antioxidants

Superfood Breakfast Bowl

Dear Leah Renee,

This question is a little broad, but it seems like you eat so healthfully most of the time.  How are you so disciplined and what makes you stick to it? ~Ally, Seattle WA

Firstly, thank you!  I’m certainly not perfect all the time and I will dive into a bowl of peanut M&M’s if they’re there–nasty food coloring, sugar, and all!  There will come times of temptations, going on a vacation, and social gatherings that you should most definitely enjoy yourself, whatever that means to you.  For the most part, in daily life, I choose to eat foods that are nutrient dense.

The biggest reason I eat the way I do: it makes me feel SO good. For me, it’s not even a question.  I want to feel good.  I want to feel energized.  I want nice skin.  I desire a strong body.  I like to be in a good mood.  Each and every day, I look to acheive that.  There are many ways to do so, but one of the power players in the equation is how you nourish yourself with food.  It’s a choice– yours, mine, and one that I am happy to make.

One of the most energizing and nourishing meals I consume is at the beginning of the day.  After I’ve had a cup of warm water with lemon, I make a super-food smoothie bowl (I don’t know if this is a term, but this is what I’m calling it!).  It looks like this:

brekky bowl
There’s a lot of goodness that goes into this, and the beauty of it is that the options are endless!  Sometimes I mix it up daily while other times I go on kicks of making it the same for weeks.  Depending on what’s in season, what’s on special, and what’s speaking to me that day determines some of the ingredients.  Here is what I put into my Vitamix to make the ice cream-like foundation (the green stuff!):
smoothie ingredients
Ingredients:
  • 1 scoop of Barleans Greens
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen organic spinach
  • 1/2 large ripe banana, frozen
  • small nob of organic cucumber
  • 1 tsp of matcha powder
  • 1 stick organic celery
  • Toppings of choice!  The toppings shown in the picture are: hemp hearts, organic blueberries, brazil nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and pepitas.

Directions:

Using a high speed blender or food processor (I use a Vitamix), put all the ingredients, except for toppings, starting with the liquid in.  I start on a low setting and work my way up, using the masher so help the process along.  I like the consistency of ice cream, so that means being patient and adding liquid if/as needed!  Blend until smooth.  Add toppings of choice!

Endless possibilities for both the base and toppings include: protein powder (I like hemp), maca powder, flaxseeds, peanut (or any nut) butter, pineapple, strawberries, blackberries, cacao nibs, avocado, coconut oil, kiwi, spirulina, kale, oats/granola, acai, goji berries, mango, romaine lettuce, pear, and many more!!!

What makes this super you ask?  Here’s a breakdown of what you’re gaining from this bowl:

  • Spinach: Rich in Vitamins A, C, and K.  High in manganese, folate, magnesium, and iron. That means healthy skin, blood, energy, muscles, and hair.
  • Coconut Water: Potassium, electrolytes, enzymes, Vitamin C.  Translation: energy, beauty, hydration, recovery.
  • Almond Milk: Calcium.  Strong bones!!!
  • Banana: Potassium, B6, fiber.  These guys will help you prevent high blood pressure, aid in elimination of waste through the body, and aid in the metabolism of carbohydrates.
  • Cucumber: Vitamin K and flavonoids.  That means healthy blood and lots of super rich antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.  Eat them with the skin on!!!
  • Celery: Digestive tract support (digestion), antioxidants, anti-inflammatory.
  • Matcha (green tea) Powder: High in antioxidants, catechins, L-theanine.  What this means for you is strong immunity, detoxification, energy, good mood, and concentration!  Yes, please!
  • Powdered Greens: In this case, Barleans brand, is a great top-up on anything you may otherwise miss out on.  This is basically a multi-vitamin packed with vitamins and minerals that can help energize and alkalize your body.  It most often also includes chlorella, wheatgrass, and spirulina which have incredible health benefits including vitality and detoxification.

Now go enjoy some superfoods for an even more super-you! 🙂

What are your favorite superfoods?!  I’d love to know!!!

 

Anti-Inflammatory Ginger Juice

Dear Leah Renee, 

I have been on the verge of getting sick and need something to kick it!  Help! ~Allison, NY

There are so many powerful herbs and spices to help fight a cold.  One of the very best ways to help you kick that bug (and prevent it next time) is with fresh ginger root.  People have been using this common household item for thousands of years for a good reason. It contains medicinal properties which aids the immune system and warms you up inside.  Because of that, it’s a fantastic cold remedy and has a wide range of other uses for any day of the year.

ginger root to use

Here are some ways ginger aids the body:

  • Gastrointestinal relief.  Ginger is effective at relieving gas and soothe the digestive tract.  motion sickness, morning sickness, and more!
  • Anti-inflammatory. Ginger contains compounds called gingerols (that makes sense!) which can help those who suffer from arthritis.  We hear a lot these days about inflammation and the wreak it has on our body, so incorporating ginger in your diet will help combat it!
  • Joint pain reliever. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties ginger can help relieve joint pain in the body.
  • It tastes really good.  Yummy = Happy = Healthy 🙂
  • Immune booster. Ginger is naturally warming and can promote perspiration when ingested in larger amounts.  If you are fighting a fever, this can help you sweat it out!  You may need to use a little bit more than usual to heighten the effect.
  • Stimulates circulation.  Many people suffer from poor circulation.  Due to the warming effect of ginger it aids in amping up circulation and gets the blood flowing.
  • Metabolic function.   Who doesn’t like this one?!  Get it going (without even hopping on the treadmill!).  Like the last bullet point says, it gets the blood flowing and revs up your internal fire.  Woo!
  • Powerful anti-nausea. Ginger can help relieve symptoms of nausea for those suffering from motion sickness, post operative queasiness, and women suffering from morning sickness, and stomach flu cramps.

I find the best and tastiest way to add ginger to drinks (like ones to boost immunity) and meals is to make ginger juice.  Preparing ginger juice is easy and it keeps it in a mason jar in the fridge for weeks and weeks.  This makes it simple and easy to grab for when you need it.  I like it even more because at the health food store it’s pricey, so making it at home is that much more satisfying!  Please note: this drink is super concentrated so depending on the recipe/strength desired, you will only need 1 to 3 tablespoons at a time.Tools for ginger juice to use

Here’s what you need: 

  • Ginger Root
  • Filtered Water
  • Knife
  • Blender
  • Vegetable Peeler
  • Cutting board
  • Mesh Strainer
  • Mason Jar (or another glass jar with air free lid)

ginger making process

Directions: 

  • Rinse off the ginger root under cold water.
  • Using your veggie peeler, peel the skin off the ginger (and discard).
  • Chop the ginger into pieces.
  • Add ginger pieces to blender.
  • Pour in filtered water until half of the ginger is covered. Blend.  If using a Vitamix, keep it on setting 5 (after starting at 1) and blend for about 40 seconds.  If you use a higher setting it spits the ginger all over the blender and it wastes a lot of it.
  • Using a mesh strainer and a bowl or large cup underneath, gently pour some of the mixture into the strainer and press down so all the ginger juice is extracted from the ginger fibers.  You could also use a cheese cloth for this process.
  • Get messy!  Using your (clean) fingers, press down on the rind to squeeze more juice into the bowl.  You’d be surprised how much more you get when you do this!!!  It’s like a sponge.
  • Poor into a mason jar or a re-used glass jar.

pouring ginger juice to use

 

ginger juice pic to use

There are endless ways to use ginger juice, but here are a few of my faves:

  • Health & Immunity Tonic: add 3 TBS ginger juice, the juice of one lemon, a couple dashes of turmeric, a pinch of cayenne pepper, & 1 TB manuka honey in warm water (not boiling as it destroys the beneficial nutrients).
  • Ginger Tea: 3 TBS ginger juice, warm water (or over ice), sweetener of choice (I use raw honey).
  • Carrot, Ginger, Miso Soup: recipe found here.
  • Chai Tea: Chai tea (loose leaf or bag), warm water, 2 TBS ginger juice, sweetener or choice, 1/4 cup almond milk (any milk will do, I like the unsweetened vanilla).
  • Digestive Tonic: Apple Cider Vinegar, ginger juice, squeeze of lemon, water, sweetener of choice.
  • Curb a Sweet Tooth: Try one of my favorite inflammation fighting, anti-oxidant packed drinks here.  You’ll love it and feel better for it!
  • Add to stir-fry’s and other recipes that may call for ginger.

What’s your favorite way to use ginger?

Product Review: Ancient Wisdom by Imperial Tonics

There is a new product on the market!  Ancient Wisdom Tonic Superfood by Imperial contains a blend of extracts of the royal family of Chinese herbs.  Its ingredients set it apart from its predecessors on the market.  I am excited I have been asked to review this amazing formula.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for 5,000 of years. There are three treasures associated with TCM: Jing, Qi, and Shen.  It is said disease arise when one or more of the three treasures are out of balance. Help balance your treasures by incorporating this tonic into a beverage or meal.  Find out at the end how I made one yummy smoothie out of it!

Ancient-Wisdom-Superfood

Here is what’s in Ancient Wisdom Tonic Superfood and why it’s so good for you:

Astralagus IV Extract

  • An excellent immune booster, thought to slow down the aging process, could play an important role in treating cancer, and normalize disturbances in the body.

Duanwood Reishi Spores

  • Improves how we handle stress, promotes balance, supports digestion which therefore stimulates our immune system and boosts energy levels. Duanwood Reishi is more potent and beneficial to conventional Reishi mushrooms.

Schizandra Extract

  • Decreases fatigue, enhances physical performance and reduces stress levels.  Helps with concentration and even offers liver and kidney protecting benefits.

Goji Berry Extract

  • Strengthens the immune system, increases vitality, reduces irritability.  It’s a nutritional powerhouse and super antioxidant loaded with vitamin C, minerals such as calcium, zinc, and selenium, and iron.

He Shou Wu Extract

  • An effective blood tonic to support healthy aging, healthy muscles, tendons and bones.

I love incorporating this tonic superfood into my diet and here’s how I did it this morning:

Matcha Mint Choc Chip (serves 1 – 2)

ingriends for ancient wisdom smoothie

  • 2 cups coconut water
  • 1 tsp Ancient Wisdom
  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 dates
  • 1 drop pure peppermint essential oil (culinary grade)
  • ¾ cup fresh or frozen spinach
  • ½ ripe avocado
  • 1 tsp as garnish with pure cacao nibs
  • Sweeten with stevia or raw honey to taste (if you wish)

Blend all ingredients together!

ancient wisdom smoothie

This can also simply be added to your coffee in the morning (I tried that too, yum!), tea, or anything else you like!  I love finding products that have such extraordinary health benefits in addition to a healthy eating routine.  Cheers to an extra boost!

Black Bean Brownies

Dear Leah Renee, 

My husband and kids love when I bake, but I don’t like all the bad ingredients it takes to make them taste good!!!  When I look at ‘healthier’ versions it seems like there’s tons of dates in there somewhere or skimp on taste.  Do you have anything for us, that’s gluten free too?  Thanks Leah! ~Danica B., Pittsburgh, PA

 

fudge_brownies

 

 

It is hard to not compromise flavor and texture when switching up ingredients to make for a healthier sweet treat!  If you don’t have an earthy palate like many of us raw foodies or vegans, finding something the kids and husband will like (and you too!) can be difficult.  I find that substitutions using avocado’s, applesauce, coconut oil, dates, honey, maple syrup, agar agar, flax seeds, and mashed banana’s are just some items that can really contribute to a family friendly dessert in both the health and taste categories.

One substitute I didn’t mention: black beans.  Insert the black bean brownie.  You can insert a YUM in there too–because these are really good!  Adapted from My San Francisco Kitchen, the recipe below is simple to make and the only difficult part is allowing them to cool long enough so they don’t fall apart!  If you can keep your hands off until then, you’re good.  Then again, if these are for just you and the fam, who cares if they’re crumbly, right?!  Dig in!

Here’s what you need:

Image

Ingredients
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (15½ oz)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil *I used coconut oil*
  • ½ cup granulated sugar *I used brown sugar*
  • ¼ cup and 1 tbsp cocoa powder *I used unsweetened*
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips for topping (optional) *I chopped up some 70% organic dark chocolate and used that as the topping*
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender (or the hand blender like I used) and blend on low until all ingredients are well blended (there should not be any whole black beans in the batter–it should be smooth)
  3. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish and pour batter inside (I spray coconut oil to grease).
  4. Top with chocolate chips or nuts if desired.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean after inserting in the center.
  6. Cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving (otherwise they will fall apart).
Makes 9 brownies (I cut them smaller so there were about 14).  A batch of 12 will have (a piece) about 120 calories, 15g total carbs (includes fiber), 8g sugar, 4g protein, and 5g fat.  Not too shabby!!!
Image
Enjoy!  See who notices a difference!

Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free Granola

Dear Leah Renee,

I love granola but not all the sugar that comes along with it.  Do you have a quick, easy recipe I could trust and make it at home?  Thanks!  –Alice, Tacoma WA

I could not agree more!  Store bought granola, and so many recipes out there, have so much sugar in them.  I feel like we should call it something other than granola since granola’s a word associated with something that’s healthy and nutritious.  It certainly can be, but it’s knowing what to look for on the label or what to do in the kitchen.  

If you are going to pick up some at the grocery store, I personally love KIND Healthy Grains.  They come in different varieties (my favorite is the peanut butter) and what I like about them  is the low sugar content, the simple ingredients, and the blend of gluten free grains used like amaranth and quinoa–not just oats.  I recommended a few other store bought brands on another post I did on granola a while back: “Granola–Healthy or Not?“.  

If you want a good recipe that is easy, refined sugar free, and quick, this one’s for you.  It’s adapted from Elizabeth Rider, a Board Certified Health Counselor (AADP) and wellness coach who I admire.  

Image

EASY HEALTHY HOMEMADE GRANOLA RECIPE

Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 20 min
Serves 4-6 (about 1/2 cup is a serving)

Use raw, organic ingredients whenever possible. These measurements are flexible; don’t worry too much about being exact.  Play around with it–you don’t even have to add seeds if you choose not to.  I added slivered almonds to mine.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw, whole rolled oats (aka old fashion oats)
  • ½ cup raw nuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw seeds (I used sunflower & pepitas)
  • ½ cup unsweetened dried fruit, chopped (optional–I used plump golden raisins)
  • 2-3 tablespoons grade-b maple syrup or raw honey (I used honey)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (aka coconut butter) 
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract or almond extract
  • 1 large pinch fine sea salt

Recipe: Preheat the oven to 325º. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and use your clean hands to mix well and toss to coat; it will be sticky and messy but that’s the fun part. The coconut oil might be liquid or solid depending on the temperature of the room you are in (it has a melting point of about 75ºF.) Your hands will warm it up and melt it into the mixture if it’s solid, just be sure to mix it all through the other ingredients so there aren’t any chunks of oil left. Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. (To make this recipe completely raw-friendly, dehydrate the mixture 5-6 hours at 115ºF in a food dehydrator instead.) Cool before serving or storing. This granola can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. 

Image

 

Enjoy on top of yogurt, mixed with fresh fruit, or by itself! 🙂

Scrumptious Smoothies Every Time

Dear Leah Renee, 

I’ve heard that smoothies are similar in health benefits to that of juicing, but more filling.  I have found that most smoothies are really high in sugar and made with ingredients that aren’t that healthy.  Do you have some good tips for making smoothies to keep my diet on track and still get extra nutrients that I need?  Thanks so much!  ~Amanda, TX

So true, Amanda!  The smoothies we get from some of those chain stores are not the same as the smoothies we can make ourselves at home with fresh, local ingredients, minus any additional sugars, preservatives, or even yogurt and ice cream many of them use.  Smoothies can be super nutritious, or worse than having a candy bar.  Juicing and blending offer different nutritional benefits which you can read about here.

Below is a list of some of the amazing ingredients that make up a nutrient-packed beverage to keep your energy levels strong.

smoothie chart

 

As you can imagine, making a list for any of the ingredients above could be endless, but I chose to highlight ones I think are the easiest to access and work best.   All of these ingredients should be pretty easy to find in your local natural foods store, and buy organic whenever possible!  Sweeteners should be kept at a minimum if your concerned with sugar content, including fruit, dates, and honey.  You can choose one from each category, or multiple from just a few–it’s up to you!  The servings are a guide.  I think half the fun is the trial and error!  If it’s too bitter, add a little more honey.  If it’s lacking some flavor, add some cinnamon or even some good quality salt.  If it’s too thick, add some more liquid.  Too runny?  Throw some ice in the blender or add a little more banana.  If you are looking to really fill up, or are a male reading this, add some extra protein.  If you’re looking for a snack, then just throw in only a few ingredients like a fruit, greens, antioxidant, and a few nuts (you may use nut butters interchangeably-1 TB should suffice!) .  The additions at the bottom are best at 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon.

Fruits can be fresh or frozen.  It’s a common misconception that you lose a lot of nutrients if the fruit is frozen.  I think in some cases, it can be just the opposite!  Unless you are buying local, grow it yourself, or you’re choosing fruits that are in season and did not have to travel far, chances are you’re not missing out–the fruits and veggies are usually picked, packed, and frozen so nutrients remain intact.  Don’t forget you can freeze your own fruit too!  Take advantage of the summer months when fruit in plentiful, in season, and on sale.  Buy more and store!  Make sure to wash them first before putting them in the freezer!  Banana’s?  Freeze them too!  Peel off the skin and break them in half.  Frozen bananas make a nice thick smoothie texture (as do avocados).  Are you salivating yet?!  Go!  Start blending!

Try my smoothie recipe to get you started:

smoothie


Ingredients: 1-2 cups spinach, a (pitted) date, 1/2 a banana, 1/2 avocado, 1 TB hemp protein powder, 1 teaspoon Spirulina, 1 TB raw honey, and 1.5 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (and ice), pinch of cinnamon.  A sprinkle of goji berries or cacao nibs on top!