With most of the world still on lockdown, celebrating your love with your Valentine this year may be safest at home with a DIY treat. A quiet dine-in romantic dinner would normally do the trick if it wasn’t for the cooking-at-home burnout that most of us are likely experiencing by now. Do you need a DYI Valentine’s gift that doesn’t require going out but over-the-top luxurious? If yes, read on!
Some may believe that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach but I think it is much more romantic through his face. What is more pleasurable and perfect than pampering your loved one with a facial during this stressful pandemic era? Actually, nothing! You get to soothe and beautify his skin with your loving touch and give him your full attention as you rejuvenate his face and turn back the hands of time. It’s almost like a gift to yourself. After all, you will be spending your Valentine’s Day with a happier and handsomer companion afterwards. If you haven’t given anyone a facial before, it may sound just a little intimating but it’s really much easier than doing a facial on yourself.
What is a Gua Sha Facial?
A Gua Sha facial is the newest trend in the spa industry. I was introduced to it at a spa industry virtual event, Live Love Spa, last week. I was intrigued by result of the DYI treatment and loved how relaxing it was as I glided the tool over my face. Gua Sha is a Chinese facial massage (also know as Eastern face lift) performed with a tool made of jade or quartz. It stimulates blood circulation and activate lymphatic drainage which minimizes the appearance of winkles and puffiness resulting in a more youthful look to the skin. I suggest buying a Gua Sha tool made of rose quartz, the stone of unconditional love. It encourages trust and harmony in relationships. What more do you want from a Valentine’s gift!
How do you use a Gua Sha tool?
Like any “how to” question, there’s not a shortage of Youtube videos to show you how. Though I am not an esthetician, I combined my 20+ years spa management experience with the professional demo I saw last week to dig up a trusted video (bottom of the page) on Gua Sha facial to guide you step-by-step.
You should start at the neck and work your way up to the forehead. This way, you’re creating a clear path for the fluids in your face to drain. Follow these simple steps or watch the video below should equip you to create a fabulous Gua Sha facial experience.
Prep the skin with a facial mist to hydrate .
Apply a few drops of facial serum or oil to the face for glide. The starter kit at www.ShopLiveLoveSpa.com includes the rose quartz Gua Sha tool, a serum and a technique card.
Start at the neck and work your way up to the forehead
Use upward and outward strokes on the neck, jawline, chin and mouth area
Sweep across the cheeks, press gently under the eyes and across the eyebrows
End with upward strokes on the forehead to the hairline
We all know hindsight is 20/20! Well, Year 2020 has sure shown us that our health can be tenuous if we are not resilient. Individuals who are medically comprised and the elderly have been most vulnerable during the pandemic due to their weaken immune system.
Besides the obvious precautions of social distancing, wearing a mask, and diligent hand washing, what protects us most against COVID-19 is our body’s natural immune system. It is undeniable that our diet can influence our immunity significantly.
As we head into 2021, if you are going to set one new year’s resolution, let it be….. building a stronger immune system. Here are 10 foods that will boost your immunity:
The berries and flowers of elderberries, from the plant species Sambucus nigra, are loaded with immune-boosting antioxidants and vitamins. Elderberry, a strong anti-viral, is particularly effective at fighting upper respiratory infections. Fresh elderberries are not commonly sold in the grocery store but you can find elderberry tea and syrup at health food stores and online. There are other delicious uses for elderberries if you are willing to spending a little time in the kitchen.
Chocolate comes in many varieties but it is the dark chocolate that offers health benefits. Dark chocolate contains much higher levels of flavonoids, antioxidants that protect our cells from damage and inflammation.The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants and less sugar. I suggest 70% cocoa or more but chocolate with much higher cocoa may taste too bitter for some. Dark chocolate bars make a good snack, as long as you keep moderation in mind.
Garlic is widely used in many cuisines and it adds great flavor to food. Few of us think of its health benefits when we are savoring our garlic noodles but its immune-boosting properties come from a high concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. These compounds have been found to significantly reduce inflammation and protect against certain bacteria, such as Helicobacter pylori.
Ginger has been used for thousands of years in the Far East for its medicinal properties. A pungent spice for both savory and sweet dishes, ginger has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects that are beneficial to a healthy immune system. Research has shown that ginger may inhibit certain inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and other immune-related conditions, including allergies, asthma, and colds.
This golden yellow spice is a key ingredient in curry dishes and has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions, such as allergies, diabetes, and ulcers. Studies have shown that curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, may boost the immune system by activating certain immune cells and targeting proinflammatory cytokines. Cooking with turmeric is not complicated but do add some black pepper to enhance the absorption of curcumin.
6. Matcha Green Tea
Matcha is a fine bright-green powder produced by grounding young green tea leaves. Because of entire leave is used rather than steeping green tea leaves in water, Matcha can be as much as 3 times more concentrated in caffeine and flavonoids than green tea. These antioxidants support the immune system by protecting our cells against free radicals and oxidative damage. Matcha has an earthy, almost sweet, vegetal flavor. You just add boiling water to Matcha powder and stir. Beware of the added sugar when ordering Matcha in a cafe – an average cup at Starbucks has 30 grams of sugar!
Nuts are among the best sources of vitamin E, a fat soluble antioxidant involved in immune function. Vitamin E has the ability to regulate the body’s immune system by stimulating the activity of natural killer cells, white blood cells involved in the innate immune response. The vitamin may reduce the risk of certain infections, including respiratory infections. In addition, vitamin E deficiency may result in an impaired immune response. Make sure your diet is adequate in vitamin E in by eating nuts, including almonds and hazelnuts, and other vitamin E-rich foods regularly.
8. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables – kale, cabbage, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and mustard greens – provide sulfur-containing compounds, as well as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. Research suggests that cruciferous vegetables may support immune health by reducing the risk of certain cancers, such as gastric and prostate cancers, as well as by exerting anti-microbial activity, which may protect against gastrointestinal infections.
9. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specially omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory properties such as reducing the levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids involved in heart disease and arthritis. Best sources of omega-3s are wild salmon, sardines, herring, and anchovies.
Aside from its many culinary uses, fennel and its seeds offer many immune-boosting properties. Research has shown that fennel has anti-microbial and anti-viral activity, and has the potential to protect against infections and various gastrointestinal conditions. Both the fennel and its seeds are low in calories but high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals including calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. To reap the health benefits of fennel, try incorporating raw fennel bulb into your salads or using the seeds to flavor soups, broths, baked goods, and fish dishes.
Our body’s incredible immune system is designed to protect us from harmful threats in our surrounding. Although It will flight foreign invaders with specific inflammatory responses, what makes people sick is a combination of environmental exposure and their level of resilience. Why not eat delicious healthy foods to show some support for your disease-fighting cells!
Many of us love a traditional Thanksgiving meal because it brings comfort and warm memories of our family. However if you have been working hard to reduce fat and sugar intake to achieve better health, it can be stressful when faced with excessive amount of food that doesn’t fit into your diet. What is one to do?
First and foremost, don’t set yourself up with unrealistic expectation of restricting yourself on Thanksgiving. It is only once a year so keep it in perspective. Instead, take control and modify how you make these traditional holiday dishes so you can enjoy them guilt free. Here are some ways to cut fat and sugar without sacrificing the classic taste of a Thanksgiving dinner:
Buy a fresh turkey, organic if possible, for better flavor and texture than a previously frozen one. Choose a plain bird over a self-basting one to lower the sodium content. To ensure a moist turkey, bake unstuffed, leave the skin on while roasting and remove from the oven when internal temperature reaches 170 degrees in the breast. A 3.5 ounce serving of breast meat without skin has less than a gram of fat.
Use a gravy cup or refrigerate the pan juices (to harden the fat) and skim the fat off before making gravy. Save around 56 grams of fat per cup!
Use a little less bread and add more onions, celery, vegetables or even fruits such as cranberries and apples.
Cut back on the fat and sugar by leaving out the butter and marshmallows. Sweeten with fruit juice, such as apple, and flavor with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Green bean casserole
Cook fresh green beans with chunks of potatoes instead of cream soup. Top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.
Use low-fat buttermilk, garlic powder and a little aged parmesan cheese instead of whole milk, and butter. It will be just as creamy and even more flavorful with the cheese.
Stick with plain sourdough baguette rather than cornbread or buttery dinner roles. Slice the bread into smaller pieces.
Serve some attractive and delicious fruit, such as persimmon and kiwi along side a classic Thanksgiving dessert so you have choices. Try this Light Pumpkin Pie recipe which has 1/2 the calories of a regular pie.
2 tsp. pumkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves)
12 oz. can evaporated skim milk
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Grind the cookies in a food processor.
Lightly spray a 9” pie pan with vegetable cooking spray.
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pour into the crust.
Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Per Serving: 165 calories; 1.5 g fat; 32 g carbohydrates; 6 g protein; 1.5 mg cholesterol; 170 mg sodium.
Cooking in the great outdoors without your usual kitchen essentials can be intimidating! You might be tempted to default to some basic dishes like chili, soups, and stews because you can cook ahead, freeze and just reheat when it’s time to eat. But with a few easy tricks and some great recipes, you can whip up gourmet and even exotic dishes in the wilderness without much fuss.
Last weekend, we joined a few friends on the South Fork of the American river for a kayak/raft trip. Part of this boating trip involved camping on the side of the river – all part of the outdoor experience! Honestly, I am not a “roughing it” kind of girl but I am a lover of a good outdoor adventure! Just because we were camping, it didn’t mean we had to settle for canned beans and weenies by the camp fire. With my passion for food and wellness, my husband has come to expect delicious healthy food anytime I cook, in and out of my own kitchen. I created 2 recipes that are easy to pull off anywhere as long as you have a heating element and a cast iron pan or a Dutch oven.
Preparing the dish ahead
Slice and dice at home with your chef’s knife to make it fast and easy.
Marinade and season the meat ahead.
Pre-measure and package seasonings and herbs for finishing touches.
Precook ingredients partially.
Assemble the dish as much as possible without affecting taste and texture of the final product.
Chill all perishable ingredients separately to avoid co-mingling different flavors.
Warm gorgonzola cheese slight on the stove or microwave to soften.
Spread the cheese on the cornmeal crust to cover the base. Wrap the crust with foil and keep chilled.
When ready to cook, remove foil and place the cornmeal crust on a cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven. Thinly slice pear and figs lengthwise (do not do ahead to avoid discoloration). Arrange slices of pear and fig in alternating pattern on top of cheese.
Cook covered with a lid or foil on a camp stove or fire over medium high heat for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. You can also cook this in your oven or gas grill at 400F when at home.
Drizzle the torte with balsamic glaze before serving.
2 (1-quart) boxes of chicken broth (Pacific organic bone broth)
Precook meat and vegetables at home according to directions below and store in a container or freezer bag and keep chilled.
Sauté yellow onion in oil.
Add ground pork and cook until no longer pink.
Season with salt and soy sauce.
Add carrot and cook until almost tender.
Add sugar snap peas and cook for a minute but still crisp.
Cook noodles according to package directions and do not overcook. Store in a container or freezer bag and keep chilled.
When ready to eat, bring chicken broth to a boil in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven. Add meat and vegetable mixture to the broth and bring it back to boil.
To serve, place a small amount of cooked noodles in each serving bowl and ladle soup over noodles. The soup will heat up the noodles. Do not add noodles to the soup in the skillet because it will absorb too much liquid.
sprinkle chopped green onions on top of soup to garnish.
A simple one pan dish is a dream for any busy parent! If you haven’t tried making a sheet pan meal, just be warned that there’s no going back once you do because it’s so fast and easy. Imagine cooking a delicious meal, seemingly gourmet, all on a half-sheet baking pan in the oven with little fuss. However, there are a few simple rules – right type of pan, lining the pan, sequencing cook time, and seasonings – that will ensure a home run! I am sharing a seasonal recipe from my Healthydigs Meal Plan Program that is nutritious and gluten-free. Enjoy it for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Bone broth is all the rage for a good reason! It is a great source of collagen and contains many other nutrients your body needs to make collagen.
But what exactly is collagen? Collagen is the primary structural protein in the body, essentially acting like the “glue” that holds us together. You can say it has form and function in our body such as providing elasticity and strength to our skin, repairing and replacing skin cells, and maintaining the health of joints, bones, ligaments, tendons, hair, skin, and nails.
With all these essential functions in the body, no wonder bone broth is popular with health enthusiasts as the new health food. But the fact is that bone broth has been around for thousands of years in Asia. For those who grew up with grandparents or just older parents from the old world, bone broth was likely a part of your diet, like it was for me. As a child, my mother made bone broth frequently and touted its goodness to entice me. I didn’t really understand all the benefits then but her bone broth did taste pretty good!
There is nothing complicated about making bone broth. Just simmer your bones of choice (chicken, beef, turkey, or fish) covered, over low heat for 48 hours. This will extract the most collagen and nutrients from the bones. A slow cooker works well if you don’t want to leave the stove on overnight. Once the broth has finished cooking, transfer to glass jars, let cool, and refrigerate or freeze. As the broth cools, you will notice a layer of gelatin forming. This is a good sign as the gelatin layer is the main source of collagen in bone broth, so be sure to keep it!
Here are some helpful tips to make your bone broth extra healthy and delicious:
● Although not necessary, roasting your bones before simmering can improve the flavor of the broth.
● Since toxins are stored in fat and bone broth contains a lot of it, quality is key when purchasing bones. Look for bones from “organic”, “sustainable”, “grass-fed”, “pasture-raised”, and/or “free-range” sources.
● Add various organic vegetables, herbs, and spices to your broth for more flavor and nutrients. This is a great way to use up vegetable scraps like onion peels and carrot tops that you might normally throw away. Be creative and experiment with different seasonings to make your own signature bone broth!
● Add 1-2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar to your pot to give it a slightly acidic taste and assist with breaking down the bones.
If you are not a fan of bone broth or prefer not to eat meat, there are other ways to increase your collagen in the body by eating foods with collagen-boosting nutrients. Below are the top nutrients for supporting collagen formation:
Are pill-based probiotics really effective for digestive health? Maybe for some people, but not everyone. For example, one clinical study showed that up to 40% of patients taking probiotic supplements did not have any signs of colonization—and subsequently, any related digestive benefits. These results reflect what many health practitioners observe regularly: A significant number of patients don’t achieve relevant results using standard probiotic supplements.
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I always recommend food first when possible, for achieving optimal health. For those who are allergic to or don’t like food sources of probiotics – yogurt and fermented foods, such as kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and fermented vegetables – you may need to consider taking a supplement to ensure you are on track for a healthy microbiome.
Unfortunately, not all supplements are created equal! Since the FDA does nothing to ensure safety and efficacy of dietary supplements and leaves the responsibility with the individual product manufacturers, it makes it challenging for consumers to find products that are safe, effective and worth the cost. Here are some general guidelines to help you navigate the dietary supplement marketplace:
Don’t decide on nutritional supplements based on cost alone. You truly get what you pay for in this case.
Avoid ordering your supplements from Amazon. Many counterfeit goods are sold by third parties on Amazon. It’s not worth saving a few dollars if you can’t be sure of the contents in the container.
Buy products from high quality companies. High-quality companies will pay for third-party testing to confirm the presence of ingredients, the potency of ingredients, and the absence of contaminants. Quality companies go above and beyond the requirements of cGMPs (current good manufacturing practices) and get third-party certifications related to their manufacturing practices.
Consult a qualified and trusted health practitioner, meaning someone who has formal academic training in Nutrition with credentials and knowledgeable of your health condition and needs.
When it comes to Probiotics, I have a few specific recommendations:
Choose a supplement with a high number of different strains. Your gut contains over 500 species.
Consume adequate doses to achieve desired results. Effectiveness varies but 5 to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day is a good target.
Ensure your supplement contains live strains of bacteria. Probiotic bacteria need to be alive to be effective.
Take your probiotics with a source of prebiotic fiber (see food sources in my recent Microbiome blog post) can help to “feed” the good organisms in the gut.
With hundred of probiotics out there, it can be overwhelming to choose one even with the above guidelines. I highlighted a new product, SynerGI, from my Wellevate Supplement Dispensary that’s worth trying.
Botanically-Enhanced Probiotics with POS (pectic-oligosaccharides) by Clinical Synergy Professional Formulas. This live-fermented, synbiotic beverage delivers advanced, fast-acting support for digestive health and microbiome vitality.
SynerGI features a powerful liquid delivery system that provides live clinically-tested lactobacillus strains, fermented with 19 organic digestive-supporting herbs, organic berry juice, and pectic oligosaccharide (POS) prebiotic nutrient to support a healthy terrain. SynerGI is non-GMO and contains no artificial preservatives, sugar, gluten, dairy, or lactose.
SynerGI contains 8 strains of live beneficial bacteria that deliver a broad-spectrum of digestive, immune and overall health benefits. For example:
Bifidobacterium lactis supports nutrient absorption and healthy bacterial populations. B. lactis converts carbohydrates into lactic acid, vitamin B, and other key nutrients, and encourages an optimal low pH environment for healthy microbiome populations to thrive.
Bifidobacterium longum promotes a healthy gut environment and supports GI lining integrity; converts carbohydrates into lactic acid and prebiotic oligosaccharides into energy.
Lactobacillus acidophilus produces vitamin K and other nutrients that support a healthy microbiome. L. acidophilus also promotes metabolic balance, immune function, and other areas.
As a live-fermented, synergistic formula, SynerGI provides multi-targeted support for key areas of digestive health:
Supports a healthy microbiome
Relieves occasional diarrhea and constipation
Supports long-term digestive function and motility
Promotes nutrient absorption
Supports GI lining integrity
Clinical Synergy Formulator Dr. Isaac Eliaz has been using this unique synbiotic to provide advanced digestive and immune support for his patients. This revolutionary formula is now available through the Clinical Synergy Professional Formulas line. You can save 10% by ordering SynerGI through my online store.
Don’t sweat over the menu and the logistics of a virtual dinner party! Remember the goal is to have some fun with your friends. My husband and I had a great time last night with 2 of our dearest foodie friends in Canada. That’s the beauty of a virtual dinner – sharing a meal in California and British Columbia at the same time! The border between US and Canada has been closed since March and it’s not likely to open anytime soon, so we were thrilled to find a way to cook and drink “together” again. Virtual dinner parties, like many behaviors (online shopping is a good example) that started out of necessity during the pandemic will likely continue.
The key is to keep it simple! We just used FaceTime so we didn’t get frustrated setting up new technology unfamiliar to us. My husband put a standing pork roast on the grill rotisserie so it didn’t need much attention while cooking – leaving more time to socialize. I wanted to share a seasonal dish that is interesting and vegetarian but also easy to cook at the same time. I found the perfect recipe – Grilled peach Salad with Halloumi – in my Healthydigs Refresh Meal Plan Program. Click the link to find many more delicious recipes like this. If you haven’t grilled peaches and Halloumi cheese before, this is a must! This dish satisfies all five tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami – of the tongue. I prepared all the ingredients ahead of time and then just grilled the peaches and Halloumi cheese for 5 minutes before plating. This was our first virtual dinner party and there will be many more to come, pandemic or not!
What is Microbiome and why is it important to our health? I put these questions to my esteemed colleague, Lori Shore-Mouratoff, MD, at Cornerstone Integrative Medicine Clinic in Oakland, CA. This is what she shared with me:
Our body is host to trillions of bacteria, yeast and viruses that make up our microbiome. These organisms are responsible for helping us utilize and make vitamins, detoxify our bodies and maintain the integrity of our intestinal lining to prevent food sensitivities. Poor food choices, medications, stress, and lack of sleep can create an imbalance in the composition of these organisms causing gastrointestinal symptoms, joint pain, eczema, hormonal imbalance, obesity and brain fog.
Clearly, improving the health of your microbiome is vital to your well-being! Below are 5 lifestyle hacks Dr. Lori Shore-Mouratoff recommended :
1. Eat prebiotics that support favorable organisms
Inulin-type fructans modulate appetite, improve inflammatory bowel diseases, decrease colon cancer risk, increase absorption of minerals and vitamins and affect lipid metabolism by supporting the population and function of bifidobacteria and butyrate .
Foods containing inulin-type fructans for gut health:
Butyrate is an essential metabolite in the human colon, responsible for maintenance of the gut barrier, with immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties.
Foods that support butyrate forming bacteria in your colon:
Have you been baking more during the pandemic? Me too! No doubt we are all deriving comfort from our food during this turbulent time. The strong emotional connection to food is well established by researchers so why fight it. Instead of worrying about the excessive consumption of sweet treats, why not take this opportunity to improve your baking skills and the nutritional quality of your baked goods for a lasting impact on your diet.
Using healthy ingredients that naturally enhance the flavor and texture of the baked product is key to a good recipe. I have been baking with low-fat buttermilk for years because it only has 2 grams of fat in a cup. The “butter” in the name buttermilk may lead you to think otherwise. It consists mostly of water, the milk sugar lactose, and the milk protein casein. The creamy consistency of buttermilk gives baked goods the richness without the fat so less butter or oil is required in the recipe. Applesauce is another secret weapon for adding moistness to your bake products to off set the hardiness of the fiber-rich wholewheat flour. I also like to use olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, in my recipe when it doesn’t alter the flavor of the product. These apple muffins are moist and packed with the natural sweetness of apples and cinnamon so enjoy them guilt-free!
High Impact Egg-free Apple Muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup applesauce
2 medium Granny Smith apples, finely chopped
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 12 large muffin-pan cups.
In large bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
In small bowl, whisk buttermilk, oil, vanilla extract, and applesauce together until blended.
Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture just until flour r is moistened.
Fold in chopped apples.
Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small dish.
Spoon batter into muffin cups; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake muffins 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean.