stress

Mushroom Latte - Post-Holiday Immune Boost

The holidays are a fun time with loved ones and a much needed break for most. It's also possible that our immune system can weaken during this time due to over-indulging, emotions, and perhaps letting go of our normal self-care practices

I can say for myself that it's been an emotional time (with full moon in effect also) and my body has responded quickly and feels weaker. It's making me slow down and actually take a look at all that's arising and needs to be worked out. 

Health is so much more than just what we put into our body. Emotions, environment, and thoughts are just as important to our well-being. Although I have kept my holistic way of eating while I've been traveling and taking time off from work, I am needing to bump up my natural medicinal remedies (along with being still and looking inward) to keep my immune system strong. 

My go-to the past few days has been this super creamy and delicious mushroom latte (because you all know I love mushrooms and chocolate!), which the whole family loved too.

This morning, I partially enjoyed this latte outside while it was snowing! Sadly, it didn't stick, but it was beautiful to watch. 

Ingredients

2 cups hot spring water or tea

1 teaspoon Mushroom Immunity blend (find here)

1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder

1/2 teaspoon mucuna pruriens powder

1 Tablespoon raw honey

1 Tablespoon ghee or coconut oil

Pinch of sea salt

Procedure

  1. Blend all ingredients together until creamy and frothy. 

Enjoy and Stay Healthy! 

Creamy Sleep Tonic

One of the most important keys to health is rest. Quality rest and sleep. We live in a fast-paced society where we think we can go forever and don't need to sleep because we have too many other more important things to do.

Perhaps we can get away with it for a short period, but with time, we get worn out and don't function as efficiently as we want.

Personally, I like to tell myself that I can go without a lot of rest and sleep sometimes, but I know that is not true. I've learned that staying up until the very late hours of the night doing work is not very efficient. It takes me twice as long to accomplish a task and the lack of sleep causes me to feel more stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, emotionally unstable, and simply ungrounded.

Not allowing ourselves to rest can play a huge toll on the body, which leads to inflammation, lower immune system, and disease. Lack of rest and sleep is also a common factor to not being able to lose weight.

That said, It’s often hard to slow down and even fall asleep at night since we are so stimulated by technology, lights, and mind chatter. It is very helpful to have a night routine that creates ease, peace, and relaxation before bed.

Here are a few things I do:

  1. Shut off electronics at least 20 minutes before getting in bed

  2. Read a good book or journal

  3. Apply some lavender essential oil on my hands, neck, and nose or light some incense

  4. Drink a hot cup of herbal tea or sleep tonic that I’m sharing below

This routine is still challenging at times, but I do my best because I know that getting good sleep makes me feel refreshed and happier in my life.

Ingredients

1 3/4 cup coconut milk (Homemade or Organic BPA-free canned coconut milk)

cinnamon sticks or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 cardamom pods or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 inch fresh ginger root

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2-3 Tablespoons raw honey, to taste

Procedure

  1. If using cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods: Add all ingredients to a small pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer with lid on for 15-20 minutes. Strain into mug and enjoy.
  2. If using powdered spices: Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a small pot and bring to a simmer to heat up. Pour into mug and enjoy. 
  3. Garnish with cinnamon, optional. 

Serves 1-2

ote: You can substitute almond milk for coconut milk but the healthy fats in coconut will aid relaxation more than lower fat content. 

Sweet dreams! 

How Stress Is Affecting Your Health + My Tips To Reduce Stress

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Stress puts a huge toll on our health and we don't even realize it. Let me explain what happens when we stress. When we are stressed, our brain signals the release of stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Cortisol is the primary "fight or flight" stress hormone that provides us with a rush of energy to help us fight or run away from a dangerous situation. The release of cortisol causes an increase in blood sugar, increase in blood pressure, and weakens the immune and digestive systems. This increase in blood sugar causes insulin to be excreted, which is the hormone that takes sugar from the blood and stores it for later use. In our modern world, our brain identifies most situations as dangerous and/or very stressful. We stress over little things such as having a full email inbox or waiting in traffic. This was not the case hundreds of years ago.

Our body does not differentiate between physical and emotional stress, so it reacts to both by producing more and more cortisol.

When cortisol is elevated for long periods of time, it can lead to chronic health issues such as weight gain (even if you're eating healthy and exercising), diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, Candida, insomnia/sleep issues, IBS, cancer, and increased risk for heart attacks.

Stress also affects our mood, attitude, productivity/focus, language, work, and relationships. It carries on to all areas of our life even if we don't intend it to or don't realize it.

Most people come to me because they want to lose weight and adopt healthier eating habits. I like to start by looking at their stress levels and address that fist if needed, because no matter how healthy we eat, we cannot lose weight if our cortisol levels are constantly high.

Under stress, our body feels like it's being attacked and it holds onto fat to protect itself. Stress = weigh gain.

Here are my top tips for reducing stress:

  • Yoga & Walking – We know that exercise can help lower stress levels. This is true, however, strenuous exercise such as running and biking actually create more stress in the body and have the same effect as mental or emotional stress do. To really melt stress off, take a yoga class or go on a long walk. This type of movement will help keep your cortisol levels low and also help you burn more fat.
  • Deep breathing & meditation – Whenever you feel stressed and overwhelmed, pause and 5-10 some deep breaths. A deep breath consists of inhalation through the nose that fills the belly completely, and then slowly the air is released through the nose as the belly contracts again. As simple as it sounds, this completely calms the body and brain and puts us in a state where we can actually think about our actions and rationalize better.
  • Aromatherapy oils - You can simply smell them, dab them on your neck, burn them, or dab them on your nose. Read labels to make sure it's okay to apply on skin. My favorite blends are from Moonrise Creek Herbal Apothecary: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MoonriseCreek.
  • Get more sleep – Sleep deprivation creates stress in the body. It is important to get a good night sleep to stay healthy.
  • Drink herbal tea – Tea has calming and relaxing components that could help you through times of stress. Make yourself a pot of tea while you work, or better yet, take it outside and enjoy it under the sun.
  • Call a friend or a family member– Sometimes we just need someone to talk to about what we are experiencing. Don’t hesitate to call a friend or a family member before you reach for that sugary drink or food item. Maybe all you need is support or a different perspective on a subject.
  • Journaling – This is a great way to get rid of negative thoughts and patterns that are getting in the way of your success. Write down your thoughts, but also visualize what you want for yourself and connect with 3-5 things that you are grateful for in your life. When we focus on what we are grateful for, we have no space for feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Relax – Plan for relaxation. Whether it’s a day of lounging around your house, going on a family hike, or getting a massage, make sure you make this time for yourself. When we are stressed, we feel like we have no time to relax, but relaxation is what will actually. help .you feel balanced and keep cortisol levels at bay.
  • Stay well nourished (Eat your greens!) – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Food directly affects our mood, thoughts, productivity, and stress levels. It’s common that we crave sweets and fatty foods when stressed because we often relate them to comfort. These foods in particular will actually feed cortisol levels and keep you on a vicious sugar-craving roller coaster. Instead, stay well nourished throughout the day to avoid crazy mood swings and stress eating. Take a look at some of my recipes for meal and snack inspiration.
  • Have a dance party - Probably my favorite one of all so these. Really, just get up and dance when you're stressing at work or at home. My sister and I do this a few times a day and it's the best way to snap out of it. Even if it's only for one song, it's worth it.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. Try a few and see which you like best and you can implement into your daily life.

Xo

Giovanna

 

 

 

 

Raw Chocolate Macaroons

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The best things come when you least expect them. I wasn't even thinking or craving chocolate, but these sweet things snook up on me as I was standing in front of my pantry in search for something to do. These raw chocolate macaroons pack a punch of vitamins and minerals and are gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free. They're a quick little treat to boost mood and energy. Honestly addicting.

Enjoy!

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Ingredients

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup raw cacao powder

1/2 cup melted coconut oil (measure after you have melted it)

3 Tablespoons coconut nectar (I use Coconut Secret)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

Procedure

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Tightly pack mixture into a Tablespoon measuring spoon and gently drop it over a plate or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the batch.
  2. Freeze for 1-2 hours. Let sit for a few minutes out of the freezer before serving, but don't leave out for too long or they will melt.

Makes ~20

These would be better if dehydrated with a dehydrator, but I don't own one. I encourage you to use it if you do.

Tell me, how do you relieve stress? What methods do you use to keep your focus? 

 

My Post-Holiday Thoughts and Tips to Get Back on Track

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This is the first time I write a blog post with more of "my thoughts" than nutrition advice. I figured it was time to switch it up a bit. I'm in the mood. It's the week after Thanksgiving and some of us are feeling stressed, low on energy, and in need of a detox. Is this you? I believe that a balance is key for a healthy lifestyle. I believe in the 80/20 approach, which consists of eating healthy 80% of the time and being able to indulge 20% of the time. I don't believe in depriving ourselves from the things we love. Everything should be done and consumed in moderation. I personally used to have a hard time reaching that healthy balance. Once I gave in to the foods that I don't normally eat (refined sugar, wheat, dairy, alcohol), I found it hard to stop. Sugar is like a drug, it leaves you wanting more and more, and turns into a vicious cycle. The more we eat it, the more we crave it.

So how do we handle it? It takes time to get there, but it is possible. First of all, we have to learn to be okay with indulging and not punishing ourselves afterwards. It's about building a positive relationship with food and not a negative one. Second, we shouldn't be afraid of foods we love, but rather be mindful when we are eating them and know that they are only a treat and not an every day thing. If we believe that our body can handle it, then we won't stress about it. If we stress about the food we are eating, our body will not digest it well and cause inflammation and other symptoms. The more mindful we are when we eat, the better relationship we build with food. Don't let guilt dominate your eating experience and learn to enjoy every bite. Chew your food. It's so important to listen to our bodies and learn how food affects us to be able to eliminate the foods that don't make us feel good or don't provide us with energy. Throughout the years (yes, it takes time), I have learned to only enjoy foods that make me happy. Over indulging does not make me happy. In fact, I get in a bad mood when I eat a lot of sugar and not enough whole foods (vegetables, fruits, seeds, etc.).

My boyfriend and I took a road trip this holiday weekend and we could not believe how limited our food options were on the road. Dried apricots is all we walked away with at the gas station when we were feeling hungry. Good thing I had some raw coconut treats with us because there was literally nothing there that was going to give us sustained energy. We got smart on the way back and picked up food at Sprouts. We bought ingredients to make hummus & vegetable sandwiches on black rice bread (gluten-free), and a few bananas with almond butter.

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It often seems to others that I am "too strict" on myself, when really I enjoy eating how I eat and the lifestyle I live. My body and mind have learned to not crave those foods I used to run to when I was feeling stressed or emotional. Those foods that are associated with "living a little." Based on how I feel with the foods I eat and how happy I am, I have never lived better. I do indulge every once in a while, but I never let myself fall into the trap of wanting more. I now know that my body can handle it without gaining weight or losing track completely, but only if I am mindful that it is just a treat and don't associate it with any negative thoughts.

That said, of course I did indulge a bit this past Thanksgiving and I don't regret it one bit. I came back from my trip refreshed and ready to take on a new month. I decided the best way to start was with a detox, so my mom and I started a 6 day detox yesterday. We want to have more energy, lose the bloating/inflammation, clear our skin, and get rid of cravings.

Here are simple tips you can do also to get back on track:

  1. Drink Water. I can't stress how important water is to cleanse the body. Headaches, bloating, cravings, and low energy are all often signs of dehydration.
  2. Eat More Greens. The more greens we eat, the less we cravings we have. Vegetables provide the vitamins and minerals we need daily and reduce inflammation. Are you craving sugar? Eat greens. Are you low on energy? Eat greens.
  3. Eat a Balanced Breakfast. If your breakfast consists of mostly sugar (breads, pastries, fruit), you will crave sugar the rest of the day. Start your day with a breakfast packed with protein and healthy fats and you'll have more energy for longer.
  4. Walk it Out. Walking is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Take a long walk in the morning for the best start to your day or take 10-20 minute walk breaks throughout the day to reduce overall stress in your life. The more we stress, the harder it is to manage weight regardless of how clean our diet is.
  5. Eat Mindfully. Always ask yourself before you eat: "Will this nourish me and give me energy?." If the answer is no, then make changes. Be mindful of what you eat and how you feel during and after. Enjoy every bite and remember that you are the only one that can control what goes into your body.

 

7 Easy Ways to Detox Daily

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We are a ways into the new year and some of us are still looking to start out fresh and rid our body of all toxins. There are many types of cleanses and detoxes that last anywhere from 1 to 30 days. For most of us, when we hear the word "cleanse" or "detox" we think of a juice fast, or liquid diet, or a strictly fruit and vegetable diet. Although some of these may help you loose some weight (water weight), not all of them are actually good for you. A detox and cleanse are always interchanged, but are two different things.  Detox. When you detox, you rid your organs of toxins such as chemicals, heavy metals, cigarette smoke, etc. A detox targets an organ like the liver, for example. The liver is a highly important organ in the body with many functions such as detoxifying the body, building proteins, and helping digestion. Although one of it's functions is to detoxify the body naturally, if we over consume foods that stress out the liver like alcohol, refined sugar, gluten, or lactose, we are giving it more toxins than it can handle and keeping it from functioning properly thus leading to low energy, inflammation, poor digestion, and not detoxifying the body as it should. Cleanse. When doing a cleanse, you are mainly cleansing your digestive tract and eliminating toxins and bacteria. A liquid or juice fast is mostly a cleanse because it's giving your digestive tract a rest but still providing nutrients.  No matter which you choose to do, what you're really doing is giving your organs a break from anything that strains them and keeps them from working properly. They are both great ways to feel good and energized while eliminating toxins in a safe and natural manner.   The best way to cleanse or detox is to eliminate inflammatory foods and introduce foods that support the liver. Fortunately, there are many foods that support the liver such as leafy greens, lemon, sauerkraut, eggs, herbs including parsley and cilantro, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, ginger, spices, green tea, onion, sea vegetables, apple cider vinegar, beets, chamomile, artichokes, and omega-3 oils. Ideally, we would include all of these foods in our every day diet, but the most important thing is to eliminate the ingredients that cause inflammation. Doing either a cleanse or detox can be intimidating and takes some planning and dedication. Most of us have hectic lives or are simply afraid to commit to an eating plan that will last a few days or weeks. A juice cleanse is ideal, but if you're not ready for that, there are things you can do on a daily basis to help detox without feeling deprived of solid food.  No need to stress, take it one day at a time and do the best you can that day to take care of your body. At the end of the day, check in with yourself. How do you feel? How was your mood, energy, awareness, and productivity that day? You might just find that you feel great and want to do it all over again, or you might need a few days of this in order to see any changes in mood, but focus on finishing that one day knowing that you are doing something for yourself and don't let others discourage you. You are the one that will feel great and benefit from this.

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Here are 7 easy natural things you can do on a daily basis to help your body detox: 

  1. Avoid gluten and introduce gluten-free grains. Gluten is a protein found in wheat (white or whole wheat products) that causes inflammation in the body, even to those that are not gluten intolerant. Also, look out for gluten-free products as they are mostly always packed with refined sugar. Stick to gluten-free grains such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, and amaranth. For gluten-free snacks, check out my post on Healthy Snacking.
  2. Avoid refined sugar. Refined sugar weakens your immune system and causes inflammation in the body. Let your sugar come from natural sources such as fresh fruit, honey (good for sore throat and cough), dates, and root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash/pumpkin, and beets. 
  3. Drink water and lemon water. Water is essential for cleansing the body. It helps flush toxins out and helps regulate metabolism. Not being well hydrated stresses out our system and prevents detoxification. Dehydration is often confused with hunger, so next time you feel hungry when you've just eaten, drink a glass of water. If you're not fond of water you can add cucumber slices, fresh fruit, or lemon juice to make it flavorful. Lemon water also supports the immune system, supports liver in cleansing out the body, helps digestion, acts as a natural diuretic, balances pH, and aids with weight loss. Start your day off by drinking a cup of warm water with lemon juice on an empty stomach. Add some apple cider vinegar to have even more detoxifying properties. 
  4. Drink apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits. It's good for digestion, skin care, detoxifying, anti-bacterial, weight loss, cures allergies, kills candida and fungus, eases arthritis, and balances the inner ecosystem. Add 1-2 Tablespoons to about 6 oz of water and sip. 
  5. Eat leafy greens. Leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, spinach, bok choy, arugula, celery, and dandelion are alkalinizing to the body which helps attack bad bacteria and reduce cravings. They contain chlorella which helps cleanse the body. Most of these are also bitter and bitter foods support the liver with detoxification. Incorporate leafy greens in smoothies, salads, and vegetable sautéed dishes. 
  6. Slow Down. Slow eating = conscious eating. By eating slow you are usually more conscious about how much you eat and will often find that you get full before eating everything on the plate because you give yourself time to feel satieated. Take time to chew your food to digest it better. Better digestion will also lead to better absorption of nutrients. 
  7. Sweat. Sweating is a way of flushing toxins out of the body. Take at least 30 minutes of the day to do some sort of physical activity that will get you sweating. Exercise burns calories and will help weight loss. Sitting in a sauna or getting a massage also help detoxification. 
 

9 Natural Ways to Keep the Flu Away

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The immune system is what helps us fight virus and bacteria and keeps us from getting sick. During this flu season and cold weather, it's important to give our immune system a boost. Here are 9 natural ways to keep the flu away:

  1. Drink ginger tea. Ginger is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, relieves pain, and aids digestion. To make tea, simmer a 1-inch strip in 2 cups filtered water for about 10 min and then enjoy with some lemon juice. 
  2. Load up on Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that boosts the immune system. It helps to prevent a cold/flu and also helps get rid of it. Foods high in vitamin C include dark leafy greens (kale, collard greens, chard), citrus fruits, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. 
  3. Garlic. Garlic is strongly an anti-bacterial and anti-virus ingredient. Eating it raw (uncooked) provides the most health benefits, but cooking with it is also good. If you can take the strong raw taste, chop it up and throw it on your salads, cooked vegetables, cooked meats, and even smoothies. Otherwise, add to pan towards the end of cooking to expose to heat for only a short period of time.  
  4. Get enough sleep and manage stress. Lack of sleep puts stress on our body and stress weakens our immune system. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night without interruptions. Things you can do to help deal with stress are: take a walk/hike, drink tea, listen to calming music, read a book, yoga, exercise, meditate, take deep breaths, draw/write, take a hot bath, and prioritize your life. 
  5. Cook with spices. Spices like cinnamon, turmeric, and cayenne pepper are anti-inflammatory and help relieve pain and fight health problems. 
  6. Eat probiotics. Probiotics are live cultures that live mostly in our gut. These are good bacteria that help fight off the bad bacteria. Feeding the gut with good bacteria helps heal it and strengthens our immune system. Get probiotics by eating fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir(lactose-free), and kim chi. 
  7. Avoid refined sugar and dairy. Refined sugar (including alcohol) is what feeds the bad bacteria in our gut and allows it to replicate. Refined sugar also weakens our immune system and causes inflammation in the body. Let your sugar come from natural sources such as fresh fruit, honey (good for sore throat and cough), dates, and root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash/pumpkin, and beets. Dairy is also something you might want to avoid if having symptoms of a cold/flu because it creates mucus in the body and only makes things worse. 
  8. Drink unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is great for many things. Some benefits are detoxifying the body, feeding the gut with good bacteria, and curing a sore throats, sinus infections, headaches, and the flu. Mix 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with some filtered water and drink slowly. For a sore throat, gargle apple cider vinegar in the back of your throat then spit out and repeat a few more times. 
  9. My favorite remedy - "Voo-doo Juice." I learned this tea from my mom and it's what I immediately go to if I feel a cold approaching. It is packed with immune supporting ingredients and it really does the trick. I add 2 cloves crushed garlic, 2-inch piece of ginger, about 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or more if you can take it), and 4 cups filtered water to a small pot and simmer for about 10 minutes. Filter tea into a mug and enjoy with a bit of raw honey. 
Don't forget to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and get lots of fluids from water, hot tea, and chicken or vegetable soup. 
 
Stay healthy.