Reduce Holiday Stress with Meditation and Yoga

One of the best ways to reduce holiday stress is yoga. Not only is yoga beneficial for increasing feelings of calm and well-being, but also boosts energy levels, eases muscle tension, and soothes the nervous system through breathing exercises (Prāṇāyāma). Meditation is a discipline within yoga, and the ultimate goal for the practice of each is to achieve peace of mind. Enjoy a calmer, healthier holiday season by incorporating meditation and yoga into your daily routine.

Meditation to Reduce Holiday Stress

If holiday stress has you anxious, tense and worried, meditation can help. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace. The good thing about meditation is that anyone can practice it, and it’s simple and inexpensive. There is no need for special equipment, and you can practice it anywhere – while on a walk, riding a bus, waiting in a doctor’s office, during a business meeting.

There is no “right” way to meditate, but there are different things that can be done and you can choose what works for you. Here are some ways you can practice meditation:

  • Breathe deeply.Focus all your attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing.
  • Walk and meditate.Slow your walking pace so that you can focus on each movement of your legs or feet. Don’t think about a destination. Concentrate on your legs and feet, repeating action words in your mind such as “lifting,” “moving” and “placing” as you lift each foot, move your leg forward and place your foot on the ground.
  • Read and reflect.Read a poem or sacred text and quietly reflect on the meaning.

Yoga to Keep the Stress Away

Yoga is the process of reversing the outward flow of energy so that the mind becomes the center of perception. It is a spiritual practice that extends to the physical and, with practice, helps you keep your body and spirit energized with the ‘right’ kind of energy. The kind of energy that comes from a sense of well-being.

There are meditation techniques designed for breath control, physical poses and positions designed for body healing and balance, and deeper meditation and breathing study designed for spiritual growth.

Here is a pose you can do right now to relax and reduce stress called Three Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama–DEER-gah prah-nah-YAH-mah):

This is a simple breathing exercise that brings your awareness to the present moment and calms your mind.

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position on the floor, in a chair, or on a bed.
  2. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your rib cage.
  3. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, but naturally.
  4. Focus your awareness on the breath as it moves in and out of your body.
  5. Feel the lift of your belly and the expansion of your ribs on your inhalations. Notice the slight compression of your ribs and the drop of your belly as you exhale.
  6. Bring your bottom hand to your chest, just below your collarbone. Breathe all the way into this area and allow your chest to rise slightly; then exhale and let it go.
  7. As you inhale, feel your belly lift, ribs expand, and chest lift. On your exhalations, notice how your chest drops, ribs contract, and belly lowers.
  8. Release your arms and focus your mind on your breath for 5-10 minutes, inhaling and exhaling fully.

 

3 Healthy Substitutes for Thanksgiving Dinner

Photo credit: Public Domain

Thanksgiving is a day when we eat a lot of food. Sure, spending time with the family is wonderful, and catching up with old friends is great. But then again, there’s nothing quite like Thanksgiving dinner topped off with pumpkin pie.

Food Network (foodnetwork.com) is one of many sites that offer numerous healthy recipes to introduce to your Thanksgiving table. If there’s one food that everyone’s Thanksgiving has in common, it’s potatoes. Sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, candied yams and roast potatoes. These are the easier substitutions you can make.

Candied yams are integral to any Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s packed with sugar and it’s not great for the diet. Consider opting for glazed sweet potatoes instead.

Say Goodbye to Candied Yams

Rather than layering your sweet potatoes with marshmallows, choose honey, cinnamon, and walnuts. For every 5 sweet potatoes, use 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ cup of honey, 2/3 cup of apricot nectar, and a tablespoon of cornstarch.

Boil your sweet potatoes and slice when tender, cook the rest of the ingredients over a high heat and bring them to a boil.

Once the mixture thickens, pour it over the yams and then top with a ½ cup of chopped nuts. Bake for half an hour at 350 degrees.

Mashed Potatoes Are a Thing of the Past

Mashed potatoes are a must, but instead try mashed butternut casserole.

You’ll need 8 cups of butternut squash cut into cubes, 1.5 cups of diced sweet onion, an 1/8 of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of chopped garlic, a tablespoon of light butter, a ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, ¾ of a teaspoon of salt, 3 wedges of laughing cow cheese and 3 slices of turkey bacon.

Cook the bacon till it’s crispy, then crumble it and set aside for later use. Add the onion, butter, cayenne pepper and a ¼ teaspoon of salt to a pan and stir for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir until caramelized. Remove from heat.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the squash and cook until tender. Drain it and mash it in a large bowl, add the garlic, salt, cheese and pepper and mix it well Spread the mixture into an 8×8 baking pan and top with the caramelized onions and the crumbled bacon. Bake it for around 15 minutes.

Boxed Stuffing Isn’t a Necessity

Instead, consider making a vegetarian cornbread stuffing.

You’ll need 2 diced leeks, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, finely chopped celery stalks (8), cored and diced apples (3), a cup of chopped pecans, a tablespoon of poultry seasoning, one large beaten egg, 4 cups of gluten-free cornbread (crumbled), a quart cup of port/sherry, plus pepper and salt to taste.

Start by heating the olive oil over medium heat and add leeks to sauté till slightly golden. Add the apple and celery one at a time and cook for three minutes after each new ingredient is introduced.

Add the pecans and seasonings and sauté for another two minutes to allow the flavors to infuse. Add 2 tablespoons of port/sherry and cook for a minute. Set the mixture aside and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.

Put the cornbread in a large bowl and mix in the remaining port/sherry, egg, and veggies in the bowl and mix. Transfer it to a baking dish and cover, place it in a preheated oven (350 F) and bake for 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes for browning.

Thanksgiving can be healthy and delicious without much more effort!

 

 

5 Very Simple Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes to Reduce Stress and Workload

Photo credit: Jon Parise from San Francisco, US [CC BY-SA 2.0]

It’s that time again! Almost another year has passed and the holiday season is just around the corner. This is by far one of the most naturally stressful times for us all. There is so much going on around us, all the time, it seems like at this time of year, every year, people go just a little bit crazy.

Well, I want you to know that you are not alone, help is at hand. I’m going to share with you a few very simple recipes that will help you to better organize your Thanksgiving desserts.

Use these recipes this Thanksgiving and you will find that you have plenty of time to organize everything else. You may even find that you have a little extra time on your hands where you can sit back, take a load off, and relax.

After all, the holidays are supposed to be about fun and relaxation, so let us do everything we can to ease the stress this Thanksgiving.

Tip 1 – Yummy Baked Apples

Ingredients:

  • 6 Sweet, firm apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • ¾ cup of white sugar
  • 1/3 cup of rum or ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 pints of vanilla ice-cream

Directions

Step 1 – Mix the apple wedges with the lemon juice, butter, and sugar (leaving two tablespoons of sugar for later). Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Step 2 – Bake the apples at 356 degrees Fahrenheit, until soft. Sprinkle remaining sugar over and continue baking until the sugar melts.

Step 3 – Gently heat the rum or maple syrup in a saucepan.

Step 4 – Serve the apples with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream and pour the heated sauce on top. Yum!

Tip 2 – Chocolicious Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of whole milk
  • 4 medium sized eggs
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 8 tablespoons of butter or margarine
  • 12 ounces of milk-chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 loaf of white-bread, trimmed to remove the crusts
  • 1 pint of thickened cream, whipped until you can safely hold the bowl over your head upside down (the kids will love to test this one!)

Directions

Step 1 – Whisk the milk, eggs and sugar in a saucepan, then add the butter and chocolate chips over a low heat. Keep stirring until the butter and chocolate have both melted. Add vanilla and remove from heat.

Step 2 – Lightly coat a 13×9 inch baking tray with a thin layer of oil. Arrange the bread slices in 3 layers. Pour the heated sauce mixture over the top.

Step 3 – Cover with plastic wrap and place a second baking tray on top to weight it down. Leave to sit for 1 hour. Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 4 – Remove top baking tray and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Tip 3 – Pumpkin Rice Pudding (made two days in advance)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups short grain rice
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ a vanilla bean split down the middle
  • 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest
  • ¼ cup of orange juice, (fresh is best)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup of canned pumpkin
  • ¼ cup of dark brown sugar

Directions

Step 1 – Combine the rice, milk, sugar, vanilla bean, orange zest, orange juice, and salt in a large saucepan. Heat over a medium heat until thoroughly mixed, stirring often. Once mixed, reduce to a low heat and continue to cook until the rice is soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat.

Step 2 – Remove the vanilla bean from the mix. Add in the pumpkin. Allow to cool.

Step 3 – Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When re-warming to serve, add 1 and ½ cups of milk and stir in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Serve warm, with a sprinkle of dark sugar.

Tip 4 – Super Quick Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 8 Triangles of Swiss milk-chocolate nougat bar
  • 1 ½ cups of thawed cool-whip whipped topping

Directions

Step 1 – Microwave chocolate in a microwaveable bowl on high for 1 minute. Allow to cool for 1 minute.

Step 2 – Add whipped topping, stirring with a whisk to allow to air.

Step 3 – Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. Serve, enjoy. Yum!

Tip 5 – Lemon Pudding (made one day in advance)

Ingredients:

  • 4 lemons
  • 2 ¼ cups of white sugar
  • 3 ½ cups of thickened cream
  • A pinch of salt

Directions

Step 1 – Peel the zest from the lemons and cut into thin 1 inch strips. Place them in a saucepan with enough water to cover them, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and return zest to saucepan.

Step 2 – Add to saucepan 1 and ¼ cups of the sugar and 1 and ¼ cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat until syrup has reduced by 1/3. After this, remove the zest pieces with a fork or slotted spoon and add them into a bowl of the remaining sugar.

Step 3 – Add 3 cups of the cream to the lemon syrup in the saucepan and simmer until reduced by 1/3.

Step 4 – Half and juice the lemons and add the juice and salt to the saucepan and allow to cool slightly. Once slightly cooled, pour the mixture into pudding glasses or small bowls and chill in the refrigerator overnight until set. Serve with a dollop of the remaining cream and garnish with the zest pieces.

Final Thoughts

Five very simple recipes that will help you to better manage dessert this Thanksgiving. Remember, the holidays are a time for fun, family, and relaxation, so take a load off, and make it simple. Let the kids and the rest of the family get involved too.

You never know, they may enjoy helping so much that there’s nothing left for you to do! Well, we can at least dream can’t we?

So go have some fun, and Happy Thanksgiving!

The Role of Antioxidants in the Fight Against Cancer

Photo credit: Øyvind Holmstad [CC BY-SA 3.0]

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants prevent a chemical process known as “oxidation,” which is a natural part of living and aging. Oxidation damages cells and can lead to diseases such as heart disease, brain issues, and cancer. Antioxidants are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, grain cereals, and other foods. The antioxidants made by our body play an important role in finding and repairing damaged cells.

What is their role in fighting against cancer?

Cancer begins when a normal cell mutates, or changes, and is unable to repair itself. That damaged cell then multiplies and creates a tumor. Eating antioxidant-rich foods offers your body additional ‘ammunition’ in the form of nutrition that can be used to protect cells from damage as well as repairing damaged cells.

The best way to stay healthy and to fight disease, including cancer, is to make sure your diet includes foods that have a high level of antioxidants. This is not difficult to do! Dr. David Jockers DNM, DC, MS, a doctor of natural medicine, functional nutritionist and corrective care chiropractor compiled a list of 24 cancer-fighting foods. Here are the Top 10 from his list:

Top 10 Cancer Fighting Foods

  1. Green Tea:

Drink green tea daily for its powerful chemo preventive properties to reduce your risk of colon, breast, lung and even prostate cancer. Avoid steeping your green tea in boiling water, as the intense heat will destroy the tea’s natural health attributing compounds. Instead, bring water to a boil and allow it to cool a few minutes before brewing.

  1. Blackberries:

Buy organic berries and buy local when available. Add as a natural sweetener in smoothies, juices and add to your water with lemon for a healthy beverage.

  1. Raspberries:

Pop this nutrient-dense food into smoothies, yogurt parfaits, or snack on a handful for a healthy dessert.

  1. Blueberries:

Avoid heating blueberries or any other of the berries as heat degrades the anthocyanins reducing their antioxidant potential. Add blueberries to smoothies, snack for dessert or use in homemade sweet sauces like barbeque as a substitute for sugar.

  1. Lemons:

One of the best ways to alkalize your body and support natural detoxification processes is to juice lemon into your water and consume a glass immediately upon waking up.

  1. Onion:

Eat a variety of types of onions to receive all of the nutritional benefits. Top on chili, add to salads and slaws or create a rich bone broth based onion soup.

  1.  Kale:

For optimal absorption of its trace minerals and antioxidants, consume kale with a healthy fat source like grass fed butter, coconut oil or grass-fed cheese. The hard-to-digest fibers can create digestive disturbances, so avoid eating it raw. Consider juicing kale or adding it to your smoothies.

  1.  Green Leafy Vegetables:

Enjoy a variety of green leafy vegetables by purchasing foods in season at your local farmer’s market. Sauté turnip greens and swiss chard for a colorful side dish or add spinach to soups and stews. Add dark leafy greens to your juice and smoothies.

  1.  Turmeric:

Also known as golden milk, you can consume turmeric as a warm beverage in teas and broths. Add turmeric to intense flavor dishes like chili, stew, and use as a marinade in chicken and other meat dishes.

  1.  Artichokes:

Reap the full benefits of the bitter herb by juicing both the artichoke leaves and stem. Otherwise, eat steamed artichoke with lemon and olive oil or prepare in a hummus or dip.

Fasting for Better Health

Photo credit: Derek Jensen [Public domain]

What is Fasting?

A simple definition of fasting: “The act of willingly abstaining from all food, and in some cases drink, for a pre-determined period of time.” The key word here is willingly. The other key word/phrase is pre-determined period of time. You will be deciding to not eat for a period of time.

The Benefits of Fasting

-Fasting has many benefits, a few of which include:

-You learn to master better lifelong eating habits.

-Doesn’t cost a penny. Fasting is free. You don’t need to buy supplements or services.

-Develops mindful eating. You become more aware of what, when, and why you are eating.

-Reduces your insulin resistance.

You gain control over mindless snacking. Once you experience that a 24-hour pause in your eating is tolerable, it becomes easier to avoid snacking needlessly when you’re not hungry.

How Long to Fast?

The 24-hour fast is the one most people use to the greatest benefit. There are longer fasts, such as three days and five days, but they should be monitored and guided by a health professional. The 24-hour fast can be done by anyone, though it needs to be noted that it should not be done more than once a week.

With a 24-hour fast, you never go a whole day without eating. The fasting begins as soon as you finish a meal. You decide when you will begin fasting, and when you put your fork down, look at the clock. You will be eating again in 24 hours. You can decide to begin right after breakfast or dinner. It is up to you.

No food is allowed during the fasting period. This means no low-calorie or no-calorie food, too. If you decide that you simply must eat something, end the fast and start again on another day.

Liquids are allowed and encouraged during a fast. There are recommended liquids that allow your body to stay in the fasted state and those are:

  • Water: filtered or sparkling, but no flavoring.
  • Water with lemon or lime
  • Black coffee
  • Tea with no sugar or sweetener and no milk
  • Tea with lemon

You do not need any special drinks, supplements, cleanses or detoxifiers. Keep it simple.

After 24 hours have passed, you can break the fast and eat a meal.

Set Yourself Up for Success

  1. Plan ahead to remove temptation so that you are in control of your schedule and what you drink during your fast.
  2. Set your intentions. Some people think of fasting as deprivation, but those who gain the most from fasting think of it as a cleansing.
  3. Prepare to feel hungry and have a strategy to handle it. You can embrace hunger as a sign that your body is releasing stored fat and using it for energy. You can imagine the fatty parts of your body being depleted.

 

 

5 Great Things About Mushrooms

Photo credit: Acabashi [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

When you think “healthy eating,” you might not necessarily think of mushrooms, but they could be your golden ticket to a noticeable improvement in your overall health. There has recently been an influx of research surrounding mushrooms and the potential health benefits they can offer.

Researchers are finding that mushrooms are far more beneficial to us than we previously thought. In addition to the many benefits listed below, mushrooms are a great source of healthy protein, making them a favorite amongst vegetarians, and also have many versatile ways of use; they can even be used to create a pasta-alternative.

There’s so much that mushrooms have to offer you. In this article, I’ll share with you five of my favorite health benefits that mushrooms have in store for you.

1) They can improve your immune system

An antioxidant in mushrooms, Ergothioneine, contains sulfur, which helps boost your immune system. They also contain antibiotics naturally, helping prevent infections.

Mushrooms also help to minimize free radicals thanks to Ergothioneine. Free radicals can cause damage to your body and increase your risk of developing diseases. Eating foods that are good for your immune system are a necessary part of keeping it healthy.

2) They can help treat anemia

Mushrooms are a great source of iron, the nutrient of which those with anemia are deficient. Eating mushrooms can help those with anemia boost the iron levels in their blood, minimizing effects like headaches, digestive issues, fatigue, and brain fog (a name given to decreased ability to optimally function mentally, or in layman’s terms, being just a little slower on the uptake).

While eating mushrooms won’t treat these effects once they have started, they will help to minimize or eliminate altogether their presence in the future.

3) They can help strengthen your bones

Mushrooms, like milk, are abundant in calcium which helps to strengthen your bones. The calcium found in mushrooms can not only help strengthen your bones, but also reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis and minimize joint pain or immobility caused by age-related bone deterioration. This can help you to feel more agile and experience less pain and swelling in your joints.

4) They can help you absorb nutrients better

Believe it or not, mushrooms contain Vitamin D, which isn’t often found in vegetables. Vitamin D helps move the absorption and metabolism of phosphorus and calcium along, which means you absorb the full nutrients and experience the full effects sooner. Vitamin D is also beneficial for boosting your energy as well as your mood.

5) They can help you lose weight

Mushrooms are ranked higher than most vegetables and fruits in healthiness because of the many benefits they can offer you. They offer the ideal nutritional balance to encourage weight loss in a healthy way.

Mushrooms are chock full of protein and fiber without cholesterol and with a very low carbohydrate count; they’re the perfect addition to your healthy diet. Mushrooms are also a very versatile option for those on a gluten-free or vegetarian diet, as they can be made into pastas and provide a rich source of healthy protein.

You may not have considered the value of mushrooms before, but they certainly can be a vital part of your healthy eating journey. Mushrooms are packed full of nutrients you need while also being extremely healthy, and they can even help you lose weight.

These magical fungi can be your golden ticket to a healthier life. I hope that, through this article, I have helped convince you to integrate more mushrooms into your diet in an effort to improve your overall health.

 

5 Healthy Snacks to Fire Up Your Creative Juices

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Choosing the right kinds of snacks to eat during the day can be tricky. We are bombarded with the unhealthy, caffeine induced, sugary items each and every day, which makes them hard to avoid. It’s important to choose the right kinds of foods and snacks in order to maintain our health. Certain foods can help boost our brain power and get those creative juices flowing, especially when you need to rely on creativity and sharp thinking skills to get the job done. Here are a few snack ideas that will give your brain the fuel necessary to fire up your creative process.

Oatmeal – This healthy snack is an ideal way to start the day. Oatmeal is a superfood that gives your brain power a boost and promotes cardiovascular health. The soluble fiber, protein and healthy carbohydrates contained in oatmeal will sustain you and help you avoid snacking in between meals. Oatmeal also helps to fight cholesterol, and it’s a quick and easy snack that is perfect for any time of the day.

Blueberries – This is a powerful snack that can help protect the brain against oxidative stress, which in turn will enhance your brain activity and get those innovative juices flowing. Blueberries are extremely rich in antioxidants, which help to support the immune system and overall health. You can consume them by the handful or mix them in with other fruits and make a smoothie. Either way, you are getting the benefits of one of the best brain foods out there. It’s also been said that blueberries are one of the best anti-stress foods that you can eat.

Walnuts – One of the best snacks containing Omega-3 fatty acids are walnuts. Omega 3’s are excellent for boosting brain power and also promote optimal cardiovascular health. You can eat walnuts by themselves, put them in a smoothie, or eat them on a salad. This is definitely one snack you can make a part of your daily routine.

Sunflower Seeds – This tiny snack is full of the nutrients necessary for high-level brain power. These seeds are packed with Vitamin E and have been known to lower cholesterol. As with walnuts, you can eat these on a salad or simply by the handful. The Vitamin E contained in sunflower seeds can also help reduce the anti-inflammatory symptoms that come along with asthma, joint pain, ulcers, etc.

Whole Grains – When you choose to make whole grains a part of your daily snacking routine, you’ve already put yourself on a path to a healthier lifestyle. Whole grains are packed with nutrients including fiber, protein, antioxidants, B vitamins, and trace minerals (e.g. zinc, copper, magnesium and iron). Brown cereals, rice, pasta, and bread are all on the list of smart whole grain brain boosters. These foods have been linked in preventing certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer, and allow us the steady supply of energy we need to get through the day.

With all the unhealthy choices we face each day, it’s hard to pick those snacks that will give us the steady energy we need to get through the day. Find a way to get in the routine of making better and healthier choices when it comes to the fuel we give our bodies. The right kinds of foods will jump-start our brain activity and give us the creative spark we need to accomplish our goals and be one step closer to the success we desire.