Why Cooking at Home Is Important

As mentioned in a previous post, convenience foods are everywhere nowadays and cooking from scratch has become quite rare. Who has the time to prepare home-cooked meals on a daily basis? We are always on the go, and weekends can be just as busy as the rest of the week. What we don’t realize, though, is that when we reach for convenience foods and on-the-go meal options, we do not necessarily fuel ourselves with real food – with nutrient-dense food. Only home-cooked meals made with whole foods can give us the right nutrients required for proper metabolic function. 

How to Make Homemade Dinners in No Time

You don’t have to cook every single day in order to obtain an optimal level of health and wellness. Most of us have busy schedules and aren’t able to set that time aside each day. Instead, you can implement a few different strategies into your weekly routine in order to obtain the same goal. Here are a few tips to make cooking easy, as explained in How to Be Well, by Dr. Frank Lipman:

  • If you usually don’t cook much, just make one or two dinners a week at first. Pick some very basic recipes.
  • Set some time aside on the weekend (“put it on your schedule”) to prep several dishes for the week. You can store these in the fridge or freezer, as required. 
  • Use a few essential time-saving tools like a slow cooker or pressure cooker, a steamer pot, an enameled cast-iron skillet or stainless-steel pan, an immersion hand blender, and maybe a veggie bullet.
  • How about Cooking Without a Recipe? Simple primal/paleo meals and snacks take no time to put together.
  • When cooking, always make extra so you have leftovers for the next day.
  • Meal kit delivery options like Blue Apron, Sunbasket, Green Chef, and Hello Fresh are yet another way to help you cook more often at home.

On a Final Note

Don’t forget to make kitchen time fun! Cooking can be the perfect time to listen to a podcast or some relaxing music. Cooking with friends and family can also lead to sharing new cooking techniques and ideas, along with a few laughs. What is your favorite strategy to cook more from scratch?

Until next time!

Reference

Lipman, Frank M D. How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life. Houghton Mifflin, 2019, pp. 52-3.

You can also find me on Instagram.

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A Warm Spice Not to Skip

Not only do spices improve any dish with delightful aromas and colors, but they also contain a host of health benefits. Cinnamon, one of the oldest spices in the world, is one of them. Obtained from the bark of the cinnamon tree, it is full of nutrients like fiber, manganese, and calcium. It offers many health benefits with its high antioxidant levels. The two main varieties are Ceylon and cassia. With its sweet, warming taste, cinnamon is a wonderful spice to use during the holidays!

The Main Health Benefits of Cinnamon

  • Helps reduce inflammation: cinnamon is full of protective antioxidants, including polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids, that help lessen free radical damage and combat oxidative stress in the body. These antioxidants can also help reduce inflammation, which may aid in the prevention of chronic disease. Cinnamon is even considered a potential cancer-fighting food.
  • Aids with maintaining heart health: cinnamon can help lessen high cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, it can be a beneficial blood coagulant and also better circulation and tissue repair.
  • Helps balance blood sugar: cinnamon aids with decreasing blood sugar levels and helps better insulin sensitivity. It can also be a great sugar substitute to sweeten desserts without adding many calories.
  • Aids with conserving brain function: due to its numerous antioxidants, cinnamon may improve cognitive function while helping protect the brain against different neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Can help fight infections: cinnamon has natural antimicrobial, antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Its essential oils may help boost the immune system too.
  • Can aid with improving oral hygiene: cinnamon (and its essential oils) has powerful antibacterial properties and so it may help with bad breath, tooth decay, cavities, and mouth infections.

On a Final Note

If you are not adding cinnamon yet to your favorite dishes, experiment blending it into your coffee, tea, paleo-friendly baked goods, yogurt, smoothies, or any recipe of your liking. As with almost everything, consume cinnamon in moderation – high doses can potentially lead to unwanted symptoms. 

Enjoy the holidays and sprinkle some cinnamon here and there to your heart’s content!

Have a Merry Christmas!

References

“Cinnamon Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts and Side Effects – Dr. Axe.” Dr. Axe, Sept. 2018, http://www.draxe.com/nutrition/health-benefits-cinnamon/. Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.

“Health Benefits of Cinnamon.” Mark’s Daily Apple, 21 Sept. 2020, http://www.marksdailyapple.com/health-benefits-cinnamon/. Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.

You can also find me on Instagram.

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When Hunger Strikes

Even though you may not feel like snacking much if you are eating keto or simply stay in mild ketosis during the day, there can be some days where a small low-glycemic snack is most welcome. During the busy holiday season, having healthy snack options on hand can be a big help when you have a long weekend to-do list. Here are 12 delicious options.

12 Keto-Friendly Snacks

  • Grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, or organic chicken jerky (homemade or minimally processed)
  • Canned smoked oysters, anchovies, etc.
  • Avocado mashed with sardines (out of a can) 
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Raw or dry roasted nuts and seeds. Make sure there are no vegetable/seed oils or added sugar.
  • Portable packets of almond or cashew butter (paired with cut-up raw vegetables)
  • Kale chips or seaweed chips
  • Any low-glycemic leftovers (slices of cold meat or poultry, roasted vegetables, etc.)
  • Pasture-raised/grass-fed or organic cheese made with raw milk (directly from a farm ideally)
  • Dark chocolate: 85% cacao or above
  • Magic Spoon cereals – one of my favorites!
  • Keto-friendly protein or collagen bars – I particularly enjoy the Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars, Primal Kitchen Bars, Perfect Keto Bars, Epic Bars, and the Design for Health KTO BARS. Having one or two protein bars in your purse or bag at all times is a sure way to satisfy any hunger cravings and to stay away from unhealthy snack options. 

Do you have a favorite keto-friendly snack?

Until next time!

References

Axe, Josh. Keto Diet: Your 30-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, Boost Brain Health, and Reverse Disease. New York, Little, Brown Spark, 2019, p.106.

Sisson, Mark. “My 14 Favorite Keto-Friendly Snacks.” Mark’s Daily Apple, 26 Apr. 2018, http://www.marksdailyapple.com/keto-friendly-snacks/. Accessed 29 Nov. 2021.

You can also find me on Instagram.

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Thinking About Going Primal/Paleo for the New Year: What Does That Entail?

As mentioned in my previous post, going primal/paleo is about adopting a new lifestyle that emphasizes building new habits to clean up our diet, exercise more optimally, have better sleep hygiene, and learn how to manage the stress in our lives. It focuses on adopting an ancestral health approach. 

In my previous post, I listed which primal/paleo staples were good to have on hand to start eating in a more “ancestral” way. I am now going to explain what exercising in a primal/paleo way means.

So What About Exercise?

Exercising in a primal way is approaching daily movement and exercise in a non-demanding way (the opposite of chronic cardio). It is embracing a life of daily activities that makes time for frequent breaks to stretch and move around enough. Exercising in a primal/paleo way (as explained in The New Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson) comprises of:

  • Flexibility/Mobility practices: yoga and pilates, for example, allow for greater mobility and flexibility, while strengthening muscles, including the core. Mobility exercises are beneficial to the tendons, ligaments, and fascia that support the entire musculoskeletal system.
  • Move frequently: make everyday movement (short walking breaks, evening strolls, etc.) a default habit, along with well-designed cardio workouts at 180-minus-age heart rate in addition to the flexibility/mobility practices mentioned above.
  • Schedule: Try to align your workouts (type, frequency, intensity, and duration) with your energy levels each day. Having an Oura ring (which I recently purchased) can help you track your overall readiness each morning.
  • Shoes: progressively allow some barefoot time for low-risk activities to strengthen feet and replicate natural range of motion. Opt for shoes with minimalist design (like Vibram Five Fingers, Nike Free, Merrell, Inov-8, etc.), but make sure you go from a regular 8mm shoe (to maybe a 4mm shoe) to a zero-drop shoe gradually in order to give your body enough time to adjust.
  • Sprinting: all-out efforts of 8 to 20 seconds every 7 to 10 days only if fully energized. Some easier “wind sprint” sessions for conditioning can also be included more regularly.
  • Strength training: brief, intense sessions of 10 to 30 minutes; twice a week is plenty. Go for full-body, functional exercises that help with athletic competency.
  • Stretching: minimal, full-body, functional stretches (like the Grok Hang and the resting Grok Squat) after exercising and/or simply at the end of the day are recommended too.

On a Final Note

You can also check my article on The Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid which sums up what should be at the core of an individual’s movement regimen in order to be fit in the most down-to-earth way.

Until next time!

Reference
Sisson, Mark. The New Primal Blueprint : Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2017, p. 482.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Thinking About Going Primal/Paleo for the New Year: What Does That Entail?

Going primal/paleo is about adopting a new lifestyle that emphasizes building new habits to clean up our diet, exercise more optimally, have better sleep hygiene, and learn how to manage the stress in our lives. It focuses on adopting an ancestral health approach. 

Embracing a primal/paleo lifestyle means we apply ourselves to mimic the way our ancestors lived, as reasonably as possible, within our modern world boundaries. 

We want to eat whole foods rather than processed foods, get enough exercise and low-intensity movement throughout the day, get adequate sleep, and minimize stress triggers on top of learning how to better handle overall stress. 

It is important to carve an optimal lifestyle for ourselves that works along with our ancestral roots, not against them. 

So What About the Food?

When it comes to the primal/paleo-approved foods that are okay to eat for most people, here’s an overview of the main staples you will want to have on hand (as highlighted in The New Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson):

  • Baking ingredients: coconut, almond, or other nut flours, tapioca starch, and arrowroot powder.
  • Beverages: water, unsweetened teas, full-fat coconut milk, or unsweetened almond milk (great for smoothies).
  • Coconut products: butter, flakes, flour, milk, and oil offer medium-chain fats; good substitutes for dairy, refined vegetable/seed oils, and wheat flour.
  • Dairy: raw, fermented, high-fat, and organic products are best (cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, kefir, whole milk, yogurt) –  to eat in moderation.
  • Dark Chocolate: my favorite snack/treat! It has to have a cacao content of at least 75 percent, ideally 85 percent or higher.
  • Eggs: local, pasture-raised, or certified organic for high omega-3 content. If you buy eggs from pasture-raised chickens, the yolk is going to have a deep-yellow/slight orange color. This color is a sign of a nutrient-rich egg.
  • Fats and oils: I like to use avocado and extra virgin olive oil. Coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and animal fats (bacon grease, chicken fat, lard, tallow) are best for cooking.
  • Fish: wild-caught from remote, pollution-free waters. Small, oily, cold-water fish are preferred: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring (SMASH). Certain farmed fish are okay (domestic Coho salmon, trout, and some shellfish – not shrimp). Check the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (seafoodwatch.org) for up-to-date recommendations.
  • Fruit: locally grown (or wild), organic, in-season preferred. Berries are best as they are low-glycemic. Go strictly organic with soft, edible skin fruits. Moderate intake of higher glycemic fruits.
  • Meat and Fowl: local, pasture-raised, or USDA-certified organic. If you must eat conventional meat, choose the leanest possible cuts and avoid consuming the fat as it is where some of the meat toxins are stored, not in the liver. 
  • Nutritious carbs: go for abundant vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, sweet potatoes, yams and other starchy tubers, quinoa, and wild rice.
  • Prebiotics: cooked and cooled white rice and white potatoes, green bananas, raw potato starch.
  • Probiotics: fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, and yogurt, and even dark chocolate!
  • Snacks: berries, avocados, canned sardines, dark chocolate, hard-boiled eggs, jerky, nuts, olives, seeds, and other high-fat and/or high-protein, low-carb primal food.
  • Vegetables: locally grown, organic, in-season is best. Opt for strictly organic for large surface area (leafy greens) and soft edible skins. Eat the rainbow!

To get a nice sum-up of the above list of primal/paleo-approved foods, you can check out my post about The Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid.

Happy New Year!

Reference

Sisson, Mark. The New Primal Blueprint : Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2017, pp. 480–1.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Emergency Foods

No matter how hard we may try to plan our days, we can find ourselves pressed for time on a regular basis. To avoid snacking on unwanted foods when there is just no time for a nice sit-down meal, doing a little prep beforehand can be a lifesaver. Emergency foods are easy to put together. Having those ready when you need them will make you feel good about still taking care of your health while having a zillion other things to do. As mentioned in a previous post, 12 “on-the-Go” Healthy Snack Options, a short list of easy to prepare healthy snack options (or “emergency foods”), paired with occasional good quality protein bars, is an awesome way to stay primal/paleo even on the most hectic days!

Easy Healthy Snack Options

  • Artichoke hearts (with water, preferably in glass jars)
  • Avocados 
  • Beef jerky (homemade or minimally processed)
  • Dark chocolate: 85 percent cacao or above being better
  • Canned fish: sardines, anchovies, and oysters are my favorites
  • Cut-up raw vegetables with nut butters or guacamole
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Kale chips
  • Leftovers 
  • Low-glycemic fruits like berries
  • Nuts and nut butters (not to overdo on those though). As a side note, peanuts are a legume, not a nut.
  • Olives
  • Pasture-raised/grass-fed or organic cheese made with raw milk (directly from a farm ideally)
  • Slices of cold meat or poultry (with primal/paleo-approved condiments if needed)
  • Smoothie
  • Soup

In Summary

Unless you are ready to go a little while without food, having any of the above emergency foods on hand can be a blessing in some situations! To this, several primal/keto-approved bars can be pretty handy too. I particularly enjoy the Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars, Primal Kitchen Bars, Epic Bars, and the Design for Health KTO BARS. Perfect Keto offers some amazing bars too. Having one or two protein bars in your purse or bag at all times is a sure way to satisfy any arising hunger and to stay away from unhealthy snack options.  

Until next time!

You can also find me on Instagram.

Family Meals

Just like grown-ups, children need to eat a clean, healthy diet filled with nutrient-dense foods. Taking the time to have everybody sit down at the dinner table to share meals together can definitely make a big difference. This can be the perfect time to explain how beneficial certain foods can be or not. This can be the perfect time to introduce new foods for everyone to try. New ideas to make family meals a daily relaxing experience for everyone are always helpful! So what follows is a list of several tips highlighted by Dr. Steven Gundry in The Plant Paradox Quick and Easy.

Presentation Can Go a Long Way

You can use spiralizers and cookie cutters to turn uninviting vegetables into fun edible geometrical shapes. With some supervision, kids can even participate in the food prep, which they will, then, most likely want to taste.

Colorful Meals Are So Much More Appetizing

A colorful plate is definitely more inviting and appetizing, no matter what your age. So make sure each meal offers a nice array of colors.

Have a Salad-Bar Style Meal

Have everybody make their own tacos, for instance, with all the different ingredients put in the middle of the table to fill their grain-free taco shells (or wraps) with. Also, lots of different small dishes to choose from in the middle of the table can be a fun “dim sum” experience for everyone. 

“Get Sneaky”

You can add cut up greens and other veggies into (paleo-friendly) muffin and cookie batters without impacting the flavor and appearance much. Vegetable powders are also a great option.

Add a Dipping Sauce

A dipping sauce, guacamole or other, can make finger foods so tasty. And if you don’t feel like making the sauce yourself, Primal Kitchen offers a wide variety of options.

Use Paper or Metal Straws (as it is better for the environment)

Most kids love using straws, which can be a great way for them to consume nutrient-packed smoothies.

“Kid-Size Servings”

Sometimes, individual portions can be much more fun to eat. Paleo/Primal-friendly recipes about online like Sausage and Eggs to Go. Healthy snacks for kids are also a great option.

What are your favorite easy-meal ideas?

Until next time!

References

Acanfora, Mike. “[BYWG Blog] What You CAN Do To Encourage Healthy Eating In Your Kids.” Beyond Your Wildest Genes, 23 Sept. 2020, beyondyourwildestgenes.com/bywg-blog-what-you-can-do-to-encourage-healthy-eating-in-your-kids/. Accessed 27 Sept. 2020.

Gundry, Steven R. The Plant Paradox Quick and Easy : The 30-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Feel Great, and Live Lectin-Free. New York, Ny, Harper Wave, An Imprint Of Harpercollinspublishers, 2019, pp. 120-24.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Why Boosting Mitochondrial Function is Important

Being that I am now 50 years old and that I want to keep my energy levels up as much as possible, anything related to how we can boost our mitochondrial function is of interest to me. The mitochondria truly are the powerhouses of the cells. They are little organelles within the cells that produce ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), the energy that our body needs each day in order for us to do anything. In Head Strong, Dave Asprey mentions: “From age thirty to age seventy, the average person experiences a 50 percent decline in mitochondrial efficiency.” So whatever we can do to strengthen our mitochondria, especially as we get older, is a big plus. I am devoted to red light therapy (as mentioned in 4 Easy Steps to Start the Day), grounding, and cold showers.

12 Actionable Steps to Strengthen your Mitochondria

These steps are highlighted by Dr. Frank Lipman in How to Be Well:

  • Quit eating sugar. Mitochondria don’t like using sugar as food.
  • Adopt a grain-free diet to further limit the amount of sugar in your blood.
  • Eat more vegetables to gain more nourishing phytonutrients.
  • Consume plenty of healthy fats. These are the preferred fuel of mitochondria.
  • Eat clean. Pesticides and toxins damage mitochondria.
  • Practice intermittent fasting.
  • Develop a routine of high-intensity interval training. HIIT has been shown to make more mitochondria.
  • Get strong. There is more mitochondria in lean muscle mass than in fat.
  • Practice better sleep hygiene.
  • Soak up some sun. Sunlight is a powerful mitochondrial booster.
  • Avoid electromagnetic radiation.
  • Start your day with a cold shower. Cold exposure, in short bursts, helps trigger the production of new mitochondria.

In Summary

The above steps are a great starting point in building new habits for improving mitochondrial health. Always check with your personal physician first, of course. Just focusing on one or two of these steps when starting this habit is fine. You can always progressively add a few more as time goes on. Eating primal may help in choosing the right foods for your mitochondria. Then you can later implement the other steps gradually according to what works best with your schedule. To better energy levels no matter what your age!

Until next time!

References

Asprey, Dave. Head Strong the Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster – in Just Two Weeks. New York Harper Wave, 2017, p. 41.

Lipman, Frank M D. How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life. Houghton Mifflin, 2019, pp. 168-69.

You can also find me on Instagram.