Learning to Love Turmeric

turmeric picI’ve been wanting to write a blog on turmeric for awhile, as it’s one of my latest “discoveries”. Well, I’ve been wanting to write ANY blog lately, so here it goes!

Turmeric is one of the latest “in” spices in the United States, but in places such as India they have known for a long time that this spice has many health benefits.  There it is used not only in cooking dishes, but in medicines as well and it is thought to help with a multitude of ailments.

Curcumin is the main compound in turmeric that has been studied for its health benefits, primarily the fact that it is an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.  It is well established that chronic inflammation is bad for us, so turmeric may have a role in fighting that, but the dose is up for debate, as it probably takes more turmeric than you would find in a single entrée to receive any real health benefit. It is of note that curcumin is only a small constituent of turmeric, and not a well absorbed one at that. It is better absorbed if consumed with black pepper, but still the amount one gets from food is relatively small, unless consumed on a regular basis-which maybe we should be!

Turmeric may also help with improved brain function and heart health, as well as cancer prevention. The list goes on, although those are the main ones with the most research on them.  Given all these possible health benefits, I think it’s worth incorporating turmeric into your diet, as long as you are not relying on it alone to fix any health issues. You may have even had turmeric already and not even known it- it’s what gives curry its yellow color. By the way it can stain, so be careful when cooking with it. I have the yellow baking sheets to prove that!

You can buy turmeric supplements to get a bigger dose, but I always prefer food first. It doesn’t have a strong flavor, so can easily be added to dishes you already make. Try adding it to soups, stews, and curries, sprinkling it over roasted sweet potato cubes or eggs, or try the recipe below.

 

Cauliflower “Buddha” Bowl with Chicken Sausage

Makes 2 servings

2 cups cauliflower rice (can find pre-made at Trader Joes)

2 cups shredded or quartered Brussels sprouts (can find pre-shredded at Trader Joes)

1 small sweet potato, peeled and shredded

2 sweet apple chicken sausage links (pre-cooked), sliced into ½ inch thick coins

2 eggs, poached

1 teaspoon turmeric

Black pepper, to taste

Salt, to taste

Light/cooking olive oil

 

Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add cauliflower, turmeric, and black pepper and mix well. Add Brussel sprouts to cauliflower and cook until soft, 5-10 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt, if desired. Add chicken sausage and cook another 2-3 minutes, until sausages are warmed and lightly browned.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat another tablespoon of olive oil and add sweet potato. Cook hash brown style, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy, 10-15 minutes.

Eggs may be poached or cooked sunny side up in a small pan with cooking spray. Leave yolks slightly runny to create a “sauce” for the bowl.

Divide all ingredients evenly amongst 2 bowls and top with poached eggs. Mix and enjoy!

Strengthening Your Immune System

photo(19) I’m always paranoid about getting sick during the week or two before a big race.  And in the past I have gotten sick during hard training cycles or immediately after a hard race. Moderate amounts of exercise are generally thought to help boost the immune system, but when you are training hard and long, such as for a marathon, that doesn’t always seem to be the case. So what’s the deal?

Turns out that longer duration exercise impacts the immune system in several ways. One of the main issues is that stress of any kind, including exercise, stimulates the body to produce cortisol and other stress hormones which suppress the immune system. In small amounts your body adapts to the stress and comes back stronger, but it doesn’t always get a chance to do that when in the peak of training for an endurance event. Additionally, studies have found a significantly reduced amount of killer cells, a type of white blood cell that helps fight invading pathogens, in runners who just ran a half marathon. Those cells remained reduced for up to 24 hours, suggesting that runners are at an increased risk of infection in the day or so after a race. Other studies have hypothesized that athletes are most vulnerable for up to 72 hours after a race or hard workout.

So what’s a PR seeking athlete to do?!

Of course many of the main recommendations for runners to stay healthy are the same as for the general public:

  • Limit exposure to sick people (as much as possible at least).
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly (remember to sing Happy Birthday). Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, where germs can easily get into your body.
  • Manage other possible stressors in your life. Practice yoga or meditation or even seek out a therapist if you feel particularly stressed about other aspects of life.
  • Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep at night. Studies show a decrease in immune function with <6 hours of sleep a night. Athletes should probably aim for 8-10 hours.

Additionally, athletes should:

  • Make sure you are taking rest days in your training cycle.
  • Build up your mileage at an appropriate rate to minimize added stress.
  • Limit your post race high fives and handshakes (if you’re really worried).

You should also pay attention to your nutrition for improved immune function:

  • Eat a well balanced diet.
  • Fuel adequately during workouts and training sessions. If you are running longer than 90 minutes make sure you are fueling yourself with adequate carbohydrate (30-60 grams per hour is the general recommendation but it really depends on the person so consult a Sports RD!). When your body does not get enough carbohydrate during prolonged exercise cortisol and other stress hormone levels are raised more than if you fuel properly.
  • Make sure you are practicing good recovery by having a recovery snack that contains carbohydrate and protein within 30 min of finishing tough training sessions and races.
  • Hydration is also important, as water helps flush out the system. Your urine should be pale yellow to clear.
  • Include plenty of fruits and veggies in your diet. Antioxidants found in fruits and veggies help fight free radical damage. The vitamins and minerals help support the immune system. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” didn’t come from nothing!
  • Make sure you are getting adequate protein in your diet. Aim for 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For a 150 lb athlete that would be 82-109 grams of protein each day.
  • Make sure you are getting plenty of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, and zinc, as these are key players involved in maintaining immune health. It’s best not to rely on a supplement, so focus on diet first.  Try strawberries for vitamin C, sweet potatoes for vitamin A, almonds for vitamin E, and pumpkin seeds for zinc. Or just try the recipes below!
  • Consider probiotics. You gut is really one of the first lines of defense for your immune system, so make sure it is healthy and happy.

Add a protein to these two recipes and you have a complete immune boosting meal!

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Pumpkin Seeds

(Makes 1 salad)

1-2 cups spinach, washed and bite sized

1 TBSP pumpkin seeds (out of the shell!)

½ cup strawberries, quartered

1 oz Goat or Feta cheese

½ TBSP olive oil mixed with ½ TBSP balsamic vinegar

 

Roasted Almond Sweet Potatoes (from the Almond Board of California)

(Makes 6 servings)

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubessweet potato

3 TBSP olive oil

4 large garlic cloves (also thought to help boost immunity!), minced

1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves

½ tsp kosher salt

½ cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and toss. Arrange potato slices into a single layer on a heavyweight rimmed baking sheet or in a 9×13 inch baking sheet. Place on the top rack of the oven and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 40 minutes. On another baking sheet, spread out the slivered almonds. Place in the oven and toast until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the almond baking sheet and the sweet potatoes. Mix together in a serving bowl and serve warm.

Stay Healthy!

Simple Green Smoothie Recipe

It’s gegreensmoothietting warm out, and that means I’m starting to crave smoothies again!  I’m a fan of green smoothies because they are a simple and delicious way to get in lots of nutrition.

Below is my favorite recipe:

8 oz coconut milk (or other milk if preferred)
1-2 handfuls spinach
1/2 cucumber, cubed and preferably frozen
1 green apple, cubed
1 banana, sliced and frozen
1/4 avocado

Makes about 16 oz of smoothie.

 

Recipe: Kale Quinoa Bowl with Poached Egg

photo(20)I get bored with the same old dinners, so I did an experiment tonight and I thought it turned out quite well! Check it out yourself.

(Serves 4)

1 cup quinoa, dry

1 bunch kale, torn into bite size pieces

2 cloves garlic

4 eggs

4 TBSP shredded coconut, sweetened if you like salty/sweet flavors mixed, unsweetened if not

½ cup slivered almonds

Olive oil

Salt and pepper, if desired

 

Prepare quinoa according to package directions (typically boiling 2 cups water with 1 cup quinoa and simmering for 15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed).

While quinoa is cooking, dice garlic and saute in olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add kale and saute a few more minutes, until kale is partially wilted. Add ½ of the almonds to the kale/garlic mixture during the last minute, so that they become slightly toasted. Add the other ½ of the almonds to the cooked quinoa and mix thoroughly.

Poach eggs in boiling water until whites are thoroughly cooked. Make sure yolk is still runny!

Portion cooked quinoa amongst 4 bowls and top each bowl with ¼ of the kale mixture, 1 TBSP shredded coconut and 1 poached egg. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

 

Running and Your Immune System

DSC03178          My training for my first marathon had been going pretty well, until I caught a cold during what was supposed to be my highest mileage week. So as I work on accepting that I will be running my first marathon with my longest training run only being 18 miles (I’ll be well rested!), I’m also pondering how my training has impacted my immune system. Moderate amounts of exercise are generally thought to help boost the immune system, but when you are training hard and long, such as for a marathon, that doesn’t always seem to be the case. So what’s the deal?

Turns out that longer duration exercise impacts the immune system in several ways. One of the main issues is that stress of any kind, including exercise, stimulates the body to produce cortisol and other stress hormones which suppress the immune system. In small amounts your body adapts to the stress and comes back stronger, but it doesn’t always get a chance to do that when in the peak of training for an endurance event. Additionally, studies have found a significantly reduced amount of killer cells, a type of white blood cell that helps fight invading pathogens, in runners who just ran a half marathon. Those cells remained reduced for up to 24 hours, suggesting that runners are at an increased risk of infection in the day or so after a race. Other studies have hypothesized that athletes are most vulnerable for up to 72 hours after a race or hard workout.

So what’s a PR seeking runner to do?!

Of course many of the main recommendations for runners to stay healthy are the same as for the general public:

  • Limit exposure to sick people (as much as possible at least).
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly (remember to sing Happy Birthday). Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, where germs can easily get into your body.
  • Manage other possible stressors in your life. Practice yoga or meditation or even seek out a therapist if you feel particularly stressed about other aspects of life.
  • Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep at night. Studies show a decrease in immune function with <6 hours of sleep a night. Athletes should probably aim for 8-10 hours.

 

Additionally, athletes should:

  • Make sure you are taking rest days in your training cycle.
  • Build up your mileage at an appropriate rate to minimize added stress.
  • Limit your post race high fives and handshakes (if you’re really worried).

You should also pay attention to your nutrition for improved immune function:

  • Eat a well balanced diet.
  • Fuel adequately during workouts and training sessions. If you are running longer than 90 minutes make sure you are fueling yourself with adequate carbohydrate (30-60 grams per hour is the general recommendation). When your body does not get enough carbohydrate during prolonged exercise cortisol and other stress hormone levels are raised more than if you fuel properly.
  • Make sure you are practicing good recovery by having a recovery snack that contains carbohydrate and protein within 30 min of finishing tough training sessions and races.
  • Hydration is also important, as water helps flush out the system. Your urine should be pale yellow to clear.
  • Include plenty of fruits and veggies in your diet. Antioxidants found in fruits and veggies help fight free radical damage. The vitamins and minerals help support the immune system. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” didn’t come from nothing!
  • Make sure you are getting adequate protein in your diet. Aim for 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For a 150 lb athlete that would be 82-109 grams of protein each day.
  • Make sure you are getting plenty of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, and zinc, as these are key players involved in maintaining immune health. It’s best not to rely on a supplement, so focus on diet first.  Try strawberries for vitamin C, sweet potatoes for vitamin A, almonds for vitamin E, and pumpkin seeds for zinc. Or just try the recipes below!
  • Consider probiotics. You gut is really one of the first lines of defense for your immune system, so make sure it is healthy and happy.

 

Add a protein to these two recipes and you have a complete immune boosting meal!

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Pumpkin Seeds

(Makes 1 salad)

1-2 cups spinach, washed and bite sized

1 TBSP pumpkin seeds (out of the shell!)

½ cup strawberries, quartered

1 oz Goat or Feta cheese

½ TBSP olive oil mixed with ½ TBSP balsamic vinegar

 

Roasted Almond Sweet Potatoes (from the Almond Board of California)

(Makes 6 servings)

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubessweet potato

3 TBSP olive oil

4 large garlic cloves (also thought to help boost immunity!), minced

1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves

½ tsp kosher salt

½ cup slivered almonds

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and toss. Arrange potato slices into a single layer on a heavyweight rimmed baking sheet or in a 9×13 inch baking sheet. Place on the top rack of the oven and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 40 minutes. On another baking sheet, spread out the slivered almonds. Place in the oven and toast until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the almond baking sheet and the sweet potatoes. Mix together in a serving bowl and serve warm.

 

 

 

Stay Healthy!

Coconut Almond Crusted Mahi Mahi

I’ve been trying to incorporate more fish into my diet. Here is one of my favorite fish recipes!

 

Makes 2 servings

2 -6 oz mahi mahi fillets (or other white fish)

1 egg

1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut (may sub unsweetened if you don’t like sweet or are watching sugar/calorie intake)

 

Mix together coconut and almonds and put on a plate or in a large bowl. Whisk egg in a small bowl and dip each fish fillet into egg. Be sure to coat both sides of fish with egg. Immediately dip coated fish in the coconut/almond mixture.

Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat. Cook fish until opaque and flaky, usually about 3-4 min on each side.

Recipe: Quinoa with Spinach, Almonds, and Cranberries

You’ve heard by now that quinoa is good for you.  Whole grain, high protein, high fiber, and gluten free….need I say more? Plain quinoa, however, is a little boring so spice dinner up with the recipe below. It saves well for leftovers and can be served with a protein and veggie of your choice for a complete and delicious meal.

Image

Tofu and Brussels sprouts make it a delicious and healthy meal!

Makes 4 servings

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups spinach

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup sliced almonds

2 TBSP olive oil

2 cups vegetable broth

Cook quinoa based on package directions using vegetable broth instead of water (usually 2 cups liquid for 1 cup quinoa and simmer for 15-20 minutes). Add dried cranberries and almonds during last 2 minutes of cooking and stir.

While quinoa cooks wilt spinach in olive oil over medium heat. Add cooked spinach to quinoa mixture and stir to fluff. Serve warm.