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Health & Wellness
The recent article I did on the Environmental Working Group’s list of The Dirty Dozen, Plus, has kept my mind focused on organics and what to buy at the store. I came across some supplemental info that I thought could be helpful for those of us that want to make sure we are eating safe and organic. I received a handy pocket reference guide from the Environmental Working Group, and I thought I would share it. Its good to have a reminder of how to keep our food safe. It has come in handy as a conversation starter with the kids while shopping and even strangers who see us referring to it while shopping. Makes me feel proud, when I see my kids reach for organic foods. I’m simply teaching them about how to care more for themselves…it feels good. The things they learn now, can only make their futures, and lives better.
With flu season in full effect, I thought I would share some of the benefits of vitamin D, an important immune system booster, among other things. Keeping your vitamin D at the recommended levels, can help ward off the flu! Great news when the flu is lingering every where! But, winter time tends to cause our vitamin D stores to get depleted, unless you live in a climate that allows for more sunlight year round. Talk to your doctor to get testing and advice on getting your levels in a healthy range.
Before I go too much further, I think I need to clarify that vitamin D is actually a pro-hormone, not a vitamin, because our bodies are able to produce it through the skins exposure to sunlight. A fair skinned person can produce up 20,000 IU of vitamin D with only 20 minutes of sun exposure. Sensible exposure of 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week, should keep your levels adequate. Sunlight converts cholesterol on the skin into vitamin D3, which is then converted in vitamin D by the kidneys. Vitamin D can only be stored by the body for 2 weeks, so if sensible sun exposure is not available, supplementation during winter months might be necessary. Once again, talk to your doctor for help determining this.
Here is a quick list of a few of the possible health effects associated with healthy levels of vitamin D:
- Vitamin D aids in the regulation of calcium levels in the blood. You need to maintain both healthy vitamin D and calcium levels to keep your bones strong.
- As stated before, if you keep your vitamin D levels adequate you can greatly reduce your chances of contracting the flu.
- Studies suggest that vitamin D is extremely important in regulating cell growth and cell-to-cell communication. Keeping healthy vitamin D levels can reduce cancer progression by slowing the cell growth. Healthy cells, healthy body.
- Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels has been thought to lower ones risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- To avoid preclampsia, a cesarean section, or bacterial vaginosis, it is recommended that pregnant women keep adequate vitamin D levels. Your doctor must assist you in maintaining a healthy level. If the levels get too high, there could be health risks to the baby. Always use doctor supervision when pregnant.
So how can we supplement vitamin D levels, if adequate sunlight isn’t available year round? Let’s see:
- Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon: 1,360 IU
- Herring, fresh, raw, 4 ounces: 1,056 IU
- Swordfish, cooked, 4 ounces: 941 IU
- Raw maitake mushrooms, 1 cup: 786 IU
- Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 4 ounces: 596 IU
- Sardines, canned, 4 ounces: 336 IU
- Fortified skim milk, 1 cup: 120 IU
- Tuna, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces: 68 IU
- Egg, chicken, whole large: 44 IU
Talk to your doctor and get blood work done if you feel your sun exposure might not be optimal. Keeping your vitamin D levels at the recommended levels has great health benefits.
In honor of Dr Seuss’ birthday, here are a few of my favorite quotes. It is my way of saying Happy Birthday Dr Seuss! Growing up reading his books was such a joy. I am so proud to own a large library of books for my kids, which includes all of the Dr. Seuss books I believe. Their love for reading makes them well rounded and ready to learn. Oh the places they will go!
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
“Be who you are, and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is nobody else youer than you!”
“Sometimes the questions are complicated, and the answers are simple.”
“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
“Why fit in, when you were born to stand out?”
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.”
I came across this quote from Elizabeth Gilbert, and wanted to share it. Attitude is everything. The choices you make direct that attitude. It affects how we react to the world, and how the world reacts to us. Wake everyday with a positive attitude and even if the day doesn’t go as planned, look and find what was good and hold onto that. Of course in the moment that may not be as easy as it sounds. That is where mindfulness will come into play. I have been trying as much as possible to stop and breathe before reacting. It changes everything. That impulsive reaction can be harmful sometimes. Be in the moment and you can make the moment yours, you can own the moment.
I have spent the morning cleaning, and getting ready for the coming week. The kids have been in the kitchen practicing their recipes for the upcoming cooking contest, and they made a mess! They made a mess of my freshly cleaned kitchen! I had a few ways to react. The impulsive reaction could have been to be upset, to dread that I would have to clean it again. The result of that reaction would not be good. The kids would feel shame. They would get discouraged and not want to try again. They would see me as uptight and no fun. That reaction wold dampen everyone’s mood for the rest of the day, negatively.
Here is where being mindful kicks in. Stop. Take a deep breath (if you have to). My immediate impulse was to practice my golden rule; treat others as I would want to be treated. The instinctive positive reaction…to give praise for their hard work and their dedication to practice their kitchen skills. I let them know that I anxiously await a sample of the quiche and oatmeal pancakes. That reaction was a catalyst for them to be excited, proud, and encouraged. They were aware of the mess they made, but that mess was necessary to get the end result. Foods not good if can’t make a mess, right? They smiled, saw the result of their hard work, offered me samples, acknowledged their messes and offered to help clean the kitchen again. This needs to be the impulsive reaction they see and feel.
I spend a lot of time researching, and looking for ways to make changes in life or ways to make life more enjoyable naturally. There are so many aspects of your life that you can look at to determine where things can be improved. The one thing that has become very apparent to me, is that nothing can change until you take action. Change has to start with yourself. I see that there are habits or reactions that are learned through out life. We all learn to adapt to the situations of life. Depending on the environment or the people you have in your life, that reaction or habit will either be good for you, or bad for you. I think this is very true for those who struggle with self esteem issues. Knowing yourself, and loving yourself is key to the decisions you make in life.
“Don’t wait for your feelings to change to take the action. Take the action and your feelings will change.”
To get to know yourself, and take action in making changes in life, you have to start by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness has allowed me to become more aware of my thoughts and reach a sense of inner peace. It’s not always perfect, and somedays are easier than others. As my awareness has increased, so has the peace and joy in my life. The more familiar I have become with the inner workings of my mind, the better I have started to feel. Being mindful of the inner workings of my mind, allow the avenues to my heart and soul to be free. Again, it is a work in process. However, one of the most influential things I am learning to do, is to self regulate.
Self regulation for me has been my stepping stone to mindfulness and meditation. I was introduced to it, not realizing what I was being taught…essentially, mindfulness. I become aware of how my body is reacting to a situation. Those reactions can sometimes be stressful or negative, if the situation is not positive. In essence, the body can get triggered to go into a fight or flight response when it gets stressed. Before I practiced mindfulness, I would stay in that fight or flight state and panic a bit. I now can take a deep breath. Focus on my breathing. Notice how my body is reacting; Is my heart pounding? Am I clinching my jaw? Muscles tense? Once I assess my reaction, I begin releasing those tense reactions. Breathing to slow the heart rate, release clinched muscles, and relax. In that time, you have cleared your mind to give a proper reaction to the situation, a rational reaction. That is self regulation. For many, this is a normal, easy practice. For me, it had to be learned, and I am continually practicing, and I wish I had learned earlier in life! It has brought more peace and kindness into the home. I know how important the modeling you provide your household is. Teaching peace, is so rewarding, in so many ways!
We all know that aerobic exercise is good for us. The question is what are some different types and how do they really benefit the body? Today I will discuss and give some reasons hiking is good for you.
- Improved cardio-respiratory fitness (heart, lungs, blood vessels)
- Improved muscular fitness
- Lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- Lower risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides
Living in the pacific Northwest, we have hiking trails in abundance. But I can recall that over the years, and the many moved we’ve endured, finding a wildlife habitat was a first priority. I have taken the kids on walks and hikes through those wildlife habitats since they were born! There is just something amazing about sharing space with all of God’s creatures. The kids have aways loved to collect items as we walk, and they would place them in a journal. It made the hike, fun and educational.
Children benefit from hiking the same as us adults do, and it can be used as a great bonding time. Here are five specific benefits that kids will reap when enjoying a hike or any aerobic activities:
- Improved cardiovascular, respiratory and muscular fitness
- Stronger bone health
- Exercise lessens the chance of becoming overweight
- Reduces the chance of developing risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
- Possibly reduce the risk of depression. Exercise releases feel good hormones, resulting in less stress
- Mental alertness improves, resulting in kids being more ready to learn in school
- Get moving and kids are sleeping better at night
Those are great reasons for all of us to partake in some hiking. Get outdoors and enjoy Mother Nature!
If you have never had a shot of wheatgrass juice, you have not had a full life experience. Many will disagree with that bold statement, but it really is an experience you should try. If you can, make it a habit. Wheatgrass is so good for you, but the taste is not for everyone. It tastes, well, just like grass! If you are like me, as a kid, you would put everything in your mouth. I would chew on grass. So the first time I tried a shot of wheatgrass, it brought back those childhood memories It made me laugh out loud really. Of course as a child, I had no idea that wheatgrass existed and was good for you. Not sure the lawn grass I tried was beneficial. If there would have been wheatgrass smoothies when I was a kid, I might have thought it was weird. I am thrilled they exist now!
After regularly drinking wheatgrass shots, you feel amazing. Your energy levels go up, your skin looks healthy as your body gets detoxified. My goal right now, is to try to get my children to partake in the daily wheatgrass shot. Not an easy task, at all. To date, not a single one of them, will try the wheatgrass shot. So I set out on a mission to disguise the flavor, and get them eat it with out knowing so! a little sneaky, I know, but in the end, the health benefits and the way they will feel, will make it all worth it!
I have a batch of wheatgrass that was just planted today, so I unfortunately do not have it fresh on hand as I write this blog. The anticipation of trying these smoothie recipes, is killing me! I may have to break down and go to Whole Foods or somewhere that will have wheatgrass all ready to be juiced. I guess powdered wheatgrass is an option, but I really prefer the freshly juiced shots. I will definitely be trying these delicious sounding smoothies that I found on incrediblesmoothies.com. Fingers crossed that the kids will not taste the flavor. I also plan to create my own, with cucumbers, spinach, lemon and celery…grapes and pears could make it in the blender too. Getting excited, I think I am off to the store for some kitchen experimenting supplies!
Wheatgrass Green Smoothie Recipes
Pineapple-Wheatgrass Green Smoothie
- 1/2 cup green grapes
- 1/2 shot of wheatgrass or 1/2 packet of powdered wheatgrass
- 1/2 peach, pitted
- 1/2 cup pineapple, cubed
- 4 ounces of filtered water
Calories: 125 | Fat: 1g (grams) | Protein:5g | Carbs: 32g | Calcium: 2% | Iron: .7mg | Vitamin A: 9% | Vitamin C: 147%
- 1/2 shot of wheatgrass or 1/2 packet of powdered wheatgrass
- 2 medium pears
- 4 ounces filtered water
Calories: 204 | Fat: 1g (grams) | Protein: 5g | Carbs: 55g | Calcium: 3% | Iron: .6mg | Vitamin A: 7% | Vitamin C: 105%
The following are examples of instant stress busters, excerpted from Natural Superwoman, by Rosamond Richardson. In a world of go, go, go, these are great tips to remember. They can bring relief to mental, physical and emotional stresses. As always, remember to breathe when stress is present.
Slow down and take your time. Talk, walk or drive at a slower pace.
Call a friend for a long chat.
Escape mentally – read a book, watch a movie or be a sports spectator.
Keep a notebook on you and make lists: being organized is less stressful.
Smile. It relaxes the major facial muscles and releases serotonin from the brain and makes you fell better.
Stop thinking ‘must’ ‘should’ and ‘ought’ for at least an hour.
Sweat out your stress. Take some vigorous exercise class, or dance til you drop.
Write a list of all the essential things you have to do – then stick it on the fridge and leave it until tomorrow.
Look at some wonderful paintings, or paint one yourself.
Change into comfortable clothes.
Help someone. Be really nice to someone.
Get a massage or a pedicure.
Write a rage letter and don’t send it.
Find a safe place to cry. Crying restores the chemical balance of the body.
Drop perfectionism: it stresses you out.
Pet the dog or cat.
Shut the door on the world at least once a day to see you own needs: do some yoga or meditation.
Lie down with a hot wet flannel over your face.
Go away for a weekend.
Lie in a hot tub and add soothing essential oils to the water. Light a candle and dim the lights and breathe.
Turn off your mobile phone.
Sometimes doing nothing is the key to stress.
Express yourself: don’t maintain the stiff upper lip. And don;t lose your sense of humor.
Change your routine – have a beautiful bath mid afternoon.
Cancel your appointments and have a day off.
Collect inspirational quotations and stories and refer to them to lift your spirits.
I have been researching for options on treating anxiety naturally, and I came back with three common suggestions: eat, meditate and exercise. So what could that refer to in each of those categories? Let us explore that.
Think of a time you felt anxious. Was it a sleepless night spent worrying about an issue? Was it a time when you slipped and fell? Either of those can place your body into a brief state of anxiety, which goes away shortly after the event. This is short term anxiety. However for millions of people, that anxiety can be long term. This sometimes disabling disorder, is known as General Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
How can we reduce the amount of anxiety felt or interrupting our lives? Doctors can prescribe medication and recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy. In a time where some medications can be over prescribed or over used, searching for alternatives is important. You can make a few lifestyle changes, diet, meditation, and exercise, scientifically proven procedures, which allow you to treat anxiety for yourself. I think that these lifestyle changes along with cognitive-behavioral therapy, will give you the greatest relief from anxiety.
Eat a healthy diet. Studies have shown that those who eat a diet high in processed, fast food that include sugary sweets, junk food, caffeine and beer, are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Those who eat a more healthy diet of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, meat and fish, tend to experience less depression and anxiety. I have read that adding foods such as nuts, poultry, oats, and some dairy, increase the serotonin levels in the brain. Each of these foods contains tryptophan, which helps the body produce serotonin. According to Wikipedia.com, “Biochemically derived from tryptophan, serotonin is primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), blood platelets, and the central nervous system (CNS) of animals, including humans. It is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.” So it only makes sense to eat foods that will naturally help you feel better, right?
Meditate regularly. People who worry a lot have increased reactivity in the brain, that makes regulating emotions, such as fear, a little harder. According to a study conducted by Stanford University, practicing mindfulness can physically reduce neurons in the fear-triggering part of the brain. As an anxious person, you might feel it is hard to sit still and meditate. Many thoughts race through the mind, and that can make the anxiety seem overwhelming. Mindfulness teaches you how to work with the various stressful situations. It takes practice, and that’s why making it a regular habit, results in the best results. It won’t change your anxious feelings over night, but each time you sit and focus on your breathe and calm your body, you are teaching yourself how to self-regulate. When you are placed in a stressful situation, you will be mindful of how your body is reacting and focus on calming those reactive triggers. Meditation works, it just takes regular practice.
Regular exercise can reduce anxiety. I read once that bad anxiety needs good treatment. What could be better than exercise, coupled with meditation and a healthy diet? Just like the healthy diet, studies show that exercise is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration. Exercise enhances the brains overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
Stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, making the rest of the body feel the impact as well. If your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins, the chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Increasing endorphins improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
As we can see, research indicates that you may eat, meditate and exercise your way to a calmer, more relaxed life.
Valentine’s Day is commercialized, I feel, towards couples. Being single in the dating world can make the holiday blah for some, but not for me!! I make sure this holiday is a day to celebrate family love! It takes a special recipe to make and keep a family happy. As a chef, and a mother of 4, I know that little alterations or additions can be made to that family recipe for love. Its a work in progress and it definitely takes patience and understanding. Sometimes there are wounds, that need to heal. The major key to success in healing is to have love and support. We are healing wounds and learning to love in amazing ways. Because we are doing so as a family, the support and patience we share, it kind of intensifies the bonds and growth. A healthy family is important, especially in the lives of growing children. I am glad we are on that path. It feels amazing! I love my family, my 4 beautiful angels, to pieces!
Recipe For A Happy Family
4 Parts Faith
1 Barrel of Laughter
1 Cup Friendship
2 Spoonful’s of Tenderness
4 Cups of Love
3 Cups Forgiveness
2 Cups Loyalty
5 Spoonful’s of Hope
Mix the Love and the Loyalty with Faith.
Add Tenderness and Forgiveness.
Sprinkle with Friendship and Hope.
Season abundantly with Laughter.
Serve with Generosity.
Adjust to your flavor and strength. Life can throw all kids of things at you, but if you keep faith and love in the forefront, this recipe for a happy family is a winner. Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! Hug the ones you love today! They are all precious gifts in your life.