healthy food

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | LET'S TALK ABOUT FRUIT, BABY

Hi, everyone!

Today I want to address a topic I stumble upon and hear way too often: the demonization of fruit!

Fresh fruit is found in nature–you can go out and pick it from a tree if you fancy! Fruit is not only delicious with many textures and tastes but it is also full of goodness: vitamin C, certain B vitamins such as folate and pantothenic acid; and minerals like magnesium, potassium, copper selenium, zinc, manganese and iron, to name just a few.

So why has this wonderful food, that our bodies can use for fuel and nourishment, suddenly become the source of all evil?

Well...when it comes to fad diets and weight-loss gimmicks, there is always a new source of evil, one that can take the blame for all our food problems. First, everything was blamed on fat and poor nutritious avocados and nuts were shunned. Then, the finger was pointed to carbohydrates and people thought that if they even dared to look at a cup of brown rice or a sweet potato they would suddenly bloat into a balloon–unfortunately some people still believe this–and it’s not true!. Now, the spotlight is on sugar. Not just refined sugar–which I can concur offers no nutrition and does much more harm than good–but any source of natural sugar, such as the natural sugar found in fruit, is considered bad. WTF?

So now, instead of eating fruit, people are being encouraged to eat more and more protein: more protein powders, more isolated nutrients, more science lab experiments, more additives with names I cannot pronounce and have no idea how to spell, and less of the natural whole foods found in nature! Did you know that protein-rich foods can also induce insulin secretion? Studies have shown that a quarter pound of beef can raise insulin levels in diabetics as much as a quarter pound of straight sugar. Holy moly!

Anything in excess–even protein–can be turned to sugar in our bodies. And as with anything in excess, if it is not used as energy it can be stored as fat. I truly believe that foods, including protein, should be consumed in their whole packages. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, they say. It would be silly to think that our bodies metabolize 15 grams of only protein (without the fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fats it usually comes with when consume from a whole food source) the same way as when consumed in a cup of lentils, or ¼ cup of nuts–the other components and nutrients of the food are there for a reason! Anyway, I’m getting off topic…

Photo by Gina Mehta

Photo by Gina Mehta

Yes, fruits contain sugar we can use as energy but they also contain a whole lot of other good stuff. Some fruits contain antioxidants, which fight free radicals and are anti-inflammatory. They can help reduce the risk of cancer and improve arterial function. Adding berries such as blueberries or strawberries to a meal (1/2-1 cup) can minimize the detrimental effects of high glycemic foods.

“But Gina what about the sugar?”, you say. Ok. Glucose, one of the three simple sugars along with fructose and sucrose, is the brain’s primary source of energy, and it is necessary to carry out regular functions. But “doesn’t fruit contain fructose?”, you ask.

Fruit NATURALLY contain fructose. The key word here being “naturally”. No one added anything to it. It was “born” and grew this way! This fructose is metabolized almost completely in the liver where more than 50% of it is converted into glucose (that amazing source of energy our brain and entire cells likes so much better than anything) and it also replenishes glycogen (energy storage) in our liver. And, it does not cause insulin to be released–no insulin spikes; thank you very much!

But that’s not all! Along with fructose, fruit also contains fiber–which also helps to prevent a spike in blood sugar even further–, polyphenols, carotenes, flavonoids vitamins and minerals and is a great source of energy. The problem arises when the fructose in our food does not come from the natural fructose found in fruit, but rather when created in a lab as an isolated additive, or extracted from its whole form. Fructose as a “natural sweetener” has been isolated, stripped of nutrients, and binded with other additives. So, again, it is not the same as the sugar in fruit; the way it is recognized and metabolized in our bodies is completely different. On that note, high fructose corn syrup (aka “Dr. Evil”) is not derived from fruits. It is derived from corn syrup. So as you can see, sometimes all these scientific food experiments, that might have been a good idea at one point, can take a nasty, non-nutritious turn. Just because we are used to eating a certain way it does not mean it is the right way.

You still don’t believe me? In a study conducted with people with type 2 diabetes, participants were divided into two groups: One group was told to reduce their fruit intake and have no more that 2 pieces of fruit a day, whereas the other group was told to increase their fruit consumption and have at least 2 pieces of fruit a day. Results showed that the group that reduced their fruit intake had no effect on the control of their diabetes nor their weight.

So while keeping your blood sugar balanced is extremely important, this can easily be achieved by avoiding refined sugar and refined foods. If you want something sweet, reach for an apple or banana–or whatever fruit you like–before you reach for a brownie or a cupcake. Fruit does not have to be excluded or uninvited from your food plate party!

Lastly, I’ll leave you with one question. Next time you grab a snack, ask yourself what makes more sense: to pick up something that grew from this earth, with all the minerals from the soil and water, with sunlight (!); or would you rather pick something that was made in a lab and was put together in a factory from “nutrients” and then packaged all together in a pretty (but usually plastic) box?

(Hint: grab a piece of fruit and some nuts or seeds and your bellies will thank you ;)


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.

Gina-Mehta-Alimental-G-Functional-Nutrition

HEALTH HACK | SALMON DINNER RECIPES

Salmon is a hallmark food item for many health conscious eaters.  Few foods have as much of a nutritional punch than salmon--this fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (which can decrease inflammation, regulate blood pressure, and benefit overall heart health) and is rich in protein and vitamin D. To help you get more of this super fish in your diet, check out these 5 easy, delicious and nutritious salmon dinner recipes: 

1.  Smoked Salmon & Avocado Hand Rolls . See recipe  here .

1. Smoked Salmon & Avocado Hand Rolls. See recipe here.

2.  Salmon Tacos With Cabbage Slaw.  See recipe  here .

2. Salmon Tacos With Cabbage Slaw. See recipe here.

3.  Roasted Salmon With Pesto Vegetables . See recipe  here .

3. Roasted Salmon With Pesto Vegetables. See recipe here.

4.  Salmon Salad With Vinaigrette.  See recipe  here .

4. Salmon Salad With Vinaigrette. See recipe here.

5.  Salmon With Sautéed Tomatoes . See recipe  here .

5. Salmon With Sautéed Tomatoes. See recipe here.

HEALTH HACK | SUMMER BBQ

With summer officially a couple days away, its time to break out the seasonal staple--the grill. Cooking outdoors can be an easy, fun way to enjoy summertime--whether it be for a weeknight dinner or a Sunday Funday BBQ party with friends. Get inspired to fire up the grill and cook outdoors with these festive and healthy recipes:

barbecue-84671_640.jpg
2.  Shrimp burgers.   See recipe here.

2. Shrimp burgers. See recipe here.

3.  Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce.   See recipe here.

3. Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce. See recipe here.

4.  Tangy Coleslaw . See recipe here.

4. Tangy Coleslaw. See recipe here.

5.  Grilled Watermelon with Balsamic Dressing .  See recipe here . 

5. Grilled Watermelon with Balsamic Dressing. See recipe here

HEALTH HACKS | SUMMER POPSICLES

This summer, skip the store-bought, sugar-packed popsicles and opt for the healthier, homemade ice pops instead! They are incredibly easy to make and aren't filled with artificial colors and preservatives. Making these refreshing pops can be a fun, DIY activity and the results are definitely treats from the heat. Try these 5 DIY popsicle recipes:

1.  Strawberry Mango Chia Popsicles Recipe.   See recipe here.

1. Strawberry Mango Chia Popsicles Recipe. See recipe here.

2.  Berry Pops .  See recipe here .

2. Berry Pops. See recipe here.

3.  Ginger Peach Popsicles.   See recipe here.

3. Ginger Peach Popsicles. See recipe here.

4.  Cherry Lime Popsicles with Honey .  See recipe here.

4. Cherry Lime Popsicles with Honey. See recipe here.

5.  Pineapple Lemonade Popsicles with Blueberry .  See recipe here .

5. Pineapple Lemonade Popsicles with Blueberry. See recipe here.

HEALTH HACKS | SUMMER SMOOTHIES

Summer is almost here! The weather is gorgeous, the sun is out and the temperature is beginning to rise. With this in mind, what is the best way to stay cool and refreshed this summer? One word: SMOOTHIES. A good combination of fruits and vitamin-rich veggies makes for a delectable treat on a hot day. Try these 5 refreshing smoothie recipes this summertime:  

1.  Green Goddess Smoothie .  See recipe here .

1. Green Goddess Smoothie. See recipe here.

2.  Mango Blueberry Protein Smoothie.  See recipe here .

2. Mango Blueberry Protein Smoothie. See recipe here.

3.  Pineapple Coconut Smoothie .  See recipe here .

3. Pineapple Coconut Smoothie. See recipe here.

4.  Raspberry Lemonade Smoothie .  See recipe here .

4. Raspberry Lemonade Smoothie. See recipe here.

5.  Tropical Fruit Breakfast Smoothie .  See recipe here .

5. Tropical Fruit Breakfast Smoothie. See recipe here.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | PREPPING IS THE NEW BLACK

Hello, everyone! 

Sometimes, after a long hard day, the last thing we want to do is get home and cook. I can relate: you are tired and you just want to put your feet up and relax. But! you are also starving and want to nourish your body with wholesome food; you want to eat something that will nourish your body, your mind, and fuel those muscles with all the goodness that they need to rebuild, repair, and get them ready for that next workout at Motivate. Who has time for that?!

Although there are options that are readily available (hello, postmates delivery), there is nothing quite like a home-cooked meal in terms of quality, taste, and nourishment. Enjoying food with your partner, family, or just by yourself is a ritual that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Food is life!

So, what to do when you have so little time but don't want to eat microwaved dinners?

Enter meal prepping! If you dedicate just 45 minutes of your week to prepping food in advance (that's less than 7 minutes per day!) you will be able to whip up a bowl-like meal in a matter of minutes any given day! yeah, I said it!

Here's my go-to prepping method:
1.     Bake a big batch of vegetables: Carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, red peppers, even onions are delicious roasted! All you need to do is literally cut them into chunks (in the case of onions they are even more delicious when roasted whole or cut into halves), sprinkle on some dried thyme, fresh rosemary, pepper, a sprinkle of sea salt, and toss them (optional) with 1 tbsp of coconut oil or avocado oil and bake ‘em for 40 minutes in the oven at 400º F. Yum!

2.     Make a big batch of quinoa, brown rice, amaranth or buckwheat. These pseudo-grains (technically seeds, with the exception of brown rice) are extremely nutritious and filled with B vitamins, iron and magnesium. Cook a big batch of one (or two) for the week, and then rotate with another one the next week so you get a different variety of nutrients and you don’t get bored ("Variety is the spice of life" ☺️). Don’t be afraid of complex carbohydrates! These grains contain a good amount of fiber which will prevent your blood sugar from spiking. Complex carbohydrates are essential for energy production–always keep that in mind.

3.     Make a big batch of lentils or beans while you are making your grains.

4.     Steam some broccoli or any vegetable of your choice; you can even sauté them if that's what you fancy.

5.     Make sure you have avocados. Just adding half an avocado to your lunch or dinner plate gives you much needed wholesome fat, necessary to make hormones, for optimal brain function, and for your skin! And you can make guacamole! Guacamole makes everything better! EVERYTHING.

6.     Have a good sauce you like on hand (made out of whole foods with no fillers, or additives). I’m a sucker for hummus. I also like to play around with salad dressings. An easy one is tahini sauce. Mix ¼ cup tahini with 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, ¼ cup warm water, 1 tsp honey, a dash of pepper and that’s it! (Makes about 4 servings)

7.     Always make sure to have some fresh greens. You can simply dump them on your plate. (Kale, which is even more delicious massaged with some avocado, is a great option too. You can do this in advance. Check out Cereza’s recipe). Spinach, romaine….and even fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley and oregano can offer so much nutrition and taste at the same time!

8.     Optional: Have some kind of probiotic food in your fridge to feed your gut. Sauerkraut, plant based kimchee, or organic miso are great ideas.

That’s it folks! The only steps that really require time are 1 through 4, and they are literally just cutting things and sticking them in the oven, or preparing them however you prefer. That won’t take you more than 45 minutes.  If you have a slow-cooker, then lucky you because you can leave your grains and beans to cook and forget about them while you check your instagram feed. It's a win win.

Enjoy!

photo by Gina Mehta

photo by Gina Mehta


Gina Mehta Alimental G Functional Nutrition

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.

HEALTH HACKS | Snack Attack Pt. 2

Let's admit, we all need more guilt-free snacks in our lives. When the 3pm hunger hits, the defensive line should be healthy, lean, satisfying eats instead of oily, high-carb, overly sweetened traps. Fruit is always a good option, but sometimes you are in the mood for something other than berries, bananas or apples. Try these 5 healthy and delicious snacks that you can easily make at home to stave off your next snack attack:

1.  Sweet Potato Hummus .  See recipe here .

1. Sweet Potato Hummus. See recipe here.

2.  Fat-Free Potato Chips .  See recipe here .

2. Fat-Free Potato Chips. See recipe here.

3.  Citrus-marinated Olives .  See recipe here .

3. Citrus-marinated Olives. See recipe here.

4.  Roasted Chickpeas .  See recipe here .

4. Roasted Chickpeas. See recipe here.

5.  Soy and Sesame Kale Chips .  See recipe here .

5. Soy and Sesame Kale Chips. See recipe here.

HEALTH HACKS | MORE SPRING SALADS

Spring season brings blooming flowers, lasting sunshine, serene skies and bright springtime recipes. We love salads all times of the year, but there is something so fresh and beautiful about a spring salad that it just lightens your day. Try out these 5 healthy spring salad recipes (and Gina Mehta's from last week's blog here) this season:

1.  Spring Greens with Quick Pickled Vegetables.  See recipe  here .

1. Spring Greens with Quick Pickled Vegetables. See recipe here.

2.  Spring Salad with Fennel and Orange.  See recipe  here .

2. Spring Salad with Fennel and Orange. See recipe here.

3.  Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts.  See recipe  here .

3. Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts. See recipe here.

4.  Roasted Beet and Dandelion Greens Salad.  See recipe  here .

4. Roasted Beet and Dandelion Greens Salad. See recipe here.

5.  Shrimp and Snap Pea Salad with Ginger . See recipe  here .

5. Shrimp and Snap Pea Salad with Ginger. See recipe here.

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Fresh Spring Salad

Hi, everyone!

Today I wanted to share a recipe for a delicious fresh spring salad! It actually does not contain any greens–I don’t know if I can call it a salad–but it is made out of two simple and extremely nutritious ingredients: Beets and carrots. “Go, go! Antioxidant Force!” (Sorry, I was a big Power Rangers fan when I was a young pup 😊)

Beets are really good for you but don’t take my word for it. Beets have the ability to stimulate the liver’s detoxification processes. Their beautiful colors are due to the pigments betacyanin (in red/purple beets) and betaxanthins (in golden beets); both pigments are powerful cancer-fighting agents. Beets are rich in folate, fiber, magnesium, manganese, iron, vitamin C, phosphorous, and vitamin B6. The fiber in beets aids in bowel movements and in flushing out any extra cholesterol. It might come out the same color as it came in (I had to do a poop joke 😄).

Additionally, beets contain betaine, which promotes the production of hydrochloric acid (HCl): stomach acid which is essential for breaking down proteins and food.

For this recipe, I say go with golden beets. They have a much milder taste, (in my opinion: better taste) and they are in season right now! This recipe calls for using raw, uncooked beets in order to obtain full nutritional benefits without destroying any enzymes and vitamins, which are often destroyed by cooking and heating foods. Plus, it’s summer. So more fresh of everything, please!

Carrots hold their own as well! Carrots contain antioxidant compounds which can help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer; their lutein and beta-carotene content also promotes good eyesight (especially night vision) and protection against senile cataracts and macular degeneration; they even help to protect against harmful UV rays.

Carrots are an amazing source of vitamin A, biotin (great for our hair), fiber, vitamin K; they also contain significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B6, thiamine, and potassium.  


Photo by Gina Mehta

Photo by Gina Mehta

Ingredients:

2 golden beets
3 carrots
3 tbsp hemp seeds (optional; they are an amazing source of omega 3-fatty acids and iron)

For the dressing:

Handful of dill
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp raw honey
1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (raw, unfiltered)

 

DIRECTIONS

Peel the beets. Wash your carrots. Chop both beets and carrots into large chunks and shred them; ideally place them in a food processor that will shred them for you!

The dressing is dead easy. Simply add to a bowl a handful of chopped dill, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, and 2 tsp of raw honey. Mix together.

Mix dressing in with the salad. Top with an avocado and hemp seeds if you like, and there you have it!


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.

Gina_Mehta_Functional_Nutrition

HEALTH HACKS | Tips for Dining Out

Eating healthy and eating out do not usually go hand in hand. When you dine out, you are more likely to encounter unhealthy food (what with the ubiquitous fast-food restaurants on every corner and devilishly persuasive dessert menus in most restaurants).  But just because you are watching your diet and effecting a healthy lifestyle does not mean you should not head out to eat! Though preparing your own food can ensure a nutritious meal, there are tips you can follow to make dining out a healthier experience. Try out these 5 on your next meal out:

1. Drink water throughout the meal.

1. Drink water throughout the meal.

2. Order salad before anything else.

2. Order salad before anything else.

3. Skip the bread basket.

3. Skip the bread basket.

4. Opt for the fish option for your entree.

4. Opt for the fish option for your entree.

5. Box up half your entree.

5. Box up half your entree.

HEALTH HACKS | Acai Bowls

Acai bowls have been a hot health trend not only because they are nutritious nosh, but because they are incredibly photogenic (please refer to the countless Instagram features upon searching #acaibowl). On a warm day, it is the best light and refreshing snack--on all other days, it is a fun and tasty treat! If you haven't already, try out these 5 acai bowl recipes below. They are almost too pretty to eat...almost.

1.  Dragonfruit Acai . Recipe  here .

1. Dragonfruit Acai. Recipe here.

2.  Banana Cacao Avocado Acai Bowl . Recipe  here .

2. Banana Cacao Avocado Acai Bowl. Recipe here.

3.  Autumn Acai Bowl . Recipe  here .

3. Autumn Acai Bowl. Recipe here.

4.  Purple Love Acai Bowl.  Recipe  here .

4. Purple Love Acai Bowl. Recipe here.

5.  Mango Acai Smoothie Bowl . Recipe  here .

5. Mango Acai Smoothie Bowl. Recipe here.

HEALTH HACKS | Late Night Munchies

Sometimes when you decide it is time to go to sleep, your stomach decides it is time to...eat. "Late night munchies" is definitely a condition that has plagued everyone at odd hours of the night--the trick to dealing with this is NOT reaching for what your mind is craving (chocolate, candy, chips). Instead, go for something relatively light, since your metabolic rate slows down at night! It is important that you go to bed not hungry, but equally important that you wake up feeling not guilty about your midnight snacking. Here are 5 nutritionist-approved late night snacks to get you started:

1. High Fiber Cereal and Milk

1. High Fiber Cereal and Milk

2. Mixed Nuts

2. Mixed Nuts

3. Cottage Cheese

3. Cottage Cheese

4. Banana and Peanut Butter

4. Banana and Peanut Butter

5. String Cheese

5. String Cheese

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Spring Cleaning

Hi, everyone!

Spring is finally here! Flowers are blooming, the weather is getting warmer, no need to wear as many layers; yay!

To some–if not most–of us, with spring comes spring cleaning: giving away our old clothes and/or things we really do not use anymore; we aim to de-clutter our homes and closets. “If it doesn’t bring you joy, through it away”, or something like that. 😀

But what about our true homes: our bodies? Spring is the perfect time to clean up your pipes and flush out any waste that has been clogging up; and what better way to do this than with a delicious, nutrient-dense smoothie?

Today, I’m going to share with you the recipe of a smoothie it not only tastes delicious, but is also loaded with fiber and nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, and iron. Plus, it supports your liver, helping it flush out extra cholesterol and hormones it doesn’t need, chemicals, toxins, and any nastiness your body might be holding on to (like a bad ex, yikes!). Your liver, among many other things, plays an essential role in regulating blood-sugar levels, so showing it some love is a good idea! Are you still with me? Ok. Just checking.

The key to this smoothie is to keep it very simple; it only contains vegetables and fruits (no protein powders or anything else).

Enjoy this smoothie in the morning before your breakfast. Chew it for optimal digestion. Yes, you heard me right: CHEW your smoothie. Don’t just gulp it down like you did back in college playing beer pong. By chewing your smoothie, you’ll see how this will get you moving in all the right ways in the morning 😉


Photo by Gina Mehta

Photo by Gina Mehta

Ingredients:

2-3 cups dandelion greens
2 cups spinach
2 stalks celery
1 cucumber
½ cup parsley
½ cup mint
1 banana
6 strawberries
1 tbsp bee pollen
2 cups water

 

DIRECTIONS

Place all the vegetables in the blender first with water. Blend. Add the banana, strawberries, bee pollen and lemon and blend again. Enjoy!


Supporting your digestive system with the magnesium, chlorophyll, B-vitamins, and fiber rich foods provided by this smoothie, first thing in the morning, will support elimination, regulate fluid and pH balance, help alleviate sore muscles, and have you feeling lighter, refreshed and full of energy for the rest of the day!

This simple smoothie provides you with absolutely all the vitamins and minerals your body needs; it is rich in calcium (containing 50% of your daily needs; wow), copper, iron (63%), magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, zinc; vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin E, K and pro-Vitamin A; I mean, wow!

If any of you know me, you know how much I hate focusing on numbers and macronutrients, but if you are into that sort of thing and are wondering: “but, where’s the protein? I gotta have my protein!” This bad boy contains 15.3 grams of protein in it without even trying. No funny, processed powders or weird things added. Only whole-food goodness!

Another good thing about this smoothie is that you can enjoy half of it and save the other half for the next day; you can keep it for about 3 days and you could even freeze it if you wish. You can mix and match the fruits but since dandelion greens (these need to be your new best friend; please read below for more detail about why these are good staple to have) are quite bitter, they pair quite well with banana, plus you get that heavy dose of potassium and magnesium which your heart and your muscles will be needing before and after that workout at Motivate! All the while they even help in regulating blood pressure; so it’s a win win with these nutrients.

Dandelion Greens: Dandelion is a rich source of nutrients; it actually contains a greater nutritional value than any other vegetable! You might have ignored these in the produce aisle, but these bad boys need a steady home in our fridges, ASAP!
Dandelion greens are high in vitamins and minerals (vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, B6, thiamin, calcium, copper, magnesium manganese, iron) as well as, protein, choline and inulin. They have a high carotenoid and pro-vitamin A content (even higher than carrots). Dandelion supports healthy liver function by increasing the flow of bile and improving its ability to remove toxins, it can help improve blood sugar regulation, helps to strengthen bones, and has a diuretic effect (buh bye water weight!)

Parsley: Parsley is extremely rich in a large number of nutrients, chlorophyll, and carotenes. It is a very good source of vitamin C, folate, and iron. It is also a good source of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc. Parsley has shown to inhibit the cancer-causing properties of fried foods, and its volatile oil components have shown anticancer effects.

Strawberries: Amazing source of vitamin C, which helps keep our immune systems strong (Say goodbye to colds and flu this season!) and aids in the absorption of iron. They also contain vitamin K, flavonoids, dietary fiber, manganese, some B vitamins, and iodine (which is essential to our thyroids – it is needed to make thyroid hormones).

Bee pollen: Often referred to as nature’s most perfect food; bee pollen is a nutrient powerhouse! It is extremely rich in essential amino acids, carotenes, and B-vitamins, as well as vitamin C, E, K, and minerals such as phosphorous, calcium, zinc, selenium, and copper. What’s not to love?

Lemon: Excellent source of vitamin C and extremely cleansing, It is also a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, folate, flavonoids, and limonene (phytochemical with anticancer properties).

Fruit variations: you could make this with mango instead of banana; it works well and also contains a good dose of potassium and magnesium (among so many other nutrients).


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.

gina-mehta

HEALTH HACKS | Snack Attack

A key strategy to healthy eating is healthy snacking. For many, the word "snacking" probably mentally triggers unpleasant self-images of inhaling chips, devouring cookies, etc. Actually, snacking can facilitate an extremely healthy lifestyle if done correctly and in moderation! Your body needs nutrition throughout the day--during the lulls between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, snacking offers a savvy solution to a peckish stomach. So, instead of grabbing a cookie, you should commit to a healthy (and tasty) snack that will satisfy you until your next meal and appease your conscience. See examples of some healthy snack options below (all under 200 calories!): 

1. Low-fat Greek yogurt topped with granola and nuts

1. Low-fat Greek yogurt topped with granola and nuts

2. Apple slices dipped in almond butter

2. Apple slices dipped in almond butter

3. Edamame

3. Edamame

4.  Small bowl of plain oatmeal topped with fresh berries

4. Small bowl of plain oatmeal topped with fresh berries

5. Frozen grapes

5. Frozen grapes

HEALTH HACKS | (Sometimes) Healthy Granola Bars

Granola bars are generally known as a healthy diet's best friend--they're quick, easy and nutritious! But alas, do not mistake this as a blanket statement for all granola bars. While all self-advertise as healthy sustenance, many actually consist of more sugar than a delectable dessert and have little fiber content! The granola bar shopping aisle can be a little intimidating at first glance, however you can easily differentiate the good options from the bad options with these checkpoints in mind: low sugar content (preferably less than eight grams of sugar), good source of fiber and protein, and an ingredients list of less than ten items. To make your life a little easier, check out these five granola bars below that are actually nutritious and delicious. 

 

1.  Health Warrior Chia Bar   Calories: 100 Fiber: 4g Protein: 3g Sugar: 5g

1. Health Warrior Chia Bar

Calories: 100
Fiber: 4g
Protein: 3g
Sugar: 5g

2.  KIND Cashew and Ginger Spice   Calories: 200 Fiber: 5g Protein: 6g Sugar: 4g

2. KIND Cashew and Ginger Spice

Calories: 200
Fiber: 5g
Protein: 6g
Sugar: 4g

3.  Annie’s Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookie Granola Bars   Calories: 110 Fiber: 3g Protein: 1g Sugar: 7g

3. Annie’s Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookie Granola Bars

Calories: 110
Fiber: 3g
Protein: 1g
Sugar: 7g

4.  Zing Chocolate Coconut Single Bar   Calories: 210  Fiber: 6g Protein: 10g Sugar: 13g

4. Zing Chocolate Coconut Single Bar

Calories: 210
Fiber: 6g
Protein: 10g
Sugar: 13g

5.  22 Days Nutrition Enlightened Pumpkin Seed   Calories: 250 Fiber: 5g Protein: 11g Sugar: 9g

5. 22 Days Nutrition Enlightened Pumpkin Seed

Calories: 250
Fiber: 5g
Protein: 11g
Sugar: 9g

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Treat Yo' Self With This Hot Chocolate

Hi everyone!

I hope you are all doing well! It is still like “winter” out there and I still have been reaching for cozy, comforting foods and drinks. An all-time favorite of mine is hot chocolate. Is there anything more comforting than being in your favorite ugly sweats and drinking a cup of hot chocolate and watching your favorite show?

What if I could tell you that there is a delicious hot chocolate out there that not only nourishes your body and mind but that also helps you balance out your body’s chemical messengers – hormones.

As females, our hormone levels fluctuate throughout our beloved cycles -- that’s just how we roll. Problems arise, however, when we produce too much or too little estrogen in relation to the amount of progesterone we produce: those times where hormones take over. There needs to be a balance between these main players (hormones) throughout our cycle. Excess estrogen can cause bloating, acne, fatigue, an irregular cycle, hair loss–ugh, no thanks! This doesn’t sound fun and it’s not fun for anyone.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where we are bombarded with endocrine disruptors that mess with our hormonal balance. From environmental factors like the pesticides in our food to the makeup and perfumes we use, to the cleaning products at home, to the amount of sleep we get and our stress levels. Basically, everything has an effect on your hormonal balance!

So aside from doing our best to get on the green beauty wagon and sleep at least eight hours a night, I think we could all benefit from adding a lil’ somethin’ somethin’ to help us regain, maintain and support hormonal balance.

Say hello to maca. Although there is no isolated miracle food or product that will, by itself, magically solve all hormonal problems, studies have shown that this bad boy (maca) can help regulate hormones (among MANY other things) when accompanied by nutritious food and exercise. So what is this maca I speak of?

Maca is a Peruvian root plant, rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals and it is sold in dried and powdered form. It is an adaptogen, which means it helps the body adapt to stress. Adaptogens support the entire neuroendocrine system, and counteract the adverse effects of stress while regulating immune function. It is also known to boost libido! (shaka waka waka…)

Maca’s malty taste seems to complement cacao rather well making it a great addition to your hot chocolate. Enjoy maca a few times a week in this hot chocolate or maybe add a teaspoon to your smoothie occasionally. If you’re not feeling the maca then simply enjoy the rest of these nourishing ingredients!


Photo by Gina Mehta

Photo by Gina Mehta

Hormone-balancing hot chocolate (Fills a large mug -- satisfies cravings!)

 

2 tbsp raw cacao
2 cups cashew or coconut milk (both are rich, creamy and nourishing. This will work well with either one. Use almond milk if cashew/coconut milk is not an option.)
1 tsp maca
2 dates
1 tsp vanilla powder or 1 vanilla bean

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Warm the milk up first on low heat. Once warm, add it to a blender with the rest of ingredients. Don’t forget to remove the pits from the dates before adding them to the blender!

Tip: if dates are dry or hard, pit and soak them in filtered warm water for 15 minutes prior to adding them to the blender.


Photo by Gina Mehta

Photo by Gina Mehta

Maca powder is rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur plus in vitamins C, E and some B-vitamins, it also contains protein.

Mixing maca with good fats (which are essential for making hormones) such the cacao powder and the coconut milk (or cashew milk) make this a great hormone-balancing drink you can enjoy anytime you are craving something comforting.

Cacao contains a hefty amount of magnesium - the relaxation mineral which is critical for energy production, helps to create hormones, to balance blood sugar, support thyroid, and regulate cortisol; it is also rich in antioxidants and helps you produce serotonin – which makes you feel happy and relaxed. So this is a win win!

Note: Cacao is not the same as cocoa: cocoa has been processed; cacao is pure and unrefined, and all of its nutritional benefits remain intact.

Dates are the perfect whole-food sweetener! (Just remember to remove the pit first) They are rich in fiber, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, vitamin K and certain B-vitamins. They provide sweetness along with a hefty dose of fiber. Contrary to popular belief, although dates contain natural sugar they do not spike blood sugar levels significantly and are actually a low-glycemic index food.

Vanilla: this aromatic bean is considered an aphrodisiac and contains calcium, iron, and potassium.  


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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.

HEALTH HACKS | Substitutes for Cleaner Eats

Cleaning up our diets can be as quick and easy as a simple substitute.  Here are some of our favorite clean eats!

Avocado > Mayonaise

Avocado is loaded with healthy fats and none of saturated fats and processed ingredients found in conventional mayonaise.  You can use this as a spread on your sandwiches, or even in tuna or chicken salad!

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Oatmeal > Breadcrumbs

Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate, which means it won't spike your blood sugar like white breadcrumbs!  Complex carbs provide longer sustaining energy and it's loaded with fiber.

Cashews > Cream

Blended cashews can be used in place of creamer in anything from soups, pasta sauce, over fruit, and in mashed potatoes!  Check out this easy recipe here!

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Nutritional Yeast > Cheese

Full of B Vitamins, protein, and fiber, nutritional yeast adds a fantastic nutty and cheesy flavor without the fats and calories!  Try it over popcorn, in soups, over pasta, or on your veggies!

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Greek Yogurt > Sour Cream

You won't even know the difference while cutting the calories in half!

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We'd love to hear your feedback if you try it out!

xx

The Motivate Team

FUNCTIONAL FOOD | Eating Organic: What's it worth?

Hi, everyone! I hope you are all doing well.

Today I wanted to discuss what I consider an important topic: to eat or not to eat organic.
What’s the big deal with eating organic foods? Why is it that organic food is much more expensive? Is there really a difference? And is it really worth it?

To summarize, the answer is YES; plain and simple. Organic isn’t hyped or a fad. Once upon a time, all of our food was grown organically (there was less of an issue with feeding less people, technological/agricultural “advances”, etc.) and what people where buying at the stores then is not the stuff we are normally buying now–those days are long gone.

Now, crops are sprayed with an abundance of pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, and other nasty chemicals in order to maintain crops to feed all of us and for farmers to loose less crops and/or make a living. Animals are injected with hormones and given antibiotics. And where do you think all these “goodies” end up? I think you guessed right!  

Everything that is sprayed and/or injected to the food we buy and eat has an effect on our health and, not to mention, Mother Nature–but I won’t get into that. So how do these chemicals affect my health? Well, firstly, many pesticides are endocrine disruptors. They contain chemicals that mimic our own natural estrogen, which causes a complete imbalance in our hormone production and can lead to numerous amounts of reproductive issues such as infertility, cancer, and malformations. Evidence is also growing to show their effect on thyroid, metabolism and weight gain issues too. They also damage the sympathetic nervous system; which in combination with the impact they have on us hormonally, can lead to weight gain. Those chemicals are starting to seem less harmless, no?

When we are constantly eating foods that contain these chemicals, they accumulate and lead to a toxic buildup in our bodies. Yes, fortunately our bodies are resilient and can usually manage the few not-so-good things we put in them but this toxic build up–and it takes less than you think–may lead to many health problems(including those previously mentioned). Antibiotics fed to animals are unfortunately leading to antibiotic resistance in humans. This means that our bodies need stronger antibiotics to fight any bad bacteria and/or infection which in turn cause harm to our intestinal flora and/or the good bacteria that lived in our gut that helps us absorb nutrients from food among many other things.

Additionally, reviews of multiple studies have showed that organically grown plant foods actually contain higher nutrient contents than non-organically grown plant foods. What does that even mean? Well, basically those strawberries are going to have more vitamin C in them if they are organic. You are going to get more calcium from that kale if it is organic. Period.

Ok, so organic foods don’t have nasty things sprayed on them, but why are they so damn expensive? It’s really quite simple. Conventional farmers get much larger subsidies from the government. In 2008, according to the House Appropriations Committee “mandatory spending on farm subsidies was $7.5 billion while programs for organic and local foods only received $15 million”. It seems there is a big interest in producing more and more food to feed everyone, at whatever the cost. More corn is grown to feed livestock and animals, and used as filler in most packaged foods out there or turned into high fructose corn syrup (this stuff is everywhere and for all the wrong reasons). Of course, lobbyists representing these “food” growers make sure that these subsidies keep coming. Meanwhile, organic farmers get just 20% of the subsidies conventional farmers get.  Imagine getting an 80%-paycheck cut. No way!
So while it may be more expensive, at least you know what you are eating. If you buy an organic head of kale or some organic potatoes, that is exactly what you will be getting and/or eating–without unwanted extra chemicals! Not kale with pesticides, or conventional potatoes with chlorpropham, an herbicide that is used to stop the growth of weeds and inhibit potato sprouting. According to the Extension Toxicology Network, chronic exposure to chlorpropham of laboratory animals caused “retarded growth, increased liver, kidney and spleen weights, congestion of the spleen, and death.” No, thank you! Yuck.

I know that it’s not possible for all of us to buy organic all of the time–it can get expensive. That’s why I wanted to let all you know (or remind those of you who may have forgotten) about the “dirty dozen” list: A list of foods that are highly contaminated with chemicals) and are always best bought organic to avoid their conventional counterpart usually filled with chemicals. And also, I wanted to let you know about the “clean fifteen” which are foods that are barely contaminated and are ok to buy non-organic/conventional.
One last thing: talk to your local farmers at your local farmers market. Some farmers do grow foods with organic standards but can’t afford the certification by the USDA–organic certification is a long, expensive process. Some of these farmers might even consider the USDA standards/regulations not sufficient to provide for true sustainability and will not pursue the certification program. You won’t know what they grow if you don’t ask.
With all of this information, I really just want to leave you with one question: Would you rather pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later?

Dirty dozen (Foods to avoid if not organic)

Strawberries
Apples
Nectarines
Peaches
Celery
Grapes
Cherries
Spinach
Tomatoes
Sweet bell peppers
Cherry tomatoes
Cucumbers
Others with high contamination: Hot peppers, kale, collard greens, potatoes, blueberries (Get the full list to over 40 foods you should avoid if not organic here)
Clean Fifteen:
Avocados
Sweet corn (thought it is worth mentioning that non organic sweet corn is likely to come from genetically engineered seeds, so I would definitely recommend still buying organic in this case)
Pineapples
Cabbage
Sweet peas
Onions
Asparagus
Mangos
Papayas (also may come from genetically engineered seeds – go organic with this one)
 Kiwi
 Eggplant
 Honeydew melon
 Grapefruit
 Cantaloupe
 Cauliflower

 

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.

HEALTH HACKS | Kick the (sugar) Habit

Did you know sugar and processed foods can be as addictive as heroine and cocaine?  Sugar is sweet, releases endorphins, and provides energy!  Too much though can lead to many issues including weight gain, metabolic dysfunction, and can lead to other, more serious health concerns.  Here are some tips to be in charge of the cookie jar!

 

Eat/Drink Your Greens

Loaded with nutrition, leafy greens and green drinks help boost your energy and reduce cravings for sugar and processed foods.

Drink more water

You may sometimes think that your body is asking for sugar, when in fact it's dehydrated and really craving water! Try adding some a squeeze of lemon, green tea, or infuse some berries to brighten your water!

Get Fermented

Fermented foods and drinks are perhaps the most important way to reduce or even eliminate cravings for sugar.  The beneficial bacteria in these healthful foods can support your digestion and provide detoxification support, which helps lessen the fructose burden on your liver. The healthy micro-flora in fermented foods and beverages will use the sugar as its food, reducing the negative effects on your body.  So if you do indulge, try having a kombucha or coconut kefir on the side!

Sweat it out

Working out releases the "feel good" chemical serotonin in the brain!  The post-workout happy boost can be a great distraction when the sugar cravings call.

HEALTH HACKS | Pre-Workout Fuel

If naught else remember this: Do not work out on an empty stomach (and for good measure: also do not leave your treadmill glistening with your odious sweat). In order to have a fully effective workout, you need to make sure your body is primed for a standard hour-long period of exercise. Whether you are lifting, cycling or running, you should be well-conditioned and well-energized for your session. Here are 5 things you can eat beforehand to provide your body with healthy carbs and/or protein to rock your workout.

1. Banana

1. Banana

2. Chickpeas

2. Chickpeas

3. Dried Fruit

3. Dried Fruit

4. Greek yogurt

4. Greek yogurt

5. Oats

5. Oats