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Feel Better, Naturally

Ever hear the famous Hippocrates quote “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food”? As a society we may have wandered away from this philosophy, but the healing ability of our food still remains! If you are interested in bringing your body back into balance naturally, this article is for you!

What we eat either creates health, or deteriorates health. As a society, we know that unhealthy food and lifestyle choices causes the majority of chronic illness that plague us. While this may feel daunting, it also offers with hope ,and gives power as we realize that we can prevent chronic illness, and even heal from it by nourishing our bodies well!

Inflammation is at the root of all illness. Armed with this knowledge, we can make choices to protect our bodies! First, let’s do our best to avoid things that create inflammation. Top of the pro inflammatory list is stress, obesity, fatty, high sugar and processed foods, lack of sleep, and sedentary lifestyle. Let’s banish inflammation with some healthy, mindful lifestyle hacks. Fruits and veggies in general are awesome, powerful anti-inflammtory foods. Top of the list are; avocado, kale, turmeric, blueberries, and flax seeds. It’s also a great idea to take a high quality fish oil supplement, or, if your vegetarian like me, a high quality algal oil for quality omega 3 fatty acids. You can take all of these ingredients and blend them up into an amazing anti inflammatory smoothie! Now, let’s talk about stress. You can’t get away from stressful situations, but you can decide how you respond to them. This takes practice and dedication, but after awhile you’ll notice that you have the ability to take a step back, take a few deep breaths, and respond to a situation – not react to it. By incorporating deep breathing, you stimulate your vagus nerve, which helps to get you out of “fight or flight” and into “rest and digest”. Adding a simple breathing practice into your day can be much more meaningful and effective than you might imagine. There is tangible, undeniable evidence that deep breathing and meditation are effective ways to prevent and reduce high blood pressure, cardiac disease, and chronic inflammation. Another great way to beat stress is to get some exercise. There is no “right” exercise. Whatever movement feels good to you is the way to go! Getting out into nature or the fresh air for a walk, jog or bike ride is a perfect way to beat stress. Now here you are, cutting out the junk, adding the anti inflammatory foods into your meals, and doing some deep breathing when you find yourself getting tense…..all of a sudden you’re quite likely to find yourself sleeping better and totally combatting inflammation!

Let’s dig a little deeper into the power of the food we eat. I’m not going to get into the doom and gloom of processed, hight fat, high sugar “food products”. Just think- processed foods = inflammation, obesity, metabolic disease, and just plain feeling bad. But that’s enough negativity…..let’s look a bit closer how whole, real foods can nourish us.

Avocado– I love avocados. Imagine my delight moving from Massachusetts to Key West and finding monster tropical avocados everywhere! So dreamy. Avocados are so versatile. You can put them in a smoothie, use it as a mayo, slice it and put it on salads, sandwiches, grain bowls, make a yummy guac, whatever your heart desires. Not only are they delicious and versatile, they are also a great source of oleic adic, which is a heart healthy monounsaturated fat. In one study of people with high cholesterol levels, those who ate a diet rich in avocado showed a significant decrease in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, and an 11% increase in HDL (good) cholesterol in just 7 days! Avocados are a great source of potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure. They are high in folic acid and B6 which contribute to healthy arterial walls by keeping homocystein levels from becoming elevated. They are high in fiber, promoting digestive health and lowering cholesterol levels. Avocados are high in Vitamin C and copper which are potent antioxidants and protect cells from free radical oxidative damage. They are also high in vitamin K which promotes bone and blood function. Fun fact….adding avocado to your salad helps your body to absorb the carotenoids (antioxidant) in the salad!

Kale– Maybe kale isn’t as dreamy as avocado, but it’s still pretty versatile and delicious! Kale contains sulfur compounds that increase the livers ability to produce enzymes that neutralize toxic substances. So think- you eat something processed, introduce toxins into the body, tax the liver- OR- you eat a kale salad and help to improve liver function. Kale is also rich in antioxidants that specifically protect the lense of the eye. Cool, right? Studies are now showing that the sulfur compounds in kale that boost the body’s detoxifying enzymes actually help to clear carcinogenic substances from the body quicker. Kale is also rich in immune boosting vitamin C, which also protects our DNA from free radical damage!

Turmeric– This spicy herb is front and center in my kitchen. Dennis and I put it in our smoothies each morning, and I toss it into everything from stir fry to tofu scramble. Turmeric is very high in curcumin which is a very powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Due to it’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s widely used to ease joint stiffness and pain. Turmeric has been shown to inhibit the formation of cancer causing chemicals in the body, and even has shown promise in protecting from Alzheimers.

Blueberries– Who doesn’t love blueberries? Grab some for a snack, put them in your smoothie, or sprinkle them on your oatmeal! Blueberries are at the top of the list for concentrated sources of powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. They contain flavanoids that have been shown to improve the integrity of the vascular system. They also protect from ulcers, cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins heart disease and cancer. Reservatrol, which is found in the skin of the blueberry is a powerful protector of heart disease and many types of cancer.

Flaxseeds– You can buy your flaxseeds ground or whole, but they have to be ground before we eat them in order to break down the nutrients and get any benefit. Just like turmeric, you can sprinkle ground flaxseeds on salads, in grain bowls, in oatmeal, or you can put it in your morning smoothie like I do! Flaxseeds are a super coentrated source of the omega 3 fatty acid ALA. ALA promotes healthy skin, and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. If your diet is high in ALA, you will have a lower risk of developing, or dying from heart disease. Flax seeds are a concentrated source of something called “lignans” that assist in balancing estrogen and protect agains breast cancer. Flaxseeds are high in fiber, and can be helpful in relieving constipation.

Every meal or snack that we put together affects us in one way or another. I’m not suggesting that none of us ever indulge in pizza or cheesecake, but there is power in understanding how what we eat affects us. We can take small steps to make some big changes. Take out the packaged stuff, add in more organic, whole food, and see for yourself the difference you will feel immediately. Rest easy knowing that you are protecting your body for the long term.

Here’s the recipe for the powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, delicious and nourishing smoothie that Dennis and I have for breakfast every morning. Enjoy!

Power Breakfast Smoothie

1 C frozen blueberries

1C kale

1tsp turmeric with black pepper

2TBSP ground flaxseed

1scoop Sun Warrior Protein

1/2 avocado

Add igredients to the blender and fill to top of ingredients with water. Blend until smooth and enjoy cold!

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