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4:44 pm

Could You Go a Year Without Alcohol?

Dry 2017? Are you crazy?!!

Two years ago I was sitting in an auditorium in New York City with a thousand other health coaches. One of our speakers that day was Dr. Daniel Amen, renowned brain specialist. He shared a story of an average, middle-aged woman who was a moderate drinker. She was gaining weight, had brain fog and wasn’t feeling her best. He conducted a brain spect (a scan of the brain showing blood flow). Her scan showed areas of improper blood flow – meaning there were parts of her brain not receiving much blood!  Her scan looked like her brain had holes, divots, and pockets of emptiness. This truly scared me as he went on to explain how he’s seeing dementia and Alzheimer's years before symptoms arise. Since the latter appears to run in my family, I decided to do something about it. I stopped drinking in 2016.

I was never a heavy drinker or even a nightly glass-of-wine drinker. I’ve been a mom for the last eleven years and haven’t really found the time or inclination to drink much.  But, I did have my fair share in my twenties and thirties. I probably drank too much in college and my early twenties.  In recent times, I would go out and have a few drinks and have the worst hangovers the next day. My liver wasn’t really processing it all very well, so it made sense to stop. Plus, after working hard to put my autoimmune disease into remission, why undo all of that hard work.

So, in 2016, (starting with New Year’s Eve of 2015) I made the decision to severely limit my alcohol consumption. Since I had already stopped drinking beer a couple of years ago due to a gluten allergy, I was halfway there. I was down to just an occasional glass of wine and a fancy cocktail if I went out.

I made it all the way to Mother’s Day and had a Bellini with brunch (but didn’t finish it). Then, I had a few sips of a few drinks on a cruise to the Bahamas this summer (it was all-inclusive) and one cocktail over the holidays.  That’s it. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything, nor did I feel socially awkward.

I made the empowering decision and realization that “I don’t need to drink!” When I was under stress or had a “bad” day, I nourished myself with a bath or herbal tea or cuddled on the couch in my jammies with some ridiculous television show. Why give my body something that is demoting to my health when what I really need is something nutrient-dense and beneficial to my health? And apparently, I’m being trendy as more and more folks are skipping the booze.  There’s more websites, restaurants, and bars catering to those who don’t drink anymore with delicious mocktails.

mocktail pic_copy
My friend and fellow Health Coach, Caitlin Padgett, wrote a book called Drink Less, Be More. Check it out.

So, what positive things happened to me without alcohol?


I didn’t need to buy any pain-relievers this year!

I maintained my weight.

I felt clear-headed.

I saved a bunch of money.

I slept great!

I was always there for my kids! (No more Saturday morning hangovers!)

Could you do the same? If you saw a scan of your brain would you make adjustments to your life to halt disease?  Using alcohol to “unwind” or relax from a stressful day is a learned behavior. As a society, we turn to alcohol due to career stress, social stress, financial stress and stress in relationships. This only offers temporary relief and escape. We are numbing ourselves with alcohol and drugs to give us that dopamine spike – the one that makes us feel invincible. This offers a short-term solution and never fixes the problem. I’m not saying you should cut it out completely, but consider your brain, your liver, and your waistline the next time you reach for a drink.

I encourage you to dig deeper for relief. Connect with friends over herbal tea. Enjoy a fancy meal without a bottle of wine and save some dough and your health.

12:10 pm

How a Desk Job Can Ruin Your Health & What You Can Do About It

If you were asked to list the top 10 dangerous occupations, an office job probably wouldn’t be one of them. In fact, the thought of writing “desk job” on your list might be enough to make you laugh out loud. However, sitting too much can cause a variety of uncomfortable and even dangerous health concerns that rival the most feared diseases. Surprised? Here are the top ways a desk job can ruin your health and what you can do about it.

 

Obesity

When you spend all day sitting behind a desk, your metabolism slows down and your body burns far fewer calories than it would if you exercised regularly. Weight gain is often the unfortunate result of consuming more calories than your sedentary lifestyle allows you to burn off. If left unchecked, minor weight gain can eventually lead to obesity while increasing your chance of developing metabolic syndrome.

 

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure has been linked with sitting for long periods of time. When high blood pressure is left uncontrolled and untreated, it can potentially damage your heart in a variety of ways, including coronary artery disease, stroke and heart failure.

 

High Blood Sugar

According to a 2008 study printed in the Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, people who spend more time watching TV or sitting behind desks tend to have higher glucose and blood pressure levels. People who sit all day tend to also have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

 

How You Can Fight the Odds

You don’t have to become a statistic just because you have a desk job. In fact, fighting off obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar is easier than you may think. The solution seems to be simply moving more throughout the day and sitting less.

What Can I Do?

Need a few ideas to get you out of your office chair? Try standing at your desk rather than sitting. You might also want to try an active surface board that allows you to stand at your desk while subtly balancing your weight and strengthening your muscles. You can also take a quick lap around the office after eating lunch or schedule a 10-15 minute break after every 50 minutes of work. Even the smallest changes can have a big impact on how you feel.


10:08 am

7 Foods to Add to a Healthy Kitchen in 2017

 

If you’re looking to improve your health, increase your energy and fight off pesky illnesses, look no further than these seven foods. Every whole foods kitchen needs to be stocked with certain essentials that can elevate our health and these superfoods do just that. I make sure I’m always stocked with number 1 and 3 throughout the winter months to keep the sniffles away.

  1. Fermented Foods – These are foods like unpasteurized sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, raw yogurt, kombucha, miso and tempeh. They are naturally rich in probiotics and feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Fermented foods also help to improve digestion and make it easier for us to absorb the nutrients from the foods we eat.

 fermented veggies

Try this: Add a handful of fresh-from-the-farm green beans to a mason jar, fill with a clove of garlic, fresh or dried dill and a few peppercorns. Add 2 tbsp sea salt and fill with water.  Add the lid, gently tighten. Leave on your counter for a few days until you see bubbles, then place in the fridge. Voila! Homemade Fermented Veggies!

 

  1. Coconut & Its Products – I love all things coconut and it’s a great whole food to add to your recipes, especially if you’re trying to avoid dairy. You can drink coconut milk and electrolyte-rich coconut water, add shredded coconut or coconut flour to your baking and snack recipes, and the king of all things coconut is the oil. Coconut oil is great for high heat cooking and sautéing vegetables and meats. Coconut oil is primarily saturated (over 90%), with the bulk of it coming from lauric acid, a medium-chain saturated fatty acid, which has antimicrobial properties.

Try this: Make this delicious Fat-Burning Chocolate Smoothie with coconut oil.

chocolate smoothie


  1. Bone Broth – This superfood is becoming quite trendy and rightfully so. It’s made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals and key amino acids, such as glycine and proline, which are needed to make collagen. Potential health benefits include joint and bone health, along with some claims of reducing inflammation.1

Try this: Save money and make your own broth or stock from leftover bones.

 chicken broth (800x600)

  1. Ghee (Clarified Butter) – Ghee is made from butter that has been slow-cooked to remove the water and milk solids, making it a great high-heat cooking fat for those sensitive to dairy. It contains Vitamins A, D, E and K2, along with butyric acid and other short-chain saturated fats that may reduce inflammation, promote gut health and inhibit cancer growth.2

Try this: Sauté your favorite vegetable or protein in a tablespoon of ghee. My favorite is kale or collard greens, with some pan-seared salmon.

 

  1. Mushrooms – Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and all of the B vitamins, selenium and copper. They are powerful immune modulators and possess anti-cancer properties.3 Load up on all different kinds like Portobello, Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Shiitake, and Maitake.

 

  1. Raw Cacao – My personal favorite superfood is Cacao – or pure raw, unheated chocolate from the cacao pod. It’s full of antioxidants, fiber, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. It can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes.4

 

Try this: I like blending raw cacao in my smoothies and teas and using it in snack items, like these Cherry Chocolate Bites.

 cherry chocolate bites

  1. Sea Vegetables – I know what you’re thinking, but stick with me here. There are so many different ones to choose from like arame, dulse, nori, kelp, chlorella and wakame. These edible sea veggies are full of iodine, which can promote healthy thyroid function, along with fiber and health-promoting plant compounds.5 Nori is typically used in sushi rolls, arame is great in a salad, and chlorella is typically ground as a powder and used in smoothies or as a supplement.

 

Try this: Toss some fresh wakame with a little rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds and sesame oil for a delicious salad.

How many of these foods are in your kitchen right now? Share your favorite uses in the comments!

Cindy Santa Ana is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Culinary Nutrition Expert. Her book, Unprocessed Living, shares how to read confusing food labels and how to transition away from processed foods. She helps to inspire her clients to reach their ideal weight and increase their energy while juggling their career and personal life. Find her at www.UnlockBetterHealth.com, @unlockhealthnow and Unlock Better Health on Facebook.

References:

  1. Zhong, Z. "L-Glycine: A Novel Anti-inflammatory, Immunomodulatory, and Cytoprotective Agent." Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.S. National Library of Medicine, 06 Mar. 2003. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.
  2. German, J. Bruce, and Cora J. Dillard. "J Bruce German." Saturated Fats: What Dietary Intake? Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 01 Sept. 2004. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.
  3. Hassan, MA. "Mushroom Lectins: Specificity, Structure and Bioactivity Relevant to Human Disease." International Journal of Molecular Sciences.S. National Library of Medicine, 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.
  4. Davide, Grassi. "Insulin Sensitivity Increased in Glucose-Intolerant." The Journal of Nutrition. American Society for Nutrition, 7 Sept. 2008. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.
  5. Kapil, Umesh. "Health Consequences of Iodine Deficiency." NCBI. National Institute for Health, 7 Dec. 2007. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.

 


10:18 am

THE Best Gluten-Free Banana Bread - like EVER!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

banana bread

My new gluten-free Chocolate Chip Banana Walnut Bread is so moist and delicious – no one will ever know it’s gluten- and dairy-free. Enjoy it warm from the oven and you’ll make friends fast.

Better yet, package a loaf up and share as a neighborly gift.

Don’t be intimated by the unusual flours. These are my go-to flours for making delicious gluten-free baked goods.  Sorghum flour lends a sweeter taste and is perfect for banana and zucchini breads.
I made mine with a little bit of Homemade Nutella - a sinful treat!

banana bread 2_copy


Ingredients:

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about three medium-sized bananas)
2 large pastured eggs, beaten
1/4 cup organic coconut oil, melted
1 cup coconut palm sugar (for even lower sugar, use ¾ cup, it won’t be as sweet, but still good)
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 tablespoon brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup mini chocolate chip, like Enjoy Life brand (optional, but tasty)
1/2 cup walnut pieces (omit if nut-free)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with a piece of unbleached parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Then, beat the mashed bananas with the eggs, oil and coconut sugar till combined. Add the sorghum flour, tapioca starch, brown rice flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt, vanilla and cinnamon and beat until a smooth batter forms. Stir in the walnut pieces and chocolate chips by hand. (Use can simply use a fork or hand mixer to combine the ingredients)

Scoop the batter into the loaf pan and spread evenly. Bake on the center rack for 55 minutes, until the center is done (a wooden toothpick should come out clean). Ovens vary, so check the loaf at 50-60 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

This banana bread stays moist overnight if tightly wrapped- but I doubt it will last longer than a day or two if your family has anything to say about it!

Makes one 9-inch loaf


Credit: Cindy Santa Ana, Unlock Better Health

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