Meditation Classes in Los Angeles You Don't Want to Miss

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In LA, life moves fast (unless you’re on the 405 at literally any point during the day!). It can be hard to keep up at times. With fast-paced lifestyles and mounting career and social pressures, it’s no wonder most people are also experiencing higher anxiety levels and more and more people are looking for some kind of escape. Our bodies and minds crave stillness and silence. That may be why meditation practitioners have tripled from 2012 to 2017—meditation allows space for stillness. It effectively calms our anxious minds by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing us to “rest and digest” rather than “fight or flight”. It stills our thoughts and allows a space to become aware and gain perspective.

The benefits of a regular meditation practice are nearly endless- stress reductionlowering anxietyenhancing self-awarenessincreasing attention span, and improving sleep are all common outcomes people experience. At Parsley, we regularly prescribe meditation practices to improve health and help manage a variety of ailments.

When we talk about meditation, you may picture a bunch of people sitting with their legs crossed, eyes closed, back straight, in silence. That thought may be uncomfortable or downright scary. The amazing thing about meditation is that it can look like that, but it does not have to. Meditation is simply the practice of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. It can take many forms and may change for you day by day. If you’re new to the idea of meditation, it may be helpful to try a guided class. These are a few that I recommend often to my Parsley Health members.

1. The Den Meditation

The Den has so many classes to choose from! It is the perfect place to introduce yourself to a meditation practice or try a new perspective. Beginners through advanced meditators will find inspiration and connection in these classes. There are focused classes, like Awakening Authenticity, and free-form offerings like the 2-Hour Sit. They even have a 20 minute class for kids. If you’re new to meditation, I recommend sitting in on the Effortless guided class or signing up for their Learn to Meditate workshop. Plus, Parsley members have a special perk with The Den!

2. Wanderlust Studio

This studio in Hollywood is a place you’ll never want to leave (and with their membership…you kind of don’t have to!). There are multiple yoga studios, a meditation studio, and an amazing cafe with seasonal, Parsley-approved, offerings. The studio is laid back and welcoming. Their philosophy has you looking inward to bring your practice to the next level, so much so that they don’t even have mirrors in class. Wanderlust creates a safe space for all to explore.

3. Y7 Studio

If you’re more of a “put on some gangster rap and handle it” type of person, you’re going to ADORE Y7 studio in Silver Lake. Y7 Studio is on a mission to make yoga and mindfulness accessible to everyone. Per their manifesto: “…we welcome all who give their all. One family formed by sweat…Sweat doesn’t judge…”. Y7 uses movement (yoga) and candlelit rooms to help you turn inward and work through yourself and anything that is limiting you from being amazing. From first-timers to experts, Y7 will push you further into yourself so you can show up more honestly in your life.

4. Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens

One of my (personal) favorite forms of meditation is Walking Meditation. The art of walking meditation is to learn to be aware as you walk, to use the natural movement of walking to cultivate mindfulness and wakeful presence. Peace Awareness offers a labyrinth with one continuous path that twists and turns, eventually leading you out (not like a maze where you may get lost!). It is a tool that allows the mind to be freed from the need to make a decision about what direction to take in the immediate sense, but will allow space for the mind to decide what direction to take in the more existential sense. This is a place of serenity hidden away in Jefferson Park and is free to enter! They also offer guided events, sound baths, and candle-lit walks in the labyrinth. This place is seriously relaxing and such a gem! 

5. Unplug Meditation

With amazing spaces in West Hollywood and Santa Monica,Unplug is us a great destination for your meditation practice. Even more amazing? You can take your practice with you by using their app! Classes in the studio range from 30 to 45 minutes and touch on a number of different types of meditation. While their most popular class is their signature “Unplug & Recharge” there are also classes in sound healing, visualization, and breathe work.

6. Ceremony Meditation

Ceremony is a mediation and energy healing studio that offers a wide range of guided meditation. The studio is unique in that it has both indoor and outdoor spaces. Picture this: a subtle breeze from the Venice air, birds chirping above, and the sun warming your skin. You’ll be relaxed in no time!  

7. Insight Meditation

Insight has studios in both Santa Monica and East Hollywood. While some classes focus specifically on calming the mind, others touch on the heart and body. They also hold a number of weekly workshops on mindfulness fundamentals, stress reduction, balancing emotions and breathwork. You might say, but practicing here, you’ll have great insight into your own world.

This post originally appeared on the Parsley Health blog. All content is created by me.


Recipe: Crispy Shawarma Spiced Chickpeas

Want a snack that’s crunchy, salty, easy to take on the go and still healthy? This roasted chickpeas recipe is quick to make and packed with flavor.

A crunchy, salty snack doesn’t have to mean unhealthy. You can make your own roasted chickpeas at home as a great snack for adults and kids alike. They also make a great appetizer or addition to a tapas plate.

The key to making chickpeas really crispy is to drain, rinse, and dry the chickpeas really well before baking. The less moisture you have going into the oven, the crispier they will be overall.

We’ve got a crispy chickpea snack recipe you will want to make every week. You can change the spice combinations in infinite ways and use them to top salads or soups, or add extra protein to meals.

Spicy roasted chickpea ingredients

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a great source of plant-based protein and soluble fiber, which can improve gut health. They also boast micronutrients like folate, iron, phosphorus, copper, and manganese.

Spice blend

The flavor-packed spices on these chickpeas aren’t just for taste. They actually have a range of health benefits: Cinnamon promotes balanced blood sugar regulation, turmeric and ginger have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, cardamom is a great antioxidant, and coriander contains borneol and linalool which improve digestion.

Avocado oil

Avocado oil is rich in oleic acid, which some research suggests has beneficial effects in inflammatory-related diseases. It also has a high smoking point, meaning it can be used at high temperatures before it begins producing smoke and oxidizes, releasing harmful compounds.

Crispy shawarma spiced chickpeas recipe

Makes five ¼ cup servings

Ingredients

  • 1 can (15 oz) organic chickpeas

  • 1 tbsp avocado oil

  • ½ tsp Sea or Himalayan pink salt

  • 1 tbsp Shawarma Spice Blend (recipe below) or other seasoning of choice.

Shawarma Spice Blend (Makes four 1 tbsp servings)
Adapted from Minimalist Baker

  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

    1. ¼ tsp cardamom

    2. 1 tsp ground coriander

    3. 1 ½ tsp ground turmeric

    4. ½ tsp ground ginger

    5. 2 tsp smoked paprika

    6. 2 tbsp ground cumin

    7. ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Drain chickpeas well, rinse with clean, filtered water, and drain again.

  3. Spread chickpeas out on a clean, absorbent towel and gently roll and dry the chickpeas.

  4. Transfer dried chickpeas to a large mixing bowl and toss with avocado oil.

  5. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Turn and shake pan halfway through the baking process for a more even crisp.

  6. Remove from oven and toss with seasoning while still warm.

  7. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before eating.

The Best Plant-Based Restaurants in LA for Every Time of Day

Trying to up the plants in your diet? Look no further than these LA vegan restaurants that our team at Parsley Health LA loves.

At Parsley, we’re really big fans of incorporating more plants into your diet. Looking at the big picture of research, including laboratory work, short-term human trials and population studies that follow large groups of people for many years, plant-based diets are overwhelmingly shown to improve health. Thankfully, Los Angeles is home to some of the best plant-based restaurants in the country, maybe even the world! Vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, herbivores, flexitarians, and those who don’t follow any specific eating pattern will find meals they enjoy.

Breakfast/Brunch

Little Pine

Need to get away but your bank is telling you a staycation would be better? Then why not head to Silver Lake for brunch at Little Pine? You’ll instantly be transported to a chic little ski lodge and feel like you’re far, far away from the hustle of LA. This little restaurant is the brainchild of singer Moby. His hope in creating Little Pine was to have a place for friends to enjoy some vegan fare while raising money for numerous animal rights organizations. In fact, 100 percent of their proceeds go to animal rights organizations. Brunch and a good deed? That’s a productive day.

My Pick: Gluten Free Avocado Toast with a side of Maple Tempeh Bacon

Sqirl

You cannot talk about breakfast or brunch in LA without Sqirl. What started as a jam business grew into one of the most popular brunch spots in Silver Lake (maybe even in LA). While not exclusively vegan (you will see things like smoked butter, eggs, and souvlaki turkey sausage on the menu), this hip cafe has a ton of great vegan offerings! You’re going to want to get there early though-oftentimes there is a line stretched around the block.

My Pick: The Stella

Flore Vegan

Getting a little bored with avocado toast for breakfast? Flore Vegan is taking vegan food in LA to the next level, creating plant-based versions of some classic comfort foods like Huevos Rancheros. They also have a variety of smoothies, cold pressed juices, and whole leaf tonics.

My Pick: Tofu Scramble with The House cold pressed juice

Lunch

Sage Plant-Based Bistro

With locations in Culver City, Echo Park, and Pasadena, Sage is one of the go-to vegan restaurants of choice for the Parsley Health LA team. Their menu is not limited to just lunch-check them out for breakfast, brunch, and dinner too. We love how committed they are to regenerative agriculture, locally sourced produce, and working with local farms to consistently deliver pesticide-free meals. Plus, every single thing on the menu is delicious.

My Pick: The Perennial Bowl with double greens

Cafe Gratitude

Looking for downtown LA vegan food? Hit up Cafe Gratitude, where you can get a healthy meal and a little motivational push all in one. Cafe Gratitude has a menu full of plant-based, organic, and self-affirming foods that will provide nourishment for your mind, body, and spirit. You can choose to be Devoted with an Indonesian Grain Bowl or Terrific with some raw Pad Thai kelp noodles. Additional locations are in Parchment and Venice. Stop by on Mondays, where to celebrate Meatless Mondays they offer special pricing on certain menu items.

My Pick: Humble-Indian Curry bowl

Native Foods

Native Foods is a restaurant chain that is on a mission to inspire the way the world eats. They create “cravable and delicious” food while upholding environmentally sustainable practices like using biodegradable packaging and making from-scratch meals daily. They’re one of the best fast-casual vegan restaurants in LA that refuses to use animal products of any kind. While not something we suggest for regular meals, having a quick, easy option is sometimes necessary.

My Pick: Sesame Kale Macro Bowl

Dinner

Crossroads

Crossroads serves upscale plant-based vegan cuisine. This is a great place for a date, special occasions, or when you’re trying to convince your friend that yes, vegan food can be really, really good. It’s also a favorite with celebs-Chef Tal Ronnen crafted meals for Oprah Winfrey’s 21-day cleanse and even catered Ellen Degeneres’s wedding. If you are really blown away by your meal (you will be) you can try your hand at the dishes at home with the Crossroads Cookbook. There are no obvious signs that the menu is entirely vegan, so it’s great for your flexitarian and omnivore pals too.

My Pick: Housemade Lentil Tempeh Piccata

Plant Food + Wine

Plant Food and Wine is creating the future of plant-based cuisine. Using “impeccable ingredients, innovative tools and techniques, and dreaming”, they strive to bring together culinary art and ultimate nutrition to create food that is vibrant, delicious, and nutritious. This is the place to try when you want to impress, just be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.

My Pick: Wild Plants Salad followed by the Coffee-Rubbed Beech Mushroom

Gracias Madre

This WeHo hot spot is *the* place for vegan Mexican fare. Gracias Madreserves organic, farm fresh, locally sourced food, full of flavor and love and is totally plant based. They also have an extensive menu of small-batch tequilas and mezcal for a treat that’s Parsley-approved.

My Pick: Suffering Madre cocktail with the Flautas de Camote

This blog post originally appeared on the Parsley Health blog. All content is created by me.

The Best Restaurants in LA for Healthy Eating

There are few cities in the world as well known for their healthy restaurants as Los Angeles.

As a health coach at Parsley Health in LA, I’m always scoping out the best places to eat good, real food in the area, for both myself and our members. Luckily, the options are plentiful. Here are our favorite healthy restaurants in LA where you don’t have to sacrifice taste for wellness.

1. Flower Child

Flower Child is a sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free restaurant with locations in Santa Monica, Del Mar, and (coming soon!) Newport Beach, makes everything from scratch, using super fresh and locally sourced ingredients. They have plenty of options to match any palate, including vegan, paleo, and more!

My Pick: Glow Bowl with a glass of kombucha on tap!

2. Tocaya Organica

Modern, organic Mexican food is the name of the game at Tocaya Organica. They offer healthy interpretations of classic street food favorites and can easily accommodate vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and more. They are committed to offering locally sourced, sustainable, and real ingredients. Tocaya Organica is adding a level of sophistication to the ‘fast casual’ dining setting. They currently have locations in Venice, La Jolla, West Hollywood, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Playa Vista, Century City, El Segundo, Scottsdale, Westwood, and are still expanding!

My Pick: Baja tacos with the catch of the day or Tocaya Salad

3. Kye’s

Question: what do you get when you cross molecular biology, traditional Chinese medicine, and spiritual psychology? Answer: Delicious, healthy, kid-friendly fare! Named for her son with a picky palate and food sensitivities, Kye’s offers delicious, nourishing, and portable food for busy LA days.

My Pick: Bulgogi Kyerito with Grass-fed beef

4. Honey Hi

Honey Hi takes food sourcing very seriously- even going out of their way to utilize “ugly” produce that would have otherwise been thrown away. Every item is refined sugar and gluten free and they never use vegetable oils. They have everything from bone broths for sipping to massaman curry. The best part? They serve breakfast all day.

My Pick: Soft scrambled eggs on their gluten-free sourdough bread topped with avocado and heritage-breed bacon.

5. True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen is a unique spot in Santa Monica was founded on the idea that simple, real foods should make you feel better. They select and prepare foods to counteract chronic inflammation, and they do it in a beautiful and delicious way! They even host yoga + brunch events on weekends! Nama-slay a Sunrise Bowl!

My Pick: Mauritius Island Redfish

6. Sweetfin

Sweetfin is California-inspired poke concept that prioritizes fresh, local produce and sustainable fish. Their restaurant is 100% gluten free with great vegetarian and vegan options. What really pushes Sweetfin ahead of other poke places in LA is their innovative toppings like wasabi-toasted coconut and blistered shishito peppers to name just two. It’s a unique experience and a great, Parsley-approved option.

My Pick: Gochujang Salmon bowl

7. Wolf

Much like how a wolf will consume every edible part of its catch, Wolf restaurant in West Hollywood practices zero-waste cooking. The atmosphere is elegant, yet timeless and the rotating menu focuses on seasonal, organic ingredients sourced from local farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Wolf is committed to utilizing every edible part of a product- from seed to stalk and nose to tail.

My Pick: Kaled-It appetizer followed by the Ora King Salmon entree.

8. Forage

Many restaurants will rotate menus seasonally, but Forage takes menu rotation to the next level- Chef Kim changes her menu DAILY based on her farmers market finds! It doesn’t get more fresh or local than that! You can stop in for a quick lunch or linger over a long, leisurely dinner, either way, you’ll leave feeling nourished and happy.

My Pick: Organic Free Range Roasted Chicken

9. M Cafe

M Cafe is a macrobiotic cafe with three locations (Melrose, Beverly Hills, and Brentwood). They do not use refined sugar, eggs, dairy, red meat, or poultry in any of their dishes and choose organic, non-GMO soy and the highest quality sushi grade fish. Think brunch is only a weekend indulgence? Think again. M Cafe has brunch every day (you have to try the Matcha Granola with coconut yogurt!). Their menu “emphasizes balance and joy, and celebrates the health of the body, the mind, and the planet.”

My Pick: The M Chopped Salad

10. The Pikey

If a British pub doesn’t come to mind when you’re trying to eat healthy- you’re not alone! The Pikey is a healthy British gastropub out to change that perception.They serve fresh, organic produce and organic, free-range meat as well! Not everything on their menu is 100% Parsley approved (we’re looking at you, thrice-cooked chips), but there is plenty that is! Cheers!

My Pick: Grilled Scallops with Warm Greens and Crushed Potatoes

This post originally appeared on the Parsley Health blog. All content was created by me.

Recipe: Gut Healing Pina Colada Smoothie

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Piña Colada Smoothie

Imagine you’re sitting on the beach every morning with this tropical and nourishing smoothie! The spinach in this smoothie will lend a vibrant green color and a healthy dose of sugar sulfoquinovose, an enzyme that promotes good gut bacteria! 

Serves 1

Ingredients: 

3 C. Spinach

1 C. Organic Plain Kefir 

1 C. Frozen Riced Cauliflower

1 Banana

1/2 C. Frozen Pineapple Chunks

1/2 C. Coconut Milk

 2 scoops collagen protein powder

 

Method:

Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately. 

Enjoy

Spring Cleaning Your Spring Cleaning

Recently, I had the opportunity to take a biology class at a local university solely focused on pesticides, chemicals, and the environment.  What an awesome class and an incredible opportunity! Since the conclusion of that class, I have been on a personal mission to remove as many unnecessary chemicals from my life and my routine as possible. For the most part, I have always gravitated toward ‘greener’ options when considering household products, personal care products, etc. But after this class, I’ve doubled down my own efforts and feel compelled to share this information with you as well!

In this post, I will be looking at how to spring clean your cleaning routine- in every room of the house. I’ll explain some of the nastiest chemicals that lurk in your cleaners and what their impact is on your health and on the environment. I’ll also give you some of my personal tried and true greener options. Replacing any of your cleaners with a less toxic alternative, you will be lessening the toxic burden you are placing on your detoxification pathways and easily improving your own health!

 

 

Spring Cleaning your Spring Cleaning- The Kitchen

Did you know that currently there is no law in the United States that requires cleaning products to list their ingredients on the label? Due to this, most companies choose to not list their ingredients. So you really do not know what is in any given product you are using.

Dishwashing, counter tops, and cooktops are major concerns for the kitchen, the hearth of the home.

Main Ingredient Concern:  Triclosan

Triclosan tends to be used in detergents and soaps labeled as ‘antibacterial’ such as in Dawn, Joy, Gain, and other dish soaps. This chemical is linked to increased bacterial resistance, hormone disruptions, and aquatic damage. Fun Fact! (spoiler- it’s not so fun) the FDA has actually banned triclosan and triclocarban from hand and body soaps, but this ruling did not apply to dishwashing liquid.

Better Options:
The Environmental Working Group gave the following cleaners a grade of A. You can search the EWG’s guide to healthy living here: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners

·         Dr. Bronner’s SAL SUDS Liquid Cleaner

·         Ecover ZERO Dish Soap

·         Seventh Generation Dishwasher Detergent Packs

·         Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap

Spring Cleaning your Spring Cleaning- The Bathroom

Main Ingredient Concern: Phthalates

Phthalates are a type of chemical that is used to make fragrances last longer. Almost every conventional product with a fragrance will contain phthalates, including laundry detergents, cleaners, air fresheners, and even toilet paper. Think products like Febreeze, Glade, Scrubbing Bubbles, etc. Phthalates are definite endocrine disruptors (meaning they mess with your hormones), even at low doses. Exposure mainly happens when we inhale a product with phthalates, but exposure can also be absorbed through the skin.

Better Options:

To avoid coming into contact with these sneaky chemicals, choose organic products without fragrance, or choose a product that lists how they get their fragrance. Make sure you can pronounce and understand those ingredients. Some better bathroom options include:

·         Seventh Generation Tub and Tile Natural Cleaner

·         Fit Organic Lime, Calcium, and Rust Remover

·         MamaSuds Toilet Bombs

·         Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner

·         AspenClean Bathroom Cleaner

 

Spring Cleaning your Spring Cleaning- The Living Room

Main Ingredient Concern: 2-Butoxyethanol, 2- Hydroxyethanol

These ingredients are commonly found in the general, multipurpose cleaners such as Simple Green Multipurpose, Windex, Pledge, Shout, etc. These are two commonly used petrochemicals (meaning they are derived from oil) in a larger category of glycol ethers- heavy duty solvents- used to cut through dirt and grease. The EPA lists some of the risks of glycol ethers as narcosis, pulmonary edema, severe liver and kidney damage, and neurological damage. Additionally, the EWG notes that occupational studies indicate that men who are exposed to these types of chemicals on the job had reduced sperm counts and pregnant women are more likely to have babies with birth defects. Yikes.

Better Options:

A spray of white vinegar wiped with newspaper is a tried and true window cleaner. If you’re looking for a pre-made greener clean, try any one of these:

·         AspenClean All Purpose Cleaner

·         Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap

·         Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Sureface Cleaner

·         Sun and Earth All Purpose Cleaner

Spring Cleaning your Spring Cleaning- The Laundry Room

Main Ingredient Concern: Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (aka. Quats)

Quats are very commonly found in fabric softeners, dryer sheets, and laundry detergents. They can also be found in anti-static agents, air-fresheners, and germicides. Think products like Downy, Bounce, OxiClean, Lysol, Static Guard, etc. Quats are similar to triclosan, they are disinfectants that cause reproductive issues, contribute to antibiotic resistance, and are highly toxic to waterways and the environment.

Better Options:

Laundry is a really easy place to make changes- there are so many wonderful options that will improve your health without overhauling your routine! I’ll provide a few that I love and use, but please look at the EWG’s guide to see where your usual detergent falls, and to see what other options are available. http://www.ewg.org/guides/categories/9-Laundry?grade=a&page=1

·         Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap (this stuff can be used for almost everything!)

·         Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach liquid/powder

·         Fit Organic Laundry and Carpet Stain Remover

·         Fit Organic Laundry Detergent

·         Seventh Generation Natural Powder Laundry Detergent

And to replace fabric softening dryer sheets- why not try natural wool balls? A few drops of essential oils will add scent while the wool balls will help soften and speed drying time!

 

This is just a toe-dip into the world of greener cleaning. There are many, many options for ways to clean up your cleaning and reduce your toxic burden and environmental impact. What are some ways that you are going to start implementing?

-Erica

Building an Anti-Inflammatory Spice Cabinet

Chronic inflammation. I can scarcely think of any combination of words that has had such a profound effect on modern health than this. Chronic inflammation is the root of many lifestyle diseases running rampant in our society including: type two diabetes, many cancers, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, depression, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and many more. 

Inflammation is a natural process that is actually protective, in the right  context. Recall the last time you sprained your ankle or banged your leg off of the coffee table, remember that swelling, heat, redness, and pain that accompanied? That's inflammation at work. Inflammation surrounds an injury with protective padding in order to protect, immobilize, and allow healing. The problems begin to arise when this response doesn't let up after an injury has healed. This can lead to systemic inflammation, or inflammation that is spread throughout the body. 

Fortunately, there are many foods and spices that that work to counteract this over-reactive inflammation trap your body may fall into. Use this guide to build your own anti-inflammatory spice cabinet to not only improve your cooking, but also improve your health! 

Best Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Spices

1. Ginger

Found in many Asian dishes, ginger is a spicy root that has been used for medicinal purposes for literally thousands of years. Ginger is known to calm gastrointestinal upsets, boost memory, and work as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Some studies have even shown ginger to work as a pain reliever. While it can be eaten raw, many people choose to add it to dishes such as stir-fries to dilute the spicy flavor. It can also be steeped in hot water and taken as a tea. 

2. Turmeric

If you're a fan of curry or other Indian dishes, chances are you've eaten turmeric. Turmeric is another root, and is best known for giving curry its yellow color. Researchers say that Turmeric is a stronger immune booster than Vitamin C, its active compound, Curcurmin, is known to be deadly to cancer cells, fight diabetes, boost mood, and support brain health. Plus, it's a powerful anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is great in curries (duh!) and also good in smoothies, soups, or ever over sauteed veggies. 

3. Basil

Most often associated with Italian dishes, basil is a beautiful herb with incredible flavor. Basil boasts the anti-inflammatory compound eugenol, and is known to provide relief to many inflammatory illnesses, especially rheumatoid arthritis.

4. Cinnamon

Some of cinnamon's many health benefits include: supporting brain function, fighting cancer, aiding in digestion, fighting diabetes, and more! Cinnamon also has compounds that block the inflammation linked to neurodegenerative diseases. Try some sprinkled on your morning oatmeal, or over a chai latte. 

5. Cilantro

One of my absolute favorite herbs, cilantro is commonly found in a lot of Mexican dishes. Cilantro is known to help the body detoxify heavy metals, as well as aid in digestion, mental health, and skin health. Of course, cilantro is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. Sprinkle some on fresh salsa or put it through a juicer with some other citrus fruits! 

This list is by no means all-encompassing. In fact, most herbs and spices have at least some anti-inflammatory properties to tout! The takeaway? Spice up your world to avoid chronic inflammation! 

Erica

Fat-soluble Vitamins

 

Last week, we looked at fats as part of "The Basics" series. Continuing that conversation, today we're going to be looking at fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin D. Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. We're going to be looking at what each of these vitamins is important for, where to find them in our diet, and if supplementation is necessary- what forms to look for in your supplements. Let's dive in! 

What are the fat-soluble vitamins?

Vitamins are the essential nutrients that our bodies need in small amounts (i.e. micronutrients) to perform various tasks. There are two classifications of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are so cool! They are the only vitamins that are stored in our body (thank you liver and adipose tissue), and we need fat present in our foods in order to absorb these vitamins. Since our bodies can store fat-soluble vitamins, we can run the risk of toxicity. Generally, this will not be an issue unless you are using mega-dose supplementation. If this is the case, seek out professional oversight to make sure you do not make yourself sick. 

A look at each vitamin:

Vitamin A

When we talk about Vitamin A, we are really referring to a wide range of fat-soluble nutrients such as retinol and beta-carotene. The bioactive form of Vitamin A is retinoic acid (RA), which acts as a nutrigenomic "hormone" that can alter gene expression and influence many physiological processes in the body. 

Vitamin A is best known for it's influence on vision, but it also supports your reproductive, digestive, urinary, and immune systems. Vitamin A is also essential for healthy bones, skin, and eyes. 

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin A is 900 micrograms for adult men and 700 micrograms for adult women. Fantastic food sources of Vitamin A include turkey giblets, beef liver, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, collard greens, kale, winter squash, turnip greens, and sweet red peppers. Remember- there are several forms of Vitamin A, so eating a diet with a variety of sources will be the healthiest for you. 

Supplementing Vitamin A: 

The major forms of supplemental Vitamin A include retinol esters and beta-carotene. Retinol forms are mainly found in the animal sources of Vitamin A, see above, and generally, beta-carotene is found in the plant sources. The majority of Vitamin A, natural or supplemental, comes in the form of beta-carotene. After ingestion, beta-carotene is metabolized in the small intestine and reduced to retinol. Natural forms of beta-carotene contain several cis-isomers, while the synthetic form (found in fortified foods, many supplements, etc) only contains a single trans-isomer. If you are not regularly ingesting different types of beta-carotene (or Vitamin A in general) you will become unbalanced. 

If you are concerned about getting adequate levels of all kinds of Vitamin A, but can't bring yourself to cook up some beef liver or turkey giblets- there is good news! There is an alge species, Dunaliella, which is composed of a nearly 50/50 balance of cis and trans Vitamin A isomers. This alge has begun being used in some supplements, often called a "mixed carotenoid". This is the supplementation form that I recommend to my clients, if they are lacking in dietary Vitamin A.  

 

Vitamin D

As I write this post, it is cold, rainy, and grey in England. So, basically on par with our usual weather. It is also January. Did you know that living above the 37th parallel means that from roughly October through March, the sun's rays are not strong enough to deliver any Vitamin D to our bodies? Even on the rare sunny day, we are gleaning no benefit from the sun! That is why many people living in this part of the world are at least mildly deficient in Vitamin D. 

 

IF you feel you need to supplement any fat-soluble vitamin- please first seek out a qualified nutritionist to go over your dietary intake, lifestyle factors, and other components that will affect your intake and utilization. It is important to get a healthy balance with fat-soluble vitamins, as they do accumulate in the body and can cause toxicity. If needed, your nutritionist will suggest a form of supplementation that is highly bioavailable and in a good amount for you.

Vitamin D helps our bodies build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It is also essential to the functioning of our nerves and muscles. More and more research is emerging linking mental health issues such as depression and anxiety to deficiencies in Vitamin D. Additionally, it is crucial to our immune system, and adequate levels are linked to a lower risk of multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and fibromyalgia. 

Many lifestyle and environmental factors can affect our ability to absorb and maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D, including pollution, spending excessive time indoors, and living in larger cities (as buildings tend to block sunlight). When we are deficient in Vitamin D, we often feel fatigued and achey, and have a general sense of just not feeling well. Being overweight or obese increases our bodies' need for Vitamin D. 

There is a lot of controversy surrounding how much Vitamin D we really need. The best way to discover what you need is by performing a simple blood test to check your levels of this important vitamin. Normal blood serum markers range from 50-100 micrograms per deciliter (mg/dL). If you are below this range, you will need to increase your intake of Vitamin D rich foods or supplement. The recommended IU's (international units) of Vitamin D for adults/day is far too low to change your blood serum levels. Currently the RDA is set at 600IU for adults. Depending on your blood serum levels, a dose of 1,000-2,000 will adequately maintain a healthy level and a dose of 5,000 or more may be needed to bring up a deficient level. Blood levels should be checked every 3 months if you are trying to bring up serum levels and every 6-12 months to maintain. Do not begin or alter a supplementation program without the supervision of a qualified nutritionist or medical professional. 

The only 100% natural form of Vitamin D for humans comes from direct sunlight or from the consumption of oily fish such as mackerel or salmon. Other food sources include egg yolks and shrimp. Milk, cereals, and yogurt can all be found fortified, but are often using a sub-par source of the vitamin. The most common supplemental form of Vitamin D is D3. Vitamin D3 is created from the conversion of cholesterol derivatives found in sheep wool lanolin. A superior form of supplementation comes from sustainably caught organic cod liver oil. Cod liver oil is a natural fat that has many other healthful properties. Toxicity with Vitamin D supplementation is rare, but possible, with long term mega doses. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E protects your body organs, tissues, and skin from the damaging effects of free radicals and contributes to their overall health and functioning. Free radicals are formed when your body tries to deal with harmful environmental toxins from UV light radiation, air pollution, tobacco smoke, etc. Like Vitamin A, E is a collection of fat-soluble compounds with distinct antioxidant activities. Naturally occurring, there are 8 chemical forms of Vitamin E, however only one, alpha-tocopherol, is used by our bodies, the others are excreted. Thanks to its antioxidant properties, Vitamin E may prevent or delay chronic diseases that are associated with free radicals. 

Food sources of Vitamin E include: wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, spinach, broccoli, mango, and raw tomatoes. Cooking can help increase the bioavailability of Vitamin E in spinach, broccoli, and nuts. 

A word of caution: Vitamin E is also abundant in many vegetable oils, such as corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil. While I encourage you to get as many nutrients as possible through your diet, I do not recommend consumption of these highly processed and refined oils. Consumption of these increases your bodily inflammation and contributes to many chronic diseases. 

Deficiency of Vitamin E is very rare- most often occurring in premature infants with very low birth weight, but almost never occurring in healthy adults- even when they do not consume many Vitamin E containing foods. It is generally not necessary to supplement with Vitamin E. 

Vitamin K

Derived from the German word koagulation, Vitamin K is named for its first known function- blood coagulation. Vitamin K is a coenzyme required for the synthesis of the proteins involved in hemostasis (blood clotting) and bone metabolism, as well as a myriad of other physiological functions. 

Recommended intakes of Vitamin K for adults is 120mcg and 90mcg for adult men and women, respectively. Food sources of Vitamin K include green leafy vegetables (kale, swiss chard, spinach), vegetable oils (caution!), and some fruits. Our daily needs for Vitamin K are very small, and just 1/2 cup of turnip greens boiled will provide nearly 700% of our needed intake. 

Excessive bleeding or hemorrhage are the classic signs of Vitamin K deficiency, however, these symptoms are relatively extreme. Bone mineralization (resulting in osteoporosis) is another sign of Vitamin K deficiency. Due to these extreme markers, it is wise to simply include modest amounts of Vitamin K rich foods into the diet regularly. There is currently no upper limit for Vitamin K intake. 

Individuals with fat malabsorption issues

Fat malabsorption is caused by your intestines' inability to absorb nutrients from your body. If you have impaired fat absorption, you may also have difficult absorbing and utilizing fat-soluble vitamins! Fat malabsorption tends to be an issue with individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome, those who have had their gallbladder removed, and those on certain medications. If you suffer from any of these, or any other malabsorption, it is imperative that you speak with a qualified nutritionist or healthcare professional to address any deficiencies and work to correct your malabsorption issues.

 

Did I give you all the information you could possibly want on fat-soluble vitamins? Do you have any questions regarding these important micronutrients? Is there something you'd like to see me cover in the future? Leave a comment and let me know! I love hearing from my readers! 

Erica 

The Basics Series: Fats

Continuing in our series on the basics of nutrition, today we are talking about fats. In our discussion on carbohydrates, we talked about how many diets take one macronutrient to the extreme- low/no carb diets like the Atkins diet to high carbohydrate diets like the Pritikin diet. Fats have suffered the same fate- since being ‘scapegoated’ in the 1950’s as the cause of all dietary dysfunction, we have seen decades of fats being demonized all while our waistlines have increased and our instance of chronic disease has skyrocketed! Now I’m not saying that we should blindly be guzzling fats to improve health- not in the slightest! What I am saying, and what I will continue to advocate for, is a return to normalcy. Eating a balanced diet that includes ALL macronutrients. Not using any one macro or micronutrient as a health or disease scapegoat. Fats are incredibly important to good functioning and a vital part of a nourishing diet. Read on to learn more about fats, how they are used in our bodies, how much we need, and much more!

 

WHAT ARE FATS

 

Fats are one of the three macronutrients that makeup our food and are needed for healthy functioning. A gram of fat, generally, has 9 calories (while proteins and carbohydrates have approximately 4 calories per gram), making fats the most calorically dense of the three. Fats are a steady source of energy for our bodies, taking significantly longer to burn and utilize than carbohydrates (our bodies preferred source of energy).  Fats are also incredibly important for nutrient absorption- there is an entire class of vitamins that are ‘fat-soluble’, meaning we need fats in order to break down and metabolize these nutrients. Fats are also used as energy storage. Adipose tissue (fat cells) are filled with extra calories for famine times and for insulating the body.

 

THE SCIENCY STUFF

 

Fats are organic compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They belong to a group of substances called lipids and can be in a liquid or solid form. All fats are a combination of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. You may have heard the term essential fatty acid before? In nutrition, anything labeled essential is such because our bodies cannot manufacture the substance; hence we need to consume it. So, essential fatty acids, are needed for proper functioning and without consuming these important compounds, our bodies will not be able to function optimally.  The essential fatty acids are linoleic and linolenic acid and are important for controlling inflammation, blood clotting, and brain development.

 

 

TYPES OF FATS

 

There are three main types of fats: unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats.

 

Unsaturated Fats: are considered beneficial fats because they have the ability to improve blood cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles in the body. Unsaturated fats are predominantly found in plant foods such as oils, nuts, and seeds.

Monounsaturated Fats: include olives/olive oil, nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans, and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds. 

Polyunsaturated Fats: include walnuts, flax seeds, oily fish such as salmon.

Omega 3 fats are an important type of polyunsaturated fat that reduce inflammation, improve brain functioning, help guard against neurodegenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s) and improve joint mobility.

Saturated Fats: are necessary for proper functioning, but are not considered as healthy as unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal foods, but some plant foods contain beneficial saturated fats (such as coconut/ coconut oils).

 

All foods containing fat are a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats. They key here is to make sure your fats are coming from healthy, whole food sources. Some favorites in my clinic include:

·      Salmon (wild caught)

·      Raw nuts/ seeds

·      Unrefined, organic coconut oil

·      Avocado

·      Olives and first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

Trans Fats: or trans fatty acids, are created by heating liquid vegetable oils and adding hydrogen gas as a catalyst to create a shelf-stable product. This process is called ‘hydrogenation’. This is the process that gave us margarine (side not: do not put this product into your body…just don’t.) Partially hydrogenated oils can withstand high temperatures, repeated heating and cooling, and do not decay. This is why they are so popular in restaurants, baked goods, and for frying foods.

THE FOOD WE EAT SHOULD DECAY
Industrially created trans fats raise the (bad) LDL cholesterol and lower the(good) HDL cholesterol. They also create inflammation in our body, which causes an entire host of other chronic problems (like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, etc). They contribute to insulin resistance and increase your risk of coronary heart disease exponentially. There are no benefits to trans fats.

 

HOW ARE FATS USED IN THE BODY

There are three main uses for fat in the body: energy, vitamin absorption, and insulation. When carbohydrates are not present, the body relies on its stored fat as a concentrated source of energy. During exercise, generally, carbohydrates fuel the first 20 minutes of activity. (Depending on your specific pathophysiology) after these 20 minutes, your body has exhausted its store of glucose and turns to breaking down fat for continued energy. Fats are also used for vitamin absorption. The fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, and K) cannot be utilized without adequate daily fat intake. These vitamins can also be stored in your adipose tissue for times of scarcity. Without adequate fat intake however, these vitamins will not be used and prolonged scarcity can lead to deficiency. Fat is also used for insulation and are pivotal in maintaining a normal body temperature. Adipose tissues are also important to protect your internal organs from sudden movements or impact.

 

HOW MUCH FAT DO WE NEED EVERY DAY

 

This is a difficult question to answer, because each person is unique and has his/her own needs and demands based on lifestyle, energy expenditure, stress levels, health/disease state, etc. Generally speaking, 30% of your daily intake should come from healthy fats. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. If you would like to know how much fat you require for optimal functioning, you can request an appointment with me and we will sit down and look at every possible aspect of your life that may impact your needs and create a plan that’s right for you!

 

DO FATS MAKE US FAT

 

I’m ending today’s discussion with an age-old question. Do fats make us fat? The unsatisfying answer: they can.

 

As we’ve already discussed, fats are more than twice as calorically dense as protein and carbs. So fats will contribute to weight gain if they are not consumed in the right context. We’ve also talked about the differences between a fat that contributes to health and a fat that does not. It is important to eliminate ‘bad’ fats from your diet and only include health-promoting fats. However, fats are a necessary part of your diet, and must be included in the right amounts. You are far more likely to ‘get fat’ off of undesirable carbohydrate choices (think processed foods, cookies, chips, soda, etc.) than off of healthy fats. This is thanks to the satiety built right into fats that is completely absent from processed carbs. Think about it this way- you can eat an entire container of oreo cookies without really feeling full or satisfied- there are no signals in these foods to tell your body “that’s enough”. With healthy fats, there are brakes! Your body will sense when it’s had enough and you’ll feel satisfied.

 

Are there any other questions you have about fats? Or is there something else you’d like to see me write about? Let me know in the comments section! I’d love to hear from you!

 

Erica

Living Hygge

I have a very special place in my heart for Denmark, after all, it is where my husband and I tied the knot! The Danes are said to be the happiest people in the world, despite harsh winters with little sunlight, cold temperatures, and oppressively damp weather. How is it that these people stay so happy? One answer is their practice of Hygge.   Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a word that describes the feeling of joy one gets when one makes everyday moments special, pleasurable, or unique. Lingering over a cup of fresh coffee while watching the sun rise before starting your day or taking weekly trips to the florist to pick a beautiful bouquet to brighten your dining room table. These simple acts of slowing down and being present are the essence of Hygge.   Hygge can also be described as creating intimacy, either with yourself, loved ones, friends, or your own space. There is no direct English translation, but some words that combine to create the idea include: cosiness, charm, contentment, happiness, familiarity, comfort, kinship, security, or simpleness.    

I have a very special place in my heart for Denmark, after all, it is where my husband and I tied the knot! The Danes are said to be the happiest people in the world, despite harsh winters with little sunlight, cold temperatures, and oppressively damp weather. How is it that these people stay so happy? One answer is their practice of Hygge. 

Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a word that describes the feeling of joy one gets when one makes everyday moments special, pleasurable, or unique. Lingering over a cup of fresh coffee while watching the sun rise before starting your day or taking weekly trips to the florist to pick a beautiful bouquet to brighten your dining room table. These simple acts of slowing down and being present are the essence of Hygge. 

Hygge can also be described as creating intimacy, either with yourself, loved ones, friends, or your own space. There is no direct English translation, but some words that combine to create the idea include: cosiness, charm, contentment, happiness, familiarity, comfort, kinship, security, or simpleness. 

 

As we live in increasingly busy, disconnected, and distracted lives, Hygge gives us the chance to reconnect, to slow down, to be mindful. Connecting to small, simple parts of your day, allows you to take a break from the fast-paced lifestyle, the deadlines that are closing in, and the pressure exerted from all around. 

Hygge is the word that describes the feeling of joy one gets when one makes everyday moments special, pleasurable, or unique.

Hygge and living a life of mindfulness go hand in hand. Where mindfulness asks us to be aware and present in each moment, Hygge makes room for simple moments to require attention. Hygge is about the ritual: grinding fresh coffee beans, boiling water, adding each ingredient to the french press, carefully allowing the coffee to steep before filtering away the grounds, pouring the coffee into a beautiful china teacup, watching the steam dance as it rises off the surface, feeling the warmth of the teacup spread to your hands, raising the cup to your mouth and inhaling the beautiful scent before taking that first, awaited sip. These rituals create moments of peace, moments of joy, moments that are not rushed, but rather savored. Hygge can be practiced with anything in as little as 5 minutes or as wonderfully long as 60! Hygge is about the connection and the peace that we experience when we are fully present, rather than distracted. 

Hygge is not rushing, it is not multitasking, it is not something to put on your to-do list only to have one more thing to cross off. Hygge is enjoyment, it is a pause in your day, it is making the simple extraordinary. And Hygge has such potential to make you happier and more centered in every part of your life. 

How can you infuse Hygge into your day?