• Cherry and Almond Superfood Chocolate Smoothie

    This is one of my favorite smoothie recipes.  It’s a great smoothie to have during times when you are really working your body hard with training or muscle building because it has lots of protein and the cherries help to reduce inflammation.

    Approximate Recipe for 2 Servings:

    • ¾ cup pitted cherries.  I just use frozen organic ones, unless they happen to be in season
    • 2 tablespoons cocoa – I like mine extra chocolately, reduce if you don’t
    • 2 tablespoons almond butter
    • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
    • 2 teaspoons ground flaxseed
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • Generous dash of cinnamon
    • 1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk or hemp milk

    Cherries contain significant amounts of beta carotene, vitamin C, fiber and potassium.  They are also full of quercetin and anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that can help  reduce inflammation from muscle strain or arthritis.  Some studies have shown the reduction to be similar to some well-known pain medications.  Cherries also contain a significant amount of melatonin, which can help regulate sleep and ease irritability.

    As I discussed in another smoothie recipe (the banana chocolate smoothie) idea post, cocoa is full of flavonoids, which can help to prevent heart disease by decreasing blood pressure, reducing inflammation, balancing good and bad cholesterol and improving blood vessel health.  Cocoa and the cinnamon (which I put in most things that also have a sugar component like fruit or honey) help to decrease insulin resistance and help the body better deal with consuming natural sugars for prevention of Type 2 Diabetes.

    I always try to sneak coconut oil and flaxseed in to my smoothies.  The coconut oil has a special medium chain triglyceride in the form of lauric acid, which helps to increase the good HDL cholesterol in the blood.  Coconut oil helps to prevent fungal and bacterial infections in the body as well.  The flaxseed adds fiber as well as omega-3 essential fatty acids.  Be sure to get it ground, as the body can’t absorb the nutrition from the whole seeds.

    I usually have almond milk on hand, but hemp milk works great too.  The hemp adds extra protein.  If you are purchasing the almond milk (as opposed to making it), be sure to buy the stuff that is unsweetened and then sweeten the smoothie to your liking with local honey to help deal with allergens and get a good dose of the antibacterial benefits of consuming honey.

    The almond butter adds a natural source of protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats.  The health benefits of almonds are well known and include the ability to help improve cholesterol ratios, control weight gain and prevent heart disease.  They are good sources of magnesium, manganese, riboflavin and vitamin E.  The magnesium helps to prevent muscles aches and pains.

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  • Vinegar Water Health Tonic

    Vinegar is a panacea that has been used over the millenia for internal and external bodily health and to maintain homes and possessions.  Vinegar has a wide range of healthy functions and can be used to help with anything from digestion to cleaning to cooking.  I use it in a lot of different ways but this post will focus on one of my habits that I do every day to maintain good health – drinking vinegar water.

    Vinegar is primarily  acetic acid and its etymology is related to the French words for sour wine.  It is created by a two-step fermentation process.  The first step in the process is the fermentation of sugar in to alcohol.  The sugar can be from any natural source.  In the case of apple cider vinegar (ACV), the source of the sugar is the juice of apples.  Other vinegars you may be familiar with come from other fruits or grains such as rice, malt, or grapes (for wine vinegar).  Once the alcoholic liquid has been produced from fermentation, the second part of the process begins.  Naturally occuring bacteria begin to combine the solution with oxygen.  This process forms the acetic acid solution we know as vinegar (along with other minerals, aminos and nutrients).  You might have experienced this naturally when you haven’t finished a bottle of wine and it goes sour.

    Vinegar has been touted to have amazing benefits.  It has been cited as preventing obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, cancer, common colds, arthritis and aging.  It is also thought to boost immunity and serve as a natural antibacterial and antifungal agent.  While some of these claims are pumped up, vinegar does have some real health benefits that I believe in:

    • Increases calcium absorption.  The acid in vinegar increases the body’s absorbtion of vital minerals, including calcium.  This is especially helpful for those who don’t consume dairy or suffer from osteopenia or osteoporosis.
    • Controls blood sugar levels. Consuming vinegar prior to a meal slows down the speed at which the carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the body.  When the sugars from the meal are released more slowly, the body doesn’t become so overwhelmed by the glucose.  In essence, drinking vinegar can help inhibit insulin sensitivity which can help control the onset or symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes.
    • Aids digestion.  Vinegar is full of prebiotics that are present from the bacteria involved in the fermentation process.  The prebiotics nourish naturally occuring intestinal bacteria (probiotics)  that live in the gut.  Keeping the intestinal bacteria balanced and happy can help irritable bowel syndrome or a bad tummy and keeps digestion moving along.
    • Eliminates heartburn.  People get heartburn for different reasons, but one of the reasons is that certain foods can cause the esophagus to relax which allows the acid in the stomach to rise up.  Drinking vinegar makes the esophagus contract which prevents the acid from rising up.  In the case of pregnancy, the esophagus is relaxed because the placenta is producing progesterone which relaxes the smooth muscles in the uterus.  This also causes the nearby esophagus to relax which is why heartburn is such a pain during pregnancy.
    • May aid in weight loss.  According to the Nutrition Diva (whose podcast I love), acetic acid activates certain genes that cause your body to store less fat around your waist. Instead the fat is deposited more evenly around the body.  It is also thought to increase thermogenesis which essentially makes your body run hotter using fat as the fuel, similar to my post on cold showers. Read more