weightloss

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

Meatbeach

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

 

 

 

 

Vegan Chocolate-Coconut Ice Cream

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It's not summer yet, but I'm already craving (and testing) all the amazing treats I want to create on those sunny days to come. My first test was this delicious and ridiculously simple chocolate-coconut ice cream. I always thought of ice cream as something that was impossible to make at home. Even using an ice cream maker seemed like a lot of work for me, and I never felt the need to try to make it at home since ice cream is not usually my go-to treat. Then I visited Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco and had their chocolate vegan ice cream and life was different. That ice cream is always worth the 30 minute wait. Since trying Bi-Rite Creamery, I knew I had to come up with my own healthy version to avoid indulging again. And that I did.

I still don't have an ice cream maker, but that is not necessary for this recipe. Making vegan ice cream turned out to be very easy. All I used was a blender and a glass container to freeze the ice cream in. The best part is that I only used 4 ingredients and the ice cream is gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free. It couldn't be better if you ask me. It's a perfect guilt-free treat or snack for adults and kids.

Please try this recipe and share below how yours turned out. Feel free to substitute pistachios with any type of nut.

Choc coconut ice cream

Ingredients

1 can coconut milk (make sure to use full-fat, otherwise, ice cream won't be creamy)

3 Tablespoons raw cacao powder

1/4 cup coconut nectar or raw honey

1/4 cup chopped pistachios

pinch of sea salt

Procedure

  1. Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour in glass container or dish and place in freezer for 6-8 hours, until completely firm.
  3. Serve scoops using ice cream scooper (or eat straight from container, which I may or may not have done)

Enjoy!

Coconut Buckwheat Pancakes

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IMG_6990 I've been experimenting with pancakes lately. It's my new weekend thing. Of course they are always gluten and dairy free, so I like to get creative with different ingredients and flavors. They're not always a success, but this one I had to share. Simple ingredients and simply delicious.

Ingredients

Serves 1 

1/2 large banana

1/4 cup buckwheat flour

1 egg

2 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon coconut oil (for cooking)

Procedure

  1. Blend all ingredients together
  2. Heat coconut oil on pan over medium heat
  3. Pour batter into pan and cook for a few minutes on each side (covered).
  4. Stack and top with toppings of your choice. I topped mine with organic raw honey and raw cacao nibs.

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What is Clean Eating?

What is clean eating

You've probably already seen or heard the term 'clean eating' or 'eating clean.' But what does it mean? What is so great about it? I'd like to clarify what it means for those of you who are wondering and what it's benefits are. Clean eating is not a specific diet, it's a lifestyle choice.

First of all, there are many different definitions of clean eating, depending on what meal regimen one follows and recommends (paleo, raw, vegan, vegetarian, etc). For example, a vegan might say that a clean eating regimen is one that omits all animal products, someone that only eats a raw food diet might say that clean eating is an all raw-food diet, and so forth. I don't believe that one is better than the other, it is just a matter of finding what works for you.

My definition of  'clean eating' is to eliminate all refined and processed foods from your diet. Foods like white sugar, white rice, bleached flour, white flour, and enriched flour all are foods that have been refined in some way. When refined, their nutrients are removed resulting in ingredients that only provide empty calories (calories with no nutritional value) with a blood sugar spike.

A clean eating regimen consists of whole, unrefined foods in their most natural state. These foods are:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Pasture-raised eggs and poultry
  • Grass-fed meats
  • Full-fat dairy products

Be sure to read labels when buying things in a package. Just because the box says "whole grain" or " natural" doesn't mean they really are. Read ingredients closely and choose grains that don't have additives. You'd be surprised what's in that box of "whole grain" cereal you love so much, not a whole lot of nutrition. Chicken that is labeled "all natural" is interesting to me. Shouldn't chicken be natural? Sadly it's almost always not the case; instead they are fed antibiotics and hormones. Labels are misleading and most of the time not true.

Talk to the butcher at the grocery store, ask questions, and read the ingredient list. Try buying products that have 5 or less ingredients. And make sure they are ingredients that you can pronounce and that are unrefined. Visit my post on reading labels for more information.

Benefits of a clean eating lifestyle:

  • Weight loss/fat loss
  • Increased energy
  • Better skin and hair
  • Better health
  • Increased mental focus
  • Better sleep
  • Better mood
  • Decreased cravings and sugar addiction

As you can see, eating clean is a great thing. It seems to have become more and more popular these days, when in reality, it has been around for a long time and just now people are starting to realize how important it is to make this lifestyle choice in order to be healthy and happy.

How to transition to a clean eating life:

  • Eat whole fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats,  and whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, amaranth)
  • Drink at least 8 cups of water each day
  • Eat 5-6 times a day to reduce cravings and keep blood sugar regulated - include protein in every meal
  • Avoid all processed and unrefined foods (sugar, candy, pastries, white flour, white rice, bread, cereals, packaged goods, etc.)
  • Avoid beverages that are packed with sugar (soda, juice, Gatorade, energy drinks, sweetened tea, coffee drinks)
  • Avoid trans fats

Clean eating is the lifestyle choice I made and what I preach every single day. I have never been happier and felt more comfortable in my skin. If you are just transitioning to a clean eating lifestyle, take it slow and make small changes every day. It takes time, but don't give up. Know that your body will love you for it and you won't regret the health benefits from it.

Trust the process.

Balsamic-Ginger Glazed Carrots and Chard

Balsamic-glazed-carrots

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Summer is one of my favorite seasons. I love going to the farmers market and being surrounded by all the wonderful colors of fruits and vegetables.

Have you seen those beautiful rainbow carrots yet? And the amazing varieties of cucumber? What about the juicy peaches and plums?

I can spend hours at the market just admiring (and tasting), but mostly, I go to get influenced to create new and delicious recipes. This week, I chose to make something different with carrots.

Carrots are available year round, but they have the most nutrients, freshness, and flavor when they are in season (fall and summer). They are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, fiber, and antioxidants (vitamin C and beta-carotene). They are anti-inflammatory, a good source of complex carbohydrates, and help cleanse the liver.

Ingredients

1-2 Tablespoons unrefined sesame oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan)

1 bunch rainbow carrots, washed and cut into 2-inch pieces

4 large leaves red chard, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1-inch ginger root, minced

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

juice of 1/2 lemon

sea salt

Procedure

  1. Cut off the large end of carrots. Cut carrots in half long wise, then cut into 2-inch pieces with a diagonal cut.
  2. Heat sesame oil in a large pan. Add carrots and a generous pinch of sea salt and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice and cook for another 5 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  4. Add chard and sauté for another few minutes until chard wilts. Serve.

Note: You can garnish with chopped herbs and/or seeds.

Grapefruit Pancakes

Grapefruit-pancakes_v2

I'm constantly on a mission to find nutritious alternatives to the most common foods that we love to eat. I spend hours on Instagram, Facebook, health and food blogs, reading recipe books, and writing/testing my own recipes.

I personally am not a huge fan of pancakes, but I am most definitely a fan of pancakes that are sweet, fluffy, made with unrefined ingredients, AND nourishing. These pancakes are high in protein, gluten-free, filling, and really easy to make. I was completely satisfied with them and I hope you will be too.

Ingredients

Makes 4 small or 2 large pancakes

3 Tablespoons coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 drops stevia (I don't love the taste of stevia, but you can add more if you'd like)

Zest of about 1/4 grapefruit (to taste)

1 Tablespoon greek yogurt

1/4 cup almond milk

3 organic egg whites

1 Tablespoon coconut oil (for cooking)

Procedure

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Combine wet ingredients, except coconut oil, in a separate bowl and whisk together. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and incorporate well. Batter should be thick. The thicker the batter, the fluffier your pancakes will be. Taste and adjust flavors to preference if needed.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a medium-large size pan. Make sure pan is very hot. Spoon batter onto pan, cover, and cook for 3-5 minutes (until bottom is browned, but not burnt). Flip and cook for another minute. You can make pancakes as big as you want. I chose to make 4 small ones.
  4. Stack pancakes on plate and top with slices of grapefruit, sauce, and anything else you desire.

Grapefruit sauce:

1 Tablespoon kefir (can also use yogurt)

1 teaspoon grapefruit zest (to taste)

1/2-1 Tablespoon fresh juice from grapefruit (to taste)

1/2 teaspoon grade B maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon chia seeds (optional, for thickness)

pinch of cinnamon

-Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust. Pour over pancake stack.

Other recommended toppings:

  • chopped almonds
  • chopped walnuts
  • more cinnamon
  • shredded coconut

Recipe adapted from clarkpharm.blogspot.com

Superfood Ice Popsicles

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Don't be intimidated by the color, these are sweet and refreshing on a sunny day. What makes these popsicles so great is spirulina powder. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is super nutrient dense. It contains protein, vitamins, and minerals that provide great benefit to your health. Spirulina is good for the skin (eczema, acne, rashes), boosts energy, supports the immune system, helps fight depression, lowers bad cholesterol, and helps prevent diseases such as diabetes and cancer. When purchasing spirulina, make sure to buy organic and from a trusted brand.

Ingredients

1/2 cup greek yogurt (I used full-fat)

2 Medjool dates, pitted

2 tsp spirulina powder

1/3 cup almond milk

2 tsp chia seeds

Procedure

  1. Place all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender and blend until smooth (make sure dates are fully blended or you'll have chunks).
  2. Place 1 teaspoon of chia seeds into each mold (you can also mix it in the mixture but I chose to put it at the bottom for the visual effect). Pour the yogurt mixture into molds and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Makes 2

Why Drink Lemon Water?

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Lemon water has great powers. Ever since I learned how great it is, I've made it a habit to start my day off with a cup of warm lemon water before I have my breakfast. It's a great way to gently wake up the organs and help their natural detox cycle. It's also great to just drink throughout the day. Simply squeeze a lemon into a cup of water (hot or cold) and enjoy.

Here are some of the amazing benefits of lemon water:

  • Helps with weight loss - Lemons speed up metabolism.
  • Helps flush out toxins from the body - Detox.
  • Cleanses the digestive system.
  • Alkalizes the body - When our body is under an acidic state, it develops sickness and disease, so it's important to try to balance it with alkalizing foods.
  • Improves immunity - High in Vitamin C.
  • Works as a natural diuretic.
  • Acts as a liver tonic.
  • Improves skin tone and quality - The acidity of lemons helps treat acne.
  • Relieves nausea.
  • Relieves constipation.