I had a big bunch of mint and a fresh pineapple, and some coconut in the freezer – so this morning I whipped up this pineapple mint smoothie – it was absolutely delicious and refreshing, it made me feel like I was in the tropics!! Pineapple, mint, coconut and chia seeds all support healthy hydration and digestion. I think this will be a new staple for Summer/Spring for me, and I hope for you too. This recipe is dairy-free, vegan and gluten free.
Put the coconut water and chia seeds into the blender – allow to soak. Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend to combine. Add in a handful (or whatever amount desired) of ice cubes and blend. Serve immediately!
*Note: If you are prone to getting canker sores from pineapple, you might want to substitute mango for the pineapple in the smoothie recipe.
Save your pineapple core in the refrigerator or freezer – I am posting a recipe tomorrow that will make use of the core!
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.
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!
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:
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.
How Alcohol Affects Us:
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.
Alcohol Affects Women Faster:
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:
Alcohol is a toxin:
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.
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.
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.
Alcohol can irritate
Not only can excess alcohol make people irritating (LOL), alcohol can be irritating to our stomach lining, which can make us feel nauseated and sick.
Alcohol Can Lead to Bloodsugar Lows
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…
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 – max), and make sure to alternate with fresh filtered water to stay hydrated.
3 Natural Hangover Treatments:
Didn’t read this article before you went out? 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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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!
*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.
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)
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:
So give it a try at home and let me know what you (and the kids) think!
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:
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:
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:
Totals: 260 calories, 3 g. of fat, 41 g. of sugar., high fructose corn syrup, red 40, blue 1
Made Over Snack #2:
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…
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:
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”:
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.
© copyright 2016 Sara Vance