We {Hemp} Heart Valentine's Day

 
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In honor of Valentine’s Day, let's talk about Hemp Hearts.  See what I did there?  

Hemp Hearts are the edible insides of hemp seeds.  They pack a serious nutritional punch, they are really tasty, and they are, in fact, good for your heart.  

Here are some of the reasons why I love Hemp Hearts this Valentine’s Day (and every other day too):

Hemp Hearts are a complete protein, which is a great option for vegetarians, vegans, and meat eaters alike.  They have 10g of protein per serving, so they are a great way to give any meal a protein boost.

They are full of healthy omega 3 fatty acids which help fight inflammation and promote heart health.

Packed with vitamins and minerals like iron, B vitamins, manganese and magnesium, Hemp Hearts are a nutritional powerhouse within a teeny tiny little seed.

They are so easy to add to meals and snacks like smoothies, granola, and trail mix, they can be treated just like a nut and blended into a creamy pesto, and they offer a nutty flavor when sprinkled over salads, yogurt, or avocado toast.  The possibilities really are endless.  

Check out these recipes using Hemp Hearts and give them a try this Valentine's Day!

Super Kale Pesto
Grain-Free Granola with Hemp Hearts
Coconut Hemp Seed Granola
Overnight Oats and Mango Berry Smoothie
Blueberry Coconut Baked Oatmeal

What's the Deal with Collagen??

If you’ve been seeing collagen pop up everywhere, you’re not imagining things.  Using collagen powder has become a recent trend and I’m here to explain why and if it’s worth the hype.

First, what is it?  Collagen is found in connective tissue, bones, skin, nails, and hair in our bodies, and in all animals as well.  As we age, production of collagen slows down, which is partially to blame for things like sagging skin, the loss of that youthful glow, and achy joints.  It is protein rich and made up of amino acids (as is all protein). So, collagen powder is actually just made by grinding up things like connective tissue or hide from cows or scales from fish.

Why would someone eat that?  Well, the argument is that eating (or drinking) collagen powder will help restore that youthful glow, reduce wrinkles, help keep joints lubricated and strong, reduce inflammation, promote gut health, improve hair, skin, and nails, and so much more from the inside out.

Is it the real deal?  Scientifically, yes.  The research is actually very promising for supplementing with a good quality collagen powder.  Unless you’re vegan (since collagen is an animal product) or have a condition where you need to be mindful of your protein intake, collagen could be a good addition to your diet. 

Collagen can help improve hair, strengthen nails, and reduce wrinkles in the skin. 

Since collagen is a huge component in our bones and joints, it can help improve joint pain, lubricate joints, and reduce inflammation as well.

The amino acids (the building blocks that make up protein) in collagen powder, specifically the amino acid glycine, help improve digestion and promote gut health.

It is a great source of protein without all the additives of many protein powders.  It is pretty flavorless, so add it to your smoothie for a boost of protein, mix it in with your coffee if you struggle to get enough protein in the morning.  Or, add it to your water to replenish after a workout.    

Another way to get collagen without using the powder is in the form of bone broth.  Bone Broth was all the rage a few years ago, and collagen was the reason why.  When you boil down all of those bones, the collagen is released into the broth, and you end up drinking collagen-rich broth.  So, make a big pot of soup with lots of added veggies and some bone broth, and you’ll be filling up on collagen! 

You might see it called collagen peptides.  That means that it has been broken down into those amino acids, making it easier for your body to absorb and making it dissolve in both cold and hot liquids.

One of the brands that I like is called Vital Proteins.  It is organic and, since the FDA does not regulate supplements, Vital Proteins has been checked by a third party, quality control group called NSF to check for contaminants of any kind.  They have collagen powders in all different forms, flavors, and applications.  From coffee creamers to individual packs to add to your water and just plain old collagen peptide powder, they have it all.    

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Let's Talk About Your Gut

 
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Let’s talk about your gut.  No, not the gut that hangs over your pants when you’ve had too much to eat (totally what I thought my teacher was talking about the first time she mentioned “the gut” in class when I was in college), but another gut entirely. 

I’m sure you’ve heard people talking about “the gut” recently – foods that are good for your gut, gut health, words like probiotics and microbiome.  So, what are they really talking about?  Well, your gut is actually just your entire digestive system, aka gastrointestinal system, gastrointestinal tract (GI tract).  It is the system of your body that is responsible for digesting and eliminating food (from eating to pooping.  Sorry I said pooping).  It encompasses the path the food travels (mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines), and the organs that help along the way (pancreas, liver, gall bladder).

Ok now you know what your gut actually is.  Why is it so important and why is everyone talking about it?  Well, your gut is where the majority of your immune system lives, which is a pretty big deal.  Bacteria, the good kind, lives inside of your gut and makes up your gut flora.  Everyone has a unique make-up of the bacteria in their gut, and science is just beginning to scratch the surface of what that really means and how it affects things like auto-immune disease, weight, digestion, diseases of the digestive tract, and much more. 

So, we all have bacteria in our gut that controls our immune system.  It’s a good kind of bacteria, when we are healthy, and it feeds off of foods we put into our bodies.  Feed the bacteria healthy food and follow a healthy lifestyle, your gut bacteria will be happy, healthy and strong, and support a healthy immune system.  Feed the bacteria unhealthy food, antibiotic filled foods, certain medications and supplements, and be barraged by environmental toxins, your gut bacteria will be unhealthy, unhappy, and have a harder time keeping your immune system strong. 

If you get sick and have to take an antibiotic, the antibiotic’s job is to clear out any bad bacteria that has found its way into your body.  The problem is, it clears out all of the good bacteria too.  So your gut is in shambles, and you are likely to get diarrhea (sorry again for all the poop talk).  If that happens, your Dr. probably tells you to eat yogurt.  Why?  Because it has probiotics.

Enter the next buzz word: Probiotics. 

What are they?  Probiotics are the good bacteria.  They are found naturally in some foods and drinks, and can be taken in pill form as well.  The best way to get probiotics and support your gut health?  Eat or drink them.  You can take them in pill form, the only problem is, you don’t know the make-up of your gut bacteria, so you don’t know the best kind and combination to take for your unique biology. Here are a few ways you can easily get them in your diet.

  • Fermented foods: Kimchi, sauerkraut
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Dairy: Plain greek yogurt, Kefir
  • Kombucha: a fermented tea

Probiotic rich foods are an important addition to your diet.  But, there is something else to consider that helps them do their job.  Prebiotics.  Probiotics are the good bacteria, prebiotics are their fuel.  It’s important to eat prebiotic filled foods in conjunction with the probiotic rich foods.  Here are some foods filled with prebiotics:

  • Fiber: fibrous foods are a great source of prebiotics
  • Raw garlic
  • Onions and leeks
  • Raw asparagus
  • Banana
  • Raw wheat bran
  • Oats
  • Apples
  • Potato starch
  • Chicory root

To Summarize: Your gut is your digestive system, and that is where the majority of your immune system lives.  It is filled with bacteria that feeds off of the foods you eat and can be affected by pretty much anything you are exposed to.  Your gut health is important to your overall health and wellbeing.  Eating probiotic rich foods and long with prebiotic rich foods is a great way to improve gut health and boost your immune system.  Bring on the kimchi!

Veggie Packed Weeknight Dinner

 
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Kale, Feta Chicken Burgers with Roasted Cauliflower and Butternut Squash

We like to eat lots of protein and lots of veggies in our house.  Sometimes our 2 year old isn't as excited about the veggies as we are.  My trick?  Literally put vegetables in every component of the meal and she's bound to eat them - intentionally or not. 

Here's how I made this delicious, veggie packed weeknight dinner.  And yes, my plan worked.  She avoided the squash and cauliflower, but ate all the kale in the burger.  Win!

The Burgers

2 cups chopped kale (I'll put in whatever green I have- kale, arugula, fresh or frozen spinach - it all works!)

1/4 cup crumbled feta

1/4 cup almond meal (optional)

16 oz. ground chicken (can use turkey, grassfed beef)

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fire up the grill.  Chop the kale and throw it in a bowl with the crumbled feta and almond meal.  Add the ground chicken, season with salt and pepper.  Combine the ingredients and form into patties.  Drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil and grill for 5-6 minutes per side.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower

1 butternut squash

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425.  Chop the veggies, scoop out the seeds of the squash.  I don't even bother peeling the butternut squash because I'm lazy, I like the added texture and why bother?!  If you want to peel it, that totally works too!  Put the veggies on separate baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss them with clean hands.  Bake the veggies until golden brown - The butternut squash for about 40 minutes and the cauliflower for about 30, stirring them around a few times throughout the baking.  

Workout of the Week

Hill Workout

You're going to be attacking some hills in this workout.  In order to do this one efficiently, you're going to want to set yourself up ahead of time so you can quickly and easily jump on and off the treadmill. If you're doing this one with a buddy (which is always more fun!), have one person do the treadmill while the other person does the exercises.  Grab a mat, a set of weights, and crank the incline on the treadmill up so it's like you're running up a hill.

Here's how it's going to work: you'll have 2 minutes on the treadmill where you sprint (go as fast as you can, even if it's a walk) up the hill for 30 seconds, and then grab on, jump your feet to either side and rest for 30 seconds before you jump back on one more time for 30 seconds and then rest for another 30. Use this second recovery to get off the treadmill and get ready for the exercises. And please, be careful.

After those 2 minutes, get on your mat and do 4 exercises, 30 seconds each. The circuit is a quick one- only 4 minutes, so try to get through it 6 times.  Good luck and happy climbing!

30 second sprint:: 30 second recovery x 2

30 seconds squat with overhead press

30 seconds burpees 

30 seconds plank row

30 seconds plank

Make Your Resolutions Stick

 
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We all make resolutions each year with the best of intentions.  Sometimes we achieve them, sometimes we don't.  This year, make resolutions that matter and actually achieve them with these 5 tips. 

Make Them Realistic

Pick something you know you’ll actually do.  Instead of setting yourself up for failure from the get-go, choose something attainable.  Maybe you won’t climb Mount Kilimanjaro this year (or maybe you will?), but perhaps you’ll sign up for a 5k run in your neighborhood.  The beauty of setting realistic resolutions is that you can achieve them, you will achieve them, and you can build on that momentum to set your next goal.  Keep making small changes, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself on top of Mount Kilimanjaro.  

Make Them Specific

The more specific they get, the more likely they are to stick.  Rather than the ever-popular, “workout more” resolution, try setting a specific plan in motion.  Something like, go to spinning class every Tuesday night, is much more specific and much more attainable.    

Write Them Down

Write down the details, make a plan, and execute the plan.  If you write them down they become more real, helping you follow through with your plan.

Be Held Accountable

Just like writing them down, telling someone about them will make them more real.  Find someone to hold you accountable for your goals this year.  If you tell someone else about them, they’ll be able to call you out when you start to slack or pull you to the gym when you don’t feel like going.  It’s much easier to make excuses and let yourself off the hook when you’re the only one looking.  An A.M.Fit Membership is a great way to keep yourself accountable, by the way (wink, wink).    

Don’t Throw in the Towel

Even if you find that you’re not sticking to your plan, don’t give up.  Just get right back on track and keep working towards the resolution you set out to achieve this year.  You set it for a reason, so remind yourself why it mattered, get back to the plan you created, and try again!

If improving your health, diet, or workout routine are on your list of resolutions this year and accountability is something you need, then you are in the right place.  An A.M.Fit membership does just that.  I can give you the tools to achieve your goals and exceed your expectations with guidance along the way and constant accountability and feedback to keep you on track.  If you’re serious about making healthy changes this year, then let’s do it. 

Anti-Inflammatory Elixir

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Anti-Inflammatory Elixir

Inflammation plagues us all, even if we don’t know it.  Everything from workouts to stress to the foods we eat and environmental toxins take a toll on our bodies and cause inflammation.  Rather than turning to traditional medicines, there are many foods, spices, and natural remedies you can use to help relieve inflammation from the inside out. 

I saw a recipe recently for this drink, tried it, changed it up a little bit, and wanted to share it with you.  It’s packed with all sorts of goodies to fight inflammation, boost your immune system and rev your metabolism.

In this spicy drink we have some of the heavy hitters – Turmeric is a spice that has anti-inflammatory properties and is a strong antioxidant, and bonus, it turns everything a nice shade of yellow when you use it.  Ginger is a root that is known to reduce inflammation, help with digestive issues and has even been said to have anticancer properties as well. When Apple Cider Vinegar is made it is fermented, which creates healthy bacteria that helps improve gut health.  It also has properties that help regulate blood sugar, and bonus, it works great when you rub it on your bug bites in the summer to take the itch away.  The grapefruit juice and lemon juice are super anti-oxidants and packed with Vitamin C to help boost the immune system.  Grapefruit juice does interact with some medications, so be careful.  Cayenne pepper can help boost your metabolism and aid in digestion.  And the MCT oil is a good source of energy without affecting your blood sugars, helps with fat burning and mental clarity. 

As always, check your medications to make sure they don’t interact with anything in the drink, and remember this isn’t medical advice, just something I wanted to share with you.  Happy sipping!          

Elixir Recipe

4 cups water

1 cup sparkling water (optional- I like a little bubble in mine.  If you don’t use it, add another cup of regular water)

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Juice of ½ grapefruit

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup mint leaves

1 Tbsp grated ginger

1 Tsp Turmeric

½ tsp Cayenne pepper (this is totally up to your taste.  Use more or less depending on how much spice you can handle)

1 tsp MCT oil (put this in right before you drink it)

 

Originally saw this recipe on The Skinny Confidential