Posts Tagged ‘cinnamon’
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
Last month I did a blog post on super foods for men. I also threw in some basic (and not so basic) differences in male and female brain function. This time I’ll focus on us girls.
Is there a better place to start than hormones and chocolate? Maybe fashion, hats, and shiny things. I’ll see if I can weave them all together, but the launching pad has to be hormones. A brain sloshing around in a pool of estrogen looks and behaves quite different from a brain infused with testosterone. I touched on a few cognitive gender differences in my last post, but since I find this so fascinating, I think I’ll keep this neuro-thread going.
I’m a research nerd and guess what I’ve discovered after logging zillions of hours reading scientific papers (plus, years of field study)?
Men really are from Mars.
Before you jump to the conclusion that I might be gender-biased in my observations, I’ve also discovered that women are from BabbleOn. See – if I was going to fudge my findings, I’d pick something far more flattering.
Here’s the deal. Women do better than men on tasks that require verbal communication and memory of personal experiences. Men excel in the manipulation of complex spatial information.
What does that mean?
Women talk a lot and remember everything. Men can park 2 cars, 1 motorcycle, 3 mountain bikes, a fishing boat, a side-winder circular saw, 6 pairs of skis and 300 pounds of camping gear in a 2 car garage.
Like I said before, we’re different.
Back to the hormone part. Scientifically speaking, aside from all the other stuff estrogen does, it also provides females with the ability to outperform males in associating stimuli across time. It even shows up in more adult-generated neurons in our hippocampus.
What’s a hippocampus, you ask?
It’s a little doo-hickey in the brain that just so happens to be a long-term memory consolidation station and an emotional storage bin. It’s like a jewelry box for stuff you can dig up and throw into a heated conversation years later.
So think about that one for a minute.
Estrogen, emotions, new neurons, and memory storage? It’s no wonder we never forget things men do (or, don’t do). Sorry, but I have to take this one step further (female trait, babbling on). Gender differences in memory and learning are facilitated by differences in hormones and brain anatomy. But it doesn’t stop there. That also gives us the ability to further change our brain anatomy by forming new neurons. The actual structure of the brain changes allowing us to remember more stuff you guys did for longer periods of time.
Like f o r e v e r.
Oh my gosh, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
Although I took a rather convoluted, gender-driven journey to get here, I want to stress the importance of balancing blood sugar (glucose) and hormones when it comes to women’s health. Those two things form the foundation for radiant energy, stable emotions, and better stuff in your jewelry box – both pleasant memories and shiny things.
To function optimally, the body must maintain blood sugar levels within the proper ranges. Extreme fluctuations cause roller-coaster hormones, which can lead to hissy fits, dish tossing, and crying jags. It also leads to all kinds of health problems down the road. We can avoid the drama by keeping glucose and hormones in balance. That starts with nutrition and exercise. Yoga is my preferred form of movement-induced, hormone balancing (pun intended). Here are my food favorites.
Melissa’s top 10 super-foods for women (in no particular order)
Cinnamon has a long history as a functional food. Not only does this sweet spice smell and taste wonderful, it also helps control blood sugar and makes you feel full longer. It’s anti-microbial, helps fight candida and is a good source of fiber, calcium and iron. I add about a teaspoon of cinnamon to all my smoothies. I also sprinkle it over yogurt, add it to homemade granola, power bars and whatever else I can think of. I try to eat at least a teaspoon of cinnamon a day.
According to cancer researchers at the University of Michigan, a natural compound in broccoli inhibits breast cancer stem cells and helps block their self-renewal pathway. There are all kinds of studies regarding cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy and similar green leafy vegetables) and their positive role in cancer prevention. Good stuff!
Although not a food per se, fiber is so important for blood sugar balance, weight loss, and overall health. I’m a huge fan and eat way more than the recommended amount. For a detailed post I did on fiber several years ago, check here. You’ll find all the information you need to boost your fiber intake. Make sure you do it slowly and drink lots of water.
Avocados are high in fat, but it’s a healthy fat and worth adding to your arsenal of super foods. Plus, if you add avocado to a big green salad or a fresh salsa mix, you greatly increase the absorption of the other nutrients. Carotenoids (in tomatoes, peppers, carrots, greens, etc.) are fat-soluble nutrients that need to tag along with high-grade fat to be adequately absorbed and assimilated. Avocados are also a low-carb, high-fiber food source, which is great for balancing blood sugar and hormones (once again, so important).
Another high fat food, but again, this is good stuff, so don’t be fat-aphobic. The key is to be very picky about your fats. Please check here for a detailed post I wrote a couple of years ago on the health benefits of coconut. I love the stuff! Eat it, cook with it, put it on your skin, slather it on your hair.
6. Dark chocolate and red wine
Hey, what can I say? Girls are programmed to lust after chocolate. Resveratrol, a substance in cacao and red wine, is the “it” supplement right now. But, in most cases, I believe we’re better off eating the whole food rather than taking supplements. Treat yourself on occasion (moderation, moderation) and eat a small chunk of high-grade dark chocolate. You might even pair it with 4 ounces of a nice Pinot Noir.
Past resveratrol posts: dark chocolate as health food, enlightened hot chocolate, carnival of love (red wine)
7. Beets and berries
Those of you who have following this blog for the past 4 years know I’m passionate about beets. Ridiculously so. I’ve been a beet girl my entire life. My mom says I ate them as a baby and grew up thinking they were dessert. I was lucky. I had a mom who fed me beets, spinach, and broccoli during the explosion of processed foods. I can’t remember ever having a Twinkie, sugary cereal, or Hamburger Helper. We ate real food, made from scratch. There are so many studies linking the nutrients in beets to good health that I won’t even try to list them all. Just trust me, they’re amazing. I have a lot of beet blog posts in my archives, but since summer is around the corner, here’s an ice cream recipe.
Apples are high in fiber, help balance blood sugar in several different ways (they’re magic), are anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, support healthy gut bacteria and are packed with goodness. Studies show positive results with age-related health problems as well (macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, etc.). I’m taking this “apple a day” thing seriously. Apples are sprayed with some seriously nasty stuff, so choose organic.
9. Swiss chard and leafy greens
Greens are true super foods. All greens are great sources of beneficial plant nutrients, but I’ll focus on Swiss chard since I’m on my “balance your blood sugar” rant. There’s a substance in chard (syringic acid if you must know) that has warrior princess power when it comes to blood sugar regulation. Chard (like beets) also contains a group of phytochemicals called betalains, which are high in antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory and promote detoxification.
10. Chick peas
How could I not include chick peas? Lucky for us, these little nutrient-dense namesakes help regulate blood sugar and are packed with fiber. I know, this blood sugar/fiber thing is getting tiresome, but it’s so important for long-term health, artful aging and hormone balance. Chick peas are also super high in the mineral manganese, which is an antioxidant involved with energy production. Who doesn’t want more energy? Check here for one of my favorite roasted chick pea recipes from Shirley at GFE.
Just as important is what you don’t eat. Avoid processed foods, refined sugar, soda pop, too much caffeine or alcohol, and junk food. Stick to whole foods with an emphasis on veggies and fruit.
Peace, love, and real food!
Image of Robert Lewis Reid painting courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
, beet greens
, beet root
, chick peas
, leafy greens
, red wine
Posted in Artful Aging
, Gluten-Free Recipes
, Nutrition Therapy
, Super Foods
| 51 Comments »
Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
I know, it’s fall and there’s a distinct chill in the air. If you live in the high country, you might even have a skiff of snow on the ground. Not exactly smoothie weather, but my detox buddy and I have been doing a fall cleanse for the past three weeks and smoothies have been a major part of our diet. Although I didn’t have the time this fall to document our progress like I did last spring, the results have been the same. I’ve lost a few pounds and feel light, healthy, energetic and rejuvenated. In fact, even though I do this every spring and fall, I’m always struck by how good I can feel. It’s a twice-yearly reminder to reset my health goals and pay attention to how I treat myself. Everything we eat, drink, breathe and absorb through our skin must be dealt with by the body. We’re exposed to a long list of icky environmental toxins on a daily basis. Periodic cleansing gives the body a chance to sort through the muck and unload some of that toxic burden that has accumulated over time. Every system and organ in the body is impacted by what we eat, but the liver is the workhorse. Periodic cleansing gives it a chance to catch up on its workload and regenerate, which is vital to overall wellness.
This smoothie is filled with antioxidant goodness, high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to boost health and combat free-radical damage. Hemp is one of nature’s best plant-based protein sources, containing all the essential amino acids the body needs. And no, you won’t flunk a drug test if you’ve had a hemp smoothie for breakfast. I’m a product of the sixties, a hippie-girl at heart, so the word “hemp” brings to mind marijuana, peace, love and tie-dyes. Having said that, I never inhaled.
Marijuana and hemp both come from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa L., but from different varieties. There are different breeds of dogs in the Canis familiari group – think Chihuahuas and my guy, Fairbanks. This is no different. Hemp protein powder and marijuana are not the same, so don’t worry that you’ll start wearing bell bottoms and sporting flowers in your hair. Or singing old Janis Joplin or Jefferson Airplane songs. Not that that’s a bad thing. “Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know.”
Quick, what’s that song?
hemp protein smoothie
what you need
2 ripe pears *
2 cups Romaine lettuce or spinach
1 ripe banana *
1 cup goat kefir or goat yogurt
1 cup coconut water
1/4 cup shredded raw zucchini
1/4 cup berries (any kind, organic preferred, frozen is fine)
3 tablespoons hemp protein powder
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
what you do
Wash and cut fruit, throw it in the blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend well. Makes 2 BIG servings or 4 small ones. If you don’t have this mix of ingredients, make up your own. Color outside the lines! Some of these ingredients were from my weekly CSA share. This is a great way to use fruit that is on the far-side of mid-life.
* Overly-ripe fruit is actually better in some ways, especially in smoothies. Ripe bananas are more alkalizing, green bananas are more acidic. Which foods give you the best chance for a healthy pH balance is for another post, but this is a good way to add alkalizing foods to the diet (that’s a good thing), so don’t toss overly ripe bananas. Use them in smoothies.
A sampling of nutritional highlights
Pears are in season now and full of vitamin C and copper, both of these nutrients help protect cells from free-radical damage. High in fiber and considered a “hypoallergenic” fruit, pears are not only healthy, but creamy and delicious as well.
Romaine lettuce is packed with nutrient goodness and contain only 7 or 8 calories per cup. You get a lot of bang for your buck with Romaine, but make it organic as the Environmental Working Group lists lettuce as one of the “dirty dozen” on their shopper’s guide to pesticides.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in anti-inflammatory properties, which may be protective against arthritis and joint inflammation. Guys – pumpkin seeds contain a rich blend of health-promoting minerals, including zinc which helps protect your “boy” parts and your bones. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found a connection between low zinc levels and osteoporosis of the hip and spine. We always think of osteoporosis as a female condition, but it can be a problem for older men as well.
Cinnamon contains unique essential oils that are anti-microbial and help balance yeast and bacteria in the intestinal tract. In addition, cinnamon helps balance blood sugar levels and is rich in fiber, iron, manganese and even calcium. Plus, cinnamon is sweet and tasty. I add it to everything I can think of.
For more cleansing information, check these posts from last spring; cleanse introduction, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, and a cleanse wrap-up.
Go forth and power up your smoothies! Singing songs from the sixties is optional.
Thursday, October 1st, 2009
I’d like to say it’s a lazy, hot summer day in Golden, Colorado, perfect for ripe, juicy seasonal watermelon. But no, it’s cold, windy and the low last night was 28 degrees. Not exactly picnic weather. More like hot chocolate, flannel jammies and furry slippers weather.
But, when you eat local and seasonal food, you go with the plant flow and it’s watermelon time, so put on a down parka and dig in!
I have been eating watermelon daily for the past three weeks. I’m really not complaining as you all know how much I love my weekly CSA share from Grant Family Farms. Yes, I’ll admit it – I love my farmers up the road in Wellington. Head over heels, stalkingly in love. But in a good veggie-fruit kind of way. Yes, Andy Grant is my version of Sting, a total rock star. Or rather a dirt star.
This smoothie was created using fruits and veggies from my recent share box. Mix and match according to what you have on hand, but this made for a perfect breakfast shake. While sitting by the fire, wrapped in a wool blankie, wearing mittens. Hey, nobody promised that eating seasonal in Colorado would always make sense.
watermelon chia seed smoothie (this is a winner)
2 cups watermelon chunks, seeds removed
2 cups mixed lettuce greens (the good stuff, not iceberg lettuce)
1 small apple, unpeeled and chopped
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup Redwood Hill Farms vanilla goat yogurt
1/2 to 1 scoop Chia Seeds (this is what I use)
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Place all ingredients in the blender and mix well. If your watermelon is juicy enough, you’ll have a perfect smoothie without adding any liquid. This was absolutely delicious and something even picky kids will love (or you green-food-avoiding grownups – you know who you are). The green, leafy stuff is practically unnoticeable.
Chia (chee-ah) is an edible seed from a desert plant that is a member of the mint family. Like quinoa was to the Inca Indians, chia was warrior food for the Aztecs and Mayans.
Total Zena, Warrior Princess food.
Chia is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, niacin, zinc and blah, blah, blah. These little nutty-tasting seeds truly are power-packed. The high fiber content makes them perfect for slowing down the process by which carbs are converted to sugar, so energy levels are more balanced. Chia is great mixed into trail bars, granola, muffins and hot cereal.
Go forth and thrive!
Zena, Warrior Princess
Monday, May 18th, 2009
Miles, my favorite blogging chef recently published a post extolling the benefits of grinding your own spices (along with a recipe for curry). I’ve been following his blog for quite some time now and because of his influence, and the fact that he patiently answers my food questions (thanks, Miles), I’ve purchased my own spice grinder and pestle and mortar and I’m learning the nuances of what fresh spice or herb to use and when. Plus, if I start from scratch with a cumin seed and not a blend of spices, I know exactly what I’m eating. No possibility of gluten cooties.
When you have food issues and an assortment of ingredients are off limits, learning the fine (and not-so-fine) art of culinary experimentation becomes all the more important. Without getting too sappy, I’m lucky to have an innate interest and love for high-quality and nourishing food, making my gluten-free journey a gift and not a burden. I actually find it fun.
This recipe is an expression of my growing interest in spices and herbs, which by the way have all kinds of healing properties. So, let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.
Spicy squash salad
serves 8 picnicers (is that a word?)
what you need
3 to 4 cups squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1 inch cubes *
1 cup raisins
1 chopped apple *
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO for GDave)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon *
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin *
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
what you do
1. Cook squash in large pot of simmering water until knife tender (it won’t take long, maybe 5 to 10 minutes). Add raisins during the last minute of cooking. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool.
2. Whisk together lemon juice, EVOO, garlic, honey, salt, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne in large serving bowl. Add squash, raisins, apple, cilantro and pecans. Toss lightly to coat. Serve at room temperature.
Adjust the dressing as needed. This may be too much or too little for your taste.
* Butternut squash is good in this recipe. You can also use sweet potatoes.
* I almost always use Fuji apples, because I’m addicted to them. Seriously addicted.
* I’m grinding my own cinnamon and cumin, but the pre-ground version is fine. Cinnamon helps keep blood sugar levels balanced and works as a circulatory stimulant. It’s also a carminative (fancy word for helps reduce gas and bloating). Cumin has been used in Ayurvedic healing for thousands of years. It stimulates the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, aiding digestion.
Go forth and spice up your food!
Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and
should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.