Benefits of Turmeric: Why It’s Finally Okay To Be Yellow-Bellied

The third spice that I’d like to talk about in my spice series (and no, I don’t mean THIS spice series) is turmeric (ter-mer-ick). Did you know that back in the day, this spice was referred to as “Indian Saffron”? Yes. It was. Not only is it CHALK-FULL of benefits, but it also happens to be that spice that gives curry its yellow colour!

Curcumin is the element of turmeric that gives this spice its orange-yellow colour is said to be the main pharmacological ingredient in turmeric (what provides us with amazing health benefits). It’s even more powerful than an over the counter anti-inflammatory like Motrin and the best part is that because it is natural, it is completely safe (i.e. prolonged use won’t cause ulcers, decreased white blood cell count, and intestinal bleeding). Scary stuff! They don’t put that on the labels, do they?

Did you know, too, that inflammation isn’t just caused by pulling a muscle or spraining your arm but it’s mainly caused by the foods we eat – especially too many processed foods. These heavily tax our liver and our digestive system creating a toxic environment and basically wreaking havoc on your entire body. Inflammation has been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. That’s why it’s SO important to cut out the out junk, detoxify the liver and eat as “cleanly” as possible.

Incorporating turmeric into your diet is a great way to reduce this inflammation, but like I said, the whole diet needs to be re-adjusted. To put it into perspective it’s like having a gruelling workout to cancel out a bag of chips that you mowed down in your car on your way home from work. The workout doesn’t “cancel out” the chips. In fact, the chips (or whatever junk food – chocolates, candies, fast food etc) would decrease the energy you have for your workouts and your ability to recover since most junk foods are laden with sodium and sugar. Both those are topics for another day 🙂

Here are some of the main health benefits:

  • Powerful anti-inflammatory
  • Effective treatment against inflammatory bowel disease
  • Relief from rheumatoid arthritis
  • Help for cystic fibrosis suffers
  • Cancer prevention
  • Improved liver function
  • Cardiovascular protection
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Protection against Alzheimer’s

Wow…Is there anything it can’t do? Seriously.

I bet you’re thinking to yourself, “Where can I buy this wonder spice?”

Well…pretty much at any grocery store but I recommend you buy organic to get a better flavour and a fresher product. It’s best to buy turmeric straight up to get maximum benefits and not the curry powder since the amount of turmeric in the composition tends to be diluted, so to speak.

I come from an Irish Catholic background so of course, I did not grow up with this spice. In my home, salt and pepper were the staples and paprika was the most exotic spice I’d ever heard of until I moved out on my own and explored other cultural dishes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But now that I’m living on my own and cook my own meals, I make sure that I use it in my cooking at least 3 to 4 times a week. You don’t necessarily have to make curries all the time, just add about a 1/4 tsp in with your other spices if you make a stir fry or add it home made salad dressing. I recently discovered turmeric tea which isn’t half bad (with a bit of agave/honey). More on that later. To get the maximum benefits they recommend 1.2 to 1.8 grams a day (1g = 1 tsp in case you were wondering).

This week, I’ll share with you my experiences with said tea and I’ll share with you a different twist on making chicken curry!

Enjoy!

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Benefits of Ginger

The second spice that I’d like to talk to you about in my spice series is ginger. And, no, I don’t mean this Ginger Spice. I’m referring to the super spice that adds a bit of zing to sauces and teas and is infamous in Asian cooking.

(Side note: Now I have that song, “Spice Up Your Life” stuck in my head. God, I miss the ’90s!).

Let’s jump in, shall we?

Ginger is a root that was originally cultivated in South Asia and has spread to East Africa and the Carribean. It’s available year round at your local market or grocery store.

Benefits:

  • Gastrointestinal relief. Prevents symptoms of motion sickness and seasickness. It also reduces other symptoms including nausea, dizziness, vomiting and cold sweats. It’s even safe to consume while you’re pregnant to aid with morning sickness.
  • Anti-inflammatory. It contains very potent anit-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. Studies have shown that it reduces pain for those suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. If you are suffering from Candida, like I was, ginger has a soothing effect on any inflammation that the candida growth may have on your intestinal tract.
  • Protection against colorectal cancer.
  • Induces cell death in ovarian cancer cells. The extracts in the ginger have been shown to have anti-tumour effects on cancer cells
  • Immune booster. This spice promotes healthy sweating which is very useful when you’re trying to fight off a nasty cold or flu. Usually, it’s used in ginger teas or hot drinks.

Fresh or dried?

Personally, I choose fresh whenever possible. Not only does it pack in more flavour but it contains higher levels of gingerol (that amazing element of ginger that gives us so many of those great benefits that I was telling you about). With that said, dried is useful if you’re making sauces or baking as it easily dissolves in the liquid.

I’ll admit it, ginger isn’t the most attractive thing you’ll see in the grocery store, but don’t  be put off by its nubbiness (if that’s even a word). Before you throw
one in your basket, make sure that it’s firm, smooth and free of mold.

Uses:

Ginger is often used in teas or hot drinks, especially if you aren’t feeling well. If I’m suffering from the flu or I’ve eaten something that isn’t quite agreeing with me, I’ll cut off a quarter inch of ginger, peel it, chop it into smaller pieces and either throw it my green tea or make a hot honey, lemon and ginger drink. It usually does the trick!

Tell us, what’s your favourite way to cook with ginger?

*** Stay tuned for my Asian inspired recipe using this zesty spice!

Enjoy!

Recipe: Veggie Stir Fry with Whole Grain Rice

In keeping with my theme of Whole Grains, I’ve decided to share a simple recipe for a veggie stir fry. Stir fries have been featured quite a bit on this blog mainly because they are so easy to make and … Continue reading

Detox Complete….Hello Vacation!

I finished my detox on St. Paddy’s day and I have to say that though I partied a little too hardy celebrating my Irish heritage, I didn’t let all of the hard work over the past 28 days go down the tubes – at least, not completely.

What did I learn from this?

That I can attend social events and not feel the need to drink or eat naughty foods. I went to a few concerts over the past months and some parties and I avoided adult beverages and opted for sparkling water or virgin caesers (which are amazing!) and really do the trick. People around you who like to peer pressure you into drinking assume that there’s vodka in it. Nope. I’d also make my way to the veggie tray and load up on that rather than the breaded goodies that kept calling my name…But the feeling I had the next day when I woke up, the energy I had, made it all worth it.

That routines and discipline are my friends. I’m not normally one who follows a routine or exercises much discipline, but I found that if I set a daily and weekly routine, it made life much easier. For instance, I would make double the amount of food for dinner so that I had lunch the next day at work. I would buy groceries on the weekend and then again on Wednesdays after work. I set a workout routine so that I always knew what were my “yoga days’ and what mornings I’d get up a bit earlier for my run. I’m still sticking with it! I don’t think I’ll go back to the chaos that was my life before (though the state of my bedroom is a WHOLE other story).

I learned new recipes and about new supplements (the Vega shake was ground breaking for me). I recently discovered the value in shakes, especially green smoothies (adding kale and/or avocado for extra vitamins). I like to add coconut water for the magnesium and potassium (I don’t really do that well with bananas, so it’s a nice alternative). I created almost every combination of salad and stir fry and for some reason, did not get sick of it. I discovered new blogs that inspired me to cook and eat healthily, like this one. It’s all very exciting…at least to me 🙂

So, have I reached my goal? I would say yes. Originally, I wanted to feel more energetic and lose a few inches since I will be sporting a bikinin whilst in Florida and I have to say that these objectives have been achieved. I don’t struggle to get through a workday, though I am more mentally tired at the end of the day, I have way more stamina. I’m looking forward to keeping this up. This has definitely been worth it!

I managed to inspire two of my close friends to consider their eating habits and as a result, they have made some changes and better yet, love them and are sticking to them because they notice how much better they feel! Amazing!

I hope that I have been able to inspire some or all of you to do the same.  Even making small changes here and there (subbing in green tea for coffee or honey for sugar) can make an impact on your health.

This week, I’ll be in Florida. I’m hoping to try out some of the yummy food while I’m soaking in some sun.  Until then, I’ll be hanging out in the beautiful lounge at Pearson Airport dodging hyper children and the many men glued to their smart phones.

I’ll try to give you updates while I’m there and let you know what I think about the food, of course!

See you on the other side!

Detox: Day 20

The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years. (Deepak Chopra).

Well folks, I’m on day 20 of the detox. The time has flown by! I can’t believe that it’s been nearly 3 weeks already. I’d like to fill you in on how I’ve been feeling, what I’ve been up to, some of the challenges I’ve faced so far and what’s next.

Why would I do this?

When I first began the detox/cleanse, I was groggy, tired ALL the time, no “get-up and go”. It sucked. Even the thought of walking to the bus stop in the mornings seemed daunting (moreso than usual). I knew that I needed to do something. Fast. So I decided to do a 28 day detox cleanse eliminating wheat, dairy, refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol/drugs and processed foods from my diet. In exchange, I’d eat more veggies, fruits, brown rice, lean meats and lots of water and green and herbal teas.

The first few days, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts were a bit tough but once I got passed the first few initial adjustment days, I noticed that I had more energy, felt more focused and began to feel more motivated. Now that I’m on day 20, I feel even better! More invigorated, sleeping better (going to bed earlier and waking up earlier – even before my alarm!) and more active. I’m in a better mood (more often than not, unless I’m overtired or starving). I’m more focused at work; I find that I’m not as easily distracted by others around me or tempted to take breaks to read the news, check Facebook etc. (as often – I am human, after all!). What else? Oh, because I’m more active (running in the mornings and recently doing hot yoga), I’ve noticed my muffin tops are decreasing. Always exciting! Especially since I’ll be in a bathing suit in a few short weeks on the beaches of Fort Meyers. And, the other thing that I’m loving is the more FREE TIME! Because I’m not going out all the time anymore, I’m not hung over the next day. My weekends are free to spend time with friends, catch up on errands, housework, blogging, running, hot yoga, travelling, shopping, researching, you name it. It’s been great – very rejuvinating.

Having all of this free time meant that I could really indulge in things that I’ve been putting off, mainly, waking up earlier to go for a run in the mornings before work. Sounds horrible? Actually, at first, to be honest – yes…it was the worst. My body didn’t even know what the heck was going on but by the time I dragged myself out the door and onto that treadmill and finished my 20 minutes, I was just starting to wake up. The next time, it got easier. And easier. Before I knew it I was waking up before my alarm to go for a run! I had more energy throughout the day and slept like a log. I’ve now developed a love for running first thing in the morning! For anyone who knows me they know that the snooze button and I are joined at the hip, so this is huge! The other thing that I got back into, was hot yoga. I used to do it quite a bit about a year or so ago, but stopped going after my trip to India and when I got sick. BUT Goodlife Fitness had an incredible deal on Living Social: 5 classes for $15. YES PLEASE! I’ve been to two classes and I’m hooked! I’m considering buying a class pass when I get back from Florida. For me, it’s great – I sweat out all the toxins and stretch out muscles that are either cramped from sitting at a desk all day or tight calves/hamstrings/hip flexor/glute (I’m a mess) from running. I’ve also purchased a deal for spinning classes that I’ll be using post-Florida. PUMPED!

Other than exercising and sleeping better, I’ve been saving a lot of money. Not going out and eating out all the time have saved me a pretty penny. Instead, I go out during the day on the weekend. During the week, I’ve been going to concerts, meeting friends for tea, checking out comedy at the club around the corner from me, going to the movies, catching up on reading, catching up on tv and planning trips. Just because I’m not going out on Friday or Saturday night does not mean that my social life is on hold. If anything, I’ve been busier than ever! It’s all how you spend your time.

It really has made me think: How will this activity impact me?

This all sounds lovely, right? But let me tell you…these past 20 days have not been without their challenges. For instance, it was my mom’s birthday last weekend. You should have seen the look of shock, confusion, disapointment and more shock when I declined an alcoholic beverage at dinner and then declined a piece of cake for dessert. My parents reacted as though they were suddenly transported in some parallel universe. I wish we had more kids in our family to take the heat off of me not drinking and eating sugar. Yes, these are the main struggles in my life right now. First world problems, anyone?

Another challenge was passing up a $10 all-the-beer-you-can-drink-before-you-pass-out-or-vomit kegger tonight. Enough said.

But in all seriousness, initially it was tough to say “no” but once you make the decision to not partake, it’s all good. You feel at peace. It’s done and I’m not turning back. Nope? Nope.

And the thing is, I don’t want to undo 3 weeks of sacrifice and hard work just for what, a few minutes of a cheap thrill only to feel terrible shortly after.

The other challenges were planning. I am NOT a planner! I’m more of a procrastinator and spur of the moment type of gal. I had to be sure that I had food on hand at all times so that I wouldn’t be tempted to order pizza. I had to make sure that I had lunch ready for the next day, which  meant cooking enough at dinner for left overs the next day. Otherwise, I’d be at the mercy of the salad bar at work.

The last challenge I’ve faced was to stay motivated. Yes, I feel great but every so often, I’d get a whiff of someone’s delicious, juicy, mouthwatering burger at lunch and I’d think, “Screw it!” But then I’d talk myself back down off the ledge and remind myself that I’d feel foggy/tired from the wheat bun and feel sick from the saturated fat in the burger. Not worth it. But those days have been fewer and fewer as the detox has gone on.

So, what’s next? Well, 7 more days! My last official day is on St. Paddy’s day. I’ll be celebrating my proud Irish heritage with a few friends. I will probably definitely be tipsy after one sip of beer since by then it would have been a month without a drop of alcohol.

I’ve made the decision to only indulge in these kinds of things on special occasions: holidays, birthdays and special events (weddings, funerals – hey, I’m part Irish!). I’ve realized that I don’t miss going out all the time and that there are better ways that I can spend my time. A personal choice.

Also, I’ve been working hard at getting back into fitness and I don’t want to get off track with that. My new goal is to exercise at least 3 days a week and anything extra will be a bonus. I also have my new spinning classes to look forward to.

By now, I’m so used to eating healthy that I can’t see myself going back to bad habits that have somehow crept their way back in to my life. BUT the good news is that it’s always reversable. You can always regain control of your health and get back on track. Nobody’s perfect but I’m realizing that, like most things, it’s much easier to just keep doing the right things rather than trying to re-train yourself to get back into good habits.

Question for all of you: Have any of you considered making a change to better your health? If so, what is it and what steps could you take to do it?

Challenge: if you are craving one thing in particular (chocolate, bread, booze, dairy) go without it for 3 days.

Notice the following: How do you feel without it? How much  of it do you consume on a daily basis? What alternatives are there? What are some emotions that you feel when you crave it but can’t have it?

Detox: Day 8 and Feeling Great!

Day eight of the detox. I’m starting to notice more of a difference especially in my energy level and mood. I initially did the detox because I was feeling sluggish and a bit depressed. I thought that by not only feeding my body properly but also focusing more attention on myself, I would start to feel better – and it’s working.

I have a few challenges up ahead, notably, this weekend is my mom’s birthday and I’m not sure how well the conversation will go with my “meat and potatoes” Irish descendant parents about why I am not partaking in birthday cake. I can hear their pleading yet mocking voices now, “One little piece won’t kill you…..” Sure, it won’t kill me, but it will kill all of my hard work so far. By then, I would be on day 13 – so that’s nearly 2 solid weeks of sacrifice and thoughtful planning down the tubes. Once you eat anything on the “no no” list, it’s over. I wish we had a dog. Or more kids in my family (I’m an only child) so no sneaking the cake to a sibling or pet.

I could always do like in that one Seinfeld episode when Jerry doesn’t want to eat the mutton so he spits it out in Grandma Memma’s napkins. Please tell me you know what I’m talking about! If not, here’s a clip (sorry for the poor quality).

Anyways, the fact that I’m already feeling so much better has been totally worth it and after another week or so, I’ll feel even more better. So that’s exciting!

I’ve also started my running challenge and I even pushed myself to get up a bit earlier this morning to get my run in. For those that know me, they know that I am NOT a morning person. Snooze and I have been intimate lovers for many, many years – possibly my longest relationship. BUT, despite my everlasting love for Snooze, I just forced myself to get up and get out the door as quickly as possible.

My roommate saw me in the hall and was very confused, “Yo…it’s not even 7:30am and you’re up?!”. All I could mutter, more to myself than to him was,  “Yup. Yup, I’m up.”

On the bright side, by the time my workout was over, I was just starting to wake up and I had lots of energy for most of the day. The exhaustion didn’t hit me like a brick wall until a couple of hours after lunch. But even though my body was tired, my mind was alert and the afternoon passed quicker than it usually did sans exercise. It’s enough to motivate me to do it all over again tomorrow. I know, I’m definitely on fire this week!

Wish me luck!

So, I’m on a massive stir fry kick these days mostly because by the time I get home after a long day (especially one like today) and Mondays are killer for me too. Stir fries are quick and relatively easy to prepare. Plus, you get to be as creative as you like with ingredients.

Here’s what I made tonight:

Tonight's Dinner!

Tonight's Dinner!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps onion diced
  • 1 roma tomato diced
  • 1 clove diced
  • 3 skinless, boneless, chicken thighs chopped
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 thyme tumeric
  • 1/3 tsp thyme
  • 3 tbsps of oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut – any one of these is great)
  • 10 baby carrots chopped
  • 1/3 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 floret of brocoli chopped
  • 1/3 medium sized zucchini chopped (I left the skin on but you could always peel it off you don’t like it)
  • 1 handful of sprouts
  • 1 handful of baby spinach
  • 1 cup of brown rice pasta (I just bought fussili but use whatever floats your boat)

Method:

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the spices. In the mean time, cook the pasta. Chop the onion and garlic and add it to the frying pan. Stir the ingredients in the spicy oil. In the meantime, chop the chicken and add it to the pan. While the chicken is simmering away, grab a medium to large sized bowl and chop all veggies except the sprouts and spinach and add to the bowl. Pour a bit of oil on top of the veggies and stir it around.

This is great time to check on the chicken. Grab a pair of tongs and flip the chicken over and let it cook for a few more minutes. While I wait, I usually do some dishes quickly to kill some time. Once the chicken has cooked enough (brown on the outside) add the veggies to the pan. Then add spinach and sprouts on top and let it sit for a minute or so. The pasta should be ready by this time. Drain it and add it to the stir fry. Stir all the ingredients around with the tongs. Let simmer and stir off and on for another 5 to 8 minutes.

You’ll know it’s ready when the sprouts and spinach are limp.

This should serve about 2 or 3 people OR enough for a second helping and lunch the next day. The entire process should take about 20 to 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Detox: Day 5 and (starting) to feel more alive!

Well…it’s day five of the detox and I have to say that it felt nice to have a lot more energy on a Saturday. This winter, I really dragged my feet and spent a lot of time in front of the TV. Not good. No wonder those pounds crept on me. Anyways, I’m getting back on track with eating better and today, for the second day in a row, I went for a run. I know – craziness! But I’m determined to get into shape especially since I’ll be going to Florida at the end of March and I’ll probably be wearing a bathing suit for more than half the time (if all goes to plan, anyways).

My biggest downfall is that I get really super excited about something, jump in head first and bite off more than I can chew only to get burnt out before I see any real results and then quit. SO this time, I’m going to go a bit slower. At first, I wanted to run every day until March 22nd. That’s realistic, right? Talk about putting a lot of pressure on myself! I decided, after some more thought, that this is not a realistic goal. Instead, I will run 5 days a week (Sundays and Thursdays off) for at least 15 minutes each time. Eventually, I’ll be able to build up my time and speed but this is definitely a good start. Something is always better than nothing!

To reward myself after my newfound workouts, I make a berry smoothie with soy milk (I found this one – no sugar added and organic), coconut water, frozen mixed berries (berries have the lowest glycemic index, i.e. less sugar, than other fruits) and a quarter of an avocado (to thicken it up). Plus, the oil in the avocado help to absorb all of the nutrients in the other ingredients.

Not a fan of avocados? You could add a tablespoon of hemp oil or flax oil.

Tomorrow, I’m taking a break and hopefully I’ll be able to finish some of that housework that keeps staring at me….

Enjoy!

Detox: Day Four

What a week! I only had a three day work week but Heaven knows that it felt like at least a six day week compressed into three.  I think it was mainly because of the adjustment to the detox diet and the fact that I had four glorious days off – which meant lots of sleeping in and lounging about, then when that alarm goes off for work I had to snap back into reality and get with the program: work, errands, house work, obligations. Not complaining – but I’m glad it’s Friday!

One aspect of the detoxing that I really like is that it gives me the opportunity to just take a break and do things that I don’t normally get the opportunity to do (scratch that – allot myself the opportunity to do).  This weekend, for once in a long time, I don’t have any serious plans. No scheduled dinners or birthday parties, no events or trips out of town to make. I just get to be at home all weekend and hibernate if I want to. And I just might. I have a mountain of laundry that needs some attention and I need to organize and clean my room before I trip and break my neck. I also want to spend time to catch up on some reading that I haven’t had the energy to do lately. Mainly, I just want to catch up with myself.

But the detox does have its drawbacks. I don’t want to paint this super rosy picture that this week so far has been a breeze. Frankly, it’s been quite challenging. There’s nothing I wanted more, most mornings, than a nice cup of chai tea with soy milk. Or one of my roommates fresh (?) buns that taunt me when I open the fridge to grab some spinach for my stir fry (that I’ve had for dinner and lunch two days in a row). Or the overwhelming craving for a nice, cold, pint of beer after a long week. Instead, I came home, had a nap and went for a run. Then I rewarded myself with a spinach salad with some smoked salmon on top (the recipe is below). It was AMAZING and very satifsfying! Almost made me forget about that pint that I was so looking forward to. But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel: I’ll be finishing my detox in time to celebrate my Irish heritage on St. Paddy’s day and will hopefully be feeling a lot less sluggish and shed those few pounds that I gained over the last month. More importantly, I hope to have regained some better eating habits instead of resorting to pizza when I’m starving after work.

Here’s that spinach salad I was gloating about:

Spinach Salad with Spicy Smoked Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 8-10 baby carrots (chopped)
  • 1 slice of red onion (chopped)
  • 2 handfuls of sprouts
  • 1/4 of an avocado
  • 1/4 of lemon (juice)
  • 1 lime (juice)
  • Oregano
  • Salmon (sliced)
  • Olive oil (3 tbsps)
  • Chilli powder (1/4 tsp)
  • Black pepper (1/4 tsp)

Method:

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the spices once the oil is warm. Let the spices simmer for a minute then add the salmon. Let cook until the meat darkens. While this is cooking, grab a large bowl (you can either eat this as a meal or make it and share it with a friend).  Layer the spinach, carrots, onion, avocado and sprouts in the bowl. Squeeze the lemon slice and the lime over top of the salad. Sprinkle the dried oregano on top. Once the salmon has finished cooking, place the salmon on top of the salad and drizzle the spicy oil on the salad. Mix it all together, and voila!

Of course, you can add or replace whatever veggies you like but I found that this combination was very satisfying. Next time, I’d definitely add cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. If I weren’t detoxing, I’d add some goat cheese or feta, too. If you wanted to add some grains, you could always mix in some cooked quinoa. Why not? AND you could always replace the salmon with chicken (chopped up and fried in the same oil). Okay. I’ll stop and let you try this out for yourself.

Enjoy!