Frozen Lemon-Watermelon treats

It is still summer down under, and I know it is starting to heat up back in the US in many areas. (I mean days in the 70's in February?!) Because so many people are spending more time outdoors it is important to stay hydrated. Don't groan and roll your eyes yet thinking this is going to be one more blog about the how you need to drink more water. I promise I won't be giving you one more crazy equation to use to try and work out just how much water you REALLY should be having. This post is much more fun! A great way to stay hydrated is by eating foods with a high water content. Let's compare: celery and bread. Which one has a higher water content? You got it-celery! By adding in foods filled with water, you are providing nourishment to your body without having to lug around a massive water bottle with you everywhere. 

Watermelon is a wonderful food that can really help your hydration. Watermelon is a high-lycopene food and is great for cardiovascular health! When you blend it up and add lemon, you have got yourself a zesty treat.

I whipped up these yummy popsicles/ice lollies in less than 10 minutes! (Minus the time to freeze of course)

1) Cut up your watermelon and remove the rind from the flesh. Throw the flesh into a blender. 

2) Slice up lemons, or juice 1-2 lemons, depending on your taste. I had organic lemons so I wasn't worried about the peel and after slicing, I threw the whole thing in. The peel of a lemon actually contains 5-10x more vitamins like C and A than the lemon juice itself!

3) Blend it all together in a high powered blender. 

4) Pour the liquid into popsicle trays.

5) Freeze overnight

If you have any leftovers, drink them as a delicious tangy juice!

Let me know how you like to make variations-do you add in mint, other fruits, or something wild and unique to you?!

Let's Talk: Clean Eating

“Clean eating” has been a popular movement for years now, but with particular interest increasing and spreading due to the prevalence of social media in the last half a decade. Now we can show off how “good” we are being to everyone we know, and many we don’t with a few taps on our phone. The issue with using the term “clean eating” is that it often reduces food down to a moral decision of what is “good” and what is “bad.” However, this just perpetuates the idea that food should serve as a reward. An idea that was most likely ingrained in us as children, but can lead to unease and unhealthy habits later in life.

Some people see clean eating as a way to respect nature and the help the earth continue its natural cycles with minimal human impact. The back-to-nature movement gained a foothold during the 60’s and 70’s through communities of people often referred to hippies at the time. Growing food for small groups and living off what the land provided seasonally was seen as radical at a time when the post-war production industry was booming and more food products were being produced than ever before. Just about anything could be canned or frozen it seemed! Although interest in natural foods waxed and waned through the decades, food remained a staple of controversy with a new miracle cure or scapegoat being discovered every few years.

Other people see the clean eating movement as removing certain foods from their diets. Now that we have presumably moved past the years we held onto the low-fat movement and low-carbohydrate diets and are becoming more interested in Paleo-style eating and cutting out specific ingredients from our kitchens such as gluten, most people are left confused and fearful. The general public is scared of all kinds of food, but more determined than ever to be healthy. The dichotomy between the obesity levels in the world and the interest in health and nutrition are quite frankly, shocking. The shelves of grocery stores are lined with more “healthy” products-bars, shakes, juices, than ever before. Considerable time, effort and money are being poured into buying the right food products and searching out the trendiest health food and avoiding everything “bad.”

While demonizing certain foods may make you feel better about yourself when you avoid them, what happens when you do consume them? How do you feel when presented at a gathering with one of your dirty foods? Anxious? Worried? What happens if you do take a bite? Does guilt or shame wash over you? Do you question what it means to your self-worth, or self-proposed title of a “health nut,” or “clean eater?”

Paying attention to what you foods are best for you is a great practice. Tuning into your needs and figuring out what foods, drinks, and lifestyle practices work and what doesn’t serve you as well is brilliant. However, reducing the definition of yourself to just what you eat is dangerous.

My recommendations would be to first slow down. Then, begin to play with your food. Start to adjust your diet to incorporate all kinds of foods instead of sticking to a strict plan that you read about in a book or that was suggested by your favourite Instagram star. See how you feel when you eat what you want, when you want, including small amounts of previously off-limits foods. Figuring out what works for your unique and beautiful body is vital to thriving in life. This can take some time, so be gentle with yourself. Take this opportunity to learn about new locally-owned markets, stores, and restaurants in your area and what they have to offer. Those radical ideas of living locally have come full circle and are more widely accepted, making foods and products that have been grown or created with minimal processing and impact to the environment more easily available.

You don’t need to prescribe to dietary theory to be healthy. Clean eating can mean different things to different people, so scrape all the labels and work on what works for you.

Let's Talk: Health during the Holidays

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With all the parties during the holiday season, we often load up on convenience foods like cheese, bread, chips and dips, as they are readily available at most festive tables. This plus alcohol, less sleep, and less water can lead to you feeling run down, and sluggish. Recharge your body in between Christmas and New Years by upping the nutrients you take in. You have probably heard about "superfoods" as they pack a massive punch. You don't have to go out and go crazy buying all new ingredients to stock your house, but I do recommend adding in a bit of extras to your regular meals. It is often these little additions that fill you up, and crowd out some of the other sneaky health saboteurs that can creep in this time of year.

These plant-based foods provide you with more energy and better health due to their high levels of vitamins and minerals. (Secret-they are all vegan too!) 

1. Hemp seeds: awesome source of omega-3 fats (which is great for me because I HATE fish and fish oil supplements). These can be sprinkled on top of both savoury or sweet foods.

2. Chia seeds: (pictured above) these are packed with protein and filled with fibre. Mix them with water or homemade almond milk to make a gel and use in smoothies or as a dessert.

3. Kale: we can't have a list without this newly popular veg. Filled with magnesium which helps ease muscle cramps. Pull the leaves from the stems and saute kale in olive oil and top with some spices for a lovely side dish.

4. Sea vegetables: ok so this one is a bit difficult for me to incorporate into my diet to be honest. But sea vegetables are a fantastic natural source of sodium. Nori is the easiest source which can usually be found in the Japanese section of your grocery store. Have a homemade sushi making night with your family or friends!

5. Tempeh: this protein is easily digested and can be used as the main dish or to top salads and wraps. Try marinating tempeh with apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and coconut oil.

6. Coconut water/oil: coconut water has an electrolyte content that is most similar to the human body's. Coconut oil contains medium chain fats which provides your body with nourishment and longer term energy. You can cook with coconut oil or slip some into your smoothie!

7. Quinoa: a grain-like seed that contains all essential amino acids which makes it a "complete" protein, the same as meat. I pop quinoa in my rice cooker and then love to add homemade pesto to it for a nice little change from pasta.

8. Honey: raw, and try for local. Honey is nice as a sweetener in drinks and desserts but has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Remember that it degrades over 40 C, so don't heat it too high or add to boiling water. To my southern ladies out there, give honey-iced tea a try instead of Sweet Tea!

Incorporating these foods into your meals and snacks will ensure that you are never lacking in energy or focus.

In Health,

Marissa xx

Let's Talk: Active Relaxation

I am starting a new weekly column in my blog all about those tricky words and phrases you may hear, but you still have questions around. Each Wednesday, a new "Let's Talk" blog will be published, so I would encourage you to let me know what else you would like to learn about!

This week I am kicking it off with-Active Relaxation!


It seems like an oxymoron to work yourself into calming down. Well, yes, and no. Our bodies do naturally relax in times of peace, maybe when you are around your partner, friends, or surrounded by kittens. Actually, that would get my heart racing, but you get the picture.

You can also aid your body in finding tranquility. Remember the parasympathetic system we were talking about before? Activating that system helps your body to slow down and process everything in order to keep going.

One of the easiest ways to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system is through meditation.

"WOAH! Put on the brakes." Is what you might be thinking. "I've tried meditating and it is too hard. I can't concentrate. I can't focus. I can't sit still. I can't complete a session correctly." 

Now it is my turn to tell you, "Woah! Put on the brakes." If thoughts of that nature are flooding into your brain you have the wrong idea about meditation. Believe me, I said those exact same words. Protested, made excuses, and felt frustrated. Hell, I spent a month in India trying to learn all the best Zenning out techniques and still couldn't "master" meditation, much to my chagrin.

In the ashram I stayed in we would meditate for 20-30 minutes twice a day at dawn and dusk. Some days were better than others. On the bad days I would peel open one eye (because I felt it was cheating/breaking if I opened both) and do a quick scan of the room. Everyone else seemed so peaceful. Straight spines, content looks, happy back of the heads, everyone just looked like they had figured it out. I scolded myself for not having enough focus, discipline, and patience. I desperately wanted to gain those qualities, but I kept thinking, why I am the only one not getting it? I must not be trying hard enough. But time and again I learned no matter how much harder I "tried" at meditation, I didn't feel an improvement.

The thing is, how can you gauge a meditation session? By how many rounds I counted on my mala beads? By the number of times my mind wandered? How fast or slow the session seemed to pass? I was trying to quantify an intangible experience.

And guess what? Each of those sessions, no matter how frustrating, were meditation. It is all about the experience. Every single day, every minute you are changing. Reacting. Growing. Improving. Evolving. And most importantly doing your best, given the situation, whatever that may be.  

We all have heard about the numerous benefits meditation can have. Including better sex and improved memory. But did you know that meditating can actually increase your energy? It is believed that you can actually gain more energy from a 20 minute meditation session than from a couple hours of sleep.

Sometimes beginning is the hardest part. But there is no need to worry because I've got your back. (Turn to page 42.) Just start taking a little bit of time 1-5 minutes to add in some active relaxation into your day. Amp it up little by little and see how you go. 

If you already have a regular meditation practice I would love to hear your tips and advice!


In Health,
Marissa

How can you survive the day after a sleepless night?

It is inevitable. We all have sleepless nights now and again. Whether it is work that is creeping into our mind and not allowing us to relax and unwind until past midnight, or a pet, spouse, or child that wakes us up early, or myriad other factors, we miss sleep. Before you could just have your barista throw in an extra shot for you, now what can you turn to for your lift? Here are some of the best tips for waking up when all you want to do is play hooky. 

* Get up when your alarm goes off. I am awful at this and set my alarm for 30-45 minutes before I actually have to rush out of bed. If you can afford it, set your alarm back a bit until when you REALLY must be arising. Then when it goes off, you get up. Simple as that. Those extra 30 minutes would be much more beneficial if you were truly sleeping instead of rolling around in bed grumbling about getting up. This is an experiment so I'll try it too.

*Get outside. This knocks off two birds with one stone. Seeing natural sunlight perks you up and if you are outside you are going to be moving your body. So a nice walk around the block or some yoga on your balcony can help. 

*Tackle the tough stuff first. If you haven't slept well, you will be functioning much better the first 4 hours you are awake than later in the day. Push through to get all the big jobs on your desk done first. That way you can hopefully slide through the end of the afternoon (I'm looking at you 3:30 p.m. and beyond) with just small administrative tasks. You know, all that stuff that you need to do but always put off? Use the last of your energy on a sleepy day to cross some of the smaller, less important tasks off.

*Lunch time activity. You would probably choose to crawl under your desk and snooze if you could, but if that is not an option (and even if it is) you should move your body. Get to the gym or go for a brisk walk, or do a quick Tabata workout in a park nearby. Getting your blood moving and your heart rate up will help keep you alert and focused when you start to really crash.

*Snack with strength. Make sure you are munching on protein rich foods throughout the day. Eggs, nuts and seeds, quinoa, and meats are awesome. If you can top those with omega-3's, from an avocado for example, you will be doing even better. 

In Health,

Marissa x

Every breath you take...take my breath away...don't hold your breath

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What do all of these snippets have in common (other than being solid 80's gold music!?) They feature the most important aspect of your life and your health-your breath!

Breathing, we do it all day, everyday, so what makes it so special?

The way you breathe can affect all of your body's functions. By actively controlling the breath, you can adjust your body's physiological responses to external stimuli.  Breath can control mood and vice versa. Think of an instance when you were angry. Raging mad. Maybe you kicked a few walls, trashcans (hopefully no puppies.) Perhaps you screamed, shouted, cried, or stamped your feet. Now, try to visualize your breath in those moments. Is is long and comfortable or short and shallow? Short and shallow. Every. Single.Time.

Next time you feel angry, sad, humiliated, overwhelmed, or  even tired, stop. Focus on the breath. It is the same idea behind telling children to count to 10. You redirect your mind and give yourself a beat to calm down. However, when you focus your energy on soothing breathing, you are able to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. 

When your exhalation is longer than your inhalation, the vagus nerve, which runs from your neck down through the diaphragm, signals to your brain to dial down the sympathetic nervous system and turn up the parasympathetic.

The sympathetic nervous system is in charge of fight-or-flight. It controls adrenaline and cortisol. 2 awesome hormones we need to run away from bears chasing us or finish a deadline at work. (Those two are equivalent in stress-levels, right?!) The parasympathetic nervous system controls your regulatory functions such as your abilities to rest and digest. 

Although we need both of these systems to thrive and survive, an overdose of those exciting hormones such as cortisol can cause a problem in our body long term. 

If you are feeling run down, out of energy, or just dragging after a big night out, try a breathing exercise. The easiest way to change your mood and overall physical and mental feeling in your body is to breath consciously.

Below I have given you  different techniques to use depending on what situation you find yourself in.

For Focus and Enhanced Attention

Research has shown that just 20 minutes of "mindful" breathing increases the flow of oxygenated blood to your brain and increases activity in the pre-frontal cortex, which is the section of your brain that controls concentration. Additionally, this exercise increases serotonin levels. So let's all get focused and happy together!


Instructions:
Sit comfortably, preferably in a dimly lit room. Close your eyes and begin to relax your body. Feel each of your muscles releasing tension.

-Inhale through your nose for six to eight seconds. Focus on the breathing moving into your body and permeating every cell. Feel your belly rise.

-Exhale for nine to twelve counts. Contract your abdominal muscles as you breathe out. 

Repeat this pattern and try to work up to a 20 minute session.
 

For Relaxation

In yoga Pranayama translates to "the extension of life force." Getting in touch with your breath can help you relax after a long day and begin the transition from hectic day time, to a peaceful night. Each nostril correlates to one side of the brain. 

The left nostril is related to the right side of the brain and is associated with moon energy-calming and cooling. This is connected with the parasympathetic nervous system which slows your body down and helps to regulate its' automatic day-to-day jobs such as digestion, elimination, and sleep cycles.

The right nostril is connected with the left side of the brain and is associated with the energy of the sun-energizing and awakening. This is the same energy that is connected to the sympathetic nervous system, which is in control of your fight-or-flight system and can amp you up when danger is near.

Practicing alternate nostril breathing in the evenings as part of your night time routine can help to de-stress the mind and release tension accumulated throughout the day. Try this simple exercise in a comfortable seated position before lying down into bed.

Instructions:

Take three regular breaths in and out of your nose. After your third exhalation, gently plug your right nostril with your right thumb and then inhale through only the left nostril.

Close both nostrils and hold your breath for 4 counts

Release the right nostril and exhale. Inhale on the right side, and repeat. Always alternating. After you exhale on one side, stay on that side to inhale, then hold in the middle again, and then release on the opposite side.

Taming Your Gut Bacteria (yes, even during the holidays!)

Hey there! Here I am, super large and in your face showing off my first batch of homemade sauerkraut, circa February 2015. Man was I proud of that jar! I felt so accomplished and happy. Happy... a great segue for gut bacteria!

So, I have spoken before about how the foods you consume control how you feel, act, and think. All of this is true because what you eat is absorbed and forms your cells. However, if you don't have optimal digestive ability then you won't be able to absorb all the nutrients needed to thrive. Taking care of your tummy is step number one.

You want to maintain an alkaline state with a pH over 7. Alkaline foods are whole foods. So if you are eating a plant-based diet and minimal processed foods, you should be fine. If you want to test your pH, you can buy urine testing strips at most large chain pharmacists/chemists. 

You also want to make sure that you are filling your intestines with good bacteria. Your digestive tract is covered in bacteria.
Eating a diet filled with processed foods can actually HARM your bacteria. Just recently in the news a man ate McDonald's for 10 days and measured the decrease in gut bacteria. 

As the holiday season approaches (shout out to Thanksgiving creeping up on Thursday!) it is important to use good-quality probiotics to help the body maintain its health. I recommend ending your day with a nice probiotic so your body has lots of time (8+ hours of sleep!) to process the sucker. You can also consumer probiotics through fermented products-kefir, miso, sauerkraut, kimchee, and tempeh to name just a few. Although they may not be the most traditional foods for the holidays, your health-conscious and hippie cousins will appreciate you making the effort to include fermented foods on the holiday plate! If you want recipes for how to make your own fermented goodies like pickled radishes, sauerkraut, or kombucha, just send me an enquiry!


In Health,
Marissa x

Pre-Thanksgiving Prep

As the first big holiday of the season approaches (at least in America) I wanted to start by giving a few tips for the festive season.There will be more to come, and a few fun workouts along the way as well!

As you lead up to Thanksgiving, take some time to get yourself under control and into a happy space. This holiday is all about celebrating what you have-a job, a home, family, friends, health. This is not about losing sleep to impress someone or make sure everything is perfect (ironic coming from me if you have ever seen me prep before people come to the house for dinner!) or anything else that is getting you in a tizzy at the moment.

Take some time in the days surrounding the holiday to be grateful for your current health, no matter what state it is in. Then start to get to work on this list. Some of these may be pretty obvious, and you think, “I’ve heard this a hundred times before!” but I think they bear repeating. Others (I am looking at your sea vegetables) may be a new find. So read the list with an open mind, and a hungry stomach!

Drink plenty of water

Dehydration can often show up as hunger. Reach for a big glass of room-temperature water whenever you start to get a craving. This gets you up and moving around the office or the house, and helps to hydrate you

 Increase your greens

Dark, leafy green vegetables are bitter and they can help to transform the taste buds. Your body craves what you just ate, so the more green veggies you give it, the more your body will ask. Also once your pallet has adjusted to the higher intake of bitter, the sweet stuff will be so overwhelming.

Introduce yourself to sea vegetables

Sea vegetables are rich in minerals and vitamins so pick up some dried seaweed as a snack or incorporate sea veggies into your soups, stews, stir fries. Sugar depletes your body of minerals as it is processed so if you have been “testing” a lot of your dessert recipes lately you may be a bit low in vital nutrients.

Sweeten the deal with sweet vegetables

If you are craving sweet foods in the evening as just a little something after dinner, increase the sweet vegetables on your plate. Eating foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, corn, beets, cooked onions, podded peas, parsnips, and turnips can help your body’s desire for sweetness be satisfied.

Get Spicy!

Play with herbs and spices to add new and exciting flavours to dessert without having to resort to more sugar and butter. Cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom are all great flavours for a dessert!

Go to Sleep

Your mood affects your food intake, and one of the best things you can do to lift your mood is to rest and rest well. Besides, you will need to be in your best mood possible when your family starts arguing about the election!

Fibre, your Friend!

The best description I have read about fibre that really puts things in perspective is how fibre is to plants as bone and muscle is to humans. It provides support for the structure and shape of plants. Due to all this support, it is a bit tougher to break down than other nutrients.

Let’s start with the digestion of fibre. Now, most nutrients undergo digestion in the mouth, stomach, and small intestine. Along the way they are broken into smaller pieces and combined with digestive enzymes and fluids. This puts the nutrients in a state that allows maximum absorption by the body.

Fibre however, takes a different route for digestion and absorption. Fibre passes through the stomach, and small intestine and it is not until it reaches the large intestine that it dramatically changes. This transformation occurs thanks to the trillions of bacteria that live in the large intestine. These are also foods that are considered fermentable fibre or prebiotics. This fermentable kind of fibre is also what can cause flatulence (gas). Foods that are rich in fermentable fibres include beans, legumes, oats, fruit and vegetables. Soluble fibre blends with water and can help with hunger reduction, reducing blood sugar spikes, and various metabolic processes. Insoluble fibre doesn’t blend with water and acts as a bulking agent and can help speed the passage of food and waste.

Bottom line: if you eat a whole food, plant-based diet, you will be doing alright. If you are following a SAD  (Standard American Diet) lifestyle you will be lacking in fibre. The recommended lowest amount to consume per day (25-35 grams) is not reached by most people. However, as you move away from packed products and toward whole food, you will easily increase your fibre content.

Work to having all the colours of the rainbow on your plate each and every day. The colours of food correspond to vitamins and minerals, so the more variety, the better. These whole foods such as lentils, brown rice, and green veggies will have you and your gut grooving in no time!

A bonus to increased fibre (along with weight loss and increase energy) is increasing the amount of waste you get rid of. So if you are not sure where you stand now with your waste, and what is healthy and normal here is a fun infographic all about poop! So check it out, then sort your shit out! 

Disclaimer: I did not create this infographic, you can see the Naturopath who owns it listed below. This is the most comprehensive graph I have found and what I like to use with clients.

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