Support Your Immune System and Get Sick Less

It happens every year. The weather gets colder. The holidays come. We spend more time going out, eating poorly, drinking alcohol, and sleeping less. Our healthy habits fall by the wayside. And then, we get sick. From a holistic health perspective, its not at all surprising. Of course if we don't rest, eat crappy, and drink a lot, we get sick. When we aren't supporting our bodies and especially our immune system, it just can't do its job effectively.

I don't know about you, but I hate being sick. Admittedly, I turn into a big, grumpy, whiny baby.  Luckily for everyone around me, it hardly ever happens. I don't mean to brag, I just usually manage to avoid the winter colds, flus and various bugs that often take down the people around me. Sure it happens occasionally, but honestly it's pretty rare, and I can't remember the last time I was sick for more than a few days or had to miss work because of it. I'm not telling you this to be self-righteous or make you feel bad if you do tend to get sick often. I'm only telling you this to let you know that the right diet and lifestyle choices can HUGELY improve your immune system, lessening the amount and severity of illness in your life.

With so many people getting sick this winter, I wanted to share some simple preventative strategies for supporting immunity on a daily basis. If you do find yourself getting sick, amp up the suggestions on the list. There are also a number of herbs and supplements that can help shorten the duration and severity of your cold or flu, feel free to contact me for more information on those infection fighting super boosters too!

Everyday Ways to Boost Your Immunity

INCREASE YOUR NUTRIENT DENSE FOODS

To be completely frank, if you're eating the standard American diet, you are not getting enough nutrients. Sadly, most people have depleted nutrient reserves, showing test results with lower than optimal amounts of numerous vitamins and minerals. The most important nutrients for immune support are vitamins A, C, E and the minerals zinc and selenium. Eating foods with these vitamins and minerals every day will support not only your immune system, but also your skin, heart and overall well being. Here's how to do it:

  • Eat colorful plant foods. Eating a variety of colors also means you're getting a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (compounds that act as antioxidants to protect our cells) to keep the body healthy. Focus on eating fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices every day. Challenge yourself to get as many colors as you can on your plate in each meal from real, whole foods. 

  • Vitamin C protects against free radical damage and is well documented in its protection against the common cold. Broccoli, papaya, kiwi, bell peppers and strawberries are all extremely high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C is not stored in the body, so it is important to replenish it through the diet on a daily basis.

  • Carotenes, the form of Vitamin A found in plants like sweet potatoes, carrots, kale and spinach, play an important role in protecting against unwanted pathogens. Animal sources of vitamin A are referred to as retinoids, and include eggs, yogurt and salmon. 

  • Despite Vitamin E being a potent antioxidant, most of the population fails to meet even the minimum recommended amount. Actually a name for 8 different nutrients, sources of vitamin E include almonds, avocado, sunflower seeds, spinach and swiss chard. 

  • Sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, sardines, crimini mushrooms, asparagus and organic tofu. We don't require a lot of selenium (RDA is 55 mcg for adults), so you don't need eat a large amount of these foods if they are in your diet regularly. Foods high in zinc include pumpkin and sesame seeds, lentils, shitake mushrooms and spinach. Zinc is hugely important for a healthy immune system, as well as hundreds of other actions in the body, and can be helpful to take as a supplement if you do feel a cold coming on.

  • Immunity booster super foods: Some foods just pack a big healthy punch in a small package. These include lemons, ginger, turmeric & garlic. Sure its great to take these as an immunity shot from your favorite juice bar when you feel a cold coming on, but having them in your diet on a regular basis is even better. They provide antioxidants, fight inflammation, are antibacterial, anti-fungal, and have powerful immune boosting properties. Make a fresh lemon ginger tea, add some turmeric to your tomato sauce, eggs, and curries, and add an extra clove of garlic to your salad dressing, pesto or sauteed veggies. 

  • Essential fatty acids: Healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the body's defense system response to a perceived harmful stimulus. In small doses, it is necessary and helpful. But chronic inflammation can contribute to disease, and can sometimes be misdirected. Foods like flax, hemp & chia seeds, walnuts, sustainable cold water fish like salmon or sardines, or spirulina are important sources of omega 3's. 

STAY HYDRATED

Without enough water, the body struggles to continually flush out toxins, making it harder to fight infections. When we don't drink enough water we often feel tired and headachy, which might affect our sleep or desire to exercise, two things that on their own also impact our immunity. Most people don't drink enough water, and really notice an improvement in how they feel when the drink adequate amounts. It's usually the first recommendation I make to clients, and luckily its simple, easy and free. In fact, take a second right now to get a glass of water!

  • Drink at least half your weight in oz. of water every day, plus an extra glass for every half hour of exercise, or in warm weather. Adding lemon to the water helps absorption and adds extra vitamin C.

  • Drinks with caffeine and alcohol dehydrate the body, so avoid those if possible, and if you do have either one, compensate by matching it with an extra glass of water. 

  • Other recommended beverages include herbal and green tea, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, and broths.

 

KEEP YOUR GUT HEALTHY

Did you know that an estimated 70 % of your immune system lies in your gut? Think about all the foreign matter (food) your digestive system has to sort through every day, determining what is nourishment for your cells, and what is an antigen (a foreign substance that triggers an immune reaction) like bacteria or viruses. Simply put, if our digestive system is weak or out of balance, our immune system is compromised.

  • Eating fermented foods provides your gut with healthy bacteria, necessary for immune function, digestion, vitamin synthesis and so many other essential processes in the body. When the "good" bacteria in our gut are reduced, the "bad" bacteria can overgrow, leading to infection, skin disorders, headaches and even depression. Boost the healthy bacteria with foods like whole fat, unsweetened yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha (watch the serving size and amount of sugar - see below) miso and tempeh. If you can't eat these foods regularly, it may be worth taking a probiotic supplement to correct any imbalances. 

  • Enhance your digestion: Too much or too little stomach acid, altered pH and intestinal permeability can all compromise digestion and absorption of nutrients.  The use of medications, alcohol, stress and even age can all hinder digestive health, and therefore affect your immune system. If you experience bloating, indigestion, stomach aches, or numerous food intolerances, I recommend speaking to a health practitioner. If you suspect your digestion is not as efficient as it could be, shoot me a message and I'd be happy to make some specific suggestions. 

 

AVOID DEPLETING FOODS

  • Sugar: In addition to the roller coaster ride sugar takes with our energy levels, excess amounts of sugar can inhibit the immune system. It takes nutrient reserves from the body to metabolize sugar, yet provides zero nutrients back to you. Even if you don't think you eat a lot of sweets, consider all the hidden sugar and refined flour hidden in your food. If you eat bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods, pre-made sauces and condiments, commercial yogurt, sports drinks or bottled juices regularly, chances are you're consuming unhealthy amounts of sugar. Start taking a look at your labels and skip anything that has more than 10 grams of sugar per serving. 

  • Any food you're allergic or sensitive to: Very few people have really severe allergic reactions to food, such as hives or finding it difficult to breathe. Usually the reactions are much more mild and subtle, but are still triggering an inflammatory response. For example if you get heartburn when you eat pizza, or a stomach ache after eating dairy, I highly recommend avoiding those foods. Even though you may think of these minor symptoms just as an inconvenience, they are signs that your body is not able to digest, metabolize and assimilate that food, which leads to inflammation, an immune system defense. Ignoring those signs only continues to tie up your immune system, taking it away from its real job of keeping actual germs at bay. 
Turmeric and lemon, both great immunity boosters

Turmeric and lemon, both great immunity boosters

 

LIFESTYLE MATTERS

  • Sleep more: Second to our diet, sleep probably has the biggest effect on our immune system. People who do not get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick, and may have more trouble recovering from sickness. Most adults should aim for 7-8 hours a night. 

  • Stress less: Stress increases cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. Try to schedule in stress reduction techniques into your day, such as meditation, yoga, walking outside, or even a bubble bath. A massage is not only a great way to increase relaxation, but also stimulates the lymph system, an important part of our immunity! Be conscious of your thoughts, and do your best to take deep breaths when you start to feel overwhelmed.
  • Exercise (moderately): Most of us know that one of the benefits of exercise is a that its good for the immune system. But overdoing the workouts can actually have the opposite effect, stressing out your body and decreasing your immunity. Moderate exercise on a regular basis is the best for your immune system, bonus points if its outside and if you actually enjoy it!

  • Sunlight: Many people don't produce enough Vitamin D. This nutrient is really more like a hormone, our body produces it with the help of sunlight, and can modulate our immune system. Try to get outside and get some direct sunlight on your skin (without sunscreen) for about 15 minutes a day.

Sometimes despite our best efforts, we still get sick. It's just a part of life. If you've done all you can, take it as a cue to bundle up, relax in bed with a cup of tea, binge watch trashy TV and chill out. Give yourself a break from your endless to-do list, and take a few days off to give your body the rest it needs. 

If you feel like you catch every cold that goes around, or you tend to get sick more often than others, there might be something more serious going on. For chronic infections I recommend seeing your doctor for testing, and learning more about how modifying your diet may be able to improve your health long term. I'm here to help if you want to chat, I always offer a free phone consultation to talk about how I can best support your health!

Here's to your health!

-Amber

 

Eating for Energy

One of the complaints I hear most often from clients is that they wish they had more energy. I get it. If I don’t get enough sleep, am under stress, say yes to too many obligations, or am not eating well, I turn into a cranky, french-fry craving zombie. It's not my best look. Trying to do it all and fit our busy lives into 24 short hours can be overwhelming if we don’t have the energy that is demanded of us. So we rely on coffee and energy drinks, afternoon sweets, or even medications to help us wake up, and then again to sleep, so that we can still do EVERYTHING. This is really no way to live. Ignoring the problem and relying on quick fix-its to power through can lead to more serious health conditions. There is a better way, I promise.

While there are a variety of reasons and health issues underlying why we may experience low energy, there are some simple things we can all do to address the foundations of energy. Clearly, getting adequate sleep is essential, as is exercise, stress management and simply just learning to say no. These are all very important issues, and could each easily make up their own blog topic. For the sake of brevity, this post will focus on the nutritional requirements and advice for giving your body what it needs (and eliminating what it doesn’t) to run optimally and provide us with the energy we want to live life to the fullest!

When we talk about energy and nutrition, its helpful to have a little background info. We obtain energy from the food we eat, mainly carbohydrates, which we use as glucose for ATP, but our bodies can also use protein and fat for energy. Our hormones are responsible for regulating our blood sugar, through an intricate system that moves glucose from the food we eat out of the blood system and into the tissues. This is done mainly by insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas. When we eat, our blood sugar increases and insulin is released to move the glucose into the liver, muscles and fat tissues for storage. High spikes of insulin will lead to dramatic drops in glucose (hypoglycemia), which leave you feeling tired and sluggish. Think of how you feel after eating something sugary, like birthday cake. Initially you may feel pretty great, but an hour or so later your energy drops, you feel cranky, or may even get a headache. Your liver, initiated by specific hormones, can then generate and release glucose which will raise the blood sugar level. This system is constantly working to keep blood sugar fairly even. Our diet and lifestyle can either help it along, or make it work harder. For instance, the standard American diet, full of refined flours, sugar and low in vegetables and fiber, can contribute to insulin resistance, wherein the cells stop responding to insulin, blood sugar remains high (hyperglycemia), and the body then releases even more insulin in response. Stress also raises our blood sugar with cortisol, another reason managing stress is so essential for weight and health. 

If you feel like you're constantly tired or swing between extreme highs and lows, keeping your blood sugar balanced is essential. It will help to keep your energy balanced throughout the day, avoiding that all too common 3 o’clock slump, or feeling tired but wired at night when you are finally ready to rest.

Here are my tips on how to eat to gain more energy. It's not a comprehensive list, but its a fantastic start to addressing basic nutritional issues that could be zapping away your energy. For more guidance, personalized analysis, and targeted nutrients and supplements, I highly recommend working one on one with a nutrition consultant for the support you need.

Eating for Energy

1. Remove any foods that are harming you.

This starts with eliminating the obvious culprits: processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar & white flour.  These foods literally drain your body of energy, using up nutrients to be digested, but providing you none in return. Sure you’ll get an immediate boost from the sugar, but the long term effects lead to a crash in energy, imbalances in your body’s blood sugar regulation systems, and a dependency on sugar to feel awake. No good.

It is also essential to remove any foods that you are sensitive or allergic too. Anything you are allergic or intolerant to triggers your immune system, causes inflammation, and drains your energy. It can also cause a number of seemingly unrelated symptoms such as eczema, headaches, or digestive disorders. Sometimes it can be a food we think of as healthy, but it triggers a reaction in your body. Discovering these foods can be a little tricky, even if you’ve had a IGE allergy test, there can still be more subtle intolerances that the test doesn’t catch. The first two to foods to eliminate are gluten and dairy. Try taking them out of your diet for 3-4 weeks and see how you feel. This is something I work carefully with clients to do, as its a process that takes some detective work. Discovering foods that may be inflammatory to your body with a supervised elimination diet, along with healing any digestive system damage, is key.

2. Eliminate caffeine and alcohol.

I know, I know. Don’t hate me - it's just temporary! If you are dependent on caffeine to wake you up, it may be time to hit the reset button. Is coffee inherently evil? Of course not. I love coffee and drank a cup a day for about 20 years. There are even studies that demonstrate that people who drink a moderate amount of coffee live longer than those that don’t. But if you’re depending on it to wake you up every day, you’ll never be able to regulate your energy naturally. Caffeine increases cortisol, which increases your blood sugar. As for alcohol, it can disrupt your sleep cycle and appetite. How often do you wake up after a night of drinking, tired and craving greasy food? Additionally, alcohol is sugar, carrying with it all the problems discussed above.

You don’t have to go cold turkey, and it doesn’t have to be forever. I recommend cutting the amount of caffeine and alcohol in half for a week or two.  You can drink decaf coffee, or substitute coffee with green tea, which has less caffeine, and lots of antioxidants and health benefits. Then, try going caffeine and alcohol free for two weeks. Initially you may feel tired, but if you stick with it, it will help your body reset its natural cycles. If you continue to drink either one, have them with food and never on an empty stomach.

3. Increase your nutrient density. 

Focus on a variety of vegetables & fruit, nuts & seeds, herbs & spices to get the phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals your body needs. Plant foods provide fiber, which is incredibly important for detoxification, as well as slowing down carbohydrate metabolism and keeping you off of the blood sugar roller coaster. Support the liver with cruciferous veggies, such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts, as well as bitter greens like dandelion and watercress. Leafy greens, nuts and seeds are high in magnesium, associated with improved metabolism and glucose tolerance. Berries are low in sugar and high in antioxidants to protect your cells. Starchy veggies like potatoes, corn and peas have their place, but for the purpose of regulating blood sugar, best to eat those in moderation. Cinnamon helps to improve your insulin sensitivity, add it to smoothies and sauces often.

4. Eat 3 meals a day.

This helps to regulate your blood sugar levels, normalizing insulin and cortisol and avoiding any extreme spikes and crashes that go along with skipping meals. Hanger (Hunger + anger) is real. It’s also important to eat enough, but not too much. Over stuffing yourself with larger meals means higher blood sugar, more insulin, and can exhaust your regulation system. Don't worry too much about counting calories, just try not to let yourself become too starving, or too full. 

If you tend to have a fast metabolism, exercise excessively, or have low blood sugar, then include two snacks a day as well.

5. Include protein and fat with every meal and snack. 

Protein promotes satiation, leaving you feeling full and satisfied, helping to avoid sugar cravings. Fat will help to slow carbohydrate metabolism. For instance, a slice of bread with almond butter will increase blood sugar less and take longer to process than a slice of bread alone. Fat should come first from whole food sources, such as avocados, nuts and seeds. A limited amount from oils like olive oil and coconut oil, but all refined vegetable oils should be avoided. Pasture-raised, organic eggs and sustainably caught cold-water fish are options if you eat animal products. 

The exact of amount of calories and macronutrient ratios depends on factors such as weight, age, and activity level, and can be best determined with the support of a qualified health practitioner.

6. Stay hydrated.  

Try to drink half your body weight in oz. of water daily. Not all at once, the key here is have about a cup of water every hour or so. If it makes you feel full, drink it away from meals. Add an extra cup for every serving of caffeine or alcohol. Add lemon for extra liver support and hydration. Our bodies need water. Even mild dehydration can affect our mood, performance and energy levels. Often we confuse hunger with thirst, leading to overconsumption of food. This is really the easiest (and cheapest) thing you can do yourself every day.


Ok, time to get cooking! Some great energy boosting meals include tempeh tacos, a veggie filled coconut milk curry with chickpeas or tofu, or a Buddha bowl. Buddha bowls are basically a fun way of saying: throw a bunch of ingredients together in a bowl and drizzle sauce on it. They are really versatile, and a great meal when you're looking to use whatever is left in the fridge. I recommend the following guidelines when putting together your bowl:

Basic Buddha Bowl

buddha bowl.jpg
  • At least three different colored veggies.

  • A whole grain like brown rice or quinoa, or a gluten free noodle like buckwheat soba.

  • Clean protein, like egg, tofu, or bean.

  • Healthy fat, like avocado, almonds or pumpkin seeds.

  • Sea vegetable, like wakame or dried seaweed seasoning.

  • Fermented food, like kimchi.

  • Include a sauce, like tahini, miso-ginger, or peanut.

 

 

Energy can be a tricky thing, and its affected by so many factors, not just food. It will naturally change from day to day, season to season. Start to pay attention to things in your life that give, or take your energy. Keeping a food journal along with noting your energy level each day can be helpful in tracking your food sensitivities and noticing patterns. If you're looking for help figuring this all out, let's talk!

I hope you find this information helpful, and motivates you to begin taking care of yourself. I love hearing from you, so feel free to reach out with comments or questions, and let me know how these tips work for you!

Boosting Flavor and Nutrients - Health Benefits of Everyday Herbs

I was putting together some information on using herbs for a client, and thought, “Everyone should know this.” So, I decided to share it here on the blog for all to see. 

Herbs (and spices, but that's for another time) are not only a wonderful way to flavor your food, they are really nutrient dense, offering great health benefits in a relatively small package. Unless you make your own food at home, you may not be getting many herbs in your diet. Yet another reason why cooking your own food is a good idea. Whether you choose to use fresh or dried herbs depends on the recipe. Most often, the flavor and health benefits will be higher in fresh herbs, but using dried is better than none at all if that's all you have. We grow a lot of herbs at home, but I always have dried herbs on hand as well, and try to incorporate them into our food as much as possible. Just remember when using fresh herbs, they can lose some of their nutritional benefits if overcooked, so add them to a recipe toward the end and avoid a lot of heat.

Most of the health benefits of herbs come from their flavonoids and volatile oils. The volatile oils contain medicinal properties, and is the component extracted to make essential oils. Flavonoids occur in varying amounts in plant foods, and are high in colorful fruits and vegetables. They provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that support healthy cell function. They also enhance the effects of vitamin C. Flavonoids, lacking in the standard American diet, have been shown to have beneficial action against allergies, cancer, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, toxic metal build-up, viruses, and more. Here are the benefits of some common herbs you can eat everyday. 

 
 

Basil

Fresh basil is one of my favorite scents. Abundant in summer, basil is really versatile and easy to use. 

  • High in vitamin K, a key factor in blood clotting and bone health.
  • High in manganese, important for bone and skin health.
  • Flavonoids provide cell protection and antioxidants reducing free radical damage.
  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Carminative properties: helping to alleviate gas and stomach cramping.

How to eat it: Basil is perfect with sliced tomatoes, garlic and extra virgin olive oil, in salads, added to sandwiches, and of course blended into pesto.

Cilantro

The leaves are common in Mexican cooking, but the seeds of the plant are known as coriander, and is one of the world's oldest known spices. 

  • Cilantro may help bind and eliminate heavy metals when eaten during exposure.
  • Antibacterial and antimicrobial: Researchers are studying its effectiveness against Salmonella.
  • The seed of the plant, known as coriander, have shown to help control blood sugar and lower cholesterol in animal studies.
  • High in vitamin A, necessary for healthy vision, growth and development, healthy skin and antioxidant protection.
  • High in vitamin C, an essential part of our immune system, manufactures collagen, a potent antioxidant and protects against cancer.
  • High in Vitamin K (see Basil)

How to eat it: Chop cilantro leaves and add to salsa, guacamole, scrambled eggs, and tacos. Ground coriander is great in curries and soups. 

Mint

The mint family of over 25 species is one of the most commonly used medicinal herbs. 

  • Mint is well known for its role in aiding digestion, and can be especially effective in relaxing gastrointestinal spasms,and relieving symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). 
  • It can help relieve symptoms of asthma and nasal allergies associated with hay fever.
  • Antimicrobial properties
  • High in antioxidants
  • Carminative properties: alleviates gas and stomach cramping.

How to eat it: add to water or tea, enjoy with fruit like watermelon or strawberries, or add to a Greek salad with cucumbers and tomatoes.

Oregano

Another member of the mint family, oregano is often used in Italian and Mediterranean dishes. 

  • Antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
  • Contains high amount of antioxidants, ranking higher than even apples and blueberries in antioxidant activity.
  • Oregano oil can be used therapeutically for Candidiasis, a common yeast overgrowth. 
  • Oregano oil can help to support the immune system against colds and flus.
  • Contains carminative properties: alleviates gas and stomach cramping

How to eat it:  add to tomato sauce, salad dressing and homemade soups.

Parsley

Related to carrots and celery, parsley is full of nutrients but sadly is often overlooked and used simply as garnish.

  • High in vitamin K, vitamin C & vitamin A (see above)
  • High in minerals such as  magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc. 
  • Good source of folic acid: this important B vitamin plays a key role in heart health.
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to quench free radicals and protect cells. 
  • High in chlorophyll: a blood cleanser, liver detoxifier, and great for the skin.  
  • Contains carminative properties: alleviates gas and stomach cramping.

How to eat it: often added to juices as detoxifier, it's also great chopped on top of a simple salad, in chimichurri or tabbouleh. 

Rosemary

Easy to grow, and super fragrant, this member of the mint family holds a number of health benefits. 

  • Stimulates the immune system
  • Improves circulation, including blood flow to the brain to aid in focus and concentration. 
  • Anti-inflammatory benefits, specifically shown to reduce severity of asthma attacks. 
  • Carminative properties: alleviates gas and stomach cramping. 

How to eat it: Add whole springs to tomato sauce, roasted vegetables, and soups. 

Thyme

Fresh thyme is much more flavorful than dried, and can be stored in the fridge wrapped in a slightly damp towel. 

  • Used historically in natural medicine for respiratory conditions, including coughs and bronchitis.
  • May improve brain function.
  • High in antioxidant flavonoids.
  • Antimicrobial effect on bacteria and fungi.
  • Source of vitamin C (see Cilantro). 

How to eat it:  Add to eggs, roasted carrots, mushrooms and great with white beans.

 
IMG_7532.jpg
 

I hope this inspires you to start cooking with more herbs! Purchase bunches at the farmer's market or grow your own, and stock your pantry with a wide selection of dried organic herbs. Wondering what an easy way to incorporate all these herbs would be? I highly suggest this version of chimichurri, called "Magic Sauce" from Heidi Swanson. It can be added to all kinds of things. Eggs, potatoes, a dollop on soup and veggies. Really, almost anything.  

I've copied the recipe for you here, or you can see her original post here

Ingredients:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 medium cloves of garlic, smashed into a paste
1 well-crumbled bay leaf
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon + fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Gently warm the olive oil over medium-low heat in a skillet or pan, until it is just hot. When hot remove from heat.

While the oil is heating, lightly pound the rosemary, thyme, and oregano in a mortar and pestle.

Stir the paprika, garlic, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, and salt into the oil. Then add the bruised herbs and lemon juice.

You can use this now, but the oil just gets better as it ages over a few days. Keep it in a refrigerator for up to a week/ten days max. It thickens up when cold, so if you need it in a liquid state, place it in the sun or in a warm place for a few minutes.

Enjoy!

References

Murray, M.,Pizzorno,J.,Pizzorno,L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.        

The World's Healthiest Foods. http://www.whfoods.com/whfoods.com. 

 

Spring Cleaning

Today is the first day of Spring, the Vernal Equinox. Spring happens to be my favorite season - it brings to mind bright flowers, warmer days and baby animals (and my birthday!). Here in Southern California we don't get extreme differences between the seasons, but the subtle changes that do happen are worth paying attention to.  By using nature as a guide we can keep our diet and activity levels in sync with our environment, helping to maintain balance and feel more at ease. For example, as the weather warms and the days become longer, our energy levels may increase and we can enjoy a walk or run after work, whereas during the winter it may have felt better to stay warm inside and rest. 

For many people, spring means allergies. The great news is that allergies can often be reduced with diet and targeted nutrition!  By supporting and balancing the immune system it will be less reactive to harmless foreign invaders like pollen.  Often by determining trigger foods and removing them from the diet your immune response can calm down, reducing inflammation and improving your allergies.

Eating with the seasons is a great way to support your health. Traditionally, spring is a time to shift the diet from the warming, heavier foods of winter to lighter, more cleansing foods. This means more fruits and vegetables, and less heavy or oily foods.  According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of maintaing a healthy body and mind, spring is a great time to cleanse, allowing the body to release some of the heaviness of winter. This doesn't have to be an extreme fast, but can be accomplished by eating simply with vegetables, grains and legumes, allowing the digestion to rest a bit. Foods with bitter or astringent properties are also recommended, such as onions, garlic and bitter greens like arugula or dandelion greens. Spicy foods like chiles, and spices like turmeric and ginger are great too, and provide a number of anti-inflammatory benefits. 

Especially in the spring, eating organic, local and seasonal food is one of the best ways to hit the reset button on your digestion and support your health. That means shopping at one of my favorite places - the farmer's market. If you visit a farmer's market at this time of year, you'll notice new produce coming into season.  Check out this great guide to the seasonal produce in Los Angeles. Asparagus, artichokes, avocados and grapefruit are some examples of what we'll be seeing now, and can help serve as inspiration for your spring meals.  

 
 

If you're curious about a spring cleanse, seasonal recipes, or how to improve your allergies with diet and nutrition, let's talk! Now is the perfect time to set some healthy intentions and take control of your health!  

Here is a quick and easy asparagus salad, perfect for spring. Asparagus is anti-inflammatory, fights oxidation in the body, and is really high in folate, a B vitamin important for brain, nervous system and cardiac support.  

I love to get feedback, so if you try it let me know what you think!

Chop asparagus spears in half and boil asparagus in a large pot of salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, allowing to cool. 

Halve cherry tomatoes, slice basil leaves, chop avocado into bite size pieces. Toast pine nuts for about a minute.  Add all together into a bowl with asparagus. 

Mix vinaigrette ingredients together in a bowl and add to vegetables, mixing well before serving. 

Serves 4- 6 as a side dish. 

Optional add in: Add quinoa, hard-boiled egg, feta cheese, or grilled chicken. 

 

Ingredients:

1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed

4 cups cherry tomatoes

1 large avocado

 1 cup basil leaves

2 tbsp. pine nuts 

Vinaigrette: 

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. each black pepper and sea salt