nutrition

HEALTH HACK | YOGURT PARFAITS, OLÉ!

Yogurt parfaits are perfect versatile and healthy snacks. They can be the ideal quick morning breakfast, the satisfying mid-day treat or the nighttime sweet-tooth quencher. Yogurt is an excellent source of protein and can be complimented with so many different healthy toppings you will never get bored of it (nuts, granola, fruit, honey, etc.). Get creative and make them ahead of time so that you always have a nutrition-loaded snack ready to eat. Try these 5 yogurt parfait recipes:

1.  Low-Calorie Blueberry Yogurt Parfait . See recipe  here .

1. Low-Calorie Blueberry Yogurt Parfait. See recipe here.

2.  Strawberry Yogurt Parfait . See recipe  here .

2. Strawberry Yogurt Parfait. See recipe here.

3.  Peanut Butter and Jelly Chia Parfait.  See recipe  here .

3. Peanut Butter and Jelly Chia Parfait. See recipe here.

4.  Cocoa Nibs Breakfast Parfait . See recipe  here .

4. Cocoa Nibs Breakfast Parfait. See recipe here.

5.  Peaches ‘n Cream Oat & Chia Pudding Parfait . See recipe  here .

5. Peaches ‘n Cream Oat & Chia Pudding Parfait. See recipe here.

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 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.

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

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

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.  


IMG_2506.JPG

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 | 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.

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

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

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.

HEALTH HACKS | 5 Delicious Yet Nutritious Smoothies

Smoothies are an easy way to trick your body into ingesting a smorgasbord of goodness --protein, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits-- without compromising your taste buds. They are the perfect, tasty vehicle for a nutritious meal in the convenience of a to-go cup. Moreover, aggregate prep and gulp time can be less than 10 minutes (it would take you longer to unearth matching socks in your underwear drawer). Brighten your daily diet with these recipes that are health-nut approved... but are so delicious your brain will never deem it to be true:

1.  Beet Berry Smoothie . Get the recipe  here .

1. Beet Berry Smoothie. Get the recipe here.

2.  Strawberry Banana-Mango Lava Flow.  Get the recipe  here .

2. Strawberry Banana-Mango Lava Flow. Get the recipe here.

3.  Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie . Get the recipe  here .

3. Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie. Get the recipe here.

4.  Vegan Detox Green Monster Smoothie . Get the recipe  here .

4. Vegan Detox Green Monster Smoothie. Get the recipe here.

5.  Orange Oatmeal Smoothie . Get the recipe  here .

5. Orange Oatmeal Smoothie. Get the recipe here.

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.

HEALTH HACKS | 5 Quick Morning Meals

In the hierarchy of mealtimes, breakfast is commonly heralded as the pinnacle meal. Not to say a breakfast of champions may actually breed champions. At the very least, a good, hearty meal first thing in the morning helps you jumpstart your metabolism and aids you in making healthier choices throughout the day. But, “having breakfast” is sometimes easier said than done. Morning-time can be characterized by frantic activity culminating in hurried dashes out the door. It can be a period riddled with snooze alarms, only to adjourn when it is no longer morning-time. Either way, many people say they don’t eat breakfast because they don’t have time for breakfast. For those (and for anyone else interested in a great morning start), here are 5 healthy breakfast ideas that are so quick and easy, you can always make time for them:

1. Broiled Grapefruit // See recipe  here .

1. Broiled Grapefruit // See recipe here.

2. Simple Green Smoothie // See recipe  here .

2. Simple Green Smoothie // See recipe here.

3. Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats // See recipe  here .

3. Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats // See recipe here.

4. Quinoa Breakfast Bowl // See recipe  here .

4. Quinoa Breakfast Bowl // See recipe here.

5. Eggs Baked in Avocado // See recipe  here .

5. Eggs Baked in Avocado // See recipe here.

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.
 

HEALTH HACKS | 5 Tips to Help Maintain That Healthy Diet

The task of transitioning to a healthy diet, or even maintaining one you have already effected can be a difficult undertaking. You can remind yourself of the long-term benefits the future you will reap (a shining individual with robust health and rockin’ abs), but that doesn’t make the day-to-day discipline any easier. You are definitely not alone in your struggles—many have stumbled, some have fallen by the wayside, some have taken inadvertent detours (to a pile of glazed doughnuts). The goal is to maintain an overall healthier diet in a way that is feasible and not prone to regression. As with most life’s ventures, there are tactics you can employ to make your daily journey a little less bumpy, a little more focused, and hopefully a little more fun. Here are 5 healthy eating tricks to try out this week: 

1.  Make snack jars to enjoy at your discretion.  Don't leave yourself at the mercy of bad snacks. Instead, prepare combinations of vegetables or nuts in single portions so that you always have healthy alternatives ready to eat.

1. Make snack jars to enjoy at your discretion. Don't leave yourself at the mercy of bad snacks. Instead, prepare combinations of vegetables or nuts in single portions so that you always have healthy alternatives ready to eat.

2. Roast a variety of your favorite veggies to incorporate into meals throughout the week.

2. Roast a variety of your favorite veggies to incorporate into meals throughout the week.

3. Befriend the SPIRALIZER.  This ingenious mechanism transforms various foods into noodles! Read  here  to learn more about how you can use this fun gadget to make delicious, yet nutritious dishes.

3. Befriend the SPIRALIZER. This ingenious mechanism transforms various foods into noodles! Read here to learn more about how you can use this fun gadget to make delicious, yet nutritious dishes.

4. Eat more food with high water content. Not only will this help you fill up (leaving less room for health-harming foods), you are also supplementing your daily recommended water intake. See what foods are the most hydrating  here .

4. Eat more food with high water content. Not only will this help you fill up (leaving less room for health-harming foods), you are also supplementing your daily recommended water intake. See what foods are the most hydrating here.

5. Add fermented foods to your diet.  Healthy meals don't have to taste bland. Try incorporating fermented sides dishes to give your tastebuds a kick, while simultaneously aiding your digestion. Read more about the health benefits of fermented foods  here.

5. Add fermented foods to your diet. Healthy meals don't have to taste bland. Try incorporating fermented sides dishes to give your tastebuds a kick, while simultaneously aiding your digestion. Read more about the health benefits of fermented foods here.

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.