Orange Dream Smoothie

August 27, 2017
Orange Dream Smoothie

I love smoothies – because they are quick & easy to make, portable, and a great way to just load up on the fiber & superfoods – to deliver long-lasting energy and support digestion, brain function, etc.

This Orange Dreamsicle smoothie is so good – your kids won’t even know that it is good for them – it’s tastes like a creamsicle, but it is loaded with brain-boosting omega 3s, digestion-boosting fiber, and immune-boosting vitamin c and beta carotene – it’s like a dream!

This recipe makes one large smoothie, or two smaller ones.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of coconut water
  • 1 whole peeled small orange
  • 3-4 organic baby carrots, (or 1 peeled small carrot)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of white chia seeds
  • 1/2 scoop of vegan vanilla protein powder (I like Warrior Blend vanilla)
  • 1/2 of a frozen banana
  • 1/2 of a cup of frozen mangos or peaches
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Barleans Omega Swirl – Mango Peach flavor (2 teaspoons contains 790 mg of DHA/EPA omega 3s)
  • splash of vanilla extract (about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • Small pinch of Real Salt – brings out flavors and sweetness – but just a pinch!
  • Ice – as needed to thicken

Directions:

  1. Put the liquid, carrots and orange into the blender* – blend for a couple of minutes to completely liquify.
  2. Add the chia seeds and protein powder – stir to combine, and then let soak for 2-3 mins.
  3. Then add in the banana, mangos, Omega Swirl, vanilla, pinch of salt – blend.
  4. Add ice if you would like it thicker.
  5. Pour into a glass, and enjoy!

*A powerful blender like a Vitamix is best for this recipe.

 

Sara Vance 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.

*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 their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Make Ahead Breakfast – Overnight Oats

August 22, 2017
Overnight Oats

It Back to School time – and one of the best things a student can do to get their brain in gear for the school day is to have a healthy breakfast.

Starting the day with a sugary breakfast is a bad idea – because it provides short-term energy, which is often followed by a crash – negatively affecting energy, mood, and brain function – not what you want in your mid-morning math class!

Instead – you want to make sure breakfast has some protein, and/or healthy fat and fiber – this will balance the blood sugar to deliver long lasting energy, balance the mood and brain function.  Including some brain boosting omega 3 fatty acids too will really help to turn on the brain, boost the mood, and reduce inflammation.

Overnight Oats

No cooking required – just mix ahead, put in the fridge and they are ready to go the next day.  You can also double these recipes for a larger serving.

Chocolate Nut Butter

  • 2/3 cup non-dairy milk – such as coconut, almond or pea protein milk
  • 1/2 cup whole rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon of vegan vanilla protein powder (I like Warrior Blend vanilla)
  • 1 teaspoon of raw cacao
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Nuttzo 7 seed nut butter (contains 900 mg. of ALA omega 3 per serving!)
  • 1 teaspoon natural sweetener like honey, maple syrup, or organic stevia to taste
  • Splash of vanilla
  • Dash of high quality unprocessed salt – I like Real Salt brand
  • Banana slices
  • Dark chocolate chips

Directions: Whisk together the milk, protein powder, cacao, nut butter, vanilla, salt, and sweetener.  Pour into your jar or container.  Add the oats, stir to combine.  Top with banana slices and a few mini chocolate chips.

Brainy Mango Peach

  • 2/3 cup non-dairy milk – such as coconut, almond or pea protein milk
  • 1/2 cup whole rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon of vegan vanilla protein powder (I like Warrior Blend vanilla)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Barleans mango peach
  • 1 teaspoon natural sweetener like honey, maple syrup, or organic stevia to taste
  • Splash of vanilla
  • Dash of high quality unprocessed salt – I like Real Salt brand
  • Mango chunks
  • Optional – coconut flakes

Some other great make ahead breakfast ideas for kids:

Egg cups

Make & bake these ahead of time, and you will have a ready to go breakfast for the next 4-5 days.  Eggs are rich in an important brain nutrient called choline.

Superfood Smoothies/drinks:

  • Mint Chip Shake – tastes like dessert, but healthy enough for breakfast!
  • Blue Brain On Milk: Serve this amazing brain-boosting milk alongside your breakfast, add it to your smoothie, or as a meal replacement.  Blue green algae may help boost focus, attention, mood, and energy.  See recipe.

 

Sara Vance 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.

*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 their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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“Brain ON” Blue Milk (dairy & gluten free)

August 21, 2017
"Brain ON" Blue Milk

Brain ON Blue “Milk”

It’s Back to School time – which means kids need to switch from summer brain to their focused school brain.  This delicious dairy-free milk gets it’s amazing blue hue from a very special living superfood called blue green algae. Algae is a superfood that supports healthy brain function, mood, and energy.  Learn more about this amazing superfood: E3 Live or E3 Live Brain ON.  It’s a great time to try E3 Live – because they are currently offering free shipping use code: FREESHIP.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of almond, coconut, pea protein or another alternative milk (I often recommend taking a break from cow’s milk/dairy if there are focus & attention or digestion issues)
  • 1 scoop or package of E3 Live or E3 Live Brain ON
  • 1-2 teaspoons of white* chia seeds (optional)
  • Splash of vanilla extract (I like to use alcohol free for smoothies)
  • Optional – 1-2 teaspoons of your favorite natural sweetener – like raw honey, organic stevia, or a couple of pitted dates.
  • pinch of Real Salt (brings out flavors and sweetness)
  • Optional – a couple of ice cubes.  Thickens and chills it.

Directions:

  1. Put the milk and E3 Live into the Vitamix or shaker bottle – swirl around until combined well.
  2. Add the chia seeds and soak for a couple minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla, salt and sweetener, and blend to combine.
  4. Add the ice cubes if desired, blend well.  Serve & enjoy.

Other great additions – 1/2 scoop of vegan protein powder, cinnamon, frozen banana, blueberries, raw cacao, dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs.

*Chia seeds offer ALA omega 3s, fiber and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. I like to use the white chia seeds in kids smoothies – because they blend in invisible.

Sara Vance 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.

*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 their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Double Chocolate Peppermint Muffins

December 17, 2016
Duble Chocolate Peppermint Muffins

 

My hubby and I are invited to a holiday party tonight and my friend asked me to bring a “healthy but yummy Sara” dessert.  So I decided to come up with a new recipe!  I used my ‘formula’ for flax muffins – and took it the chocolate peppermint route.  They turned out delish!!

Double Chocolate Peppermint Muffins (free of wheat, gluten & grains)

Double Chocolate Peppermint Muffins

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 organic eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons organic cane sugar or coconut sugar (to reduce the sugar content, replace 2 Tablespoons of the sugar with 1/2 teaspoon of powered stevia, or 20 drops of stevia liquid)
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut milk or coconut water
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons of raw cacao powder
  • 1 cup of ground flax meal
  • 3-4 drops of peppermint essential oil*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon high quality salt (like Himalayan)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I like 60% or higher cacao)
  • Optional – crushed candy canes (I use the kind without artificial colorings)
    *Always make sure to use high quality certified therapeutic grade essentail oils if ingesting them. Essential oils are strong 3-4 drops is plenty.  You could substitute 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract if you do not have essential oil.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Double chocolate peppermint muffins
  2. Melt the coconut oil.
  3. Line your mini-muffin pan with muffin papers
  4. Mix together the eggs and sugar till well combined, then add in and mix together the rest of the ingredients – adding the chocolate chips last.
  5. Spoon batter into muffin papers in the tin, coming up about 3/4 of the way up (they will expand and rise).
  6. Put into the preheated oven (I sometimes press a few extra chocolate chips on the top).
  7. Bake for about 15 mins – until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Remove from oven and right away sprinkle on some of the crushed candy canes if using – I kind of put them in the center.
  9. Allow to cool.
  10. Serve & enjoy!  Keep in an airtight container.

 

If you are interested in learning more about essential oils contact sara@rebalancelife.com

Signature

Sara Vance 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.

*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 their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Mini Banana Muffins (Grain Free)

February 12, 2016
Mini Banana Muffins (Grain Free)

These “better for you” banana muffins are easy to make and instead of being full of white flour, they use ground flax seed*, which is rich in ALA omega 3s.  They are high in protein due to the eggs and nut butter, and have way less sugar than most muffins.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of nut butter (I used cashew butter – found at Trader Joes)
  • 2 and 1/2 ripe bananas
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt (add a little more if using unsalted nut butter)
  • 1 cup ground flax
  • 1 TBS. virgin coconut oil (soft or melted – plus more to grease muffin tin – if not using muffin papers)

Optional additions (fold these in later after mixing together the above):

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life brand)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts work great, so do pecans)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Mix together the ingredients in a blender, food processor, or using a mixer.
  3. Gently fold in your chocolate chips and/or nuts – or you can just press them into the top after pouring the batter to the muffin tin.
  4. Grease mini muffin tin, or line with muffin papers.
  5. Fill batter almost to the top. Top with additional mini chocolate chips if desired.
  6. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 17 minutes.

Omega 3 fats are delicate.  Make sure to buy cold pressed ground flax and store it in your refrigerator to prevent oxidation. 

Note – if you are used to super sweet muffins – these might not taste sweet enough at first – but once you get used to eating less sugar – these will taste plenty sweet enough!  It takes time to adjust your taste buds to enjoying less sweet foods.

 

Sara Vance 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.

*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 their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Grain Free Pumpkin Mini Muffins

October 29, 2015
Pumpkin Muffins - Sara Vance

I love the Fall – the leaves are changing, there is a bit of a chill in the air, and we get to pull out the sweaters. But perhaps one of my favorite things about the Fall – is pumpkin!

Pumpkin is a member of the winter squash family – an excellent source of fiber, which supports a healthy digestive system. The deep orange color of the pumpkin flesh tells us that it is a rich source of beta carotene (vitamin A) – which is important for healthy eyes, and boosts the immune system too (important this time of year).

Growing up, it just never quite feel like Fall until my mom made a batch of her pumpkin bread. Moist, delicious, pumkin-y and fragrant with spices. But her recipe was made with white flour, lots of sugar, and vegetable oil (the recipe actually calls for ‘salad oil’). So I decided to reinvent her pumpkin bread into these delicious grain free anti-inflammatory pumpkin mini muffins – with healthy coconut oil replacing the ‘salad oil’, ground flax and coconut flour in place of the white flour, and waaaay less sugar. Plus, these are also nut free for my friends that can’t have nuts.

The plethora of spices in these muffins fill the kitchen with the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves while they bake.

Mini Pumpkin Flax Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted) – plus extra for greasing muffin tin
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar or coconut sugar (or a combination of coconut sugar and stevia if you like)
  • 2 Tablespoons water or milk (non-dairy or raw)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of ground flax meal
  • 1 cup of pumpkin puree (use the rest for this amazing Pumpkin Cacao Chip smoothie)
  • ¼ cup of coconut flour
  • 1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon high quality salt (like Himalayan)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (or 1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Melt the coconut oil.
  • Lightly grease mini-muffin pan with some coconut oil (or you can line with muffin papers)
  • Mix together the eggs, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, spices, salt, baking soda, and baking powder till well combined, then add in and mix together the rest of the ingredients – folding in the raisins or chocolate chips last (or sometimes – I just press them into the tops of the muffins before putting them into the oven to bake).
  • Spoon into the prepared muffin tin and put into the preheated oven.
  • Bake for about 15 mins.
  • Remove and allow to cool.

Makes about 24 mini muffins.

Serve & enjoy!  These are extra yummy with a little grass fed butter on them. 

Sources:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=63

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-eating-pumpkin-puree-4645.html

Sara Vance 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.

*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 their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Pineapple Mint & Coconut Smoothie

May 4, 2015
Pineapple Mint Refresher

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. 

Pineapple Mint Coconut Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of coconut water
  • 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen pineapple* chunks
  • 1/3 cup of fresh or frozen coconut flesh (find inner eco frozen coconut in freezer section – use 1 packet, or you can sub 1/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut, or 1 Tablespoon of coconut manna).
  • 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves (or combination of fresh mint and baby spinach)
  • 1-2 big pinches of high quality salt – like pink Himalayan
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of chia seeds
  • Ice as desired to thicken/chill.

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!

Nutritional Benefits:

  • Pineapple: One of America’s top two favorite tropical fruits – second only to the banana – pineapples are in peak season from March through June. One cup of pineapple also provides a full day’s supply of vitamin C, is an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of fiber and a number of other nutrients including vitamin B6 and copper. Pineapple is also rich in bromelain, which is an enzyme that can be helpful to digestion and provides anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Mint: A wonderful herb for digestion, mint also has antiseptic qualities and can be used as a mouth refreshener. Steep mint leaves to make a tea that is calming to the digestion. Fresh mint is a wonderful addition to iced tea as well. And the oil of the peppermint leaves has a number of uses ranging from digestion to relaxation.
  • Coconut – the flesh of a coconut provides a wide array of nutrients – from vitamins and minerals to healthy fats – which help to stabilize blood sugar, increase satiety, and supports the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. The fat in coconut is high in medium chain fatty acids, which is more easily converted to energy. Coconuts are also naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, which helps to cleanse and detox. Coconuts are rich in electrolytes – which makes them a useful tool for hydration.
  • Chia seeds: One of the reasons I became a Nutritionist – I could not believe how much just adding this one seed to my diet could change my energy, digestion, hydration, and more.  Chia seeds are a great addition to smoothies because they boost the fiber, protein, healthy fat, and omega 3 content of the smoothie.  Chia fiber is unique in that it soaks up about 10 times it’s weight in water, creating a gel.  Chia gel helps the body to hold onto hydration, slows the absorption of sugar into the blood stream, and helps to keep you fuller/satisfied longer. If you have sensitive digestion – start with less chia seeds – and make sure they are well hydrated before eating them. Read Pre-hydrate with Chia to learn more about this amazing seed.

*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!

Sources:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=34

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=102

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/health-benefits-of-mint.html

 

 

Sara Vance 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.

*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 their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Raisin “Bran” Muffins (gluten & grain free)

January 22, 2015
Bran-muffins

A few years ago, I used to be a wheat-loving gal. I pretty much sustained myself on it – most mornings I would have a high fiber cereal for breakfast, a sandwich on whole wheat for lunch, pretzels for a snack, and quite often pasta for dinner.

After years of trying to figure out what was causing my laundry list of health complaints (joint & muscle aches, foggy brain, thyroid issues, fatigue, general puffiness, etc), I finally found significant relief by giving up gluten and wheat, and increasing my intake of inflammation-lowering omega 3s. Although the transition was not easy initially (what change is easy??)…now, I can’t imagine eating that way anymore!  Instead of cereal I usually start my day with a superfood smoothie with energy and mood-boosting chia seeds, I have salads or soups instead of sandwiches, and zucchini pasta in place of regular pasta.

But I will admit, there are a few things that I do miss…and I know this might sound like a weird thing to be longing for, but I used to love me a good raisin bran muffin!  And for some odd reason, this morning, I had a hankering for one!

When I realized that I had a bag of ground flax in the fridge, some organic eggs, virgin coconut oil and coconut palm sugar – I decided to see if I could whip something up that resembled my beloved bran muffin.  And guess what?  They turned out great*, I’d say better than regular bran muffins!!  And best of all – because these are made with flax – they are inflammation-lowering and high in brain and mood boosting omega 3s!

Raisin “Bran” Muffins – made with flax (free of wheat, gluten & grains)

Ingredients:

  • 3 organic eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar (could use a combination of coconut sugar and stevia if you like)
  • 2 Tablespoons water or non-dairy milk
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of ground flax meal
  • 1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon high quality salt (like Himalayan)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (you could add 2/3 cup if you like more raisins)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the coconut oil.
  3. Lightly grease mini-muffin pan with some coconut oil (or line with muffin papers)
  4. Mix together the eggs and coconut sugar till well combined, then add in and mix together the rest of the ingredients – folding in the raisins last.
  5. Put into prepared muffin tin and put into the preheated oven.
  6. Bake for about 15 mins.
  7. Remove and allow to cool.
  8. Serve & enjoy!  These are extra yummy with a little grass fed butter on them, or a little organic raspberry jam. 

*Boy, do I love it when my kitchen experiments come out great the first time (because let me tell you – I have had more than my share of missteps – especially when it comes to baked goods)!!

Sara Vance 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.

*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 their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Got Anxiety? Consider Your Second Brain

September 26, 2014
Anxiety

You know the feeling that you get when you are nervous?  Like there are butterflies in your stomach?  Have you ever had that “sinking feeling” in your gut after you made a big mistake?  Sometimes we have those “gut reactions” to situations – where we can’t really explain it, but we just feel like something seems amiss.  It is totally normal to experience some nervousness, anxiety, fear, and even panic occasionally. In fact – we should learn to listen to our gut, because sometimes, our gut feelings can guide us in ways that our brain can’t.

But what about when these feelings start to become chronic, overwhelming, and negatively affect someone’s life?

Whenever someone tells me that they have a lot of anxiety or a related mood disorder – my first question is “how is your digestion?”  The typical response is, “terrible – but what do my digestive issues have to do with my anxiety?”  It is all about the second brain.

Our Second Brain

Our gut and our brains are connected so closely that Dr. Michael Gershon coined our gut “the second brain”. Lined with a complex and extensive set of neurons, called the enteric nervous system, “gut reaction” helps to explain what our second brain does – it guides our feelings, moods, certain behaviors, and reactions.

Our enteric nervous system/gut is responsible for manufacturing important neurotransmitters that play a role in our mood and brain function. So when there has been a gut imbalance or a leaky gut, there often can be mood imbalances and neurological manifestations, because the gut is no longer able to effectively absorb nutrients or convert them into these important brain chemicals. For example, over 90% of our serotonin, often referred to as “the happiness hormone,” is found in our guts. Low serotonin can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mood imbalances. Other neurotransmitters that can be involved in anxiety include GABA, dopamine, and epinephrine.  So you can see how gut issues can affect our emotions.

Digestive Issues Very Common

The trouble is – gut imbalances are rampant – 1 in 5 Americans regularly suffers from digestive complaints.  They are so common that we often just suffer through them, thinking that is just “normal” for us, and that there is nothing that we can do. But it is important to not ignore digestive issues because the gut is the foundation of our health. If allowed to continue, gut health issues can develop into other problems – affecting the brain, mood, joints, skin, thyroid, immune system, and more.

Digestive troubles over time can lead to poor absorption, which can develop into nutrient deficiencies, imbalances in neurotransmitters and amino acids – all of which can drive depression, anxiety, mood disorders; and other problems like ADHD and even addictions.

Getting Relief

Although this may not work for everyone, there are a number of things to try if your second brain is causing you anxiety:

Heal the root cause, the gut:

  1. Identify & remove food intolerances, chemicals, and other key foods that could be contributing (such as MSG, sugar, etc).
  2. Take probiotics – there is mounting evidence that bacteria in the gut has a powerful effect on emotions. Taking probiotics can help to decrease the bad bacteria that can lead to anxiety and other mood disorders.  Read this article to learn more.
  3. Heal the gut – organic bone broths and key supplements can help to rebuild the mucosal barrier. A healthy gut has a strong mucosal barrier, which prevents toxins and proteins from leaking out of the gut.
  4. Consider some other supplements – omega 3 fatty acids such as those found in a high quality fish oil supplement can be very helpful for mood and brain function. Vitamin D can be helpful – it is often referred to as the “happiness vitamin.” A high quality multi-vitamin with methlyated forms of the B vitamins are important for the creation of neurotransmitters.  I also find that adaptogens such as Ashwaganda can be very helpful with anxiety and mood disorders (ashwaganda is also supportive of the thyroid too).

Get some relief from the symptoms:

Until the gut is healed, it might not be effectively making neurotransmitters, which can cause someone to feel imbalanced, unfocused and anxious. Often, this is one reason that can drive people to abuse drugs and alcohol – they are trying to correct or self-medicate these imbalances.  It is possible to test the neurotransmitters and take supplements that can help the body to produce more of the depleted neurotransmitters to feel more balanced.

  1. Test – one single urine collection at home is taken and sent in and can be tested to see which brain chemicals are out of balance.
  2. From that test, key amino acids and other key supplements can be identified that will help to rebalance the neurotransmitters and provide some relief to the symptoms.

The Gut & the Immune System

The gut is also the foundation of the immune system, so someone that frequently gets colds or infections, might want to look at improving their gut health to boost their immune system.  One food that heals the gut and boosts the immune system is organic bone broth – so there is truth to the Old Wives Tale that chicken soup heals a cold (also helps to prevent one too).

Further Reading:
This is a very in-depth topic.  If you are interested in learning more about how the gut affects the brain, mood, and other areas of health, here are some additional articles:

Our gut is the foundation of our health.  As Hippocrates so wisely said over 2,000 years ago:

All disease begins in the gut.”

Please note: If you are experiencing extreme stress, anxiety or overwhelm – please seek out help from a mental health practitioner right away. The national Suicide Hotline can help you to find the necessary resources if you are in a mental health crisis: 1-800-273-8255.

Sara Vance 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.

*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 their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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15 Superfoods for Peak Performance

January 21, 2014
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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, 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.

*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 their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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