Cinnamon Apple Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

June 10, 2014
smoothie

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:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cooked sweet potato/or yam (I prefer using roasted) – you could also use pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds
  • 6 raw cashews (ideally soak for 2-6 hours, then drain) – you could use 1-2 Tablespoons hemp hearts, or a scoop of vanilla Warrior Blend protein powder instead – this adds creaminess
  • 2-3 Tablespoons organic applesauce (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon* (or more if you prefer – I do!)
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, or raw coconut meat (supports energy & metabolism)
  • dash of pink Himalayan salt (I add this to all my smoothies – brings out the sweetness, flavors, boosts the trace minerals, supports the adrenals).
  • Splash of pure vanilla extract.
  • Ice as needed to thicken

Directions:

  1. Put the water and coconut water into the blender, add the chia seeds and let them soak for 3-5 mins.
  2. Then add in the rest of the ingredients – blend.
  3. Add ice as desired to thicken.
  4. Taste and adjust.
  5. Serve & enjoy!

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!

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari Press) will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2015. You can download her Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet now for free. A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, Sara used to be a sugar junkie too. She offers consultations, corporate nutrition, monthly cooking classes, and affordable online programs.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or a medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medication.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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15 Superfoods for Peak Performance

January 21, 2014
bigstock-chia-seeds-in-a-rustic-oval-wo-40769023

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:

  1. Chia Seeds – Without a doubt, chia seeds are my number one recommendation for athletes. An ancient Aztec superfood, chia seeds gave the Aztec warriors the long-lasting energy and endurance they needed to go into battle.  Chia seeds are an essential addition to the athletes’ diet, boosting endurance, energy, hydration, focus/attention, and reducing inflammation.  Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, and are also high in fiber, protein, and have a number of minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium – all important for athletes.  Omega 3s are proven brain and mood food, which can help athletes with focus and attention – to keep their head in the game. Omega 3s are shown to lower inflammation – which is helpful to reduce inflammation – critical for recovery and injury prevention.  Unlike flax, chia is rich in antioxidants, which means it will not go rancid after grinding, and helps to prevent free radical damage.  Chia seed are uniquely hydrophillic, so when they come in contact with water, they form a gel-like substance.  This chia gel slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to level out bloodsugar and maintain energy/endurance.  Chia gel also holds on to water, which helps to maintain hydration – very important for an athlete  Always make sure to consume chia seeds with plenty of water or liquids to prevent dehydration, I like to soak the chia seeds for about 5 minutes before consuming to ensure they are hydrated.
  2. Raw Cacao – Exercising increases the formation of free radicals, so a diet high in antioxidants is important for athletes.  One of the most nutritionally complex foods on earth, 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 free radical damage. But perhaps what is even more important for athletes is that cacao is one of the best food sources of magnesium. 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. Cacao is also rich in potassium, iron, polyphenols, flavanols, theobromine, and proanthocyanidins.  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.  A recent Journal of Physiology study suggests that antioxidants in cacao may help bolster exercise endurance. Try this Choco-Banana Super Smoothie – which contains 5 Superfoods for Performance (chia seeds, cacao, coconut water, pink Himalayan salt, and banana).
  3. Coconut water – often referred to as nature’s Gatorade, coconut water is an excellent hydration tool, naturally rich in electrolytes and also a source of natural quick energy.  When athletes sweat, they lose fluids and electroytes, coconut water helps to replenish the lost fluids, electrolytes, and also provides a natural source of carbohydrate to replenish lost glycogen (energy) stores.
  4. Himalayan Sea Salt – along with fluids, athletes lose sodium and other minerals when they exercise and sweat, which need to be replenished.  High quality air dried sea salts or pink Himalayan salts contain beneficial minerals and trace minerals that are missing from table salts.  Table salts also contain anti-clumping additives which are not in natural sea salts.  I recommend that athletes use only the highest quality salts when they are making foods at home – put a pinch of Himalayan salt into smoothies (it brings out the sweetness and flavors too!), and always cook with high quality salts, which along with the sodium contain a number of important minerals that the body needs.  Sometimes when we crave salty foods, our bodies are seeking minerals – which are lacking in processed and packaged foods.
  5. Bananas – are a an excellent complex carbohydrate to consume 30 minutes before a race, one banana contains approximately 467mg of potassium, an energy-supplying electrolyte which provides protection to the cardiovascular system. Green tipped bananas contain a prebiotic which aids in digestion and the body’s ability to absorb calcium.  High in vitamin B6, bananas help to support sleep, neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), and white blood cell formation. Bananas are also known for minimizing muscle cramping.  Slice them and top cereals, oatmeal, or add them to smoothies.
  6. Coconut Oil – might seem like an odd food to include in a list of superfoods for athletes.  But it is a very unique fat that can offer athletes a lot of benefits.  First, it is a medium chain fatty acid, which is more readily converted to energy by the body, so it is also less likely to be stored as fat.  Coconut oil is more easily digested, it is less likely to cause stomach upset than other fats. Coconut oil is also a natural antiviral and antibacterial, which supports a healthy immune system.  It can be used topically as well to help with skin irritation and dryness. I recommend adding a teaspoon of coconut oil to your morning smoothie, or oatmeal.
  7. Sweet Potatoes – Despite their naturally sweet taste, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index which means they can be absorbed and used gradually, preventing the blood sugar from spiking and crashing. Sweet potatoes have been shown to improve blood sugar, even in Type 2 Diabetics. One of the best sources of beta-carotene, sweet potatoes raise our blood levels of vitamin A, which is a fat soluble vitamin and is best absorbed when eaten with some dietary fat, so don’t be afraid to put a little grass-fed butter on them!  That will help you absorb the nutrients!  Sweet potatoes are a good carbohydrate source for athletes and also helpful in preventing inflammation, which aids in recovery.
  8. Teff – The word teff means ‘lost,’ a reference to the fact that the grains are so small that if you dropped them, they will be nearly impossible to find. An ancient North African cereal grass, teff has an good balance of B vitamins, amino acids/protein, calcium, zinc, and is an excellent source of iron to help prevent anemia. Teff has as much protein as an egg, is gluten free, and has a nutty, molasses-like flavor.
  9. Berries – Eating foods high in antioxidants is critical for athletes, who can suffer up to 200 times the free radical damage compared to their less active counterparts.  Scientists have found that a diet rich in antioxidants may help with exercise recovery by reducing muscular damage. Blueberries, acai, pomegrante, and goji berries are all good sources of antioxidants.  Berries are also a good source of fiber.  Snack on them, or toss them into a smoothie or on top of your cereal.  Dried berries are a good addition to trail mixes.
  10. Almonds – a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, riboflavin, monounsaturated fats and protein; almonds are nutritional powerhouses.  A small handful of almonds a few times a week can be helpful in lowering cholesterol, and preventing heart disease.  Almonds are useful in nervous system and muscle recovery. Other tree nuts are also beneficial, such as cashews, walnuts and Brazil nuts.
  11. Kale – High in nutrients like vitamin K, magnesium, vitamin C, calcium, folate, zinc and iron, kale is one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet. Sneak some into your smoothie, or chop it up and add it to soups, or omelettes – kale packs a big punch.
  12. Quinoa – Often considered a grain, quinoa is not a grain, but a seed.  Naturally gluten free, quinoa is a good replacement for grains.  It contains high levels of both carbohydrates and protein, with all nine essential amino acids, which are critical to many biochemical functions. Quinoa has a rich history as a sports nutrition tool. The Incas used it to increase the stamina of their warriors, helping them to run long distances at high altitudes. Quinoa is a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium and calcium.
  13. Raisins – offer a quick source of concentrated energy, and are also a good source of potassium and magnesium, which helps to balance our body’s pH, and also is important for athletes to replenish when they work out and sweat.  Raisins also contain calcium, and a substance called boron, both of which are important in building strong bones.  Athletes need to make sure they are getting plenty of bone-building nutrients to prevent stress fractures and breaks.  Raisins also contain fiber, which helps promote good digestion.
  14. Hemp Seeds – an excellent vegan source of easily digested protein, hemp seeds contain all 10 essential amino acids. Just 3 Tablespoons of Hemp Seeds = 11 grams of protein. Hemp seeds provides an array of minerals including zinc, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Hemp seeds contain a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, hemp seeds contain an especially beneficial type of omega-6 fat called GLA (gamma linolenic acid), which supports anti-inflammatory hormones and facilitates fat-burning.
  15. Avocados – are full of healthy fats that help to reduce our inflammation, boost the absorption of certain vitamins (fat-soluble ones), and are actually a high fiber food. Avocados are a good source of carotenoids, vitamin K, vitamins B5 & B6, vitamin c, folate and potassium. Avocados promote bone and heart health, and help manage blood sugar.  Adding avocados to smoothies can make them light and fluffy and boost the fiber, vitamin content, and help to keep you satisfied longer.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari Press) will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2015. You can download her Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet now for free. A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, Sara used to be a sugar junkie too. She offers consultations, corporate nutrition, monthly cooking classes, and affordable online programs.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or a medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medication.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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New Year’s Eve Hangover Prevention

December 27, 2013
bigstock-champagne-with-fireworks-7148289
Categories: Chia, Detox, Holidays, Hydration

As you navigate the party circuit this New Years Eve, here are some tips to help you plan ahead and avoid the ole’ dreaded hangover.  Also, watch this segment on Fox 5 San Diego.
Let’s first understand how alcohol affects the body. Approximately 20% of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and most of the remaining 80% is absorbed through the small intestine.  So making sure to eat something before your first cocktail is important. Then the liver goes to work – it sends out enzymes to break down and metabolize the alcohol. Generally, the liver can only process one ounce of alcohol (approx. one standard drink) on average in one hour. Consuming more than the liver can metabolize, causes alcohol to accumulate in the blood and body tissues.  Women shouldn’t try to keep up pace with their male counterparts – women tend to be affected by alcohol more than men for several reasons:

  • Women have less water in their bodies by volume, they will dilute alcohol less than men.
  • Women have less dehydrogenase, a liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol, so they will break it down slower.
  • Estrogen can also slow down the body’s ability to process alcohol.
  • Consuming more alcohol than the liver can process, will cause the alcohol to accumulate in the blood and tissues. Ethanol is metabolized into acetaldehyde, which is a toxin.  Until it can be broken down into acetic acid, the body will be experiencing the negative effects of the acetaldehyde.
  • Ethanol increases urine production, and therefore dehydrates us.  Dehydration is one of the reasons we feel terrible the next morning after one too many drinks.  Severe dehydration can not only make you uncomfortable, but it can be life-threatening.  So preventing dehydration is one key to preventing a hangover and staying safe.  One way to prevent dehydration is to make sure to alternate water in between your alcoholic drinks, this will help you stay hydrated, and keep blood alcohol from rising too quickly.
  • Some of the preservatives, sulfites and chemicals in wine and alcoholic beverages can add to the burden on the liver and make you feel crummy the next day, so using more natural alternatives will help lighten the liver’s toxic load.
  • Alcohol can be really tough on our stomach lining, which can make us feel nauseated and sick.
  • Drinking alcohol can also affect our bloodsugar levels – one reason that we might not sleep as well after having a drink too many – our blood sugar can drop in the middle of the night, and wake us up.  Another reason is the glutamine rebound, read more about that here.
  • 7 Natural Hangover Prevention Tips:

    If you are heading to a party, a little planning today can go a long way to make tomorrow better…

    1. Chia seeds – soaks up about 10 times it’s weight in water, creating a gel – this gel slows the absorption of alcohol into blood stream, and helps to keep you hydrated. You never want to drink on an empty stomach!!  Add some chia seeds to a smoothie or grab a Mamma Chia drink or squeeze pack.  Always make sure to take chia seeds with plenty of fluids, it is best if you let them soak for a few minutes before ingesting them too.  Read Prehydrate with Chia to learn more.
    2. Coconut oil - multiple studies show that the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil protect the liver.  So if I am going to have a drink or two, I like to have a teaspoon of coconut oil first.  Add it to tea, a smoothie, or stir it into your Mamma Chia drink!
    3. Coconut water – called “Natures Gatorade,” coconut water provides the body with more potassium than a banana, a daily supply of vitamins C, and other important vitamins and minerals.  Coconut water provides electrolytes to help prevent dehydration.
    4. Beet juice – rich in a class of antioxidants called betalains, beets are well known for detoxifying the liver, also provide loads of energy (Olympic athletes use beet juice for training – and they say it is like legal blood doping!).  So instead of an energy drink before the party – take a shot of beet juice, it will give you energy and get your liver ready to do it’s work!!
    5. Vitamins B & C – alcohol depletes the body of vitamins and minerals – taking a multivitamin with B & C helps with alcohol metabolism & replenish the lost vitamins.
    6. Magnesium – alcohol consumption depletes magnesium, and low magnesium can bring on migraines among other symptoms (restless legs, eye twitches, muscle aches & pains).  Low magnesium levels even raise our risk of heart attack and stroke.  The majority of Americans are deficient in magnesium, so I recommend that most people take supplemental magnesium.  Magnesium is also responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body.  Too much magnesium can lead to loose stools, so start with a low dose initially.
    7. Skip the “house margarita,” it probably is made with cheap tequila and a premade mix. A lot of premade mixers contain preservatives, artificial colors, HFCS, and other chemicals that will just add to the toxic load on your liver.  Fructose was shown in multiple studies to boost alcohol metabolism by as much as 80%, so using fresh fruit juice and/or organic agave nectar in place of processed mixers to sweeten your drinks is a better choice than a premade mix with chemicals and preservatives.

    Moderation – perhaps the most important step in avoiding a hangover is to practice moderation – make sure you do not drink on an empty stomach, limit yourself to no more than what your liver can process (about 1 drink per hour), and make sure to alternate with fresh filtered water to stay hydrated.

    3 Natural Hangover Treatments:

    Already overdid it? The old adage “hair of the dog” is just going to delay the inevitable pain and discomfort so…instead, try some of these alternative remedies.

    1. Drink artichoke, turmeric*, ginger & lemon tea (“Ultimate Detox” recipe below) – this is the ultimate detox drink – I love to make this in the Summer and drink it on ice even if I did not drink at all the night before – it is yummy!
      Turmeric Roots

      Turmeric root

      • turmeric* will help to reduce the pain & inflammation (puffy eyes, anyone?) – it is kind of like nature’s Advil.
      • ginger helps with stomach upset (natural Pepto)
      • artichoke is detoxifying to the liver, also helpful in lowering cholesterol!
      • lemon will help to support the liver detox and balance out your pH.
      • High quality mineral-rich celtic or pink Himalayan salt helps to replenish sodium that is lost from dehydration
      • Add in a touch of agave – because the fructose will help to metabolize any of the alcohol that is left.  
    2. Put an electrolyte & vitamin C pack into your water – don’t have any fresh ginger and turmeric root laying around? Then grab one of those electrolyte vitamin packs – and stir it into a tall glass of water – it will help to replace the lost electrolytes and vitamins and help you feel better.
    3. Have a banana or some coconut water – both are excellent sources of potassium – which alcohol depletes. Bananas also soothe the stomach – and alcohol can damage the stomach lining and make you feel nauseated.

    If you do decide to take a pain reliever the next day – avoid acetaminophen – because it can harm the already overtaxed liver.

    Ultimate Detox Tea Recipe:

    Ingredients:

    • organic artichoke (can’t find an organic artichoke?  Skip it then – artichokes can be high in pesticides and the last thing you need is pesticide tea. This is delicious with or without the artichoke!)
    • one 2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled
    • one 1 inch piece of turmeric* root, peeled
    • The juice from 3 organic lemons
    • 1/8 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt (or Celtic sea salt, or Real Salt)
    • agave and/or stevia to taste

    Directions:  Thoroughly rinse the artichoke – making sure to get dirt out between leaves.  Cut it lengthwise twice, so it is in 4 pieces. Peel the turmeric and the ginger, cut into a few slices (use a spoon to peel, that is the best way!).  Put the artichoke, ginger and turmeric root into a large pot filled with filtered water (about 8-10 cups) over high heat – once it comes to a rolling boil, turn it down to a simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.  Take it off the heat and allow it to cool in the pot for about 20-30 mins.  When it is cooled, strain it and put it into a glass jar. Squeeze in the juice from 3 lemons, add in the salt, and approx. 2 teaspoons of agave and 10 drops of stevia liquid (or your choice of sweetener – add more or less as you like, to taste).  Serve over ice, or room temperature if you prefer (I like it iced).

    NOTE: As with all herbs and supplements, please consult your doctor if you are on medication before taking this tea.  Herbs can very powerful and may interfere with and interact with medications! 

    *Contraindications: Turmeric should not be used by people with gallstones or bile obstruction. Though turmeric is often used by pregnant women, it is important to consult with a doctor before doing so as turmeric can be a uterine stimulant.

    Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose book
    The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari Press) will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2015. You can download her Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet now for free. A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, Sara used to be a sugar junkie too. She offers consultations, corporate nutrition, monthly cooking classes, and affordable online programs.

    *This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or a medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medication.

    ©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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    Hydrating Foods to Beat the Heat

    August 5, 2013
    watermelon
    As the thermostat goes up, so does the body’s requirement for fluids.  Dehydration can occur when the body loses fluids, does not take in enough – or a combination of the two.  When the body loses a significant enough amount of fluids, lost electrolytes should also be replenished along with the lost water.  Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge and are important for the proper functioning of nerves, muscles, and to maintain proper fluid levels in the blood and cells. The minerals sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chlorine and phosphate are all electrolytes.

     

    According to some recent studies, certain plant-based foods hydrate better than plain ole’ water, because in addition to their high water content, they come paired with natural electrolytes, minerals, and vitamins.  So eating plenty of plant based foods, or having a glass of freshly pressed organic juice is a great way to rehydrate the body on a hot day.

     

    Move over Gatorade, and make room for these naturally hydrating foods:

     

    • Watermelon: Over 90% water, watermelons also contain many of the things the body loses with sweating – including natural sugars, calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium.  Rich in beta carotene, vitamin C and lycopene, watermelon is also helpful in protecting the body from free radical damage that comes with exercise and sun exposure. Lycopene was even shown to provide the body with a little bit of internal sunscreen (read more: Eat Your Sunscreen).
    • Celery: Crunching on celery sticks on a hot day can help to return lost sodium and potassium to the body.  Sodium gets a bad rap, but the body needs organic sodium – which is found in foods like celery, coconut, and high quality natural salts like pink Himalayan. Sodium works in conjunction with potassium to regulate fluids and nutrients in cells and is important for maintaining mineral balances, digestion, metabolism, nerve function, and more.  I also love to add a few celery stalks to my fresh pressed juice too!
    • Grapes: An excellent source of potassium and manganese, grapes can help us stay cool and hydrated. They also contain resveratrol – a nutrient associated with anti-aging, anti-inflammation, and many other benefits, so grapes can help keep us looking and feeling young.  There is almost nothing more refreshing than a handful of grapes on a hot summer day, except maybe frozen grapes!  Pop some grapes into the freezer – they are kind of like nature’s popsicle.
    • Cucumber: Another high water content vegetable, cucumbers are also a good source of vitamin C, and an anti-inflammatory compound called caffeic acid, which is why putting cucumber slices on your eyes can help reduce puffiness.  Cucumbers are a refreshing addition to a salad and are great in a fresh pressed juice.
    • Coconut water: Referred to as “nature’s Gatorade,” coconut water supports hydration with 5 different electrolytes – sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium.  Coconut water so closely matches the profile of human blood, that it has been used as intravenous fluid in a pinch.  In addition to it’s hydrating properties, coconut water is a good recovery tool for athletes because it also contains natural sugars to help to replenish lost glycogen stores.

    Some other foods, that despite not being high in water content, when paired with fluids, can help to rehydrate (and even prehydrate) the body as well:

    • Avocado: One regular avocado contains almost twice as much potassium as a banana! Avocados also contain phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, and zinc – which is important for carbohydrate and protein metabolism.  Avocados are rich in vitamins B, C, E & K, and are also surprisingly high in fiber – with 1/2 an avocado containing almost 7 grams!  The healthy fats in avocados can help us to feel satisfied, provide us with lasting energy, and are a great addition to a salad because they boost the body’s ability to absorb fat soluble vitamins.
    • Chia Seeds:  Chia seeds are not high in water content, but they are a great hydration tool because they are uniquely hydrophilic – meaning each little seed can absorb approximately 10-12 times of it’s own weight in water.  When chia seeds come into contact with fluids, it soaks them up and creates a gel. Chia gel can prolong hydration by retaining electrolytes in body fluids, making it an excellent tool for hydration.  Always make sure to take chia seeds with plenty of water, or they will soak up fluids internally, potentially increasing dehydration.  A great addition to a smoothie, athletes can use chia gel to pre-hydrate before their workout or competition.  Read Pre-hydrate with Chia to learn more.
    • Sea vegetables: Not your typical sports nutrition food, seaweed and other sea vegetables should be in more athletes’ bags!  Containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean, when taken with water, seaweed is an excellent hydration tool for replenishing lost minerals from sweating.  Seaweed are rich in calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vanadium, and zinc.  Perhaps best known for their iodine content – sea vegetables like kelp can be useful for boosting the function of the thyroid gland.
    On hot Summer days, I love to start my day with a hydrating smoothie or chia pudding, and then refuel later with a refreshing and energizing fresh pressed juice.  Find my healthy chia pudding and “green lemonade” recipes in my free Cooking with Superfoods ebook.
    Watch this segment on Hydrating Foods on Fox 5 San Diego, August 2013.

    Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose book
    The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari Press) will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2015. You can download her Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet now for free. A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, Sara used to be a sugar junkie too. She offers consultations, corporate nutrition, monthly cooking classes, and affordable online programs.

    *This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or a medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medication.

    ©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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    Natural Hangover Prevention & Treatment

    July 15, 2013
    bigstock-chia-seeds-in-a-rustic-oval-wo-40769023

    With Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack this Wednesday, and Comic Con this weekend – this is one of the biggest party weeks of the year in San Diego.  So as you navigate the party circuit, here are some tips to help you plan ahead and avoid the ole’ dreaded hangover.

    Let’s first understand how alcohol affects the body. Approximately 20% of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and most of the remaining 80% is absorbed through the small intestine.  So making sure to eat something before your first cocktail is important. Then the liver goes to work – it sends out enzymes to break down and metabolize the alcohol. Generally, the liver can only process one ounce of alcohol (approx. one standard drink) on average in one hour. Consuming more than the liver can metabolize, causes alcohol to accumulate in the blood and body tissues.  Women shouldn’t try to keep up pace with their male counterparts – women tend to be affected by alcohol more than men for several reasons:

    • Women have less water in their bodies by volume, they will dilute alcohol less than men.
    • Women have less dehydrogenase, a liver enzyme that breaks down alcohol, so they will break it down slower.
    • Estrogen can also slow down the body’s ability to process alcohol.

    Hangover Causes:

    • Consuming more alcohol than the liver can process, will cause the alcohol to accumulate in the blood and tissues. Ethanol is metabolized into acetaldehyde, which is a toxin.  Until it can be broken down into acetic acid, the body will be experiencing the negative effects of the acetaldehyde.
    • Ethanol increases urine production, and therefore dehydrates us.  Dehydration is one of the reasons we feel terrible the next morning after one too many drinks.  Severe dehydration can not only make you uncomfortable, but it can be life-threatening.  So preventing dehydration is one key to preventing a hangover and staying safe.  One way to prevent dehydration is to make sure to alternate water in between your alcoholic drinks, this will help you stay hydrated, and keep blood alcohol from rising too quickly.
    • Some of the preservatives, sulfites and chemicals in wine and alcoholic beverages can add to the burden on the liver and make you feel crummy the next day, so using more natural alternatives will help lighten the liver’s toxic load.
    • Alcohol can be really tough on our stomach lining, which can make us feel nauseated and sick.
    • Drinking alcohol can also affect our bloodsugar levels – one reason that we might not sleep as well after having a drink too many – our blood sugar can drop in the middle of the night, and wake us up.  Another reason is the glutamine rebound, read more about that here.

    7 Natural Hangover Prevention Tips:

    If you are heading to a party, a little planning today can go a long way to make tomorrow better…

    1. Chia seeds – soaks up about 10 times it’s weight in water, creating a gel – this gel slows the absorption of alcohol into blood stream, and helps to keep you hydrated. You never want to drink on an empty stomach!!  Add some chia seeds to a smoothie or grab a Mamma Chia drink or squeeze pack.  Always make sure to take chia seeds with plenty of fluids, it is best if you let them soak for a few minutes before ingesting them too.  Read Prehydrate with Chia to learn more.
    2. Coconut oil - multiple studies show that the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil protect the liver.  So if I am going to have a drink or two, I like to have a teaspoon of coconut oil first.  Add it to tea, a smoothie, or stir it into your Mamma Chia drink!
    3. Coconut water – called “Natures Gatorade,” coconut water provides the body with more potassium than a banana, a daily supply of vitamins C, and other important vitamins and minerals.  Coconut water provides electrolytes to help prevent dehydration.
    4. Beet juice – rich in a class of antioxidants called betalains, beets are well known for detoxifying the liver, also provide loads of energy (Olympic athletes use beet juice for training – and they say it is like legal blood doping!).  So instead of an energy drink before the party – take a shot of beet juice, it will give you energy and get your liver ready to do it’s work!!
    5. Vitamins B & C – alcohol depletes the body of vitamins and minerals – taking a multivitamin with B & C helps with alcohol metabolism & replenish the lost vitamins.
    6. Magnesium – alcohol consumption depletes magnesium, and low magnesium can bring on migraines among other symptoms (restless legs, eye twitches, muscle aches & pains).  Low magnesium levels even raise our risk of heart attack and stroke.  The majority of Americans are deficient in magnesium, so I recommend that most people take supplemental magnesium.  Magnesium is also responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body.  Too much magnesium can lead to loose stools, so start with a low dose initially.
    7. Skip the “house margarita,” it probably is made with cheap tequila and a premade mix. A lot of premade mixers contain preservatives, artificial colors, HFCS, and other chemicals that will just add to the toxic load on your liver.  Fructose was shown in multiple studies to boost alcohol metabolism by as much as 80%, so using fresh fruit juice and/or organic agave nectar in place of processed mixers to sweeten your drinks is a better choice than a premade mix with chemicals and preservatives.

    Moderation – perhaps the most important step in avoiding a hangover is to practice moderation – make sure you do not drink on an empty stomach, limit yourself to no more than what your liver can process (about 1 drink per hour), and make sure to alternate with fresh filtered water to stay hydrated.

    3 Natural Hangover Treatments:

    Already overdid it? The old adage “hair of the dog” is just going to delay the inevitable pain and discomfort so…instead, try some of these alternative remedies.

    1. Drink artichoke, turmeric*, ginger & lemon tea (“Ultimate Detox” recipe below) – this is the ultimate detox drink – I love to make this in the Summer and drink it on ice even if I did not drink at all the night before – it is yummy!
      Turmeric Roots

      Turmeric root

      • turmeric* will help to reduce the pain & inflammation (puffy eyes, anyone?) – it is kind of like nature’s Advil.
      • ginger helps with stomach upset (natural Pepto)
      • artichoke is detoxifying to the liver, also helpful in lowering cholesterol!
      • lemon will help to support the liver detox and balance out your pH.
      • salt helps to replenish lost sodium
      • Add in a touch of agave – because the fructose will help to metabolize any of the alcohol that is left.  
    2. Put an electrolyte & vitamin C pack into your water – don’t have any fresh ginger and turmeric root laying around? Then grab one of those electrolyte vitamin packs – and stir it into a tall glass of water – it will help to replace the lost electrolytes and vitamins and help you feel better.
    3. Have a banana or some coconut water – both are excellent sources of potassium – which alcohol depletes. Bananas also soothe the stomach – and alcohol can damage the stomach lining and make you feel nauseated.

    If you do decide to take a pain reliever the next day – avoid acetaminophen – because it can harm the liver if there is still alcohol in the system.

    Ultimate Detox Tea Recipe:

    Ingredients:

    • organic artichoke (can’t find an organic artichoke?  Skip it then – artichokes can be high in pesticides and the last thing you need is pesticide tea. This is delicious with or without the artichoke!)
    • one 2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled
    • one 1 inch piece of turmeric* root, peeled
    • 3 organic lemons
    • 1/8 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt (or Celtic sea salt, or Real Salt)
    • agave and/or stevia to taste

    Directions:  Thoroughly rinse the artichoke – making sure to get dirt out between leaves.  Cut it lengthwise twice, so it is in 4 pieces. Peel the turmeric and the ginger, cut into a few slices (use a spoon to peel, that is the best way!).  Put the artichoke, ginger and turmeric root into a large pot filled with filtered water (about 8-10 cups) over high heat – once it comes to a rolling boil, turn it down to a simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.  Take it off the heat and allow it to cool in the pot for about 20-30 mins.  When it is cooled, strain it and put it into a glass jar. Squeeze in the juice from 3 lemons, add in the salt, and approx. 2 teaspoons of agave and 10 drops of stevia liquid (or your choice of sweetener – add more or less as you like, to taste).  Serve over ice, or room temperature if you prefer (I like it iced).

    NOTE: As with all herbs and supplements, please consult your doctor if you are on medication before taking this tea.  Herbs can very powerful and may interfere with and interact with medications! 

    *Contraindications: Turmeric should not be used by people with gallstones or bile obstruction. Though turmeric is often used by pregnant women, it is important to consult with a doctor before doing so as turmeric can be a uterine stimulant.

    Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose book
    The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari Press) will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2015. You can download her Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet now for free. A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, Sara used to be a sugar junkie too. She offers consultations, corporate nutrition, monthly cooking classes, and affordable online programs.

    *This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or a medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medication.

    ©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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    The Fine Art of Fermentation

    April 2, 2013
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    Fermentation is quickly becoming one of the hottest new trends in the food industry. Perhaps it is the health benefits, the complex and deep flavors, the energy boost fermented foods and drinks offer; or maybe it is that you feel like you have stepped into your own science lab when you are making them.

    What is fermentation?

    Fermentation is the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeast, or other micro-organisms; the process of fermentation converts carbohydrates into lactic acid.  The process of fermentation is a method of preserving foods that not only keeps the minerals and vitamins alive, it can even manufacture new ones!  Foods that have been fermented contain beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and vitamins that can improve our digestion, boost our immune systems, and provide energy.  Fermentation can turn regular foods into superfoods!

    In contrast, much of the food found in today’s big grocery stores is basically dead.  When food is processed most of the natural minerals, fibers and vitamins are removed, so it is then “enriched” to put back some vitamins and minerals. Processed foods are often filled with other things our bodies do not need such as chemicals, preservatives, colorings, and additives.

    The Health Benefits

    The process of fermentation creates foods and drinks that are filled with bacteria, and sometimes yeasts.  Why would we want to eat foods that will introduce bacteria into our bodies?  The human body has more bacterial cells than human cells, with over 3 pounds of bacteria in the digestive system alone.  According to this article, “The human body should have 20 times more beneficial bacteria than cells to maintain a healthy intestinal tract and help fight illness and disease.” Read The Importance of Good Bacteria to learn more.

    Fermenting also breaks food down into more easily digestible compounds. For example, some people who lack the ability to digest milk, are able to digest yogurt or kefir – because fermentation turns lactose into Lactobacillius, a type of lactic acid bacteria that assists in the digestion of milk and other foods.

    Fermenting boosts some of the vitamin content of that food, creating new nutrients that were not there before.  For example, fermentation can produce vitamin K, which is important for calcium absorption and bone health; it also produces several different B vitamins, which provide energy and are important for manufacturing neurotransmitters.  Fermentation also preserves foods, and can remove some of the ‘anti nutrients.’  Grains, beans and soybeans all contain phytic acids, which block mineral absorption and interfere with digestion.  Fermentation removes phytic acid and breaks them down to improve digestion and absorption.

    Rich Cultural History

    Fermentation has been around for centuries, it was a natural way to preserve foods.  In 1850, scientist Louis Pasteur was the first to study fermentation. Many different cultures around the world use fermented foods.

    • The Korean Food Research Institute estimates that the average adult Korean eats more than a quarter pound of Kimchi daily!
    • Miso and Natto, both derived from fermented soybeans, are used in Japanese cuisine.
    • Indian cultures use fermented chutneys, and make dosa which are fermented pancakes.
    • Kombucha, a fermented tea, has been around for over 2,000 years.  In ancient China, kombucha was purportedly considered a remedy for immortality. Now it is one of the hottest health food trends around.
    • In the Tropics, cassava root is placed in holes in the ground and left to ferment until it is sweet and soft.
    • Fermented pickles and cabbage are traditions for Jewish cultures from Poland, Lithuania and Russia.
    • Kvass is popular in Russia, it is a drink made from fermented Rye bread.
    • Scandinavian’s eat a fermented fish, called Rakfisk.
    • Many cultures regularly eat yogurt, kefir, buttermilk and creme fraiche, which is generally made from fermented dairy products.

    How Are Foods Fermented?

    Almost any food can be fermented, and there are several methods for fermenting.  Some methods of fermentation require a starter culture that contains certain strains of bacteria and/or yeasts. Wild fermentation does not require a starter culture, generally it relies on salt and the exchange of air to ferment.  Kombucha is different, as it uses a mother culture called a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), that is sometimes referred to as a mushroom – although my son says it looks like a big flat jellyfish. Each time a new batch of kombucha is made, it produces a new SCOBY, called a baby.  To make kombucha, you brew tea (generally black), and add in sugar.  The sugar is not to sweeten the tea however, it is the food for the SCOBY!  So the longer the kombucha ferments, the less sugar that is left!  I like to also do a second ferment with a little fresh pressed ginger and mango juice, or fresh berries.  The second ferment is put into bottles and sealed and left to ferment about 3-5 more days.  The second ferment is what makes the kombucha bubbly. It creates pressure inside the bottle, so be careful opening it – I have experienced a geyser in my kitchen after letting the second ferment go a day too long (so now I open them outside usually!)!

    What is the Difference Between Pickling and Fermentation?

    Foods that are pickled are cured in vinegar, and must be heated, which destroys the live enzymes of the foods.  Whereas vinegar is created as a by-product of fermentation, and there is no heat applied (with some exceptions such as yogurt – because the milk is heated, and sourdough breads – which are baked).  Because you have to wait for the fermentation to happen, it takes longer than pickling.  So take pickles for example. Most pickles were made by combining salt, vinegar and cucumbers, and heating.  They also sometimes add preservatives, and a surprising number of them also contain artificial colors.  So those pickles do not contain any beneficial bacteria, and are not a health food.  But fermented pickles are extremely healthy, and one of the easiest things to make.

    Good things come to those who wait….

    In an era of fast food, eating on the go, and processed and packaged snacks; food that takes days (sometimes weeks) to prepare sounds like an oddity.  Fermented foods and beverages take time to create.  Who would want to make something that could not be enjoyed right away?  It turns out that a lot of people are becoming interested in fermentation.  I decided that not only is it good for my gut, immune system, and energy – it is also good for my character, because I have to practice patience while I wait for my kombucha and fermentations to mature.  They are worth the “wait” and their weight in gold.

    For devotees that want to go the route of instant gratification – stores like Whole Foods have dedicated whole cases to kombucha and other fermented drinks, and also offer several different brands of raw sauerkraut and fermented cabbages.  But a growing number of people are getting into creating their own fermented vegetables, kimchi, kombucha, and yogurts at home.

    Beware of Imposters

    Not surprisingly, the processed food industry is trying to get in on all the hype. This recent article in the Wall Street Journal revealed that fermented “flavors” are starting to sneak into snack foods like chips. But trying to recreate these complex flavors in a lab is proving difficult, and even if they can get the flavors close – these processed foods offer none of the same benefit as real fermented foods.

    Fermented Cabbage Slaw: Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 4.54.42 PM

    For the fermenting “newby”, fermented cabbage is a great place to start, because all you need is cabbage, a jar, some salt, and some time. If you want to make something a little more layered, add some herbs and spices, or try this recipe:

    • 1 large (or 2 small) head of cabbage (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced using mandoline
    • 1/2 onion, grated
    • 2 carrots, grated
    • 1 apple, grated
    • 2-3 Tablespoons of grated celery root (optional)
    • 1 green pepper, thinly sliced on mandoline
    • 5 teaspoons of Celtic sea salt (to taste)
    • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
    • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano (or to taste)
    • 1/8 teaspoon mustard seeds (or to taste)

    Prepare vegetables, and put into a large bowl.  Put in salt, and stir to combine.  Allow to sit a few minutes, and then begin to massage the salt into the veggies, squeezing and pressing as you go.  They will begin to release water.  Keep doing this for quite a while (about 5 minutes), until the veggies are significantly smaller in volume than before, and a considerable amount of liquid is released, the liquid is your “brine.”  Put the cabbage into a wide-mouthed jar, and firmly press down the veggies for a few minutes.  Keep pressing, you want the brine to be above the vegetables.  I like to place a couple of cabbage leaves on top, and then put one of the cabbage stems on it to help the veggies stay under the brine.  The vegetables should be at least 1 inch from the top of the jar to allow for expansion.  Put the top of the jar, cover with a cloth, and let ferment for 3-8 days (depending on how much fermentation you like).  Check on it periodically to make sure the veggies are under the brine.  You can also test it after a few days to see if it is how you like it.

    Enjoy!!

    The above recipe is a variation of Fermented Carolina Slaw from the book Real Food Fermentation. Written by Alex Lewin, it is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to get a good basic understanding of how to ferment foods and drinks, as well as a nice variety of recipes.

    More information/sources:

    • Fermentation Supplies: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/
    • Recipes: http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/
    • http://foodandnutritionmagazine.com/The-History-and-Health-Benefits-of-Fermented-Food
    • http://www.chow.com/food-news/54958/that-coffees-rotten/
    • http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/03/18/mcbride-and-barringer-interview.aspx

    Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose book
    The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari Press) will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2015. You can download her Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet now for free. A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, Sara used to be a sugar junkie too. She offers consultations, corporate nutrition, monthly cooking classes, and affordable online programs.

    *This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or a medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medication.

    ©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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    Chia Seed Pudding

    November 19, 2012
    Screen-Shot-2012-11-18-at-7.44.51-PM

    Chia seeds are a superfood – they are high in omega 3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, and many other nutrients.  They are also high in a very unique fiber – that is hydrophillic – meaning it soaks up a lot of liquid, creating a gel.  This gel helps to keep us hydrated, give us energy, and slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.  Great for athletes, and anyone looking to boost their energy, endurance, and overall health. Chia seeds make a delicious, nutritious and easy to make – pudding!

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup coconut or almond milk
    • 1/4 cup chia seeds
    • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen organic blueberries, or pomegranate seeds or other berry
    • 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts or hemp seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or extract (and/or cinnamon)
    • optional – a few drops of stevia or a drizzle of agave

    Directions:

    1. Stir chia seeds and vanilla into milk, put in refrigerator for 10 mins*.
    2. Top with blueberries, nuts, and a few drops of stevia or a light drizzle of agave (if using), serve.

    *If you would like to serve it warm, warm up milk in a saucepan, stir in chia seeds, take off heat and and allow to sit and soak up milk for 3-5 mins.  Top with cinnamon and nuts or hemp seeds – serve.
    Great for breakfast, a snack or dessert!

    Make ahead idea:
    Put all the ingredients in a glass container before bed, give it a stir, cover and put into refrigerator.  Ready in the morning for breakfast or to take to work for a snack.

    Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose book
    The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari Press) will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2015. You can download her Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet now for free. A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, Sara used to be a sugar junkie too. She offers consultations, corporate nutrition, monthly cooking classes, and affordable online programs.

    *This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or a medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medication.

    ©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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    The Choco-Banana Super Smoothie

    July 7, 2012
    img_1785

    We are big drinkers in our house – smoothie drinkers that is.

    We put our Vitamix to work every morning, starting almost every day with a smoothie.  I find smoothies to be a great way to sneak in superfoods like chia seeds and greens powders, and also veggies too. My daughter was getting really tired of the fruit smoothies, and so for a while she was skipping her morning smoothie – so she wasn’t getting her superfoods.  So I decided to make her a Chocolate Superfood smoothie one morning, and now it is her favorite (she actually prefers hers without the banana, my son likes extra banana, so it is adjustable)!  If you make it without the banana, just add an extra ice cube or two to thicken it up.

    Have you heard about the study that found chocolate milk to be a great post-workout drink?  This drink offers all the benefits of chocolate milk, plus so much more (and by being non-dairy, it is not mucus-producing like dairy can be.  And many people can not digest the lactose in milk).

    This smoothie is like having a yummy chocolate milkshake for breakfast (great for a pre or post workout snack too).

    Choco-Banana Super Smoothie

    Makes two smoothies (approx. 5 oz. each)

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup of coconut water
    • 2 Tablespoons of raw cacao powder (I like Sunfood)
    • 2 Tablespoons of chia seeds (put in coconut water to soak & soften for 3-5 mins first)
    • 1 small handful of baby spinach or a 1/2 scoop of greens powder (such as Barleans Chocolate Silk Greens or Green Vibrance)
    • a small pinch of pink Himalayan salt (or air dried sea salt) – things adds minerals and brings out the sweetness – don’t skip it!!
    • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I like Sun Warrior)
    • 1/2 a frozen banana
    • 2/3 cup of ice
    • Optional: 1-2 teaspoons of almond butter
    • Optional: sweeten to taste with your favorite natural sweetener (like Stevia, Agave nectar (I like Natures Agave) or raw honey to taste)

    Put everything into blender except ice and frozen banana.  Blend to combine well.  Then add frozen banana and ice, blend well.  Serve immediately.

    This smoothie has so many benefits:

    • Good source of magnesium, potassium, calcium, Vitamin D3, magnesium, and Vitamin K – great for bone health and athletes.
    • Alkalizing
    • High fiber content, to boost digestion
    • Contains probiotics – which boost immunity and digestion
    • Excellent source of omega 3s.
    • Good source of protein and carbohydrates, and a little sodium, all great for post-workout.
    • Rich in antioxidants
    • Contains adaptogens – which help the body to regulate the hormones and endocrine system.
    • And best of all, it tastes great!

    So give it a try at home and let me know what you (and the kids) think!

    Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose book
    The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari Press) will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2015. You can download her Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet now for free. A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, Sara used to be a sugar junkie too. She offers consultations, corporate nutrition, monthly cooking classes, and affordable online programs.

    *This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or a medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medication.

    ©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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    Are Team Sports Sabatoging Kids’ Health?

    March 6, 2012
    popchips-1-300x300

    Team sports are good for kids, right…?

    Sports like soccer, baseball, basketball and lacrosse provide kids with regular exercise, which is good for maintaining a healthy weight, bone development, coordination, and even improved performance in school (read these NY Times articles: How Exercise Fuels the Brain and Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter?)  Team sports also teach kids important lessons about sportsmanship, being “coachable,” and the importance of being a good team player.

    So some parents might be scratching their heads wondering why their child actually gains weight during the soccer or softball season?  The dreaded “snack” schedule could be to blame. A recent study revealed that kids who participate in team sports consume more junk food than those that do not, read Huffington Post article Do Kids Who Play Team Sports Eat More Junkfood? Check out the sugar and calorie counts of some typical “snacks” that can follow those sports, and it will become crystal clear.   You don’t have to be a mathlete to figure this one out – an 85 pound kid can burn anywhere from 180 calories an hour playing a sport like softball or baseball to just over 400 calories an hour playing full court basketball.  But all of that can quickly come unraveling when well-intentioned parents roll out the post-game snacks, which typically can range anywhere from 250-500 calories.  Not to mention the amount of artificial colors, trans fats, MSG, and sugar kids are getting after the game.  Some experts have linked food dyes to ADD and other behavior problems, read more.

    Typical Snack #1:

    • 20 oz. Orange Gatorade: 130 calories, 34 g. of sugar, yellow 6
    • Fruit Gushers – Double Dare Berry:  90 calories, 12 g. of sugar, red 40, blue 1, yellow 5
    • Flamin’ Hot Cheetos: 170 calories, 11 g. fat, red 40 lake, yellow 6 lake, yellow 6, mono sodium glutamate (MSG), partially hydrogenated oils, corn syrup solids

    Totals: 390 calories, 11 g. fat, 46 g. of sugar (over 10 teaspoons), 5 different kinds of artificial colors, and MSG.

    Made-Over Snack #1:

    • Water with an orange Nuun tablet.  0 calories, 0 g. fat, 0 g. sugar. No artificial colors. With 360 mg. sodium, 50 mg. potassium, 25 mg. magnesium, 13 mg. calcium.
    • Stretch Island Fruit – mango, 45 calories, 9 g. of sugar (from fruit), no artificial colors
    • Popchips jalapeno flavor, 120 calories, 4 g. of fat, no artificial colors or partially hydrogenated oils

    Totals: 165 calories, 4 g. of fat, 9 g. of sugar.  This made-over snack saves 225 calories, has close to 1/3 the fat, less than one fifth the sugar, and none of the artificial colors or MSG.

    Typical Snack #2:

    • Nutri-Grain Blueberry cereal bar, 120 calories, 3 g. of fat, 12 g. of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, red 40, blue 1
    • Kelloggs Super Mario Fruit “flavored” Snacks: 70 calories, 11 g. of sugar, corn syrup, red #40, yellow #5, sodium citrate, blue #1.
    • Capri Sun: 70 calories, 18 g. of sugar (from high fructose corn syrup). Don’t be fooled by the Capri Sun Roaring Waters – they have less sugar, but they still contain HFCS, and also sucralose – which is an artificial sweetener.

    Totals: 260 calories, 3 g. of fat, 41 g. of sugar., high fructose corn syrup, red 40, blue 1

    Made Over Snack #2:

    • Clif Kid Z Bar, 120 calories, 2.5 g. of fat, 11 g. of sugar.  95% organic ingredients. No high fructose corn syrup, trans fats or artificial colors.
    • 1 clementine orange, 40 calories, 8 g sugar (all naturally-occurring), 2 g. fiber
    • ONE Coconut water, pink guava flavor –  75 calories, 0 g. fat, 14.9 g. sugar (most naturally-occuring). No artificial colors, 5 essential electrolytes, low acidity.  Nature’s hydration tool!

    Totals: 235 calories, 2.5 g. of fat, 23.9 g. of sugar (some naturally-occurring).  Saves 25 calories, and over 17 g. of sugar, and none of the artificial colors or high fructose corn syrup.  Provides some fiber and antioxidants too.

    Typical Snack # 3:  The birthday/post-game snack.  Inevitably it will be someone’s birthday during the season – why not celebrate with donuts or cupcakes after the soccer game?  This is why…

    • Store-Bought Cupcake: 280 calories, 16 g. fat (3 g. trans fats), 24 g. sugar (6 teaspoons), artificial dyes on frosting.
    • 12 oz. Sunkist Orange: 110 calories, 29 g. of sugar, yellow 6, red 40, caffeine

    Totals: 390 calories, 16 g. fat, 53 g. of sugar (over 13 teaspoons!). Contains trans fats, artificial colors and caffeine.

    Made-Over Snack #3: You can still celebrate a birthday with a fun snack for the soccer team, just ditch the store-bought cupcakes for some healthier choices that won’t provide a whopping 400+ calories, and 3 days worth of added sugars and trans fats.  Here are a number of options that are healthier and still fun:

    • Fruit Kabobs  – kid love to eat food on a stick, why not colorful fruit?  Or you could do cheese and fruit kabobs to add a little protein.  45 calories per stick (without cheese), 9 g. sugar (naturally-occurring).
    • Even homemade cupcakes are better than the store-bought kind – because you can use healthier ingredients (no trans fats or artificial colors).  Check out this fun recipe for cupcakes made with beets from weelicious.com.
    • Wanting something fruity and fizzy?  I like these healthier sodas from IZZE – called IZZEesque – they are made with 25% fruit juice, and sparkling water.  They have no artificial colors, only 50 calories, and 11 grams of naturally-occurring sugar.  Try sparkling mandarin or watermelon.   We like to make these kinds of sodas at home too!

    If you don’t believe me that these are typical post-game snacks, check out Soccer Mom on a Mission’s Video.  Notice everything from Krispy Kremes to rice crispy treats…

    Get the Whole Team on Board

    So what is a health conscious parent to do?  Avoid team sports all together?  Grab their kid and run before the snacks come out?  Or just speak up and request that snacks be healthy, or that each parent simply brings snack for their own child?  It’s not always easy to be “that parent” that always is speaking up about this kind of thing.  But more often than not, other parents are thinking the same thing, and are grateful that someone spoke up.  And sometimes, parents don’t realize how many calories, artificial colors, trans fats, and sugar they are feeding kids.  The first step to change is always – AWARENESS.

    Unfortunately, no kid wants their parent to be the only one that brings ‘healthy’ snacks after a game, when everyone else is bringing donuts and cupcakes and sodas.  But when the whole team agrees to bring healthy snacks, then no one parent has to stand out as the one that only brings ‘healthy’ food.  When the whole team agrees to follow this plan, everyone benefits – and it could even be the difference between winning the trophy, or missing it by an inch.

    A few seasons ago, I was so grateful to Nora, the team mom for my son’s baseball team.  She sent out an email at the beginning of the season requesting that all snacks be healthy and should help to “power up” the kids, not cause a sugar rush and drop.  And instead of the snack coming out at the end of the game – just as everyone was heading off to dinner, she suggested that they should come out in the dugout around inning 4 or 5.  That way, they could boost their energy to get through the rest of the game.  Guess what?  Their team made it all the way to the championship – winning the pennant that year.   How much the healthier snacks contributed, we can’t be sure.  But I can bet that professional baseball players don’t celebrate their games with donuts and sodas, or cupcakes and juice boxes.

    Hungry Kids Will Eat…Pretty Much Whatever Is Around!

    One of the oldest tricks in the book is to put out the healthy foods when kids are the hungriest – and after a hard game of soccer or basketball, they are going to be hungry. Why not take advantage of it – and put out oranges, bananas, raisins, and other healthy snacks?  This is a great approach for a picky eater too (read 20 Tips for Picky Eaters for more).  Our soccer coach a couple of seasons ago requested orange slices for a half time boost – and all the kids happily gobbled them up each game.  In fact, my daughter didn’t like orange slices until that season – now she loves them because that was what was offered, she was really hungry/thirsty, and all her teammates we gobbling them down.  Oranges are a wonderful snack for hard working athletes, they hydrate, provide natural sugars to replace lost glycogen/energy, and provide important lost minerals.  When healthy snacks come out during or after the game, kid’s bodies will feel and function better, and they will come to expect those kind of snacks instead of the junk food.

    Treat Kids Like Athletes

    So instead of the donuts, rice crispy treats, and cupcakes; the flavor-blasted chips and Cheez Its; the brightly colored sports drinks and sodas, and sticky sweet fruit treats and candies…let’s try to think about what we reach for after a workout, or what an athlete chooses. When we start to think about our kids as little athletes, and not just kids; that is when we start to feed them better post game snacks. Some good snack “rules”:

    • Choose foods closest to the original/natural form (like whole fresh fruit)
    • The one with fewer/higher quality/organic ingredients is usually better
    • If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, your kids’ body doesn’t know what to do with it either
    • Look for foods without artificial colors, chemicals like MSG or partially hydrogenated oils
    • Real snacks should eventually spoil if left out for a day or two (a 100 year shelf life does not do a body good)

    Post-game snacks should rehydrate (without artificial colors), replace lost energy & glycogen stores (without overflowing them), and help the body/muscles to heal and recover.  Junk food promotes inflammation, which works against recovery.  Too much sugar gets stored as fat. Artificial colors and trans fats just aren’t needed or good for their hard-working bodies.  Who knows?  Healthy snacks could be the difference between making the All Stars Team, and well, not.

    Thank you so much to the parents, coaches, team moms, and bloggers/writers that are speaking up, spreading the word and offering healthy post-game snacks.  Please put your ideas for healthy  snacks in the comments below.

    We can all either be part of the solution, or part of the problem. Which team are you on? I think Taylor Mali put it best in his poem, An Apple a Day is Not Enough.

    Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose book
    The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari Press) will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2015. You can download her Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet now for free. A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, Sara used to be a sugar junkie too. She offers consultations, corporate nutrition, monthly cooking classes, and affordable online programs.

    *This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or a medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medication.

    ©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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    Energize Your Day!

    November 28, 2011
    screen-shot-2011-10-05-at-10-40-59-am

    With the Rebalance Life Superfood Chia Blueberry Smoothie.

    During the holidays we all need a little more energy. This smoothie delivers – packing an insane amount of nutrition into one regular ole’ glass.  Have this smoothie for breakfast for one whole week and see if it changes your energy, digestion, mood….your life!!   Superfood cleanses can cost $100 a day!  You don’t need to purchase an expensive cleanse to gently detoxify, cleanse and energize your whole body every morning.

    The Rebalance Life Superfood Chia Blueberry Smoothie contains powerhouse ingredients that are shown to reduce inflammation, boost immunity, improve mood, feed the brain for better focus and attention, help control sugar cravings, and promote good bacteria in the gut.  It is high in omega 3s, fiber, protein, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and many other important vitamins and minerals, including the trace mineral selenium – which has been shown in studies to reduce the risk of all cancers.  Add the AlgaeCal capsule and you get vitamin D, vitamin K, and the highest absorbable form of calcium.  The coconut kefir and Good Belly provide probiotics – which aid in digestion and boost immunity.  The fruit adds a nice natural sweetness, antioxidant boost – yet berries are one of the lowest sugar fruits.  The greens powder is naturally detoxifying and cleansing.  The coconut water is naturally alkalizing, hydrating and has even been shown to lower cholesterol, read more about the benefits of drinking coconut water from Dr. Mercola. But perhaps the chia seed that is the real powerhouse in this smoothie.  It has high omega 3 content, which boosts memory, mood, reduces inflammation and much more, chia seed also contains a special kind of fiber that hydrates and slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, and also aids in digestion. Chia seed also is an amazing endurance/recovery tool for athletes, providing an incredible long-lasting energy boost (read Pre-Hydrate with Chia for more info).

    This smoothie works best with a high powered blender like a Vitamix – a great holiday gift (click here to get free shipping)!

    Ingredients:

    • 2 Tablespoons Chia seeds, soaked in 1/2 cup coconut water (I like ONE Coconut water mango flavored) or filtered water
    • 1 teaspoon greens powder -such as Barleans (gradually work up to more greens powder).
    • 5 Brazil nuts (highest known food source of selenium)
    • 1/4 cup Good Belly probiotic juice (mango is yummy and adds sweetness – great for kids, also available in unsweetened), or you can add 1 whole small peeled orange if you can’t get Good Belly, or the juice from one whole orange if you don’t have a high powered blender like a Vitamix.
    • 1/4 cup So Delicious Coconut Kefir, original
    • 1/3 cup frozen wild organic blueberries
    • 1/4 cup frozen organic strawberries
    • 1/2 of a frozen banana
    • optional: 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
    • optional: break open 1 AlgaeCal capsule, add to blender
    • optional: 1-2 teaspoons of Natures Agave clear (taste first then adjust for desired sweetness*)

    Directions:

    Put the chia seeds into the glass of coconut water (or filtered water), and put the glass in refrigerator to soak for at least 10 mins, up to 24 hours.  You will see how it softens the seed and becomes gel-like.  Put the soaked chia seed, coconut water along with all the other ingredients into the blender or Vitamix.  You might need a spoon to get all the chia seed out.  Blend well & serve immediately.  Like it a little thicker?  Add a few ice cubes, or a little more frozen fruit – re-blend till smooth.  Have some extra smoothie in the blender?  Pour it into your ZOKU popsicle maker and in 7 minutes you will have a superfood popsicle.  Put your popsicle in the freezer for when you need a quick healthy snack later!  Great for kids after school snacks.

    Makes approx. 12 oz.  (one large or 2 small smoothies).

    *   If you are used to buying your smoothies at McDonalds or Jamba Juice, you might be used to a much sweeter smoothie than what I like/recommend.  It can take some time avoiding sweet foods to adjust your taste buds to enjoy the taste of less sweet foods.  So until your taste buds adjust, you might like it just a touch sweeter.  Add a little clear Natures Agave nectar (a low glycemic all natural sweetener), or a little bit more of the Good Belly juice. If you want it less sweet, buy the unsweetened Good Belly, and cut back on the agave nectar.

    As you adjust your taste buds even further – you can get more adventurous and add in more greens powder, and even try some other superfoods to add in, such as bee pollen.

    Enjoy this perfect start to your day!

    Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose book
    The Perfect Metabolism Plan (Red Wheel/Conari Press) will be hitting book shelves Spring of 2015. You can download her Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet now for free. A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, Sara used to be a sugar junkie too. She offers consultations, corporate nutrition, monthly cooking classes, and affordable online programs.

    *This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact Sara Vance directly or a medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medication.

    ©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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