anti-inflammatory

THE Herb for Your Workout!

After a stroll through my herb garden this morning, I clipped some lovely herbs; lemon verbena and oregano. I love herbs. Not only as food and additives, but for their many medicinal effects.

lemon-verbena-and-thyme

Lemon verbena tea has long been used to calm the nerves and lessen anxiety. But did you know that it can be the perfect exercise supplement?

Research has shown that the high antioxidant potential in lemon verbena decreases damage done to the muscles during the workout, without inhibiting the body’s development of additional muscle mass and increased stamina. So next time you reach for a pre-workout drink, choose lemon verbena tea. Plus, its specific mix of compounds can reduce your hunger cravings and increase your body’s fat-burning ability, helping you lose those unwanted pounds you’re trying to work off!

lemon-verbena

And if that wasn’t enough, lemon verbena works to reduce inflammation that can wreak havoc on our joints and mobility. As we age—or get injured—it can be difficult to fully heal because our joints are in constant motion. Using lemon verbena has been shown to reduce joint pain and aching, resulting in a reduced recovery times for joint-related injuries.

thyme

I also clipped some oregano. Not your everyday variety, but this is Mexican oregano which imparts a more earthy, grassy, citrusy flavor. This herb is actually a member of the verbena family and is a wonderful addition for chili, meatballs and tomato sauces.

Harvesting Sweets for Thanksgiving!

Oh, what a fabulous day when the sweet potatoes are ready! Now mind you, we could have harvested these babies a few weeks back, but it’s oh-so-much more fun to harvest them in time for the holidays. Sweet potatoes are a staple on our Thanksgiving table. Actually, in our house these potatoes make a year round appearance because not only are they delicious, they’re healthy.

Wonderful! We do love healthy. But now is the time when sweet potatoes are actually “in season” in Central Florida. So, with this in mind, we scooped away the dirt and voilá ~ potatoes!

Kids LOVE this part. Harvesting potatoes is commonly referred to as “swimming” for potatoes and once you let that cat out of the bag, the kids come running. Really puts a nick in my child’s playover when their friends want to garden (ugh-moan) instead of kick the soccer ball around. But gardening is that much fun.

Now, when digging for these guys, one must be careful. An aggressive scrape from your shovel WILL leave a mark on that potato you don’t see until you hit it. Gashes detract from your potato’s storage ability so do be aware.

swimming for sweet potatoes

Best tactic is to don the gloves and get to fingering your way through the dirt.  Most potatoes will be collected under the main root system, however, don’t be surprised if you find potatoes on extended vines several feet away. In our case, we actually found some beneath my lovely black-papered walkways!

our school harvest sweet treats

It’s an adventure. Anyhoo, once you’ve gathered a basket full, gently rinse the dirt from their bodies and set in a cool, dry place to store. Anxious to cook them? Thought you would be. Why not try this Deep Dish Casserole? It has an orange twist to it and is absolutely divine on the tastebuds.  Sweet Potato French Fries are also delightful and of course, Sweet Potato Pie proves a huge hit with everyone. No matter how you slice these golden girls you’ll be pleased with the outcome. And remember, sweet potatoes are healthy. Loaded with vitamins A and C, these are superfoods when it comes to anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory power. Enjoy!

Food for Heart

As I age, I find I’m riddled with aches and pains. And I’m stumped. What the heck happened? I look like I’m in shape. I eat healthy. I exercise. What’s going on?

Blueberry & yogurt stock photo

My first impulse is to scream and whine and jump up and down, screeching “This isn’t fair! I’m too young for this!” While I might feel better afterward, my family would be peer at me quizzically whispering, “She’s done it. She’s finally gone over the edge.”

Hmph. So much for sympathy from the ones who love me.  On a positive note, it would behoove me to remember that aches and pains and old age beat the alternative. I’m alive. I’m having a good time. So what if I have to bend over and stretch every now again (careful–the lower back discs can’t take too much of it) or slowly ease my way out of bed in the morning (so I don’t pull something on the way out). Once I get warmed up, I’m good to go, ready to hit the ground running!

But with age, I feel I’m growing in wisdom. Granted this is a highly debatable subject among my inner circle but I’m going to ignore debate and share a little secret. Eating healthy is a mindset. It’s an attitude, one that seeps into your behavior and becomes your lifestyle. I never feel deprived, I never go without–eating the occasional danish helps, the surprise donut from hubby–but sometimes I find myself asking, “Can I do more?” More

The Anti-Inflammatory Garden

No, I’m not talking about placing special seats between your raised beds to ease the strain on your achy joints.  Though that would be a nice invention, wouldn’t it?  And while they’re at it, perhaps one of our smart scientist-types could devise some miracle gadget to relieve the stress from my neck and shoulders–especially when I’m staking those gorgeous tomato plants of mine.  Jimney Cricket, my massage therapist is tired of seeing me!

Actually, I’m talking vegetables.  And illness.  More specifically, the relationship between the two.  Over the years, our friendly researchers have been hard at work studying the connection between food and body (not my silly gadgets) and have discovered some interesting correlations.  Seems a diet loaded with inflammatory foods (refined sugar, dairy, meat, refined grains, alcohol, caffeine) coincides with a diet higher in acid-forming foods (refined sugar, dairy, meat, refined grains, alcohol, caffeine).  Notice any similarities? 

Technically, it’s not acid foods that are the problem, but how certain foods affect the pH in your body, ie. do they become acid-forming once ingested.  For example, lemon is an obvious acid, yet once consumed, its effect becomes more alkaline due to your body’s digestive breakdown process. Grapefruits, limes, nectarines, pineapple…they too have an “alkalizing” effect. 

Where should your pH be?  The average is 7.4 making the human body more alkaline by nature.  Imagine if your diet consisted of mainly acid-forming foods.  It’s doesn’t take a calculus whiz (lucky for me) to realize you’re decreasing your body’s natural pH and thus, introducing unhealthy conditions.  How?  Basically, by eating acid-forming foods you’re forcing your body to “work” to neutralize the acidity level and reestablish a healthier more natural pH level; its preferred and optimum performance level.

While no major studies have proven this cause and effect relationship, some test-tube lab results have demonstrated that certain cancer cells grow faster in a more acidic solution.  It’s no coincidence that many a cancer patient has been advised to make sweeping changes to their diet–eliminating processed foods, meats and dairy in favor of fresh leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts.  Is it because their physician believes in the alkaline diet?

Or is it simply common sense food choices they’re after.  Remember, there are ninety-year-olds running around out there who partake in all the no-no foods and have no issues.  Probably because they’re running. (Or gardening!)  But it doesn’t negate the alkaline  premise.   Just because it hasn’t been proven, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

But while the debate continues, it’s up to us to decide.  We decide what goes in (food) and what goes out (activity). If you ask me, moderation is always a good starting point.  And consider the source.  Do you think the pretty pink bon-bon shaped like a heart is best, or the lovely pink beet shaped almost the same is better?   (Hmmm…wish the questions on my final exams in college were this easy.)  Seems to me, the closer my food resembles its natural state the better!

Which is why my family is taking the challenge.  And challenge is no understatement.  While my kids’ friends think I’m some kind of health nut who only eats sticks and leaves, I’m not.  I love sweets–how do you think I knew about pink bon-bons?–adore cheese, crave a juicy cheeseburger now and again and enjoy both wine and coffee.  How should you divide your time between the two? 

For our raw diet challenge, I plan to make a concerted effort to stay on the alkaline/anti-inflammatory side, though most medical authorities recommend a diet of 75-80% alkaline-forming foods.  Whew.  Maybe my organic yogurt is okay…

“Whew” is right. Eating an all raw diet will definitely be a challenge for me.  Sure I’m leaving the door open for my daily dose of dairy in the form of yogurt, but think of what I’m giving up! Focus on what I’m adding

I DO prefer to look for the positive.  Keeps my “happy-attitude-cap” in place.  For those interested in joining the fun and delving into the alkaline-weighted menu–

CAUTION:  depending on which resource you consult, opinion will vary on which foods are the powerhouse alkalizers and which are the worst acid-offenders.  The following list is only meant as a guide and NOT an absolute authority on the subject.  In fact, my personal search found several discrepancies.  Take blueberries–good or bad?  Acid or alkaline?

Do your own research, but know the reviews are mixed at best. 

Alkaline-forming

Vegetables:  spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, cabbage, garlic, avocado, shiitake mushrooms

Fruits:  raisins, lemon, watermelon, nectarine, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, blackberries

Nuts/seeds:  hazelnuts, pumpkin, flax, sunflower

Spices:  turmeric, ginger, chili pepper, cinnamon

Acid-forming

Vegetables:  corn, olives

Fruits:  cranberries, blueberries 🙁

Nuts:  peanuts, walnuts, cashews

On second thought, perhaps I’ll go 50-50 and split the difference.  One blueberry for me, a cranberry for you.  Trade you a peanut for a dozen sunflower seeds?