Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rejuvenating Blackberry & Spirulina Smoothie Bowl


I have some very GREAT news! On Thursday I passed my board exam and am now officially a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist! No longer am I a graduate student or a dietetic intern. I am a nutrition professional ready to help the world! Pretty cool, huh? With that being said, I am sorry I haven't been posting much recently because my head was in the books every spare second I had. And although I so much wanted to create and write about nutrition, I knew it would not have been the best way to spend my time leading up to the exam. But now its done and I am BACK!

Now, who wants an ENERGIZING AND PURIFYING smoothie bowl?? I do! Especially, since as of late my stress has overcome my ability to fully take care of myself. So today I have created a blackberry and spirulina smoothie bowl which is rich in nutrients and fiber that can support detoxification, help reduce inflammation due to loads of antioxidants, support thyroid health, promote a healthy gut flora, and can give you long lasting energy from a balanced carbohydrate, fat and protein content. 


Spirulina

This blue-green algae is a cyanobacterium (a bacteria that creates its energy through photosynthesis) that has a long history of culinary use going as far back as to the Aztec civilization.  And there is a good reason why! Spirulina is extremely nutrient dense as it is rich in protein, B vitamins (especially B12) minerals such as iron and calcium, carotenoids (powerful antioxidants), and iodine (1, 2). It is also a good source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects much like omega-3’s and is a good source of the fat-soluble pigment called cholorphyll, which has been found to play a chemopreventive role by significantly reducing the growth of cancer cells (3, 4).  Also, interestingly chlorophyll and chlorophyllin (a synthetic version) have been found to reduce body odor and promote wound healing (5). Overall spirulina has many therapeutic effects and can be a great addition to any diet. However due to its very distinct flavor and aroma, it can be hard to get this superfood down unless it is hidden amongst other flavors—like this smoothie bowl.


Brazil Nuts

One to two Brazil nuts a day can keep the doctor away! Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, a trace mineral that plays critical roles in reproductive health, thyroid health, aides in reducing inflammation, helps eliminate toxins, and supports proper DNA synthesis. Large amounts of selenium is most commonly found in animal meats. However, vegan and vegetarian diets can be adequate in selenium as well. Interestingly, Brazil nuts are one of the most concentrated sources of selenium due to the selenium rich soil that the trees grow in. Since Brazil nuts are so selenium dense, you only need 1 per day to meet your needs, as on average 1 Brazil nut contains about 50 micrograms of selenium (6). Based on the recommended dietary allowances healthy adults should consume at least 55 micrograms per day and no more than 400 micrograms per day. Chronic high intake of selenium could cause selenotoxicity so it is important to get enough but not too much (7).

 

Whether you follow this recipe to a T, or use it as a guideline, adding in those superfoods like spirulina and Brazil nuts can be a great start to the day. This recipe is easily adaptable, and honestly I created it from what I happened to have on hand. So I encourage you to do the same! If you don't have blackberries, use blueberries. If you don't have a nectarine, use a peach, melons, or anything that is ripe, sweet and juicy! Also, if you are not a fan of basil, try mint, or just simply add spinach. Its fun to get creative so I urge you to come up with your favorite version of a nutrient dense smoothie bowl!

Also, if you are new to spirulina, try adding ½ a teaspoon first, taste test, and then add more as desired. 

Blackberry & Spirulina Smoothie Bowl
Serves 1 (or two as a snack)

INGREDIENTS
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 ripe nectarine, pit removed
½ cup plain kefir or Nancy’s plain yogurt
¼ cup packed fresh basil leaves
2 Brazil nuts, chopped
2 tablespoons flaxseeds
½ - 1 tsp spirulina
½ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
3 ice cubes

Toppings: blackberries, coconut flakes, and granola

DIRECTIONS

Add all the ingredients to a high-speed blender like a Vitamix or Blend Tec, and blend until smooth. Then add the ice cubes, blend until smooth, and pour into your favorite bowl. Top with coconut flakes and a little granola for some added crunch.

Note: if you don't like the seeds from blackberries I recommend swapping with blueberries.

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References:
1. Hoseni SM, Khosravi-Darani K, Mozafari MR. Nutritional and Medical Applications of Spirulina Microalgae. Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry. 2013(13):1231-1237.
2. Karkos PD, Leong SC, Karkos N, et al. Spirulina in Clinical Practice:
Evidence-Based Human Applications. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.2008(2011):1-4.
3. University of Maryland Medical Center. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/gammalinolenic-acid. Accessed August, 2, 2015.
4. Konickova R, Vankova K, Vanikova J, et al. Anti-cancer effects of blue-green alga Spirulina platensis, a natural source of bilirubin-like tetrapyrrolic compounds Ann Hepatol. 2014.13(2):273-83.
6. Thomson CD, Chisholm A, McLachlan SK, et al. Brazil nuts: an effective way to improve selenium status. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;87(2):379-84.
7. Linus Pauling Institute. Selenium. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/selenium. Accessed August 2, 2015.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Easy Summer Zucchini Pasta with Oregano


In season, locally grown, and organic fruits and vegetables are no match to the supermarket varieties. Summer is here and it is time to thrive off of the bounty of goods it brings. Visiting the local farmer’s market is a great way to get the biggest bang for your buck. Not only are you supporting the local economy and reducing environmental impact, but you are also getting the most vibrant, nutrient rich foods possible. Purchasing freshly harvested produce will ensure the highest quality. Not only can you see the difference but you can smell and taste the difference as well.

Did you know that the COLOR and SMELL of fruits and vegetables is due to their phytonutrient content??

The more vivid in color and the more aromatic a fruit or vegetable, the more concentrated the phytonutrients in the product. Phytonutrients are important compounds that have been found to have a wide variety of positive effects on the human body, including reducing inflammation, acting as powerful antioxidants, aiding in hormone regulation, and even playing a powerful role in preventing cancer. So lets get to know some of summer’s earliest rock stars!


TOMATOES

Although thought of as a vegetable, tomatoes are actually fruits that are rich in the phytonutrient lycopene. Most abundantly found in tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, and apricots, lycopene has been found to be inversely related to developing cancer found in the prostate gland, lung, and stomach and may also be able to inhibit tumor growth (1).  Furthermore, lycopene has been found to be a potent antioxidant, which may also help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by reducing inflammation (2).

TIP: Make sure to eat tomatoes with a high quality oil, like extra virgin olive to aid in the absorption of the fat soluble phytonutrients.

CHERRIES

Rich in powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, anthocyanins found in cherries have shown to act similar to NSAID drugs, dampening the inflammatory response within muscle tissue. Furthermore, reductions in serum inflammatory marker CRP were noted after 2 servings of Bing cherries (3). This is an indication that cherry consumption may help reduce systemic inflammation within the body.

TIP: Anthocyanins are more concentrated in dark and tart cherries.


SUMMER SQUASH

This abundant garden vegetable is not only rich in fiber but also rich phytonutrients that have shown to have many positive effects including reducing the risk of ulcers, promoting the growth of friendly bacteria, and supporting overall health via anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities (4, 5). Plus due to its rich fiber content it can help balance blood sugar levels and fuel friendly bacteria in the colon. It's a win-win situation.

Tip: Turn zucchini into a delicate pasta by using a julienne or spiralizer. Then toss with your favorite pesto or sauté with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

So I hope you skip the grocery store and head to your local farmer’s market to load up on these delicious goods! Every color and every smell offers something special. May the natural beauty of your exciting market finds transform into a delightful dish to share with friends and family.

Summer Zucchini Pasta
Serves two as a side (or 1 as an entree)

INGREDIENTS
1 large yellow zucchini
1 ½ tsp ghee or extra virgin olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp chili flakes
1 ½ tsp packed fresh oregano, finely minced
Sea salt and ground pepper
Handful fresh feta
Handful finely grated parmesan (I used a microplaner)
Garnish: fresh thyme

DIRECTIONS

Using a julienne peeler peel the zucchini into thin ribbons. Stop peeling once you get to the seeds. Set the peeled zucchini strands aside.

Heat the ghee over medium low heat and add the finely minced garlic, fennel seeds, and chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant. 

Add the zucchini ribbons and the freshly minced oregano...it should sizzle in the pan...if not then increase heat to medium. Stir to combine. Add a generous pinch sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Allow to sauté another 2-3 minutes until the zucchini is tender. Be careful not to overcook because it can become too soft quickly. Once the zucchini is tender turn off the heat and toss in a handful of feta and grated parmesan. Stir to combine. Season with additional sea salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, use a large fork to twirl the pasta onto a large spoon and serve in little pasta mounds. This dish tastes great along side a salad and grilled meats or seafood, topped with a Bolognese sauce made with freshly picked tomatoes, or simply just eat the pasta on its own…its that delicious!!

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References:
1. Gajowik A, Dobrzynska M. Lycopene – Antioxidant with Radioprotective and anticancer properties-A Review. National Institute of Public Health. 2014;65(4):263-271.
2. Burton-Freeman BM, Sesso HD. Whole Food versus Supplement: Comparing the Clinical Evidence of Tomato Intake and Lycopene Supplementation on Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Adv Mitr. 2014;5:457-485.
3. Bell PG, McHugh MP, Stevenson E, Howatson G. The role of cherries in exercise and health.  Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014;24(3):477-90.
4. Sharma D, Rawat I, Goel HC. Anticancer and anti-inflammatory activities of some dietary cucurbits. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology. 2015;53:216-221.
5. Sharma D, Rawat I, Goel HC. Antioxidant and Prebiotic Potential of Some Cucurbits. Res J Med Plant. 2012;6(7):500-510.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ginger Citrus Spritzer



Wow! Five years of school are now behind me. Two years of prerequisites, 2 years of graduate school, and a 9-month dietetic internship has all finally come to an end. Wednesday marked my last day as an intern and the culmination of my time at Bastyr University, a leader in natural health education. My journey was long and my journey was hard, and it truly seems surreal that I am here today. But now I am more than ready to be the change I wish to see in this world. Just one more thing….I still need to pass my board exam. Although it is daunting it seems minor in comparison to all the sweat, tears, and long nights I have already given up to be where I am today. And, soon I will finally be able to call myself a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist!

However, sadly today I cannot toast with a glass of champagne, as I have been dealing with a painful wisdom tooth extraction. Instead I will toast with a fresh ginger citrus spritzer perfect to celebrate this huge accomplishment and to stay cool in the summer heat. Plus its loaded with nutrients to help reduce inflammation and help ease stress!



GINGER

Most people already know that ginger can help ease nausea and vomiting (1). But did you know that ginger just like turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that have shown to reduce pain and swelling by suppressing pro-inflammatory compounds and reducing oxidative stress in the body? Studies have found that 75% of participants struggling with arthritic pain had a reduction in pain and/or swelling (2).

Furthermore, for you ladies out there, a recent study has found ginger to be effective in reducing heavy menstruations. Research has shown that elevated prostaglandin and prostacyclin levels have been found in women with heavy menstrual bleeding. Interestingly, specific compounds found in ginger inhibit the synthesis of these prostaglandins to provide an anti-inflammatory effect and reduce the amounts of blood loss (3).

LEMON AND LIME JUICE

Unlike other mammals, humans do not have the ability to make vitamin C (4). Therefore it is really important to get enough from you diet as it has many important functions in the body. It acts as a cofactor in multiple enzymatic reactions. For example it plays a crucial role in the synthesis of collagen, it acts as a powerful anti-oxidant protecting our cell membranes, and it is an important vitamin for adrenal health.  Did you know that our adrenal glands especially store really high concentrations of vitamin C?  That is because vitamin C is needed to produce hormones called epinephrine and norepinephrine when someone is responding to stress (4). Therefore, if you are acutely, or more importantly, chronically stressed, you need to make sure you are getting enough vitamin C rich foods in your diet to support your adrenal health as it can easily get depleted! Some foods rich in vitamin C are below…you may be surprised!

Papaya (1 cup)
168mg
Bell Peppers (1 cup)
117mg
Broccoli (1 cup)
101mg
Brussels Sprouts (1 cup)
97mg
Strawberries (1 cup)
85mg
Pineapple (1 cup)
79mg
Orange (1 medium)
70mg
Kiwifruit (1 medium)
64mg
Cantaloupe (1 cup)
59mg
Kale (1 cup)
53mg

However something to keep in mind is that the impact of heat and oxygen really affect how much vitamin C content is in a food. The more the fruit or vegetable is exposed to heat and oxygen the less vitamin C will remain. For instance, broccoli stored at room temperature for 6 days can loose almost 80% of its vitamin C and cooking vegetables will rapidly reduce the amount available as well (5). Although it is fine to eat cooked vegetables, just make sure to get in a couple servings of raw fruits and vegetables throughout the day to meet your needs especially if you are stressed emotionally or are feeling like you are getting sick. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that women and men get 75-90mg of vitamin C per day respectively (6). However, if you are stressed you may need more than that.  Just to note, the Tolerable Upper Intake of vitamin C is 2000mg for adults, but if you are eating a whole foods diet, which I recommend for getting adequate vitamin c, you will probably never come close to that upper limit. Just continue to focus on getting multiple servings of raw fruits and vegetables per day and make sure they are as fresh as possible!


So get out your microplaner, and get out your fine mesh sieve, because you are going to want to make a big batch of this delicious tonic! It’s super tasty and easy…and it can help melt the stress away!

Ginger Citrus Spritzer
Makes 4 servings (you can easily double this recipe)

INGREDIENTS
½ cup lemon and lime juice (~ 2 of each)
¼ cup raw local honey
2 thumbs lengths of ginger (2 T grated via microplaner)
1/8th teaspoon cayenne
Generous pinch of Real sea salt
Ice cubes
Sparkling water

DIRECTIONS

Juice your lemons and limes until you have ½ cup of freshly squeezed juice, pour into a glass bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Add the honey and stir until dissolved. Peel the ginger by scraping the skin off with a spoon. Then using your microplaner, grate the ginger into a fine pulp. Measure 2 tablespoons of this pulp and add to your mixture. Then add the cayenne and the generous pinch sea salt and stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture into a sealable mason jar and allow to sit at least 4 hours of over night in the refrigerator. This ensures the best flavor.

Then place a fine mesh sieve over a large glass bowl and pour the mixture into the sieve. With the back of a large spoon scrape/push the ginger pulp back and forth against the sieve until no more juice remains and the pulp is dry. Discard the pulp and pour the remaining clear tonic into a sealable mason jar for storage. Keep in the refrigerator.

Now fill up a large glass with ice cubes, pour over 2 tablespoons of the ginger citrus tonic, and top off with sparkling water. And if you want to get extra fancy, swap the water with some champagne.

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References:
1. Viljoen E, Visser J, Koen N, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting. Nutrition Journal. 2014;13(20):1-14.
2. WHF. Ginger. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=72. Accessed June 19, 2015.
3.Kashefi F, Khajehei M, Alaviniia M, et al. Effect of Giner (Zingiber officinale) on Heavy Menstrual Bleeding: A Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Clinical Trial. Phytother Res.  2015;29:114-119.
4. Patak P, Willenberg HS, Bornstein SR. Vitamin C is an important cofactor for both adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla. Endocr Res. 2004;30(4):871-875.
5. WHF. Vitamin C. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=109. Accessed June 19, 2015.
6. Linus Pauling. Vitamin C. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C. Accessed June 19, 2015.


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