Earthfood-Loaded Yogurt Bowl

A filling breakfast or lunch using unsweetened, full-fat Icelandic yogurt (called ‘skyr’) as the base (you could also use full-fat cottage cheese), topped with chopped apple, a few blueberries, hemp hearts, unsweetened coconut flakes, almonds and cacao nibs. 

So basically, this meal is abundant in Earthfoods, with just a smattering of yogurt. Now that’s what I call a yogurt parfait. Tons of flavor and nutrition…without the sugar!

After enjoying this bowl, I’m sure you’ll be inspired to concoct your own fun masterpiece. Any fruit, nut or seed could work…so get creative and see what you come up with. Why not try some unique sprinklings of goji berries, maca powder or bee pollen? Go get ’em! 

Print Recipe
Earthfood-Loaded Yogurt Bowl
A filling meal using unsweetened, full-fat Icelandic yogurt (called 'skyr') as the base, topped with fruit, nuts, seeds, and a few other unique ingredients. 4 Earthfoods per serving: ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Prep Time 5 minutes or less
Servings
serving
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, full-fat Icelandic yogurt I like Siggi's brand
  • 1 small apple, chopped with skin on you could use any fruit here
  • 1 small handful fresh blueberries or berry of choice
  • 1/8 cup almonds or nut of choice
  • 1 tbsp. hemp hearts could also use flax or chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. cacao nibs Navitas brand
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 dashes ground cinnamon
Prep Time 5 minutes or less
Servings
serving
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, full-fat Icelandic yogurt I like Siggi's brand
  • 1 small apple, chopped with skin on you could use any fruit here
  • 1 small handful fresh blueberries or berry of choice
  • 1/8 cup almonds or nut of choice
  • 1 tbsp. hemp hearts could also use flax or chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. cacao nibs Navitas brand
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 dashes ground cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a bowl in the order listed and dig in!
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per servingCalories: 435Total Fat: 26 g; Saturated Fat: 10 g; Sodium: 60 mg; Potassium: 270 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 33 g; Dietary fiber: 10 g; Net Carbohydrates: 23 grams;Sugar: 17g (no added sugar);Protein: 22 g

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Why Full-Fat Dairy is Better

July 17th, 2019 | no comments

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

 

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Memories still haunt me to this day, of fat-free Frosted Flakes drenched in skim milk for breakfast, a slice of fat-free cheese blanketing my fat-free cold cuts (sandwiched between two slices of fat-free bread) for lunch, and a mid-afternoon snack of fat-free, artificially sweetened yogurt (with my fat-free pretzel sticks).

And please don’t even get me started on that fat-free cottage cheese I used to eat! The stuff could seriously double as spackling paste. I’ll bet if you flicked a spoonful of fat-free cottage cheese at the wall before work, I’m pretty sure it would still be there when you got home.

Listen, when your cat turns her nose up at fat-free cheese…you know there’s a problem.

It’s no wonder I didn’t enjoy dairy products back then; they lacked fat, and therefore tasted terrible! 

 

So why the obsession with low-fat dairy?

Poorly designed studies of the 1970s are to blame for the “full-fat dairy leads to heart disease” message. Their findings prompted the USDA to recommend that all Americans switch to low-fat dairy, and until recently, we rule-abiding consumers diligently followed suit like good little soldiers. We ditched the cream and used skim milk in our coffee (blech!) and “enjoyed” fat-free frozen yogurt for dessert. 

Fast-forward to 2019 and you’ll notice a rise in the number of full-fat dairy products flooding the coolers in your local grocery store. 

 

Full-fat dairy is back baby!

Recent studies aimed to challenge the low-fat dairy recommendation, and with promising results.

A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed no link between high-fat dairy and mortality, and was actually inversely associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke mortality. In other words, it may in fact offer protection against them. 

The saturated fat naturally found in dairy is mostly palmitic acid. Although palmitic acid raises LDL cholesterol, it also simultaneously lowers triglycerides (the fat in your blood) and increases HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol). Unfortunately we’ve been scared into focusing only on individual cholesterol numbers–such as LDL and triglycerides– and if they are out of range we assume it’s all downhill from there…bring on the statins! 

Your cholesterol ratios are what matters most– most notably your total cholesterol/HDL ratio and triglyceride/HDL ratio. To learn more about these ratios, read THIS POST. For an even deeper dive, check out Dr. Mark Hyman’s free mini-eBook, The Cholesterol Solution.

Another positive: full-fat dairy also contains medium chain triglycerides, a fat linked to improved health.  

Thank God for research, although simply reflecting on the diet patterns of our grandparents is, in my opinion, proof that we need to stop screwing with Mother Nature and get back to our roots. Whole milk is what naturally comes out of cows…until we manipulate it and remove the fat! The result? Blue/gray skim milk.

 

Other benefits of full-fat dairy (compared to low-fat/fat-free)

Compared to low and no-fat dairy, full-fat dairy slows the release of sugars into your bloodstream, which is not only better for your blood sugar, but it’s also more filling and can prevent overeating. 

Another bonus: the fat in whole milk dairy aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins present in dairy, such as vitamins A and D.

And let’s just be honest…full-fat dairy tastes better. Period.

 

Best full-fat dairy choices
  • cream: choose organic when possible or at the very least, hormone, antibiotic, pesticide and GMO-free
  • pasture-raised, hormone-free, full-fat milk: as with cream, choose organic or at the very least, hormone, antibiotic, pesticide and GMO-free
  • unsweetened yogurt and kefir (both are good sources of beneficial bacteria)
  • fresh, unprocessed cheeses (click HERE for a full list)
  • 4% milkfat cottage cheese (I like Daisy and Kalona Super Natural brands)  
  • grass-fed butter and grass-fed ghee
The bottom line on full-fat dairy

If you choose to include dairy products in your diet, go for full-fat and enjoy it in small amounts in the context of a well-balanced, Earthfood-rich diet. Adding full-fat dairy to a SAD diet (Standard American Diet) of ultra-processed convenience foods and crappy carry-out, is not going to offer you any health benefits whatsoever. Just thought I’d mention that. 😘😁

Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6014779/
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/108/3/476/5052139


Hungry for more information on the fascinating (and misunderstood) topic of saturated fat? Check out this podcast episode featuring Dr. Mark Hyman as he interviews Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a leading thinker in cardiology who has challenged the status quo around fat, calories and conventional wisdom around statin use.


 

Mel’s weekly food pick: 
Siggi’s Yogurt

This is one of the best yogurts out there.

Siggi’s is also called “skyr”– the traditional yogurt of Iceland. Similar to Greek yogurt, skyr is made by straining the whey (water naturally found in milk) to make for a much thicker yogurt. The final product is rich in approximately five strains of live active cultures– friendly bacteria that can boost the health of your digestive tract, immune system, and more. 

It takes four times the milk to make one cup of skyr compared to regular yogurt, which means it contains 2-3 times more protein. 

Although Siggi’s plain 4% milkfat is your best option, they also offer flavored varieties with only a fraction of added sugar compared to other brands out there, and no artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup. If you’re in the mood for an even creamier skyr, they make a ‘triple cream’ (9% milkfat) too! 

To verify their products are non-GMO, Siggi’s conducts their own testing with one of the leading international food testing organizations. 

My favorite way to enjoy Siggi’s is to make a yogurt bowl loaded with all kinds of Earthfoods. Check out this week’s recipe pick below. 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick: 
Earthfood-Loaded Yogurt Bowl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does Snacking Actually Promote Fat Storage?

July 12th, 2019 | no comments

Photo by Thomas Q on Unsplash

 

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“If we were meant to ‘graze’, we would be cows”
– Dr. Jason Fung, MD

 

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I used to suggest what many health professionals are still advising the public to do today: to increase your metabolism and burn unwanted body fat, you should eat every three hours.

It turns out this advice actually supports fat storage, not fat loss.

Yeah, I know… shocking, right?! And who do you think is responsible for pushing this message out to us eager beavers who want nothing more than to get lean and healthy? Yep, you guessed it– big food companies.

That in itself should piss you off.

Companies whose “bread and butter” consist of nutritionally-void foods such as chips, cookies, candy bars and the like, are largely to blame for this recommendation. And to top it off, goodhearted-yet-naive health professionals like myself, freely dispensed the advice like a rigged gumball machine.

 

Snacking and fat storage: it comes down to insulin

To understand why the practice of grazing supports the storage of body fat, it’s necessary to understand the hormone insulin.

Dr. Jason Fung, Canadian nephrologist and leading expert on intermittent fasting, explains the role of insulin this way:

Insulin is a hormone produced when we eat and its job is to allow glucose into the cells. When it is no longer able to do it, glucose piles up outside the cell in the blood—this is called insulin resistance.

But why does this happen? The cells are already over-filled with glucose. It’s like packing your clothes into a suitcase. At first, the clothes go without any trouble. After a certain point, it’s impossible to jam in those last two T-shirts. The luggage is now ‘resistant’ to the clothes. It’s the same overflow phenomenon. The cell is bursting with glucose, so trying to force more in is difficult and requires much higher doses of insulin. These higher insulin levels drive weight gain and obesity.

So what does this have to do with snacking? Increased snacking increases the risk of insulin resistance, which essentially requires two things:

  1. High levels of insulin—triggered by the refined carbohydrates found in typical snacks.
  2. Persistent levels of insulin—provided by increased eating opportunities (snacking in between meals).

So instead of a balance between the insulin-dominant (fed) state and the insulin-deficient (fasting) state, we now predominantly spend our time in the ‘fed’ state.  The result? Weight gain and fat storage.

So what’s the solution?

 

Heed grandma’s advice: “Don’t snack in between meals!”

Big food companies are concerned with making money; grandma was instinctively looking out for your well-being. Maybe she was onto something with her advice.

Think about it for a second, you go out to dinner and order an “appetizer”. Have you ever looked up the true meaning of the word appetizer?

ap·pe·tiz·er: a small dish of food or a drink taken before a meal or the main course of a meal to stimulate one’s appetite.

Yes, eating stimulates your appetite, and when you snack between meals, it’s like eating an appetizer but then deliberately stopping before you are actually satisfied. This won’t decrease your appetite, it’ll only stoke it!

I don’t know about you, but I’m going with grandma on this one.

 

Hunger becomes more recognizable…a good thing indeed!

If you are an avid snacker, this may seem like a difficult habit to form, trust me I’ve been there. It took me quite a while to get used to not snacking between meals, but once I stopped and took a step back to examine why I was doing it, I realized it wasn’t due to hunger at all. I simply formed a habit… a bad one at that!

Another thing I noticed was that my body became much more sensitive to true hunger. I don’t know why, but we tend to think of hunger as a bad thing. Consider this: Never allowing your body to become hungry makes it very difficult to differentiate between true, biological hunger (i.e. slight grumbling of the stomach) and emotional hunger, or eating ‘just because’.

 

How to make this work for you

Want to give this a try for yourself and see how your body responds? Take a few minutes to map out the timing of your meals. For example: breakfast at 8:00; lunch at 1:00; dinner at 6:00. To help activate a fasting (insulin-deficient) state, make dinner your final eating occasion for the day and allow for a minimum 12-hour fast between dinner and breakfast. For more information on the topic of intermittent fasting, read this post. PS: I highly recommend that you do. 

Of course it matters what you eat– but I don’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole in this post. To learn more about how to form a balanced meal, read this post.

 

Use good old fashioned common sense

So if you’ve been struggling to shed those extra pounds that aren’t serving you, stop blaming yourself for lacking willpower and give this a shot! The beauty of this approach is that it’s based on common sense—something I feel the diet and “snacking” industries have unfortunately tried to rob us of.

Get in the driver’s seat of your body and call the shots…what do you have to lose (other than those stubborn pounds)?

**Want to take a deeper dive into this subject? Check out this episode of the JJ Virgin Lifestyle Show featuring Dr. Fung. 


NOTE: If you are on insulin, diabetes medication, or any other prescription drug, please consult with your healthcare provider before implementing any suggestions in this post.


Mel’s weekly food pick: 
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

This is a staple everyone should have in their kitchen. I wrote about it well over a year ago, but I think it deserves another mention.

Because it is fermented, raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a rich source of enzymes and probiotics. My favorite brand is Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar because it’s organic, raw, unfiltered, and contains “The Mother”—which at first scared the living daylights out of me, until I learned what it was. “The Mother” is a mass of web-like strands of good bacteria floating about in the bottle, which helps promote gut health.

Because it slows the rate that food leaves the stomach, ACV can lower blood sugar when taken before a meal. It can also improve insulin sensitivity. For these reasons, I drink 1-2 tablespoons of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar diluted in 8 ounces of hot water twice a day—once before breakfast and the other as I’m preparing dinner. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but once you get used to it, it’s actually quite enjoyable! Note: If you decide to sip on ACV as a beverage, ALWAYS dilute it with water. 

Some other notable benefits of raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar include:

  • Support for a healthy heart
  • Improved cholesterol (decrease in LDL)
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Strengthened immune system

The easiest way to incorporate raw ACV into your daily meals is to make a dressing out of it and drizzle over a beautiful plate of salad greens! Check out this week’s recipe pick below for Raw Vinaigrette Dressing.

Mel’s weekly recipe pick: 
Raw Vinaigrette Dressing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Raw Vinaigrette Dressing

Simple.

Healthy.

Tasty.

Full of healthy fat and powerful blood sugar-lowering ingredients.

Make it once and you’ll never buy another bottle of over-priced salad dressing full of junky ingredients again.

Print Recipe
Raw Vinaigrette Dressing
Salad dressing is one of the easiest things to prepare, yet we still fall into the trap of buying over-priced dressings containing added sugar and inflammatory oils. Make this recipe and you'll never go back to your old ways. I promise! 0 Earthfoods per serving
Prep Time 3 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar I like Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced To save time, use bottled minced garlic
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Prep Time 3 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar I like Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced To save time, use bottled minced garlic
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a Mason jar and shake until fully combined. Drizzle over salad greens and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per serving: Calories: 125; Total Fat: 13 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Sodium: 60 mg; Potassium: 10 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 3 g; Dietary fiber: 0 g; Net Carbohydrates: 3 grams; Sugar: 3 g (from honey); Protein: 0 g

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Trust your body (it knows what it needs)

July 1st, 2019 | no comments

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

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Last night Wayne and I enjoyed a beautiful patio dinner in front of a perfect wood-burning fire. We refer to it as our “fun platter dinner”, because it’s full of mostly finger foods– you know, the type you’d find on a charcuterie board at a nice restaurant (to go with your glass of wine). 

Right before bed, I experienced an almost insatiable thirst. Well of course I did; I probably consumed 1000 milligrams of sodium in one sitting…duh! After guzzling a big bottle of water, I began contemplating the very real phenomenon of inner-homeostasis– or our body’s drive towards balance and equilibrium. I came to this conclusion:

Damn is my body brilliant!

And yours is too.

 

Trust your body– it’s smarter than you think!

Have you ever stopped to appreciate the wonder of the human body? It knows exactly what to do to heal itself. Its only role is to keep us protected and alive, at any cost. I mean think about it– imagine if we had to personally instruct our body to heal that cut on our finger. I think we’d all be up the creek without a paddle, and some of us (ahem…ME) would miss a crucial step because we’d be too busy checking Facebook!

Last night, this brilliant body of mine– of which I claim no credit–knew exactly what to do about the excess salt I fed it. Because I disturbed my inner-homeostasis, it responded with a very appropriate: Let’s make her barren desert-thirsty so she’ll drink enough water to restore us back to balance.    

I’m not sure how it knows what to do; it just does! I believe the 13th century Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi said it best with this advice: Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. 

Your body is an amazing, wondrous, bewildering treasure of light, strength and resiliency. It wants to be well and will do everything in its power to get your attention.

 

Pay attention! Otherwise you’ll miss the warning
  • Thirst.
  • Stress-induced neck pain.
  • High blood sugar following a sleep-deprived night.
  • That subtle layer of extra fat that just “magically” appeared on your abdomen.
  • Elevated triglyceride levels revealed on your recent bloodwork report.
  • The inevitable stroke caused by your pack-a-day habit.  

These are all warning signs that something is disrupting your inner-homeostasis.

So stop with the “whoa is me”, trust your body, and start paying attention! You can fix this. If I may be so bold, you’d better fix it, otherwise your body will cry louder and force you to pay attention.

Can you say D-I-S-E-A-S-E? 

 

First trust your body, then put your $$ where your mouth is

I’m sorry if it seems like I’m being a little harsh, but I hope you understand it’s coming from a place of love and absolute knowing. Knowing that– even if YOU don’t– your body will absolutely support you if you support it.

By all means, read my posts and take it all in.

Then DO something.

Claim ownership of your health and take action.

Listen my sweet friend, I’m not asking you to move mountains here…just little piles of dirt: Make one of my recipes for dinner tonight (try this week’s recipe pick for Avocado Alfredo Pasta); get your ass into bed a half-hour earlier; trade that (may as well be cotton candy-water) sweetened beverage for a glass of lemon water or fruit-infused water; calm your stress with five minutes of quiet meditation.

You get the point! 

 

Trust ME…I speak from experience

Back in 2015, I was told I had pre-diabetes—a diagnosis that literally knocked the wind out of me.

It was my body’s way of getting my attention.

You see, I thought I was doing everything right– I ate healthy food, exercised most days of the week, and my body weight was within a normal range. Well it just so happened that I was eating more carbohydrates than my body could handle. Walking into the kitchen on any given day and mindlessly grabbing a bag of sprouted tortilla chips, was a common ritual for me. I reasoned that “Hey, they are sprouted, whole grain, non-GMO, low sodium, and organic, so I get a free pass to eat as many as I want!” This ended up being half of the bag.

I also came to discover that although I didn’t physically feel it, I was experiencing more stress than I realized, which manifested into elevated blood sugar.

By taking the proper measures to clean up my body and mind, through good nutrition, exercise, rest, supplementation and meditation, I am happy to report that in just six months, I created a healthy environment of normal blood sugar. If you want to read more about my story, click HERE.

Could I have thrown up my hands and jumped on the “it’s genetic” train? Sure. But I didn’t. I trusted, shifted, and my body brought itself back into harmonious balance. 

The bottom line is this

Trust your body, it knows exactly what it needs. Ignore it, and don’t be surprised with what “magically” occurs. 

 

Mel’s weekly food pick: 
Fresh Basil

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Native to India, Asia and Africa, fresh basil just happens to be my all-time favorite herb. I enjoy this highly fragrant plant most in prepared pesto sauce or Avocado Alfredo Pasta

Benefits:

  • Basil has an impressive amount of vitamin K and is packed with flavonoids–natural plant substances known for their beneficial effects on health. In fact, it’s the flavonoids in basil that protect cell structures and chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. 
  • Basil also acts as an antibacterial! Its volatile oils protect against unwanted bacterial growth like Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli (E. coli).
  • As an natural anti-inflammatory, basil offers symptomatic relief for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. 

Uses:

Fresh basil can be used in so many ways. Here are some of my favorites:

In hot dishes, be sure to add basil near the end of the cooking process to preserve its heavenly flavor.

Storage:

Treat fresh basil like you would fresh flowers. Simply trim the leaves off the bottom of the stems, place in a jar or vase with fresh water and store on your counter. Change the water every two days and wash the leaves right before use. You could also store the leaves by washing gently, patting dry and wrapping in a paper towel. Place in a plastic bag, seal, and store in refrigerator drawer.

Mel’s weekly recipe pick: 
Avocado Alfredo Pasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Avocado Alfredo Pasta

Wow! That’s all I have to say about this super-simple recipe.

A creamy, flavorful sauce made with avocado, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, nutritional yeast (or Parmesan cheese). Yes, I know it’s green, but I’ve got to tell you, it totally fulfills the role of “comfort food”.

I chose to serve it over Banza Chickpea Pasta, a gluten-free pasta that offers a nice amount of protein and fiber compared to traditional wheat-based pasta. 

In case you’re wondering, nutritional yeast is not the same thing as baker’s yeast. Known for its cheesy flavor, it’s made by culturing yeast for several days in a nutrient growth medium (often glucose from beet molasses or sugarcane) and then deactivating it with heat. Just like sauerkraut and other cultured foods, the final product contains no sugar. A wonderful addition to a vegan diet, nutritional yeast is full of B-vitamins, minerals and complete protein (8 grams per 1 1/2 tablespoons). 

Because it’s so rich, Avocado Alfredo Pasta is best served as a side dish.

Print Recipe
Avocado Alfredo Pasta
A creamy, flavorful sauce made with avocado, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and nutritional yeast (or Parmesan cheese). On the table in 15 minutes or less! 1 Earthfood per serving: ❤️
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. (1 box) Banza Rotini pasta
  • 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and seeded
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or grated Parmesan cheese) Red Star or Bragg brand of nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. (1 box) Banza Rotini pasta
  • 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and seeded
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or grated Parmesan cheese) Red Star or Bragg brand of nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to the package. Drain well.
  2. While pasta is cooking, place the avocado, olive oil, nutritional yeast or cheese, garlic, basil, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and blend until creamy.
  3. Toss cooked pasta with sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with additional cheese and basil ribbons if desired.
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per servingCalories: 270Total Fat: 16 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Sodium: 100 mg; Potassium: 160 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 26 g; Dietary fiber: 8 g; Net Carbohydrates: 18 grams; Sugar: 3 g (no added sugar); Protein: 12 g

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Canola Oil is NOT Good for You (despite popular belief)

June 27th, 2019 | no comments

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

Plus:

  • Mel’s weekly food pick: California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Mel’s weekly recipe pick: Loaded Hummus Plate
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO TODAY’S POST!

 

A descendant of the rapeseed plant, the canola plant was first bred in Canada in the early 1970s. Its name is derived from “Canada” and “ola”, which means oil. 

For some reason, society for the most part still collectively believes that canola oil is healthy; don’t worry, I did too! While it is higher in cardio-protective monounsaturated fat, it’s also a highly refined, genetically modified (GMO) vegetable oil that undergoes a 7-step process before hitting the shelves.

Check this out…

Canola oil: Hexane, bleaching, and deodorizing…oh my!

During processing, a chemical solvent such as hexane, is first used to extract the maximum amount of oil from the seed. Hexane comes from petroleum and crude oil and is used as a cleaning agent in the textile and furniture industries. It also doubles as an additive in gas, glue, and varnishes. Yeah…enough said.

After bathing in this toxin (seriously, the EPA considers it an air pollutant, while the CDC classifies hexane as a neurotoxin), canola oil is put through a bleaching process to lighten the color. A deodorization process follows, which removes a large portion of omega-3 fatty acids by turning them into trans fatty acids. The end result is an oxidatively damaged oil, which poses a risk to the health of your body. 

 

But wait, there’s more!

 

Omega-6 fats (i.e. canola oil) are PRO-inflammatory

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats considered “essential” because your body can’t make them. This means you must get them through food or supplementation.

Omega-3 fats—found in seafood and certain plants—have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, while omega-6 fats tend to be pro-inflammatory. This means they promote chronic inflammatory conditions such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Remember, omega-6 fatty acids are essential, and if you eat them in the form of unprocessed foods like nuts, seeds, poultry and eggs, you will have no problem. 

 

So what is the problem?

 

Omega-6 fats are hiding out in TONS of processed food

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in cereal grains, like corn and wheat, and in refined vegetable oils, such as corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, soybean, and yes…canola oil. Read the nutrition label on any processed food, whether it’s a bag of chips, a frozen pizza, or a box of “healthy” cereal, and you will likely see one or more of these pro-inflammatory ingredients.

So if you live on a steady diet of convenience food, you are consuming way more omega-6 fats than you should.

PS: Canola oil is hiding out in many popular brands of hummus. Read your nutrition labels and choose those made with tahini and extra virgin olive oil instead.

Our ancient ancestors did not suffer from inflammatory diseases like we do today

Research from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1. It also indicates that both ancient and modern hunter-gatherers did not experience inflammatory diseases.

Ready for a real shocker?

Today, thanks to our standard American diet, we consume a ratio closer to 20:1 (that’s 20 omega-6 fats to 1 omega-3 fat!).

The bottom line: Excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids promote chronic inflammatory conditions. There’s a price to be paid for filling your body with processed and refined foods, while neglecting a relentlessly consistent diet of Earthfoods; it’s called disease! Dis-ease. 

What fats should you be eating for better health? 

I recommend the following:

  • For salads, stews and low-temperature cooking: extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, walnut oil, almond oil 
  • Avocado 
  • Grass-fed butter such as Kerrygold or Organic Valley 
  • Ghee, or clarified butter (good for high-heat cooking)
  • Unrefined coconut oil
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts 
  • Seeds: sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds 
  • Nut and seed butters
  • Olives 
  • Fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, herring, wild salmon
  • Tahini (sesame seed paste) 
  • MCT oil (medium chain triglyceride)

Resources:
https://kresserinstitute.com/what-really-causes-oxidative-damage/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3335257/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20685950?dopt=AbstractPlus
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071648?dopt=AbstractPlus
https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/1846638/association-dietary-circulating-supplement-fatty-acids-coronary-risk-systematic-review

Mel’s weekly food pick: 
California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is essentially “olive juice”. It’s the oil extracted from the olive– that’s it! Unlike canola and other highly processed oils, no solvents or chemicals are used in its production. 

EVOO is high in heart and brain-protective monounsaturated fats and contains polyphenols, which act as antioxidants, reducing oxidative stress throughout your body. 

To protect from light, which can deteriorate the quality of the antioxidants, choose EVOO in dark bottles and store away from heat. For best quality, it’s suggested to use within 30-60 days once opened. 

Don’t be fooled by the lingo on the front of the bottle– olive oil labeled as “Light” or “Pure” are refined, meaning heat and/or chemicals are used in the process of extracting the oil. 

Founded in 1998, California Olive Ranch offers a variety of high quality, great tasting extra virgin olive oils, ranging from mild to peppery. They’ve pioneered new ways of cultivating and harvesting olives in order to make their extra virgin olive oil premium and affordable. All of their products are certified by Applied Sensory and California Olive Oil Council (COOC).

Their Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil has notes of fresh herbs, fruit and green grass, and is recommended for everyday use in dressings, dips, cold dishes, and low heat cooking. California Olive Ranch offer some pretty amazing recipes on their website too, so check them out! 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick: 
Loaded Hummus Plate

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Loaded Hummus Plate

I discovered this idea on Pinterest and because of the sheer beauty of it, I couldn’t wait to create my own version and share it with you! 

Rather than store-bought hummus– which can get expensive and often contains canola or other highly refined oils– I made a batch of my OMG Hummus.

If you prefer to purchase hummus, just be sure to read the ingredients and choose only those brands made with tahini and/or extra virgin olive oil. 

In addition to the raw veggies, you could also serve with Flackers flaxseed crackers!

Print Recipe
Loaded Hummus Plate
Hummus loaded with raw veggies, olives, parsley, roasted peppers, and feta cheese. Makes the perfect summer appetizer! 1 Earthfood per serving (for hummus): ❤️
Prep Time 15-20 minutes
Servings
servings (serving size: 1/4 cup hummus)
Ingredients
  • 1 batch OMG Hummus (or 2 cups store-bought hummus) Recipe for OMG Hummus in Recipe Notes below
  • raw veggies of choice pepper strips; sliced cherry tomatoes; cucumber slices, baby carrots, celery sticks, etc.
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • diced roasted red peppers
  • olives
  • feta cheese
  • parsley
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • smoked paprika
Prep Time 15-20 minutes
Servings
servings (serving size: 1/4 cup hummus)
Ingredients
  • 1 batch OMG Hummus (or 2 cups store-bought hummus) Recipe for OMG Hummus in Recipe Notes below
  • raw veggies of choice pepper strips; sliced cherry tomatoes; cucumber slices, baby carrots, celery sticks, etc.
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • diced roasted red peppers
  • olives
  • feta cheese
  • parsley
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • smoked paprika
Instructions
  1. Prepare a batch of OMG Hummus, spread on a platter and load it up with toppings of choice!
  2. Drizzle hummus with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika!
Recipe Notes

Click HERE for OMG Hummus recipe!

Nutrition Facts per serving (1/4 cup of hummus; does not include toppings)Calories: 150Total Fat: 11 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Sodium: 450 mg; Potassium: 187 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 13 g; Dietary fiber: 4 g; Net Carbohydrates: 9 grams; Sugar: 0 g; Protein: 5 g

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One Day, It’ll All Be Over

June 20th, 2019 | no comments

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

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CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO TODAY’S POST!

 

My husband Wayne has a way of putting things into simplistic perspective. Not long ago he said something that really struck me.

As a bystander of an uncomfortable political conversation-turned-heated-debate with a group of male acquaintances, he stood up, put his hand on the shoulder of one of the gentlemen and proclaimed with an air of absolute certainty: And one day guys…it’ll all be over.

One guy laughed in agreement, and the others just sat there befuddled, as if Wayne just revealed the Easter Bunny’s true identity.

 

And one day, it’ll all be over

Who could argue with that? Why is it that we avoid the reality of our own mortality, as if by paying it no mind, we will somehow escape its inevitability? Besides, it’s the only thing that’s guaranteed and that we all have in common.

Yes, one day it’ll all be over. So what are you spending your precious time doing these days?

  • Complaining about things you have no control over (i.e. weather; the behavior of others)?
  • Stressing over what to eat…or not to eat?
  • Working, working, working… leaving no time for you? (I’m like no-shower-for-a-week-smelly guilty of this)
  • Taking care of everyone else, but leaving no time to care for YOU?
  • Hanging out with energy-vampires who make you want to jump off the nearest bridge?
  • Bathing in guilt for: Eating that cookie? Not being Superwoman for your family? Not making more money? Sitting on the couch instead of treading on the treadmill?
  • Perpetually rehashing the list of everything you wish were different about your body?
  • Caring too much about what other people think of you? As American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham once said: What people in the world think of you is really none of your business. Pure genius!
  • Walking around in a trance-like state, while going through the motions with abandoned emotion?
  • Getting caught up in juicy office gossip?

My goodness how bad each of these are for our health… and spirit. Moreover, we are NOT here to live out our days waking up full of recycled worry and resting on a pillow of not-enoughness. Just imagine if you knew with absolute certainty that today was your last day on this magnificent earth plane. Would you spend it doing any of the above?   

 

Let’s stop this pompous sense of entitlement! After all, one day, it’ll all be over

We are guaranteed nothing; not even ten minutes from now. So let’s get out of lalaland and face the facts–none of us are getting out alive, so why don’t we get busy living this spectacular life we are blessed with?

Though it may appear as if I’m directing this message at you, while true in part, it’s also a personal diary entry. Forgive me for being so blunt, but I SUCK at taking time for myself. Even though I partake in daily exercise, meditation, and simple healthy meal prep, I consider these analogous to daily flossing– things I do to express gratitude to my body for carrying me around. But when it comes time to stop and enjoy the simple things, I’m a rookie at best  like the kid who warms the bench all season in little league.

Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to take hours out of your day quite yet (if I’m being honest, the mere thought of that sends me into a slight panic). Because the truth is, it’s the little things that bring us a sense of joy and meaning in life. Would you agree?

 

Stop being so damn hard on yourself!

Today, I pour my heart out and give you permission (and also plead with myself) to stop being so damn hard on yourself! Instead, cut yourself some much-needed slack and make it a point every single day to do something that fills your heart with joy.

Here are some ideas. Some require just a moment of your time, and others a bit longer.  

  • Look in the mirror and fall in love with the sparkling, extraordinary creation that is YOU.
  • Enjoy a flippin’ ice cream cone once in a while without wondering how many miles you’ll have to log to burn it off. Who the hell cares!
  • Listen to the angelic vocals of Judy Collins in Amazing Grace– and allow yourself to weep in quiet knowingness.   
  • Watch the sun set and see how many colors you can pick out from the landscape.
  • Catch raindrops on your tongue.
  • Read a non-self-help book!
  • Bask in the wonder of a tree.
  • Wake up obscenely early and wait for the first bird to peep (FYI, it’s usually the cardinal around here).
  • Tell a corny joke, or laugh at one! Why was the cook arrested? He was caught beating an egg.🤣 ; What’s the difference between the bird flu and swine flu? One requires tweetment and the other an oinkment. 😜Anything??
  • Watch a hilarious animal video like THIS ONE or THIS ONE. (BEWARE: you may pee your pants!) 
  • Strike up a conversation with a lonely senior citizen. I make it a point to do this and I have to tell you, it fills my heart with such love. Most are widowed and just looking for someone to talk to. Not only are they full of so many rich stories, you’ll never have to worry about them pulling out their phone to check text messages in the middle of your conversation. HINT: they can usually be found in the morning hours at your local Panera.
  • Sit by a pond and toss in a handful of stones, one at a time. Watch the water ripple and become still before tossing in the next one.
  • Notice a flower. 

 

Food is only one piece of well-being

So often we see health as influenced only by what’s at the end of our fork, however that’s only one slice of the well-being pie! We forget that laughter, fun, wonder, and allowing yourself to just BE are also huge chunks of the equation. The way I see it: not taking time for these– usually thought of as ancillary or “someday when my kids are grown”– activities is akin to skipping out on exercise.

They are enormously important for your health.

 

‘30 Days of Little Things’ Challenge!

Let’s enter into a challenge together, shall we? I don’t know about you, but I need this so badly in my life and could really use some accountability. Let’s make a promise to our sweet selves that, for thirty days, we will engage in one daily activity to honor and rejoice in the little things.

I’m posting my daily activity on Facebook, so if you’d like to follow along, feel free to send me a personal friend request or like my public page and follow me there. And of course, I can’t wait to see what you’re doing too! 

Let’s do this my sweet special friends, because one day…it’ll all be over.

 

Mel’s weekly food pick: 
Lemons

Photo by Nery Montenegro on Unsplash

If there’s one habit you can start building today for better health, it’s adding lemon to your diet in some way.

Although usually considered an afterthought garnish on a tall glass of water, lemons boast a pretty impressive resume. In fact, evidence suggests that lemons can support your health in the following ways:

  • Boosts the immune system (due to their generous amount of vitamin C).
  • Offers cardiovascular protection (vitamin C and folate).
  • Prevents kidney stones (vitamin C).
  • Possible cancer-fighter (folate and limonin, a powerful antioxidant found in citrus fruits).
  • Protects liver function, helping preserve its ability to detoxify.
  • Stimulates the digestive tract and keeps things moving along 😁. 
  • Offers antimicrobial benefits against salmonella, staphylococcus and other pathogenic bacteria. 

For all of these reasons, I strongly encourage my friends (yes YOU!) to drink 12-16 ounces of lemon water every morning right after waking. One tablespoon of lemon juice is plenty! Also, check out this week’s recipe pick for Strawberry Lemon Chia Pudding. It uses an entire lemon and makes a refreshing, light summer breakfast. 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick: 
Strawberry Lemon Chia Pudding (blended)

 

 

 

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Strawberry Lemon Chia Pudding (blended)

Yay! Another recipe for chia pudding that I know you will love…especially if you don’t prefer the tapioca pudding-texture of traditional chia pudding. This recipe is so easy, even my cat can make it! Just toss all ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until the chia seeds are broken down. 

The combination of lemon and strawberry makes for a refreshing summer breakfast or lunch while on the go. I like to mix mine with a scoop or two of full-fat cottage cheese (like Kalona SuperNatural Whole Milk Cottage Cheese) and top with a sprinkle of grain-free granola and unsweetened coconut flakes. 

You may also enjoy my other chia pudding recipes: Peanut Butter Banana Chia Pudding and Blueberry Vanilla Chia Pudding!

Print Recipe
Strawberry Lemon Chia Pudding (blended)
Another super easy recipe for chia pudding that I know you will love...especially if you don't prefer the tapioca pudding-texture of traditional chia pudding. The combination of lemon and strawberry makes for a refreshing summer breakfast or lunch while on the go! 4 Earthfoods per serving: ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Prep Time 5 minutes
Passive Time 4 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 2 oz. unsweetened vanilla plant-based milk
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced and stems removed
  • 1 small lemon, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup or raw honey
Prep Time 5 minutes
Passive Time 4 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 2 oz. unsweetened vanilla plant-based milk
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced and stems removed
  • 1 small lemon, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup or raw honey
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor and process until chia seeds are broken down and blended.
  2. Transfer contents to mason jar and secure with lid. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Top with nuts, seeds, or unsweetened coconut flakes.
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per servingCalories: 210Total Fat: 7 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Sodium: 25 mg; Potassium: 475 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 31 g; Dietary fiber: 15 g; Net Carbohydrates: 16 grams;Sugar: 15 g (6 grams added sugar from maple syrup); Protein: 7 g

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