Don't Be a Statistic: Why You Need to Balance Your Blood Sugar
Insulin issues are the name of the 21st century disease game. At the current diagnosis rate, 1/3rd of all children will have Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is essentially accelerated aging due to increased oxidation from excess glucose in the blood; at this rate, we are priming a whole generation to lead a disease-riddled, expensive life. Not only does diabetes profoundly inhibit health, but it is also seriously expensive. Yearly, an individual will spend $13,700 and our country will spend $825 billion just to ameliorate the effects of a 99.99999% preventable disease (Harvard Chan School of Public Health, 2016).
Insulin resistance is the precursor to Type 2 diabetes, and 25% of the non-diabetic population are unknowingly insulin resistant (and 25% will go on to develop full-blown Type 2 diabetes). We need insulin to tell our cells how to deliver glucose out of the bloodstream and into tissue so it can be utilized for energy. The conversion of food to energy is foundational to life; when the body loses the ability to do this task correctly, a domino effect of disease ensues. This is why insulin resistance (also known as Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X) and diabetes are always accompanied by co-morbidities: neuro-degeneration, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, polycystic ovarian syndrome, cancer, etc. The underlying biochemical defect of all these chronic degenerative diseases is all the same: decreased sensitivity to insulin signaling.
So why does our body stop responding to insulin? It’s a combination of things- mainly sugar, processed foods and trans fats (the two go hand-in-hand), stress, and lack of exercise. Obviously, there is a lot of this in the modern world, and some individuals are more susceptible than others. When insulin signaling gets disrupted and excess glucose remains in the blood instead of being transported to the appropriate places, our internal environment shifts to a disordered state. The pancreas will begin secreting larger amounts of insulin to overcome to the lack of insulin signaling. So now, there is more than enough insulin in the blood but the cells simply can’t get the message because of all the misplaced glucose.
All that glucose floating around in our blood stream eventually oxidizes, clunking up our vessels and jeopardizing circulation. Think crusty bread- the same reaction that forms crust on bread forms clunks in our blood: the excess sugar molecules react with the proteins in our blood to form clunky, gloopy advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) which are seriously bad news. They stress our body out, contributing to further inflammation and stress and screwing up blood flow.
There is great biochemical diversity among individuals, so some folks can maintain this hyperinsulinemic (“excessive insulin”) state for a while without developing diabetes, while others develop it immediately. Folks with Syndrome X will have a cluster of signs and symptoms: abdominal fat, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, depressed HDL (“good” cholesterol), cognitive decline, poor circulation, etc. With excess glucose in the blood, the body goes into an alarm state because it knows that glucose isn’t supposed to be there. The body’s alarm state is inflammation. It starts firing off inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers), tipping our bodies further and further in the direction of disorder and disease. It’s a vicious cycle and the one spinning the wheel is us. Our unfit lifestyle and dietary habits are fueling the diabetic fires.
When you tally all the potential pain and expense you’ll be sparing yourself by making some simple yet effective lifestyle modifications, the answer is easy: do it! You can reverse diabetes and Syndrome X- it will take time and effort, lots of vegetables, herbs, and exercise, but your renewed vigor and figure will outshine your longing for simple, refined sugars. When you start eliminating sugar and processed foods and then go back to them, you will be amazed by how excessively sweet they taste. We must shift our bodies back to states of efficient metabolism, smooth digestion, and clean elimination. It is our responsibility on earth to take care of our bodies.
There is a simple formula to re-sensitize our bodies to that ever-important chemical, insulin. You can follow these recommendations as closely or loosely as you’d like, depending on your degree of insulin resistance:
10 Steps for Better Blood Sugar Handling
1. Eat vegetables, protein, with every meal. A typical day could look like this: eggs and greens for breakfast; berries and nuts for snack; sautéed vegetables and pesto with chicken/mushrooms/fish for lunch; an apple and cheese for snack; lentils and salmon for dinner; 70% or higher dark chocolate with a fat glob of coconut oil and sea salt for dessert.
2. Stay away from fruit juices, tropical, and dried fruits. Berries are the best fruit choices, then things like apples, plums, pears, and citrus fruits. Avoid all processed food and refined sugar. Avoid all breads and grains, especially white bread. After a while, you can start incorporating a bit of good quality, whole and ancient grain treats: sprouted grain bread, whole-wheat sourdough, oatmeal, and buckwheat are some fine examples.
3. Eat the right veggies. Dark leafy greens, brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc.), onions, zucchini, cucumber, squash, peppers, beans, tomatoes, turnips, radishes, lettuce, avocados, asparagus, carrots, parsnips… Wow! there are so many wonderful vegetables to eat. If you are concerned about blood sugar, it’s best to avoid super sweet starchy vegetables like sweet peas, white potatoes and corn. Starchy vegetables that are okay to eat include sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and Jerusalem artichokes.
4. Eat good fats with every meal. Omega 3s – essential for good health and lacking in the modern diet- shift bodies back to un-inflamed states. When we get our body to an un-inflamed state, it will begin to heal itself. Fish oils, walnuts, flaxseed oil, olive oil, and coconut oil are all good sources. Animal fat/butter are okay to eat in small quantities for they have many Omega 6s, which can shift our body back to inflamed states. Some body types, typically prone to constipation, are able to handle large amounts of good fats and need it for smooth digestion. For others, a modest amount of fat will do.
5. AVOID PROCESSED FOODS and TRANS FATS. Even if a processed food doesn’t have sugar, it is still playing a major role in perpetuating insulin resistance and inflammation. The more packaging and indiscernible ingredients, the more processed the food. Processed foods and trans-fats go hand and hand. Humans created trans-fats so they could turn liquid fat into a solid for transporting and processing purposes. Our bodies haven’t quite figured out how to process this new chemically structured fat. Therefore, it doesn’t get processed and just sits in the blood stream causing clunkiness and oxidation. Oxidized fats in the blood is a ticking time bomb for blood clots, heart attacks, stroke, etc. Sometimes, in a pinch you might have to rely on packaged food to fuel you. But feed your cells the right way! Instead, choose nuts, seeds, beef jerky, or a piece of fruit for a quick snack.
7. Get a good quality probiotic and eat fermented foods. Every aspect of our being is dictated by the bacteria in our gut (Salina Nelson, 2016). The bulk of our immunity and neurotransmitters is maintained and manufactured by our gut bacteria. They unlock crucial vitamins and minerals and make nutrients available to us. Gut dysbiosis – an unhealthy bacterial state in our tummies- effects our whole body. Gut dysbiosis, which largely results from lack of vegetables (they eat fiber), excessive sugar, trans-fats, and processed foods, is marked by inflammation. Remember: when our bodies shifts to the alarmed state of inflammation, everything malfunctions. Dr. Ohhira probiotics are a great choice. Stay away from cheap probiotics at convenient stores and those that need refrigeration (probiotics should be shelf stable).
8. Exercise. Move every day. Don’t sit down so much. Little subtle movements add up: use the stairs; bend at the knees rather the hips when you pick something up; take a 30 minute walk after dinner; do ten pushups during your bathroom break (and then wash your hands and smell your pits); stretch. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, lubricates hungry joints, and facilitates circulation so that life-giving blood can travel to all the places it needs to go. Exercise reduces stress, too. Stress hormones cause inflammation. Are you seeing
9. Don’t eat past 8 PM. It is a bad health habit to go to bed on a full tummy. Digestion takes a lot of energy. Even though we are sleeping, our bodies are still working if we have to digest food and alcohol while we sleep. Night-time is time for our detoxifying organs to do rejuvenation and maintenance work. If you are starving, a small snack is fine.
10. HERBS and MINERALs.
While food and lifestyle habits are foundational, herbs and minerals help wake up our cells to insulin signaling and help us efficiently utilize the fuel we are ingesting. Here are some common herbs and minerals known to improve insulin sensitivity and sugar handling:
-Bitter melon, Momordica charantia
-True cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum
-America Ginseng, Panax quinquefolius
-Triphala (a traditional Ayurvedic blend)
-Turmeric, Curcuma longa
-Fenugreek, Trigonella foenum-graecum
-Licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra
-Blueberry leaf, Vaccinium ssp.
-Mulberry leaf, Morus ssp.
-Any bitter herb (Milk thistle, Artichoke, Gentian, Wormwood)
-Moringa, Moringa oleifera
Any adaptogenic herb is also great to take daily. Adaptogenic herbs strengthen our body’s complex reactions to stress. They are generally regarded as safe to take daily and come in many different forms. Find the one that works with your body. I like Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum/tenuiflorum).
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Like Julia Child says, “Everything in moderation, even moderation”. Treat sweets and breads like just that - a treat! When you do this, your appreciation and enjoyment of them will enhance greatly.
Head over to our online shop to check out our Healing Harvest Tea, designed to enhance digestion and blood sugar handling
Inflammation and How Gold Dust Might Help
Turmeric’s popularity has skyrocketed in the last few years, and for good reason - this Ginger family root can answer many a modern malady. Why is it so effective for such a large range of common complaints? Two words: PROLONGED INFLAMMATION.
In fact, prolonged inflammation is such a common source of pain and disease and it has been called “the root of all disease” in western medicine (1 in 3 Americans suffer from an inflammation-caused disease). There is some truth to this - but rather than simply treating inflammation on the spot, we are wise to look a bit deeper as to what is causing this prolonged inflammatory reaction.
But first, we have to define inflammation. Oftentimes, these health buzzwords get thrown around so much that we forget the meaning. Inflammation is simply our bodies response to some type of adverse stimuli such as an injury, infection, or general imbalance. The inflammatory response triggers our body’s immune system to kick into action and start the healing process. Inflammation is designed to treat acute/short-term issues. You cut yourself- a scab forms and mends the skin. You catch the flu- a fever comes and goes. Sometimes, however, when the body feels an onslaught of adverse effects, it is unable to return to homeostasis and the immune system stays turned on. Overtime, you can imagine that this majorly wears the system out.
Back in Roman times, Inflammation was defined by 5 characteristics: redness, aching, swelling, heat, (calor, dolor, rubor, tumor) and loss of function. Have you ever felt any of these in an injury? Sometimes, if an injury (internal or external) is unable to heal, the long-term affect is illness. And to be clear, an injury doesn’t have to be something as clear as breaking your leg. Injuries can look like lingering damage from a bad cold, knicks in your arteries from clunky blood, or most commonly these days - chronicaly inflamed guts from eating foods our body doesn’t understand how to digest. A few examples of inflammation induced diseases are: arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, MS, and fibromyalgia.
The goal is to allow an inflammatory response to do its job. As soon as you see signs of inflammation, address them before chronic inflammation takes hold yielding much more complicated problems.
Apart from addressing diet and lifestyle factors, we have a favorite anti-inflammatory drink that is well-balanced and therefore pleasing to the majority of constitutions out there. We call it GOLD DUST and it features Turmeric, Eleuthero, Fenugreek, Maca, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cardamom, and Black Pepper.
How to Make the Perfect Cup of GOLD DUST
Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy this delightfully warm and sunny drink:
THE MILKY WAY- Gently heat 8-12 oz of your favorite milk in a saucepan. We like raw cow's milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, or hemp milk for this. You want the milk very hot but not simmering (if you overheat raw milk, it deactivates all the goodies inside). Meanwhile, add 1 tsp of Gold Dust to a mug. Pour the hot milk over the Gold Dust. Add 1/2 tsp maple syrup, honey or agave. Use a hand frother and froth to perfection (alternatively, mix it up in a blender). Top with a dollop of whipped heavy cream or coconut cream and a cinnamon sprinkle. Enjoy in place of coffee, as an afternoon pick-me-up or post-dinner dessert.
THE ATHLETE- Bring 8-12 oz of filtered water to a simmer in a saucepan. Meanwhile, add 1 tsp of Gold Dust to a mug. Cover with simmered water, 1 scoop collagen (coupon code #OCEANLOVE for 10% off!), 1 tsp coconut oil, coconut butter, or MCT oil. Use a hand frother and froth to perfection (alternatively, mix it up in a blender). Top with a pinch of cayenne and cinnamon. Enjoy after a workout or to nourish you on busy mornings.
THE COLD SHOULDER- Mix 2 tsp of Gold Dust and 1 tsp honey or maple syrup in ~1/4 c very hot filtered water until completely incorporated. Add 12 oz of your favorite cold milk (we like almond or coconut for this). Blend up with some ice and enjoy on a sunny day.
The Herbs In Gold Dust
The keto diet is buzzing right now, but what exactly does it mean, and is it for everyone?
Well, ketosis is pretty cool for a number of reasons. Whether you are aware of it or not, your body has likely entered ketosis from time to time.
We enter ketosis in 2 scenarios:
-when we deprive our bodies (almost completely) of glucose
-when we fast for ~12-15 hours
Ketosis isn't an all or nothing deal. We can be in mild or full-fledged ketosis, or not at all. When glucose isn't available as a result of one of the above scenarios, Ketones are created as an alternate fuel. At this point, some interesting things happen.
In even mild ketosis, our antioxidant production is ignited (up to 150 g antioxidants/day). Ketosis also stimulates the production of beta hydroxybutyrate, the ultimate source of fuel for mitochondria. These guys are the powerhouses of our cells and when they aren't firing correctly, you can expect disease to set in. Ketones help mitochondria produce ATP. By increasing ATP, ketones reduce the generation of free radicals, increase production of endogenous glutathione, and act as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Ketones also reduce inflammation and oxidation throughout the body but especially in the brain. This is because the brain rapidly takes up ketones, an easily digestible fuel source that is small enough to cross the blood brain barrier (the liver converts MCTs to ketones). If ketones are present even at low levels they increase cerebral blood flow as much as 40%. Studies have shown that increasing ketones is a great strategy to block ionizing radiation and for controlling tremors.
To maximize ketones:
-Reduce carbs. This doesn't have to look like cutting them out completely. In fact, having such a stark transition from a carby diet to none at all can cause some crazy symptoms like the carb flu, the keto rash, and other undesirable effects. Be gentle with your body and remember that it doesn't like extremes but rather thrives in moderation. We like to follow the diet recommended through the RESTART program, allowing for non-starchy vegetables and low sugar fruits while avoiding starchy carbs, refined sugars, grains, and processed foods (RESTART will be offered again in January 2020 Athens, GA peeps!)
-Use a form of intermittent fasting by eating in a 6-8 hour span. This could look like not eating after 7 pm and waiting until 11-noon to eat your first meal the next day. Use MCT oil, grass fed butter, coconut butter, or coconut oil in your coffee or tea to sustain you until your first meal
-make these keto muffins! Recipe below :)
6 large eggs
1/4 c olive or toasted sesame oil
½ cup tahini (on the runnier side is best-we love this kind)
1 c raw cashews
½ c raw pumpkin seeds
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
Sesame seeds and/or pumpkin seeds to garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Use butter and almond flour to grease and flour a muffin tin.
Add all ingredients listed in order to a food processor or high powered blender. Blend well until you have a completely smooth, creamy batter. Use a spoon to drop the batter into the greased and floured muffin tins. I find a spoon the easiest tool to work with. Continue adding more batter until all 12 muffin holes are filled up (all the batter should be used up at this point).
Top with sesame and flax seeds and put on middle rack in oven for 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before popping out your muffins. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks or the freezer for much longer. They will last on counter for 3 days. I like to have these on hand for a quick breakfast with an egg or smothered in your favorite nut butter.
Soasted = soaked + toasted
It's about time we wrote about soasted nuts because it is a GAME CHANGER.
Here's the thing about nuts.
1. Nuts is a blanket term for a TON of different nuts, seeds, beans, and pseudo nuts that we clump together as one food category when in fact, they are all quite botanically unique. For example, certain brands will put cashews, almonds, and peanuts together and call it a "nut mix" when these 3 foods represent incredibly diverse plants- one is a tree, one is a bean, and one is an exterior seed (check out Cashew apples- pretty crazy!). This means that some "nuts" might work fine with you, but others might be very irritating. Many people have allergies or sensitivities to some "nuts" but not others (which is a dangerous situation when you buy these "nut mixes"). Many nuts are also high FODMAP which means it can cause digestive distress in some individuals.
2. "Nuts" contain a TON of potential energy. Remember, a little walnut was meant to become a massive walnut tree one day. Plus "nuts" have been pegged as the ultimate health food, making people much more likely to over-indulge in handfuls of these potent tree droppings because they are "healthy". This has a doubly deleterious effect: excessiveness in any form or fashion is the antithesis to health AND you are consuming a ton of potential energy that will eventually wreck havoc on your metabolism and digestive system.
3. Store bought typically come in two categories = raw and roasted. Sometimes the roasted nuts are "dry roasted", meaning no extra oils have been added. More often than not, these nuts are roasted in one of the following oils : soybean, cottonseed, canola, rapeseed, or sunflower. While these oils are called "vegetable oils" to entice us into thinking they are healthy, the truth is that these oils are incredibly sensitive and the modern factory processes we use to extract them are caustic and dangerous. Vegetable oils are pulled out of their protective covering (be it sunflowers, cotton or rape seeds) using intense solvents, exposing them to light and heat which they are very sensitive to (because they don't naturally occur free from their protective covering- for a gruesome analogy, think of how sensitive we would be to the light if we scrubbed away our protective skin). This means they are not only exposed to intense solvents, but they also go rancid quickly because of all the heat, light, and plastic exposure. These unsaturated fats are high in Omega 6s, an essential fatty acid that our world is already rampant with. We function best with an Omega 3:6 ratio of 1:1. The Average American is working with an inflammatory ratio of 1:20. You can improve your Omega ratio by avoiding nuts roasted in these rancid oils.
4. Raw nuts don't have the dangers of being roasted in rancid oils, but they do contain naturally occurring anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients represent a variety of phytochemicals that plants produce to protect themselves from predation and degradation. Historically, our ancestors used gentle means to dissolve these anti-nutrients, like soaking and slow roasting (aka, SOASTING) their nuts for optimal nutrition and ease of digestion.
Step by Step Guide to Soast your Nuts
Get a quart-sized mason jar. Fill is 3/4 of the way full with your favorite raw nuts. Pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and brazil nuts are our favorite nuts to soast. Totally cover the nuts with filtered water and a hefty pinch of sea salt. Cover with a lid (but don't screw on the tight) and let sit on your countertop over night. In the morning. Strain off all the water. It will likely be a pale brown color. Give it another rinse with some more filtered water. Shake the nuts dry and spread evenly on a roasting pan. You can go the extra mile and drizzle with a few blobs of coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee and top with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. A bit of honey drizzle and turmeric is another lovely addition. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 F. Crank the heat down to 200 F and slow roast until the nuts are golden brown and smelling fragrant. This varies per nut variety but usually take anywhere from 25-55 minutes. Let cool completely before transferring back to an airtight mason jar, container, or bag. Store in the fridge or freezer for months! We have found these soasted nuts SO much more satisfying and tasty. They don't leave that heavy, dull tummy feeling we often get when eating raw or store-bought roasted nuts.
Developing a Healthy Relationship with the Sun
Sunscreen, sunblock, SPF, UVA, UVB… we’re all too familiar with these summer-time terms and yet they perplex us all the same. Is SPF 50 really that much better than SPF 45? And how do they calculate those numbers anyways? Why does it burn when I rub it into my face, and how often should I reapply?
Yes, we want to protect our skin from excessive exposure, but it is only natural to seek the sun after a winter filled with cold and clouds. And of course, most can’t deny the desire for that sun-kissed, summertime glow.
But that’s just it: sun-kissed has become equated to cancer-kissed in the modern world. We are scared to go outside and rightfully so: study after study confirm that the sun is determined to fry us to a crisp and turn all our skin cells against us. And now there’s all this talk of sunscreens actually causing cancer and destroying coral reefs.
Interestingly, even though there are more sunscreens and media coverage than ever before, cases of malignant melanoma are rising every year, representing a 200% increase from 1975 to 2013¹. How could this be if our awareness and product access is better than ever?
Well, the answer is complex, but here are some key points:
In a nutshell, UVA and UVB represent different wavelengths. UVB is highest around solar noon (11 am- 2 pm) and is critical for Vitamin D absorption. UVA rays are much more intense, seeping deeper into your skin cells and causing more free radical damage. UVA is also present all hours of the day whereas UVB is low in morning and afternoon 6.
While supplements exist and offer some benefit, the most efficient and effective way to absorb Vitamin D is through direct sun exposure- 15-25 minutes a day, especially during the sun-rich spring and summer months around noon (remember this is when beneficial UVB is at its highest!). The more skin exposed the better! Our body stores up Vitamin D during the warm months to use all year long. This partially explains why many of us come down with the flu or other viral and bacterial infections in the late winter months; our bodies Vitamin D stores have dropped to their lowest point. The darker your skin, the more time you will need in the sun. You can always get your Vitamin D levels checked- 40 ng/ml is minimum; 50-70 ng/ml is ideal 6. As a supplement during the dark days of winter, we like Bio-emulsified Vitamin D by Biotics.
Our Responsible Sun-lover TIPS
Prioritize your body’s largest organ this summer season. Practice responsible sun exposure, hydrate, eat right, protect, and rejoice the wonders of the sun!
1 Melanoma of the Skin - SEER Stat Fact Sheets. (2016). Seer.cancer.gov. Retrieved 30 May 2016
2 NTP Board of Scientific Counselors Report on Carcinogens Subcommittee Report on Carcinogens Background Document for Broad-Spectrum Ultraviolet (UV) Ra
3 Planta, M. (2011). Sunscreen and Melanoma: Is Our Prevention Message Correct?. The Journal Of The American Board Of Family Medicine, 24(6), 735-739.
4 Carina Storrs, S. (2016). Many sunscreens have lower SPF than labels claim. CNN. Retrieved 30 May 2019
5 NTP Board of Scientific Counselors Report on Carcinogens Subcommittee Report on Carcinogens Background Document for Broad-Spectrum Ultraviolet (UV) Ra
6 Mercola, J. (2011). Sun Can Actually Help Protect You Against Skin Cancer. Retrieved 3 May 2019
7. Grant, W. B., & Holick, M. F. (2005). Benefits and requirements of vitamin D for optimal health: a review. Altern Med Rev, 10(2), 94-111.
8. Coronado, M., De Haro, H., Deng, X., Rempel, M. A., Lavado, R., & Schlenk, D. (2008). Estrogenic activity and reproductive effects of the UV-filter oxybenzone (2-hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl-methanone) in fish. Aquatic Toxicology, 90(3), 182-187.
9. Rosebrook, J. (2017) The Best Sunscreen - Understanding Zinc Oxide SPF And The Nutrient Day Cream. Retrieved 5 May 2018
10. EWG (2017).The Problem With Vitamin A, https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/references/ Retrieved. 5 May, 2019
¾ c almond flour
½ c arrowroot starch
1 tbsp coconut flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Hefty pinch sea salt
¼ c melted unrefined coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp molasses
Preheat oven to 350. Meanwhile, stir molasses, syrup, and melted coconut oil until evenly incorporated. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the oil blend, mixing well. The dough should come together quite nicely.
Transfer the dough onto parchment paper about 8 in. long or onto a silpad. Both work. Wet your fingers (so dough doesn’t stick) and gently press out the dough until it’s about ¼-⅛ in thick (like a graham cracker!) and in a giant rectangle shape. Use a fork to pierce the dough like you see on store-bought graham crackers evenly throughout (this keeps the crackers especially flat and uniform). You can use a rolling pin or another piece of parchment paper to achieve this, but I find wet fingers works just fine.
Bake for 10-12 min until fragrant and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool just a bit before using a knife to slice into graham cracker shapes. I like squares but sometimes do long pieces. Let cool completely before storing in freezer for weeks!
Add ½-1 c chocolate chips for chocolate chip graham crackers
Add 1 tbsp turmeric + pinch black pepper for golden grahams
Add 2 tbsp cacao + 1 tsp vanilla for chocolate graham crackers
Add 1 tbsp pysllium + 1 tbsp flax seed for fiber graham crackers
Top with toasted oats + chopped pecans for a nutty fix!
We love the convenience of store-bought, quality energy bars, but we loathe the packaging and often times high price.
That's why we created our own take on Rx Bars... HGRX Bars! Our bars cost a fraction to make and store beautifully. Plus, the have the added fiber of Psyllium Husk powder and flax meal.
Psyllium Husk is an incredibly effective soluble fiber brought to you by none other than Plantain, Plantago ovata. Soluble means it absorbs water as it passes through your colon, pulling out toxins, regulating your bowels, and normalizing constipation, diarrhea, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, and even helping with weight loss through metabolism support. Just be sure to drink lots of liquids when you increase your fiber intake because fiber with no liquids can have the opposite effect of backing of your bowels and causing discomfort.
HGRx Bar Recipe
1 c nut butter
⅓ c raw cashews
¼ c coconut oil
½ c toasted oatmeal (simply bring a pan to medium heat and toast until fragrant and golden)
½ c flax meal
1 c juicy dried, pitted dates (it is important that your dates aren’t super dried out and still have some fleshiness to them
3 tbsp psyllium husk (optional but excellent for added fiber)
2 tbsp molasses
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Hefty pinch of sea salt
½ c dark chocolate chips for topping
Line a 10 x 10 baking pan with parchment paper.
In a high-powered blender, mix all the ingredients except the chocolate chips. It works best to blend the first 5 ingredients first. Then add the dates, pulsing until they are mostly pulverized. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until mostly smooth. A few cashew or date chunks is a-okay.
Transfer all the dough onto the parchment paper with a spatula. Using wet fingers, press the dough evenly into the pan. Top with the chocolate chips, scattering them evening and gently pressing them into the dough. Freeze for 20 minutes and then slice. Store in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge for weeks.
No need for measuring cups and spoons- our wild weed pesto is as versatile as it is tasty. We encourage you to use your senses to make this tasty green dip rather than relying on exact measurements. There are three reasons for this:
Herb Girls' Wild Green-sto (Green Pesto)
Plants in the “wild” (or your backyard!) have more vitamins and minerals than those grown commercially and organically (though organically-grown crops are more nutrient-dense than commercial). This is because wild plants have to create all their own defenses since no one is looking after them and providing them nutrients and protection. Over time, we have selectively chosen those plants that are the juiciest and tastiest for cultivation, but in the process, we have bred out some of their wild medicine. For example, crabapples foraged in the wild aren’t as tasty as a Honeycrisp from the store, but they likely have way more phytonutrients (Check out Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson for more information on this).
A simple way to ensure you are getting some wild plant power every day is to include some foraged plants in your daily life. This is very easy and tasty to do with a green-sto.
3 handfuls arugula or spinach
1-2 handfuls wild plants like violet leaves, nettle, dandelion leaves, yarrow, chickweed, young sassafras leaves, young hibiscus leaves, and/or young sourwood leaves
1/4 c tahini
1/3 c olive oil
1 handful pumpkin seeds
1 handful walnuts
1 tsp miso
1 squeeze dijon mustard
juice and zest of 1-2 lemons
½ c frozen peas (the sweetness really balances the bitterness of wild herbs)
Sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to a blender/food processor and blend until smooth, adding more or less olive oil, lemon, or salt to get the right flavor profile. Store in bulk mason jars in the freezer or spoon into silicone ice cube trays for individual servings.
Adaptogens are all the rage these days, and it makes sense! We live in a chronically stressed world and adaptogens promise the ability to improve our stress-handling capacities. The only problem is this: we are using that same magic-bullet mentality with herbal adaptogens as we do with synthetic drugs. Got a headache? Take 2 tylenol. Mucusy? Take some mucinex. Stressed out? Take some Ashwaghanda!
There is some truth to this mentality: when we are hurting, we want to take action to resolve our issues. We crave a quick fix so we can get on with our busy lives. However, herbal medicine provides slow and steady solutions for long-term resolution. Herbal medicine practiced correctly promises ultimate alleviation from our maladies by seeking out the root of the problem.
There are over 20 known adaptogens, and while all of them do increase our adaptive energy, work on our nonspecific immunity, influence our HPA axis, and function amphoterically (balancing in nature), they all have different energetics.
Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera, Solanaceae), for example, is an amazing adaptogen and incredibly popular these days (I find it on the shelves at TJ Maxx of all places!), but it is powerful and not for everyone. While herbs can be safe, herbs used improperly can hurt you. Ashwaghanda is a very yang plant, energetically. By yang, we mean that it generates outward energy, as opposed to yin plants, that are more building, nourishing, and moistening in nature. Ashwaghanda is warm, hot, and generates energy for work and endurance. This is why athletes love it so much. However, Ashwaghanda might be too much for the average American who is already living a yang-dominant life, meaning they are always on the go and always exerting energy. Ashwaghanda can also irritate hyperthyroid conditions, so you definitely want to stay away from this plant if you have any sort of high thyroid condition. Lastly, many people are sensitive to Nightshade plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Ashwaghanda is a Nightshade, so avoid this adaptogen if you have Nightshade-induced inflammation.
For our fat balls, we balance the yang (think of the hot, drying outward energy of the sun as yang) power of Ashwaghanda with the gently nourishing yin (think of the cool, moistening inward energy of the moon as yin) power of Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus, Liliaceae), a lesser-known but equally amazing adaptogen. Shatavari is generally "safer" than Ashwaghanda for it doesn't directly influence the thyroid and it moistens and restores exhausted, dried out tissue. Our culture has enough outward, busy energy. Focusing on nourishing tissues by using more moistening Shatavari is a good practice for adaptogen use.
We infuse our fat balls with the carminative, calming nature of Cardamom (Eletarria cardamomum, Zingiberaceae) and increase the bioavailabilty of our adaptogen medicine by decocting the powdered roots in coconut butter and grass-fed butter before making the batter.
We hope you enjoy our recipe, and please leave your questions in the comment section below!
Balanced Yin-Yang Fat Balls
1/2 c Coconut oil, melted
1/4 c grassfed butter
1/4 c coconut butter
10 green cardamom pods (or 1 1/2 tsp cardamom powder)
1/3 c Shatavari powder
1 1/2 tbsp Ashwaghanda
3 tbsp Red Reishi powder
1 cup coconut shreds (toasted if you prefer this taste over raw)1/2 c almond butter
1 cup raw cashews, soaked and toasted
2 tsp cinnamon
3 medjool dates (pitted)
1/3 c. almond or coconut milk
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
2 tbsp cacao nibs
In a saucepan, heat up coconut oil, coconut butter, grass-fed butter, vanilla, cardamom + Ashwaghanda, Shatavari, and Red Reishi powders. Bring to a slight simmer, stirring often. Let slightly simmer for about 5 minutes or until the butter is fragrant (this a crucial step to fully decoct all the medicine from the adaptogens).
In a blender, pulse all the other ingredients except the milk, cacao nips and chocolate chips. Add the milk a little a time, scraping down the sides and processing until a sticky dough forms. Add the cooled, decocted adaptogen mixture. Transfer the mixture to a sealable container and refrigerate at least 2 hours (this makes it easier to form into balls later on). Once refridgerated, roll into 1" diameter balls, coating in cocoa powder, extra shatavari powder, or coconut shreds for a decorative touch. I like to sprinkle with a bit more sea salt. In an airtight container, keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months
Relearning Traditional Wisdom
I learned about soaking grains and nuts after college- a time when the bulk of my diet came from the cereal aisle or a trail-mix bag. College was also a time I found myself perpetually bloated with painful cramping attacks, inconsistent bowel movements, and constant confusion about my digestive situation: How could this be? I was eating so healthy- all these whole grains, nuts, and veggies - so why am I in so much pain?
Fast forward a few years to my first time seeing a Nutritional Therapist Practitioner (NTP). Diagnosed with IBS at a very young age, I was quite familiar with the routine visit to the doctor. This experience, however, was unlike any other. It was the first time a health professional spent more than 15 minutes asking me questions about my actual diet and lifestyle. My NTP spent a whole hour engaging me in detective-like work, digging deeper into my relationship with food and self. With his thorough, thoughtful questions, he was cluing me into the obvious (but overlooked) truth that if we don’t talk about our problems, they will never go away.
My visits to my NTP inspired a whole new trajectory for my health journey. Whereas I had previously been hyper-focused on herbal medicine (which is pretty easy to do because healing plants are amazing!!!), I realized now that if I didn’t seriously address my diet, then all my herb allies could never live up to their potential, and nor would I! I decided to become an NTP myself, and with it, I have acquired a whole new library of research and techniques focusing on ancestral preparation of food, bio-individuality, and intuitive eating.
Which brings us to the main point of the article:
SOAKING GRAINS AND SEEDS This ancient technique has gotten lost in the hustle-bustle of modern life, but there is a growing wealth of science-driven information confirming traditional wisdom. In this article, I am just going to focus on a few main points and give you the full-proof recipe for QUINOA, but check my resources for further research.
What Are Anti-nutrients?
The name says it all: anti-nutrients are highly biologically active substances that impede the absorption of nutrients and micronutrients, interfering with optimal organ function. Interestingly, they are found in virtually all seeds, nuts, grains and legumes and serve as a sort of defense mechanism for the plant to combat predation. These substances protect the plant’s offspring from being consumed by causing digestive irritation to whoever is brave enough to eat them.
For example, a prominent class of anti-nutrients are called phytates. They inhibit minerals like Zinc, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, and Copper from being absorbed. A recent study of 36 common grain products confirmed consistently high phytate levels in processed cereal- and legume- based products (Roos et al, 2013). This study confirms the need for people to reduce processed food intake and increase properly prepared food at home. Quinoa’s main anti-nutrients- saponins and protease inhibitors (which impede digestion of proteins)- are concentrated on the outside of each kernel. When we slow-soak our quinoa before cooking and eating, we serve to breakdown this tough exterior.
But never fear, a ridiculously simple technique ensures the elimination of these anti-nutrients. Ancestral food prep takes a bit of forethought at first, but that is the most difficult part. Once you get into the habit of soaking your grains and nuts, it will become second nature. In fact, I have found that my transition into a more ancestral way of cooking/living has made me more organized and thoughtful. Ancestral wisdom in the kitchen gives you the skills to flawlessly meal plan and prep, eliminating food waste and falling into a natural rhythm with the seasons.
Easy Guide to Soaking Grains
1. Rinse your grains
2. Cover completely with warm filtered water
3. Add 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice for every cup of water used.
4. Let soak overnight (I like to used a quart jar so I can over with a lid and set on my counter without fear of dust or bugs getting in).
The larger and tougher the grain, the longer the soak needed. 12-24 hours should be sufficient for most grains.
5. The next day, drain the soaked grain. Add to a pot with more filtered water to cover. Add a pinch of sea salt and fresh herbs to taste.
6. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer, and let simmer away with a lid halfway on until the water is evaporated and the grains are tender and tasty. At this point I like to stir in butter or olive oil and more salt and pepper to taste.
***As the water comes to a boil, foam will appear. The foam is bitter and filled with anti-nutrients, so do your best to scoop it off. ****
The great thing about soaking grains is that it cuts the cook time in half. Soaked rice takes about 20 minutes and quinoa takes about 5.
***If soaking legumes, add a pinch of baking soda ***
Roos, N., Sørensen, J. C., Sørensen, H., Rasmussen, S. K., Briend, A., Yang, Z., & Huffman, S. L. (2013). Screening for anti‐nutritional compounds in complementary foods and food aid products for infants and young children. Maternal & child nutrition, 9, 47-71.
Creative commons, flickr. Michael T. (photo credit); allispossible.org.uk
Eileen Brantley & Amy Wright
We are Herb Girls Athens, LLC. Read our blog!
currently we operate as an online business