Functional Food

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Guilt-Free Holidays

Happy Holidays everyone! Whether you are celebrating a holiday or simply spending time with family and loved ones, this time of the year can be a stressful time for some of us. We all know that the holidays usually revolve around two things: food and family/loved ones–both of which can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety.

Well, I can’t really help you out with the family part–you are on your own dealing with your annoying uncle/aunt–but food should never be a source of stress. EVER! I have found it quite common to hear that people tend to feel guilty around the holidays because they ate too much, or ate something they usually don’t eat, or simply because maybe they didn’t get to work out as much as they would have liked to. I just wanted to tell everyone: that’s ok!

Remove the guilt and we will all be happier people. Eat what you like at your gatherings. Eat foods that make you feel good while you eat them and even afterwards. Hopefully, you’ll aim to choose the whole, real and nourishing foods that don’t come in bags but that are actually grown on (or inside) this earth. Have that piece of pie if you want it. Chew it. Savor it! Eat your meals slowly, as if you were on a megaformer (hey Lagree peeps!): slow and mindful.  You’ll probably find that by eating in a slower and more mindful manner, you will feel full quicker, since you are giving your stomach enough time to signal your brain that it has had enough.

After you’ve eaten that piece of pie–and really enjoyed it–let it go! Remember this moment with fondness and not guilt. Guilt leads to stress and stress provides us with the very things that so many of us are stressed out about in the first place. When we are stressed there is an increase in our levels of cortisol–the stress hormone–, primarily our fight or flight hormone which, when elevated, causes an increase in blood-sugar levels which, in turn, causes our bodies to store more, unwanted fat. Isn’t that what caused the guilt in the first place? CUT THE GUILT OUT! It’s useless and does way more harm than good. Come to think of it, it does absolutely no good.

The moral of the story, my lovelies, is to enjoy your food, chew it, savor it, and, much like when you are at Motivate on the beloved megaformer doing a spider kick (an elevator lunge or a serve the platter) remember to do so methodically and mindfully–”piano, piano si van lontano” (slow goes a long way).

Every couple of weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Soup for the Soul

As I mentioned on my previous post, with the cooler weather the foods we crave are definitely different. Our bodies naturally reach for richer, slightly more dense foods because it wants to have enough body fat to keep us warm in the cooler months. So I’ll say it again: Don’t be afraid to add a little more of the nutritious, delicious, whole food sources of natural fats!

Coconut meat, avocado, olives, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans are all excellent sources of good fats. All of these beauties provide our bodies with the fats that we need to function properly: our brains, our skin and our bodies, literally, crave them; and when we aren’t getting enough, they start to demonstrate telltale signs.

Warming foods such a lentils, beans, sweet potatoes, yams, brown rice and quinoa are other delicious foods that can be so comforting in the winter. Plus, they provide us with such a huge variety of nutrients that keep us feeling healthy on the inside and looking hot on the outside!

But I guess you are thinking: “Oh, Gina, but all those foods contain so many carbs!” And your point is? These foods contain complex carbohydrates (and they also contain good amounts of

protein by the way) which provide slow, stable releases of energy plus a ton of fiber, and a huge array of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium–the relaxation mineral which is essential for a good night’s sleep–; B vitamins much needed for healthy hair, eyes, liver, and a healthy nervous system; phosphorous for energy production and strong bones and teeth, zinc which supports our immune systems, our thyroid, and even our adrenal glands (which help us manage stress); vitamin E for glowing skin, and antioxidants to keep us feeling young, just to name a few!

An obvious winter favorite is soup. Today I’ll share my favorite cauliflower soup!

INGREDIENTS

1 organic cauliflower head

1/2 yellow onion sliced

2 garlic cloves

1 small sweet potato or ½ a large one

1 tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp cumin

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp coconut oil

3 cups vegetable broth or water

Sea salt to taste

Toppings: 2 tbsp hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds

DIRECTIONS

1.    Preheat your oven to 375 ºF.

2.    Wash your sweet potato. Trim off the ends but do not remove the skin (it contains a lot of the nutrients!). With a knife, stab the sweet potato, making tiny holes all over it. Wrap the sweet potato with baking paper, so that it is fully wrapped. Place in oven and cook for about 45 minutes, until soft.

3.    While the sweet potato cooks place coconut oil in pan over medium heat. Mince garlic. Add garlic, and then the sliced onion. Cook for a few minutes. Add in the cauliflower, the turmeric, the cumin, and the salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, mixing everything around so the onions don’t burn.

4.    Add in the vegetable stock or water.

5.    Remove the sweet potato from the oven and place all ingredients in a high-speed blender.

6.    Top with hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds.

 

Enjoy!

Cauliflower is rich in vitamin C and K, while also providing good amounts of fiber, phosphorous, potassium and B vitamins. It is part of the cruciferous vegetable family which all contain compounds that can help to prevent cancer.

Sweet potato is an excellent source of nutrients. It contains vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin, pantothenic acid, potassium, fiber, carbohydrates and even a little bit of protein. Remember to always leave the skins on as the some of these nutrients can be found in greater amounts in the skins.

Turmeric is one of those multi-taskers which can do just about anything. It has significant anti-inflammatory effects, while also providing other extremely powerful antioxidant activity. If that wasn’t enough, turmeric (also known as curcumin) can inhibit the growth and formation of certain cancer causing agents, while also increasing the body’s production of cancer-fighting compounds (such as glutathione). I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you! Just know that it’s worth adding to your stews, curries, teas, and anything you would like it on.

Every couple of weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Sprout up your life

I have something to confess: I was once scared of eating beans and legumes because they made me feel bloated and, dare I say, gassy after eating them. My fears are now just a faded memory thanks to the magic of soaking (and sometimes sprouting).

For those of you that know me, you have probably heard me talk about eating more sprouted grains and legumes. Not only are certain grains and legumes great sources of protein but soaking/sprouting them can help unleash their nutrient content without having to deal with the pesky bloating feeling afterwards.

What is sprouting?
Sprouting brings the seed, legume/bean, and even nuts to life through germination.
Sprouting is a method which involves soaking used to increase nutrient density and availability, while also contributing to enhanced digestibility.

Why sprout?
Sprouting or soaking gets more nutrition (protein, vitamin C, B vitamins, iron) out of those beans and grains without having to worry about feeling bloated after eating them.

How to sprout
Sprouting is actually easy with the 3 steps below but it can be a little too time consuming. Most of us are busy bees and it is hard to add sprouting to our daily schedule. If you don’t have the time to sprout, soaking is the next best thing. Simply place the serving you intend to eat or cook in a container (preferably glass), fill with water and cover for at least 8 hours before cooking time. You may let them soak for longer if you wish! (Doing it the night before works best for me since I can enjoy my Z’s while they soak). Once you are ready to cook the grains/legumes/beans, drain water and rinse well before cooking.

NUTRITIONAL VALUE
Whole grains and legumes (including beans) are amazing plant foods which carry so much nutrition. They are both high in protein (especially beans and legumes) and complex carbohydrates. They high in fiber and aid in maintaining blood sugar levels stable and keeping you feeling satisfied (happy belly!) for longer.

Whole grains and legumes take much longer to be broken down versus simple carbohydrates which are quickly turned into sugar to give us a quick energy source. Some simple carbs can spike our blood sugar levels while legumes, like lentils, can prevent blood-sugar levels from spiking thanks to their high-fiber content.

Need any more convincing? Not only are they tasty; some studies have shown that due to their abundance in nutrients and phytochemicals, they help protect against cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Additionally, legumes and beans are rich in folate which is essential for all of those expecting Momma’s out there!

While all whole grains and legumes are nutrient powerhouses of their own and excellent additions to a balanced diet, their bran contain anti nutrients such as phytic acid which make them a little harder to fully digest—the reason some of us tend to feel bloated or flatulent after consuming them!

When phytic acid binds with other nutrients and minerals (iron, zinc, calcium and even magnesium-to name a few) the ability to absorb these very nutrients is compromised. Fear not, my little kittens! Soaking and/or sprouting breaks down phytic acid and other anti nutrients, unlocking all the goodness and increasing bioavailability of vitamins and minerals, and making them much easier for our body to access and digest.

Sprout in 3 easy steps:

1.     Wash grains/legumes/beans with clean water, then drain the water in a colander. Place in a bowl or container and soak for about 12 hours.

2.     Drain grains once again in a colander and place in a mason jar or glass jar of your preference. Cover with a sprouting lid (you can get this at your local store or online). Turn the jar upside down frequently so that any extra water is able to drain. Rinse and drain twice a day.

3.     Repeat rinsing and draining for a couple of more days. Sprouting may take up to 1-5 days, depending on the seed. When the seed has a small tail on it, it has sprouted!

Every couple of weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

 

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | O Porridge, My Porridge

Ummm…is it fall yet?

With our recent weather, you wouldn’t think that we are well into the first month of fall. Yes, the mornings have definitely been much cooler; and, as I constantly check all the weather reports like a dork, I do hear that fall is upon us!

With a change of season comes a whole new wave of foods (pumpkin-spice anything, anyone?) and new craving for warmer dishes. Out go the cool smoothies (well not out completely but…maybe just not as often?) and in come the warm, more comforting foods to enjoy post workout or before heading out to work: a warm breakfast that energizes us, keeps our blood sugar levels stable and keeps us fueled to kick some butt for the rest of the day!

My go-to breakfast for days like these is porridge–it’s creamy, comforting, hearty, and filling. If you know, or suspect, that you are going to have a long day, porridge sure does pack a punch to help you start your day and keep you focus for those early meetings.

Without further ado, today I’m going to provide you with two recipe options that include seasonal fruits that you can find at your local farmer’s market or grocery store for both a traditional porridge à la G and a quinoa version, since not everyone loves oats (gasp!); and because it’s sometimes fun (and actually quite nourishing) to mix it up!
 
Apple Pie Quinoa
Ingredients:
1/3 cup quinoa
1 red apple
A handful of strawberries
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 medjool date
1 cup coconut or almond milk
1 tsp extra virgin coconut oil (optional)
Optional topping ideas: 1 tbsp chia seeds, or 1 tbsp almond butter

Wash the apple and chop it into cubes. Slice the strawberries into thin pieces. Chop the date and discard the seed. 
Place the fruits in a saucepan over medium heat and cover them with water (about ½ cup). Add the 1 tbsp of cinnamon, and vanilla. 
Stir frequently while cooking, for about 15 minutes, until the apples are soft. 
Once the apples are stewed, add the coconut milk and bring to a boil.
Add in the quinoa, the other 1 tsp of cinnamon and reduce heat to a simmer. 
Add coconut oil (optional, but it adds a creamy boost) and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Enjoy!

Persimmon Oats
Ingredients:
1/3 cup rolled oats (soaked previously in water so they are easier to digest)
1 cup coconut or almond milk
1 tbsp cinnamon + 1 tsp
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 medjool date
Optional topping ideas: 1 tbsp chia seeds, or 1 tbsp almond butter

Wash the persimmon and cut it into cubes. Chop the date and discard the seed. 
Place the fruits in a saucepan over medium heat and cover them with water (about ½ cup).
Add the 1 tbsp of cinnamon, and the ½ tsp of cardamom. 
Cook for about 12-15 minutes, until water has absorbed and the persimmon is soft.
Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. 
Add oats and reduce heat to a low simmer. 
Add coconut oil (optional, but as I said above, it adds more to the creaminess) and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until desired creaminess is achieved! 

Enjoy!

(Note: You can switch these recipes up: instead of using quinoa, you may use oats (simply reduce cooking time) or the other way around. You can also switch up the fruit and do this with your favorite fruits! I can’t get enough of bananas, but I’m a little monkey :) 

 
NUTRITIONAL INFO
 
Rolled oats are high in fiber; they also contain manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, some B vitamins and iron. I do stress to soak your rolled oats in water before consuming them (you may do this the night before or for at least 4 hours); this will help remove the phytic acid which can make them harder to digest and make the nutrients more difficult to absorb in our bodies. Plus, phytic acid can also make some of us feel bloated! I will be explaining the importance of soaking very soon!
Note: steel cut oats are an even better option, but they do take longer to cook. Feel free to use these if you have the time!

Quinoa is high in protein and fiber. It has all the essential amino acids and is also a great source of magnesium, manganese, vitamin E, iron, phosphorous, copper and zinc. It is technically a seed not a grain, and is naturally gluten free. 
 
Dates are a great source of potassium and a special type of soluble fiber which has been noted to aid in keeping blood sugar levels stable by delaying the absorption of glucose in the small intestine. This fiber also increases satiety – which helps to keep up feel fuller for longer. Dates are also rich in B vitamins, copper, manganese, magnesium, iron, folate, phosphorous.  They also contain zinc and selenium.
 
Persimmon: Have you been seeing these orange babies everywhere? I sure have. They are an amazing source of provitamin A, copper, manganese, and some B vitamins. Get them while they last!
 
Apples are a good source of vitamin C, and fiber; their skin contains a lot of the nutrients, so try to leave it on!
 
Strawberries are an amazing source of vitamin C, which helps keep our immune systems strong. Pairing them with iron-rich oats is a perfect combo since iron absorption is enhanced with intake of vitamin-C-rich foods. Strawberries also contain vitamin K, flavonoids, dietary fiber, manganese, some B vitamins, and iodine (which is essential for our thyroid).
 
Cinnamon: It might just be my favorite spice. It helps lowering blood sugar levels, circulation and is even a digestant. Plus, in my opinion, it is absolutely delicious on everything–especially fruits!
 
Cardamom helps relieve gas, is a digestive aid (like cinnamon) and is rich in zinc and manganese (an antioxidant mineral). 

Every couple of weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Eat the Rainbow

Our health is largely determined by the food we eat. Adding more fruits and vegetables to our plates is something that can only provide benefits to each one of us and our overall wellbeing!

Fruits and vegetables provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, cancer-fighting compounds and heart-protecting nutrients. They support our brains, digestive system, heart, skin (pretty much all our organs ;), our bones, and our muscles; basically, everything we need to function and live long, healthy lives. Many are anti-inflammatory and aid in protecting us from chronic disease. Plus, they taste delicious! They can be perfectly sweet and excitingly sour. 

Fruits and veggies also contain fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E and K, antioxidants, and flavonoids (flavanoids are a group of antioxidant compounds–these are good for you ;), resistant starch (which feed our good gut bacteria, remember how important bacteria is?) among many other good things, which simply can’t be found in useful amounts in animal-sourced foods.

I often hear “but fruit has so much sugar, Gina!” Yes, fruit does contain sugar in its most natural state: fructose. This means no processed sugar; no sugar pack label can replace that. 

Sugar in fruit, unlike the sugar you find in candy, sports drinks or in a snickers bar, doesn’t fly solo and actually comes with a bunch of nutrients to your belly party: fiber, vitamins, minerals, and the rest mentioned earlier. The body responds and goes about digesting very differently this sugar from fruits than the sugar in that candy bar we can’t seem to put down sometimes. 
Fruit provides nourishment and, ideally, can play an important part in a balanced diet. Of course, eating too much of anything can have its repercussions, including fruit; so remember: balance and variety are essential for optimal health. Mmmmm, pineapple and banana...yummy…(let me clean the drool off the keyboard).

Ok. Where were we? Oh, yeah, why you should eat more fruits and vegetables. If all these nutrients can be found in fruits and vegetable, why aren’t we eating more of them every day?

If you are having a hard time getting these colorful little guys on your plate (and in your mouth!), here are some ideas to help you get reacquainted:
 
1. Steam them: Simple yet delicious! 
Steamed bok choy, broccoli, carrots, etc., all maintain their crunchiness plus their nutritional profile as intact as possible since cooking time is usually short and nutrients are not significantly destroyed. Sprinkle with your favorite herbs: my favorites are cilantro, dill and oregano. You can also pair this with a delicious dressing.

2. Bake/Roast them
Mmmm if you don’t enjoy roasted vegetables then, what’s wrong with you?! I’m not sure we could be friends j/k ;)
Roasting vegetables can truly bring out such amazing flavors, textures and aromas from these babies. You can roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, onions, asparagus, leeks, beets, mushrooms, you can pretty much roast anything you want! 
You literally just have to wash your veggies–some require cutting them slightly–place them on a baking sheet/pan, add some sea salt and/or spices and put them in the oven. You can catch up on your show(s) while the heavy lifting is done by the oven. It doesn’t get any easier than this! 

Try brushing the vegetables with some extra virgin coconut oil, (an easy way to not waste excessive amounts of oil is to use a brush to coat the vegetables ever so slightly). Sprinkle over some thyme, fresh rosemary, pepper and/or a dash of sea salt.
Coconut oil is a heat stable oil and is great to roast with. You can always dry roast them too.

Baked yam fries

Baked yam fries

Roasted brussels sprouts

Roasted brussels sprouts

3. Sautée them.
Add some extra virgin coconut oil to a pan over medium to low heat, then add some garlic and veggies of your choice and cook for a few minutes. Voilá. Add spices of choice. Some of my favorites are: cumin, turmeric, pepper (black, chilli, cayenne), oregano, and/or thyme. 
You don’t have to limit yourself to these spices; there’s a plethora of amazing spices out there.

Sautéed cauliflower rice

Sautéed cauliflower rice

4. Eat em’ raw!
Probably the easiest choice. Shave them, cube them, use a spiralizer - go nuts! Make sure you wash them. ;) 
You can prepare them as noodles by spiralizing them (zuchinni, summer squash), as a vegetable carpaccio (this works well with beets in particular), in a salad, as a main part of your meal or as a side; it’s up to you!
Eating your vegetables raw means that you are having them in their most natural, unadulterated state, with all of their nutrients and enzymes completely intact! Leafy greens (spinach, kale, romaine, chard, arugula), tomatoes, beets, zucchini, carrots, celery, parsley, cilantro, summer squash: all are delicious raw! 
The only vegetables I would say to be wary not to eat raw in huge amounts are cruciferous vegetables (hello broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, I’m looking at you) as they can be quite hard to digest in their raw state so you might prefer to opt for options 1, 2, or 3 for these veggies. 
 

Raw zucchini lasagna

Raw zucchini lasagna

Zucchini noodles

Zucchini noodles

Raw beet carpaccio 

Raw beet carpaccio 

Every couple of weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Behind Bars

More often than not, we find ourselves hungry in the middle of a long afternoon or even a long morning. We had our breakfast, we had our lunch, but there is so much time between meals that sometimes we want a snack, right?! That’s great. Having a snack will help keep our blood-sugar levels stable and give us that extra boost of energy that we might need–providing it’s a nutritious snack, that is. Enter the ever-so-popular-and-famous energy bars, or what many brands now call “protein bars”. Hmmmm...my thoughts on this subject vary. Many people think that high levels of protein is all that matters in a bar. Some even judge a meal by its protein content alone. Tisk tisk.

While most brands brag about being all “natural”, after actually reading the ingredients, I usually find myself asking: “vegetable glycerine”? Why is this in here? What’s lecithin–an emulsifier–doing in there? “Natural flavors”? (e.g. Natural vanilla flavor, natural blueberry flavor, natural chocolate flavor) Shouldn’t all flavors be natural?

Added flavoring, be it artificial or natural–which in reality and sadly are actually quite similar to one another–can contain up 50 to 100 different ingredients; and nasty ones at that. Uh, why is this stuff in my food? Why add flavoring if fruit and nuts/seeds/spices contain everything you need when it comes to FLAVOR. And what are all these other words I can’t pronounce? Butylated hydroxyto…whatever! Why isn’t the sweetness in my bar coming simply from the fruit? Why add more sugar to it? Could it be that maybe sugar is an addictive substance that we keep wanting and coming back for more and more? What the f@#!?

 Most of these energy/protein bars contain isolated nutrients instead of whole foods, and a lot of weird and funny ingredients. As Michael Pollan says: Real food doesn’t have ingredients; real food IS ingredients.

I don’t know how you feel about this but I’d rather not be putting all these weird things into my body. I just want a damn snack! How hard can it be? I just want something easy that I can carry around in my purse in case of emergency! (Oh, I can get hangry...really hangry).

But I get the appeal: some of these bars are quite tasty and they give you just the right amount of pick-me-up that some of us need. The problem is that many of them are filled with weird stabilizers, additives, and processed sugar (even if it’s organic sugar, it’s just sugar). It really bugs me that most bars are marketed as containing whole foods, and then they bulk up the product with all of this other weird stuff. Why? It’s so unnecessary! Well, mainly because bulking agents provide more shelf life. But anyway…I can ramble all day about this (as you can see ;)

Instead of constantly spending money on boxes of energy/protein bars for the family, how about making your own?

It really is very easy: simply throw everything into a food processor–which, by the way, are not expensive and save so much time in the kitchen! (Especially if you hate chopping things as much as I do)–and then you put the mixture into the mold of your liking and voilà! It’s that easy. 

The whole thing won’t take you more than 5 to 10 minutes; and that’s if you are taking your time. The only thing that you need to do is buy these seeds and fruit. Once you have these, you will be able to make big batches of naturally-high-in-protein and nutrient-dense bars.
 
These bars contain a ton of iron, omega 3s, vitamin E, protein-rich seeds, high-on-fiber dates (among many other nutrients), and some of my favorite blood sugar regulating spices: cinnamon and cardamom. No nuts are included in this recipe because some of you kitties are allergic to nuts and, to be honest, I think seeds are another one of those foods who don’t get half the attention they deserve and you know me: I’m all about bringing your attention to these overlooked but nutritionally-dense foods.

Enjoy!

RECIPE
1 tbsp flaxseeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp hemp seeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
6 tbsp buckwheat groats
3 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
11 dates
1 tbsp coconut flakes (or shredded coconut OR coconut meat)
1 tsp cardamom (you can add an extra tsp if you love cardamom like me ;)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla powder
Pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp unrefined cold-pressed coconut oil
1 tbsp goji berries (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Mix for 30 seconds. Depending on your food processor, you might want to run it for a couple of more seconds until you have a good mix. You will notice that things get sticky and mixed pretty fast.

Take the mixture out and place it on a baking sheet or mold (a glass container will work as well), pressing the mixture firmly with a spatula.

Place the backing sheet or mold in the refrigerator. Let sit for at least 2 hours for better consistency but you can eat these right out of the food processor.

Cut into 8 equal parts and try not to eat them all in one day.


Every two weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.
 

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Get out of that rut, take care of your gut

We’ve all heard the phrase “we are what we eat” but evidence shows that this phrase should be more like “we are what we digest”. So, what’s the difference? If we are eating all the right foods but aren’t actually digesting them properly, our bodies aren’t absorbing or assimilating the nutrients our food provides us and we aren’t able to reap from these benefits.

More often than not I encounter frustrated people who claim to be eating nutritious foods and yet they frequently feel bloated (“Ugh, I want to show-off my hard-worked-Motivate abs but damn, my lunch is doing a number on my stomach”). Some have mood swings, some spend hours on end on the toilet, and some have skin issues, among many others. Now, the reasons behind these may vary: from food sensitivities to intolerances, from hormonal problems to autoimmune diseases, to simply a poor diet (e.g. high in processed foods, or low in vegetables and fiber) that is hard for your body to metabolize.

There is one common denominator behind each and every one of these issues that I always find important to address: if you want to get out of that rut, first you have to take care of your gut. 

Our poor guts don’t get even half the attention they deserve; they are so under appreciated. I know that they are not too glamorous but neither are those old pajamas you wear every Sunday that make you feel more comfortable that any other outfit in your closet. (Or is this just me?) For example, are you aware that 90% of serotonin–important for our happiness–can be found in your gastrointestinal tract? Let me repeat that. Ninety percent. Serotonin is a chemical manufactured in our bodies that helps neurons talk to each other–this is why it’s called a neurotransmitter–and 90% of the body’s serotonin is actually produced and lives in our gut! Wow! Does this mean that our moods can be affected by our gut health? In a simple answer: yes, that is what research is telling us. Those guts of ours do a lot of work and we must do what we can to facilitate its ongoing and ever-so-demanding job.

Before we talk further about practices that aid the process of regulating our gut function and flora, we must first understand what’s going on down there. Think of your gut as a garden where little creatures play, where everything is connected and in perfect balance. Without this balance everything would be a disaster. In our gut, particularly in our large intestines, we have “little creatures” like good bacteria and bad bacteria. There are trillions of these little buggers in all of us. You read correctly people: trillions. We have about three pounds of bacteria in our gut. They must live in balance (symbiosis) with us in order for them to be able to perform their many jobs properly: help us with our digestion, absorb nutrients, produce vitamins; more on this later.

Bacteria survive and thrive on what we feed them. A diet high in real, whole, high-fiber food (some known as prebiotics) and fermented foods (probiotics) will feed the good bacteria and create new populations of good bacteria in our gut (aaah...unicorns and rainbows). A diet high in processed foods and sugar will feed the bad bacteria and can lead to overpopulation of the bad guys; this imbalance is called dysbiosis (black clouds, death metal, explosions...armageddon).

But wait Gina, I’m not feeding my bacteria, I’m feeding myself! Who cares about bacteria?!  As a society we’ve been taught that all bacteria are bad, to fear them, hence the constant use of antibacterial hand wash and soaps. But while some bacteria can be nasty, not all bacteria are bad for us.

Let’s think of the good bacteria as badass little soldiers that fight the evil forces–the bad bacteria–from invading, getting cozy, and making more little evil baby bacteria in our gut. Good bacteria play an important role in our immune systems: they protect us from pathogens and parasites, can influence our weight, help our digestion, they manufacture several B vitamins and vitamin K, can increase mineral  absorption, help prevent infection, alleviate eczema and allergies, break down toxins, and manufacture good-for-you-short-chain fatty acids which reduce intestinal inflammation, improve (and help prevent) irritable bowel syndrome and even constipation, I could go on forever; but I wouldn’t do that to you. The point is WE NEED THEM and we need to keep the good bacteria happy, safe and healthy.   

Unfortunately, these little guys, more often than not, get killed off by antibiotics (in antibiotic medicine, certain foods–ugh!) and while some of them practically build homes and live in our gut, others simply vacation there. This is why we must remember to constantly feed our gut with good bacteria so we can keep these good guys/gals (if they were to have a gender I bet they would be female ;) fighting the good fight.

But how, Gina? How?! Enter fermented foods. Fermented foods are rich in good bacteria–probiotics. Hello (raw) sauerkraut, kimchee (stinky but good), kombucha, coconut yogurt or kefir, and miso. Now, you don’t need to eat an enormous amount (2-3 TBSP of sauerkraut is more than enough) to reap from the benefits of probiotics. Over eating them will probably give you a stomach ache so ease into these foods and try to have a variation of them as well–variety is the spice of life, I always say ;) You could prepare many of these if you have the time. If you don’t have the time, fear not, little kittens; we live in Los Angeles and all of these items are available for you to buy at your local farmers market, health-food stores and supermarkets.

(Note: I am not mentioning supermarket dairy yogurt as a reliable source. If you want to know why, please feel free to ask me.)

If you want an even bigger boost, and/or if none of those foods rock your boat or you can’t stomach them–pun totally intended–then incorporating a probiotic has the possibility (in my humble opinion) of changing your life! Yeah, I said it! You are very likely to see a quick and rapid improvement in your digestion, your skin and much more by incorporating probiotics in your life. Do some further research (you can ask me for more details) and check out different types of probiotics and see which are the right fit for you–we are all biochemically different at the end of the day. I am not trying to endorse any of the following but they have worked for me and may be a good introduction to probiotics to some of you. My favorite probiotics are (and again, I am by no means trying to market these) the Health Force brand, and Dr. Ohhira.

So now you know. Don’t be afraid to add some bacteria in your life. Oh, jolly good.
Every two weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Tabbouleh with at Twist

Hi everyone! I don’t know about you, but with this heat I find myself craving cooler foods at the moment. As delicious and versatile as salads can be, it is easy to get stuck in a rut of having the same ol’ greens such as kale and arugula and we can easily forget about the good ol’ basics. Don’t forget about the basics ;) This inspired me to make a slightly more nutritious twist on an all-time favorite of mine: tabbouleh.

Tabbouleh is usually served as a side dish in Middle Eastern cuisine. This recipe can be enjoyed as a side dish (with some hummus, yummy) or simply as a meal by itself.

Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with bulgur wheat.  Since wheat is so hard to digest, causes inflammation, sensitivities, and intolerance in so many of us, in this recipe the bulgur wheat is replaced with a naturally gluten-free and hypoallergenic ancient grain: amaranth.

Amaranth is so often overlooked and overshadowed by it’s sister grain: quinoa (technically neither are a grain; they are actually seeds). It is very delicate both in texture and in flavor, andis exceptionally nutritious! Olives and hemp seeds are also included in this recipe, both for the nutritional and taste punch that they add.

What you’ll need:

1 medium cucumber
1 cup parsley (stalks and all!)
6-8 cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup mint leaves
6-8 kalamata olives
2 tbsp finely chopped scallions or chives
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup dry amaranth (makes 1 cup cooked) Use quinoa if you don’t find amaranth
2 tbsp hemp seeds


Measure ½ cup dried amaranth and rinse. Bring ¾ of a cup of water to a boil, add the amaranth, cover and reduce to a simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered for another 5 minutes.

Place the rest of the ingredients (except for the hemp seeds) in a food processor and chop. If you don’t have a food processor, bust out those knife skills and chop everything into tiny pieces. When everything is chopped, add in the cooked amaranth and hemp seeds. Stir and enjoy!

NUTRITIONAL VALUE

In my humble opinion, we live in a world where there is excessive worry and, sometimes, a borderline obsession with protein; as if it were the only thing we should be worried about when making food choices!

Protein is an important macronutrient; that, I won’t deny. But so are carbohydrates (from whole-unprocessed foods) and fats (from whole unrefined and unprocessed sources). And so are all of the micronutrients–so often overlooked–that we can find in many foods.

Instead of focusing on foods that simply contain “protein” and that are more-than-often loaded with a lot of other junk, it would be much more beneficial to focus on foods that also contain minerals that support our immune system, our muscles, hormones, moods, digestion, our cognitive health, skin, nails...our whole body; foods that are actually nutrient dense!

So yes, while the amaranth in this recipe does contain a good amount of protein–as do hemp seeds–they are a protein source that is easy for our bodies to digest, absorb and use. (Boom!) And for that reason, I added this bad boy (Amaranth, that is) to the recipe: because it offers a lot more than a good protein content.
 
“What other nutritious 'wonders' does this recipe have?”, you might ask.

Amaranth contains a great dose of calcium (about 8% of your daily value in just ¼ cup of dry seeds actually–that’s double the DV of milk, but don’t get me started on that subject). Amaranth is also high in fiber, contains a hefty amount of iron (20% of you DV), B vitamins, magnesium and zinc, among many others. Talk about full service!

If you don’t find amaranth, you can always use quinoa which is also a great grain/seed and almost equally nutritious.
 
So if that wasn’t enough, this salad is an iron powerhouse. Parsley, hemp seeds and amaranth are all great sources of non-heme iron, plus the parsley is also packed with vitamin C (50% of our daily value in just ½ cup. Wow!) which actually helps our bodies absorb iron. Talk about a 2-for-1 deal.

Ok. I know I’ve given you enough nutrition information (I warned you kitties before that I’m a dork when it comes to nutrition) but having adequate amounts of iron in our diet is essential! 1 in 4 women are deficient in iron. (I’m talking to YOU, ladies!) Iron is necessary for the production of red blood cells, it also transports oxygen throughout the body and is critical for converting blood sugar to energy (metabolism).

Last but not least, parsley also contains chlorophyll, folate, pro-vitamin A, and an enormous amount of Vitamin K – which is essential in preventing blood clotting. Parsley, oh, parsley, why aren’t you appreciated more? I love to add this green on salads and even in pesto–it can really help enhance flavor. The lemon juice provides even more vitamin C, while the olives are an amazing source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Have you ever heard (or read) that having olive oil is amazing for our skin and hair due to their vitamin E and antioxidant content? Well, how about we go directly to the source by eating the olives and enjoy their wonders in their true state!

I think that is enough for now. Alimental G, over and out!

Every two weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | So fresh and so clean, clean!

Hello, everyone! I hope you are enjoying the summer and everything that comes with it.

I decided to change my original post for this week since a good number of you have asked me for new post-workout-smoothie ideas. With this scorching heat, this mint chip smoothie is not only going to give some of you (if not all) a mouthgasm, but it will be both nutritious and refreshing–Alimental G style.

Now that we are on the topic of smoothies, I have to mention that it has come to my attention that many of you little grasshoppers have the tendency to add raw cruciferous vegetables into your smoothies (broccoli, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and excessive amounts of kale). While these vegetables have a humongous array of benefits, they also have a time and a place, and it ain’t in your smoothie my darlings!

Cruciferous vegetables, as amazing as they are, can be harder to digest and have the tendency to make us bloated and gassy (no thanks) when eaten raw, even more so when combined with fruits, protein powders and any other wonders you decide to throw in your smoothies. I will explain this in detail in a future post but, for now, try to leave the broccoli and collard greens out of your morning smoothies please :)

Anyway, back to the recipe at hand. This recipe serves 1. Your other half or roommate is going to have to make their own (you can always split this serving ;) You can keep any extra in the fridge for later; don’t underestimate how filling this smoothie can be. So let’s do it, already!

You will need:

Blender (or Vitamix)
2 frozen bananas (make sure you peel them before putting them in the freezer ;)
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup of fresh peppermint (or mint) leaves (Add more if that’s what you fancy)
½ tsp of chlorella
⅓ cup coconut meat or unsweetened coconut flakes
⅓ cup coconut water (You can always replace with any plant-based milk like hemp, almond milk or cashew milk)
2 tbsp organic plant protein powder (Optional but great to include if you are having this post workout)
1 tbsp of cacao nibs (you will add these at the end)


Instructions:

Put all ingredients in the blender. (I personally like to be able to chew the cacao nibs so, if you are like me, don’t add the cacao nibs yet ;)
Blend
Once the ingredients (except the cacao nibs) are nice and blended, add the cacao nibs and blend for 5 seconds only.
Done!

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS

Peppermint leaves (or mint): Typically used as a digestive aid; it can help relieve spasms of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract–and the indigestion that can accompany it–and gas. It can also be effective relieving IBS symptoms. Additionally, it contains a powerful antioxidant (rosmarinic acid) that has been shown to help relieve allergic symptoms such as nasal inflammation (hay fever).
Rich in provitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese.

Banana: They might just be one of the most perfect post-workout foods. They replenish our bodies with much needed carbohydrates, and are an amazing source of magnesium and potassium. They are essential in maintaining electrolyte balance, regulating fluid and pH balance, and alleviating tension from those sore muscles!

Chlorella: A vitamin and mineral powerhouse. Chlorella is a green algae with remarkably high amounts of chlorophyll. It is rich in all essential amino acids, many B vitamins, provitamin A, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous and even contains omega-3 fatty acids. I talked about the many wonders of sea vegetables in a former post if you want to check that out! Chlorella is usually sold in dried form and you can find it at most health food stores (Lassens, Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc).
A ½ - 1 tsp amount is a quick and easy way to get a good boost of vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Pumpkin seeds:  Unless you slurp oysters every day, chances are you are not getting enough zinc. Pumpkin seeds are a truly great source of zinc. Zinc is a mineral that is essential for healthy hair, skin and nails. It also supports our immune systems, our thyroid, and our adrenal glands–which help us manage stress. Zinc is commonly depleted in women who take birth control pills, so pumpkin seeds really are a staple to consider. They also contain potassium, magnesium and iron.

Coconut meat: I’ve said it many times but I will keep saying it: Real, unprocessed and unrefined fats play an essential role in glowing skin and healthy hair, cognitive functions, hormone production (fat is needed to make hormones) and keeping us full! Don’t be afraid of whole-food fats. Coconut meat can actually help increase HDL–the good cholesterol–while containing many anti-bacterial properties that can help destroy disease-causing organisms. It also contains fiber, manganese, iron, selenium and copper, among other minerals. Plus, adding it to your smoothie will make it oh, so creamy!

Cacao nibs: Crumbled from whole, fermented cacao beans, these little nibs are high in antioxidants, iron and the relaxation and blood sugar balancing mineral - magnesium. These will give you the crunch that you would get from chocolate chips without the added sugar and processing.


------------------------------

Every two weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!

We all remember the “Chia Pet” commercial from the 90s, right? “Ch-ch-ch-Chia!”
This week I wanted to share with you a delicious Chia Pudding recipe adapted to include a seasonal fruit, peaches!  I love being a ‘beach bum’ in summer working on my tan but I also enjoy including fuzzy and juicy peaches in anything I can think of this time of year.

There are a variety of Chia Pudding recipes out there that, more often than not, are always missing something: texture, taste, nutrition, sweetness, etc. A good friend of mine recently told me that she once tried to make Chia Pudding and that it tasted like “bland baby food” (Oh, I’m looking at you, Jasmine! ;) so I went on a quest to make the traditional Chia Pudding a little more dimensional, seasonal, and actually tasty–while still maintaining its integrity.

What I have noticed the most is that people tend to be so stingy with their chia seeds! I mean, two tablespoons of chia seeds does not constitute as Chia Pudding, people. What are we, little birds?!! This two-tablespoon amount may work when adding it to a smoothie, but not when you are using them to make a Chia Puddin’. Come on! These are good fats; and I’ll say it again: fats don’t make you fat! Plus the fat in chia seeds are naturally occurring; they haven’t been altered or damaged by processing, heating, or refining.  

With this recipe I’m going to try to satisfy all the requirements of a tasty Chia Pudding so that you kittens may enjoy an easy, cooling, tasty and nutritious breakfast (or snack) during the summer–maybe even year round. It will provide your beautiful bodies with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, complex carbohydrates, calcium, potassium and magnesium to soothe and help those muscles recuperate. And for those of you who worry about protein, chia seeds are actually a complete protein: they contain all of the essential amino acids are bodies cannot make and that we must find/obtain from food.

photo cred:  Gina Mehta

photo cred:  Gina Mehta

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

1/3 cup chia seeds
1 cup nut (or seed) milk or coconut milk
¼ cup coconut meat or dried coconut flakes (unsweetened)
1 ripe peach
½ ripe banana
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom

Instructions:

Blend the nut milk, cinnamon, cardamom, peach, coconut and banana. This is a key part of giving this pudding some real flavor!
Put the chia seeds in a cup/small bowl and add blended peach-and-nut milk mix.
Stir well; fork recommended. And I mean really well. Make sure all the chia seeds are mixed with your peach-and-nut milk mix. Some chia seeds will try to isolate themselves and stick to the sides of your bowl/cup; make sure you get all those little buggers.

Let sit for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. (I usually do it the night before; the more time the better).

Enjoy!

NUTRITIONAL VALUE

Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids (and when I say I mean really high -- high like a mother f! In fact, this recipe alone will provide you with about 864% of your daily reference intake (DRI).

So what’s the deal with omega-3’s? We all keep hearing how important it is to get them in our diet. Here is the scoop:

Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids. Wait. What are those again? Essential fatty acids are those that our bodies cannot make/produce so we must obtain them from our food/diet. Omega-3’s are anti inflammatory, they play an important part in weight regulation, they are precursors for hormones, they help regulate blood temperature, they are a primary source of energy for our beating hearts, they protect organs and cells and they even support our brains.

These little magic seeds (chia seeds, that is) also contain a hefty amount of fiber, which plays a key role in keeping you feeling full after a meal, regulating blood sugar levels, digestion, and helping to eliminate any extra cholesterol your body doesn’t need. They contain B vitamins, a ton of vitamin K (which helps regulate blood coagulation and aids to build strong and healthy bones), along with extremely significant amounts of calcium, magnesium (the relaxation mineral, remember), potassium, iron, selenium, manganese, copper, and zinc. Hello strong bones, beautiful hair, and sharp brains.  All for all, I will refrain from using the word superfood as it can get old, but this little seed definitely is a powerhouse!

Peach: Good source of carotenes and flavonoids (antioxidant and anti inflammatory benefits). These fuzzy gals can help prevent heart disease and even cancer.

Cinnamon: Can I just put you on everything? I swear, if I could, I’d put cinnamon on everything and eat it, I would. Cinnamon helps circulation, lower blood sugar levels, and is also a digestant: less crummy in your tummy :D

Cardamom: A good source of manganese (an antioxidant mineral). It helps relieve gas, is a digestive aid (like cinnamon), and is rich in zinc.

Coconut is worthy of a post of its own, but some it’s nutritional highlights include increasing levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), it is an antibacterial (helps destroy disease-causing organisms) and has anti-stress effects. It can help the body from storing fat, and encourage it to burn more calories (but who’s counting? Counting calories is SO 2007!)

Happy eating!

Love,
Gina

Every two weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Finding Nori

Hello again, everyone! This week I wanted to share with you the hidden nutritional wonders of seaweed, also known as sea vegetables. I know, I know, some of you might be making a yucky face right now but please bear with me.

Sea vegetables are the superfood of superfoods, yet they are not the most popular or fashionable of “vegetables”. Oh, but that will soon change, my little grasshoppers. If sea vegetables were in the nutrition Olympics, they would probably win gold in most, if not all, categories. Sea vegetables offer the widest range of minerals of any food. I’ll repeat that: of ANY food. They pretty much contain all the minerals found in the ocean and, interestingly enough, many of the same minerals found in your blood. Maybe vampires should have just stuck to eating sea vegetables rather than biting people on the neck: less of a mess, no body to deal with afterwards and…ok, ok. Where were we? Ah, yes, sea vegetables!

Sea vegetables contain significant amounts of calcium, iron, folate, chlorophyll, B5 Pantothenic Acid, magnesium, fiber, Vitamin C, E, and K, zinc, amino acids, fatty acids, phosphorous, potassium and sodium, among maaaaany others. If this isn’t enough (some of you probably stopped after the first line of nutrients ;) they also contain lignans, which are plant compounds that have cancer protective properties; plus sea vegetables are great for detoxifying from radiation and heavy metal exposure. Additionally, they can even aid to decrease our body’s inflammatory response. Holy wow! Sea vegetables, can I marry you?

But I can almost hear you all scream: “But Gina, sea vegetables don’t taste good and they smell like seal breath!” And to that, my dear friends, I can only say that sea vegetables can be a delicious part of your meal or, even better, a refreshing and delicious meal all by themselves–perfect for a summer evening! I would never expect you to have them every day. Hell no! Variety is the spice of life. But incorporating them into your diet occasionally can provide you with many nutritional benefits!

So what makes them so special? Below is a list of a few of the nutrients found in these bad boys and why having such nutrients is important for all you sexy kittens.

Iodine: the thyroid incorporates iodine into its structure which means that it is essential to have some form of iodine in your diet (duh!). Rather than relying on processed iodized salt, why not go directly to a natural, rich source so incredibly vast in vitamins and minerals?

B5-Pantothenic acid is an energy booster, it has an important role in red blood cell production, cholesterol synthesis, sex and stress related hormones. (Damn you crazy hormones!)

Sodium: For those of us who avoid sodium as if it were the plague: I’m with you. But sodium doesn’t necessarily have to be shunned all together. Obtaining some sodium in your diet is important as it is needed to make hydrochloric acid–the stomach acid we all have that helps us break down and metabolize proteins and additionally aids us to absorb certain vitamins and minerals. (One quick note while we are on the subject of sodium: always, ALWAYS drink enough water. One quick way to calculate the amount of water you should be drinking per day is to half your body weight and drink that many ounces of water; 8 ounces equals 1 cup. This way you can help your kidneys flush out any extra sodium your body doesn’t need. And since all of you lucky souls are working out at Motivate, it would be best to drink more than that!)

Magnesium: The de-stress mineral; also known as a relaxation mineral. We could all use more magnesium in our diets. Magnesium alleviates tension and helps people to calm down. It is involved in nearly every body process, mainly inside the cells. It makes it easier for nutrients to get in, and waste to move out, and helps maintain blood sugar balanced. It can also be a great help for women going through dreaded menopausal symptoms. Let’s always make sure to be eating foods rich in magnesium shall we?!
Think green! You can find magnesium in leafy greens, seeds, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, avocado, cacao, among others.

Calcium: Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body; it builds and maintains bones, helps muscles contract, helps hormone production and supports the nervous system. It also helps settle nerves–we all have those days we just want to tear our hair out, don’t we? ;)

Phosphorous is necessary for energy production and required by every cell in our bodies. It works hand in hand with calcium to mineralize bones and teeth. A good smile goes a long way :)

Ok, so I could go on and on listing the minerals and amazing nutritional aspects of sea vegetables but I don’t want to risk boring you with the details. So, without further ado, here is a recipe of a sea vegetable salad that is not only filling and refreshing, but it will help replenish your bodies of all these minerals, specially after a good and hard class at Motivate!

One last side note: Buying your sea vegetables is the easy part because they are sold dried and have a long shelf life, which means you can store them in your pantry and use them whenever you like! To prepare, all you will need to do is rehydrate/soak them in water for about an hour. I’m not endorsing any particular brand here but I do enjoy the “Maine Coast Sea Vegetables” (they are wild and certified organic) and “Emerald Cove” brands. And a last friendly warning: Your kitchen may smell like the beach for just afew minutes when preparing this salad. But who doesn’t love the beach, right?

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry hippos):

photo:  Gina Mehta

photo:  Gina Mehta

1 cup Arame (soaked for at least 1 hours before preparing)
1 cup Wakame (soaked for at least 1 hours before preparing)
1 cup Kelp/Kombu (soaked for at least 1 hours before preparing)
1⁄2 cup chopped cucumber
1 ripe avocado

For the dressing (with some nutritional notes):

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar - hello healthy skin and good digestion
1 tsp organic miso -  (this fermented goddess provides our bellies with friendly bacteria that aid in our digestion, absorption of vitamins and minerals, which also contributes to healthy and glowing skin)
Juice of 1 lemon: hello vitamin C
1 inch fresh grated ginger or 1 tsp ginger powder...I could write a whole post on this amazing digestive aid, so I better not start now.
1 tbsp sesame seeds - Did someone say more calcium?
1 avocado - I’ve already professed my love for this nutritionally dense, fatty fruit. Nothing could ever break our bond. We are in a committed relationship and I hope to grow old eating many, many avocadoes.
½ cup chopped cilantro
1-2 tsp chilli flakes
Optional: 1 tbsp sesame oil


Directions:

Soak arame in a bowl with water. In a separate bowl soak your kombu/kelp and wakame with water. Let them sit for an hour.
Drain the water and squeeze the water from all the sea vegetables. Really squeeze those bad boys! Specially the Kelp/Kombu.
Put your kombu and wakame in a bowl and using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut it into small, bite size pieces. This is important as you don’t want to be chomping on massive bites of seaweed. Then add the arame and mix.
Mix the salad dressing ingredients
Add the dressing along with the rest of the ingredients and mix.
Let sit 5 minutes.
Enjoy!

And while on the subject of sea vegetables, spirulina and chlorella are other favorites and usually sold in dried powdered form and can be added to smoothies or homemade concoctions.. But I’ll shut up now andleave those recipes for another post. ;)

Love,
Gina

Every two weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | The Everything Smoothie

Hello everyone!

I’m so happy and excited to officially be posting on Motivate’s blog!

Every two weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.

If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.

So, without further ado, here is a recipe of a chocolate smoothie that I love (!!!) This smoothie should satisfy your chocolate cravings (oh, we all have them!) while providing your muscles with the nutrients they need after kicking butt in class. It is rich and has a decadent taste while actually being oh so nutritious!

This recipe serves 2 because, you know, your other half or roommate is going to want some. Or you can just keep the second serving all for yourself in the fridge for later. This smoothie is almost a meal by itself! Plus it’s so creamy you can literally enjoy it with a spoon.

You will need:

photo: Gina Mehta

photo: Gina Mehta

Blender (or Vitamix)
2 frozen bananas (make sure you peel them before putting them in the freezer ;)
¼ cup rolled oats (soak these in water the night before)
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup goji berries
2 tbsp cacao powder
2 tbsp organic plant protein powder (the easiest to digest are usually “Hemp”, “Sprouted Brown Rice”, and “Pea” proteins, or a combination of these)
1 small ripe avocado
⅓ cup coconut meat or unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup coconut water (Straight from the coconut is best. If not, the “Harmless Harvest” raw coconut water is great!)
¼ cup filtered water
1 cup (or a handful of) organic spinach

Optional:
1 tsp hemp seeds (to sprinkle on top to make it look pretty; you get an added protein bonus, too!)

Instructions:
Put all ingredients in the blender.
Hit the “blend” button.
Done!

Nutritional Value:

This recipe is filled with good fats, fiber, protein and complex carbs from real, whole foods that will provide a slow, constant and stable release of energy, which helps to avoid rapid spikes in your blood-sugar levels and keeps you satisfied all morning (or afternoon - depending on when you are having it).

Raw cacao is filled with antioxidants, magnesium and iron. It’s the essence of chocolate, in its purest, unadulterated form. It’s made by cold pressing the raw cacao bean; it isn’t a processed food and maintains all of its nutrients intact. Magnesium is a relaxation mineral, it is critical for energy production in the body, helps maintain blood sugar balanced and is a great sleep aid.  

Bananas are a great source of potassium and magnesium, essential in maintaining electrolyte balance, regulating fluid and pH balance, and alleviating tension.

Coconut water is another great source of potassium (better than bananas, actually), while the meat or dried flakes also contain a significant amount of iron, vitamin C and magnesium.

So what’s with the pumpkin seeds? It’s come to my attention that many of us aren’t getting enough zinc in our daily diet. Pumpkin seeds are an amazing source of zinc! Zinc is a mineral that is essential for healthy hair, skin and nails. It also supports our immune systems, our thyroid, and even our adrenal glands which help us manage stress.

Goji berries are filled with iron which is critical for metabolism, vitamin C and antioxidants which are great for our skin and protect our cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. When non-heme iron (iron from plant sources) is combined with foods high in vitamin C, it is much easier for the body to absorb the iron from the food.

illustration: lingvistov.com

illustration: lingvistov.com

Avocado Ummmm...well, does it really need an explanation? Apart from being an amazing source of fiber, folate, vitamin B5 and B6, potassium, and vitamin E, it makes any smoothie so incredibly creamy!

Rolled oats are high in fiber. They also contain manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, some B vitamins and iron. I do stress to soak your rolled oats before consuming them and before adding them to your smoothie, as this will help remove the phytic acid which can make them harder to digest (keep your belly happy), and the nutrients more difficult to absorb in our bodies. Plus, phytic acid can also make some of us feel bloated! Nobody likes to feel bloated...I will go deeper into this subject in another post.

Spinach This leafy green contains iron, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, calcium and magnesium. This is a quick and easy way to get some greens in, so why the heck not?

You might see this recipe and think it’s quite high in fats. Don’t worry, these are good fats. The fats in this recipe come from whole foods: they are real, unprocessed, and highly nutritious. Though fat has been demonized in the past, we do need some fat in our diet. It is essential for our brains. Did you know nearly 60% of our brain is fat?. We need fat to keep our skin and hair healthy and luscious. Plus, cholesterol is needed to make hormones and we all know how awful it feels when our hormones are out of whack!  

I feel it is important that we never feel deprived with our food choices; nor should we feel we need to cut out whole macronutrient groups in order to achieve short-term individual goals. This could eventually cause periods of bingeing and unnecessary guilt. Eating nutrient dense food isn’t boring unless we make it out to be! Have fun with these foods, experiment and see how you feel!

Happy eating!

Love,
Gina