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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Celebrate Love Daily


How does Valentine's Day make you feel? Excited? Irritated? Sad? Don't care? It tends to be a source of excitement or pain depending on whether one is in a meaningful relationship. A lot of people use this time of year to express their love and gratitude to special people in their lives. There's nothing wrong with celebrating love. But, why now and not, say, in June or September? We should celebrate love on a daily basis! So, ask yourself what you are doing to celebrate love each day. The little things add up. It could be taking out the garbage or doing the dishes to show that you value the relationship. Maybe you give out big bear hugs to the people in your life that make it joyful.

Not only should you be giving of yourself, but you should be giving to yourself. Are you a creative type that needs some time knitting, writing, or playing music in order to recharge? Maybe you need some time alone to sit and read? Have you been getting the exercise you enjoy? Make sure that you are getting some play time in your day. Play time isn't just for kids. Celebrate loving yourself and others.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chocolate for my sweet?



Valentine's Day is around the corner - literally days away. Don’t you think it’s been blown way out of proportion?  The annual advertising blitz calls on us to “Show how much you care” by giving her the “gift that lasts a lifetime” and encouraging kids (and adults) to share and consume tons of artifically-flavored sweets (heart-shaped candy, anyone?).  With that said, I can’t ignore the fact that many of us who are in a relationship will use the holiday as an excuse to exchange gifts with “that special someone.” Which can be loads of fun. Chocolate, of course, has always been a popular gift.

“Oh, divine chocolate!
They grind thee kneeling,
Beat thee with hands praying,
And drink thee with eyes to heaven.”
Marco Antonio Orellana, 18th century

Chocolate presses the same buttons in our brain that stimulate the sensation of love. That is why we consider it a "treat.” When we are "good" we want to feel that sense of worth. Chocolate can sometimes fill that need within us. That’s one reason we give chocolate on a holiday like Valentine's Day. While high quality chocolate is delicious, we should also be sure to gather love from within ourselves and around us, from our relationships. With that said, here are some tips and other nutritional facts about chocolate. 

First, look for Dark Chocolate (70% +) or Raw Cacao. These are the ones that are packed with:
  • Antioxidants (protect us against free radicals)
  • Magnesium (balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones; necessary for good heart function; can be a beneficial during menstruation, as it relaxes the muscle & cramping)
  • Theobromine (stimulants similar to caffeine)
  • Caffeine  (chocolate has less than coffee or tea, but it varies)
  • Phenylethylamine (considered to be the chemical of love, it is released when we indulge in chocolate)
  • Anandamide (Considered the "bliss" chemical. When we are happy we release this chemical in our brains.)
  • MAO Inhibitors (increased serotonin and other neurotransmitters can circulate the brain more freely)
  • Aphrodisiac (not necessarily a nutritional component that can be listed as a compound, but nonetheless, I believe that a superb chocolate drink, dessert, or bar can bring on certain urges.)
The darker more intense the flavor, the less of it you will need to press your buttons. Also, the darker the chocolate means less sugar has been added. Look for bars that are sweetened with natural sweeteners like raw blue agave, raw honey, stevia or maple syrup instead of refined sugars or high fructose corn syrup.

Try dark chocolate bars that have hints of lavender, ginger, or raspberry. These chocolate bars may be more expensive. That means you have to slow down when you eat them and savor the flavors - like wine tasting. Experience the full bodied flavor and essence of chocolate.

Experiment and Enjoy.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mood Food

I just wanted to share an article from Vita.mn Woo Hoo!

Mood foods

Winter dragging you down? Here's a complete menu for beating the winter blues.


Photo by Carlos Gonzalez
The Chana Masala at the Himalayan Restaurant in Minneapolis has curry spices and garbanzo beans — both reputed to make you feel better.
Photo by Carlos Gonzalez
W.A. Frost's pumpkin-rutabaga soup (with toasted pumpkin seeds and harissa yogurt) is rich in mood-stabilizing magnesium.



If March comes in like a lion, then February comes in like a Tyrannosaurus rex. The snow squeaks like a rubber suit beneath your boots. One gulp of the biting wind and you're overcome with a nervous certainty that your lungs will splinter. Everyone's hands start to look like they've been soaked in turpentine.

Of course, Minnesotans are a hardy lot. Still, if studies are to be believed, we aren't exactly happy in winter -- more like really good fakers. According to a "happiness" study published in December, Minnesota ranks 26th in reported well-being, just below North Dakota. And if you believe studies about other studies, research shows that springtime weather accounts for a serious rise in happiness and cognition above the average baseline winter mood. In other words, if we're fakers, then we're martyrs, too. Because the winter doldrums? Hey, that's our baseline normal!

We have a ways to go before feeling that sweet mood spike. But the tundra we love so much offers us plenty of nearby mood-boosters that are sure to feel positively springlike. And nearly all of them are available at area restaurants and grocery stores.

'TIS THE SEASON

One way to maintain your health and mood when winter seems to have no end is to eat seasonal, local foods. Admittedly, when the ground is as hard and thick as a granite countertop, that's not easy to do. But local, pesticide-free, fall-emerging carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in nutrients and beta-carotene known to combat the destructive power of free radicals, which in layman's terms are basically unstable, damaged cells responsible for premature aging.

Mary Langfield, a holistic health coach in Minneapolis who helps people suffering from anxiety, depression and serious winter blues to devise meal plans, always advises her clients to eat local and in-season when possible. Such foods "[come from] the soil from around here, they're not getting trucked around the country," Langfield says. "You're getting something that's fresher, has more nutrients and vitamins and minerals."

In addition to local carrots and squash, pumpkin seeds are a great source for better health and mood. "Pumpkin seeds offer a lot of magnesium, which many people are deficient in," Langfield says. Foods rich in magnesium, which is linked to mood stabilization, also include nuts, tofu and dark leafy vegetables. Also on the nut tip: Cashews, while hardly local, are loaded with tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin and aids in sleep.
  • Suggested dishes/drinks:
    Roasted squash ravioli, which comes with toasted pecans, from Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis; Orange Dream smoothie, featuring oranges, carrots and ginger, from Ecopolitan in Minneapolis; pumpkin-pie smoothie from Powderhorn Fusion in Minneapolis; pumpkin-rutabaga soup featuring toasted pumpkin seeds and harissa yogurt from W.A. Frost in St. Paul; and, if you want to cheat on your diet but boost your mood about it, sweet potato fries from Longfellow Grill in Minneapolis.

GO GREEN

After a night or two of serious indulgence (or, say, a long winter of shenanigans), one of the best ways to cleanse your system and feel like you aren't made of crumbling concrete and rust is to eat leafy greens. For one thing, they're blood purifiers, so they'll help flush all that beer, wine and whiskey. The chlorophyll in greens is a purifier, cleanser and digestive aid -- meaning you don't really need an Oprah-approved detoxifier in a capsule to clean up your act. "Collard greens, bok choy, kale and dandelion greens are great for getting over excess sugar or alcohol consumption, which can really weigh you down and make you feel really tired," Langfield says.

So next time you feel hungover and like your arms are excess baggage, go for dark green foods to wipe away the split-pea-soup fog you're in.

SPICE IT UP

In both Indian ayurveda (harmonic health) and Chinese medicine, warming foods are often prescribed for all that ails you. Those include foods rich in ingredients like cardamom, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon, which are essential for warming the body and keeping the system healthy and happy, according to ancient beliefs.

A recent study found that Western doctors are jumping on the Eastern medicine bandwagon, often prescribing turmeric and cumin because the spices boast an active ingredient known as curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging qualities.

Cumin and turmeric are common -- and delicious -- ingredients in curry dishes. Add to that some garbanzo beans, which are high in mood-boosting magnesium. Or pour the fresh curry over some lentils, which according to Langfield offer plenty of pholates, a vitamin that many people are deficient in, and which helps to reverse depression. (Lentils are also rich in vitamin B, which helps increase energy.) Suddenly you have a hearty, mouthwatering antidepressant in a steamy bowl loaded with nose-tickling spices.
  • Suggested dishes
    Chana Masala, featuring garbanzo beans and curry spices, at the Himalayan Restaurant in Minneapolis; lamb curry (medium spicy), also from the Himalayan; green curry with tofu from True Thai in Minneapolis; Persian Dhansak, cooked in lentil and tomato curry, from Gandhi Mahal in Minneapolis; cheesecake at Corner Table in Minneapolis, because it's delicious and fortified with cardamom (a real benefit, right?).

IF ALL ELSE FAILS...

Eat the head of George Washington. Or Barack Obama. That is, eat your Chia Pet. "Chia seeds are rich in Omega-3s," Langfield says. "Apparently the Aztecs almost lived off of them. You can toss them into a salad -- they don't have a flavor, really. But they are awesome for you." It's doubtful our famous chefs and award-winning restaurants will be serving you chia seeds anytime soon. But you can plant your own chia garden and chomp on the health benefits (which include increased energy and endurance) while you use your Clapper to dim the lights. And who knows -- with chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, greens and squash injecting you with the feel-goods and new energy, you could wind up inventing the next ShamWow.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Weight-loss Tips

TAs a Certified Holistic Health Coach I work with many busy professionals who are seeking weight-loss. They see weight-loss as either the single hurdle they have regarding their health & wellness goals or in tandem with others (acne or bad skin, stress, mood, sleep, IBS, etc). I was typing out a list of ideas that I will be sharing with one of my groups to help them get on track and I thought I would share the basic list with you too. We will be covering this list in detail in my group program, but even as a stand alone list I think it shines a light on areas that you can improve/change/remove in your life.  Let me know what you think.
  • Be thankful - give thanks with meals
  • Eat seasonal foods
  • Find a support network
  • Stretch
  • Eat at home more
  • Set intentions
  • Cook for a loved one
  • Journal
  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Meditate - Slow down
  • Quality vs. Quantity
  • Deconstruct your cravings
  • Stop rewarding yourself with food
  • Shower after work to renew your energy!
  • Eat less
  • Give yourself permission to shine!
  • Call a friend to check in
  • Stop overcommitting yourself!
  • Drink water
  • Set goals month to month/week to week
  • 3 meals a day
  • Shorten your list of things to do
  • Eat fruits & veggies at every meal
  • Substitute some exotic fruit for ice cream or heavy desserts
  • Cultivate beneficial relationships
  • Ditch draining relationships
  • Go play
  • Exercise/movement everyday
  • Get enough sleep
  • Volunteer your time with an organization you believe in
  • Ask "What's right for me?"
  • Eat healthy fats
  • Don't eat something you can't recognize as a whole food
  • Reduce portion sizes/don't buy mass quantities
  • Convince your body that life is not one BIG emergency
  • Avoid 100 calorie packs - they are full of sugar
  • Respect and honor yourself
  • Eat breakfast
  • Determine your triggers
  • Breathe deeply
  • Keep a food journal
  • Avoid refined sugars/High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Keep an exercise journal
  • Learn how to cook
  • Keep junk out of your house
This entry has been posted as part of Prevention Not Prescriptions Tuesday hosted by The Kathleen Show

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