Super-Foods to Try Now


I know some of us tend to fall into food ruts and have our health food staples, but don’t want to try things that we’re unsure of. I know I do the same thing so I wanted to let you know about some great foods that you should give a try. Some of these foods you may have heard of but may not know how to use them regularly, but others may be new to you.

1. Amaranth: It’s a powerhouse gluten-free grain that’s easy to digest. It has 9g per cup of protein and is an excellent source of amino acids, high in calcium, iron, and fiber. It’s a great grain for summer because it is known as a cooling food. Amaranth can be used in place of rice as a side dish or even in a casserole. You can also get amaranth flour, but it should not be used as the sole flour in any recipe due to its dense nature.

2. Chia Seeds: They are a good source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Chia seeds can be sprinkled on soups or salads or added to smoothies. I like chia jam. Just let 1 T of chia seeds dissolve in 1 T of water for about 10-15 mins, mash 1 c of strawberries (fresh or thawed if frozen), add chia/ water mix and stevia (or your sweetener of  choice like honey or maple syrup) to your taste (sweet berries probably won’t need any sweetener). Cover and place in the fridge for about 45 mins to set up.

3. Hemp Seeds: These great seeds have 10g of protein per ounce and are a complete protein because they have all 9 essential amino acids. Besides the protein, they are high in magnesium, iron, and phosphorous as well as a rich source of phytonutrients that will help to balance hormones, nurture hair and skin, help with post-workout inflammation, as well as ease your muscles. Hemp seeds can be sprinkled on salads or soups or used in smoothies as well. I like IsaCrunch by Isagenix.

4. Chard and Kale: Spinach is the most well-known of the leafy greens, but chard and kale should also be getting their share of attention. Dark leafy greens in general are great anti-inflammatory foods. They are also incredibly high in fiber, calcium, iron, and healthy fats. Swiss chard has very big leaves so I use these for my lettuce wraps. The stems are like a very salty celery so they can be used in soups and stews to add flavor. Kale can be eaten raw in salads, but most prefer it cooked because of the strong flavor. You can substitute kale for all (or at least half) of the basil in a basil pesto and increase the nutrient content without anyone noticing. Kale chips are also great. Just take about 6 c of kale removed from the stems, toss with 2T EVOO, 1t apple cider vinegar, and ½ t sea salt. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for about 10 mins, then remove the sheet from the oven and stir/ flip the kale so that it will get crispy all over. Bake for about another 10 mins until it is lightly browned and crispy. It should crack not give when you press down on it. I’ve never had it last long enough to worry about storage or shelf-life.

5. Steel Cut Oats: Oatmeal is a great source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Rolled oats are the most common type in our supermarkets. They are simply oat groats mashed flat by a roller. Instant oats are further processed to be quicker to cook by removing some of the fiber, as well as other nutrients. Steel cut oats are just the oat groat cut into two or three pieces. This lack of processing preserves the oat nutrients the best, it also makes the body take longer to digest so it keeps blood sugar more stable. There are several ways to make steel cut oats pretty easily. You can make your oats in the crock-pot overnight, with added fruits like raisins or apples for a sweeter oatmeal with no prep time in the morning. You can also let the oats soak in your saucepan on your stove-top overnight. Then in the morning just bring them to a boil and let them simmer for about 5 mins. If you make a big batch, then you will have several meals ready to go with just a little reheating.

6. Avocado: Avocado oil is similar to our skin’s oil so it can be used topically to treat dry skin. It is a great source of healthy fats to help brain, eye, and heart health. It’s also very anti-inflammatory, and helps bolster the immune system. I love avocado…on everything. I have it on salads, turkey burgers, with pita chips, etc. I’ve even heard of people making a savory yogurt with avocado and herbs.

7. Kefir: It’s basically a tangy drinkable yogurt. It has loads of vitamins, minerals, easily digestible protein. The best thing about kefir is the naturally occurring probiotics. Probiotics not only give our immune system a boost, but they also help with digestion, which is key to proper absorption and utilization of the nutrients we eat. Unhealthy bowels lead to many disorders and even some of our cravings for unhealthy foods. When you buy kefir, make sure that you look for live cultures as well as naturally sweetened varieties. Some kefirs have gone the way of lots of the yogurts available today and are so heavily sweetened that it detracts from their health benefits so watch for added sugars and other flavorings. You can also make your own kefir using kefir grains from a health food store. Since Wyatt is on GAPS I have to make his kefir from scratch. I start with raw milk and let it culture for 24 hours on my counter. Then I sweeten it with a little honey and bananas, and add flavoring with cinnamon and vanilla. We call it his “banana milk.”

Well, I hope this helps give you an idea of some new great foods to try.

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.


Life…It’s a Means and an End

Life...Its a means and an end

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of goals and how working toward accomplishing your goals can really give you lots of fulfillment. I want to look at the other side of that now. You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that are so goal obsessed that they don’t know how to enjoy life right now. The ones that work 70-100 hours a week  to reach a certain goal- a job title, a certain balance in the retirement account, prestige, power, etc.- then when they get there they don’t know how to enjoy it or have anyone to enjoy it with. Goals are good, but our lives have to be about more than just an end-state.

Too many people in the health and fitness industry will tell you how to get the “perfect” body. As if all you need to do once you get it is stand there and look good in your swimsuit, like some statue of a Greek god. There’s more to it than that. What’s a perfect body going to get you if you’re so carb depleted that you don’t have the energy to get out of bed? Or if you’ve had to stop hanging out and having a good time with family and friends because you want to avoid situations where you might be tempted to eat something that you shouldn’t.

I exercise and eat right to be fit and healthy, but even those things aren’t an end-state. Being fit and healthy allows me to keep up with my kids, accomplish my tasks quickly, and just enjoy my life overall, day after day. That’s where life happens.

I heard a lecture by Dr. Bernie Siegel, an oncologist who focuses on the use of love as medicine. He joked about the fact that the bitterest people at the gates of heaven are the ones that lived their lives to avoid death. They never ate or drank anything unhealthy and never skipped a day of exercise. They realize at the end that they died anyway and angrily ask, “What the heck did I do all that for?” You should never do things to avoid dying. It’s gonna happen anyway. Do things to make sure that you are able to live to the fullest.

Fitness is a means to a better life. Health is a means to a better life. But there’s more to life than health and fitness. Sometimes as moms we forget ourselves and become lost in that identity, but that’s not all we are. Others get lost in the identity of their career, but that’s not all we are either.

Picture this illustration. When you’re standing at the pearly gates and St. Peter asks you how you’d like to be introduced to God, what do you say? Are you a teacher, an engineer, a doctor? Are you a wife, the PTA president, a mother of three? Nope. My answer will simply be, “Please let Him know that his daughter, Jessica, is here.”

We are not the sum of our things, our career, our kids, our activities. Our value comes from just being us. It really amazes me how many people don’t see how awesome they are. They get caught up in the rat race, comparing themselves to everyone else, and spend their whole lives trying to measure up to someone else’s definition of success.

That’s one of the things that was so striking about hearing Dr. Siegle speak. He has worked with so many people who spent their whole lives doing something that they don’t love and not really enjoying their lives. Then they find out they have cancer and will probably die in two years so they kick that to the curb and decided that they are going to live their lives how they want. They’re truly happy for the first time in a long time and are able to either make peace with death or turn that 2 years into 20 and outlive all their still-grumpy peers.

Our bodies love us and want us to have what we want. They know when we’re not happy. How else do you explain the higher rates of heart attacks and strokes on Mondays? It’s really easy to believe the statistic that suicides are more common on Mondays because people are so unhappy with their jobs and lives that they’d rather kill themselves than go into work. But it is also true that there are 20% more heart attacks and 17% more strokes on Mondays. Our bodies know that we are unhappy so they help us get what we want, an end to our unhappiness.

I’m not saying you should quit your job because we all have to pay the bills. But we can change our attitudes. We may not be able to do what we love in terms of careers, but we can still love what we do. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should thrive not just survive.

Some of us may have some significant problems that get us down or we may be dealing with the problems of loved ones. We can learn from our current troubles and get past them or we can just wallow in them for the rest of our lives. This poem was written by one of Dr. Siegel’s patients who had breast cancer and shows how even something that most perceive as a terrible loss can bring about good.

by unknown

it is not as though I lost my breasts to surgery
perhaps they were erased or painted over
as if the artist changed her mind
but see there are other changes too
the head held higher
the shoulders back
the brightness in the eyes
the air of expectancy
listening with keener ears
observing with greater insight
do we perhaps shed things as we go through life
that other features may be enhanced
the canvas isn’t finished
there is more color on the palette

No matter where we are in life, we are still a work in progress. The beautiful colors in the fall are an example of this in nature. Leaves are green for most of their lives, and mostly blend in with the others. Even though they have their own beautiful uniqueness, you only notice this up-close. From afar they all look like green leaves. Then, at the end of their lives they realize they don’t want to blend in and become a beautiful mix of bright colors that cause so many people to claim as the reason that fall is their favorite season.

So, I want to urge you to set goals, but also enjoy the life that is happening along the way. And definitely don’t deprive the world of your true beauty by being a green leaf.

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.