Everything noted above will lead you to gain weight. If you are concerned about getting enough calcium, make sure to eat lots of leafy greens and you will be fine. If you can’t give up dairy entirely, as I know many people can’t, treat it as an indulgence, not a nutritious part of your diet, and enjoy it in moderation.

4. Eating well is too expensive

Yes, eating whole organic foods does cost more and take more time than packaged low-fat foods and diet drinks. However, what’s far more expensive is being sick. There are no excuses for this one. Cheap food high in calories and low in nutrition will cause you to gain weight, and often leads to many more serious health problems. Much of your health is in your own hands, and you have the power to protect yourself from sickness and disease with high quality, whole foods.

5. Portions should be large, we must eat quickly

Thousands of years ago when we were cavemen food was sparse. When it was available it was eaten in abundance, and the excess was stored as fat because it was unclear when the next full meal would be.

For some reason we still eat this way.

Eating should be a slow, luxurious experience, but most people act as though someone is going to rip the fork out of their hands any minute so it’s best to eat as much and as quickly as possible. When we eat at such a pace we fail to recognize when we’re full and eat much more than we need.

Portion size has grown drastically over the last hundred years. One Canadian study found that people overestimate the size of an appropriate portion and underestimate the amount they actually eat. The result is huge portions that lead people to overeat.

Another issue is that people don’t eat regularly enough. Skipping meals or substituting coffee for food means that when we actually sit down to a meal we eat way more than we need. Prepare for the day with some healthy snacks like nuts, fruit and chopped veggies so that when you feel hungry you’re prepared. This will prevent you from eating way too much later on.

Avoid overeating by using smaller plates, actually measure things when you cook, and share meals with a friend when out at a restaurant.

There are many reasons why we as a country are over-fed and under-nourished. A large part of this is due to the fact that we’re consuming more things created in a lab than ever before. These come as additives in our packaged foods, pesticides on our fruits and vegetables, and hormones in our animal products. Protect yourself by being mindful, reading labels and considering the source of your food before you buy it. When it comes to nutrition keep it simple, buy things with less than five ingredients, and make the majority of what you eat fresh vegetables.


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Who needs protein anyway?

When many of us think of protein a hamburger or muscle-bound weight lifter come to mind. Typically most people associate protein with animals, however there are tons of plant based sources of protein that allow you to build muscle, eat well and enjoy your life. Reducing animal sources of protein can actually be very good for you in a number of ways such as heart health, mental clarity, improving your metabolism, immune system strength, and better energy.

While we all know that protein is important, I wante to look at the the specifics of why it’s such an integral part of a balanced diet and thriving life.

Protein is very important for muscle reparation and cell growth, and plays a critical role in many other functions within the body. Apart from water, protein is the most abundant compound in the human body. It keeps your skin looking good, is a critical source of energy and weight control, provides the structure for organs and muscles to build and function upon, and regulates hormones, enzymes and antibodies. It also helps maintain blood sugar levels which impact mood and mental clarity.

Protein makes up the incredibly important neurotransmitters in our brain. These neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine, gaba, and catecholamines – help us sleep well, cope with stress, feel happy, and protect us against depression and anxiety. If we don’t have adequate, quality sources of protein these neurotransmitters reduce in number and quality, and fail to regenerate themselves. (Our brains also need quality sources of fat, too. The lack of high quality protein and fat in our diets has lead to scores of mental illnesses that are now developing people earlier on in life than ever before, but I’ll save those details for another post.)

Clearly without protein our bodies are unable to function at optimal levels. While this list of benefits of protein is extensive, it does not mean that over indulging in protein is good for us either. For people who believe that protein should be the largest part of every meal and that the source should be animal products, lots of discomforts can accrue. Having too much animal protein can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and kidney issues.

Making sure you have a quality source of protein is the best way to ensure you get all the benefits without becoming susceptible to the risks. Many people feel that they just can’t fill up without eating meat (much of this comes from the belief that if you’re not totally full you’re still hungry). Protein is very filling however no matter what source it comes from, and is an important part of feeling satiated after a meal. Because protein is a source of energy, eating it with a complete carbohydrate ensures that the energy you receive from it will be distributed into the bloodstream over time instead of all at once. The fantastic thing is that there are some plant sources of protein, quinoa and beans for instance, that are both carbohydrate and protein.

Hemp seeds and spirulina are both complete proteins. Hemp seeds are an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and spirulina has tons of iron and chlorophyll to help oxygenate the blood stream. Both are great in a morning smoothie, and I like to sprinkle hemp seeds into soups and salads, and even on top of my almond butter and toast. Dark green veggies like spinach and kale have high amounts of protein too.

The great thing about eating plant sources of protein is that you get so much more than just protein out of them, things like calcium, iron, and antioxidants. By eating whole grains and plants your body can digest and distribute the nutrients very quickly and efficiently, without much strain on your system at all.

Next time you’re looking for a protein packed meal without meat and are not sure what to go for, fear not, veggies and whole grains will more than take care of all your needs. Plus, you’ll have tons more energy and any extra weight lingering as ‘winter storage’ will quickly shed itself. Start slowly if you need to also, beginning with cutting out meat Monday through Wednesdays. You’ll instantly notice a different and will feel less of those cravings you might feel for meat.

For those who do make animal protein their primary source of protein, please, please be mindful when you shop. Get free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone free meat, eggs and other animal products. Not only is it better for the animals but it’s much better for you. The antibiotics and hormones that are used on animals in the US today are extremely detrimental to our health and negate the benefits that the protein we eat should be giving to us. Additionally, the amount of antibiotics we eat through animal consumption is leading to resistance of antibiotics that would otherwise help us get over a sickness. When it comes to animal protein be thoughtful, take your time, and know that a piece of meat is not a complete meal. Start with veggies, salad, bean etc, and use a palm sized piece of meat to fill out your plate and satiate your appetite

And if you’re looking for a protein packed, meat-free meal, try this one!

Protein salad

I’m always on the go, so I like to have something fast and nourishing ready when I need something quick. I always recommend having something ready to go in the fridge so that I don’t make any poor choices based on lack of time, only to find myself hungry thirty minutes later because I didn’t eat any nutrients. The following is a great recipe for a salad that stays fresh for several days and is packed full of protein and antioxidants.

1 cup pinto beans
1 cup black beans
1 cup corn
3 stalks celery, chopped
one whole red bell pepper, chopped
Half a red onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1-2 tablespoon hemp seeds
1-2 tablespoon chia seeds

Mix all ingredients together and season with olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar when ready to enjoy. If your stomach is sensitive to beans try soaking them with a kombu leaf (a seaweed leaf). This has the enzyme that breaks down the complex sugar that leads to gassiness and discomfort. This salad is fast, filling and extremely nourishing, good for lunch or a mid-afternoon snack.