Relax ~ Reboot 

Last week was a crazy one. You know the kind of week that leaves you with bags under your eyes and knots in your shoulders.

So I decided to treat my tired self to a rejuvenating, relaxing and nature-filled weekend. I dedicated myself to pampering, relaxing and re-balancing for two whole days.

This was on the agenda:

  • A soothing Epsom salt bath
  • Daily walks in a beautiful forest called Pacific Spirit near my home to do a little forest bathing and tree hugging.

  • Leaving my smartphone in a drawer for most of the day
  • Chilling out on the couch reading a really good book
  • Playing with my dog
  • Last, but not least, nourishing myself with yummy food like this:

Watermelon Smoothie

  • 1/2 fresh watermelon, cubed
  • two sprigs fresh mint

Put ingredients in blender, blend until mint is pulverized. Serves two.

Banana Mango Smoothie Bowl

  • 4 bananas
  • 4 mangos
  • splash unsweetened coconut milk
  • shredded coconut

Blend all ingredients together. Top with shredded coconut. Serves two.

The other item on the table is a nut and seed vegan pate served with Mary’s organic, gluten free crackers.

Reboot complete.

Sugar and your brain

I’ve been sugar-free for a few days and already I’m starting to feel, well, sharper. My memory seems better and my afternoon brain fog is gone. Is this because of my no-sugar eating plan I wondered? So, I googled sugar and brain health and this is what I found.

Not only is sugar bad for your weight, skin and heart, but also your brain.

And here’s what will happen to your brain when you give up sugar:

You may experience cravings – Possibly intense cravings.

I’m writing this blog post on day 3 of my no-sugar lifestyle and, although I slept like a little log last night (a sugar-free bonus) my head is pounding today. And I never, ever get headaches..well, unless I’m hungover and I’m certainly not hungover today. Nope, I suspect this is good old sugar withdrawal. Since sugar helps release the feel-good chemical serotonin in your brain, giving sugar up temporarily depletes your levels of the happy chemical until your body adjusts and manufactures more on its own.

I know this headache and slightly off feeling will only last a few days so I’m staying strong, but on my way home tonight I had a fantasy about opening a bottle of maple syrup and drinking it straight from the bottle (I’ve actually done this before. More than once). So, yes, you may experience intense sugar cravings for a few days.

Your memory and learning skills will improve.

A 2012 UCLA study on rats found that a diet high in sugar impairs learning and memory by literally slowing down the brain by stopping communication between brain cells. I personally don’t feel extraordinarily smarter these past three days but I totally believe that sugar does negatively affect the brain, especially in people who are sensitive to it, so I’ll keep you posted!

 

Your depression and anxiety will lessen.

If you’ve ever had a sugar binge, followed by a sugar crash, you know up close and personal the feelings of crankiness, mood swings, tiredness and brain fog. This has happened to me on more afternoons than I care to count. And it all happens because eating a piece of chocolate cake or drinking a soda causes blood sugar levels to spike and then crash. This is exactly how sugary food messes with the neurotransmitters that keep our moods calm and stable. I’m definitely looking forward to less afternoons of feeling like I’ve hit a wall, very hard.

 

You can worry less about age-related cognitive decline and/or dementia.

There is a body of research showing that a sugar-filled diet increases the risk of cognitive decline as we age as well as developing Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t know about you but Alzheimer’s is one disease that I have watched older relatives suffer from and that I will do anything to avoid getting. If giving up sugar is insurance against future dementia, I’ll buy that insurance, thank you very much. Find out more about the research here.

So, to summarize, these are a few of the sneaky ways that sugar can affect your health, happiness and your entire life. It is now thought to affect our brains in a similar way as cocaine and other opiates.

And even though I’m typing away through an annoying headache and occasionally day dreaming about chugging maple syrup straight out of the bottle, I’m also so excited to see how I’ll be feeling in a few weeks.

Until next time.

Beach Yoga & Energy Balls

 

The feeling of freedom I get from doing yoga and meditating in nature keeps me balanced, happy and somewhat sane.

I practice yoga in a studio over the winter but when spring hits and I can do a few Sun Salutions gazing at the Pacific Ocean and the mountain range behind it, well nothing indoors can really compare to that. Going barefoot in the sand and letting my feet, usually imprisoned in some sort of high heel, sink into the cool, grains of dark sand feels better than the most luxurious spa treatment. And if you believe in earthing, it is better than the most luxurious foot treatment.

The beautiful ocean air, the sweet sound of the waves lapping the shore and my own little yoga practice on a deserted beach is my recipe for re-balancing and relaxation.

Then I like to go home, chilled out and stress free, to work on some other recipes.

This week I have a raw energy ball recipe that’s full of nutritious ingredients and easy to pack in your bag when you’re in the run. Clean eating approved and delicious, here it is:

Almond Oatmeal Energy Balls

 

  • One cup oatmeal
  • One cup almond butter
  • 1 T honey or maple syrup
  • 1 T flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together. Form into balls. Refrigerate.

 

Nice Cream

I’m loving the raw food recipes I’ve been sampling as I continue with my nutrition course.

You can’t be perfect though, and sometimes I just want to leave the uber-healthy green smoothies behind and indulge in a messy, gooey, rich and delicious dessert. But a dessert that won’t make me feel unhealthy and bloated and give me a sugar rush. Well, The raw food recipes I’ve been experimenting with have got that covered too.

Let me introduce you to Nice Cream.

Nice Cream

  • 3 frozen bananas cubed
  • Splash of maple syrup
  • One T coconut cream
  • Two T raw cacao for chocolate (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries etc. for other flavours)

Blend all ingredients together and indulge in this rich, delicious ice cream-like dessert that is actually good for you!

MSG Free

I’ve been learning a lot about MSG lately and none of it is good. Did you know that MSG is an excito-toxin that does a bunch of terrible things to our bodies? First, it contributes to ADD, mood disorders and the “dumbing down” of our society by causing neurons in our brain to fire too quickly. It also exacerbates Alzheimer’s disease when eaten in excess (and, since it’s in everything, it’s very easy to unknowingly eat in excess). And, as an explanation of why North Americans are getting bigger and bigger as time goes on, it suppresses the mechanism in our brain that tells us when we’ve had enough food. Oh, and to top it all off, this cheap little flavour enhancer is addictive too. Clearly big food corporations aren’t interested in our health and well-being – only their profits – by adding MSG to literally every processed item in our food supply.

So, after reading all of this, I’ve decided to eliminate MSG from my diet and I’m discovering that it’s literally everywhere, hidden behind some very sneaky labeling in a lot of cases. It was even in my toothpaste, vitamins, vegan protein powder and “healthy” granola. Basically, if a food is processed and packaged, it’s got MSG in it. So I’ve realized that the only way to avoid this nasty little toxin is to make my own food for every meal.

I’ve been doing just that and it’s been a wonderful experience the past few days. Time consuming for sure, but the food I end up with is wholesome, yummy and, most importantly, real. It tastes like the food I ate as a child when we picked our own veggies out of the garden, added butter and salt and chowed down. No health-robbing chemicals needed.

I’m looking forward to sharing all of my healthiest and prettiest raw, MSG free recipes here as well as any changes I notice as I go along.

There’s nothing more important than nourishing our bodies with delicious, healthy food made with love. I’m excited to be on this journey and to share it with you.

Happy Valentines Day ❤

5 Reasons to Love Fruit 

Did you know that fruit is the biggest player in a healthy, kick ass, anti-aging diet? And if you want to be your healthiest, happiest self you should be eating a few serving of this sweet, juicy goodness every single day.

raspberries Here are 5 reasons why it’s so amazing:

  1. Naturally low in fat Eating fruit can help keep you slender and keep your heart healthy too.
  1. Contain lots of water. Certain fruits like watermelon contain over 90% water. Even solid looking vegetables like carrots are made up of approximately 80% water. There isn’t a more hydrating food in the world and being hydrated means better body function and younger looking skin.
  1. Low in calories. Did you know that a 100g chocolate bar contains approximately 9 (yes – 9!) times more calories than a medium sized 100g apple. You could never become overweight from eating fruit.
  1. Contains soluble fibre. This fibre forms a jelly-like substance in your stomach and helps to make you feel full. It also lets food stay longer in the stomach, which has the effect of keeping your blood glucose nice and stable over time. When blood glucose fluctuates, it causes the ‘I need something to eat NOW’ state, which causes the not-so-good food choices we can make. Fibre also helps maintain a healthy gut and prevents constipation and other digestive problems.
  1. Vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Populations who have diets rich in fruits and vegetables have lower levels of certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Our immune system benefits as well from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

There you have it; five excellent reasons to fill up the fruit bowl.

 

Delicious Chocolates and a New Path

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not living the life you’re supposed to be living? And, when you get this feeling, is it so uncomfortable that you try to push it down and ignore it until it goes away? That’s what I do but, this time, it didn’t go away.

A bunch of bad things have happened to me recently. It started with my dog getting really, really sick (see here), then I had some dental work that went sideways and kept me in chronic pain for about a month until it was resolved. Then water started dripping out of my bedroom ceiling at an alarming rate on Jan. 30th (my upsatirs neighbor’s washer in her closet had sprung a leak), necessitating a couple of big, ugly, noisy blowers in my bedroom, my track lighting being trashed and my ceiling dotted with drilled holes and water stains. Oh, and then I broke up with my boyfriend the next day. You’d think that would be enough, right? But, no, about a week later a bunch of binders fell off a top shelf at work and the sharp edges hit me in the face, causing angry, red, stripy cuts across my nose. And that’s when I hit rock bottom emotionally. I was sad, angry, resentful, in grief over my relationship, in fear over my dog’s health and underneath it all was that niggling feeling that I wasn’t living the life I was suppose to be living.

chocolateAt the same time I cut my nose, I was hit with the flu so had to take a couple of days off of work. I was in healing/hideout mode so all I wanted to do was put on oversize sunglasses and walk along a secluded beach with my dog and think about all of these unpleasant things that have been happening and also think about that little voice telling me to change the path of my life. As, I thought about the future, the expression “It hit me in the face” kept going through my mind. Then I thought how maybe that feeling of the past few months, that I haven’t been living my best life, finally hit me in the face, both literally and metaphorically. This led me to think about my passions – psychology and nutrition. The ones I’ve been pretty much either ignoring or downplaying. Now, I love psych but I also know that I don’t have what it takes to be a full-time counsellor. I love nutrition just as much, especially raw food nutrition and I’m always making raw goodies and coming up with eating plans for people who want to lose weight or get healthier. The brambles cleared (both metaphorically and physically) and I started to see a path.

Not one to waste time when something feels right, I quickly walked home, found a local raw food nutrition institute and signed myself up. So I am now on my way to becoming a Raw Food Educator and then continuing with more nutrition and wellness courses.

To get myself in the swing of things, I made these little goodies last night. The healthiest, and maybe most delicious, chocolate you’ll ever taste.

Raw Dark Chocolates

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup organic raw cacao
  • 4 T pure maple syrup

raw-chocolatePlace all ingredients in saucepan over low heat. Stir together until melted, place in empty ice cube trays. Freeze.

These are total people pleasers. They’re a hit with healthy folks and junk food junkies too.