Peace, Love, and Play: Our Future Generations

Education, Front Page, Human Interest, Science, Teachers' Corner

Peace. Love. Play.

This motto perfectly describes the Mamma Mel’s Learning Center, a bilingual, progressive early childhood program in Rincón, Puerto Rico. The school offers a full immersion model, exposing the students, ages 3-8, to English and Spanish every day, all day. Melanie Smith, the program director, believes that children learn through play, and she has created a beautiful, eco-friendly space for the kids, including an art studio, organic vegetable garden, yoga classes, and music.

The Mamma Mel’s curriculum emphasizes respect and love for the environment and our small community… which is where I come in. Since August, my Tuesday afternoons have been filled with the laughter of K-2 students during our weekly oceanography workshops. As a marine scientist, who spent nearly 10 years in academic research, I have discovered my true passion involves ocean education and outreach. Teaching my community, and especially its children, about the sea, a crucial resource that we are inextricably linked to, provides an incredible opportunity to “give back”, after having the privilege of living my dream of becoming an oceanographer.

A firm believer in hands-on education, I have an amazing opportunity to teach these students outside, at the beach. They take a stroll to the ocean for lunch and play;  then we begin our lessons about the deep blue sea. Their eagerness to learn, week after week, astounds me, and they can hardly wait for the topic of the day to be announced. We have covered everything from biology to geology, from the ocean zones to how beaches are formed. The children have created their own marine food chains, learned about sea turtles, built a coral reef, and imagined life as the tiny, microscopic plankton that support the entire ocean food web.

My favorite workshop focused on marine pollution and debris, which is a huge threat to the health of our oceans. Plastics are, by far, the worst offender. Did you know that ~74 million pounds of plastic are spread throughout the world’s ocean gyres (circular currents)? Over 50% of all marine mammal species on the threatened list have been observed entangled in or ingesting plastic. Tiny, toxic micro-plastics have increased 100 times in the North Pacific Gyre over the past 40 years and are eaten by marine life, which then are consumed by us.

After discussing the problems with ocean trash and how long it takes to biodegrade, the students happily (and quite enthusiastically) helped with a beach cleanup, filling an entire garbage bag in less than 15 minutes. They were so proud of every piece of trash, and my heart filled with joy while observing their precious hands tidying Mother Earth. To wrap up our lesson, we made a pact to reduce the amount of trash we created, pick up litter during every beach visit, and share what we learned with friends and family.

As I watched the kids walking, with lunch boxes in hand, back to school, I realized the importance and impact of spending time with our future generations. It truly makes a difference. We are leaving this planet to these brilliant and passionate children, who deserve a beautiful Earth to enjoy and care for.

What can you do to help minimize marine debris? Use less plastic. Recycle. Opt for reusable bags. Cut apart plastic 6-pack rings before disposal. Avoid single use plastics (straws, utensils, plates, to-go cups, water bottles, etc.). Bring your own to-go containers.

I dedicate this piece to my mom, Cindy Schwierzke, a beloved Flour Bluff ISD kindergarten teacher, who passed in 2012. Her legacy shines bright.

Source: One World, One Ocean. The Plastics Breakdown: An Infographic. http://www.oneworldoneocean.com/blog/entry/plastics-breakdown-an-infographic

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Go With Your Gut: Your Second Brain

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“All disease begins in the gut.” ~Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine

Have you ever heard the expression “trust your gut”? What about those intuitive “gut feelings” we all experience? There’s very good reason for those “butterflies” in your tummy, so let’s shine some light on this fascinating topic.

Your body actually has two brains…. one in your head, and one in your gut.

Interestingly, your brain and gastrointestinal tract are composed of the same type of tissue! How cool is that? With a simple thought, brain neurons fire tiny sparks of electricity, which ignite the central nervous system (brain plus spinal chord). On the other hand, when we’re driven by intuition, the gut actually sends information to your brain via the enteric nervous system (the gastrointestinal tract). Think of it as your emotional GPS.

Your gut does so much more than simply digest food. For example, the bacteria living there (around 100 trillion strong) have a profound effect on your mental health, heart function, skin, mood, weight, and overall wellness. In addition, 70-80% of your immune system is controlled by gut tissue (gut-associated lymphoid tissue)! Understanding this alone can change your entire approach to health.

Your gut microflora (bacteria) outnumber human cells by a factor of ten to one, and imbalances in these bacteria have been linked to autoimmune diseases (including lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and Parkinson’s), behavioral issues, autism, immunity, allergies, skin problems (dryness, eczema, and psoriasis), depression, anxiety, and even cancer.

So, how do we stress the gut?

#1 Overuse of medication and antibacterial products

Seventy percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug. And even though you may not be taking antibiotics, they can still make their way onto your plate through meat consumption, as 80% of antibiotics in the United States are fed to farm animals (a great reason to buy organic!). These drugs damage your intestinal lining and wreak havoc on friendly bacteria populations.

#2 We are TOO clean!

It’s no secret that our society has become obsessed with antibacterial products. We over-sanitize at every turn! A large percentage of your good bacteria live on the skin, working hard to protect you from potentially harmful foreign invaders in the outside world. Continual use of antibacterials can corrupt your innate microbial balance and weaken the immune system. Not to mention, many antibacterial soaps contain triclosan, which may alter hormones and interfere with heart function. Keep it simple: wash with a small amount of plain soap and water.

#3 Poor Diet

Perhaps the most significant factor causing destruction in the gut is the Standard American Diet (SAD)- loaded with processed foods, excess sugars, refined grains, and genetically modified ingredients. Sugar and refined grains, especially, compromise your beneficial gut bacteria, promote inflammation, and can lead to an overgrowth of yeast. The simple consumption of probiotics, fermented foods, raw vegetables and leafy greens can work wonders in your gut!

For true lifelong wellness, one must learn how to maintain a clean and healthy gut. In a follow-up The Paper Trail article, I will provide some super easy tips and habits for taking care of this incredibly important system- our second brain.

Sources:

Mercola, J. Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Repair Itself. Harmony Books, 2015

Axe, J. Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure it. HarperCollins, 2016

Junger, A. Clean Gut: The Breakthrough Plan for Elimination the Root Cause of Disease and Revolutionizing Your Health. HarperCollins, 2013

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Sugar: More Addictive Than Drugs?

Food and Drink, Front Page, Health

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     It’s certainly no secret that most of us LOVE sugar! It’s a comfort food with very strong ties to our emotions. Think about it. How do we console ourselves when stressed? Or celebrate our successes? Ever bribe a child with cookies? Cheer up a sad friend with ice cream?

     But is this a good thing? I would argue, no.

Let’s test your sugar knowledge with a fun, short quiz. Don’t fret! It’s only five questions.

#1 How many teaspoons of “added” sugar does the average American consume daily?

     According to Alice G. Walton, the average adult consumes at least 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, over 130 pounds in one year (and this is a conservative     estimate).  The average child ingests 32 teaspoons per day, an even scarier fact.

#2 What is the recommended daily amount for sugar, according to the American Heart Association?

24 grams (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men

One teaspoon = 4 grams of sugar = 16 calories

     Side note: a typical twelve-ounce soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. One drink = 40 grams of sugar!

#3 What percentage of food items on our grocery store shelves have added sugar?

     75-80%. Shocking, right?! You’ll find sugar in spaghetti sauce, ketchup, breads, barbecue sauce, canned soups, salad dressings, baked beans, canned and dried fruit, cereals, granola bars, sports drinks, instant oatmeal, yogurt, jelly and jam.

     Sugar is everywhere! Read your food labels and be an educated consumer.

#4 The food industry is quite tricky. How many different sugar ingredient names are used?

     I’ve compiled a non-exhaustive list of over 50 names used to label sugar, including (but not limited to) high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), brown rice syrup, malt syrup, fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, beet sugar (likely genetically-modified), palm sugar, fructose, maltose, sucrose (table sugar), glucose, and dextrose. Not to mention all of the artificial sugars (sorbitol, aspartame, erythritol, lacititol, maltitol, mannitol, saccharin, sucralose).

     Pack a detective hat on your next grocery run!

#5 Sugar is as addictive as cocaine. True or false?

     False. Sugar is actually MORE addictive than cocaine (some say eight times more). Current research shows that sugar is the #1 food or drug that we are addicted to. The same brain pathways that are activated when we consume cocaine are activated when we ingest the sweet stuff!

     Nicely done! You all passed with flying colors.

     We know that sugar (a “legal drug”) is extremely addictive, but did you know that the food industry spends BIG research money to create products that hack your brain chemistry and keep you addicted? Their methods are very effective, too.

     Breaking the sugar habit can be quite tough and goes beyond self-control and willpower. Maybe you can relate to the difficulty of resisting certain foods that we know are bad for us? You can do anything you put your mind to, but your taste buds and your brain have literally been hijacked by the added sugars in processed foods (even the ones you think are “healthy”).

     Sugar gives us an instant boost because it triggers the “feel-good” brain chemical serotonin, which is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. Our bodies then crave this substance’s influence on our brain cells. But guess what? Many healthy foods and habits can boost your serotonin levels, like eating bananas, leafy greens, walnuts, oats, and green smoothies. Soak up some sunshine, laugh more, take a walk, enjoy some yoga, and get outside in nature.

     So, what’s the good news? With a little awareness and dedication to raising our standard for health, we can take back the reigns and make better choices with what we buy, what we consume, and how we bake.

“Now, more than ever, it is time to take control and actively pursue the health, energy and vitality we all deserve and desire.” ~ Tony Robbins

     For more information, check out my eBook “Simple, Gluten Free Dessert Recipes” featuring many of my best (and nourishing) sweets recipes, handy baking tips, and savvy info to help you take control of your sugar intake NOW! You can also find low-sugar recipes at mindfuldine.com. Sending out good vibes from my kitchen to yours. Let’s go bake!

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Beat The Heat With Hydrating Summer Foods (and Recipes!)

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     Sunshine is abundant these days, and temperatures are certainly on the rise. Summer is upon us, and dehydration is common! Here in Puerto Rico, an island blessed with beautiful coconut palms, we’re cracking open coconuts daily for the super-hydrating, electrolyte-rich water.

     Getting your fluids is, of course, very important, and we should all be drinking plenty of pure water daily. Coconut water is fantastic, too. Try adding a sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt to your water bottle. Thanks to its 84 natural minerals, sea salt enhances your body’s ability to absorb and hold H2O.

     And don’t underestimate the power of your food! Fresh fruits and vegetables supply a wonderful boost of hydration, so stock up on more of these lovely summer foods today.

Cucumber

     Cucumbers, being 96% water, are one of the most hydrating foods you can consume. In addition, they balance your pH, support digestive health, and fight inflammation. Pull out and absorb more of their beneficial minerals by adding them to water.

Cucumber Detox Water

Fresh, filtered water
Cucumber slices
Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt
Fresh lime or lemon juice

Combine all ingredients together, and chill in fridge. Replace cucumber after two refills.

Avocado Cucumber Bites

Looking to squeeze in a bit more green? Your afternoon snack is a great time to do so.
1 large cucumber
Avocado, diced
Sea salt
Coconut aminos, Bragg’s liquid aminos, tamari, or soy sauce
Lemon juice (optional)

Slice the cucumber, top with avocado chunks, season with sea salt and your choice of sauce. Takes two minutes!

Watermelon

     It’s the little things in life, like enjoying a juicy watermelon in the sunshine. Lucky for us, summer is a great time to stock up on the beauties!

     Red foods, like watermelon, are generally high in the antioxidant lycopene and support the blood and heart. More fun facts about this delicious summer food…

  • Fights cancer-causing free radicals
  • Boasts a high water content
  • May reduce high blood pressure and increase circulation
  • Every part is nutritious… flesh, rind, and seeds
  • Keeps your skin and hair healthy
  • Loaded with vitamin C, vitamin A, beta-carotene, zinc, potassium, and magnesium
  • Alkalizes your body, balancing high acidity levels

As a kid, I ate watermelon with a touch of sea salt, and still do to this day. Anyone else?

Zucchini

     Zucchini, a summer squash, is a great source of magnesium, vitamin C, folate, potassium, fiber and hydration (again, high water content). Try this light, refreshing salad.

ZucchiniSalad

2 zucchini
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Thinly slice or spiralize* zucchini into strips. Dress with olive oil, lemon, sea salt and pepper (to taste). Stir in parsley, and serve.

Not a fan of parsley? Substitute fresh mint.

Don’t have a spiralizer or spiral slicer? Simply use a vegetable peeler to create thin slices of zucchini, and then cut into strips.

Tomatoes

The ultimate summer food, tomatoes have vital antioxidants and phytochemicals known to fight cancer cell formation. They are a nutrient-dense super food primed to help prevent disease.

Don’t miss out on the many health benefits of tomatoes…

  • Antioxidant load includes alpha lipoic acid, beta-carotene, lutein, and vitamin C
  • Great source of choline, a nutrient that helps you sleep, maintain cell membranes and reduce inflammation
  • Cancer prevention, especially prostate, lung, and stomach
  • Heart health support
  • High water content helps keep you hydrated and your bowels moving

Multiply the goodness of these red beauties by following these simple tips:

  • Cook tomatoes to release more lycopene for your body to soak up
  • Combine them with a fat, like extra virgin olive oil or avocado, to enhance nutrient absorption
  • Eat tomatoes with spinach to maximize iron uptake in the green leafies

Simple Bruschetta

Need an appetizer for that summer BBQ?

Bruschetta

Organic ripe tomatoes, diced

Fresh basil, finely chopped

Garlic cloves, minced

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Dice, mix, taste, and enjoy! Simplicity at its finest. Serve with organic corn chips, gluten-free crackers or your favorite Italian bread.

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Blend Baby Blend: Why Green Smoothies?

Food and Drink, Front Page, Health

Green Smoothies 1

Smoothies (especially green ones) are a hot topic in the health world right now. Honestly, I cannot say enough about these creamy, satisfying concoctions. Why all the hype? Should you consider adding them to your menu? Are smoothies just a trend or are there real health benefits involved?

Let’s break it down, starting with a simple list of why smoothies can be a very nutritious option!

  • Simple and easy to prepare, with little cleanup time
  • Provide good fiber for digestion and sweeping away toxins
  • Balance your blood sugar and pH (alkalizing your body)
  • A great way to add good fats and quality protein in your diet
  • Super versatile (let your creative juices flow!)
  • Provide a nice break for your digestive system
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Wonderful post-workout, as a healthy travel food, a quick breakfast or afternoon snack
  • Natural support for cleansing and detoxification

Most of us awake quite dehydrated in the morning, and smoothies can provide an amazing blast of hydration after a night of sleep. They are also a fabulous way to ease your digestive system into motion for the day, supporting your body with consistent fuel and energy.

In my opinion, making a smoothie is the simplest way to include a diversity of whole food ingredients effortlessly into my diet, especially vegetables (and who doesn’t need that?)! The combinations are endless, using different fruits, leafy greens, herbs, healthy fats and various protein sources. You can flood your body with amazing nutrition and satisfy your taste buds simultaneously.

If your children won’t touch anything green, smoothies are a magical way to sneak veggies past their palates. Trust me, they won’t taste the spinach that you blended into that delicious raspberry smoothie.

Now, keep in mind, there are certainly ways to turn this healthy option into one that can cause inflammation and blood sugar imbalance in your body, like sugar-loading with too much fruit and not enough vegetables. For any new passengers on the green smoothie train, here is a simple 4-step “how to” to get you started.

#1 Choose a liquid base (1-2 cups depending on the size and desired thickness)

  • Purified water
  • Nut milk (i.e., almond, coconut, or cashew)
  • Coconut water (good source of electrolytes and very hydrating)

#2 Fruit and veggie time! Slowly increase the amount of vegetables over time, eventually aiming for a 3:1 ratio of veggies to fruit.

  • Low glycemic fruits are ideal (raising your blood sugar the least)
    • Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
    • Green apples
    • Pears
    • Grapefruit and oranges
    • Acai
    • Bananas add lovely creaminess but are higher in sugar
    • Lemon (cuts the flavor of stronger-tasting green leafies)
  • Sneak in plenty of veggies for vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, and antioxidants
    • Spinach, kale, romaine and green leaf lettuce, mixed greens, and Swiss chard
    • Cucumber, zucchini, carrots, and even broccoli
    • Avocado (for extra creaminess and good fats)

#3 The Extras… protein, superfoods, and fats!

  • Choosing a protein powder can be quite overwhelming, as there are so many available these days. Try to avoid genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), fillers, and heavily processed soy protein (like soy protein isolate). My preference is a plant-based protein with some dehydrated greens mixed in.
  • Nut butters, like almond, peanut, cashew, or walnut. Buy organic when possible and read the ingredients, avoiding any added oils and sugars.
  • Healthy fat options include chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, shredded coconut, and coconut oil.
  • Take your smoothie to the next level with super foods (cacao, greens powder, maca, spirulina, goji berries, cinnamon, aloe vera, Matcha green tea, turmeric, or ginger).

#4 Blend, and enjoy the goodness! Any quality blender will do, but a high-speed blender works wonders! The Vitamix is my go-to, but there are several quality blenders on the market now.

“Knowledge is only rumor until it lives in the bones.” ~The Asaro Tribe

Let’s put this knowledge into practice with a tasty, nutritious smoothie recipe. Be sure to scope out Mindful Dine for more smoothie inspiration!

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Creamy Dreamy Green Smoothie

1-2 frozen bananas (add a few ice cubes if not frozen)

2 tablespoons almond butter

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder

2-3 handfuls of spinach

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

½ teaspoon spirulina powder (optional)

Splash of vanilla

1 scoop protein powder of choice

1 cup nut milk

1 cup filtered water

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Daily Habits for Long-Lasting Health: Part 2

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Let’s face it… old habits can be hard to break. It takes work and commitment. On top of that, we live in a society that pushes and markets “magic bullet” fixes. So, it’s quite easy to find excuses for why you are stuck in the same routines.

However, you have the power to change this! Starting now. An easy place to begin is with daily rituals, the behaviors that make up our day-to-day lives and support our health, goals and happiness. When it comes to health, start with small, effective routines, and watch them snowball into a lifelong wellness.

Last month’s The Paper Trail article outlined the first half of my top healthy lifestyle habits, including…

#1 Create a morning routine

#2 Stay hydrated

#3 Practice intermittent fasting

#4 Get outside in the sunshine

Let’s complete the list!

#5 Focus on Gut Health

We learn more everyday about the importance of a healthy gut in preventing disease and supporting overall health and wellness. Did you know that 80% of your immune system lies in the gut?

It’s not just what you eat that matters, but we must also pay attention to how our bodies digest and absorb the goodness in our food. Adopting habits that support gut health can lead to optimal wellness.

A simple way to do so is by eating fermented foods (like sauerkraut, kimchee, organic yogurt with no added sugars, kefir, and Kombucha tea). You can also add a high quality probiotic to your daily supplement routine to replenish and support good gut bacteria. And don’t forget to chew your food; your stomach doesn’t have teeth after all.

#6 Simplify Your Diet With Colorful, Whole Foods

One of the easiest dietary habits you can implement is to focus on whole foods. What is a whole food? Think, one ingredient. Broccoli, quinoa, almonds, salmon, kale, eggs, apples, walnuts, brown rice, black beans, etc.

We all know vegetables are good for us, and plant-based foods are thriving with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and healing compounds that balance the body, decrease inflammation, and prevent cancer. Take charge of your health and start feeling better now by eating more plant-strong foods (i.e., fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, unrefined whole grains, herbs, etc.).

Fill your plate with mostly veggies (and colorful ones). Avoid processed foods when possible. Try drinking your vegetables in smoothies or juices. Incorporate more raw, living foods into your diet, if digestion permits.

WholeFoods

#7 Move Your Body

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and become more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

~Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Our bodies were designed to move and sweat. It’s that simple.

The body heals faster when you exercise regularly, and sweating is an important outlet for detoxification. Movement stimulates the lymphatic system, which governs the main channels of elimination while moving oxygen throughout the body.

We have a tendency to over-complicate things, exercise being one of the many. Just focus on adding more movement to your life. Choose the stairs instead of the elevator. If you have a desk, get up a move every hour. Take an easy walk after meals to improve digestion. Do some evening stretches before bed. Jump more… jumping jacks, jump rope, and trampoline. Chase your kids or pets. Dance. Garden. Enjoy life in the process.

#8 Practice Mindful Dining

The psychology of eating is quite fascinating. What you choose to consume is incredibly important, but did you know that the emotion with which you eat affects how your body digests food?

Part of your central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, controls your digestion. What does this mean? When you eat under stress, for example, the nervous system actually suppresses digestive activity. The opposite is also true: when you’re relaxed during mealtime, digestion is activated.

Start paying attention to your state when eating. Slow down, and notice the beautiful colors, textures, and tastes of your food. Chew completely. Eat when calm and relaxed. Try to minimize multi-tasking during meals. Breathe and express gratitude before eating. Whenever you eat, regardless of what it is, enjoy, savor, and be mindful of the experience.

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Daily Habits for Long-Lasting Health: Part I

Front Page, Health

MarchTPTImage

“We become what we repeatedly do.” ~Sean Covey

     As human beings, we naturally want to improve. For many people, progress equals happiness. Whether it’s your home, relationships, education, finances, spirituality, career, exercise or health, we enjoy growing, changing, and evolving.

     We often fail to recognize the power of our daily habits and how they support our desires, set us up for success, and make large goals tangible. Our rituals and routines define us… and this is super exciting! Getting a grip on this concept will give you amazing control of your life. The key is to start small.

     In relation to health, implementing some easy, daily routines can put you on a solid path to long-lasting wellness. This month’s The Paper Trail edition highlights the first half of my top healthy lifestyle habits; look for Part II in April.

#1 Create A Morning Routine

     Your mind is most open first thing in the morning, and starting off with a calm, consistent morning routine can set a positive trajectory for the day. Here are some ideas:

  • Make your bed upon rising. Control what you can control. Begin the day with confidence. Minimize distraction lest you create distraction.
  • Drink a large glass (or two) of filtered water. Our bodies are naturally dehydrated in the morning, and this is one of the BEST habits to start NOW.
  • Enjoy a cup of warm water with fresh lemon. This jump starts your digestive system, gets your bowels moving and balances your pH.
  • Eat an alkalizing breakfast. While you sleep, your body works on rejuvenating and detoxifying, which naturally creates body acids. Try a green smoothie, green juice, or chia pudding (check out mindfuldine.com for recipes).
  • Take a probiotic, a supplement of live “good bacteria” cultures for a well-balanced gut, right before breakfast.
  • Pause for meditation, breathing exercises, or journaling.

Hydrate

#2 Hydrate

     Many of us walk around in a state of chronic dehydration. Since our bodies are over 70% water (the eyes are 98%; blood is 94%; the brain is 80%), staying hydrated is a crucial habit for optimal health. Water neutralizes body acids, fuels your metabolism, promotes weight loss, fuels detoxification, and supports the immune system.

     Drinking good quality, pure water is really important! Avoid tap water when possible, as it can be full of toxins and chemicals. Try adding a sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt to your water… sea salt contains over 84 natural minerals that enhance your body’s ability to absorb and hold water.

    Pay attention to your body’s cues for dehydration. What are some common signs? Fatigue, sore throat, headache, brain fog, dry skin, dark-colored urine, heartburn, and even high blood pressure. It is easy to mistake these as hunger signs so begin tuning in to your own cues for thirst.

#3 Intermittent Fasting (The 12 hour Window)

     This is one of my favorite health habits… leave at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. Generally, my dinner is finished before 8 p.m. (ideally earlier), and breakfast begins after 9 a.m. the next morning. Digestion is one of the biggest energy demands in the body, so implementing a digestive break is wonderful for overall energy, detoxification, and wellness.

     We burn either sugar or fat for fuel, and most people have only 12 hours of sugar reserves. If you eat frequently and don’t leave a fasting window, your body learns to rely on sugar as its primary fuel. You feel hungry more often and forget how to burn fat. Don’t fret! You can retrain your body and metabolism by eating more healthy fats and adding a fasting window to your daily routine.

Sun Worshiper © Matthew Thornton
Sun Worshiper © Matthew Thornton

#4 Get Outside In The Sunshine

     Living in the Caribbean, we are abundantly blessed with sunshine everyday. The sun can improve your mood, boost serotonin levels (the happy hormone), encourage efficient fat burning, and regulate sleep cycles. Perhaps most importantly, sunshine on your skin triggers the production of super important vitamin D.

     Vitamin D influences 10% of all genes in your body and is absolutely crucial for maintaining health. It supports the immune system and bone health, prevents cardiovascular disease, assists in calcium absorption, and may protect against cancer. Approximately 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D, so get your levels checked during your next health examination. Ask for a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test [25(OH)D]; normal levels are between 50 and 70 ng/mL.

     Stay tuned for “Daily Habits for Long-Lasting Health: Part 2” in next month’s The Paper Trail edition. Cheers to your health and happiness!

Sources:

Mercola, J. Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Repair Itself. Harmony Books, 2015.

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8 Ways to Naturally Boost your Immune System

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ImmuneBoost

It’s that time of year. Cold and flu season is here.

Luckily, there are many tricks you can add to your health toolbox in order to strengthen your immune system and fight off the sniffles. Daily immune support is the key! Try one or two of these easy immune-boosting tips while winter is still looming!

GARLIC contains allicin and other sulfur-based compounds that act as anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal agents. This herb is teeming with medicinal properties that support the immune system, prevent cancer, fight allergies, and more. For optimal health benefits, eat garlic in its raw form, as heat weakens some of its healing components. When using garlic to cook, let it sit for a few minutes after crushing and mincing (this activates its potent enzymes) and add toward the end of cooking.

garlic

GINGER is a very effective anti-inflammatory that stimulates circulation and balances the immune system, restoring it to proper function. In addition, ginger warms the body and can promote healthy sweating, which is helpful at fighting cold and flu infection.

TURMERIC  is the wonder plant. The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, has strong antioxidant abilities (protecting your cells) and helps to maintain your body’s inflammation response. Modern science is consistently discovering new benefits of turmeric, every week it seems. Honestly, I cannot recommend it enough! Turmeric is a powerful medicinal plant that supports the immune system, protects the brain, staves off cancer, detoxes the liver, amps up fat digestion, calms arthritis, and much more! Turmeric is available in many forms: as a supplement, an extract, a powder (ground spice) used to cook, or the fresh root.

ELDERBERRY EXTRACT delivers bioavailable (easier for your body to use) anthocyanins (flavonoids with incredible antioxidant potential) and can enhance your body’s defense against viral infections, like influenza, by inhibiting its growth and shortening the duration of sickness. Check your local health food store for an assortment of elderberry products, including tinctures, syrups, lozenges, etc.  Red, purple, black, or blue foods typically contain high levels of anthocyanins,  so enjoy plenty of berries, eggplant, purple cabbage, black currants, grapes, beets, cherries, and black rice.

FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES flood your body with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and immune-boosting nutrients, which help to protect and fight off disease. Here are some fantastic options: bell peppers, berries, camu berries, citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit), cruciferous veggies (arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, turnips, and watercress), dark leafy greens, mushrooms, and papaya.

MOVING YOUR BODY mobilizes T-cells, a type of white blood cell that protects you against infection. People who exercise regularly have fewer and milder colds and sickness, and according to Dr. Brian Clement, you can heal up to eight times faster with regular exercise. Not only does body movement help your immune system fight off bacteria and viral infections, but it fills your body with life-giving oxygen and stimulates the removal of acidic waste and toxins. And, you will SWEAT, which is very important for overall health and wellness.

HYDRATE. Your immune system is greatly taxed when you are dehydrated, and some experts estimate that 70 percent of Americans do not drink enough water. Make the effort to consume more fluids, and don’t underestimate the healing potential of hot teas (try pau d’arco, nettle leaf, astragulus or green tea). Try this simple tea recipe!

TurmGing

Turmeric Ginger Tea

A perfect elixir for healing, decreasing inflammation, and flushing those pesky toxins!

  • 1 1/2 liters of filtered water (~6 cups)
  • A few inches of turmeric root*
  • A few inches of ginger root*
  • 1 tablespoon local honey
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Wash, peel and mince the turmeric and ginger root. Keeping the skin on is perfectly okay, too.
  • In a medium pot, bring water to a boil, cool for 2-3 minutes, and then stir in turmeric and ginger.
  • Steep, covered, for at least 20 minutes, and then pour through a fine-mesh strainer to remove root pieces.
  • Add honey, lemon, taste, tweak, and then soak up the goodness!
  • Store in the refrigerator and reheat as desired, or add to water consumed during the day.

* If using ground spices, try 1-2 teaspoons of each with 4 cups of water (depending on desired strength).

Sources:

Fuhrman, J. Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free. Harper Collins Publishers, 2011.

 

 

 

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Breaking the Fear of Fat

Front Page, Health

oil

“Most of what we need to know about how to eat we already know, or once did until we allowed the nutrition experts and the advertisers to shake our confidence in common sense, tradition, the testimony of our senses, and the wisdom of our mothers and grandmothers.” ~Michael Pollan

     It’s no secret that the typical American diet is greatly swayed by food fads and ever-changing government recommendations. Many of us have lost touch of our innate knowledge about how to nourish our bodies. If you feel confused about what is “healthy” and how you should eat, trust me, you are not alone.

     Over the years, Americans have been presented with many confusing “facts” and misinformation about food, and one very problematic piece of advice involves fat in our diet. We were taught that eating fat makes us fat, that high-fat foods can cause heart attacks and other chronic disease, and that fats should be consumed sparingly (as noted on the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid). You might be surprised to find out that this information is not the truth.

     The low-fat campaign started gaining momentum in 1953 when Dr. Ancel Keys published a study that linked dietary fat intake with coronary heart disease (CHD). Later, it was discovered that he “cherry-picked” the data from only seven countries that proved his correlation between dietary fats and CHD, rather than including all available data from 22 countries. If all countries had been analyzed, there would be no correlation found at all. Further, in 1988, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office released a report on the dangers of dietary fat and its connection with coronary heart disease that triggered a cascade of changes in the American diet for many years to come. Unfortunately, this report was flawed and not based on sound science.

     However, during the past 30-40 years, Americans have associated healthy eating with avoided dietary fat, and the food industry has taken full advantage by creating and marketing over 15,000 reduced-fat food products. This “fear of fat” has caused us to cut out nutritious fats and replace them with more processed grains, vegetable oils, high-fructose corn syrup, and other sugars. What has been the result? An unfortunate and drastic surge in diabetes and obesity, both of which increase heart disease risk.

     It is time to shift our thinking about dietary fats and happily welcome them back onto our plates. Did you know that fats are crucial for every system in your body, especially the brain, which is over 60% fat? In addition, they provide the building blocks for cell membranes, help to regulate hormones, protect the immune system, and increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (like A, D, E, and K). Eating the right types of fat can also promote weight loss and actually reduce risk of heart disease.

     Let’s get clear, the type of fat truly matters because not all fats are the same. Good sources of healthy fat can include: coconuts and coconut oil, avocados, olives and olive oil, nuts (i.e., walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and almonds), seeds (chia, flax, sunflower, pumpkin, and hemp), grass-fed meats, organic eggs, and butter made from raw, grass-fed organic milk. It is really important to avoid margarine, vegetable oil spreads, and oils of canola, soybean, safflower, vegetable, peanut, cottonseed, and corn- all of which are highly processed, can be genetically modified, and promote inflammation in the body.

     It is not widely understood that some fats can withstand high temperatures better than others. To prevent damage or oxidation of oils when cooking, follow these simple tips. In general, saturated fats, like coconut oil, ghee, and organic butter are best under high heat, and avocado oil, known for its high smoke point, can also handle medium-high temperatures. Olive oil (mostly monounsaturated fats) keeps its integrity at medium-low temperatures but is ideally used raw on salads or veggies. Nut and seed oils (i.e., walnut or flaxseed) supply important essential fatty acids but should always be consumed raw, as they are very unstable when heated.

     Interested in learning more about this topic? Please consider joining a free online summit hosted by New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mark Hyman. In The Fat Summit, Dr. Hyman will interview 30+ of the world’s top experts, as they reveal the truth about fat – and what it really takes to lose weight, feel great, and reverse chronic disease. This event airs for free online January 25-February 1, but you have to RSVP to save your spot. Find out more here: The Fat Summit

Sources:

Mercola.com, “Heart Specialist Calls for Major Repositioning on Saturated Fat, as It’s NOT the Cause of Heart Disease”, November 2013

Gary Taubes, “The Soft Science of Dietary Fat”, Science, Vol. 291, No. 5513 (March 30, 2001), pp. 2536-2541, 2543-2545

Mercola.com, “The Cholesterol Myth That Is Harming Your Health”, August 2010

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