Tag Archives | blood sugar

Six Ways to Spice Up Your Health

I don’t know about you, but November totally snuck up on me!

It seems like Mister Wes and I were JUST getting started grilling and having dinners on the deck. 

But, I’m not really that upset about it. There is something refreshing and comforting about bundling up in sweaters and scarves, inhaling the cool air and sipping on warming soups.

(I know, I know….I might feel differently about it when we’re knee-high in snow drifts! For now, just let me remain positive.)

Fall is the perfect time to bring out warming spices for cool weather drinks and dishes. From homemade hot chocolate to pumpkin spice muffins, there are certain spices that pair perfectly with the crisp leaves and shorter days of autumn.

Is there anything better than oatmeal with cinnamon or a little cayenne in your hot cocoa?

However, spices can do so much more than just enhance the flavor of your food – they can also enhance your health. Head on over to the blog to check out my six favorite fall spices to enjoy amazing flavors and incredible health benefits!

CINNAMON is a powerful antioxidant that can improve insulin response and help keep blood sugar under control. Research shows that eating half a teaspoon of cinnamon daily reduces risk factors for diabetes and heart disease within six weeks.

How to use it: Cinnamon is commonly used in oatmeal and other breakfast foods. But, it pairs well with savory dishes as well like fall squashes, lamb and chicken. Search for Moroccan recipes, which frequently use cinnamon.
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NUTMEG contains antibacterial compounds that can help fight germs in your mouth. The primary substance is macelignan, which reduces plaque formation by 50 percent and eradicates cavity-producing microbes, according to Italian researchers.

How to use it: Nutmeg pairs well with winter squashes, leafy greens as well as yogurt. Try it in coffee or homemade hot chocolate.
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GINGER is known for it’s ability to calm upset stomach and relieve nausea, but it has also been shown to help decrease pain. Gingerol, a chemical in ginger, is thought to reduce inflammation and block nerve pathways that process pain.

How to use it: Ginger is a great addition to stir-fries, cabbage slaws and in pureed pumpkin soup.
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TURMERIC, also found in curry powders, is given its bright yellow color by curcumin. This powerful substance is getting a lot of attention in the scientific community for it’s potential anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

How to use it: Curry and turmeric are essential for Indian curry dishes. You can also add turmeric to sautéed leafy greens, or blend it with honey and add it to hot water for a refreshing hot drink.
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CAYENNE helps crank up your body’s thermostat by giving your metabolism a nice boost, thanks to the substance capsaicin. On a side note, use a sprinkle of cayenne on a cut to staunch bleeding. Surprisingly, this does not sting as you might expect!

How to use it: A small amount of cayenne doesn’t add spice as much as it adds just a touch of heat to dishes. If you are a fast eater, adding just a small pinch of cayenne can help slow you down. Cayenne is perfect for chili or on roasted winter squash.
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CUMIN can provide up to 22 percent of your daily iron intake in just one tablespoon. Preliminary research has also shown that this spice can boost your brainpower: in an animal study, consuming cumin extract was shown to improve performance on memory tests.

How to use it: Cumin is used in Indian, Mexican and Spanish dishes. You can use it already ground, or toast the seeds for a stronger flavor. From black beans and rice to Indian curry, cumin is an all around spice that can be used in a variety of ways.

Comments { 2 } · Posted on November 10, 2015 in General

Stressed? This hormone might be to blame.

There are two types of stress – external and internal.

External stress comes from outside of us, some of which we have no control over. Over the holidays things like crowded stores, back to back holiday parties and finding the perfect gift for a loved one can make our blood pressure rise sharply.

Internal stress comes from inside of us and can determine how well we cope with external stresses. Internal stress includes our nutritional status, presence of illness or infection and our thoughts and attitudes. At the center of internal stress is a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, two walnut sized glands that sit on top of our kidneys, and is released mainly in response to stress and low blood sugar levels. Too much cortisol can start an inflammatory response in the body leading to fatigue, depressed immune system, low nutrient absorption and other concerns.

You can’t do much about the long lines at the grocery store, but there are ways to support your adrenal glands so they don’t have to pump out as much cortisol.

Here are four ways to combat high cortisol:

Balance Blood Sugar: One important job cortisol has is to tell stored fat to convert back to sugar so our blood sugar levels don’t drop to a dangerous level. That is a great safety mechanism if we can’t get food for a few hours. However, many of us skip meals or wait until we are ravenous to finally grab a bite to eat. Avoid drastic drops in blood sugar by eating every 3-4 hours, packing snacks and getting protein at every meal.

Eat Stress Busting Foods: The adrenal glands favorite nutrients are vitamin C, saturated fat and minerals. For vitamin C load up on pumpkin, squash, oranges, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. The easiest forms of saturated fat for our bodies to process come from avocados, coconut oil and sunflower seeds. You can easily get minerals in your diet by eating sea vegetables. Go our for sushi and use kombu (a type of dried seaweed) in your stocks, soups and stews.

Flush Cortisol Effectively: When the body is flooded with cortisol we want it to exit as quickly and efficiently as possible. Getting a massage is a great way to help flush cortisol from the body. If you can’t schedule a massage, simply rub your shoulders, arms, legs and feet yourself. Or, get your partner involved! Just tell them your sanity and their safety depends on it.

Think Happy Thoughts: It might sound trite, but our thoughts and attitudes have a huge impact on our stress levels. Just THINKING about a stressful situation puts the body into stress mode and the adrenal glands start pumping out cortisol. You can stop the cortisol flow by taking a deep breath and thinking positively. If it worked for the Grinch so it can work for us too!

I want to hear how you combat stress! Do you meditate, go for a run, snuggle with your pet or just let out a nice long scream? Tell me.

Article originally published in the Sentinel newspaper and on Cumberlink.com

Comments { 2 } · Posted on November 18, 2014 in General

Tasty trail mix with toasted coconut

Food….I never leave home without it!

No matter where I go I always have some sort of snack stashed in my purse. If I’m on the run all day I pack a whole grocery bag of goodies. Yes, it might seem a little much but it certainly saves me from scrounging for something while I’m out and about and my blood sugar start going dangerously low.

I used to not be this prepared. In the past I wouldn’t eat until my blood sugar was dangerously low – I would feel tired, my heart would start beating faster and I would get the worst case of hangry (hungry AND angry). My friends and family knew that when my eyes started to glaze over and my sense of humor disappeared it was time to feed Tanya. NOW!

hangry

When you’re constantly fighting that blood sugar roller coaster you will always default to the worst choice possible – chocolate bars, blueberry muffins, coffee cake and ice cream will be your defaults. These were my regular snacks and meals for a long time. Nearly 10 years ago when Mr. Wes and I first met he wooed me with candy gummies, lollipops, candy bars and scooter crunch ice cream. I kid you not! He put boxes of candy in the interoffice mail to me when we worked together and met me in my college parking lot after class with a cooler full of ice cream. We laugh now that my standards are much higher now so he has to work a little harder!

My favorite snack to keep on hand is trail mix. Sure, there are plenty of ready made trail mixes to buy and some stores even have “trail mix bars” where you can mix your own. However, those nuts are usually salted and roasted in low quality oils. Some even have sugar, preservatives and other funky ingredients in them. I say, save your money and mix your own!

The secret ingredient to my trail mix is toasted coconut. Coconut contains lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid which increases HDL (good) cholesterol and is utilized as a source of energy instead of being stored as fat. Plus, it’s delicious!

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So, before you get hangry, get these ingredients and make your own totally tasty trail mix! These are the ingredients I like to use but you can certainly experiment and make your own. In the comments below tell me what you like to add to your trail mix.

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Tasty Trail Mix with Toasted Coconut

Ingredients 

Handful of each of the following:
large coconut flakes (make sure they are unsweetened)
cashews and almonds
pumpkin seeds
raw cacao nibs or chocolate chips (I like The Good Life brand)
Raisins and chopped dried apricots

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place coconut on a baking sheet and toast for 5-6 minutes. It will brown VERY quickly so keep a close eye on it. You want it to brown very slightly.
  2. Mix the nuts, seeds, cocoa nibs or chocolate chips, raisins and dried apricots in a large bowl. Add the toasted coconut and mix until well combined.
  3. Store your trail mix in jars or divide up into baggies for easy grab and go. Enjoy!
Comments { 0 } · Posted on November 7, 2013 in General, Healthy Recipes

White Bean and Olive Spread and Herbed Quark Spread

Finding a healthy snack or lunch option at work can be like walking through a minefield. First you have to make it past the office candy bowl full of Halloween chocolates, sneak around the cookies in the vending machine and avoid eye contact with the cupcakes in the office kitchen. When that midday slump creeps up on us it’s hard to not reach for the nearest sugary treat to give us a jumpstart.

Once you start fueling yourself with “the white stuff” you will be on the sugar rollercoaster all day long. Not fun! One minute you feel great and totally energized, the next your energy level has left the building and you’re sneaking back to the office kitchen for “just one more cupcake.” And, once you’re on the ride it’s nearly impossible to get off.

Bringing your own snacks and lunches to work is key in not falling down the sugar rabbit hole. However, not just any snack will do! Focusing on snacks and lunches with protein and healthy fats will help keep your blood sugar stable, your energy up and your mind focused. Plus, your sugar cravings will decrease and you won’t give that vending machine a second glance.

With everything else you have to do when you get home from work there isn’t a lot of time for packing a lunch. That is why I really love making spreads that I can use on a sandwich or as a dip for crackers and veggies. Just pack them in small glass container or jars and they are ready for you to spread away! Spreads and dips are also a wonderful protein-rich after school snack for your kids instead of sugar-laden cereals, cookies, crackers and pre-packaged trail mixes.

This week I’ve included 2 recipes for my favorite spreads. They can be used on their own for a filling veggie sandwich or in addition to a meat sandwich instead of mayo. If you want to make it super quick, then use them as a dip for your favorite cracker or veggies.

White Bean and Olive Spread with Sundried Tomatoes

Serves 3-5

1 15-ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons kalamata olives, chopped
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
Juice of ½ a lemon
Sea salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the beans, olive oil, olives, tomatoes and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Roughly mash the mixture with the back of a fork.
  2. Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
  3. You can use this to make a sandwich with sprouts, thinly sliced red onion and avocado. It is also a wonderful dip for crackers or veggies.

Herbed Quark Spread

Quark is a type of cheese with a creamy texture similar to Greek yogurt and a refreshing tangy taste. It is very popular in Europe and used as a dip, spread, in cakes and even on the skin to alleviate pain and clear blemishes. Quark is a rich source of protein, high in calcium for strong bones and teeth, vitamin A for healthy eyesight and B vitamins to support the nervous system. Try it as a savory spread or as a sweet breakfast option with your favorite berries, nuts or granola!

1 container of quark
Selection of fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, oregano and tarragon
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the quark, herbs and splash of lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix until well combined.
  2. Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  3. This spread is perfect on a hearty multigrain bread with thinly sliced radishes. It is also a great topping for baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower.
Comments { 0 } · Posted on October 25, 2013 in Healthy Recipes

Apples – from doctors to dessert

The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” sounds like an overused and antiquated saying. But, don’t dismiss this incredible fall fruit so quickly! Pennsylvania apple growers produce approximately 440 million pounds of apples each year, making us the 4th largest apple producer in the country. There’s no reason to not be meeting your daily apple quota.

Apples are a rich source of pectin, a type of fiber found in fruits, that can help lower cholesterol, promote beneficial intestinal flora, and support normal colon function. They are also high in quercetin and other antioxidant flavonoids that can help protect you from cancer, heart disease, and asthma. Apples pack a punch in vitamin C, making them an ideal food to support your immune system as we head into the colder months. Sure puts that old saying into perspective, doesn’t it?

When eating apples or any other fruit it is a good idea to pair it with some form of fat. This will help keep your blood sugar stable and makes it a more satisfying meal. Almond and peanut butter, a handful of raw nuts, cheese or yogurt are all great additions to any fruit.

I always have apples in my fruit bowl at home. Not only are they a perfect on-the-go snack, but they can be added to everything from soups to salads. A slice of crisp apple on a sandwich can also be a nice addition.

And then there is dessert! Apples are great baked in the oven, in pies and crisps. However, sometimes we want a sweet treat without turning on the oven and dealing with 50 ingredients. Not to mention all the clean up! This weeks’ recipe is a “jack of all trades”. You can use it as a delicious dessert, a quick midday snack and it’s even perfect for breakfast. That’s right! Serve this dessert for breakfast and your kids will never leave hungry for school again!

One delicious way to serve this recipe is with some homemade granola. I make big batches of granola every few weeks and Mr. Wes eats it by the handfuls. So, not wanting to leave you high and dry I’ve included my granola recipe below for you. Enjoy!

Sautéed Cinnamon Apples with Maple Yogurt and Chopped Nuts

Ingredients

½ tablespoon organic butter
2 medium apples, chopped
½ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup plain organic yogurt
1 tablespoon real maple syrup
drizzle of vanilla extract
handful of chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds and pecans are great)

Instructions

  1. In a large sauté pan heat the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped apples and cook, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften, about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the cinnamon and nutmeg to the apples and stir until well combined. Divide the apples into 4 serving bowls.
  3. In a medium bowl mix the yogurt, maple syrup and vanilla. Spoon the maple yogurt over the apples and top with chopped nuts or granola. Enjoy!

Serving suggestions: You can make the apples ahead of time and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. Add them to your morning oatmeal or granola.

Maple Granola with Nuts and Seeds

Ingredients

4 cups rolls oats (aka old fashioned oats. If you are gluten free pick up the gluten free oats from Bob’s Red Mill)
2 cups crispy brown rice cereal (Erewhon is a good brand. Often found in the gluten free section of the grocery store)
1 ½ cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped almonds
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup apple sauce
½ cup real maple syrup (can also use ¼ cup brown rice syrup and ¼ cup maple syrup)
¼ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup raisins

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees
  2. In a large bowl mix together all dry ingredients. In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together the applesauce, syrup, molasses and vanilla extract.
  3. Pour wet mixture over dry and mix until everything is well coated.
  4. Transfer mixture to two large baking sheets and spread out evenly.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes and then give the granola a little stir. Often the pieces on the outside of the sheet brown faster. Bake for another 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool before putting into jars. It will not be totally crunchy when you take it out of the oven. That happens as it cools and dries.
  6. Add the raisins to each pan and toss until well combined. Store your granola in jars in your pantry. Enjoy!

Variations: Experiment with your own mix of nuts, seeds and spices. Almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, sunflower and sesame seeds are all great additions. You can also add more cinnamon or sweetners if you prefer. You can also use cooked canned pumpkin in place of the applesauce. Just be sure the only ingredient is pumpkin and it doesn’t have added sugars, spices or flavorings.

Comments { 1 } · Posted on September 5, 2013 in Healthy Recipes

Savory Bean Salad with Onions and Herbs

I’m a total bean fanatic. Not a week goes by that I don’t have a bowl of dried beans soaking on my countertop. White beans, black beans, scarlet runner beans, pinto beans…they all get a turn in soup, chili and salads. They also make appearances as dips, fillings for omelets or sautéed with a little chopped bacon. Yum! And, wherever I use beans, fresh herbs are not far behind. Combining rich, creamy beans with savory herbs is a mouthwatering combination that has no limits.

Here’s why you need to get on the bean bandwagon!

1.    Your Friend Fiber: Beans are a great source of fiber. Fiber is known for “keeping you regular” but it does so much more than that! It helps maintain normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, while keeping unwanted pounds off.

2.    Protein Power: Beans are a great vegetarian source of protein and loaded with other nutrients such as calcium, potassium and zinc. Consider replacing one meat meal each week with a bean dish such as a veggie chili. If you need that meat taste sauté the beans with a little ham or bacon and then toss in a handful of chopped kale for a complete meal.

3.    Cook ‘Em with Kombu: Kombu is a seaweed that is sold dried in strips or sheets. Adding a strip of kombu to your bean cooking water helps increase your beans digestibility and prevents the “toot” that beans are well-known for. You can find kombu at most health food stores. The farmers market is overflowing with a huge variety of herbs right now.

You can use virtually any combination of herbs and beans in this recipe to change it up. Basil and sundried tomatoes would be amazing, as would black beans with avocado and mango. The possibilities are endless!

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Savory Bean Salad with Onions and Herbs

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 small sweet potato
1 cup dried beans such as pinto or great northern (you can also a 2 cans of beans)
strip of kombu (optional)
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of savory fresh herbs, roughly chopped (sage, oregano and hyssop are good choices)
Small handful parsley, chopped
Juice of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon real maple syrup or honey
pinch of salt and fresh pepper

Instructions

  1. If using dried beans, soak the beans in water overnight. Add juice of half a lemon and 2 pinches of salt to the soaking water.
  2. To cook the beans, strain them from the soaking water. Put in a medium pot with 3 cups of water, the kombu and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes until beans are tender but still have a bite. Strain in a fine mesh sieve and place beans in a serving bowl and add the onion.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place the sweet potato in a small covered baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes until soft but not too mushy. You want the potato to hold its shape. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. Once cooled down, cut the potato into bite-sized pieces and add to the beans.
  4. Place the sliced onion in a bowl and cover with water. Let sit while you’re preparing the dressing.
  5. To make the combine the herbs, parsley, lemon, olive oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until well combined.
  6. Add the onions to the bean and potato mixture. Pour half the dressing over the mixture and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing and/or salt if necessary. Enjoy!

Cooking tip: You can cook the beans and bake the potato a day or two ahead of time. Then, all you have to do is assemble! You can store this salad for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Comments { 0 } · Posted on June 7, 2013 in General