Archive for January, 2011

Avocados: Nature’s Perfect Food

Have you ever wondered about the succulent shape of the avocado? Early Mexicans believed that its pear like shape symbolized a, uhm, certain male body part while others insisted it resembled an ovary.

Appropriate to the apparent symbolism, the avocado is one of the most nourishing foods that we can put into and on our bodies.

Avocados are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin K and folic acid. While most consider an avocado part of the vegetable family, the avocado is actually a fruit!

Due to their high fat content, many avoid avocados thinking it will make them fat. If you have not read my article Fat Will Not Make You Fat, I encourage you to read it. The title speaks for itself but, in short, healthy fats will not make us fat! Avocados, in particular, contain monounsaturated fat that lowers our LDLs. To be heart healthy, we need to lower our LDLs and raise our HDLs.

Below are a few of my favorite recipes. I put avocado on my salad virtually every day so since that is pretty straightforward, I will only feature my yummy kale recipe. And, as many of you know, I ADORE chocolate (make sure you check out my article on the Healthy Benefits of Chocolate so you can eat it guilt-free this Valentine’s day!) To tide you over, however, here is one of my favorite recipes combining chocolate and avocados!

Kale Avocado Salad
4-6 leaves of locinato kale
1 avocado
Tahini
Olive oil
Lemon
Sea salt
Sesame seeds
Optional: handful of walnuts

Slice the Lacinato kale and place into a bowl. Slice half of your avocado on top and liberally douse with olive oil, lemon and a little sea salt. With your hands mix and knead the ingredients to break up the fibers of the kale. Drizzle some tahini on top, sprinkle some sesame seeds and then toss. Slice remaining ½ avocado and place on top. This is one of my favorite salads and is packed with iron, vitamin c, calcium, and protein!

Chocolate Avocado Pudding Meat from 2 thai coconuts or 2-3 cups shredded coconut (soak to soften)
1 cup raw cashews (preferably pre-soaked)
1 avocado
2-3 tbsp raw chocolate (or cacao) powder
Agave nectar (approximately 3 tbsp)
Coconut water (or filtered water)

If you are using the shredded coconut, then you want to pre-soak it to soften it otherwise use the meat from two thai coconuts. Place the coconut, cashews, avocado, cacoa and agave nectar in the food processor and blend. Slowly add the coconut water (or filtered water) to desired consistency. Place in refrigerator to cool and thicken. This pudding is truly addictive and is a great snack to have to get that afternoon boost!

Veggie BLT and A Sandwich
1 tomato (I suggest heirloom or beefsteak)
1 lettuce slice
1 avocado
2 slices “Fakin Bacon” (purchase at Whole Foods in dairy section)
2 7-grain slices
Tofu or canola mayonnaises (Whole Foods)

Heat fakin bacon in skillet and add to bread along with sliced tomatoes, avocado and lettuce. Slather bread with mayonnaise and enjoy!

Protect Your Skin From Within

excerpted from The Family Groove

Are your nails dry and brittle and your cuticles peeling? Does your skin look drab and dull? Do you look in the mirror and feel overall tired out and lackluster? Well, it may be that your skin is having a case of the “winter blues”!

With a combination of the cold weather that sucks moisture out of your skin, constant dishwashing, hand washing and usage of the alcohol-laden hand sanitizers (flu bug anyone?), and the dry air caused by our heating systems, our skin is literally parched and crying out for nourishment!

Although it is important to be cognizant of applying moisturizer frequently, purchasing a good humidifier, and wearing gloves during these cold, frost-bitten winter months, it is equally important to watch what you are putting into your body! The foods we eat and supplements we take can literally nourish and moisturize your skin from within!

Do you have enough healthy fats in your diet?

A client called me recently complaining of peeling nails and unhealthy looking skin. The first question I asked her was how many healthy fats she had in her diet. Of course, her answer was none! As I wrote about in a May article on The Family Groove, fat (at least the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fat) does not make us fat! Unfortunately, many of us have been led to believe it does. In the summer months, we may be able to get away with it but in the winter months our skin is just starved for nourishment!

What types of fats should I add to my diet?

You should be thoughtful about getting plenty of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats into your diet. Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, avocados, nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, pistachios and macadamia nuts, seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and (my favorite) chia seeds .

Polyunsaturated fats include salmon and other fatty cold-water fish such as mackerel and swordfish (watch mercury intake, though), flax seed and flax seed oil, hemp seeds and hemp seed oil.

Getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and trout, walnuts, legumes, sea vegetables such as kelp and seeds such as chia, hemp and flax seeds is essential as all of these healthy fats help us keep our skin well moisturized from within and help combat dry skin, peeling nails and dull hair!

In our house, I add avocados to salads, sandwiches, dressing, dips, soups and even smoothies! Believe it or not, avocados give a delicious taste to salad dressings and a smooth consistency to smoothies. I also sprinkle hemp seeds or walnuts (or some other nut or seed) over my salads, stir hemp seeds with berries into my yogurt, and sprinkle chia seeds over my morning cereal.

For clients looking to add more Omega 3’s to their diets in general, I also suggest that they add chia, hemp or flax seed or Udo’s oil to smoothies, pastas, salads, quinoa or other grains and really anything else they are making!

It’s not all about the fats! What else will help?

Aloe Vera

Adding aloe vera to your diet- especially during the cold, dry months- is a good first step to healing and moisturizing your skin, nails and hair! Aloe vera contains vitamins A, C, and E, sulfur, magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium, fiber, amino acids, antioxidants, zinc, polysaccharides and sulfur!

Polysaccharides lubricate the skin and help stimulate collagen production. Zinc is essential for maintaining the collagen supply. And, the sulfer in aloe vera (closely related to MSM) has been known to help moisten and restore dried-out tissues such as wrinkles on the skin, collegen and other organs. Aloe vera also dissolves mucous in our intestines (not pretty but important if we want to reap all of the benefits of what we are oh, so, carefully eating!) leading to better assimilation of nutrients. The powerful cocktail, along with the antioxidants and other nutrients, results in supple, radiant looking skin!

I take a 1 oz. shot of aloe vera at night when I am on a juice fast to help my digestion and there is an immediate difference in how my skin looks and feels! This winter I am planning on adding aloe vera to my daily routine every night for extra protection! You can find aloe vera at any good health food storebut just make sure you buy the liquid one and not the gel that is used topically. Some add aloe vera into their smoothies but I find that it has a very strong taste and it is better to just down it like a wheatgrass shot but integrate it into your diet in a way that works for you!

Honey

Natural, raw honey is one of the most important healing foods to have in your pantry AND medicine cabinet! Honey is rich in antioxidants, minerals, probiotics, and enzymes. Not only does honey have antibacterial properties and is used to heal wounds, but it is also very moisturizing! Most of us have seen how every cosmetic company under the sun is adding honey to their moisturizers, soaps, bath gels and shampoos but what many don’t know is that when we ingest honey we get the same or even a greater benefit! Using honey regularly will help promote optimal skin health.

In our house, we use raw honey in recipes, on top of yogurt, on top of Ezekiel bread for breakfast or even in our smoothies! Buy raw honey, if you can as it has been processed less and is more nutritious!

Water

Drink more water! This is an easy suggestion and, in this very fortunate country, a relatively easy change to implement! Our bodies are comprised of 69% water and every organ in our body from our brain to our kidneys and liver to our skin- depends on water to function. Drinking enough water not only helps us flush toxins out of our system, but is also hydrating to our skin!

The recommended amount of water is 8 glasses a day however some experts claim that we need to drink half our body weight in ounces each day. For a 120 pound woman this would be almost eight 8 oz glasses of water per day and for a 200 pound male this would about twelve and a half 8 oz glasses. The amount you should drink also depends on how active you are, how many watery foods such as fruits, vegetables and soups you are eating (fruits contain approximately 85% water and vegetables slightly less so), and whether it is winter or summer.

I constantly have a bottle of purified water by my side and am careful to get most of my liquid consumption done towards the earlier part of the day. Don’t wait until you are “thirsty” to drink because by then you are dehydrated! Hydrating your body from within, hydrates your body from without!

Coconut water, butter and oils

A few years ago, many of you would have said…”what?” But, coconut products are becoming more and more prevalent. Drinking coconut water is one of my favorite suggestions for athletes or those who burn the candle at both ends with long workdays and/or late nights!

Not only is coconut water a low calorie “sports drink” option for restoring electrolytes and providing hydration, but it also is packed with nutrition. Coconut water contains all five essential electrolytes, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and calcium and is an ideal drink to replenish the body’s fluids after a strenuous workout! Again, hydrated body=hydrated skin!

Coconut butter, a medium-chain fatty acid, is another favorite suggestion for tired, dry looking skin, nails and hair. Like honey, coconut butter is an anti-viral and an ingredient very commonly found in many commercial lotions, soaps, and shampoos. When ingested, coconut butter helps moisturize our cells while rejuvenating oxidative tissue damage.

What else?

I would be remiss in not saying that you need to make sure your diet is high in nutrient-rich, antioxidant-rich foods such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries and, yes, even dark chocolate. Having enough dark leafy green vegetables in your diet would constitute an article in and of itself and anyone who knows me knows what an advocate I am for juicing! If you either add a juice to your daily routine or embark upon a juice fast, you will immediately see a difference in the quality of your skin. And, healthy skin= hydrated skin.

Bottom line is take the time to take care of yourself and be thoughtful to what you are putting into your body- it can make a big difference not only in your skin but also in your quality of life!