Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Spiced Coconut Dal


Sometimes there are those weekends that are just purely AMAZING.  When every moment and every second engulfs your entire being in a beautiful way. The weekends that are long enough to let you relax, take a deep slow breath, and be thankful for how good life is. When everything falls into place, perfectly and naturally, better than you could have even imagined.

That was my weekend. Three days of pure fun, filled with love and happiness. The skies were blue, the sun kissed my face, and the smell of fir trees cleared my busy mind. If only….. every weekend, was three days long.

Now I am back home, back in my routine, and daydreaming of the days passed, still smelling the lingering hint of campfire smoke on my jacket. I also created another delicious recipe to share with you—a spiced coconut dal made with red lentils. I have been making it every weekend to have around during the week. It’s so good that neither I nor my husband can seem to get enough, and its already the fourth time I have made it. The reason I love it, besides the fabulous flavor of course, is that is comes together super quick. It is beyond easy and incredibly nutritious. For all of you wanting to add more plant based protein and fiber to your diet, this recipe is for you! Make it and watch it disappear!



Besides that it tastes great, and is super easy to make, this dal is also incredibly healthy! Lentils are legume ROCKSTARS. Firstly, they do not require soaking or long cook times like other beans. Therefore, they are a great option for the quick weeknight meals. Secondly, they are rich in plant protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals, specifically iron and B vitamins.

So lets address the protein first. One cup of cooked lentils provides about 18g of plant-based protein, or about a third of daily protein needs based upon a 2000kcal diet. That is quite a bit! Secondly, this same cup of lentils provides about 16g of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Did you know that the Institute of Medicine recommends 25-38g of fiber per day for women and men respectively? And did you know that most Americans do not even come close to getting that amount per day??  The benefits of having both the rich amount of protein and fiber together in one food is that feelings of satiety increase without adding a lot of calories to your meal. In addition, they help repair your muscles and keep you regular! Thirdly, lentils are rich in B vitamins, which help increase your metabolism and give you energy. So not only do they help you feel full longer, they also help you burn your fuel more efficiently! These little wonders are also rich in plant-based iron, which is absolutely necessary to keep your red blood cells fit and your energy up. Just make sure to eat them with something rich in vitamin C (like a tomato) to increase the absorption.



Now you know a little bit about why these little legumes are so great. In addition, more often than not lentils are also cooked with spices and herbs that offer additional healthy benefits. In this recipe I cook the lentils with a whole bunch of different culinary spices all of which offer potent antioxidant support. So yay to spices and yay to lentils! And most definitely yay to tasting DELICIOUS!

Spiced Coconut Dal
Makes about 5 cups

INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds 
½ medium yellow onion
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon chipotle powder 
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 ½ cups split red lentils
1 roma tomato, diced
3 cups water
½ can full fat coconut milk
4 bay leaves

DIRECTIONS

In a medium sauce pan heat ghee (or coconut oil) over medium heat. Add the cumin, mustard, and fenugreek seeds, and sauté until they start popping. Then add the onion and continue to sauté until glassy.

Once the onion is glassy add the cayenne, chipotle powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, and ground turmeric, as well as sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Stir to mix well. Then add the lentils, tomato, and the fresh water. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Once the lentils are bubbling, reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook lentils for about 10 minutes. Then add the coconut milk and 4 bay leaves and continue to simmer until lentils are tender, about another 10 minutes.

Store lentils in a glass container and refrigerate. They will thicken as they cool. Serve as a side or as an entree.

Note: I like to sauté diced yellow onion and tempeh until browned. Then I throw in 2 handfuls of baby spinach and heat until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and then top lentils with the sautéed mixture. Garnish with fermented sauerkraut for extra probiotic benefits. OR top lentils with sautéed onion and spinach and top with a fried pasture-raised egg. Both are super yummy!!

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Reference:
1. Bouchenak M, Lamri-Senhadji L. Nutritional Quality of Legumes and Their Role in Cardiometabolic Risk Prevention: A Review. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2013;16(3):185-198
2. World’s Healthiest Foods. Lentils. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=52. Accessed February 18, 2015.
3. Gamonski W. Lentils: The Elite Legume. Life Extension. 2013. 85-88.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Rejuvenate Your Lifestyle!


The REfreshME! Challenge is almost over-5 weeks down, 1 more to go! CONGRATULATIONS on making it to the last and final challenge-you rock! Now that you have been eating a balanced, nutrient rich, anti-inflammatory diet, its time to focus our attention from the gut to your brain. Since the two are very much connected, it is important to address your mental wellbeing. You can eat a wholesome, nutrient rich diet, yet that is not the only thing to address when aiming to lead a healthy life. This week we are going to tackle your sleep, your stress, and your activity level to REJUVENATE YOUR LIFESTYLE! Moving forward I hope you can keep some of the tools your learned in your back pocket to keep you on top of your health. Share your wonderful meal creations/recipes/inspirations with me on Instagram @poppiesandpapayas or on Twitter @PPapayas

Let's Get Moving!

Humans are meant to move; bend, twist, jump, skip, run, walk, stretch, dance, swim, climb, and lift! We were not meant to sit all day long. However, in today’s day and age, we are sitting too much. We sit in our cars, we sit at work, we sit at home watching TV. This is not news to anyone. We sit more than we stand, walk, or move otherwise during the day, and this is killing us! A recent article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that older women who sat for long periods of time increased their chance for untimely death, especially those that sat 11 hours or more. Even more interestingly, the study found that even women who exercised regularly, if they spent most of their daily hours doing sedentary activities, they also had an increased risk. Hmmmm….Therefore, even if you meet exercise recommendations of 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week, and sit the remainder of the day, the benefits of your exercise may not outweigh the risk of sitting all day long!

Exercise, or what I like to call it, enjoyable movement, is vital to your health and wellbeing. Below is a list of some of the main benefits of movement:
  • Helps protect from developing heart disease, by increasing your good HDL cholesterol.
  • Helps prevent and manage type 2 diabetes, but reducing blood sugar levels.
  • Helps strengthen bones, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Relieves stress, anxiety, and depression through the release of endorphins.
  • Helps improve sleep.
  •  Promotes healthy weight.
  • Promotes detoxification through sweating.
  • Improves lung and muscle fitness.
  • Improves overall cognition.

I know it can be hard to get outside and move, especially when it is cold and wet outside. However, making exercise a goal, and setting up an action plan to overcome your own barriers, is the first step to increasing movement into your day. This doesn't mean you have to go to the gym every day, or run 10 miles. Do something you enjoy! 

Some great tips to increase your movement throughout the day (without changing into fitness clothes) include the following:
  • Buy a pedometer to track your daily steps! It's a great motivator.
  • Stand up and walk or stretch every hour at the office.
  • When you call family or friends go on a walk instead of sitting at home.
  • Listen to music to encourage movement.
  • Find a buddy to walk with during your lunch break.
  • Split your lunch break in half: move the first half, and eat the second half.
  • Consider getting a standing work station.
  • Make yourself brain activity sticks to do every 30-60 minutes at work.
  • Get off the bus a stop or two early to increase your walk home.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk to the park to eat your lunch on a nice sunny day.
  • Instead of driving to the grocery store or restaurant, walk/ride your bike/take the bus.


Time to go to BED!

Skimping on sleep doesn't do you or your health any good. We need sleep to give our bodies time to rest, digest, and repair. More and more research has been showing that loosing snooze time can increase inflammation, increase appetite, and decrease cognitive function. Most research studies indicate that 6 hours or less is a risk factor to health problems including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Experts generally recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per day, and noted that even skimping on 20 minutes of sleep, resulted in impaired performance and memory. However, on the opposite spectrum, sleeping too much is also a contributing risk factor.

So how can you change up your evening routine to support quality sleep?

1. Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime.

Eating right before bedtime takes the focus away from resting and repairing to digesting your meal. It may even cause heart burn or discomfort. Eating a lighter dinner 3-4 hours prior to bedtime will enhance overall sleep. If your still hungry prior to bedtime, eat a small balance snack like 1/2 an apple and a few almonds.

2. Turn off the TV or computer 1 hour before bedtime to prepare the body for sleep.

Watching movies prior to bed, or working late hours on the computer stimulates the brain, and impairs the natural production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone. Therefore, switching to reading, taking a bath, or stretching, can be a great way to prepare the body for sleep.  This is guided meditation can be a great tool to help ease you into sleep.

3. Go to bed at 10pm and rise at 6am to follow the natural circadian rhythm.

The natural circadian rhythm starts with a gradual rise of the stress hormone cortisol, which spikes in the early morning, and without an alarm would wake you up. As the day progresses cortisol levels should naturally decrease, and your sleep hormone melatonin should naturally increase, peaking around midnight. By going to bed near 10pm and waking near 6am, you are naturally following your hormonal rhythm.

4. Choose your beverages wisely.

Drinking caffeinated beverages in the second half of the day may impair your sleep at night. Caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours, meaning that it takes your liver 10-12 hours to clear all the caffeine from your system. Therefore, aim to keep your coffee before noon, and choose herbal teas such as chamomile to aid in relaxation in the evening. Also, drinking too much alcohol at night, can affect the quality of your sleep by disrupting your circadian rhythm, and effecting your sleep cycles. Although alcohol is a relaxant, it does not promote optimal sleep.


Stop running from the BEAR!

Although stress can be a positive energy source, motivating you to perform well, extended periods of chronic stress can be quite harmful to overall health. Stress is a natural hormonal response that our bodies use to help protect ourselves against predators. First cortisol is released, stimulating the increase in our heart rate, and consequentially pumping more blood to our legs, arms, and brains. This is controlled by our "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system. Stress, therefore, naturally channels the blood away from our GI tract which is governed under the “rest and digest” parasympathic nervous system, to our extremeties. This makes sense, because if a bear is attacking you in the woods, you want heightened cognitive function, and fueled muscles to run and fight.

However, in today’s world, it is very rare that one must run from a bear. Rather it is the continuous chronic stress that is impacting our health. For instance, tests, presentations, traffic, fights with your spouse, death of loved ones, financial issues, deadlines, etc all contribute to this natural “fight or flight” response. If we are constantly stressed our bodies never have the chance to return to the important “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system.

Chronic stress has shown to increase inflammation, suppress the immune system, decrease the absorption of nutrients, GI problems, reduced quality of sleep, and a whole host of other issues. Therefore, managing stress is vital to maintain optimal health!

Tips to help manage your stress:

1. Take the time to breathe and relax.

Deep breathing can help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and help manage stress. Here is a good source for free guided breathing meditation.

2. Get outside, breathe the fresh air, and move.

Adding enjoyable movement to your day naturally helps reduce stress hormones. However, excessive exercise can have the opposite effect, increasing bodily stress. Therefore, finding a good medium of enjoyable movement is best to help alleviate stress and boost energy.

3. Spend time with friends and family that nourish your soul.

Some people seem to drain your energy, while others give you energy. Spending time with friends and family that support, love, and care for you can help boost your emotional and mental health.

4. Have a creative outlet.

Creating a space to allow for creativity can increase overall wellbeing. Whether you love to draw, sing, dance, sew, write, photograph, craft, etc. doing these creative activities can help reduce stress.

5. Take an Epsom salt bath once a week.

Epsom salt is rich in magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is a mineral that is in over 300 enzymatic reactions within our body, including those responsible for relaxation. Excessive stress has been shown to drain magnesium levels. By taking an Epsom salt bath once a week, you can increase your magnesium, aiding in enhanced relaxation and feelings of wellbeing. 

Epsom Bath Recipe: Add 2 cups of epsom salt to your bath. Add essential oils such as lavender, rose, or frankincense for added stress relief.

Note: You can buy epsom salt at almost any grocery store or drug store.

6. Eat magnesium rich foods!

Most Americans are deficient in magnesium. In fact, adults average only about 66% of their daily magnesium (daily recommended amount for adults is 400mg). Therefore, eating foods rich in magnesium can aid in stress reduction and relaxation. Foods especially rich in magnesium are pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard, soybeans, sesame seeds, quinoa, black beans, cashews, sunflower seeds, and navy beans.

Alright so here is your 6th Challenge!!!
Now that you have learned why you should move, sleep, and relax more, here is your next challenge! Take it by the horns and make it yours! Remember to print, download, and track on the REfreshME! Challenge Tracker to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Share your recipe inspirations, challenges, success with me @poppiesandpapayas and #refreshme2015.
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Weekly Recipe Inspiration:


Zesty Cilantro Lime Quinoa Salad

With lots of zesty lime juice and zest as well as fresh cilantro, this salad is sure to brighten your day. Also, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, black beans, and spinach are all great sources of magnesium! Per serving this salad has 119mg (30% of your daily magnesium). 

Serves 6 

INGREDIENTS
For the Dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 large lime
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (or more if you like it spicy)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the Salad:
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup roasted & salted pumpkin seeds (I used Eden Organic Spicy Pumpkin Seeds)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
2 cups raw baby spinach

DIRECTIONS

Add all the dressing ingredients into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Then add the chopped onion, stir, and allow to marinate. This softens the onion and makes it less spicy.

Meanwhile chop and prepare the rest of the salad ingredients. As you finish prepping the salad ingredients, toss them on top of the dressing. Finally when all salad ingredients are in the bowl, mix everything together. The longer the salad sits, the more flavor it has.

**If you need to make the quinoa add 1 cup quinoa into a medium sauce pan. Add 1 3/4 cup fresh water, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Fluff and allow to cool.    

Optional: Garnish salad with avocado or crumbled queso fresco.

Recipe Links:
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My Tips For Lifelong Health Maintenance:
  • 80:20 Rule: Try to follow the REfreshME nutrition guidelines 80% of the time. The other 20% is left for those crazy busy days, celebrations, and just LIFE in general. 
  • Stay active.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Make sleep a priority.
  • Take the time to relax...EVERY DAY!
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Reference:
1. ADAA. Exercise for Stress and Anxiety. http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety. Accessed February 7, 2015.
2. Rebecca S, Buchner DM, Liu J, et al. Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in Older Women. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 2014;46:122-135.
3. Markwald RR, Melanson EL, Smith MR, et al. Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. PNAS. 2013;110(14):5695-5700.
4. Roehrs T, Roth T. Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use. NIH. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm. Accessed February 7, 2015.
5. Epsom Salt Council. About Epsom Salt. http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/about/. Accessed February 7, 2015.
6. Seelig MS. Consequences of magnesium deficiency on the enhancement of stress reactions; preventive and therapeutic implications (a review). J Am Coll Nutr. 1994 Oct;13(5):429-46.
7. Worlds Healthiest Foods. Magnesium. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=75. Accessed February 7, 2015.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Extinguish Inflammation!


Wow! A whole month has gone by and only two weeks remain on the REfreshME! Challenge. How has everyone been doing? Keep me posted with your updates either through email or Instagram (@poppiesandpapayas). Use #refreshme2015 to share your recipes, challenges, and successes with other challengers. Now that you are nourishing your microbiome, lets add in a little bit more! Eating to beat inflammation is another very important aspect of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

The Role of Inflammation in Chronic Disease

Inflammation is at the core of almost every disease state. Acute inflammation, or short term, happens after injury or infection and lasts minutes to days, and quickly is resolved. Whereas long term, or otherwise known as chronic inflammation lasts up to years and can stoke the fire for many chronic illnesses whether it is arthritis, type 2 diabetes, gut disorders, cancer, heart disease, allergies, etc. Poor diet, environmental toxins, stress, or even a viral or bacterial infection can trigger chronic inflammation. If the source of inflammation is not removed or treated, it can lead to further health issues. So lets talk about some of the dietary triggers to chronic inflammation.

1. COOKING OILS: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The cooking oils you use, and the ways in which you use them, can increase inflammation within your body. HEAT, LIGHT, and AIR are the three factors that can change the quality of oil. Sadly, there is a lot of marketing used to sell consumers cooking oils that are not healthy. Therefore, choosing quality oils is the first step towards preventing inflammation.

Have you ever noticed at the grocery store that there are a wide variety of oils that all looks the same? They are sold in clear plastic bottles, are all pale yellow in color, do not have a taste, nor smell. Often, the labeling almost looks identical, and the price tag doesn't vary much. Some even have labels stating that they are heart healthy. BE AWARE! Do not buy these oils because they are heavily processed and refined and do not support health.

PROCESSED AND REFINED OILS
In order to extract the oils of nuts and seeds, they may undergo a process in which they are exposed to varying amounts of HEAT, LIGHT, and AIR.

REFINED OILS: Refining oils is a process in which oils are thoroughly filtered, reducing nutrient and antioxidant content. This process helps increase the shelf life of the oil, as well as its ability to handle heat, yet simultaneously this also reduces its flavor and aroma. Depending on the company, and their procedures, the oil can be highly affected during the refining process. Some may use chemical solvents such as hexane, high heat temperatures, and bleach to remove unpleasant flavors or odors. Although this practice may make the oils more shelf and heat stable, they are void of any antioxidant content. Therefore, you will find these oils in clear plastic bottles, all of which are pale yellow in color, with no flavor or smell.

Reliable Brands: Nutiva and Chosen Foods

EXPELLER PRESSED: These oils have been exposed to high pressures and heat to extract the oils. Depending on the company, they may choose to use additional solvents and bleach after this procedure. Spectrum is a brand that offers expeller pressed oils without the use of chemicals.

Reliable Brands: Spectrum

UNREFINED OILS: These oils are the best option. They have only been slightly filtered—like using a fine mesh sieve to strain a broth. This process does not require any additional heat and allows heat sensitive antioxidants and nutrients to remain intact. These nutrients and antioxidants give the oil its color and flavor, as well as its health benefits. For example, unrefined extra virgin olive oil has been touted for its heart healthy benefits because of its polyphenol antioxidants. Take those away, and the oil is just pure calories with no added benefit. Since unrefined oils are much more sensitive to HEAT, LIGHT, and AIR you will find these oils in dark glass bottles. Other oils like flax or hemp are even more sensitive to heat and light and therefore should be found in dark bottles in the refrigerated section.

Reliable Brands: Spectrum, California Olive Ranch, Nutiva, Barlean’s, Dr. Bronners Free Trade

Key Point: Purchase quality unrefined oils for the majority of your cooking.
Tip: Do your research on a company to decide if a refined oil is of good quality.


COOKING WITH YOUR OILS

As I mentioned earlier, HEAT, LIGHT, and AIR are the three factors that can reduce the quality of oils and cause them to be more pro-inflammatory. Therefore cooking, and the temperatures at which you cook at, can have a great impact on your overall health. So here is the science.

Depending on the fat you use, different temperatures cause the fat molecules to break down. When they start to break down, they will produce smoke. This smoke is the sign that your oil has reached its smoke point, a point at which the oil begins to degrade and produce a toxic by-product called acrylamide. This is the point at which you want to start over! The oil is no longer healthy to cook with, as it will promote inflammation.  If you see smoke rising from your sauté pan, dump it, wipe it out, and start over.

This happens to everyone, especially if you are trying to multitask in the kitchen. I have been there. All of a sudden your pan with oil, is too hot, and smoking….and you should and MUST start over. A good trick to avoid this situation, and to eliminate waste, is to heat your pan over medium heat until hot, add the oil, and then immediately add your ingredients. Reduce the temperature as needed. This way the oil is not exposed to high heat temperatures for long. Below you will find a chart regarding smoke points of oils I recommend to be used in your kitchen:

SUMMARY
Plant and seed oils that are very delicate with smoke points less than 300 should only be used for salad dressings, mixed in smoothies, or drizzled on meals after cooking. Plant and seed oils that are able to handle medium heat, 300-375 degrees fahrenheit are okay to be used for low to medium heat sautéing, and baking. If you want to fry on high heat, roast, or broil above 375 degrees, use ghee (my first recommendation) or a quality refined oil. Nutiva, and Chosen Foods carry quality refined coconut and avocado oils. 

Key Point: If your oil is smoking, dump, wipe, and start over!
Tip: If you want to high-heat sauté, use ghee or refined avocado, rice bran, or coconut oil from reputable companies.


2. The Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio:

Omega-6 and Omega-3 are essential fatty acids that must be consumed via the diet because we cannot make them ourselves. However, here in the Western world, most people consume a diet rich in omega 6 fatty acids, and poor in omega 3 fatty acids, with a typical ratio of 16/1. This means that for every 1 omega-3 fatty acid, we are consuming about 16 omega-6 fatty acids on average.

Why is this of concern?? A high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 has been found to promote many diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteroporosis, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Mostly this is due to their pro-inflammatory response in the body. See the body likes balance. An optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 1:1, meaning for every one omega-6 there is one omega-3 because each has a very unique role within the body. Omega-6 fatty acids produce arachadonic acid, AA, which has pro-inflammatory effects within the body. For example, AA promotes blood clotting, raises blood pressure, and leads to the production of inflammatory by-products. This is good to stop bleeding and to stimulate the immune system when needed. However, TOO MUCH omega-6 can chronically stimulate blood clotting, increase blood pressure, and constantly stimulate the immune system, and therefore contributing to chronic disease.

Omega-3, on the other hand, has opposite effects. Omega-3 fatty acids produce eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have anti-inflammatory effects. EPA thins the blood, decreases blood pressure, and has anti-inflammatory effects, blocking the production of inflammatory by-products. DHA, has very unique properties as it produces neuroprotectins, which benefit the brain and the nervous system. Therefore DHA is important for healthy brain function and overall neuroprotection. Another good way to see it, is omega-3 fatty acids work just like your typical NSAID drug, like Ibuprofen, which blocks the formation of the inflammatory by-products. Therefore with an increased consumption in omega-3, and a decrease in omega-6, eventually they will balance out, and pain will begin to decrease, inflammation will subside, and brain function will heighten. 

WHY ARE WE IN OMEGA-6 OVERLOAD?

The reason why the Western diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids is because soy, corn, safflower, and sunflower are in most of our foods. The issue with these grains and their oils is that they are very high in omega-6. Most processed foods, usually contains one or more of the above oils. Also, non-pasture-raised animals are often fed corn as their main diet staple. Therefore, meats become a rich source of omega-6 in our diets. Another source of omega-6 fatty acids in our diets is going out to eat. Even if you yourself do not cook with the above oils, many restaurants do because they are cheap and relatively shelf stable. Therefore, eating out can also be a big source of omega-6 fatty acids. But that is not the only issue. These oils are often highly refined and processed, just like I mentioned earlier. So now you have two things working against you.


Tips to reduce omega-6:
  • Choose organic grass-fed meats and dairy products.
  •  Stop cooking with corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed, or sunflower oils.
  • Use peanut and sesame oil sparingly.
  • Eliminate packaged foods containing corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed, or sunflower seed oils.

HOW TO RETURN TO AN ESSENTIAL FATTY ACID BALANCE:

The only way to return to a more favorable ratio is to eat less omega-6 fatty acids, and more omega-3 fatty acids. As your diet shifts towards more omega-3 rich food sources, your cells will naturally start incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids in their membranes. This will help swing your body into a less inflammatory state. Foods rich in omega-3 are in the chart below. 


Tips to add omega-3 rich foods into your diet:

  • Sprinkle ground flaxseed on your salads, mix them in with your yogurt, or add into your smoothies.
  • Use flaxseed oil to make salad dressing or use 1/2 extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 flaxseed oil.
  • Make an open-faced sandwich with avocado and smoked sardines.
  • Pan-sear one side of sockeye salmon in an ovenproof skillet with a little ghee. Then flip and finish in 400 degree oven until flaky, yet still red in the middle. Season with herbed sea salt, fresh pepper, and lemon juice.
  • Add roasted walnuts to your salads, breakfast porridge, or ice cream. 


Key Point: Eat less omega-6 rich oils and processed foods and incorporate more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
Tip: Instead of snacking on chips, snack on a handful of walnuts.

3. Eliminate Food Allergens

If you are allergic or intolerant to a certain food item, eliminating it from your diet will reduce inflammation. As you continue to eat a trigger food, your body’s immune system will be chronically triggered to “fight” off the food item. This can lead to digestive upset, pain in your joints, mental fog, and may even make you more susceptible to seasonal allergies, the flu, or the common cold. The most common food allergens include the following: soy, milk, peanuts, wheat/gluten, eggs, fish, and shellfish. For more information on food allergies visit: www.foodallergy.org.

If you suspect a food intolerance following an Elimination Diet will help identify whether or not certain foods cause an inflammatory response in your body. For guidance on an Elimination Diet speak to your dietitian :)

Alright so here is your 4th Challenge!!!
Now that you have learned how to reduce diet-related inflammatory triggers, here is your next challenge! Take it by the horns and make it yours! Remember to print, download, and track on the REfreshME! Challenge Tracker to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Share your recipe inspirations, challenges, success with me @poppiesandpapayas and #refreshme2015.
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Weekly Recipe Inspiration:

Basil Pineapple Immunity Smoothie

Adding basil, pineapple, and ground flaxseed makes this smoothie a wonderful drink to help reduce inflammation in your body. Pineapple contains powerful plant enzymes that aid in digestion and promote healing. Flaxseed on the other hand is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acid ALA, fiber, and lignans, which help balance hormones.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
2 medjool dates
1 cup plain full fat yogurt or kefir
4 romain heart leaves (handful spinach works fine too)
2 handfuls fresh basil
1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, cubed
2 medjool dates, pitted, and soaked
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (for highest quality grind whole flaxseeds in a coffee grinder)
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
3 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS

Cut the medjool dates in half and remove the pit. Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set Aside. Place all the other ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. Finally, remove the dates from the water, coarsely chop, and add to the blender. Blend the ingredients until smooth. Share and enjoy!


Recipe Links:
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Feeling Motivated??? Here is how to prepare for next week!
  • Get out your walking shoes.
  • Make your bedroom a clean and restful place. 
  • Purchase epsom salt. 
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Reference:
1. McWilliams M. Foods Experimetal Perspectives, 7th Edition. Saddle River, NJ. Pearson. 2012. 
2. Gropper SS, Smith JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 6th Edition. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth. 2013.
3. Linus Pauling Insitute. Essential Fatty Acids. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/omega3fa/. Accessed January 31, 2015.
4. Todays Dietitian. Nutrition, Inflammation, and Disease. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/020314p44.shtml. Accessed January 31, 2015.
5. Simopoulos AP. Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio and genetic variation: nutritional implications for chronic diseases. BioMed & Pharmacotherapy. 2006;60:502-507.
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