Summertime...the season that packs a potentially 'deadly' combo: Over-eating and drinking at outdoor cookouts + dehydrating, hot weather + 'skin-baring' clothing = VISIBLE BLOATING! If you find yourself battling with bloat, even when you THINK you are making healthy food choices, you may be able to quell your belly with a few simple changes...

Chew your food: Yes, it's that simple. When you hungrily gobble down your food, you create an increase in air bubbles in your digestive tract. Additionally, you don't allow for digestive enzymes to get to work breaking down the food. All this adds up to bloat. Consciously chew your food, and not only will you reduce bloating, but you will also absorb more nutrition from your food, AND feel more satiated after a meal.

Stay away from carbonated beverages: This one is pretty self-explanatory... bubbles in your drink = bubbles in your stomach. 

Load up on water: All too often, folks avoid water because they are worried they will 'retain fluid' from drinking too much. Not the case at all; in fact, it's just the opposite. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your body will try to counteract the lack of fluid by...holding on to water! If you are well-hydrated, your body can easily release excess fluids, as well as move out bloat-inducing toxins in the process. 

Increase gut flora: To keep your digestive tract running 'smoothly', your gut requires a good amount of 'healthy bacteria'. Without it, food is digested poorly and slowly, and often 'sits' too long, causing a distended belly. To increase the good gut bacteria, try eating foods naturally rich in probiotics, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh (fermented tofu), non-dairy yogurts, or even a probiotic supplement. 

Stay away from allergy triggers: If you know you have a food allergy, avoid it! The most common food allergens are: dairy, eggs, fish, wheat (gluten), soy and nuts. If you often notice bloating or stomach discomfort after eating any of these foods, it's quite possible that you have an allergy, or even just an intolerance. Play it safe, and avoid any suspect foods on belly-baring days. 

Eat foods that help release excess fluids: While some foods make you hold onto excess fluids (ie. salty and heavily processed foods) some foods act as natural diuretics and aid in digestion. And it just so happens that most of them are also perfect summertime snacks. Watermelon, pineapple, coconut water, avocado, and lemon juice all either aid in diuresis and/or stimulate your digestive tract to release pent up toxins causing bloat. Another favorite diuretic of mine, albeit much less palatable than the aforementioned, is dandelion greens. Though somewhat bitter and pungent, they can easily be mixed into a salad, adding a bloat-reducing boost to your meal.

Sweat!: Not only is sweating beneficial in releasing toxins that cause bloating, cardio exercise is beneficial to your heart, your mood and your brain! 
Ahhh the days of summer are upon us. And as the heat sets in, what better time to learn about the methods and benefits of COLD-BREWED beverages? This alternative to the traditional 'hot brewing' method of coffee and tea is environmentally friendly, easy, tastes amazing, and most importantly is much healthier for you. 

In essence, brewing coffee or tea is a very basic thing. It is a procedure that brings plain water into contact with dried plant materials to imbue the water with flavor, color and various active substances, like caffeine and antioxidant polyphenols. Yet, although it may be a basic process, it is not a simple one. 

As water moves into the coffee particles or tea leaves, it dissolves or suspends hundreds of different substances and extracts them from the solids. If the water is hot, it extracts more rapidly. Hot water also cooks as it extracts, forcing chemical reactions that transform some of the extracted substances into other things, and driving some aroma substances out of the liquid. Cold water, in contrast, extracts more slowly and selectively, produces a simpler extract, and doesn’t change the original flavor substances as much. The cold brew process essentially “pulls” the flavor out of the leaves instead of “pushing” it out.

Health and Taste Benefits:

  • 60-70%  less acidic
  • The more alkaline pH is helpful for a sensitive stomach, aids in weight loss and     
             is beneficial to the immune system
  • Improved antioxidant content
  • Less caffeine per cup
  • Less bitter, which promotes a smoother flavor
  • Allows a different flavor profile to appear. With reduced bitterness, the other undertones are allowed to shine

I have gotten into the habit (ok, slight addiction) of cold-brewing my coffee and teas in purified water for 12-18 hours. The final product is one that is chemically different from its hot counterparts. With less caffeine, 60-70% less acidity, lack of bitterness, an intense but smooth flavor, and an eco-friendly brewing process, I L-O-V-E cold brew. I hope you do too!

Here's how it's done:

Cold Brew Coffee
1 1/3 cup of ground coffee 
4 cups of filtered water

1. Combine ground coffee and water in a mason jar or covered containerStir to combine well. Cover and leave for at least 8 hours, and up to 24 hours at room temperature.

2. Put a coffee filter in a fine sieve over a small mixing bowl or 4 cup measuring cup. Slowly pour coffee through the filter. This is your coffee concentrate. (I just pour mine through a grain strainer; I usually do this twice to make sure I strain out all the grounds)

3. Keep refrigerated. To serve, dilute to preference. A one-to-two ratio is common (one-third coffee concentrate, two-thirds water). For a stronger cup of coffee, use a one-to-one ratio. 

You can boil water to make hot coffee, or serve with coldwater for iced coffee.
It will keep at least one week refrigerated.

Cold Brew Tea
3-4 bags of tea
4 cups of filtered water

1. Combine tea bags and water in a glass container. Place in fridge and let steep for at least 8 hours, and up to 24 hours.

2. After steeping, remove bags and the remainder is your cold brewed tea!

As the quintessential morning 'comfort food', coffee is consumed to the tune of 
350 million cups per day in America. And for good reason. Aside from the solace
of a warm cup in your hand, coffee offers an energy boost, along with improved 
mood and enhanced concentration. But due to it’s high caffeine content and addictive qualities, coffee often gets a bad rap. And with so much conflicting information out there, it’s hard to know what to believe. 

So here's the good news: 

Combat Depression and Parkinsons: All coffee drinkers know that a good cup of joe leaves you feeling a little bit happier than before you drank it. This is, of course, primarily due to the caffeine, which affects the feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, serotonin and dopamine.  The Nurses’ Health Study has shown that women who drank 4+ cups of coffee each day had a 20% reduction in depression compared with women who drank 1 cup or less.  And speaking of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is deficient in Parkinson’s disease, studies show a 30% reduced risk of developing Parkinsonʼs disease among coffee drinkers, again due the caffeine and subsequent boost in dopamine. 

Cancer Fighter: Coffee is the single highest source of antioxidants in the diet of 
Americans. That's not to say that it is the highest antioxidant you can consume. 
In fact, on a side note, the most potent source of antioxidants on the planet is 
none other than my long time love, cacao (aka raw chocolate). But back to the 
elixir at hand. Polyphenols, the antioxidants in your morning cup of joe, ward off 
inflammation and fight free radicals, providing protection from heart disease, type 
2 diabetes and cancer. For an added antioxidant boost, as well as tasty treat, try 
topping your coffee with a dash of cinnamon or raw cocoa powder. 

Ward off Diabetes: This claim may be a bit of a stretch, but a study 
performed at Harvard has shown that subjects who drank 6 or more cups of coffee 
per day lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes by 35%! The obvious problem here is 
that along with the diabetes reduction comes the negative effects of too much 
caffeine in 6+ cups of coffee per day. However, subjects who drank only 4-6 cups also showed a risk reduction of 28%, and even subjects who drank just one cup per day showed an improvement in blood sugar stabilization. At this point, researchers are unsure of what causes these benefits. Some have hypothesized that the high antioxidant content helps to regulate the body’s sensitivity to insulin, while others postulate that a substance in coffee called chlorogenic acid slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Whatever the reason, one thing we know for sure is that the benefits are not due to caffeine, since the study’s improvements were also noted with decaf coffee drinkers. 

Heart Health: In the Iowa Women’s Health Study, coffee drinkers who consumed 1-3 cups per day lowered their risk of heart disease by 24% when compared with their non-coffee-drinking peers. Since heart disease is primarily caused by inflammation of the blood vessels, the suspected culprit of benefit here is again the antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and thus promote heart health. 

Improve Athletic Performance: Years ago when I began training for my first marathon, my typical pre-training run was half a bagel with peanut butter and banana, and nice big cup of coffee. I knew always ran better after my coffee, I just didn’t know why. I now know it’s because the caffeine draws more calcium into the muscles, which improves their contractions. It also, as we know, releases endorphins, which make us feel good and raises our pain threshold, thus allowing a harder workout. 

And now for the bad news:
As with most good things in life, TOO much of a good thing can lead  to problems. In the case of coffee, this reasoning still stands.

Caffeine Addiction: It is not news that caffeine can be highly addictive. As already mentioned, the caffeine makes you feel good. And so then what happens? We want MORE! The caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones. This is where the energy boost comes from. The problem with this is that, over time, we burn out our adrenal glands. When the adrenal glands cannot make enough cortisol to maintain a baseline of energy, you are left with a condition referred to as adrenal fatigue. You are basically trying to run a car with no gas. In addition, the constant artificial energy boosts from caffeine rob your body of its normal rhythms. We all need some down time. Sure, a few cups of coffee per day may keep you plugging away from 6 am to midnight, and then back at it the next day, with just 5-6 hours of sleep per night. But even if you have temporarily tricked your body, and your adrenals, into thinking you have energy, it will eventually catch up to you. But it’s hard to quit, since typical withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, irritability, headaches and trouble concentrating.

Exacerbation of Insomnia and Heartburn: It should go without saying that if you have insomnia, you should avoid the potent effects of coffee’s caffeine dose. Also, the jolt to the nervous system can worsen anxiety, and since caffeine amps up the production of gastric juices, it can cause heartburn and may worsen irritable bowel disease. Some research even links caffeine to an increased risk of miscarriage, so pregnant women should avoid it.

Highly acidic: Some hypothesize that the root cause of all disease is an acidic pH of the body. If this is true, coffee drinkers beware! Coffee has a highly acidic effect on the body, and can lead to ailments such as weight gain and osteoporosis, as the body attempts to buffer the acidity. One point to note, the espresso bean has been found to be less acidic than the coffee bean, so an Americano or an Espresso may be a better choice than an average cup of java. 

Weight Gain: As mentioned above, the acidity can lead to weight gain, but that's not the only reason you may gain weight from coffee consumption. And to be fair, this negative point is not really due to the coffee itself. It's what we put IN it. And what we eat WITH it. Most of us take our  morning cup of 'cream and sugar'  with a little coffee, instead of the other way around. And for those who get their coffee on the run, the overwhelming temptations of the sweet treats in the bakery counter are all too often given into. And so one acidic cup of coffee is compounded by heavy doses of sugar, cream, and sugar laden, heavily processed, gluten-rich sweet treats. 

High Doses of Pesticides and other chemicals:
The coffee plant is unfortunately one of the most heavily sprayed crops consumed by Americans. So the more you drink, the more you are overloading your body with toxicity. In addition, many folks drink caffeine-free coffee in attempt to be more 'health-minded'. The dilemma with this is that often times, conventional decaffeinated coffee has more chemicals than regular. To strip the caffeine from the bean, most coffee companies use chemical solvent such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. The solvents are rinsed away at the end of the process, but of course there still may be chemical residue. If caffeine-free is your MO, make sure the caffeine is removed in a natural way, such as the Swiss Water Process, which uses water instead of chemicals.

Taking into consideration the good and the bad, here are some tips to consider when having your 'morning cup of comfort':
  • Choose organic whenever possible
  • Brew at home. This way you are in control of choosing organic, choosing what you add to it, and you will avoid the temptations of store bought baked goods being placed in your path.
  • If like to add cream and sugar, try transitioning to healthier options, such as non-dairy milk or creamer (rice or almond milk tastes great, and So Delicious makes a fantastic coconut based dairy-free creamer). Swap out the processed sugar for a more natural sweetener such as Stevia.  Most coffee joints now offer dairy-free options, but I always practice B.Y.O.S (bring your own stevia) to ensure that I can sweeten my coffee without guilt.
  • If you are a coffee addict and you want to start to reduce your intake, try swapping out a cup or two for herbal tea, or even mixing some Teeccino into the brew. Teeccino is a caffeine-free coffee replacement that can be brewed by steeping in bags, or in regular coffee pot. A great weaning strategy is to mix half coffee grounds and half teeccino in your pot. This way, you can enjoy four cups of java but actually consume only 2 cups of coffee and caffeine.

The choice to drink coffee is yours. Above all, honor your body, and don't just boost your energy with caffeine and sugar. Fuel your body with self-care, regular down-time, healthy, healing foods, and exercise. You will find that the better you care for your body, the less reliance you will have on caffeine. That way, a cup of coffee in the morning can become a pleasurable choice rather than an addictive necessity. 

     “Sit back and relax. I’m about to take you on a mini vacation”. Those were the first words spoken to me by Sol, a semi-retired professional magician...and that’s exactly what he did.

     Having just finished reading a book on magic and the power of the human mind, I decided I would take my chances and try to ‘crash’ the weekly magic group that the book described as meeting every Saturday in a small Italian cafe in midtown Manhattan. Within seconds of sitting down at the large table, strewn with everything from clown balloons to playing cards, I was entertained and amazed. First, an older gentleman walked by and dropped a small string of beads in front of me, which he had twisted in such a way that it resembled a poodle. Another member of the group quickly picked it up and dropped it back on the table...only now instead of the beadwork it was a small wad of tissue. The poodle had vanished. Next a man walked by and showed me how he could levitate a straw. I then turned to my left and was witness to a dollar bill being transformed into a $20, and then back to a $1. One of my favorites was a dice trick done by Sol, where he held a playing die in his hand and then made the dots disappear and reappear on another side of the die. Spectacular. Incredible. Two hours flew by in the blink of an eye, and I left that little cafe feeling much like I feel when I leave a good yoga class: calm, refreshed and grounded. That feeling got me thinking about what Sol had said. It really was like a mini vacation. Watching the magic diverted my attention to the present, and helped me to escape the chatter of my mind. When I asked the ‘magic men’ what they enjoyed most about magic, they all agreed that it was the delight that it gives others. For a few moments, or in my case a few hours, the spectactor is able to let go of their worries and bring their focus entirely to what is happening right in front of them. As we discussed this phenomenon, I compared watching magic to a sort of meditation, and they all agreed. 

     Our daily lives are so encumbered with to-do lists, work, chores, grocery shopping, worries, and stressors, that it’s no wonder that we often don’t feel as good as we would like to. Study after study has shown how stress negatively affects our health and well-being.  High levels of stress trigger the secretion of cortisol into the bloodstream. High cortisol levels are associated with increased abdominal fat, high blood pressure and impaired cognitive performance, to name a few. Yet something as simple, and as enjoyable, as watching a magic show, can help to bring us out of these states of dis-ease. But it doesn’t have to be magic, or a an actual ‘vacation’; it can be whatever is enjoyable for you. What is something that attracts all of your attention; something that you enjoy so much that it makes you forget that you have ‘more important’ things to do? Do you like to get lost in a good book? Do you enjoy walking in the solitude of nature? Do you find pleasure in lovingly preparing a home-cooked meal from scratch? Whatever it is, hone in on it, because it is precisely this that is of primary importance for your health. Make it your duty to allow yourself time to engage in your chosen actively on a regular basis. If you are feeling stressed, these ‘meditative-like’ activities are even more health-promoting than a reluctant trip to the gym...and most certainly more fun!

Happy 4th of July to you all! As I was contemplating the words that define this holiday... independence, freedom, thoughts turned to how reliant most of us are on our food. So often we neglect home cooked meals and instead opt for pre-packaged, take-out, or restaurant dining. These are all acceptable options in moderation, but if we want to be at our optimal health, they should be the anomaly. And nothing feels more liberating than preparing and enjoying a meal in the comfort of your own home. The most common complaints I hear from people are: "I don't have enough time" and "I'm not good at cooking". I would like to offer a few of my best tips for overcoming these roadblocks to gaining your independence in the kitchen.

-Make your kitchen a relaxing space. First and foremost, no one wants to prepare a meal in a kitchen that is cluttered and chaotic. Not only will an organized kitchen make the process of food prep more enjoyable, but the time you save searching for a particular spice or kitchen utensil can really add up. If your kitchen feels like a scary space of disarray, instead of a calming venue to inspire creativity, make it a priority to spend some time re-organizing. 

-Plan when you shop. Instead of heading blindly into a grocery store on an empty stomach, where you are likely to reach for prepared and packaged foods, make a list of what you will need to turn your kitchen into a well-stocked pantry. Be sure to follow the advice above FIRST, as you may uncover all sorts of spices and ingredients that have long been buried in your cupboards (check expiration dates). You don’t want to waste money or time buying things you already have. If you come across a recipe that you would like to try, take note of it and add the ingredients to a grocery list. Which brings me to my next tip...

-Try one new recipe per week. If you are a novice at home cooking, start off by committing to trying one new recipe per week. Find a simple recipe that sounds enticing, add the ingredients to your list (cross-checking for what you may already have on hand), and choose one day per week to set aside a little extra time to tackle the recipe. The recipes that you enjoy can become staples in your budding repertoire, and the ones that turn out to be a bust will at least teach you some lessons in the process. In the meantime, you will be stocking up your kitchen with staple ingredients, so that  each new recipe requires fewer and fewer new nonperishable items to purchase. After a few months of this, you will be amazed at how quickly you can whip a quick and tasty meal at home, without giving it much thought at all.

-Cook once, eat twice...or more. Once you become more adept at creating dishes, you will discover how you can consolidate your time with this practice. Grains are a perfect food to save time in the kitchen. Take quinoa for example. Here is a time saving strategy that I utilize with this super grain: Spend 15 minutes one evening cooking a few cups of quinoa, then store it in the fridge. The next morning, reheat some in a pot on the stove for this simple meal: Breakfast Bowl . For dinner, saute some fresh veggies (spinach, broccoli, zucchini, garlic, etc) and throw some quinoa into the pan the last few minutes to heat it through. You now have a healthy, fresh stir fry in under 10 minutes. With the remaining quinoa, make a cold quinoa salad by adding fresh ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, corn, black beans, avocado, onions, cilantro, parsley, spinach, zucchini, cucumber, etc.... top it off with a little sea salt, some olive oil, and some lemon or lime juice to keep it fresh. This dish will last for a few days when kept covered in the fridge.

-Spruce up your salad. Who said salads have to be boring? Salads tend to get a bad rap, but I assure you they can be a quick and satisfying meal if you think outside of traditional toppings. Once you start preparing more food at home, you will find your fridge and countertop becoming more colorful as they are filled with vibrant, fresh fruits and veggies. Basic salad greens can be turned into a unique meal by just clearing out all of your half-used produce. Some of my favorite salad ‘throw ons’ are raw zucchini, mango, avocado, fresh herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro) almonds, dried figs, dates, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sprouts, beets and left over cooked grains. Basically, any fruit, vegetable seed, nut or grain that you don’t know what to do with is a prime candidate for your salad. Think out of the box... and produce less food waste in the process.

-Grow your own food! Nothing tastes better, or more liberating, than noshing on fresh vegetables that you harvested from your own garden. Not only does a vegetable garden save you money, it saves you time from making trips to the store, and the freshness is just incomparable. If you can’t grow your own food due to lack of suitable space, try to frequent your local farmer’s market for your weekly produce. The many perks include: The variety of plant foods available may inspire you in the kitchen... You can almost always sample the food before you buy it...And the produce will last longer due to it being grown locally, thus eliminating transport time from out of state to your local grocery store shelves. 

Preparing food is an act love. Find joy in the process. It will in turn fill you with joy through good health, stimulating and nurturing your creativity,  and through your liberation from the chains of dependence on fast food!

If you have any great tips on how you make it easier to cook at home and would like to share with others, please post on my FB page !

Last month I was fortunate to travel to India; a country I have yearned to experience for quite some time. It was all that I expected, and more. It is a place of extremes...extreme poverty and extreme beauty. And if you are open to it, India can teach you. I like to believe that India has taught me some lessons that I will continue to carry with me, the greatest of which being that of acceptance. 
    Acceptance is an interesting word, with multiple meanings. It can refer to the willingness to tolerate a difficult situation. But it can also elude to a sort of affirmative 
reception; a belief in an idea, a trust or a faith. I’ll begin by sharing a few of the things that I learned to ‘accept’ during my time in India: 
  • Hours upon hours of transportation delays, that will serve to make a NYC cab ride a piece of cake
  • Exactly 2 hot showers in a 10 day span
  • 6 days of my legs covered with irritating, red mosquito bites that itched with every brush of my skirt against my skin
  • Babies crying and a neighboring passenger laughing loudly for 15 hours straight, on a long flight where sleep is paramount to pass the time
  • Having powdered color thrown on my clean clothes, rubbed in my hair and face, and settling into the fabrics of my purse that I had to carry for the entire trip
  • Sleeping on a bed for 4 consecutive nights that consisted of a wooden slab topped with a thin cushion of a mattress
  • Constant nausea due to bumpy rides and frequent traveling in planes, trains and automobiles, coupled with a lack of sleep
  • Limited dining options due to the prevalence of dairy in the food, often having just a glass of juice or a piece of dry toast to tide me over until 3pm
  • Arising twice before dawn for a yoga teacher who never showed up
    So the question I ask myself is: Were these inconveniences or aggravations exactly what I needed to experience? Do we need to live without in order to appreciate what we have? Is a life of poverty the road to true richness of the soul? Is this what India wanted to teach me? Drawing from the life of Buddha, I think the answer is both yes and no. Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who later became the Buddha ("the awakened one"), was 
born to a rich, ruling family where he led a sheltered and pampered life, enjoying every 
physical comfort and pleasure he wished for. But as a young man, he began to question 
the spiritual worth of this life of excess, and so decided to give up all his possessions, 
fleeting pleasures, and emotional attachments, and he set out in search of a deeper, 
more enduring truth. He hoped to find enlightenment by completely detaching himself 
from the world. He deprived himself of food and sleep, to the point that he was close to 
starvation. However, he soon found that this path was futile, as he was weak and on the 
the verge of physical collapse...and he still hadn't achieved enlightenment. He realized 
that if he continued on that path, he would die without reaching any understanding, so 
he gave up the ascetic life and accepted a meal from a stranger. It was then, when he 
took this ‘middle way',  the life between luxury and poverty, that he finally attained enlightenment. It is said that the middle way should not be confused with passivity or a kind of middle-of-the-road compromise. It instead refers to a life of balance, and to the actions or attitudes that will create happiness for oneself and others. Taking the middle way doesn’t mean that we have to renounce all material comforts and pleasures to live a life of spiritual richness. However, we also should avoid  being caught up in material possessions, and placing our happiness in our attachment to them. It is when we truly accept, and when we believe and put our trust and faith in the universe, that we can find true happiness along our path. We can still enjoy earthly comforts, and we needn’t live an impoverished life in a village in India to feel connected to the spirit of the universe. It's within you. It’s within me. It’s within us all. We are all one. Om Shanti. Namaste my friends.

As the holidays approach, so do the temptations of processed, sugary, nutrient-deprived, high calorie foods ever-present at the looming events and parties. Though there are many tactics you can utilize to stay in control, one I find most effective, and most sustainable, is by simply changing the way you look at food. Begin to look at it as an investment. What is it’s net worth? After deductions, what’s the bottom line? I think we can all agree that food is fuel for our body. And I think we can also agree that we all strive to achieve and maintain good health. So when we consider what we put into our mouths as an investment in our health, the stakes change.

We are so conditioned to ‘eat with our eyes’ first. If we spot a pretty cupcake topped with fluffy frosting, our mouth begins to salivate. Usually, we grab the cupcake and devour it without giving ANY thought whatsoever to the investment (or lack there of) that this cupcake may be to our body and to our health. We eat purely for the taste, and for that euphoric feeling that a ‘sugar-high’ can give. Now I am certainly not saying that we shouldn’t relish the taste our food. But when we eat and take pleasure in our food, we should also do so with intention. For example, if you took a split second to consider the net worth of that cupcake, you may not be so quick to grab it. Let’s see... it is probably very high in refined sugars, which means that it will spike your blood sugar, and then lead to a ‘crash’, after which you may feel tired and moody (and will probably result in you craving ANOTHER cupcake). And what nutrients is this cupcake providing you to promote your health? Maybe a small amount of fiber in the flour (and this is very minimal if white flour was used). Maybe a tiny amount of protein if it was made with milk (hopefully non-dairy). What about hearty doses of vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting antioxidants? Negative. In fact, you are depleting precious nutrients in your body just to digest this processed food. So essentially, you are putting pennies in your bank (at best) when you could be putting $100 bills. Most of you know what the ‘healthier’ choices are, such as vegetables, fruits, etc. Basically, the less processed, and the closer to whole-food form, the better investment it will be. For further guidance on the foods with the most bang for your buck, Dr. Joel Fuhrman has created ANDI scores for many foods (you can currently find these ratings on many items at Whole Foods Markets).  As expected, the foods that come out on top include foods such as kale, collards and turnip greens, and the lowest points are awarded to foods such as fish, beef, chicken and dairy (probably partially due to the complete lack of fiber in any animal food).

Now I most definitely delight in the decadence of a sweet treat now and again. But I do so with the awareness that I am getting little to no nutritional value from this choice, and that knowledge prevents me from over-eating and bingeing on junk. In my opinion, nothing feels worse than a stomach full of food that I know has given my body no net gain. If you find that you are constantly hungry, even with a full stomach, this a distinct sign that you are nutrient deprived. Your body will tell you what it needs. So if you aren’t ‘depositing’ the right nutrients in your body, your hunger signal will stay turned on. That’s why we can eat foods like cookies and cakes, and the infamous white rice from Chinese take-out, and still feel hungry an hour later. We have invested only pennies, and our body wants the big bucks!

So if you are going to put food in your mouth and  fill up your stomach, why not get the most bang for your buck? Would you put pennies in bank and expect it to yield millions for you? You could expect a much greater return if you invested a little more. In the same way, the quality of the food you put in your body, has a direct link to the level of health you will achieve. And investing in yourself, and your health...what’s a wiser investment than that?

As I was flipping through a magazine the other day, there was a common theme I was seeing in the newest beauty product ads...they all contained super foods! I know that for years we have been seeing shampoos, lotions, and potions infused with things like peaches, strawberries, and coconut. And recently, more exotic fruits such as goji and acai. But I am talking about FOOD in the products. There was a hair mask with quinoa, a face lotion with tumeric, a toner with beetroot, and a shampoo with brown rice. As I pondered these products, I couldn't help but wonder.... do people know that they can actually EAT these foods too? And most importantly, do they realize that consuming them in their diet will have an even more profound effect than slathering the expensive lotions on their skin??

Now don't get me wrong, I applaud beauty lines for moving towards more natural ingredients in their products. In fact, I am thrilled. I just hope consumers understand that it's what you put IN your body that has the greatest impact when it comes to health, wellness, and beauty.

Let's take a look at a few of those ingredients:

Tumeric: Does the average person even know what tumeric is, let alone include it in their diet? My guess is that if you're reading this, you're probably not the average person when it comes to health and wellness, and you know and love tumeric. But I would venture to guess that you are the minority. So for those who don't know, turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both Chinese and Indian medicine. Tumeric is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, a liver detoxifier, a potent anti-inflammatory (that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects), speeds up wound healing, and assists in remodeling of damaged skin.

Quinoa: There are not words to describe just how much I love this pseudograin. It is an amazing food that is sadly lacking in the standard Amercian  diet. Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is a complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids.Quinoa is especially rich in the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. Quinoa is an excellent source of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus. It is beneficial in treating migraine headaches, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.

Beets: This colorful, often over-looked, root vegetable is a potent liver detoxifier, and contains powerful nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers. Beets are loaded with zinc and vitamin C—nutrients that boost the immune system and the production of skin-firming tissues collagen and elastin.

These are only a small sampling of the wonderful plants that mother Earth has provided us with to nourish and heal our bodies. It is my hope that as the names of these foods start to appear more often on bottled and packaged products, consumers will take the initiative to educate themselves on what they are putting in their bodies, and will start to not only use these plant-based products, but will also begin to consume these amazing gifts from nature first-hand, in their whole, natural and delicious form!


"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves. We must die to one life before we can enter another." ~Anatole France

I've had a lot of experience with this thing called 'change' over the past few weeks. I left the comfort of my home in sunny, carefree San Diego, to relocate to Manhattan. The two places really couldn't be any more different. I knew there would be growing pains, and I anticipated feeling a little 'off balance' for a bit. But from the start, it seemed like everything that could go wrong, DID! My journey began at the San Diego airport at 5am, where I was told that the carry-on bag I purchased for one of my dogs was 1/4 inch too tall (are you kidding me??) by the airline's regulations. I had no choice but to purchase the airline's pet bag, for a fee of $50. That brought my grand total of checked bags and pet fees to almost $400...Was this the universe trying to tell me I wasn't on the right path? Was I making a mistake? No. And even when my bed didn't fit in my new bedroom, and my couch wouldn't fit through the doorway, and I was a sneezing, itchy mess from the cat dander left behind in my new apartment, I never doubted. Regardless of what is happening around me, I always have faith that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at any given moment. Why? Because that's where I am, simple as that...

I'll admit I wasn't always this accepting of the hurdles of life. But time has taught me that adaptability and acceptance are vital keys to happiness. And so there are a few practices I put into place in times such as this, to prevent me from getting too far off balance:

-Find calmness within the chaos. Do what you know works for you. For me, this means taking my dogs to a park and just sitting in nature, or seeking out a yoga studio and taking 60 minutes to honor my body and my mind in my yoga practice. I know I have to make time for these things. All the work will never be done. It may mean walking away from an apartment full of 30 boxes that are begging to be unpacked, but the time lost in unpacking is well worth the benefits received.

-Get grounded. For me, this means literally doing something that makes me feel rooted in the earth, such as taking a long walk, or going for a run. Sometimes it may also mean that I am eating more 'grounding' foods, such as sweet potatoes or other root vegetables. Nature can provide so much more for us than we realize!

-Maintain comforting rituals in your life. If there is something you do every day that just makes you feel good, and it's something you don't HAVE to give up doing during your time of change, then hold on to it! For me, this meant that I would be leaving extra room in my suitcase for my trusty Vitamix, so that I wouldn't have to go for 2 weeks without it in the moving process. I have a green smoothie every morning for breakfast, and it was well worth packing a few less pairs of shoes, so that I could keep up this comforting custom during a transitory time.

After 2 weeks of turmoil, I am finally starting to feel truly settled, and I count my blessings every day. And today I was reminded of just how fortunate I am. As I was walking home, I passed an elderly woman who was meandering down the busy sidewalk with 2 dachshunds. I leaned down to pet them and said "I have two of these also".... and in a thick Italian accent she replied, "Then we are all rich, aren't we?".  I couldn't agree with her more. 

While it can certainly be challenging to eat healthy at home, traveling presents a whole new set of challenges. I did quite a bit of traveling in the past few months, and since vacation season is looming, I figured it would be a good time to share with you some of my tips for keeping your waistline in check while on the road.

Be prepared. This is the single most important thing you can do when you're traveling. Carry food with you. Bring healthy, portable snacks with you whenever possible. I always travel with at least a few apples and some health bars. Other snacks suitable for traveling are bananas, pears, carrots (you don't even have to cut and peel them; just scrub clean and then bite into it Bugs Bunny style.. they even taste better that way!). Some of my favorite bars are Larabars and Organic Food Bars. Both are whole foods based, and travel well. I always bring more than I think I will need of these bars. They're especially helpful in airports when you're famished and faced with the barrage of fast food options. Succumbing to the temptation of greasy fries is much less likely to occur when you are armed with healthy snacks. (You'll also save yourself some money this way!)

Bring food on the airplane. The only exception I am aware of is that you cannot bring produce if you are traveling internationally (and of course the liquid rules still apply). Some of my go-to plane snacks are:
-fruit (hard fruits are best, in case they have to take a beating in your bag)
-pre-packaged food bars (once again, I like Organic Food Bars and lara bars)
-a homemade trail mix (some of my favorite ingredients to throw in the mix are almonds, walnuts, cashews, dried figs, dried cherries, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds, carob chips)

Eat super foods. You will maintain your energy while traveling if you make sure to add in some of the foods that pack a nutritional punch. Things like chia seeds can be added to water to stay hydrated and balance blood sugar. And dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach will keep you alkalized and full of energy. If you don't have access to fresh produce, bring some greens powder, so you can just shake it up with some water in a pinch. But your best bet is to find a local health food store or juice/smoothie shop. Many of these places also make juices, and they can add some greens to your smoothies if you just ask. I recently found that the Whole Foods smoothie bar is happy to throw some spinach in your smoothie (for a price, of course!!) 

Seek out local farmer's markets. This even trumps Whole Foods! There's nothing better, or more fun, than eating fresh, local produce straight from the source. Eating local while traveling may even introduce you to some new foods that you have never tried before. When I was in Mexico, I went to a farmer's market and found the most delicious heirloom tomatoes I have ever tasted in my life! This site is a great resource for finding local markets.

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. Look for coconut water, since it is nature's gatorade and will keep your electrolytes in balance. Coconut water is even being carried in many airports now. The only caveat being that they jack up the price. But if you have a long day of travel on your plate, it may be worth the extra few dollars.

Take advantage of portable technology. Some especially helpful sites that can be accessed on your phone include Yelp,Urban Spoon and Happycow

If you have a hotel room with a refrigerator, take full advantage of it! Stock up on things like fruit, veggies, hummus, and guacamole. Fill up on some healthy snacks before heading out to dinner, if you know in advance that there won't be healthy options available. If your hotel doesn’t have a kitchenette or a refrigerator, many will be able to provide one for you, for a small fee, if you ask. 

Don't settle for the limits of the menu when at a restaurant. When you go out to eat, don't be afraid to ask questions or make special requests at restaurants. You'll be surprised how many restaurants will cater to your requests. Some of my favorite meals while dining out have come from piecing together different portions of menu items, and asking the chef to be a little creative for me. Who knows, you many even inspire the restaurant to offer a healthy new dish!

Exercise. This does not necessarily mean that you should spend your time in the gym at your hotel. However, you should move your body and get in some physical activity every day. Take a long walk outside each morning, or take the scenic route and walk to a local shop or restaurant that you would typically take other transportation to reach. If you're on a road trip, stop the car every few hours and get out to do some jumping jacks, some running sprints, or take a brisk walk.

All in all, I am certainly not saying that you should deprive're on vacation!! My tips are intended to help you feel fabulous during your travels, without getting too far off track from your healthy habits. So relax and enjoy yourself, even if this means having an especially decadent dessert, or an extra glass of wine with your dinner. As long as you're eating without guilt or regret, you're honoring your body and respecting your health. So bon voyage... and have a blast! Just don't forget about your trusty friend kale while you're living it up!