Can’t Meditate? Here are 9 Other Ways to Break Free From Stress

I know! Meditation is the secret sauce to take your wellness up to the status of the elite gurus. It’s the “be all, end all” for the health of your entire mind-body-spirit. It’s the absolute must-do that is the only path to beating the infamous health-buster called “stress.”

Don’t get me wrong; practicing meditation is an excellent approach to optimizing your health and overall well-being. Meditation is great for relieving and dealing with stress, and all of the issues that come along with it. But it’s not the only way to get there.  The whole purpose of meditating is to calm the mind and emotions and relax our physical body too. And there is always more than one way to get there.  Let’s talk about some of the other things to try if meditation is not exactly your thing.

Journaling

Spending some time every day writing out your thoughts can help to relieve stress. You can use journaling to list the things you’re grateful for, this is known as gratitude journaling. You can use it as a “brain dump” to get all of your thoughts and ideas out of your head to soothe your mind. You can use “ever since” journaling to describe your life after you reach your goals.  I like to keep pen and paper next to my bed.  When I start thinking about stuff

Reading

It’s one thing to read to learn something that you have to learn, or to advance your knowledge.  You can also read for pure pleasure. To get caught up in a story and just relax is one of my favorite forms of self care!

Coloring

Adult coloring books are all the rage! Not *that* kind of adult, but coloring pages with lots of detail and tiny areas to color in. My favorite ones are the irreverent swear word coloring books – I know they’re not for everyone but sometimes you just have to swear! They’re so funny and satisfying and they can take hours. You can always opt for something simple, like kids coloring pages too. The idea is the same. Repeated movements and focusing on the art you’re creating can help to clear your mind.

Knitting or crocheting (or other crafts)

Knitting, crocheting or other yarn activities are a great way to de-stress; this is a skill that comes in all levels from beginner to advanced. You can choose a quick little rectangular scarf to make, or a detailed sweater. You can choose the pattern, size, and yarn. Once you get into the flow of these skills, they’re great to do when you’re feeling stressed. Not only can they relax your mind to focus on your work, but you can end up warming yourself or others with the products you create.

Gentle exercise

Gently moving your body is another great way to de-stress. Activities that are slower and less intensive are ideal. Things like walking, yoga, stretching, or tai chi can all be great ways to relax your mind and improve your strength and balance at the same time.

Sleep in or take a nap

A common cause of increased stress hormones is lack of sleep. Too little sleep and too much stress go hand-in-hand. So, getting enough good quality sleep is important to help you break free from stress without having to meditate.  Try diffusing calming essential oils to create a relaxing environment for a nap.  One of my tricks to falling asleep is to read something that’s mentally challenging or boring.  It tires my brain out and I fall asleep pretty quickly.  Need a little more help?  This is my favorite all-natural, organic, non GMO supplement.  It’s changed my life – seriously!  If you choose to try it, you’ll get a $50 discount at checkout.  You’re welcome!

Pamper yourself

Maybe you love getting massages or mani/pedi’s? Maybe you love a long bath or lighting candles? Perhaps you can add your favorite relaxing music to the mix for a pampering evening? Spending some time to pamper yourself regularly is great for your mind, body, and spirit.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, progress muscle relaxation and even humming – yes humming can help you relax.  For more in depth info and step by step instructions to implement these techniques, check out this article from my friend John Parrott at RelaxLikeaBoss.com.

Spend time in nature

This is my all time favorite way to de-stress.  You don’t have to head away for vacation to relax in nature. While a calm beautiful beach or cabin in the woods may be amazing, you don’t have to go that far. Even spending time on the grass at your local park or playground, or walking on a wooded trail in your neighborhood can do the trick.  Luckily I’m in Los Angeles where hiking trails and beaches are abundant.

Make time for people and pets you love

It’s so important to spend time with family, friends, and pets whom you love. New research is coming out about the health issues related to loneliness. Reach out and plan to hang out with your besties, or even offer to take your neighbor’s dog for a walk in the park (I’ve done this).

Try a Natural and effective Product to Aid You

Feel like you need a natural organic, non-GMO superfood product to help calm your nerves and really relax?  From Chill Sprays to Leafy Greens Powders to Calming Enzymes, we’ve got plenty of pure, premium options to fit your needs.  This bundle is awesome for boosting your mood and helping you to relax.  Click Here for additional tips and effective products to try.  Use code CoachMarisol for a $50 discount on your first order! Woohoo!

Get to know a professional

Sometimes your stress cannot be healed by simple strategies like the ones mentioned above.  In these cases, reaching out to a professional can do you good.  There are many options available – psychologists and therapists are two to name a couple.  What’s the difference?  Click Here to check out a great post by Better Health so you can make the best choice for your needs.

 

Conclusion

Stress reduction is the goal. How you do it, be it meditation, supplements or otherwise, is not that important. What’s important is that you find what works for you.  Try journaling, gentle exercise, improving your sleep, spending time in nature, and reaching out to a professional to make the time you deserve for yourself.

Have other great ideas? Let me know what helps you de-stress in the comments below.

 

Recipe (calming): Lavender Essential Oil

Instructions to inhale directly: Add up to 6 drops of undiluted essential oil to a handkerchief/tissue and inhale occasionally. Use up to 3 times per day.

Instruction for steam inhalation: Add 3 – 12 drops of undiluted essential oil to a bowl of steaming water. Inhale slowly and deeply for 5 – 10 minutes. Use up to 3 times per day.

Tip: Lavender isn’t the only calming essential oil. You can also use angelica, balsam, benzoin, bitter orange, cedarwood, celery, chamomile, cornmint, cumin, curry, frankincense, grapefruit, jasmine, juniper, labdanum, laurel, lemongrass, marjoram, nutmeg, palmarosa, parsley, patchouli, peppermint, rose, rosewood, sage, sandalwood, scotch pine, spearmint, star anise, sweet basil, sweet orange, thyme, or ylang ylang.

 

References:

http://relaxlikeaboss.com/relaxation-techniques/

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/what-is-the-difference-between-a-therapist-and-a-psychologist/

https://www.positivehealthwellness.com/pain-relief/one-guide-natural-stress-relievers/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/getting-control-stress

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-power-and-prevalence-of-loneliness-2017011310977

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/do-essential-oils-work/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=aromatherap&lang=eng

 

 

Need a Mood Boost? Eat This.

No question that what you eat can affect how you feel, right?  Combine that with the emotional ties we have to the holidays and we can either sore through them with energy and happiness or we can get stressed out and feel down in the dumps.

Mental health and brain health are complex. So are the foods we eat, and the ways our bodies interact with those foods.  While, we don’t know the exact mechanisms how food and nutrition help, we know a few ways food impacts our moods.

We know that the wrong kinds of food can affect our physical being…but did you know they can also affect our mental and emotional one? Although, the different and special vitamins and minerals in certain health foods may be able to support a more positive mood if eaten often enough.

First, what we eat becomes the raw materials for our neurotransmitters. “Neurotransmitters” are biochemical messengers that allow our nerve cells to communicate (ever heard of serotonin?). They are important not just for thinking and memory, but also for mental health.

Second, what we eat affects our blood sugar. And having unstable blood sugar levels can contribute to mood swings. Let’s talk about mood-boosting and mood-busting foods.

Mood-boosting foods

Some nutrient deficiencies look like mental health problems; this includes deficiencies in B-vitamins, vitamin D, and the mineral selenium. So, getting enough vitamins, minerals, (and other things like antioxidants) are key. These nutrients not only reduce inflammation but also fuel the biochemical reactions in our bodies. Including those that create neurotransmitters. So make sure you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables are the happiest.  Berries and dark leafy greens in particular help fight the depression.  There are molecules in berries that show positive effects on mood.  And dark leafy greens have powerful immune boosting and anti-inflammatory properties.

Also pay special attention to vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), as it’s not naturally occurring in too many foods. Selenium is an essential mineral found in Brazil nuts, walnuts, cod, and poultry. Try to add some of those to your weekly diet.

Second, make sure you get enough protein. Protein is your body’s main supply of amino acids. Amino acids are very important for mood issues because they are the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Protein also helps to regulate blood sugar. I recommend eating small amounts of protein with every meal; this includes dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry, and meat.  If you’re on the go, a clean protein shake can help.  Here’s my favorite.

Third, complex carbohydrates like sweet potato and quinoa are great too. They allow better absorption of key amino acids like tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by your body to make serotonin (your “happy hormone”) and melatonin (your “sleepy” hormone). So, if you want to relax, try these in the evening.

Fourth, fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids (nuts, seeds, and algae) are also mood-boosting. Omega-3s are definitely “brain food” and may help to ease some symptoms.  A heavenly breakfast, lunch or snack is avocado slices wrapped with lox – yum!

FUN FACT: One study showed that giving one multi-vitamin and one omega-3  fish oil tablet per day to prison inmates reduced the incidence of violent behavior by 50%!

Last but not least, make sure you’re hydrated. Mild dehydration can cause mood issues as well.  When drinking water isn’t enough, make sure you have clean sources of electrolytes – sports drinks don’t cut it.  They are full of artificial sweeteners, colors and chemical additives.  If you want to try a pure, organic, non GMO source of nature’s electrolytes – this is my favorite.

Mood-busting foods

You won’t be surprised to hear me say processed foods are mood-busters, right? One study suggests that eating a lot of processed foods devoid of nutrients can increase your chances of becoming depressed by as much as 60 percent! This is on top of the research that shows nutrient deficiencies can look like mental health problems.

“But it makes me feel good!”

Yes, some of these mood busters can make you feel better temporarily. Some big food companies study how to maximize the “pleasure” centers with the perfect amount of sugar, salt, and fat. Not to mention the color, texture, and taste; they can light up our taste buds and make us feel good… for now.  A few other things to avoid are:

  • Alcohol (nervous system depressant)
  • Caffeine (may worsen anxious feelings and ability to sleep)
  • Sugar (messes with your blood sugar and can worsen inflammation).

 

Conclusion

Bad moods can lead to bad eating habits; and, bad eating habits can lead to bad moods. If you need a mood boost, stick to minimally processed nutrient-dense whole foods. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables (including leafy greens), nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Avoid common mood-busting foods like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

Do you have more than just a “bad mood”?  If you are suffering from depression, altering your diet with the tips mentioned above will be helpful but understanding what depression is and accessing valuable information for different treatment options is vital.  My friends at Be-Healthy have amazing resources for you.  Click Here to read  their post with more detailed information on additional diet tips, the meaning of and treatment options for depression.

And remember, sometimes “feel good” junk foods, only make you feel good temporarily. So, try my recipe for fruit salad, below.

Recipe (mood boosting): Fruit Salad

Serves 6-8

1-2 cups pineapple

1-2 cups cantaloupe, cubed

1-2 cups blueberries, fresh

1-2 cups blackberries, fresh

1-2 cups green or red grapes, sliced in half

fresh chopped mint (optional)

Instructions: Place all fruit in a large bowl and gently toss.

Serve & enjoy!  Tip: Substitute or add any ready-to-eat fruit, like chopped peaches,  raspberries, apples etc.

 

References:

https://behealthy.today/food-for-depression/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/food-and-mood

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/how-to-fight-depression-naturally-with-nutrition

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/foods-increase-happiness/

https://blog.puriumcorp.com/2016/05/27/how-foods-affect-your-mood/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Create a Stress Free Holiday

The holidays are here – a time of year that’s known for its busy nature that can lead to quite the load of stress.  After all, we just celebrated Thanksgiving (you’re either recuperating from traveling, cooking, housing guests etc.), you likely have several invitations to parties and events collecting on your counter/email/FB, a long list of people you need to send holiday cards to, and the daunting task of Christmas shopping for everyone on your list.  All of this, on top of your normal every day life.  It can be overwhelming to say the least.

I want to share some of my personal favorite ways to navigate this busy, stressful time of year and make this season a lot more enjoyable, less stressful and a time you will remember with fond memories.

These secret weapons of mine include…

Put forth great effort to be present.  It can be difficult, I understand.  It’s almost a reflex to pick up our phones and scroll through Facebook or our email when we have a free moment – do you do the same?  One way I like to dodge this is to leave my electronics in another room.  Don’t even allow yourself the temptation to pick up your phone and disengage from communicating with your gathered love ones.  When I’m feeling particularly scatter-brained, what really helps ground me is focusing on my senses.  What do I smell?  What do I hear?  What do I feel?  Stopping and thinking through what’s going on around you at that very moment really brings you into the present moment unlike anything else.  It’s a wonderful tool to use to dial in and be present (I especially like to do this when I sit down to a meal) – and is a great tool to use year-round, not just during the holidays!

Give up those expectations.  Remember: Expectations are premeditated resentments – Alcoholics Anonymous.  A lot of the stress we put on ourselves this season lies in the notion that we expect things to be perfect.  That’d be lovely, of course – but putting your entire extended family in one house is bound to have something go awry.  Therefore, dropping the expectations of perfection will allow you to be prepared for when something may spring up.  There is joy to be found in each situation, so even when things don’t go exactly as planned – spend your energy finding gratitude in your circumstances and enjoying as much of your time as you possibly can.  Tis the season!

My favorite – Find time to move.  It’s incredibly important to keep movement in your schedule, no matter how busy you may feel.  Even if it’s just a brisk walk after lunch or dinner – make it a habit to bundle up in your favorite scarf and winter coat to go for a walk alone to clear your mind, or with someone you enjoy being around.  Be sure that you are getting your time outside in nature, breathing in fresh air, while burning off some calories and keeping your heart rate up.

What are your favorite ways to get some movement in during the cold months?  My favorite way is working out with a group.  It can be hard to not only stay on track but commit to self care this time of year.  Having an appointment in your calendar for a fitness class where your new friends are expecting you, makes it a bit easier to do what may feel like a burden.  Oh, and how good do you feel after?! Having the support of a group during this time makes it even easier to continue to workout on your own, eat healthier and generally elevate your mood.  It really is the best thing I do for myself these days!  Not sure where to start?  Check FB events, Meetp.com or simply google group fitness in your neighborhood.  If you’re in the Los Angeles area and want to join me in a workout with Trainer Ashley Stauffer (first times free!), click here for event info.  Can’t wait to see you there!

Here’s wishing you some stress free weeks leading up to the holidays.  Let me know if any of these tips work for you in the comments below.  If you have any other tips to share I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Group Fitness for Fun and Happiness!

If you’ve never worked out with a group – you’re missing out!  Unlike going it alone, partaking in a group workout provides not only a better and deeper workout, but encouragement and accountability at the same time.  Most group classes are small enough for the trainer to provide individual attention too so you often get the benefits of a private workout with the extra bonuses of being surrounded by like-minded people giving it their all.  I mean, are you really going to quit with 3 minutes left on the clock?  Not if you’re in a group.   I can honestly say that I’ve turned off the workout video with just a few minutes to spare because I was “done”.  Have I ever walked out of a workout class before it was over? Never.  Have I seen others do it?  Not unless there was an unrelated reason for it.

I’m inspired to write this article today because I had the pleasure of working out with RFT (Raw Functional Training) Trainer Ashley Stauffer and her clients in her Wednesday night Boot Camp style class last week.

It felt good to get through a challenging workout while I was being given attention from Coach Ashley and encouragement from the more advanced clients in the group. I got out of my house and -big bonus- got to spend time doing something productive to enhance my well being with other people.  I didn’t know anyone there but when you show up, you’re all there for the same reason.  High fives at the end closed the deal.  I’ll be back next week (perfect pre-Thankgsiving body prep!).

Something you may not know about me – I have two jobs and am also working towards a new Corporate Wellness Certification.  My personal time is limited and my social life is non existent.  I found that although I’m eating healthy, working out, staying on top of my work and studies, I was still missing something.  I’ve been disciplined and have been keeping my head down for a couple of years now.  It’s not easy to admit but my social life needs generating.  I’m not interested in drinking at bars or spending money going out to eat.  As an adult who has been transitioning into a new woman with big goals, I don’t really have many of the same friends that I used to a few years back.  Do I have the time to go out on “blind” friend dates?  No.  Have I tried? Yes…

Something I realized recently, is that showing up for a group workout is very safe and self serving.  It’s safe because you are there to do a predetermined thing (of your choosing) for a specific amount of time and are not committed to socialize or stay late.  If you do connect with the group or an individual, it’s simply because bonds are naturally created as we enjoy working out together and our endorphins are pumping.   At the end of the day, we just did something we love with each other and have something in common.  Now THATS a date!

Coach Ashley taking a breath during our workout!

If you’re needing some motivation or just want to expand your social circle, I encourage you to search some group fitness classes in your neighborhood.  There are many ways to do it and many gyms, studios and trainers offer first time freebies.  If you want to join me this Wednesday, Ashley has provided a free class to You Empowered subscribers.  It’s the perfect way to prep for the indulgence of Thanksgiving.  We’re proactive people right?  Who knows, you may just meet your new best friend there (I think I might have).   In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am sharing what I’m grateful for: My new friendship with Coach Ashley and her generosity in providing my people with a kick-ass workout fro free.   Reply to this post to save your spot!

See you on Wednesday, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Coach Marisol

Water – How Much Do I Really Need to Drink?

Water is essential for life. You can only survive a few days without it. And being hydrated is essential for health. I could argue that water is the most essential nutrient of them all. Water is needed for every cell and function in your body.

Water is a huge part of your blood; it cushions your joints and aids digestion. It helps stabilize your blood pressure and heart beat. It helps to regulate your body temperature and helps maintain electrolyte (mineral) balance. And that’s just a few of its roles.

Dehydration can impair mood and concentration, and contribute to headaches and dizziness. It can reduce your physical endurance, and increase the risk for kidney stones and constipation. Extreme dehydration can cause heat stroke.

So, water is critical for life and health.  But, just as way too little water is life-threatening, so is way too much. As with most things in health and wellness, there is a healthy balance to be reached.  But, there are conflicting opinions as to how much water to drink. Is there a magic number for everyone? What counts toward water intake?  Let’s dive right in.

How much water do I need?

Once upon a time, there was a magic number called “8×8.” This was the recommendation to drink eight-8 oz glasses of water every day;  that’s about 2 liters of water.

Over time, we’ve realized that imposing this external “one size fits all” rule may not be the best approach. Now, many health professionals recommend drinking according to thirst. We have complex hormonal and neurological processes that are constantly monitoring how hydrated we are.  And for healthy adults, this system is very reliable.  Unfortunately for the many who have lived so long without drinking enough water, thirst is not enough.  Our bodies prioritize how we use the water in our bodies.  Signals like headaches and fatigue can become normal and many people do not register this as a need for water.  When we deprive our body cells of water, they start to react differently.  If the water going out of your body doesn’t match the water coming in, you end up with less water in your blood.  Your blood volume drops and it thickens.  Your brain doesn’t get enough blood, meaning it doesn’t get enough oxygen or nutrition.

A good rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces of water per day.  For example, a 160lb person should drink 80oz of water per day.  If you are not used to drinking this much water, you will be running to the bathroom a lot.  Once your body gets used to the water intake, your cells will adapt and you won’t be running to the bathroom as often.

Besides thirst and other signals from your body, pay attention to how dark and concentrated your urine is. The darker your urine, the more effort your body is making to hold on to the water it has. Urine is still getting rid of the waste, but in a smaller volume of water, so it looks darker.

There are a few other things to consider when evaluating your hydration status.  Your water needs are based on age, activity, climate, diet and health concerns.  Water Intake should increase in the following situations:

  • Hot/Humid Temperaturs
  • High Altitude (above 8,200 feet)
  • During Exercise
  • Illness – incidents of fever, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding

So, ditch the “one size fits all” external rule, and pay more attention to your body’s subtle cues for water.  To much water can result in disrupted sleep and mineral imbalances.  Too little water can result in fatigue, hunger, headaches, sugar cravings and confusion.

What counts toward my water intake?

All fluids and foods containing water contribute to your daily needs.  Water is usually the best choice. If you’re not drinking pure water, consider the effects that the other ingredients have on your body. Drinks containing sugar, alcohol, and caffeine will have effects besides hydration. Sugar can mess with your blood sugar balance. Alcohol can make you feel “buzzed.” And caffeine can keep you awake.  Coffee, soda, alcohol and energy drinks are not water.  They contain water, but also contain dehydrating agents.

Also, many foods contain significant amounts of water. Especially fruits and vegetables like cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, celery, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, oranges, grapes, carrots, and pineapple. These foods are over 80% water, so they are good sources of hydration.  So, you don’t need to count your plain water intake as your only source of hydration. All fluids and foods with water count.

Conclusion

There is no magic number of the amount of water you need. Everyone is different. Children, pregnant women, elderly people need more.  Episodes of vomiting or diarrhea will also increase your short-term need for more water.  The most important thing is to pay attention to your thirst. Other signs you need more water are dark urine, sweating, constipation, yawning, sleepiness and craving sweet foods.

Water is your best source of fluids but many fruits and vegetables are over 80% water so don’t forget about them.  Let me know in the comments: What’s your favorite way to hydrate?

Tasty hydrating beverages.

Want to boost your hydration and nutrient intake simultaneously?  Check out my FREE Green Smoothie Challenge.  Since discussed how the brain is affected without proper hydration, here’s one of the many delicious recipes you’ll get:

Brain Fuel: Packed with plenty of good fats and fiber to get you thinking good thoughts all day long:  2 cups spinach, 2 cups ripe pears, 1 cup frozen mango, 1/2 avocado, 2 cups water.

Instructions: Place your fruit into the blender with 1-2 cups of filtered water and blend for 25 seconds.  Add your leafy greens and blend until very smooth (30 seconds in a powerful blender and longer if your blender is not as powerful

 

Let me know in the comments: What’s your favorite way to hydrate?

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/water-water-everywhere-2016110310577

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-much-water-should-you-drink

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/why-you-should-raise-your-glass-water

 

Paleo Diet 101

You may have heard of the “paleo” diet. It was the world’s most popular diet in 2013.  But what is it? Is it a fad? Is it right for you?  Scientist and “Paleo Mom” Sarah Ballentyne, Ph.D. defines it as:  “The Paleo diet is a nutrient-dense whole foods diet based on eating a variety of quality meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.  It improves health by providing balanced and complete nutrition while avoiding most processed and refined foods and empty calories.”

The name “paleo” is from the “paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture.

What you can (and can’t) eat on the paleo diet

Of course, being a “diet,” paleo has food guidelines. The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods; while reducing the number of gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting, and inflammatory foods.  But this doesn’t mean there are only a couple of foods to choose from! There is a pretty wide variety of food to choose from in the paleo diet.

You can include fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat (including organ meats), seafood, healthy fats, fermented foods, herbs, and spices.

The paleo diet excludes processed and refined foods (e.g. sugar, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, etc.), grains (e.g. wheat, oats, rice, etc.), dairy, and most legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.).

The paleo diet can be thought of as more of a “template,” rather than a strict set of rules.  It’s a diet that seems to be easy to maintain, and with little to no negative side effects. There is no measuring or counting of calories or carbs. And there are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods to choose from.

Many proponents of the paleo diet even encourage experimentation by adding in a few of the (healthy whole) foods on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy, white rice, or potatoes may be added to less restrictive forms of the paleo diet.

How does the Paleo diet affect health?

Several clinical studies have been done to find out whether there are health benefits of eating this way.  Some of the research has shown that the paleo diet can help with weight loss and belly fat. That alone may be reason enough to give it a try.  Not to mention its effect on several modern-day chronic diseases.  For example, it can improve risk factors for heart disease. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose tolerance, and even reduce symptoms of some autoimmune diseases.  It’s also thought to be “gut-friendly” because it includes a lot of high-fiber foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds), fermented foods (which contain gut-friendly probiotics), as well as being full of nutritious natural foods.

Who should consider a paleo diet?

Some people recommend the paleo diet for those with food intolerances or autoimmune diseases. Those at high risk for heart disease or diabetes may also be good candidates to give the paleo diet a try.  If you react to gluten or lactose, this diet removes them both by eliminating all grains and dairy.

Even if you don’t choose to go paleo, the elimination of added sugars, processed and refined foods can (should?) be a goal to move toward.

Conclusion

The paleo diet is based on what hunters and gatherers ate thousands of years ago. It is a whole-food based, nutrient-dense diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, and fermented foods.  Science has shown that it can help some people to lose weight, reduce risks of heart disease, improve glucose tolerance, and reduce inflammation.  At the very least, eliminating added sugars, processed, and refined foods are a great goal, even if you decide not to “go paleo.”

Recipe (Paleo): Banana Muffins

Serves 12

3 large eggs

5 mashed bananas

½ cup almond butter

¼ cup coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla

½ cup coconut flour

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners. In a food processor or stand mixer, blend eggs, bananas, almond butter, coconut oil, and vanilla.

In a large bowl mix coconut flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add blended wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined.Spoon batter into muffin tins, ¾ full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden.  Serve & enjoy!  Tip: You can top muffins with walnuts before baking.

Need more recipes?  Here’s a massive list of fantastic paleo recipes from Athletic Muscle

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/paleo-diet-meal-plan-and-menu/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/start-here/paleo-diet/

https://authoritynutrition.com/5-studies-on-the-paleo-diet/

https://athleticmuscle.net/paleo-diet-recipes/

 

Ketogenic Diet 101

The ketogenic diet is a very low carb, very high-fat diet.  It has recently gained a lot of popularity in the wellness sphere because of some of its health benefits.  A ketogenic diet has been shown to help some people lose weight (yes, even with high fat). It can also help improve certain health conditions, like epilepsy in children.

Read on for some of the lowdown on how it reprograms your metabolism (for “ketosis”), and whether or not it’s something for you to consider.

What is “ketosis?”

Carbs (sugars & starches) are the preferred fuel for your brain and muscles. They use carbs first, whenever they’re available.  This is why maintaining stable blood sugar can affect your attention, mood, and energy level.  However, when very low amounts of carbs are available for fuel, your body starts making compounds known as “ketones.” These are your body’s “backup fuel.” And your body makes them from fat.  Ketogenic literally means “the generation of ketones.”

After a while being on a diet very low in carbs, your blood level of ketones increases. This is the metabolic state known as “ketosis.” It’s the same process that your body goes through if you’ve fasted for 72 hours and depleted your supply of carbs as fuel. That’s the trigger for turning fat into ketones.

Pro Tip: “Ketosis” from a ketogenic diet is not the same thing as the dangerous condition known as “ketoacidosis.”

Ketogenic diet for weight loss

With a high fat intake, it may be surprising to know that studies show that a ketogenic diet is effective for weight loss.  But it’s true!  It can also have better results than low-fat diets. At least one study showed that people lost 2.2 times more weight on a ketogenic diet than those on low-fat or calorie-controlled diets.  How is this possible?

Eating all that fat and protein is filling! It helps release satiety hormones that tell us that we’re full and satisfied, and we don’t need to eat anymore. Many people don’t need to count calories or track food intake, as they do with low-fat or calorie-controlled diets.  So, by eating enough fat and protein to go into “ketosis,” you can actually feel fuller and eat less food overall. Of course, this can help with weight loss.

Ketogenic diet for improved health

Some studies show other health benefits of the ketogenic diet.  As you can imagine, having very low levels of carbs can help reduce blood sugar and insulin issues.  One study showed improved blood triglycerides (fat) and cholesterol numbers. Others show lower blood sugar levels, and even up to 75% improvement in insulin sensitivity.  Several studies show reduced seizures in children who follow a ketogenic diet.  Changing your metabolism has widespread health effects. And this can be beneficial for some people.

How to do the ketogenic diet

Not everyone should go on a ketogenic diet. Make sure you speak with a trained healthcare practitioner before you try it. It can have side effects, including the infamous “keto flu.”  The ketogenic diet involves getting 60-75% of your calories from fat, 20-35% from protein, and just 5% from carbs. Many people find it quite restrictive and are unable to stay on it for a long time (myself included).

The foods to focus on for a ketogenic diet are meat, fatty fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocados, and low-carb vegetables (cucumber, celery, peppers, zucchini, leafy greens, etc.).  The main thing to avoid are foods that are high in carbs. These include sugary foods and desserts, grains, fruit, legumes, starchy vegetables, alcohol and “diet foods.”  And because of the limits on fruit and starchy vegetables, many people on the ketogenic diet need to take supplements. This is because, in addition to their sugar and starch, fruits and starchy veggies are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. So, if you’re cutting those foods out, you still need to give your body those nutrients. And often, it means needing supplements.

A High Fat Low Carb Alternative

Interested in the health and weight loss benefits of the keto diet but can’t fathom only 5 grams of carbs per day?  Me too.  If you’re wondering what 5 grams of carbs looks like, well one rice cake is 7 grams of carbs.  However, a pate of fresh spinach is about 5 grams.   For the entire day.

As noted, the keto diet can have amazing health benefits but sometimes, it better to ease into it with a less drastic approach.   If you’re hooked on carbs and try to cut them out to only 5 grams, it can be a matter of time before we break resulting in a feeling of failure, frustration and all those other feelings that roll around in our heads when we break our diets.  I know, I’ve been there.

I created the Faster fat Burn Method just for us.  It has components of the keto diet but your allowance is 60% fat 20% protein & 20% carbs.  You still fill your plate with healthy fats and a variety whole foods but you will also be reducing your carb intake.  Don’t worry, eventually you get to reintroduce foods like whole grains and starchy vegetables.  After all, eating a healthy, whole foods diet should be delicious, nutritious and satisfying!  It’s an eating plan that is designed to be sustainable.

Once you get the hang of it and your body has adapted, you may even want to try going full keto.  An app that I recommend to my clients on the Faster Fat Burn Method is My Fitness Pal.  Tracking is a must.  With this app you can set your macros so you can see the percentage of fat, protein and carbs you are eating during the day.  It’s eye opening.  I would recommend this app even if you’re not on a specific diet.  Tracking your food is the first step to awareness.  It tells you a lot about yourself and your habits.

Conclusion

The ketogenic diet is very popular these days. It can be helpful for weight loss, and other health conditions.  It’s not for everyone, so make sure you check with a knowledgeable practitioner before you begin.

Recipe (Ketogenic): Layered chocolate peppermint fat bombs

Serves 6

  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp granulated sweetener (xylitol or monk fruit)
  • ¼ tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened

Instructions: Mix the melted coconut oil with the sweetener and peppermint extract.  Pour half the mixture into six cubes of an ice cube tray. This is going to be the white bottom layer.  Place the tray in the fridge to harden.  Add the cocoa powder to the remaining mixture and mix. This is going to be the top brown layer. Pour it on top of the white layer which has set in the fridge.  Place the ice cube tray into the fridge until completely hardened.  Serve & enjoy!

Tip: These are (high fat) super-rich desserts. Don’t eat too many if you’re not going full keto.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/ketogenic-diet

https://authoritynutrition.com/ketogenic-diet-101/

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/going-keto-what-science-saying-3-safe-ways-do-it

Healthy Fats and Dangerous Fats

All fat is NOT created equal!

Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients; along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super-health-boosting; and, others are super-health-busting.  Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods. Health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods). So, this is why the information I’m sharing today is so important.  As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right?  So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to ditch.

Health-boosting fats

Health-boosting fats are from:

  • Nuts and seeds (hemp, flax, and chia)
  • Fish
  • Seaweed
  • Pasture-raised/grass-fed animals/eggs (Vegan?  Check out This Article)
  • Olives
  • Avocados

I love “virgin” oils, and here’s why. Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing, or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).  According to the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius: “Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”

For example, Extra virgin olive oil must:

  • Be cold pressed
  • Not contain any refined olive oil
  • Possess superior quality based on chemical composition and sensory characteristics.

Don’t you think these standards ensure higher quality? I sure do!  Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-win!

Health-busting fats

Health-busting fats are from:

  • Seed and vegetable oils like safflower, soybean, and corn oils
  • Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated

Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!  Don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed foods that contain them.  Additionally, you must be careful and ask questions when dining out.  If you’re at a restaurant that serves french fries and other fried foods – make the assumption that they are being fried in cheap, hydrogenated oils.  No one deep fries food in healthy oil – it’s just too expensive.

How to get more health-building fats

First, you have my permission to ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or any hydrogenated oil. Soybean oil alone accounts for over 75% of oils consumed by Americans, so it’s pretty popular in the “non-health food” department.

Second, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flax oil in your salad dressing, avocado and/or olive oil in your cooking, and coconut oil in your baking.

Third, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods. I’ll help you out now with my super-simple mayonnaise recipe below. It’s way better for you than the unrefrigerated stuff you find at your grocery store.

Interested in a simple, done for you diet plan full of healthy fats for breakfast, lunch and dinner?  Check out my Faster Fat Burn Method.  You’ll be eating delicious fats and other goodies, boosting your brain power, immunity and energy and feeling lighter and more energetic.  You’ll love it!

Now tell me: What’s your favorite fat and why? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (healthy fat): Mayonnaise

Makes about 1 ½ cups

1 large or extra large egg

2 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp salt

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic

1 cup olive or avocado oil

Instructions: Add all ingredients except oil to your food processor. Process until creamy (about 10 seconds).  With the food processor running, add a few drops of oil into the egg mixture. Every few seconds add a few more drops. Continue until the mixture starts to thicken.  Now you can do a slow drizzle. Stop pouring, every once in a while checking that the oil gets fully incorporated.  Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.  Serve & enjoy!  Tip: spice it up with chipotle chilies, sriracha or fresh herbs!

References:

https://happyhappyvegan.com/healthiest-sources-fat-vegan/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-healthy-fats

https://authoritynutrition.com/extra-virgin-olive-oil/

https://authoritynutrition.com/saturated-fat-good-or-bad/

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/fats-and-oils/eng/1392751693435/1392751782638?chap=5

https://eatingrules.com/cooking-oil-comparison-chart/

 

 

 

 

4 Easy Ways to Stay Healthy in Your Busy Life

If you’re like most you want to be healthy.  The problem though is that you might be wondering how in the world you’ll fit one more thing into your already busy life. Plus, you might perceive getting healthy as booooring or even too costly.  But that doesn’t have to be the case!  As a Health Coach, I help my clients make healthy lifestyle changes that fit into their schedules and are fun! Here are some fun ways that you can get healthy habits into your busy life.

Have fun with your food prep

Buying healthy foods is only the first step.  The key? Having them chopped and ready to go when hunger strikes!  Make you prep time fun and less painless by throwing regular prep parties and build in some fun!  Maybe you’ll choose to do this every Saturday morning.  Throw on some great music, grab your tools, and have fun with it! Listen to music or your favorite podcast while you wash, chop and package your fruits and veggies.  Hard boil eggs, prep grains in a rice cooker and roast root veggies.  Divvie up the prep with your honey or best friend.  You’ll have healthy, pre-packaged snack packs, salad fixings and ready to assemble meals for the whole week in no time. If you’re starting your weight loss journey, get a friend or family member to join you – even if they have different goals.  You can each prepare healthy meals and split them up so you have double the food for your effort.

Sneak exercise into your daily routine

My clients often tell me it’s a challenge to fit exercise into an already busy schedule.  So, what’s the solution? Don’t add exercise as another thing; include it into what you’re already doing!  For instance, you could easily take the stairs instead of elevator, park farther away instead of closer, or use your break time for a 10 minute workout instead of sitting in the break room.  Need to make phone calls?  Use your ear phones and get some walking in.  There are many ways to fit in exercise without feeling like you have to steal time from another area of life.

Unbox that crock pot and put it to use

Do you own a crock pot? Is it still in the box? If so, you’ve been missing out on some time-saving slow cooker goodness.  Slow cooker meals are so easy to prepare; just prep, set, and in a few hours your meal has essentially cooked itself! Want to save time? Start using a slow cooker.  Check out a super simple (mouth watering) slow cooker recipe below!

Set goals and put them in writing

When you have a target you’re working towards, you probably feel more motivated to stay on track and see the payoff!  Set goals for your health and fitness on a regular basis.  Keep them visible to hold yourself accountable. Seeing your goals on paper, and tracking your progress, will help you stick to your healthy lifestyle plan and achieve your goals with more ease.  Not into writing things down?  Set your goal as your screen saver on your phone or computer.  Add some motivational quotes to your calendar and set timers on them.  Tell a someone you trust so they follow up with you and keep you accountable.

Are you having trouble balancing your busy life with your desire for a healthier lifestyle? Contact me at: SolCoach@MarisolBallaro.com to set up a time to chat and explore if health coaching is right for you.

Now here’s your recipe – It’s only 5 ingredients for the sauce:

⅓ cup natural peanut butter, at room temperature or melted*

1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

4 tablespoons low-sodium, gluten-free tamari or soy sauce

4 tablespoon rice vinegar or fresh lime juice

⅓ cup warm water

Hot sauce to taste

Check out how to make this easy crock pot recipe by clicking here.  I ended up saving this recipe as a word document on my computer so I could print it out any time (it’s an easy one for the hubby to make).

 

Multivitamins: Are They Really a Waste of Money?

Multivitamins are exactly what they sound like: multiple vitamins. They’re supplements that contain several different vitamins in each one. They can also contain several minerals and other ingredients like amino acids or fatty acids. And because there are multiple ingredients, there are low doses of each ingredient.  In fact, they are the most commonly used supplements in the world!

There are 13 vitamins and at least 16 minerals that are essential to health. You need certain amounts of all of these nutrients for optimal health. In fact, nutrient deficiencies can impact reproduction, growth, and regulation of bodily processes.

Lots of people say that if you follow a “balanced diet,” you’ll get enough vitamins and minerals. I personally would love to believe it … but it’s just not true. Many people are eating way too much processed food that is devoid of nutrition. There’s a lot of research that shows many people don’t get enough vitamins and minerals. Period.

How do you know which vitamins and minerals are in your multivitamin? Read the label, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! If there are at least three different vitamins and minerals listed, it’s a multivitamin.

 

Do multivitamins work?

Multivitamins have been studied a lot.  However, the quality of the multivitamins studied has not been consistent. Some studies consider any supplements with at least three vitamins to be a “multivitamin.” Most of the time, the multivitamins studied are ones that are very popular and are available everywhere.  So, what exactly do we know about the health benefits of multivitamins?  Here’s a quick summary of the science:

  • Multivitamin use is linked with improved moods. Interestingly, if someone has nutrient deficiencies, they may have mood imbalances. So, if the multivitamin addresses an underlying deficiency, this makes sense.
  • In terms of memory and cognitive performance (ability to think), there seems to be an improvement in people who regularly take multivitamins.
  • In terms of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, there seems to be a slight improvement.
  • In terms of heart disease, the results are mixed. There may be an increase, or a decrease, or no effect on risk of heart attacks.
  • In terms of cancer, there is a slightly reduced risk of certain cancers in men.
  • In terms of mortality (death), there doesn’t seem to be a clear increase or decrease in mortality rates for people who take multivitamins.

All in all, multivitamins aren’t magical “health pills.” They’re not guaranteed to improve your mental or physical health, or help you live longer; but, they do have some health benefits.

 

Are multivitamins safe?

Dietary supplements are regulated and subject to detailed and comprehensive regulations to uphold safety and quality. It’s just not necessary to hold them to the same standard the government demands of pharmaceutical products designed specifically to treat diseases.

Once a dietary supplement is on the market, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has safety monitoring responsibilities. And, sure, there are limitations to the FDA’s regulations, but there are still companies who go above and beyond to make their consumers feel safe by obtaining third-party verification. ConsumerLab.com® is just one company some businesses turn to when they need to test their products.

There are even some companies who have their manufacturing facility registered by NSF International—an independent, nonprofit organization that helps protect public health by writing standards for food, water, air, and consumer goods; testing and certifying products based on those standards, inspecting for GMP, and providing ongoing monitoring.

On top of ConsumerLab.com verification and manufacturing in a registered NSF facility, there are nutritional supplement companies that use trusted United States Pharmacopeial testing methods to help ensure they adhere to higher standards than even the FDA requires.  Do your research when choosing your vitamins & supplements.  That saying “you get what you pay for” rings true.  There are many times when supplements (not just multivitamins) have been tested and found to contain different ingredients than what’s on the label; this may be different quantities of vitamins or minerals. Sometimes they contain ingredients that are not supposed to be in them at all (like toxins or prescription medicines).  This is why choosing supplements that are licensed and from reputable companies is so important.

Just about every study that looked to see if multivitamins were health-promoting, also looked at side effects. They have consistently shown that multivitamins are very safe.  Now, I’m not talking about high-dose supplements. High doses of many nutrients can be harmful. But specifically for multivitamins where there are several nutrients included, all of which are in low doses. Those are safe.  Unless you have a knowledgeable practitioner advise otherwise, you want to stick to the dose on the label. That dose should be safe for most people.

 

Conclusion

Multivitamins are not a way to optimal health but there is evidence that they improve health for most people.  The  benefits listed above are just a few ways that Multis can make an impact.  Since they contain low doses of many different nutrients, they’re also safe (as long as you have a quality product).  Looking for the cleanest & safest multivitamin on the market?  Here’s the brand  my family uses exclusively (it meets all the safety standards stated above).  I’m very picky not only because we want the best, but my husband suffers from an illness that affects his immune system.  In order to keep him healthy, we take the best we can find and he’s been going strong for two years since his last treatments!  Here you go: USANA CellSentials.

Of course, taking a multivitamin is not a way to improve a poor diet. I always recommend eating a balanced diet of whole foods. There is plenty of evidence that eating a diet of whole, unprocessed food prevents many diseases.  But – just because you’re “eating well” doesn’t mean you are getting the recommended servings of nutrients established by the USDA.  And lets not forget that changes in farming methods, food processing and preparation has led to a nutritional decline in fruits, vegetables, grains and animal foods.  So make sure to buy as clean as you can: local, organic, non GMO products are a start.  You can also google “The Clean 15” & “The Dirty Dozen” for tips on which produce is best to buy organic and which is ok to buy commercial.    I do this to save as much money as possible.  If you eat meat, organic, grass fed & pastured will provide better nutrition and reduce the toxic load on your body.  You can also start implementing some meatless meal days.  Below is my superfood salad (you can have it with or without animal protein) – It’s like a multivitamin with benefits!

Recipe (Nutrient Dense): Superfood Salad 

Serves 2

  • 2 handfuls of greens (e.g. kale, spinach, arugula, etc.)
  • ½ cucumber chopped
  • 1 avocado chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 handfuls grape tomatoes
  • 2 handfuls fresh berries
  • 2 broiled salmon fillets (optional)
  • ¼ cup hemp seeds

Salad Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 dash salt
  • 2 dashes black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Grab two large bowls and put one handful of greens each.

Split all the rest of the fruits and vegetables, placing half in each bowl.

Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, mustard, honey/maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Pour over salad before serving.

Top with salmon and hemp seeds.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken or shrimp instead of the salmon.  To keep it vegan, substitute beans (canellini, garbanzo or lentils) for the animal protein.

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/do-multivitamins-work/

http://thewellnessbusinesshub.com/yes-nutrient-deficiencies-heres-proof-can/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0022955/

https://whatsupusana.com/2016/04/nutritional-supplements-myths/