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Before we dive right into the skin-gut connection, let’s get to know our skin and gut as individuals a little better.
Your skin is the largest organ of your body. It’s the first defense barrier against the physical, chemical and bacterial challenges in the environment. Your skin is home to millions of bacteria. In the right balance, these bacteria can maintain the overall health of your skin. But out of balance and you’ll start to experience some issues.
Your digestive tract is also home to bacteria and other microorganisms. There are trillions of these microorganisms living in your gut that help keeps your system working properly. The bacteria are so important for helping to digest food, produce vitamins, regulate hormones, excrete toxins, among many other things to keep your gut healthy. Your immunity, stress response, sleep, mood, behavior, metabolism, weight, hormones and skin health all depend on the health of your gut.
The Gut-Skin Axis
The connection between the gut and skin is commonly referred to as the “gut-skin axis.” Consider this the communication line between your gut and your skin. When the integrity of the gut and balance of bacteria gets disturbed, it can have a huge impact on your skin. Why? Because bacteria and bacteria byproducts interact with your immune system, metabolism and endocrine pathways. When this system is compromised it creates stress-related responses in the skin through the gut-skin axis. The bacteria in the gut can then impact things like skin cell turnover and different skin conditions, including acne, rosacea and psoriasis.
What Dysbiosis Is
An imbalance of the gut microbiome is also known as dysbiosis. This imbalance causes your immune system to suffer and can increase skin inflammations like acne, eczema, and rosacea. A number of factors can impact your microbiome balance including a poor diet. Processed foods, sugars, alcohol, low fiber, GMO’s, antibiotics can all negatively impact your microbiome. Stress, sleep, and environmental toxins are also culprits for disturbing the gut-skin axis.
How To Care for Your Gut
If you want to optimize your skin’s appearance, it’s essential to focus on your gut health. Maintaining a healthy gut can give your skin that clear, radiant glow. Focus on getting a fiber-rich diet with quality protein and healthy fats to support your gut microbiome. Research also shows that eating a wide variety of fresh produce can improve the diversity of your gut bacteria.
However, since it is easy to come into contact with a number of factors that mess with your gut bacteria, eating well is not always enough. This is where probiotics come in! Using probiotics is one way to help balance your gut bacteria and in turn, restore healthy skin.
Probiotics for Skin Health
Probiotics are live microorganisms that help keep the proper balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Research shows probiotics can help reduce the severity of skin conditions, including acne, rosacea and psoriasis. Various different strains of probiotics work through the gut-skin axis by having antimicrobial effects, reducing inflammation, and boosting the immune system. Some of the most common strains of probiotics that are beneficial for the skin include those from the lactobacillus and bifidobacterium genus.
In addition to probiotics, prebiotics are also a key player in a healthy gut. Think of prebiotics as food for the probiotics in your intestinal tract. Prebiotic foods are rich in fibers that your gut bacteria ferments. These include bananas, onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, apple skins, beans, chicory root and konjac root.
The Bottom Line
There is a connection between the health of your gut and the appearance of your skin. While the foods we eat and our hydration all play an essential role, the balance of the microorganisms in our gut are also hugely important to health skin. In order to keep your gut bacteria healthy for clear skin, be sure to eat a diverse diet and supplement with pre and probiotics to keep the gut-skin axis in balance.
We all know that eating an abundance of plant foods is ideal for a healthy diet – but how do you measure that abundance? In volume… or variety? In fact, one of the biggest takeaways from the world’s largest microbiome study is that eating more than 30 different plants per week yields optimal gut diversity for better health.
But how realistic is it to accomplish for the average person?
To find out, I challenged myself to eat as many different types of plants as possible for one week.
A NUTRItionist’s Advice
To do things right, I consult with our Director of Education, Sarah Greenfield.
First, she shares that she’s actually heard FORTY is the number to hit for optimal gut diversity. Woah! But hey, I like a challenge.
Fruits and vegetables are an obvious staple in the mix, but grains, seeds and nuts also count. She advises aiming for the freshest source possible but permits dried fruits and vegetables. There’s also the question of how much of an item I have to eat for it to improve my gut diversity. For instance, does a mere sprinkling of parsley count? Sarah advises that anything I eat at least a 1/4 cup of should put a dent in populating my gut diversity.
My Food Diary
Here are all the plants I ate that week, including my daily and weekly total for plant varieties consumed.
A fresh haul from the grocery store has me feeling like 30 plants per week will be a cinch. I have a banana in the morning with my protein shake. For lunch, I have a Trader Joe’s salad with arugula, quinoa, and chicken salad. I graze on some dried apricots and dried seaweed as workday snacks. For dinner, I make steak with a side of baby potatoes and sautéed kale. For dessert, I eat the freeze-dried dragonfruit from Trader Joe’s – which tastes like a delicious candy and is completely addictive, FYI.
Daily New Plant Varieties: 9
Weekly Plant Variety Total: 9
I’m a creature of habits when it comes to breakfast so another protein shake after the gym it is! No plants here. I use a grass-fed whey protein powder and mix with almond milk or water. I ask Sarah if almond milk counts as a plant. She tells me, “Almond milk is barely even an almond.” Fair enough! I have a Chinese Chicken salad for lunch which includes iceberg lettuce, carrots, and red cabbage. I have dried sweet potato chips for a snack with guacamole and leftover kale, potato and steak for dinner.
Daily New Plant Varieties: 5
Weekly Plant Variety Total: 14
Another day, another protein shake! For lunch I have a tabouleh salad which includes bulgur wheat, parsley, tomatoes, onions and lemon juice. Sadly, Sarah says lemon juice does not count towards my total either because I’m not consuming the plant fibers which are essential to gut health. Someone brings in a lovely cheese plate and I opt for a few dried dates. (Are we getting a feel for how much I love sweets?) No new plants for the rest of the day.
Daily New Plant Varieties: 5
Weekly Plant Variety Total: 19
I have another salad for lunch. No new salad greens here but it does include fair amounts of corn, pumpkin seeds and bell pepper. For snacks throughout the day I have a few stalks of celery and a fruit salad of pineapple and grapefruit. My dinners are not scoring me any new plants. Not wanting to eat two TJ salads in a day, I stick to leftovers or simple omelets.
Daily New Plant Varieties: 6
Weekly Plant Variety Total: 25
Is it just me or is this getting harder and harder? I’m all out of TJ salads for the week so I pick up a vegetable hearty lunch of a kelp noodle salad from Beaming. It has copious amounts of kelp noodles, butternut squash, and shitake mushrooms. All wins! I snack on some almonds and tangerines at work and have another simple dinner at home.
Daily New Plant Varieties: 5
Weekly Plant Variety Total: 30
This morning I’m going on an excursion to the Culver City Steps with LA Hike Club. For a quick breakfast, I have a bottled coconut shake which includes the meat of the coconut so it’s extra thick, creamy and – most importantly – counts towards my total. For lunch, I head to Sweetgreen and pick out a salad haphazardly. This should be a no-brainer of plant varieties. But oops! When my salad comes I realize I’ve already had a lot of the things on it. Carrots, red cabbage, almonds, quinoa – all repeats! Shoot! The only new additions are chickpeas and baby spinach.
For dinner, my friend and I order Lemonade. I peruse the menu for new veggies but they all look familiar. Avocado, tomatoes, butternut squash… Drat! Defeated, I order a bowl with brisket, kale, corn, and butternut squash. It’s delicious – but gets me no closer to my goal.
Daily New Plant Varieties: 3
Weekly Plant Varieties Total: 33
Last day! And I’m feeling uninspired. I have some pea soup from TJ’s I heat up for breakfast. Although there are a ton of ingredients in there, the only one I’m sure of having a large quantity of is peas, so on the list it goes. I try to finish up the fruit in my kitchen so I have an orange and an apple. In the afternoon I head out to Venice to meet a friend. I consider dragging us to Erewhon to forage for the remaining four new types of plants I’m missing to hit forty – but when my friend suggests pizza I cave and go for it. I order the famous salad pizza, hopeful for new plants. Alas, it’s mostly romaine, tomato and avocado so I settle for my 36 plants in a week and call it a day finishing with a scoop of plant-free Salt & Straw ice cream.
Daily New Plant Varieties: 3
Weekly Plant Varieties Total: 36
I underestimated this challenge!
I knew going into it that being a single eater home would make it tricky. Typically, I do a weekend meal prep of four or five different veggies and a protein and use that to pack my lunches for the rest of the week. Because prepping thirty different plants sounded like a lot of work (not to mention leftovers) for one person, I relied on lots of single serving pre-packaged salads and delivery. This was fun to do for a week but I prefer homemade food.
While I surpassed the 30 plants per week benchmark, and was even fairly close to Sarah’s advised number of 40 varieties, in the end my tastebuds chose comfort food over variety. Still, I’m glad I did this challenge! It taught me how easy it is to reach for your favorites over and over again and the importance of switching up your diet regularly for greater gut health.
If you love your jade roller but are looking for even more impressive results, it might be time to graduate to the ancient art of gua sha (pronounced ‘gwah sah’). To learn more about this all-natural beauty practice, we enlist the help of holistic beauty pro, Herbivore Botanical‘s National Education Director, Michael Ahmad.
Watch this video for a full demonstration, or read below to learn more!
How To: Gua Sha Facial feat. Herbivore Botanicals - YouTube
What is gua sha?
Gua sha is a traditional Chinese medicine healing technique that’s since been adapted into the beauty world. The term comes from the Chinese word, “to scrape” and uses a scraping motion of stone tools across the skin to move stagnant fluids and toxins beneath the skin.
Sound painful? In fact, a quick internet search will show you some terrifying photos of bruising on bodies after traditional body gua sha. In its beauty adaptation for the face, however, you apply a much gentler pressure to the same benefits without all the scary bruising.
“It really just helps your body naturally metabolize and eliminate toxins,” Michael elaborates. “It’s great for lymphatic drainage, boosting circulation, working out muscle tension along your jawline, and really, really good for de-puffing and soothing.”
What do you need to do it?
It’s a good idea have a good facial oil on hand to prep your skin with. This allows the tool to move easily across the surface of your skin.
Which brings us to the gua sha tool itself. The tools are typically made of rose quartz or jade and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Michael recommends selecting a shape that you’re intuitively drawn to – or that you think will hug the contours of your skin well.
“With Gua Sha specifically, it is critical that you are working with a lubricated surface,” Michael instructs. “So, you can do it after your toner step, if you like, or even after your moisturizer. My preference is to do it after your facial oil,” he shares. Why? “A facial oil really ensures that your tool will glide effortlessly across your skin, never pulling or tugging.”
To prep my skin when demonstrating, Michael uses Herbivore’s new Emerald Deep Moisture Glow Oil. “This is my current favorite oil,” he says. “It has cannabis sativa seed oil, which is super rich in gamma-linolenic acid. It is great as a moisturizer and also helpful for balancing hormonal irregularities.” Other ingredients includes ashwagandha, shiitake, turmeric, meadowfoam and squalane – which Michael tells us is fabulous for youth preservation. Score!
He uses three or four drops to rub between his fingers and gently presses the oil into my skin with a patting motion. “A general rule of thumb with our skin is it wants to be interacted with tenderly,” he says, so no need to rub product in vigorously.
Michael starts from the base of my chin and works upward. “You always wanna work upward so you can elevate and sculpt the face.” Holding the tool at a 45 degree angle, he presses the tool against my jawline and glides it upward towards my ear.
“I pause anywhere I find a knot and go slowly over it. Those knots are actually calcified toxins that are just stuck in your skin because your circulation has, for whatever reason, stagnated. We’re just reawakening the circulation to this area to break up those little pockets.”
Indeed, I can feed little knots in my jawline as he moves over it. Bizarre! I should probably do this more often.
As he reaches the outside edge of my face, he gives the tool a slight wiggle back and forth and then releases. “That just encourages all of those fluids to release and disperse so your circulatory system can pick them up, metabolize them and eliminate them.”
Michael goes over the jaw on each side three times. You can do more on each side, if you like, just be sure to keep the number symmetrical on left and right sides. As he continues to work across both sides of my face he covers the following pathways:
Across the center of my lips to the edge of my face.
From the outside edge of my nose, hugging below the cheekbone to my ear.
From the inner corner of my eye to my temple.
Hugging the contour of my brow bone from the center out to the temple.
Moving upwards from my brow to my hairline, all across my forehead.
Tips to get the best results
Not sure how much pressure to use? “I would say a firm, loving pressure,” Michael answers. “By holding the tool at a 45 degree angle, you ensure that you’re not jamming it directly into your skin. Instead, you’re actually hovering it along the surface.”
You want to be especially gentle with your under eye area as the skin is so delicate. As it happens, gua sha can be incredibly effective for puffy eyes. “Ever since I turned thirty, there is no eye cream, treatment or serum that can de-puff my eyes,” Michael shares. “The only thing that will do it for me is physically moving the stagnant fluid with gua sha.”
Also, let your face be your guide. The point is to move the instrument across the natural features of your face to better carve out its contours. “Your face will tell you very clearly what your guide points are. Also, listen to your face! It will need different things on a day-to-day basis.”
“Some days you may find ‘Oh wow, my cheekbones need a lot more TLC,’ and other days you’ll think ‘Wow, my forehead is holding a lot of tension!’ Just let your muscular system tell you where you should put your focus.”
Is it effective?
Although scraping a stone across your face doesn’t sound very relaxing, I’m impressed. While Michael demonstrates on one side of my face, I can noticeably feel that there’s more circulation. Also, I feel incredibly relaxed. The whole process reminds me of when a yoga teacher comes around to give an essential oil temple massage during savasana. That is to say, heavenly.
“It’s oddly invigorating and therapeutic,” Michael agrees. “You don’t imagine –especially doing it to yourself – that it would feel so peaceful but it always is this gorgeous, meditative act.”
As for the physical results, they’re subtle but I personally can see the difference. In fact, with continued use at home, I get comments from friends about how fresh my face looks after gua sha-ing which is enough for me to do endorse this self-care practice.
A big thanks to Michael for showing us how it’s done! Curious to try it at home yourself? You can get your own gua sha tool here.
Ashwagandha is a small woody plant with yellow flowers native to India. The root of this plant has been a staple in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3,000 years as a way to help heal various ailments. Traditionally, it is used to treat anxiety, improve energy, combat aging, lower inflammation and even fight infection.
So what makes this ancient plant so great? Ashwagandha falls into a category of plants called adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs or other plants that help bring our adrenals and nervous system back into balance. This helps our bodies better cope with both internal and external stressors.
Here’s What Studies Show
The benefits of ashwagandha are more than ancient folklore. In fact, modern science confirms many of ashwagandha’s various health benefits.
Ashwagandha is most notorious for its stress-lowering effects. (Thus, the nickname of “nature’s Xanax.”) Indeed, several studies show that it can effectively reduce symptoms in people with stress and anxiety disorder. Research also supports that ashwagandha helps lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone your adrenal glands produce in response to stress. While a little cortisol is good, chronic stress causes continuously elevated cortisol levels.
It can also reduce low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and decrease markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP). This is one of the markers linked to an increased risk of heart disease. A daily intake of 250–500 mg of ashwagandha over 60 days can reduce C-reactive protein levels by as much as 30%.
How To Use It?
Taking 300–500 mg of ashwagandha root extract is the standard recommendation. It’s best to take in the morning with breakfast or space out the dosage with meals throughout the day.
Ashwagandha comes in various forms and is widely available as powder, capsules, and tinctures. Powders and tinctures are great to mix into lattes and smoothies. But fair warning, Ashwagandha does have a bitter taste. Depending on your recipe and other spices you use, you may not be able to taste it. If you want to mask the taste, or just want something more convenient, taking ashwagandha in capsule form or blended superfood powder is probably your best option.
It’s also important to note that taking ashwagandha isn’t going to give to a sense of instant calm. Remember, it’s not a magic pill. Ashwagandha works best when you take it consistently. You should start to notice its benefits within a few weeks.
Safety and Side Effects
Ashwagandha is safe for most people. However, it’s important to talk with your doctor before adding any new herb or supplement into your routine.
Since this powerful herb can have an effect on blood sugar, inflammation, and hormones, it should be used with caution in some cases. Individuals with autoimmune diseases – such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto’s – may need to avoid it. If you are on immunosuppressants, blood pressure, sedative medications, or any thyroid hormone medications, it is best to talk with your doctor before adding to your routine.
One last caveat, this adaptogen is part of the nightshade family. If you have a nightshade allergy or intolerance, it might be best to pass on this particular adaptogen.
Ashwagandha is a potent adaptogen that has been used for centuries. It has a wide range of benefits but is primarily helpful for reducing stress and anxiety. While you can’t take it once and expect instant relief, try incorporating it into your daily routine to take the edge off over time.
The solution? Blue light glasses. This new trend in eyewear helps protect your eyes from the disruptive effects of blue light exposure. We love the idea of a functional accessory but how practical are they? Is it worth the investment? Will I have to look at the world through weird orange colored glasses?
To find out, four HUM employees put Pixel Eyewear‘s blue light glasses to the test. Here’s what we had to say about our experience.
How often do you look at computer screens?
Since I’m on the social media team at HUM, the amount of time I spend in a given week looking at a screen is about 50 to 60 hours a week.
I want to say a good 12 hours out of the day.
I spend probably about four or five hours on my cell phone, and then probably another five hours on my computer. So like literally all day. And then at night, watching some TV. Oh God, my whole life is looking at this stuff!
I think all in all I’m probably spending 10 to 12 hours a day looking at blue light. Wow! That’s a lot… Yikes.
Do you currently experience any fatigue, insomnia or eye strain?
I totally experience eye strain. I can feel it every time I take a break away from the screen after a day of work and get home. And I’ve definitely been experiencing a little bit of headaches here and there.
Definitely insomnia. I’m one of those late night people that can’t go to sleep on their own. I need a TV to put me to sleep, my phone… something to bore me to the point where I need to go to bed.
I sleep pretty well, so I don’t think it’s impacting my sleep. Sometimes I do notice that if I’m staring at the computer for too long, my eyes do get a little strained. But, I also feel like kind of disassociated and everything gets crazy?
Definitely fatigue. I sleep pretty heavy, but I do find that I have a really hard time waking up early in the morning. No matter how early I go to bed at night, I cannot get out of bed in the morning. I could see that being from too much blue light.
Blue Light Glasses First Impressions
Okay, so I can feel a little bit of a difference. There kind of feels like there’s a sheen on the glass that I’m looking through. I feel like if I look at a computer, it’ll feel a lot different. So I’m excited to try that out.
Definitely easier on the eyes, I will say that. Usually when I look at my screen, I tend to find myself squinting a lot. But trying them on, I’m not doing that as much.
I’ve always wanted to wear glasses but my vision is good so it’s very fun to have a reason to wear glasses finally. I love how they look!
I was expecting the lenses to be very orange, and they’re not! There’s just this yellow sheen on them that’s very subtle.
After a few days, I’ve noticed a slight difference in the way that my eyes are at the end of the day. I can definitely tell that they’re helping. I can only notice a slight difference in color because of the lenses, but that’s about it.
I can honestly say that I am seeing a difference. Like my eyes aren’t as strained as they once were. I can actually focus more on doing my work.
It is helping with the eye strain that I feel. I used to look at the computer for long periods of time, and then just feel out of it. It’s really helping with that. But the thing that’s most interesting is I put these Pixel glasses on, and it’s like time to go to work. It makes me really productive, really focused. It’s like my super power. I put on the glasses and know it’s time to get stuff done.
One thing that these glasses are making me very conscious of is just how much time I spend in front of screens. I originally thought, “Oh, I’ll just need these when I’m at work in front of the computer.” However, as I’m trying to wear them every time that I’m looking at a screen, I realize that I’m looking at screens from the minute I wake up to right before I go to bed which is really alarming.
I noticed a big difference and will continue using them, for sure! But, I want to get them prescription so I can wear them even more often. (Pixel Eyewear has you covered on prescription options.)
I have noticed a very significant difference, especially when I watch TV. As soon as I started wearing these glasses while watching TV, I noticed that I went to bed as much as two hours earlier than I would normally. So I’ve definitely seen a difference with my sleeping pattern and would keep using these.
I actually really like them! I feel like they’ve made a difference, and, most importantly, I think I look pretty jazzy in these babies.
One thing that was a little bit challenging for me with the glasses is keeping track of them and remembering to bring them with me when I went certain places. I’m just not used to wearing glasses, and it sometimes feels like one more thing that I have to remember to do.
But that tired feeling you get after looking at a computer all day, I didn’t really have that so I plan on continuing to use these daily.
Somehow just wearing them makes me feel better, knowing what I know about blue light. I do feel like there’s less eye strain and it really made me conscious of how much time I spend looking at my phone and the computer and TVs.
What I learned about these glasses in particular is they block 50% to 95% of blue lights, according to their website. So, it might not be protecting from blue light completely, but you also don’t have that distorted color distortion that comes from blocking more blue lights. At one point I used the settings on my phone to remove 100% of blue light but it made the screen this crazy red color. In the end, it was so impossible to view photos or apps that I never used it. Ultimately, there’s kind of a scale of like usability to the amount of blue light blocking you can get. I think these glasses really hit the spot and block enough light without compromising the look of anything, that you can wear them all the time.
When it comes to eating healthy foods, the optimal choice is to buy groceries and cook for yourself. If you find this challenging, I’m here to help! Here is a shopping list for a Trader Joe’s meal plan to eat healthy through even the busiest work week.
5 Day Meal Plan & Shopping List
Why These Meals?
In general, I see people most satisfied by their meals if each one includes a lean protein, a healthy fat, a complex carbohydrate and a vegetable. Whole grains are going to contain the fiber that helps keep you fuller for longer periods of time while maintaining optimal digestion. Healthy fat will also keep you full longer, add flavor and keep us feeling energized. A lean protein is ideal to maintain weight, develop and sustain muscles. Vegetables are great for the same reasons and contain crucial vitamins and minerals our bodies need.
Tips for Meal Planning
First, always plan out your meals ahead of time. This gives you a clear idea of the ingredients you actually need instead of what just sounds good in that moment.
Planning meals in advance not only saves you time and money, but it helps you waste less food because by realizing you can utilize ingredients in multiple ways.
Finally, customize your list based on what YOU like to eat. If you don’t like quinoa and black beans, you certainly don’t have to buy those things. Just make sure you have all your bases covered by including complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, lean proteins and fresh produce.
Here’s how to prep the items listed above:
Heat oven to broil. Place foil or parchment in a baking pan and lay the chicken thighs on it. Season with salt, pepper and any other spices you like. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes.
Add 2 tbsp. olive or avocado oil to a skillet at medium heat. Add the ground turkey. Turn the heat up to high. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and any other seasonings you like. Stir until the color goes from pink to brown (about 5 minutes) and remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together six eggs, 1/4 cup almond milk, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add in 1/4 cup of feta, 1 cup of spinach and stir. Pour the egg mixture into non-stick six muffin tray and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the cups are solid and slight brown on top.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the banana in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add two eggs, 3/4 cup almond milk, 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1 tsp vanilla. Stir until well combined. Next, add 2 cups oats, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt and a pinch of cinnamon. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. Spread into a non-stick 10×7 casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.
Super simple! Rinse and drain the beans from the can. I like to mix them with 2-3 tbsp. of salsa and add to meals as a complex carbohydrate or vegetarian source of protein.
Boil 4 cups of water and a dash of salt. Add 2 cups of quinoa. Let it simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Cook until all the water is absorbed into the grain. Add with lentils or beans for a complete protein, or mix it with a salad.
Heat 2 cups of water or broth to a boil. Add 1 cup of lentils. Cook on medium heat for 35-40 minutes. Lentils are a great source of vegetarian protein and are also starchy so they fulfill the carbohydrate element of a meal as well.
There are a few ways you can prepare broccoli. First, you can cook chopped broccoli in a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water for 2.5 minutes. Another option is to heat 2 tbsp of olive or avocado oil in a skillet and sauté broccoli for 2-3 minutes. Finally, you can toss the broccoli in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast in an oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
For fries: preheat the oven to a broil. Slice the sweet potatoes into fries. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper and any other seasonings you like. Place on a baking tray and cook in the oven for five minutes. Flip the fries and cook for another seven minutes until crisp and slightly browned.
For a baked sweet potato: preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Use a fork to puncture the sweet potato all over. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until tender.
Cruciferous Crunch & Healthy 8 Veggie Mix
Both of these are an economical way to have a variety of vegetables in salad form! You can sauté these mixes on the stove or throw them in a bowl and toss with a dressing of choice. I recommend lemon juice, olive oil, and dijon mustard.
I love making zucchini noodles with a spiralizer but you can also thinly slice a zucchini down its length for a similar effect, or just chop into cubes. Sauté with olive oil for three minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add marinara sauce and cook for another minute.
Can you really live to be 100 years old on this diet?
Islanders from Okinawa, Japan are known for being some of the world’s longest living and healthiest people. Wondering what’s in their water? Actually, the longevity of Okinawans has everything to do with their native diet. Let’s take a deeper dive into what they are doing right.
What Is The Okinawa Diet?
First, over 90% of their diet consists of plant-based foods. Less than 1% of their diet consists of fish, and an even a smaller percentage is meat. As we go through the staples of the Okinawa diet, you’ll notice that their diet is low in calories, yet nutritionally dense. The Okinawa diet is colorful with medicinal foods and herbs including green and yellow vegetables, fresh and pickled citrus fruits, lean fish, and an array of spices such as ginger and brown sugar.
Okinawa Diet Staples
Root vegetables, like purple sweet potato and taro, are at the core of the Okinawa diet. They are high in fiber, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other important micronutrients. The juice of the purple sweet potato may even have further medicinal benefits such as lowering blood pressure and supporting liver health. Plus, these complex carbs are a great weight management tool because they improve satiety.
The traditional Okinawa diet also consists of one serving of fruit per day. Citrus fruits native to the island are most common, such as papaya, passion fruit, bananas, mangos, and pineapples. Not only are these a delicious addition to your diet, but the high Vitamin C content is great for helping your skin maintain a youthful appearance
Here is a staple item you might be less familiar with. Bitter melon is part of the gourd family. Researchers consider bitter melon a holy grail medicinal plant for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-obesity, and anti-cancer properties.
Similar properties are available in the Okinawan diet superfood, turmeric. Popular in a daily tea with Okinawans, turmeric contains a powerful chemical called, curcumin, that may play an important role in preventing age-related deterioration. (You can read more about all about the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric here.)
But not as much as you think! The traditional Okinawa diet actually only includes three servings of fish per week. Consuming these omega-3’s boasts many anti-inflammatory benefits, including supporting healthy blood pressure, heart health, and brain function. For Okinawans who followed this diet their entire lives, heart disease and cerebrovascular disease were almost non-existent on the island.
A plant-based seafood essential in the Okinawa diet is seaweed. It is a great source of zinc, calcium, iodine, and can even help boost your metabolism by supporting your thyroid. Okinawans incorporate seaweed in noodles, sushi, salads, and stews.
Okinawans include rice in meals two or three times per day. Resources disagree about whether brown or white rice is more common. However, one thing that does stand out is the unique way that it is prepared. Okinawans soak their rice in water. This softens the grain until sprouts begin to form. As a result, the grain releases sugar proteins creating a sweeter taste.
Now, am I saying to go out and add three servings of rice to your daily diet? Not really. In the case of the Okinawa diet, the rice is essential in balancing a low sugar diet that is rich in legumes, nuts, and starchy and leafy vegetables.
When In Doubt, Eat More Plants
In recent decades, the traditional Okinawa diet has faded as western restaurants and processed foods infiltrate the island. It is important to note that the benefits of the Okinawan diet are based on evidence from islanders who have consumed this diet throughout their entire lifetime. We still need more studies to solidify the benefits of incorporating this diet later in life. However, there is plenty of evidence supporting the benefits of a plant-based – or mostly plant-based diet.
It’s your body’s way of converting food into the energy you need to do everything. A fast metabolism is like a hot furnace, it burns through food quickly to help keep the body running. The opposite is true for a slow metabolism. A slow metabolism doesn’t require as much food to fuel because the body isn’t using that much energy.
I think it’s safe to say we all wish we could have the metabolism of a teenage boy who can eat two hamburgers, fries and a milkshake and not put on a pound. But the reality is, once you’re an adult your metabolism starts to decline – (#adulting strikes again!) So, it’s no surprise that we’re always looking for ways to give our metabolism a boost.
There are so many factors that determine the efficiency of our metabolism. Sleep, hormones, genetics, and muscle mass are all key players. But how about the food we eat? Here are the top ten foods that can rev up your metabolism and get it burning at an optimal level.
Aim for a protein source at each meal. An average portion size is 4-6 oz. Remember to balance out your meal with complex carbs, veggies and healthy fats.
2. Chili Peppers
Spice up your life! Capsaicin, an antioxidant in chili peppers, may boost your metabolism and help curb your appetite. Red chili flakes are so easy to add to almost anything. Avocado toast, eggs, on top of salad, in soup, the possibilities are endless. Sprinkle that stuff like confetti!
That’s right, I’m giving you permission to pour yourself another cup of coffee. Caffeine found in coffee can help increase metabolic rate. Research shows consuming 100 mg of caffeine can increase metabolism by up to 11%. Just remember some individuals are able to tolerate caffeine better than others. If you’re prone to getting the jitters, it may be best to opt for decaf. Also, be cautious of sugar levels in coffee drinks. Your best option is black coffee, or mixing with a milk or creamer with minimal ingredients.
Celery has a reputation of having negative calories. While this isn’t exactly true, it is low in calories and high in fiber. It takes a lot of work for your body to process all that fiber. The entire digestive process, raises your metabolic rate as it efficiently tries to absorb, store and eliminate. As it happens, celery makes for the ultimate vessel for delicious dips and spread. Get creative by spreading them with nut or seed butters – or enjoy with your favorite hummus.
Grapefruit is high in both Vitamin C and fiber, both of which play an important role in metabolism. Research shows grapefruit can even help with weight loss and lowering insulin levels. One intriguing study in particular reports that those who eat half a grapefruit with each meal can lose up to 3.6 pounds, while those who drink a serving of grapefruit juice three times a day can lose 3.3 pounds. That’s without making any other dietary changes. Impressive!
Grapefruits are more bitter than other citrus fruits, but this trick might help! Slice them in half and rub the surface with a little coconut oil before sprinkling with cinnamon. Then, place under the broiler for 2-4 minutes until slightly golden.
6. Green Tea
Catechins are the antioxidant in green tea to thank for boosting metabolism and helping with weight loss. Together, with the caffeine in green tea, this duo can rev up your metabolism and help your body burn stored fat for energy. Try swapping out your morning coffee for matcha green tea. If that’s not an option, try having a cup of green tea after your lunch. This is a nice alternative to an afternoon coffee to help get you through the workday.
Cinnamon has the ability to stabilize blood sugar but new research suggests it can also help improve metabolism. The cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon boosts the body’s thermogenesis (aka the burn from the digestion process.) I suggest incorporating at least ¼ teaspoon per day. Sprinkle cinnamon in your oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast – or on an apple when that 3 pm hunger hits.
Seaweed is rich in iodine which indirectly boosts your metabolism by supporting your thyroid. The thyroid is responsible for producing the hormones that regulate your metabolism. When your thyroid isn’t functioning at an optimal level, it can cause your metabolism to slow down. Iodine, along with zinc and selenium, are essential nutrients for supporting your thyroid.
This is a little harder to incorporate daily, but it can be done. Sprinkle dulse flakes on your salad, over eggs, or on your avocado toast. Add kombu to your grains or beans while they’re cooking. Every once in a while order a seaweed salad or get sushi.
9. Coconut Oil
What can’t coconut oil do? Coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). The liver takes these fatty acids to use as energy rather than storing them away for fat. MCTs are able to increase the metabolic rate more than long-chain fatty acids. It’s best replace some of the oil you already consume (especially vegetable oils) with MCT oil. This is easy to overdo so aim for just 1-3 tablespoons per day.
Okay, so water technically isn’t a food, but it’s so important for an optimally functioning metabolism. When you are dehydrated your metabolism can slow by 3%. In addition, drinking cold water may also temporarily boost metabolism by 24–30%. This is partly due to your body working to heat up the cold liquid to body temperature.
Aim for half of your body weight in oz of water per day as a minimum. This will vary from person to person and increase if you are active, pregnant or breastfeeding.
While these foods can help rev up your metabolism, it’s important to remember that there’s more to the equation. Adding these foods throughout your day is a great way to get an extra boost while also getting in a variety of healthy foods packed with vitamins, mineral and antioxidants. When it comes to having an efficient metabolism, getting enough sleep, balancing your hormones and increasing your muscle mass also play a crucial role. It’s important to address these areas if you want an optimal functioning metabolism. But in the meantime, don’t shy away from adding those chili flakes to your avocado toast.
Oat milk is in such high demand that companies can’t keep up with production. But what’s all the buzz about?
Registered Dietitian, Jessica Bippen, MS, RD, sheds some light on why oat milk has become the plant-based milk of choice for latte enthusiasts everywhere, as well as highlights how it compares to the other plant-based milk options out there.
On Board with Oat Milk?
Oat milk is the new hottest coffee shop specialty. But why? Simply put, it’s delicious. It’s thick, creamy and froths up like full -fat milk does in a latte or cappuccino. In fact, it outperforms any of the other plant-based milk in froth-factor. And we all know the froth is the best part of a latte!
Aside from the taste, the oat milk craze has really taken off due to genius marketing strategy from the Swedish company, Oatly, who started selling their oat milk to coffee shops back in 2016. This created a sense of exclusiveness since the milk was not widely available in grocery stores.
Now companies are jumping on the trend. Oatly is being sold in grocery stores across the US. Other large corporations such as Quaker and Silk are even dipping into the oat milk trend with products launching in early 2019. Word on the street is you can pre-order Califia Farms’ oat milk on their website.
Let’s Talk Nutrition
Plant-based milk varies in terms of nutrition. Of the top choices, soy milk has the most similar nutrition profile to cow’s milk with about 8 g of protein. Oat milk is pretty comparable to the other top dairy-free milk substitutions like almond and cashew. However, oat milk is much higher in carbohydrates.
Here is how 1 cup of the top plant-based milk compare. (Keep in mind that the nutrition information can vary greatly based on the brand.)
Oatly Oat Milk
120 calories, 5 g fat (0.5g saturated fat), 16g carbs, 2 g dietary fiber, 1 g soluble fiber, 7 g sugar, and 3 g protein.
Califia Farms Almond Milk
35 calories, 3 g fat (0g saturated fat), 1 g carbs, 1 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar, and 1 g protein.
Silk Cashew Milk
25 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 1 g carbs, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar, and <1 g protein.
Silk Organic Soy Milk
80 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 4 g carbs, 2 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar, and 7 g protein.
As you can see, oat milk contains only 3 g of protein. This is less than 7 g of protein in soy milk but slightly more than milk made from almonds or cashews. Most plant-based milk is fortified with vitamins like D, A, calcium and B12. But it’s important to check the label if that is something you are looking for in plant-based milk.
Despite oats being high in fiber, after processing them into milk there isn’t much left. Oat milk contains about 2 g of fiber which is similar to soy and almond. Oat milk does have the benefit of containing beta-glucans, a type of soluble fiber that may reduce the risk of heart disease.
What Might Not Be So Amazing…
Before you go swapping out all your almond milk for oat, there are some things you should take into consideration.
Most of the oat milk on the market includes canola oil as an ingredient (also known as rapeseed oil). This type of oil is a low-quality omega-6 oil that is inflammatory. While we need omega-6 oils, there is a delicate ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, and most Americans are getting much more omega-6 oils than necessary to keep that balance.
Another thing to be aware of is the sugar content. Oatly’s original has 7 g of naturally occurring sugar from the oats. The other varieties of Oatly and other brands like Elmhurst and Pacific Foods have added sugar, with Pacific Foods having a whopping 19 g!
My advice? Read your labels! Ideally, your oat milk should be made from oats and water. Maybe some salt and fortification. But that’s it. Realistically, there aren’t many oat milks out there with this ingredient list. Califia farms’ new oat milk may be giving others a run for their money, by using sunflower oil and no added sugar.
How To Make Your Own Oat Milk At Home
The good news is oat milk is easy to make at home! All you need is steel-cut or rolled oats, water, and a pinch of salt. The standard ratio is ½ cup oats to 2 cups water, but you can play with the ratio depending on how rich and creamy or thin you like your milk. Start by soaking ½ cup of oats in water for at least 30 minutes. Then, drain and rinse to remove any sticky coating that forms. Once the oats are fully soaked, blend the oats with water and salt, then strain it using a nut milk bag or cheesecloth.
The Bottom Line
Oat milk is delicious in a latte here and there, but you’re better off opting for another plant-based milk in your smoothie or if you’re drinking it by the glass. This trendy beverage has created quite the buzz so there may be more oat milk brands out on the market soon. Just do yourself a favor and read the label. Opt for oat milk with minimal ingredients, no-added-sugar or unhealthy additives, if possible.
Believe it or not, MCT oil is not something that just sprouted overnight.
In fact, hospitals have used MCT oil as a form of medical nutrition therapy for quite some time. So why all the sudden recreational use in the wellness world? Aside from the keto craze, there are some attention grabbing claims about MCT oil benefits which explain its recent rise in popularity.
What MCT Oil Is (And Is Not!)
Before we jump into these claims, let’s clear up a myth about about MCT oil.
There is some confusion about whether MCT oil and coconut oil are one in the same. For the record, MCT oil is not the same as coconut oil. In fact, isolated MCT oil does not even naturally occur in nature.
So, what is it, exactly? MCT is short for medium-chain triglycerides. It refers to a specific chemical structure found in naturally occurring fats such as human breast milk, whole fat dairy products, palm oil, and yes – coconut oil. So while coconut oil may contain some MCTs, MCT oil is made from extracting these into a more highly concentrated source which is different than just coconut oil.
What Are MCT Oil Benefits?
The weight loss benefits from MCT oil has a lot to do with its specific chemical structure. It has a shorter carbon atom structure that allows for it to metabolize and absorb quicker than other fats. This process results in a greater feeling of satiety, which leads to better portion control and a decrease in fat storage. Alternatively, a 2008 study, says that MCT oil may promote weight loss through increased energy expenditure by having a thermic effect on food.
Regardless of which side of the energy balance equation we look at, the end product appears to be weight loss. However, there aren’t many recent studies that can definitively prove that MCT oil will help you lose weight so manage your expectations accordingly.
One clinical review on MCT oil promises gut health benefits for patients who have severe GI disorders. But even for recreational MCT oil consumers, there may be other gut health benefits. A more recent study shows promising evidence that MCT oil can help to remodel your gut microbiota. Gut microbiota is a key marker for metabolic health. Metabolic health, if you didn’t know, can have an impact on how your skin looks, your immune health, and even your overall mood.
However, before you start guzzling it down in your morning coffee, here’s an important note. Excess MCT oil can cause gastrointestinal distress. That means gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting are all potential consequences of taking too much – or from simply consuming it on an empty stomach.
The unique absorption and rapid metabolization allows your body to use fat as fuel, instead of storing it for later. This means that our organs and muscles can use this fuel almost immediately. As MCT contributes to our body’s metabolic pathways, an excess in ketones occur. Not only is this good for weight management, but it is excellent for increasing energy. Some claim that MCT oil can also improve physical endurance for athletes that do high-intensity workouts, although more research is needed to solidify this claim.
The Right Way To Add It Into Your Diet
Don’t just add MCT oil in addition to your current diet. This can lead to some quick weight gain. Instead, substitute it for some of the other fats in your diet such as vegetable oil.
Track your calories! Especially in the first few weeks to help prevent weight gain. A tablespoon contains 115 calories and consists of 14g of fat.
Don’t use this as your only weight loss intervention tool. Eating a well balanced diet that includes a variety of healthy fats and exercising, is the best way to sustain long-term results.
Prevent digestive distress by taking the appropriate amount. The recommended serving is a daily maximum of 4-7 tablespoons.
Divide your daily dose evenly across different meals by mixing it in with your foods and liquids.
Maximize your gut’s digestive health by including a variety of different healthy fats to help your body absorb all the nutrients you consume.
Pair it with a prebiotic and probiotic to promote overall digestive and gut health.
When it comes down to it, choosing MCT oil over other unhealthy fats is overall a good choice. Just remember, there is a gap in credible research supporting some of the wilder claims you’ll read about it online. Often times, diet trends like this “work” initially in part because of the transition to intentional dietary choices. With that said though, integrating MCT oil into your diet may be an intentional choice that can reap many benefits.