Recipe: Quinoa Toubbouleh – Salad

Quick, Simple, Fresh, and Healthy!

Adding quinoa to your green salad adds so much vital nutrients. Quinoa (pronounced “keenwah”) is one of few plant-based foods that is a source of complete protein that contains 9 essential amino acids. Our bodies can’t produce it, so this quality is especially important for vegans and vegetarians. Quinoa is gluten-free, high in iron, magnesium, B and E vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. Quinoa is also very high in fiber and has a low glycemic index. Low glycemic foods are slowly digested and absorbed. They produce only small fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels. This is especially important for diabetics because quinoa doesn’t hit their blood stream quickly like white rice. I usually make a medium size pot, and use it throughout the week to create all kinds of salads. It saves me a lot of time in the kitchen. Here a recent recipe to enjoy. This serves for two people.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup green peas
  • 2 big radishes
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 pear
  • 2 cups of arugula

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To cook the quinoa. Rinse the quinoa under cook water. Place quinoa in a pot with 1.75 cups of water. Place lid on top and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low for 15 minutes. Let quinoa cook before making the salad. This is why I usually do a big batch once a week.
  2. While the quinoa is cooling, prepare the rest of the salad by cutting up the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Dressing: Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a bowl. Add olive oil, salt, minced garlic, and chopping parsley.
  4. Once quinoa is cooled, add all the vegetable ingredients together. Pour the dressing all over and stir to coat well. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy.

There’s no wrong or right ingredient with making a quinoa salad. You can easily add whatever vegetable, fruit, even legumes, nuts and leafy greens you like. The idea here is to simplify your life with quick options for a more healthier plant-based diet.

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What I’m Reading Now?

I’m journeying on a new path to learn how to meditate. I need to bring calm, stillness, and peacefulness to my mind. I’ve heard and read about the many amazing benefits on practicing meditation, and I’m at the right stage in my life where I need it the most. With a full time career, three children, husband, and a dog; it’s a time much needed. I chose The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe to kick start my journey because it came highly recommended by Bill Gates. No, I don’t know him personally, although I wish! I follow his blog, gatesnotes. If you don’t, you should. He’s brilliant, Google him. Bill is the reason why I researched Andy in the first place. Andy is 47 with many years of training in monasteries in India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Australia, Russia, and Scotland. He’s even an ordained Buddhist monk.

Andy’s approach to meditation is clear and easy to understand. He teaches amazing techniques, and they’re easy to apply to your everyday busy lifestyle. Andy also believes all you need is 10 minutes a day. Obviously, if you have the ability and time to meditate longer, by all means meditate. When you think of 10 minutes, it’s actually not that long; however, it’s hard for the average person to sit still with a clear mind. More importantly, the practice of meditation is about much more than simply sitting down for a set period of time each day. Andy says, “it’s about training in awareness and understanding how and why you think and feel the way you do, and getting a healthy sense of perspective in the process.” His book also looks deeper in the differences between understanding mindfulness and headspace. He even have an app called, Headspace available on IOS. I haven’t downloaded it yet, but I intend to. Let’s take a look at mindfulness, Andy explains it as the temptation to judge whatever emotion that comes up, and therefore neither opposing or getting carried away with a feeling. And headspace is the result of applying this approach. Headspace delivers a sense of ease with whatever emotion is present.

How many times you’ve been in a situation where someone pissed you off? It angers you, and you feel like you just want to explode. Then you move through your day retelling that scenario over and over to everyone you possibly can share it with. Instead of moving forward productively with your day, you dwell and relive that situation over and over again transferring that negative energy to your friends, love ones, and even into your workplace. This behavior is toxic and becomes debilitating to your mind, body and soul. Who wants to go through life this way? Surely not me! Knowing how to let go and release these toxic thoughts and energy is my goal.

Andy’s book offers four steps to help you achieve meditation. His Take10 summary is recommended to follow each and every time before you meditate.

  1. Getting Ready
  2. Checking-in
  3. Focusing the mind
  4. Finishing-off

The book explains in detail what you need to do in each step to get your mind and body ready. I’m almost midway finish reading the book. I feel more confident than ever. This book has already taught me about the layers of my thoughts, dealing with my emotions, and how to tackle each one as they come to mind. I’ve re-read many chapters and made side notes. It’s definitely a page turner. If you’re interested in learning how to meditate, this book may help you. I would love to hear about your journey or any suggestions on meditation.

Cranberries for Urinary and Prostate Health

Did you know that urinary tract infections or diseases affect both women and men? UTI’s can put men at risk for prostate illness as well. The British Journal of Nutrition recently published a study where research followed 42 men with lower urinary tract disease. They found that the men also had elevated PSA and non-bacterial prostatitis. The researchers assigned the men to take either a supplement with 1,500 mg per day of dried powdered cranberries or a placebo.

The researchers tracked the men for six months while they took either a powdered cranberry supplement of 1,500 mg a day or a placebo, and then evaluated them with the International Prostate Symptom Score. This test evaluates urination, average flow, total volume, and post-void residual volume. The men taking cranberry showed significant improvement. There was no improvement in the control group. It makes common sense that if cranberries help wipe out UTI’s, it’s responsible that they would also help your prostate as well. Also, the men who took the cranberry supplement experienced lower PSA levels. It is likely that one will have to take 1,500 mg of dried cranberry powder in order to have effective results as did the men in this study, a dose that is easily obtainable both in health stores and online.

There are many ways to incorporate cranberries into your diet. It’s not just an American traditional Thanksgiving side dish. Cranberries can be added at any time throughout the year. Dried cranberries especially are delicious in salads and baked goods. Swap out your usual raisins for cranberries. Another way to incorporate cranberries into your daily diet is by adding them to smoothies. Frozen cranberries are available all year round. both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. It’s also worth noting that cranberries are a very good source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin E, two pivotal antioxidant nutrients. And in addition, they are a very good source of the mineral manganese, which is needed for proper function of some forms of the enzyme superoxide dismutase.

How do you incorporate cranberries in your diet? Please share…

Source: “The effectiveness of dried cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) in men with lower urinary tract symptoms,” Vidlar A, Simanek V, et al, Br J Nutr, 2010; 104(8): 1181-9.

Refueling With Beets

People often ask me, what vegetable should they eat daily? I used to say, organic kale or spinach. Now I tell people to eat beets along with their greens. Eating any form of green vegetables is crucial in any diet, but eating the whole beet plant is a two for one deal. The beet greens are just as edible and highly recommended to eat just like any other green vegetable. According to the whfoods.org, beet greens nutritional intake consist both of fat-soluble vitamins like A and K, as well as water-soluble vitamins like vitamins C and B2.  Beet greens are also packed with vital minerals like calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese and potassium.  In the phytonutrient category, beet greens show special benefits in the area of carotenoid richness. Beets are also naturally sweet so eating the greens will counter balance the sugar in the beets. Instead of tossing the green tops in the garbage, juice them with the beet or sauté a bunch and serve as a side dish.

Video: How Sugar Beets are Turned into Table Sugar

I recently stumbled upon this study done by researchers at Wake Forest University. According to the study, beets contain a high level of dietary nitrite, when ingested nitrite converts into nitric oxide (NO). Don’t get it confused. Nitrite into Nitric Oxide! So, the NO increases the blood flow and oxygen in the body. With this increase of blood flowing to your brain, your performance may be enhanced. This study is fascinating because they also discovered that drinking a beetroot juice supplement before a workout can make the brain of older people look younger. Whether you’re looking for performance enhancements or a younger brain, it’s definitely worth getting your daily doses of beets in.  Another study results were outstanding. Results indicated that beetroot juice given as a single dose or over a few days may improve performance at intermittent, high-intensity efforts with short rest periods.

  1. Muscle recovery after workouts
  2. Improved time trial performance
  3. Decreased cost of work when performing

Thus means you can finish the race or workout feeling less fatigued. Eating beets will increases your body’s endurance. I suggest based off of my research, opt out of the Gatorade and go for beet juice instead. My passion is eating healthy and spreading my knowledge of the importance of eating a nutritional diet, mainly plant-based. It’s been over a year now since I’ve added exercising into my lifestyle. In the beginning, I was exhausted and achy from my workouts. It was difficult to get on a consistent regimen but since I’ve got added beets to my weekly diet, I’ve noticed a positive upward shift in my energy pre and post workouts. I’ve always enjoyed eating and growing beets, and now that I’m working out, I’ve incorporated beets in my daily diet. I juice, shred for salads, or roast in the oven. Beets and their greens are now a staple in my household. If I could only get my two boys to eat it!

Other Health Benefits of Beets

Beets can lower blood pressure; promote eye, respiratory, and bone health; build immunity and increase stamina; and fight premature aging. There’s evidence they may even help prevent cancer. They’re highly nutritious, abundant in phytochemical compounds, low in fat and calories. Beets’ also supports detoxification.

Simple Beet Juice Recipe

  • 1 medium beetroot with the greens
  • 1/2 peeled lemon
  • Small piece of ginger
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 1 cucumber

Here a little home video of me picking beets from my garden. I hope I was able to inspire you to start eating beet greens.

Sources

        Study:Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on intermittent high-intensity exercise efforts
        Study: Beetroot juice supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of exercise without improving mitochondrial efficiency: but how?
        Study:The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease
        Study:Effects of Beetroot Juice on Recovery of Muscle Function and Performance between Bouts of Repeated Sprint Exercise
        Beet Greens –whfoods.com

Still Harvesting My Greens in November

Just got in from the gym and decided to make myself a protein green smoothie. This is always a quicker option than cooking, especially when your tired. Check out my beautiful bouquet of greens. Just freshly cut from my garden. It’s November and cold here in New York, however my collard greens, curly leaf kale, Tuscan kale, and parsley are surviving strong. Even the two days of frost we had a couple of weeks ago. Kale and collards are cool-season greens that are part of the cruciferous family along with cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and bok choy. They grow best in the springtime and fall and can tolerate frost. Leafy greens are power food packed with power nutrients. Plus all greens are low in calories. And a serving of just about any of the deeply colored ones contains your daily supply of vitamins K and A, most of your daily vitamin C, and a hefty helping of fiber, B vitamins and essential minerals. They’re great additions to smoothies too.

  • 1/2 cup of kale
  • 1 cup collard greens
  • 1/2 cup of figs
  • 1 cup of flaxseed milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 tsp of organic Maca powder
  • 1/2 cup of ice

Check out the protein content on this plant-based flaxseed milk. It taste sooooooo good. I bought it from Whole Foods.

Benefits of kale

  • Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Kale
  • Glucosinolates and Cancer-Preventive
  • Kale also extend to its cholesterol-lowering ability

Resource: The World’s Healthiest Food – Kale

Curly Hair Don’t Care

Giving myself another check over before I hit the NYC pavements. Hairs kinda wet, curly, and a little messy. Don’t care at this point. Just finished two back-to-back classes at Equinox. I must have burnt over 900 calories. I’m tired, hungry, freshly showered, and definitely beat! Right now I’m walking down LEXINGTON Ave getting ready to catch the number 4 train straight to Brooklyn. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the hubby to scoop me at the train station. I’m also thinking about my plant-based protein dinner I need to fix before I hit the sacks. Lentil or black bean burger? No bread of course!

I hear the 6 train coming….

Healthy Eating Equals a Healthy Life!

Eat Eggplants to Protect Your Brain 

Growing up, my mother never cooked or grew eggplants.  I’ve heard stories of my late grandfather growing it, which he referred to them as Garden Eggs. In my adult life, I’ve grown to love the taste.  I grow and cook them, and I even got my mother to enjoy growing and cooking with them too.  Eggplants are extremely healthy and versatile to cook with.  It is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1, copper, manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate and vitamin K.  Eggplants also contains phytonutrients; such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid.  The nasunin is the antioxidant responsible for providing your brain with food.

In animal studies, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of lipids and are responsible for protecting the cell from free radicals, letting nutrients in and wastes out, and receiving instructions from messenger molecules that tell the cell which activities it should perform. Nasunin is located in the purple skin of the eggplant so don’t peel it.  It’s job is to search and defeat free radicals.

According to Rice University, free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once formed these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction, like a dominoe effect. Their chief danger comes from the damage they can do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane.  Free radicals are basically bad for you and they are everywhere.  They can break down healthy cells and multiply.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive molecules that damage living cells. These can come from everyday pollution and other common stressors, like the ones listed below:

  • Everyday air pollutants
  • Smog / UV rays
  • Up to 80% of free radical damage is caused by the sun (1). Always wear a broad spectrum SPF!
  • Lack of sleep and exercise
  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol & Tobacco
  • Pesticides

Oxidative stress occurs when there are too many free radicals running amuck.  It leads to stressed out cells that are broken down and weakened. Then, diseases like cancers, cardiovascular disease, emphysema, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ulcers and a boatload of other inflammatory diseases can developed.

Free radicals are also associated with aging skin.  That’s right!  Sunblock isn’t the only defense for aging.  What you feed your body/cells is extremely important too. Eating dark leafy greens and high pigmented fruits that are rich in vitamin C helps to protect your cells and support fighting off free radicals.  Don’t forget to eat up your eggplant too because it will protect your skin from aging prematurely.

Did you know?

The high purple skin pigment on eggplants is also a form of protection for the plants. Researchers at the US Agricultural Service in Beltsville, Maryland, have found that eggplants are rich sources of phenolic compounds that function as antioxidants. Plants form such compounds to protect themselves against oxidative stress from exposure to the elements, as well as from infection by bacteria and fungi. If we eat the eggplant, these antioxidants protects us. Can you name a fast food chain that can do that? I think, NOT!

Resources:  
Protective effects of dietary nasunin on paraquat-induced oxidative stress in rats.

Eggplant: Medical News Today

Chia Seeds: Plant-based Obsession 

     Add Chia Seeds to your smoothies for a healthy alternative for protein. Chia seeds are easy and versatile in diets. You can bake them in muffins, breads, make pudding, and add them to your drinks.  According to the National Nutrition Database for Standard Reference, 100 grams of chia seeds contain 16 grams of protein, 30 grams of fat, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 34 grams of dietary fiber, 630 mg of calcium, 7 mg of iron, 335 mg of magnesium, 860 mg of phosphorus, 407 mg of potassium, 16 mg of sodium and 4 mg of zinc. Chia seeds also have vitamins such as vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin E. Chia seeds also have no cholesterol!  They’re super easy to store and inexpensive. A ten ounce bag can cost you less than ten dollars, and it’ll last you a month.  

How do you enjoy your chia seeds and why do you incorporate them into your diet?

     For me, I’m dairy-free so the plant-based calcium benefits are extremely beneficial for my body. Calcium is needed for healthy bones. The good thing about it, I have healthier alternatives. Cutting dairy out was hard for me since I’ve grown up eating every dairy option to mankind. Now as an adult, it had to go.  After some tests and self observations, I realized dairy was the demise to my body’s existence. I was plagued with severe eczema, constipation, acne and a weakened immune system. Once I stopped, things moved along smoother, my skin cleared, and even the mucus significantly reduced in my body.  I wake up now in the mornings without that yellow mucus in my eyes, and my throat isn’t corroded with slimy gook.  I feel much lighter, and my immune is much stronger. I recover better from colds which I rarely get.  

Isn’t that awesome!  

     An article by Thomas Campbell, MD points out the importance of getting calcium from plant-based sources without dairy in your diet. Dairy causes a lot of problems. Find out what those are here.  I’ll stick to my plant-base options. Just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds yields 18% per serving of calcium. It’s the perfect addition to my smoothies along with spinach and kale which also have calcium. There are so many plant-based options for calcium. Explore them and be healthy! 
Resources:

Why Consume More Plants? 

Why Can Too Much Protein be a Protein?

What Gets You Through the Mornings?

For me, I rely on my fresh green juices. Fresh juice from raw foods like spinach, carrots, kale, and collards green are the easiest sources and most effective way to get your greens in your diet. It’s also providing me with high quality nutritional vitamins and minerals. Plus, a boost of energy. You would be surprised by how a cup of fresh green juice can boosts your energy.  Most people start their day off with coffee and honestly, a cup a day won’t hurt. According to a recent study on coffee consumption, healthy people who consumed 4 cups or more a day is associated with a lower risk of death.  I think that’s excessive, even for healthy people. I’m healthy and I can’t manage to even finish one cup. I can’t imagine four cups a day.   If you are a lover of coffee, don’t skip it just add a green juice or two to your daily routine. The greener the veggies, the better.  The green pigment in plants is the chlorophyll, and that’s what detoxifies our blood.  The very best sources of chlorophyll found on the planet are dark green vegetables and algae. Chlorophyll is the cellular organelle that allows for organisms to produce their own food through photosynthesis. All plants and several different types of microorganisms go through photosynthesis. Algae includes several different types of photosynthetic microorganisms, and there are several different types of chlorophyll present in algae.  These chlorophyll supports our cells by revitalizing and restoring them.

In my cup I have spinach, kale, green apple, lemon (without the skin), ginger and celery.  With these simple ingredients you’ll definitely get your energy levels up. The options are endless when it comes to fresh juices.  My philosophy is simple, eat lots of whole plants no matter how you choose to do it, just get the rainbow of colors in your diet. I’m a big lover of salads, smoothies, vegan dishes and fresh juices. Substitute one of your typical meals for a large bowl of salad and add a fresh juice to that also. This way you’ll make your quota for the day.

Fresh Juice Recipes – just a handful of each green plant is needed. 

Classic – kale, Swiss chard, Juice Recipe  spinach, celery, apple, lemon, ginger

Sweet – kale, spinach, pineapple, mint, half of jalapeño

Orange delight – carrots, granny smith apple

Vitamin C Boost– gradefruit, orange, lemon, ginger and dash of cayenne pepper

Article:  

Why Consume More Plants? 

Types of Chlorophyll Present in Algae

Coffee Study: Higher coffee consumption associated with lower risk of early death

Detox Green

My Fibrous Fig Tree

Capelas variety

     My fig tree blessed me with a bountiful harvest this year. I’ve always wanted a fig tree in my yard.  Once my husband and I closed on our first home, that same week I had my mini-potted fig tree planted in my back yard.  The first summer it didn’t produce much, but this year, it quadrupled in size and bared the sweetest fruits.  Fresh figs are extremely delicious to eat and very full of fiber. Eating fiber-rich foods have great advantages for losing weight and even reducing your breast cancer risk.  I came across a study done on postmenopausal women.  The results of a prospective study involving 51,823 women for an average of 8.3 years showed a 34% reduction in breast cancer risk for those consuming the most fruit-fiber compared to those consuming the least. 

     In addition, in the subgroup of women who had ever used hormone replacement, those consuming the most fiber, especially cereal fiber, had a 50% reduction in their risk of breast cancer compared to those consuming the least. Fruits richest in fiber include apples, dates, figs, pears and prunes. When choosing a high fiber cereal, look for whole grain cereals as they supply the most bran (a mere 1/3rd cup of bran contains about 14 grams of fiber). Adding these fiber-rich fruits to your cereals will boost your fiber intake. 

Resources: Study – Dietary fiber intake and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer defined by estrogen and progesterone receptor status–a prospective cohort study among Swedish women.