Coffee: To drink or not to drink?

Image of lady pouring coffee

Ah, beloved coffee. I love you so. You make me happy when skies are gray. You are my warm and fuzzy daily ritual. You are a reason to get up early, meet up with friends, and an excuse to get out of my office. I am pretty sure many people out there agree with me on this. I mean what is the point of getting up in the morning without it? 

Ok, I know I’m being a bit dramatic. I have been taking a break from alcohol for the past month, so coffee feels like one of my only treats left. I am clinging to it with every ounce of my being. I have gone without foods that are not healthful for my body, like gluten, dairy and wine, but DO NOT TAKE MY COFFEE AWAY. Please?!

Lately, in my search to feel ridiculously healthy, I have been questioning if holding onto this daily habit is the right choice for me. I’ve tried to quit a few times, but after a few days (ok, hours) it always seems like a horrible idea. I thought it was time I did some research, so at least I am well informed about this substance I’m consuming.

What I already knew about my old friend, coffee

Image of a smiley face in a cup of coffee
Happy coffee!
  • Coffee contains caffeine (stating the obvious here)
  • Coffee is delicious and always makes me feel happy
  • Coffee motivates me to get up early
  • Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands and can lead to an energy crash
  • Caffeine suppresses the appetite

Things I learned about coffee and caffeine

Caffeine irritates and damages the lining of the gastro-intestinal organs. I have to admit, I already knew this but am completely in denial. 

Caffeine causes an increase in dopamine, the neurotransmitter in your brain that makes you feel good. This is the same response that happens with sugar, alcohol and drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine! Dopamine increases feelings of well-being and a good mood. Aha! No wonder coffee is so hard to give up.

Caffeine overstimulates the adrenal glands, which can wear them out and lead to adrenal fatigue. According to Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, the presence of caffeine stimulates the adrenals to release catecholamines, adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline. These hormones cause our bodies to feel energized and alert. If you are low in catecholemines, you are more likely to feel fatigued and foggy. So you grab another coffee. Which leads to more work for your adrenal glands, which further depletes you of catecholemines and you feel more tired. A vicious cycle indeed. 

Ross also notes that caffeine reduces the levels of our amino acids l-phenylalanine and l-tyrosine. The interesting thing here is these are the amino acids needed to make adrenaline and noradrenaline, so the aforementioned cycle gets even crazier. 

To further complicate things, caffeine is an appetite suppressant which leads us to skip out on meals and thus leaves our bodies lacking in vital nutrients and amino acids, which are the building blocks of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Well. That definitely got my attention. I’m not going to say I like it. The first step is awareness, so I will leave you to mull it over yourself. You might take a moment and ask yourself: is coffee really serving my body right now?  And then really listen to what comes up.

Soaking Nuts, Seeds, Legumes, and Grains…

Why soak your nuts and seeds?  Because this is what our ancestors used to do to make grains, legumes, nuts and seeds more digestible! These items all contain elements that prevent or disrupt the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is a plant-based defense-mechanism designed by nature to protect the seed or grain of a plant from predators. (You and your digestive system!)

The problem is that if we eat too much of these foods (like daily),  it can wreak havoc on the digestive system and lead to impaired function. This means decreased ability to break down and absorb nutrients from anything you eat.

If you cannot prepare your grains, nuts, legumes and seeds this way, then it’s best to only eat occasionally and avoid altogether if you have any known digestive or autoimmune issues.

I found this handy little chart in some of my nutritional therapy handouts. Germination is the soaking time, just using filtered water. Sprouting time is if you want to get crazy and grow some sprouts right in your very own kitchen. See my previous blog post for instructions! Click here–> SPROUTS! 


sproutchart

Being OK with being Uncomfortable

Have you ever had those days when you feel like you are caught in the middle of a crazy storm? Complete. Utter. Chaos. That is how I am feeling in my world today, both inside and out. It is so hard to even breathe, let alone combat a long line of negative thoughts bombarding their way into my head. When I reason with myself logically, life is good! But changes are happening in a lot of different ways and it brings all sorts of emotions and inner junk up to the surface. Change for me seems to happen all at once. I can’t seem to rearrange things in baby steps, I change everything. I seem to struggle with a decision to do something for weeks, months, years even. And then, all the sudden BOOM. I’m ready. Making one solid decision feels so good, that I want more. The universe even helps out by throwing in some changes on its own. So then it snowballs…and I feel GREAT. Until everything starts to feel different. And scary. And messy. Then I realize how uncomfortable I am. My first instinct is to put everything back the way it was.

I recently went camping and had four glorious days out in nature, away from my cell phone, computer and to-do list. When I returned, the sense of calm and stillness that I felt out there remained with me for several days. I slept more sound than I had in weeks. I wasn’t reaching for my cell phone to post a photo on Facebook every  two seconds. I found myself not listening to music in my car and just enjoying silence. This week I am longing for that again….simplicity, peace, and just being present.

I know this will all be OK. Things sometimes get messy before they calm down. In the end, I know I will be stronger and have grown in some way. Being caught in the middle though, it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m learning that being uncomfortable does not equal BAD. It just means different. It means new opportunities. It means growth. So this time, I will sit with the upheaval of my surroundings and my soul. I will truly feel my feelings, settle in, ride it out and just breathe.

IMG_5605

Breakfast of Champs…

Well, for F sake. It has been forever since I’ve posted anything here. I have been so busy with…. LIFE.  I keep trying to cross things off my list, but each time I do another 2 or 3 are added. Emails, texts, FB, errands, bills….I’m finally realizing those things are always going to be there. They won’t go away. But damn it, I’m taking my life back. I think the bottom line here is that our time is precious and we should be filling it with things that bring us joy.

Here is what has made me happy today so far:

puddo
My sweet little Puddin’ + SUNSHINE!

 

IMG_5373
Kale and yam scramble with homemade saurkraut!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And…. a really damn good cup of coffee. Life is good : D

 

Beet Kvass

Beet K-what?! Why let me introduce you…..

If you aren’t familiar with this gem, you are missing out on one of the easiest, least expensive and nutritious beverages around. Kvass is a traditional fermented beverage that originates in eastern Europe. It was usually made from stale rye bread. Kvass was considered a tonic for digestion, an excellent thirst quencher and cure for too much vodka! When kvass was made with beets, it was served more for its medicinal properties than its taste.  I love beets and always have, so I think this stuff tastes frickin’ amazing. However, I realize there are a lot of *beet-haters* out there. Well. I am the messenger and I think beets have something they would like you to know…

Standing alone and proud (in spite of haters), the beet is an absolute nutritional powerhouse. Beets are a great source of folate, manganese, potassium, copper, magnesium, vitamin c, iron, and vitamin B6. Whew! They also contain pigments called betacyanins and betaxanthins which have strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory properties and aid in detoxification.

Why would you want to drink this? The fermentation process enhances this beefy nutritional profile by increasing enzymes, B vitamins, and probiotics. Beet kvass can alkalize the blood, promote regularity, cleanse and tone the liver, heal the gallbladder and thin the bile. It also promotes production of healthy stomach acid. Sounds pretty good!

The first time I made beet kvass, I threw it out. It can look a little scary because a mucky, film can form on the surface. I was a lot more timid with things concerning mold and bacteria back then. Now that I am older (and wiser) I realize these things are natural and can be our friends! So I tried again and once I got past that layer, I discovered a salty, earthy and slightly sour concoction. It can be an acquired taste, but you don’t have to chug this stuff to reap its’ benefits. (Although you may eventually want to!) You can drink about 4 oz in the morning and evening and your body will be high-fiving you. YES.

Beet Kvass Recipe

  • 2 large or 3 medium beets (peeled if not organic)
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 gallon filtered water
  • that’s all!

Dice beets into course chunks. Do not grate, as they will ferment too fast and produce alcohol. (Sometimes we want that, but not here !) Place in a glass jar. I use a one gallon jar and then just fill it half way with water. No precise measuring needed; ) Add your sea salt and water. Cover with a cloth and rubber band and let sit on the counter for 2-3 days.

Strain beets (don’t throw away yet!) and store this ruby red liquid in glass jars/bottles in your refrigerator. You will know if it’s ready when it tastes slightly sour, earthy (like a beet!) and perhaps a little fizzy. Do not let the scary film deter you. Simply spoon it off or use a fine mesh straBeet2iner. Occasionally these natural processes can go awry, so use your senses to guide you. If it tastes ‘off ‘ you will probably know. Like how you know when milk has gone bad. You just know something is NOT right. Or call me and I will be your taster 🙂

A beautiful thing about this recipe is you get two batches out of one! Save a cup of the liquid and the beets and return to the jar. Refill with another half gallon of water and let this batch sit for 2 days. This liquid will be weaker and lighter in color than the first but still just as tasty and nutritious.

I like to add a squeeze of lemon to my beet kvass. It is also fun to use in smoothies, soups and salad dressings. Be brave my friends and give this a try!

“NO”chos!

I LOVE Nachos! It is one of my “junk foods” that I  indulge in every now and then. I know that there is nothing healthy about tortilla chips, all they’ve got going for them is (1)they are gluten free (usually) and (2)they are SO DAMN GOOD! The larger problem is I was diagnosed dairy intolerant, so what to do?!?! I just can’t get myself to buy into that alternative “cheese” idea. They melt and taste sort of like real cheese, which to me is super frightening. I mean, how do they do that?! Yikes. Franken-food is not for me. I’ve often peeked at the ingredients, just to consider trying it but then always decide against it.

The way I feel is that I’d rather have the real thing or no cheese at all. So, I’ve been cheating big time the past few weeks. UGH. I justify this because dairy doesn’t make me feel bad right away. And it’s summer. And I’m camping. And….well, you get the idea. It’s a slow build up and then it hits me hard. Plus once I eat a little bit and don’t feel horrible, it opens the flood gates and I want more. Pretty soon, I’m gorging on ice cream. So enough is enough.

The other night I got a hankerin’ for some nachos, so I thought I’d give it a try with my raw cashew cheese. And I found these chips made from garbanzo beans and sunflower oil, so slightly better than regular corn chips. I know, the whole thing sounds kind of weird and I already went into it knowing my nachos weren’t going to be all gooey and melty. I had to think outside the box. And as usual, I tried to sneak in some veggies. It turned out super yummy, so thought I’d share. Try it if you are so inclined or just want a change from boring old cheesy, melty, nachos! ; )

NO-chos!

NO-chos!

Ingredients

  • Falafel Chips
  • zucchini, diced into small pieces
  • red onion, chopped fine
  • salsa
  • Cashew cheese
  • 2 C raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 small lemon

Instructions

  1. Blend cashew, lemon juice, sea salt in food processor until smooth and creamy
  2. Layer chips, zucchini, onion, any other veggies you desire in pan.
  3. Top with salsa and cashew cheese
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes at 375
https://www.sexyrealfood.com/?p=452
nochos3

New way to drink coffee

Are you a coffee drinker? I admit, there is nothing like my morning cup o’ joe. I wonder where in the world that saying came from anyways…? Anyhow, since omitting dairy from my life (well, most the time….) I no longer enjoy the luscious taste of heavy cream in my coffee. Sad day. I still like black coffee and I usually just drink it like that, but sometimes you just want a little something fun. I was occasionally using coconut milk from a can because it had less crap in it than those fake alternative creamers, but I didn’t love the idea of putting too much of that in my body. (Things in cans sort of creep me out…)

You may have heard of “Bulletproof Coffee”? In a nutshell, this is coffee blended with butter and coconut oil. I got my idea from this but I’ve modified mine, of course. Heaven forbid I follow a recipe! *GASP*  Plus, the bulletproof coffee has way more fat than most of our gallbladders can handle at once, so I have been using just a tablespoon of coconut oil. (I REALLY want to use the butter though….) It’s awesome because the coconut oil whips the coffee up into a frothy delicious concoction! You should try it. Or try it with the butter and let me know how it tastes! Prepare to be amazed.

Why drink coffee like this…

Stating the obvious here, because it tastes delicious. Duh.

Or you have an intolerance to dairy. Omit the butter and you have a much better alternative than those crappy, fake creamers and alternative milks. Seriously. Have you ever looked at the ingredients in those? Gross. Plus, they don’t taste great.

Another reason is the fats lessen the jittery effects of coffee because they slow down the caffeine absorption into your bloodstream.

And last but not least, you are sneaking some healthy fats into your body, disguised as coffee!!

Here’s the skinny on the delicious goodness of butter and coconut oil:

Coconut oil. The benefits of this oil are due to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, which give it antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antibacterial qualities. Coconut oil is made of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These are easily digested and immediately burned by your liver for energy. More on coconut oil here.

Grass fed butter. Butter is a great source of a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate, which helps fight inflammation. Grass-fed dairy is much higher in Vitamin K2 and Omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that are important for the heart. Go here for more about benefits of butter.

Frothy Coffee

Ingredients

  • 1 C Organic coffee
  • 1 T Coconut oil - unrefined, preferably organic OR
  • 1 T Grass fed butter (or a little of both!)
  • Cinnamon, cardamom, sea salt (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prepare your coffee (I use pour over or french press method)
  2. Add your fats
  3. Add any other fun add-ins like cinnamon, cardamom, pinch of sea salt (yeah, it's not bad!)
  4. Emulsify with your immersion blender or regular blender until it becomes frothy
  5. Drink and enjoy!
https://www.sexyrealfood.com/?p=404

I make my coffee in a wide mouth mason jar and my immersion blender fits right in. Easy breezy beautiful.  Something to keep in mind, if you’re not used to using a lot of healthy fats, start with a teaspoon and work up to let your body absorb them. YUM.

 

 

The Amazing Digestive System

You may have checked out the fancy chart from my last post and now you’re wondering what the hell it means if you’re not getting Type 4’s and 5’s everyday and if it really is that big of a deal. The answer is a big, fat ‘YES’. Or maybe it’s a long skinny ‘yesssss’. Either way, your body is trying to tell you something. Are you listening?

Digestion is a major foundation of health. It is the process of breaking down food into smaller components so that the nutrients can be absorbed and used by our cells. Every cell of our body depends on a properly functioning digestive system for energy, growth, and repair. The digestive process includes the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food, the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream, the assimilation of these nutrients by cells and the elimination of waste products.  It is a north to south process and if anywhere along the line things go wrong, the rest of the system won’t work properly. This means less than optimal health and function for your body!

Some things that can cause our digestive systems to not work properly are:

  • not chewing enough
  • eating too fast or too much
  • eating when under stress
  • food allergies and sensitivities
  • consuming a low fat diet, poor quality fats, and highly processed foods
  • low stomach acid and/or pancreatic enzymes

All these things can lead up to your poo not coming out quite right. It has been said that all disease begins in the gut. All the more reason to become aware of the signs your body is giving you and start taking action.

Do yourself a favor this week. Sit down, take your time and enjoy your meals. Chew your food and don’t dilute your stomach acid and enzymes by “washing” your food down with gulps of water. Stop eating when you feel satisfied and choose fresh, colorful whole foods. If you try this and you still don’t feel quite right, think about visiting a nutritional therapist or ND for some guidance. Your whole body will thank you!

 

 

poop!

OH, YES. This is a subject that has been a little too much in my life this past 24 hours. I caught some kind of bug and I’m not gonna lie, it has been ROUGH. I don’t get sick like this much, so I’m kind of a baby. I also tend to feel guilty:  (a) about not “getting things done” and  (b) calling out sick to work. (Anyone else do that? Geez, never mind that I’m probably contagious and no one wants me to be around them anyways…)

Also, since Portland had that e. Coli-in-the-water-supply-scare last week, of course, my mind was imagining the worst. “Yep, I forgot and brushed my teeth. And I’m pretty sure I drank straight out of the Brita without boiling.” and  “OH my god, I’m the one in one million people who actually got it!” To ease my mind, I spoke to a medical person who reassured me that it probably was just a flu bug. And, ok, I am feeling much better. I’ve been eating my BRAT diet, (bananas, apple sauce, rice, gf toast) without the rice and with the addition of homemade bone broth. And I’m working on rehydrating. I have been alternating water, rooibos tea, coconut water, and beet kvass and kombucha. Mixin’ it up a little because water is tasting so boring to me right now….

Anyways, as I was lying here recovering on the couch, I thought to myself… what a perfect time to break out the ol’ poop blog post! I have been saving this little gem for the perfect time, because I think it’s good stuff. I mean everyone should know how their poop stacks up! It can give big insight into your overall digestive health. Check out this handy-dandy POOP CHART for everything you need know about a healthy poo poo. I know this isn’t the sexiest of topics, but it is one of my favorites. Besides everybody poops. Even girls. 😉

 

 

Kombucha

By now you’ve probably heard of kombucha or seen it in the grocery stores. What is this crazy stuff anyways? Kombucha is a popular beverage and natural folk remedy made by fermenting tea.
The Kombucha mushroom is thought to have originated in Asia during the Chinese Tsin dynasty in 212BC. It was referred to as the ‘Remedy for Immortality’ or the ‘Tea of Immortality’.

The kombucha or fermented tea is made from a culture or ‘mushroom’. This culture feeds on the sugar and tea and in exchange produces other substances: enzymes, various acids, vitamins, antibiotic substances, and small amounts of alcohol. The ‘mushroom’ is not really a mushroom at all, but a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY).

If you really want to geek out, here is a list of the actual ingredients in the fermented tea: various enzymes, Acetic acid, Carbonic acid, Folic Acid, Gluconic acid, Glucuronic acid, Lactic acid, Usnic acid, Amino acids (various), Hydroxy acids (various), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin, niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin, cyanocobalamin), Vitamin C (from Lactic acid).

There are many health benefits that come from drinking kombucha. My favorite is that it is a much healthier alternative to sugar-laden sodas, not to mention super-duper refreshing.

Here’s a list of how kombucha does a body good:
Detoxification – Glucuronic acid is normally produced by the liver in sufficient amounts to neutralize toxins in the body. However, if the liver becomes overloaded, additional glucuronic acid from kombucha can aid in our body’s natural cleansing process.

Digestion– Kombucha contains high levels of beneficial acids, probiotics (healthy bacteria) and enzymes. For optimal health, the intestinal microflora must be carefully balanced between good and bad bacteria. Foods we eat, stress and especially antibiotics can all disrupt our bacterial balance because they can kill off the bad bacteria as well as killing off the good bacteria. Probiotics taken regularly can help maintain levels of good bacteria by altering the pH of the large intestine to a slightly more acidic level and the unhealthy bacteria tend to be inhibited or destroyed.

Energy – Kombucha has the ability to invigorate people which may be credited to the formation of iron that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process.  It also contains some caffeine and B vitamins, which can energize the body.

Immune Health – Kombucha is full of antioxidants and probiotics. Antioxidants control free radicals and probiotics keep our GI tract healthy, which both support the immune system.

Joint Care – Kombucha can help heal, repair and prevent joint damage. It is loaded with glucosamines, which increase synovial hyaluronic acid production. This supports the preservation of collagen and can help prevent arthritic pain.

Cancer Prevention – Kombucha has been linked to cancer prevention and recovery.  A study published in Cancer Letters found that by consuming glucaric acid found in kombucha reduced the risk of cancer in humans.

If you’re feeling adventurous, here is the recipe!

Kombucha

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Yield: approx. 1 gallon

4-5 16 oz. bottles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons loose organic black or green tea, without flavorings
  • 1/4-12 cup kombucha from previous batch (if available)
  • 1 kombucha mushroom (SCOBY)
  • 1 gallon glass jar
  • dishtowel/cloth napkin and rubberband

Instructions

  1. Boil about 5 cups of water and pour over tea leaves. (Allow to steep for several hours to make a very strong tea).
  2. Strain out tea leaves with a mesh strainer or nut milk bag so the liquid is clear.
  3. Add sugar and room temperature, filtered water to fill your glass jar to about 3-4 inches from top.
  4. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then add your kombucha from previous batch and scoby.
  5. Cover and seal with cloth and rubberband. (This allows air in and keeps bugs out).
  6. Let sit for about 7-10 days, ideally in a semi-dark place about 70-80 degrees fahrenheit. When ready, it should be sour and possibly fizzy, without the taste of tea remaining.
  7. Remove scoby, pour liquid into bottles, cap tightly and store in the refrigerator. Alternatively, just remove scoby and seal the gallon jar with a lid and refrigerate. The kombucha usually gets more fizzy once sealed.

Notes

Your scoby will grow a second spongy ‘pancake’ on top once the kombucha is ready. You can use this to make more or give to a friend. Store in the refrigerator in glass or stainless steel container (not plastic) and cover it completely with some of the kombucha so it stays moist. Your scoby can be used many times, it will get thicker and darker with each use. It actually makes the kombucha better as the scoby matures! If it turns black or the kombucha does not sour properly, it may be contaminated, so throw it out and start with a new one.

https://www.sexyrealfood.com/?p=373

For more information on kombucha, including research, references, and recipes check out these sources:

http://www.draxe.com/7-reasons-drink-kombucha-everyday/
http://www.kombuchacultures.com/
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon