The secret ingredient in this chili is cauliflower – and you would never know it was there!! A member of the cruciferous family, cauliflower adds fiber, vitamins, minerals, and also helps to give it some “body.” Cauliflower is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, and sulfur – which supports the liver. But the real star of this dish is the tomatillos and poblano chili peppers – they are so delicious!! My whole family loves this one pot dinner! You could also make it in a slow cooker – but it would take longer.
Serves 6-8 people.
Note: If you don’t have time for steps 1-5 and want a quicker and easier version – you could replace steps 1-5 with a jar of green tomatillo salsa – I like the Hatch chili kind at Trader Joes.
Recipe developed by Sara Vance. All rights reserved.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
I love using fresh herbs – they really brighten up and transform a salad or soup. As far as herbs go, dill is right up there with basil and mint at the top of my list!
This dill soup is very refreshing, and easy to make – it literally whips together in about 3 minutes! And besides the broth – this is totally raw!
Dill is a wonderful herb – and can be helpful to relieve headaches, which can occasionally happen when detoxing, it is a natural anti-fungal, and has even been found to have anti-cancer properties (learn more about dill in this article from Dr. Mercola).
Do you like ginger? Ginger root is warming and calming to the digestive tract. It can help to reduce gas and indigestion, and can even help to relieve nausea and motion sickness. It has potent anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties, potentially even offering relief to arthritis and asthma sufferers.
Research published on September, 2015 found a compound in ginger to be 10,000x more potent than chemo against cancer cells, read more here.
I have been literally obsessed with ginger lately – it is featured in my Green Lemonade recipe, and it is the star of this fresh Ginger Lemonade – a wonderful way to include ginger in your life!
Ginger Lemonade Ingredients:
*avoid sugar made with sugar beets – as that is typically GMO.
Ginger Cucumber ‘Spa’ Water:
This water supports hydration, digestion and is anti-flammatory.
Put all of the ingredients into a large jar – allow the flavors to come together for a couple hours. Strain as you pour into a glass. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Learn more about Ginger:
This green lemonade recipe is my go-to favorite juice – it features alkalizing lemons & greens, warming & soothing ginger, a little sweetness and detoxifying malic acid from the granny smith apples, heavy metals-detoxifying parsley, and the celery adds organic sodium – a very important electrolyte for proper hydration and muscle/nerve support.
Ingredients (makes about 24 oz. of juice):
Directions: Put everything (except the avocado oil/chia seeds) into the juicer.* Pour desired amount into a glass, save the rest in a glass jar in refrigerator up to 1 day. Stir in the avocado oil (or if using chia seeds – stir and allow them to soak 3-5 minutes before drinking). *If you don’t have a juicer – use your blender and strain out the pulp if you like!
*Why add the chia seeds or avocado oil to this drink?
Many of the vitamins in a green drink are fat soluble, so in order for them to be properly absorbed, there needs to be a carrier – a fat source. The fat also helps to keep the blood sugar stable, which is important for a healthy metabolism. You could also have this juice with a handful of almonds, half an avocado, or you could take your fish oil supplement too!
Read more: The Key Ingredient Your Green Juice is Missing.
**Note: when making juice – I highly recommend using only organic ingredients – because each 8 oz. serving can contain 2 pounds of produce – and conventional fruits and vegetables can be treated with pesticides (especially important for the Dirty Dozen and anything that you do not remove the peel). Also – make sure to rinse (or peel) your ingredients before juicing. **
I love the Fall – the leaves are changing, there is a bit of a chill in the air, and we get to pull out the sweaters. But perhaps one of my favorite things about the Fall – is pumpkin!
Pumpkin is a member of the winter squash family – an excellent source of fiber, which supports a healthy digestive system. The deep orange color of the pumpkin flesh tells us that it is a rich source of beta carotene (vitamin A) – which is important for healthy eyes, and boosts the immune system too (important this time of year).
Growing up, it just never quite feel like Fall until my mom made a batch of her pumpkin bread. Moist, delicious, pumkin-y and fragrant with spices. But her recipe was made with white flour, lots of sugar, and vegetable oil (the recipe actually calls for ‘salad oil’). So I decided to reinvent her pumpkin bread into these delicious grain free anti-inflammatory pumpkin mini muffins – with healthy coconut oil replacing the ‘salad oil’, ground flax and coconut flour in place of the white flour, and waaaay less sugar. Plus, these are also nut free for my friends that can’t have nuts.
The plethora of spices in these muffins fill the kitchen with the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves while they bake.
Mini Pumpkin Flax Muffins
Makes about 24 mini muffins.
Serve & enjoy! These are extra yummy with a little grass fed butter on them.
I don’t think that Vitamin D gets enough credit for how important it is for our immune system to properly work, and in the fight against the flu and other viruses. Optimizing your vitamin D is perhaps is the #1 step to take to prevent the flu!!! Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D could increase your risk of getting influenza. An estimated 70% of the population is deficient in vitamin D, and because the sun is the best source – Winter and Spring tend to be when it dips the lowest (it should come as no surprise that is when colds and flu spike too!). Vitamin D is very important for cancer prevention, and also shows some promise for asthma symptoms and several skin conditions too.
Vitamin D is very important for the immune system – without sufficient Vit D, our T cells (important immune cells) can’t be activated properly. This is important for fighting the flu, and also for prevention of cancer – it is estimated that 75% of breast cancers could be prevented simply by optimizing vitamin D levels. Vitamin D also is found to be effective in preventing and treating skin conditions like eczema, psoriosis, and even recurring infections like Staph, and MRSA as well. Other signs of deficiency can be muscle aches and pains, fractures, depression, blood sugar issues, and more.
According to studies optimal Vitamin D could also benefit asthma sufferers. Asthma makes kids particularly susceptible to getting more serious complications of flu and Enterovirus.
How to get it? Sunshine is your best source – which is why it is called the sunshine vitamin. But you can also supplement – make sure your supplement has the D3 form (cholecalciferol), which is better absorbed than D2 (ergocalciferol, which is a cheaper form, and also the kind added to milk).
How much to supplement? It depends. The right amount will depend on your blood levels of vitamin D, so it is a good idea to have your vitamin D levels checked this time of year. Ideal blood levels are between 40-65 ng/dl. If your levels are really low, your doctor might prescribe a high dose to quickly boost your levels. But generally, adults can very safely take 2,000- 2,500 IU daily, and studies show that 1,200 IU for kids ages 6-15 benefits the immune system. The RDA is 600 IU for kids, and 800 IU for adults, but many physicians and experts feel that those amounts are not high enough to get levels to where they need to be. Talk to your doctor or practitioner about getting your vitamin D checked, or ask how many IU that they recommend that you/your family supplements. Also – magnesium is needed for absorption, so make sure you are getting plenty of leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, raw cacao, nuts, or taking magnesium supplements (avoid the oxide form which is poorly absorbed).
In Sanskrit, coconut trees are referred to as “Kalpa Vriksha” which means: “The tree that gives all that is necessary for life.”
This is no exaggeration, because the coconut supplies water, oil, and it’s flesh can be made into many different products from coconut milk to coconut flour, which is popular with the Paleo crowd because it is versatile, grain-free and high in fiber and nutrients. The coconut really is one of the most amazing superfoods ever.
Coconuts are technically what is called a “drupe,” which is a type of fruit.
A young coconut has a smooth green exterior, but usually when you find it in the store, that will have been removed, and it will look white. As the coconut ages, the exterior will become more brown and hairy. The flesh becomes more dense and nutritious as the coconut ages, because it soaks up more of the minerals from the water. So if you want to drink the water, make sure to get the young coconuts, because there will be more of water, and it will have more nutrients. The flesh of the young coconut is softer than the mature coconuts.
I recently discovered this really cool tool called the Coco Jack, which makes opening a young coconut a breeze (and it is fun to get a little bit of your aggressions out too). Check this video out to see how easy it is to use! It also has a cool tool that you can use to scoop out the flesh too. My 12 year old son is a coconut water snob – he only likes to drink it straight out of the coconut, and he is an expert at using the Coco Jack!
If you can’t get your hands on a young coconut, try Harmless Harvest raw coconut water – it is totally raw, so it is not pasteurized, which means it retains all the natural nutrients and tastes just like it came right from the fresh coconut – because it did!! Because it is raw, you will need to refrigerate it, and you will find it in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.
There are many different products that are made out of coconuts. One of the most amazing foods for our metabolism, is coconut oil, which is made by extracting the oil from the flesh. I like to put it in my tea or coffee every morning to stimulate my metabolism and energy. When choosing a coconut oil, make sure to look for quality unrefined, organic cold pressed virgin oils. If you are planning to cook it at a very high heat, you can use refined coconut oil. Read Cuckoo for Coconut Oil to learn more about the health benefits and uses of coconut oil.
Some of my other favorite coconut products:
One of the most interesting things about sweet potatoes, is that despite having “sweet” in their name, and tasting sweet, they are low glycemic. Low glycemic foods gradually raise your bloodsugar. Sweet potatoes spike your bloodsugar significantly less than a regular white potato!
They are a nearly perfect food with high fiber, rich in vitamins like beta carotene (which gives it’s flesh the rich orange color), and have been shown to aid in recovery for athletes. Read 15 Superfoods for Peak Performance to learn about how sweet potatoes and other foods are good for performance and recovery.
I actually prefer yams over sweet potatoes, because they are darker in color, which means richer in vitamins and nutrients (sweet potatoes and yams are often used interchangeably and confused). So this recipe should really be called yam pie – but that does not sound as good.
Last night we had roasted sweet potatoes and I sprinkled on some cinnamon and swirled in some applesauce into them. It was so good – it tasted like a cross between apple and pumpkin pie. So today I decided to recreate that yumminess with a Cinnamon Apple Sweet Potato Pie smoothie!
Cinnamon Apple Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie:
Whip this up before heading to the gym, because it is chock full of superfoods for peak performance!!
* Cinnamon is a wonderful spice for supporting healthy blood sugar levels. The more common form of cinnamon sold in the United States is cassia cinnamon. Cassia has coumarin, a compound that is toxic to the liver in high doses. Although less common in the U.S., Ceylon type of cinnamon is considered “true” cinnamon, and it does not contain coumarin. It might be a little more expensive, but I find Ceylon to be milder, a little sweeter, and more complex – definitely the best cinnamon choice!
First domesticated by the Mayans over 2,000 years ago, cacao is one of the most nutritionally complex foods on earth.
Cacao is the main ingredient in dark chocolate. The word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans.
The word cacao means “food of the gods.” It is aptly named, as cacao offers a myriad of health benefits. Raw cacao has historically been used as medicine, and was so revered, that the beans were used as currency. Although, not typically considered a sports performance food, raw cacao is definitely one superfood that athletes should consider adding to their regimen, because it delivers on so many levels.
Cacao vs. Cocoa
Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing the whole beans, which keeps all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and more unharmed. Because cocoa powder is heated and processed, it does not retain as many nutrients as the raw cacao has. So the raw cacao is superior nutritionally over cocoa. I like the brand Sunfood. They offer cacao powder, whole beans, paste, and nibs – which tastes nutty and chocolate (delicious as a topping – like in this Pumpkin Cacao Chip Smoothie)! When choosing chocolates, look for the highest percentage of cacao, which means it contains more of the cacao, and less sugar – if you can find chocolate made with raw cacao, even better.
Raw cacao has an oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score of 95,500 per 100 grams, making it one of the best sources of antioxidants, which is helpful in preventing and repairing free radical damage. Exercising increases the formation of free radicals, so a diet high in antioxidants is important for athletes. There is also evidence that diets high in antioxidants could offer protection against many different diseases.
Cacao is also one of the best food-known sources of magnesium, which has been shown in studies to be very important for athletes and heart health. Magnesium is required for over 300 enzymatic reactions, including the synthesis of fat, protein and nucleic acids, muscular contraction and relaxation, cardiac health and bone building. Magnesium improves blood flow and plays a key role in the metabolism of adenosine triphoshate (ATP), critical for aerobic and anaerobic functions.
Low magnesium levels raise our risk of heart attack and stroke, and could be to blame in cases of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. It if estimated that most Americans do not get sufficient magnesium levels, and athletes could have more serious deficiencies since exercising further depletes levels. The following symptoms can be an indicator of low magnesium levels: muscle cramping, migraines or headaches, restless leg syndrome, twitching, heart disease, and anxiety. If you do choose to supplement instead of eating raw cacao – look for the citrate, orotate, or malate forms of magnesium (not oxide which is poorly absorbed). If the magnesium causes loose stools, make sure to reduce the dose.
Because of the antioxidant capacity and magnesium levels, it should come as no surprise that a recent study published in the Journal of Physiology found that cacao may help bolster exercise endurance. Cacao is also rich in other important nutrients for athletes including potassium, iron and more. Cacao offers a long list of health benefits including reducing heart attack and stroke, lowering blood pressure, boosting mood and brain function, lowering stress, relaxing muscles, boosting our skin’s internal SPF, and much more.
Try this Choco-Banana Super Smoothie – which contains raw cacao and 5 other Superfoods!! Don’t have time to make that? grab a delicious dairy-raw raw cacao Rau drink to go!!
Boosts Blood Flow to Heart, Brain, and Ahem…Other Organs
Raw cacao is also a food to consider in the fight against heart disease and Alzheimers – cacao has been shown in studies to improve blood flow to all organs in the body. It also has been found in studies to reduce dementia, and even improve the brain’s ability to perform math problems. Cacao has a protective effects on endothelial function, important for heart health. So having a square of dark chocolate or a couple of tablespoons of raw cacao daily is actually very good for you, and could even help to prevent heart attack and stroke. Plus, unlike Viagra, which improves blood flow to one region, the flavinols in cacao improve blood flow throughout the body – including to the same organ that Viagra targets! In addition, cacao contains a compound called threobromine, which has powerful mood-enhancing qualities, and also is a mild diuretic. Dogs can not metabolize theobromine, which is why it can be toxic to dogs.
Read Sara’s article 15 Superfoods for Peak Performance to learn more about how athletes can benefit from other superfoods. Also sign up to download Sara’s free Cooking with Superfoods eBook to get some superfood recipes. Sara offers nutritional counseling, and also eCourses – Sara’s popular 1 week Break up with Sugar Program eCourse is coming up on Feb 5th – it is an online program that you can take in 1 week, or at your own pace.
The other day I drove into a Rancho Santa Fe gas station, and just as I was about to jump out to go pump my gas, the nice attendant came up and asked me “I’d be happy to pump your gas for you. Premium fuel today?” Yes, please, I respond and get back in the drivers seat. “Wow, they have good service at this gas station,” I say to my son. I glance back at the pump and notice that they also have 100 octane fuel, I had never seen that before, and boy is it expensive – over $6 a gallon! I think to myself, that must be the super premium fuel for all those Ferrari’s and other high performance cars that you see zipping around Rancho Santa Fe all the time. It stands to reason that the higher performance car you have, the higher quality of fuel it needs.
That stop at the Rancho Santa Fe gas station got me thinking about sports nutrition. Athletes are kind of like high performance cars. Just as we expect sports cars to perform better than an average car, athletes put higher demands on their body and seek superior performance. Putting the wrong gas into a Ferrari can mean lower performance, and overtime could land it in the shop for repairs or even create damage to the motor/inner workings. The same is true for young athletes – if they are choosing lots of junk food, they might not end up with optimal performance, or over time could end up with chronic inflammation and be plagued with injuries.
Endurance and elite athletes burn a significant amount of calories, so they can and need to regularly eat a lot of calories to replenish their energy reserves. But just because they can polish off a box of donuts or a large soda and a couple 20 piece nuggets and still not gain weight, does not mean that they should. Just like a Ferrari, athletes should consider putting in the best possible fuel if they want peak performance.
Because of the extra demands they put on their bodies, it is important for athletes to consume a diet rich in plant-based foods, high quality (ideally grass-fed) protein sources, plenty of healthy fats, and limit nutrient-deficient and inflammation-causing foods (foods that contain a lot of sugar, trans fats, or too many omega 6 fats – found in vegetable oils, soy oils, etc).
One of the best foods an athlete can add to their training regime are superfoods. Superfoods are highly nutrient dense foods that provide an abundance of nutrition and can potentially improve performance and overall health…kind of like “super premium” fuel.
At the top of my list of functional foods for athletes are these 15 superfoods.
15 Superfoods for Peak Performance:
© copyright 2016 Sara Vance