Grounding for Goodwill

Think about the last time you slept exceptionally well and woke up feeling completely energized and totally refreshed? Now rewind to the previous day-what were you doing? I would bet that you would have spent most of the day outside. On that day, what were your activities? Swimming in the ocean, playing in a park, chasing after kids in the backyard?

The feeling of refreshment, and euphoria can come from a practice called "grounding." It may seem a bit out there for some, or too simplistic for others, but grounding is removing the barriers between you and nature. So, swimming in a lake or ocean, walking barefoot on the grass, scrambling over rocks and climbing trees. All the things that humans did many years ago on a daily basis, and most kids still do today. But what about you? When was the last time you opted to be barefoot and roam around? 

Grounding has been studied by many people it is often listed as having "invisible benefits." Additionally, some researchers believe that grounding can transfer negative ions from the ground's surface into our bodies where they then pair off with free radicals. We all know by know free radicals=bad, so anything to keep them paired up and happy=good. I suggest you do your own research on negative ions to form your own beliefs.

However, even if it is only anecdotal, I think we can all agree that spending some time out in nature only brings benefits. Try to add in a 10 minute walk each day through a lush area-even if that is just walking through a leafy suburb near your house. Taking the time to relax and allow nature to recharge you will bring physical and mental benefits.

Bright and Sunny B Vitamins

Feeling a little low? Brighten up by biting into some B vitamins!

B vitamins boost our mood by regulating the production of neurotransmitters that fight depression such as dopamine and serotonin. Garbanzo beans are a fantastic source. One cup of garbanzo beans contains 70% of your daily need of this key nutrient.

Vitamin B6 is also critical to managing your mood and you can find it in great snacks like pistachio nuts.

B12 is arguably the most important B vitamin. B12 is only found in animal based foods, so if you are eating a strict plant-based diet, make sure you supplement your diet or find foods that are fortified with B12 such as certain soymilks and cereals.

Feeling inspired? Try my recipe for heart-healthy hummus! 

1 can Garbanzo Beans/ “Chickpeas”

1/3 cup Tahini (found near peanut butter at health food store)

2-3 cloves, peeled and chopped garlic

Juice of 1-2 lemons

1 tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. ground coriander

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Red Pepper Hummus Option:  add ¼ - ½ cup fresh red pepper

Directions: Puree all ingredients in food processor until smooth and creamy.

Enjoy with a crudités such as carrots, celery, squash, zucchini, string beans, red and yellow peppers, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes!

Meat Alternatives for the Grill

It is time to roll out your grill and start cooking! Whether you live in the southern hemisphere and are enjoying spring beginning, or you are in the northern hemisphere and getting reading for tailgating season (aka autumn) then it is great weather to grill in.

If you are transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle going to or even hosting a BBQ may seem a bit of a challenging feat. But not to worry! You can be social while still sticking with your lifestyle choices. 

Here I have listed out my favourite non-meat foods that work great on the grill. Enjoy!

Capsicum. These peppers are very low in on both the caloric scale, as well as the glycaemic index. The rainbow of colour these vegetables provide will spruce up any BBQ banquet spread. Their high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants, like carotenoids and flavonoids will give your immune system a boost. Capsicums are notorious for losing some of their phytonutrients when cooked on a high heat so try grilling on a low heat, and for a very short period of time. I recommend placing these bad boys on the grill just after you turned it on, as it is still getting heated up.

Corn. Although corn may seem a pretty ordinary food, it has unique health benefits. The digestive benefits of corn are incredible. Corn’s insoluble fibre aids the growth of good bacteria in our large intestines. These bacteria convert the corn into short chain fatty acids which in turn provide energy to the cells of the large intestines.  Keeping the cells of the large intestines healthy is important in promoting regular bowel movements and preventing gastrointestinal disorders and diseases. I recommend leaving the corn in the husk while you grill. To flavour the corn, once you have husked it, take a sliced lime, dip both sides in paprika or powdered chilli, then slide the lime along the corn as you gently squeeze. This will distribute the flavours nicely over the cob.

Asparagus. This spring time specialty is high in vitamin K. Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin, is essential in blood clotting. It is now believed that the correct levels of vitamin K are necessary in the body in order to allow vitamin D to do its job in building strong bones. Asparagus has a higher respiration rate than other vegetables, which means it will lose water and wrinkle quicker than the broccoli and lettuce you keep next to asparagus in the fridge. Try wrapping the ends of the asparagus in a damp paper towel during storage and try to eat within 2 days of purchasing. Asparagus is lovely with a light oil coating and a quick grill on all sides.

Peaches. To me, this is a warm weather staple food. This great fruit provides you with minerals such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc with every sweet, sticky bite. Grilled peaches will be a hit dessert to round out an excellent BBQ. Make sure to choose very fragrant peaches that yields slightly to the touch but isn’t mushy. Slice your fruit in half and remove the pit. If you like, you can brush the entire fruit in a light coating of butter. Grill each side for 4 minutes on a medium-low heat.

Tempeh. This traditional soy product is different from its soy brother, tofu, in many respects. Tempeh is created by fermenting cooked soybeans, so the entire bean including its protein, fibre, antioxidants and more remain. The result a texture that is firmer and chewier than tofu. Tempeh is a great replacement for a burger. Although I love a good lentil burger at a BBQ, I am often plagued by creating lentil patties that don’t stick together completely. Tempeh is a great alternative. Slice your tempeh into long, flat, rectangular pieces. Brush on any sauce or marinade you like and set on the grill. 

 

*First published in The Australia Times-Health  http://www.theaustraliatimes.com/magazine/health/

Changing Habits-Screen Time

When you read the title of “Changing Habits” what do you think of first? Cessation of smoking? Walking more? Swapping your soda for water? All of those things do fall under this category. However, daily habits do not stay within the confines of what you eat or drink, or how you exercise. We have all heard the old adage, “What you think, you become.” So, I challenge you to change where you let your focus go. Whenever you find yourself with downtime, you are most likely going to look to the screen on your computer or phone to fill your time. I suggest you make some healthy swaps where you spend your time on the internet so I am sharing with you my personal favourite websites to visit.

Mind Body Green

MBG is an excellent source of articles, recipes, and inspiration. Authors featured on the site range from top notch professionals, to those with an interest in health. There are often articles debating two sides of polarising topics such as Bikram yoga. Many personal triumphs are shared, as well as easy to make dishes. They have recently expanded and now feature video articles, some of which are free and some of which you can pay for a subscription to. I follow them on social media, so my newsfeed is always blowing up with good ideas. I enjoy the variety of content and can spend hours on there by planning every meal for the next month, learning more about topics I am still somewhat clueless about (hello hormones and fertility), and finding tips on how to perfect my running stride. Honestly, everything health-related is all covered at Mind Body Green.

Elephant Journal

Elephant Journal is a site dedicated to mindfulness. Their articles focus more on the mental side of things, but cover everything from casual sex to permaculture. Elephant Journal is where I like to go for my daily dose of gratitude-infused reading. After a couple of articles I get a little warm-fuzzy feeling about life. Elephant Journal is free for the first 3 articles per day, and if you want to read more (which, believe me will be easy when you follow all of their “relephant” suggestions of articles based on your taste in articles) you can pay about $1 USD a month for unlimited reading! How great is that?! What I love about Elephant Journal is that it is still at a grassroots level, and you often see the founder, Waylon Lewis, in videos and articles truly living the messages Elephant Journal preaches.

Take Part

Take Part calls itself a “social action platform for the conscious consumer.” They have different categories for information, but I always gravitate to their food section. Take Part is based in the United States so most of their articles are covering current hot topics there such as children’s school lunches, taxes on fizzy drinks and sodas, and which fast food restaurants are going GMO free. Although the references they make may be to Americans, the information about childhood obesity, humane raising and slaughtering of animals, and food insecurity issues are relevant to all.

Well – The New York Times Health Blog

This blog from The New York Times offers expert advice on disease, health promotion, fitness and more. Some of the world’s top doctors and medical advisers contribute and weigh in on hotly debated topics and produce articles with up-to-the-minute information when new research is released.  

Brain Fog Be Gone

After periods of being sedentary, the systems of the body begin to slow, including brain function. This may result in “brain fog” where it seems more difficult than it should be to concentrate, think critically, and respond accurately to a question or problem.

Overworking and multi-tasking can also lead to a cloudy head. One of the best ways to rid yourself of brain fog is to not overwork yourself in one and moment, and focus on one task at hand. 

Set aside time to check you emails and respond in batches. Instead of having e-mails pile up that you read and respond to in your head, but physically don’t take action, get to cracking. Respond during your time set aside for e-mail and wipe it off your to-do list. Schedule non-e-mail time where you work on projects without distraction. This may be for just 20 minutes, but being able to focus on one activity at a time will help you be more effective and efficient.

Another thing to schedule into your day is movement. Moving muscles pumps fresh oxygen-carrying blood to the brain. Small, frequent amounts of movement have been shown to improve blood markers for type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Short activity has been shown to help clear some of the inflammatory products from the body and reduce the risk of weight gain that can be a side effect of inflammation. Additionally, more physical movement will burn more calories. Turn meetings into walking meetings, either getting outside (weather-permitting) or moving throughout the office. Associate a work action with an extra physical movement. I.e. every time you have to e-mail a certain colleague, you do 5 squats at your desk.

Set an alarm on your phone or your computer to stand up and take a short break every hour. Computer apps that help with scheduled breaks include Eyeleo, Workrave, Big Stretch Reminder, Awareness, and EVO. Some focus on eye exercises and eye breaks, while others alternate between gross muscle stretches, smaller movements, and breath work.

Phone apps that are free for Apple products are Move Daily Activity to Stay Healthy and Stand Up! The Work Break Timer. Android users can try out Randomly Remind Me.

Exercise boosts the brain’s cognitive flexibility, allowing you to be more capable of handling analytical thinking, and new, creative tasks. Additionally, physical training keeps your brain sharp and allows you to maintain or even increase your balance and muscular flexibility.

Yoga to Unwind

 Here are 10 yoga poses that you can do before heading to bed. These will help to release tension and relax your whole body and mind. Unwinding before bed is crucial to being focused on the most important thing-your sleep!

Once you have settled into the pose take five to 10 deep breaths before transitioning to the next.

*for any pose demonstrated on one leg or side, complete a full round by doing the posture on both sides of the body to maintain equilibrium.

Make a Big Shift, With Little Effort

If I could make 3 recommendations to anyone who wants to make changes to their diet and lifestyle, it would be these: drink more water, eat more leafy greens, and get more sleep. Those are all pretty easy, right? However, if you seem to find those to be a lot of work, there are ways to kill two birds with one stone.

1) Rock the Water

Eat foods with high water content! Choose water-filled foods like leafy greens, hot cereal, and broth-based soups and stews. These foods let you eat larger portions for fewer calories. Fresh (and hopefully local and organic) produce should take up the majority of your plate. Produce consists mostly of water, and it boosts the volume of each bite, while diluting calories.

2) Go get ‘em Greens

Love your leafy greens! Kale is having its 15 minutes of fame at the moment, and that’s great for you. Why you ask? Because this hearty green that you are finding everywhere is acclaimed for its levels of iron as well as vitamins A and K. Accessibility to leafy greens has never been easier. But don’t just stop at kale and spinach. Mustard and collard greens are a great addition to your diet, and if you don’t want to venture out that far just amp up your consumption of broccoli. Broccoli contains high levels of potassium and folate, both of which help to keep your brain and nervous system in top condition.

3) Sleepy Time

Most people aren’t getting enough sleep at night for one reason or another and their health and way of life is suffering because of it. Fortunately, there are a several foods that are known to induce a good night’s sleep. These foods contain substances such as magnesium, a natural sedative, melatonin, sleep regulator, and serotonin, another chemical that induces sleep.

  • Warm Milk: This is probably a familiar sleep remedy for most people. The calcium in milk helps you relax and the tryptophan helps you fall asleep.
  • Bananas: They contain melatonin and serotonin, which help you sleep soundly, and magnesium, a muscle relaxant.
  • Cherries: A natural food source of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep.
  • Nutmeg: Acts as a natural relaxant and helps induce sleep.
  • Honey: Used for years as a natural sleep aid, honey contributes to the release of melatonin.

If you want to get fancy, you could toss all these ingredients together in a blender and have a nice pre-snooze snack.

Oftentimes people fail with their health goals because they get so excited and motivated and want to fix their whole life in one go. If you focus on making simple, sustainable changes in your daily routine, you will begin to notice big differences in your body.