The apple cider vinegar craze: is it for you?

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An apple a day keeps the Dr. away!

An apple a day keeps the Dr. away!

Let’s just admit it: we are a nation of wellness gluttons who will binge on any new trend that we think will make us “perfect” in a jiffy. Knowing thyself is important so let’s just get that out of the way, shall we? Take Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV to those in the know), for example: it has been touted as the holy nectar of all things healthy for a hot minute now: wash your floors, wash your face, wash your HAIR with it!  DRINK IT! It solves world peace!! (okay, I added that last one). Is this is all meaningless blog content, marketing ploy or does the stuff work? Personally, I like to know the why’s before I jump on bandwagons so let’s break  it down.

First things first: as with most natural remedies, the claims made about what ACV abilities don’t match the amount of viable research  available. In short, a lot of these health claims don’t have the support of science BUT our grandparents and their parents can’t all be wrong and science sometimes has to catch up; After all, research IS expensive.

Acetic Acid: the magical ingredient

All vinegars contain acetic acid (when ethanol is fermented by acetic acid baceria, acetic acid is born; Wikipedia it!) . You will hear the term “Mother of Vinegar” used and that just refers to the bacterial culture used to spawn the vinegar.   ACV has a high amount of acetic acid (usually 5%) which makes it too strong to use on your skin or to ingest if undiluted. However, the theory is that adding diluted acetic acid to your gut will lower blood pressure and improve the absorption of certain minerals while slowing the digestion of carbohydrates and thus preventing spikes in blood sugar. There is also the premise  that adding an acid that is weaker than gut acid to your system increases the alkalinity of your blood.  Three things are important to note here:

  1. The blood pressure lowering effects was found to be true in rats but hasn’t been tried in humans yet.
  2. The hydrochloric acid (HCL) you already have in your gut is powerful and usually does a fine job of helping you absorb the minerals from your food by breaking down the proteins they are attached to. Does ACV overpower the enzymes that cause you to quickly break down carbs in the gut? the jury is still out. BUT:  you DO start to make less HCL with age (and with stress);  people with chronic or stress related digestive issues might have impaired gut function overall. Some alternative practitioners contend that low HCL can lead to  anemia and an overgrowth of yeast in the gut which can then lead to skin and dental issues (eczema, dermatitis, gum disease, thrush etc) 
  3. A balanced, healthy diet low in simple carbohydrates won’t cause spikes in blood sugar OR lower blood pH like a junk food diet that relies on refined carbs (think white flour, quick oats, white rice) will; common sense says to NOT eat a meal that will spike your blood sugar rapidly. BUT: people with prediabetes (insulin resistance), diabetes or a family history of diabetes have abnormal insulin levels so their blood sugar levels need additional help. A diet high in simple carbohydrates can ALSO lead to candida aka. yeast overgrowth. WARNINGBe careful with ALL natural remedies if you’re already taking medications since there might be interactions. Chat with your Dr. about what you intend to do and the meds you’re on.

Apples, Apples a wonderful fruit

As the name implies,  ACV is made from fresh apple juice that includes all parts of the apple i.e the seeds, stems etc; this concoction is called the apple must. Why should you know this? well, since conventionally grown apples  have high pesticide levels, it’s worth it to buy organic, unfiltered (the cloudy kind) ACV since all parts of the apple are used to make it. So guess what’s in apples and vegetation that grows from the earth? phyto-chemicals, that’s what! Your body loves phyto-chemicals because they act as natural antioxidants that protect your cells from rapid deterioration.

So there you have it! Sure, apple cider vinegar as a nontoxic house cleaner is a no brainer because of its acidic action and minimal ingredients. Heck, it’s even been shown to serve as an excellent pet friendly pest repellent ( spray it on your pesky neighbor to make sure). Should you ingest it daily some have suggested? maybe if you fall into any of the categories mentioned that have trouble with low HCL, insulin and/or skin issues. The good news is: ACV IS nontoxic so if you want to try it and see what happens then it likely won’t harm you (again, be careful if you’re on meds). Just don’t rely on it indefinitely (take breaks here and there if you decide to pursue it as a remedy). Balance in life is key!

 

 

References

  1.  ” Antihypertensive Effects of Acetic Acid and Vinegar…”, Kondo et al (Pubmed.gov); 2001
  2. “What the Research Really Says about Apple Cider Vinegar” Dr. Mercola (Mercola.com); 2009
  3. “Apple Cider Vinegar”, Cathy Wong ND (About.com/Altmedicine)
  4. “Phytochemicals”, American Cancer Society (cancer.org);
  5. A Review of Mineral Absorption…”, Dr. James Gerber MD (IntegrativePractitioner.com)
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Low starch, veggie “rice” & “noodles” (Sugar & Gluten Free!)

Low starch, low carb blanched broccoli "rice"
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Blanched broccoli riceYou don’t have  to  subscribe to any particular diet to see the connection between too much starch and weight gain. When eating the preferred wholesome, real food diet you’d get your starches from tubers like potatoes and some vegetables and grains; a less wholesome diet might include baked goods made from starchy, refined flours. Between you and I, quinoa, popcorn, brown rice and rolled oats are favorites on days when I really need the energy. The problem (at least for me) with these starches is in part control, especially when  bored and/or overly tired. Well, if it’s food volume you’re after, there ARE ways to prep non-starchy veggies to suit your needs. With my solution and unlike with grains, you can have more than 4 oz (half a cup) per serving of these veggies so you will feel fuller longer; I doubt you will need much more, though, since they are all high in fiber.  Not only that, but these veggies come with a higher nutrient content so you’re getting more nutrition bang for your buck! How do I do it? I make noodles and rice out of vegetables, that’s how! (see below) ** These are useful option for the diabetic and gluten-free diets**

*You will need a food processor or blender to make the vegetable “rice” and a mandolin slicer or vegetable peeler  for the noodles.

For rice,  fill a saucepan with about an inch of water and bring to a boil so that you can blanch the vegetables after you process into a rice like texture; use the rubberized blade on your food processor) and have a sieve ready to remove excess water.  *You can opt to blanche the vegetables BEFORE processing, up to you and your preference.

For noodles, I prefer the raw version. You can opt to steam or blanch if you prefer yours less al dente. 

Lastly, you can opt to season your rice and noodles with whatever herbs and spices you like! Personally, I like simple food but I am working on adding more flavor variety. Below is a list of vegetables in my low starch, grain free arsenal:

 

Broccoli “rice”

Brussel sprouts “rice”

Cauliflower “rice” or mash

Carrot noodles

Chopped cabbage

Green bean mash

Zucchini “noodles”

Spaghetti squash “pasta”

Cucumber “noodles”

Catch me on Dr. Oz? 6 more foods you SHOULD buy organic

6 foods you SHOULD buy organic
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Organic Food

Organic Food

Good news! Although food marketers would have you believe otherwise, everything you eat does NOT have to be organic and the fact that you even eat fruit and vegetables is better than not eating them. I recently appeared on the Dr. Oz for a segment on organic vs non organic food shopping (watch it here). Still, there are some foods that you SHOULD buy organic. The Environmental Working Group states that these items show residues of contaminants that are seriously toxic to your nervous system. There are more on the EWG’s list but selfishly, these are the foods I eat the most:

  1. Spinach
  2. Strawberries: FYI, the tiny pits on strawberries are little craters for pesticides. Eww
  3. Zucchini
  4. Celery
  5. Kale/Collard greens
  6. Sweet bell peppers

5 Tricks to afford healthy living

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Stay healthy by working out and eating well.

Stay healthy by working out and eating well.

There seems to be a general consensus that a healthy  lifestyle is expensive. Sure, it can be since fresh produce seems to cost more than packaged foods and gym memberships can also be pricey. But what if I told you that it is less expensive than you think if you choose more selectively? Here are some tricks I use to afford being healthy and yes, I know that the opinion of  childless person might not be applicable to everyone and every situation but some might be.

  1. Reform your expense perspective: Gas is expensive (well, by U.S. standards), cable is expensive, your Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts habit is expensive, dining out adds up in more ways than one,  as does going out for drinks regularly or that 2 wine bottles per week to calm your nerves tendency. For me, at least half of those things can be done without or reduced to increase cash flow for other things. For example: I make my own coffee drink so that I can afford organic chicken and I don’t have cable so I can afford life ( cable is expensive!!)
  2. Be more active in your daily life so that the gym is just a bonus: Take more stairs, park farther away, bike, walk your kids to school, make after dinner walks and interactive video games a family time staple. Don’t just rely on getting to the gym to get moving. The local YMCA or recreation centers also have great rates if you want an indoor workout and there are often adult sporting leagues nearby. At the very least, find a couple of DVDs to get an at home workout.
  3. Avoid recipes provided by manufacturers: You’ve seen recipes on the side of containers like Pillsbury crescent rolls and even Velveeta cheese right? Understand that they simply want you to buy and use their products and could care less if they’re good for you. Avoid those products all together and opt for your grandma’s version ( minus the huge amounts of lard etc). Want dinner rolls? then try this recipe or this one;  they’re probably healthier store version AND you can substitute the types of flours you like. I’m not advocating you overindulging in sweets and baked goods (easiest way to pile on the pounds, folks) but I’d rather have you making your own cookies the old fashioned way than from pre-made dough.
  4. Plan ahead for weekly meals and make large batches to eat and freeze: Casseroles, stews and soups, slow cookers and one pot meals are your friends. Think about the flavors you want to taste and build up your “go-to” recipe list. Structure your plate to include protein (beans, fish or meats) , complex carbs (grains and vegetables), and heathy fats (avocados, olive, coconut, grape-seed oils). *Skip cured deli meats like hams etc and buy a rotisserie chicken for quick meals on the go. Personally, I really like knowing where my food comes from so I make 98% of my own meals knowing that I will have leftovers for days.
  5. For most fresh veggies, buy enough for the week and choose frozen for the rest. How many times have you had to toss veggies that went bad before you got to use them? Buy just enough for the meals you plan to make that week and FYI: to get the best vitamin benefit,  try not to chop them up until right before cooking. Canned veggies is the low man on the totem pole of vegetables because they (a)  use tons of salt to preserve them and (b) all of the nutrients can fade over time. If you do hav eto buy them then stick to canned beans.
  6. Learn to fuel yourself proactively instead of eating reactively: Eating for fuel and not just because you’re hungry can make  a huge difference on your energy levels, waistline and pocket book. When you’ve waited too long to eat, then the meal you eventually choose is one that is calorie heavy because your body is ravenous. Piling in so many calories at one time can cause weight gain because your body only processes so many at once and stores the rest for later. Don’t wait for that moment when you just can’t pass up that expensive take out and instead, have a decent sized breakfast and lunch with a couple snacks throughout the day. Fruit is a perfect snack because it comes pre-packaged so I toss some into my carry-all along with a boiled egg or 2 if I know it will be a long day. Oh and for those of who argue that takeout is cheap where you live: consider the one plate you buy probably costs 1/3 to make and has 2x the calories than if you made it yourself.

A hearty cup of Make Stuff Happen!

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Homemade Coffee DrinkIt’s Monday and it was a fun but active weekend. What does that spell? Coffeeeeee! Now before the nutrition police go haywire with “she drinks caffeine?” judgments please note that… Yes, yes I do. I am a big time tea drinker and in the cold months I am also a big fan of a tiny bit off coffee swimming in a sea of warm almond milk. Caffeine in moderation is very good for you, especially if you exercise as much as I do! This particular concoction saves me oh I dunno, 300+ calories at the fancy coffee shop? As the title of the post indicates, it will start your day off on a peppy but not high calorie foot AND it has ingredients that are good for you! It’s:
8oz unsweetened almond milk, warmed
1 tbsp honey
1tsp pumpkin pie spice ( cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon, cloves, all spice)
1tsp instant coffee.
Pour the warm almond milk into a mug filled with the other ingredients and stir. Voila, you just made 50 calories of awesomeness. Now go Make Stuff Happen!

Homemade Coffee Drink

Low calorie coffee drink

Homemade Almond Milk Review: Holy Moly Goodness!!

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Homemade is best?

Homemade is best?

You guys, I think that my life has just changed. If you’ve been making almond milk for years then bear with me BUT if you’ve never tried to make it, Do It: TRUST ME. After I soaked my almonds overnight, the whole process took approximately 10 mins from start to clean up. I think it will be even faster the next time since I will know exactly what to expect. So here are some pointers so that it will be easy for you.

  • Use 3-3.5 times as much water as almonds because your yield will be much smaller than that. I used 4 cups but only got 2 cups (16 ounces) out of it (see below).
  • Use a paper towel over the strainer. I only used a paper towel over the 2nd batch after realizing that I could squeeze more milk out that way. 
  • This 1st batch is unsweetened with a pinch of sea-salt (literally) and3 tsp vanilla extract because I want to use my milk for more than sweet recipes.

The result is really creamy with good mouth weight and a very  slight nutty flavor. I just made a cappuccino with it and WOW, it was the best I’ve ever had! Now the mad scientist in me is soaking the rest of my cashews and almonds to make another batch tonight.  

 

 

Never over-pay for Almond milk again (Almond Milk Recipe)

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Krystal passed this recipe on to me and just in time too since I paid SIX DOLLARS for a 16 ounce cup of almond milk at some restaurant that shall remain nameless (HU Kitchen, my new but EXPENSIVE favorite). My almonds are soaking right now. Enjoy!!

Almond Milk Recipe
1. 1 Cup of Almonds, soak overnight or for at least 4 hours, you can either peel or leave the brown shells on
2. Add the almonds to 4 cups of water in a blender, a pinch of sea salt and other options are 1T of vanilla extract or agave to taste
3. Blend and then strain in a nut milk bag, a double layer of cheese cloth, or you can even use a paper towel over a strainer.

5 healthy habits that are making you gain weight

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ImageMost of us have been there: you’re doing what you think is the right thing in the food and exercise department but you STILL can’t seem to lose the weight. At least not as fast as you want. What’s going on? well, it could very well be that all of those right things you’re doing. They might still be right but your execution is off. Check this out

  1. You Eat Breakfast...but only a little: Eating breakfast is a must but eating too little in the day time sets you up for massive hunger pangs later in the day. Breakfast is the perfect time to have your healthy carbs so add more with some lean protein.
  2. You Eat 5 Meals a Day….but they’re not small: The idea behind having 5 small meals a day is to keep your blood sugar balanced so you don’t binge. All you need a some healthy carbs, some lean protein and a little healthy fat. Think Spanish “tapas” sized for each meal.
  3. You Eat Fruit & Nuts….allll daaaay: The daily servings for fruit is 5 per day and no more. Use this handy chart from the Mayo Clinic to figure out what the proper serving size for the fruit of your choice is. The serving size for nuts is a handful and this article can explain to you what that should look like.  **Occasionally pair it with some lean protein like a handful of nuts to stay satisfied.
  4. You Only Do Cardio…the same kind all the time:  I am  Cycling Instructor ( among other types of exercise) and an avid runner. I get it. You love cardio. Still, your body is a highly adaptive organism and needs to be surprised often in order to change. Not only that, your cardio habit could be eating the highly metabolic muscle tissue you have which just makes room for the fat on your body.  Trust me, you WANT lean muscle on your body as it keeps your metabolism revved up and displaces fat.
  5. You eat protein bars…..a lot: Have you read the ingredients list for some of these protein bars?! Some are just glorified candy bars! Boil a carton of eggs and pre-portion your nuts to have handy. If you MUST eat a protein bar, choose one like Quest’s lowcarb/gluten free bars or Kind Bars which both have limited yet tasty and  healthy ingredients.

SO Delicious Almond Yogurt Review: Didn’t hate it…

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ImageMan, times they are a-changing when you start to see so many choices for the vegan, lactose- and gluten free people of the world! Sure, not every neighborhood has access to some of these new inventions in food but at least they can be purchased online right? As a dairy free chica, when the weather gets warm, I start to miss the creamy goodness of ice-cream and yogurt. Funnily enough, it’s the texture I miss….literally the creaminess. Therefore, it was such a relief to see almond and coconut milk yogurts on the shelves of Whole Foods this week. I’m sure they’ve been there awhile it being Whole Foods and all but I just noticed them because, like I said, it’s starting to warm up here and I went looking. Vanilla and chocolate seemed like good beginner flavors and I choose the SO Delicious brand because I dig their coconut and almond milks. Here is what I thought

  1. Packaging: 5 Spoons…regular appealing yet healthy looking package
  2. Color: 3 Spoons….the vanilla was a nutty brown color. I like my vanilla cream colored. Personal preference.
  3. Texture: 4 Spoons… it was very custardy, not milky, which is understandable since well, there’s no real milk in it. They thicken it with tapioca, sea kelp, gelatin among other things.
  4. Taste: hmmm 3 Spoons….it’s….different….even more yogurt tasting than regular vanilla yogurt. I suppose that is the Greek Style the packaging referred to but it still took awhile to grow on me. 
  5. Protein content: 4 Spoons…. It boasts 6 grams of protein and 6 active live cultures. Not a lot for the yogurts I prefer but hey, those yogurts are milk based and cause me gastric distress. I’ll take a lower protein content over that bellyache any day. 

OVERALL RATING: 4 stars. If you live dairy free and want a creamy/custardy yogurt then this might be for you if you like the extra tang of Greek yogurt. I am saving the chocolate one for tomorrow and might try a fruity one soon!