Clean Eating

5 steps to slowly ease into Paleo

Jumping in all at once might be overwhelming, especially if you are not already in a healthy eating routine. Taking one step at a time and watching what you eat can certainly help easing into a paleo diet and make lasting changes.

Here are 5 easy steps to help you slowly reach your paleo or quasi paleo destination. Take a couple of weeks per each step or go at your own pace. I promise you, the journey will be just as exciting as the goal.

1. Eliminate sugary drinks

Sally vouched that her health improved a threefold when she gave up her sugary pop which she had with every meal and sometimes in between. It’s not just the pop, watch out for added sugar in fruit juices, hot chocolates, smoothies and caffeinated cold drinks. Even drinks designed to “help reduce weight” like Slim Fast, contain about 5tsps of sugar. And diet drinks are the biggest rogues.

Switch to fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, herbal teas or plain water. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, infuse lemons, cucumbers, strawberries or herbs overnight and chug all day long. It’s not only refreshing but also opens up the first step towards detoxification.

2. Cut out desserts and sweet junk

After meal desserts are not the only culprits, watch out for those sugary snacks too… A trip to Tim Hortons or Starbucks will have you walking out with a pastry or a donut (I’d say stay out of these joints altogether, but that’s for another day, no overwhelm). Most commercial breakfast items contain a lot of sugar. Be wary of pancake mixes, cereals, granola bars and instant oatmeal packs that come loaded with sugar, not to mention empty carbs, unnecessary food coloring and additives.

Reach out instead for a fruit or a couple of palm dates. Once most of the sugar is out of your system, fruits and juices will taste way sweeter and high sugar desserts will start tasting… just gross.

3. Say goodbye to simple carbs

Anything white is a no-no. Ok, keep the egg whites, but eliminate white bread, pasta, white sugar, potatoes, table salt and white rice. During this phase replace them with complex carbs like whole grains, honey, oatmeal, beans, peas and brown rice. Complex carbs are rich in fibre and thus are health promoters. Table salt is highly processed, thus stripped of all minerals and is rich in unwanted additives. Go for sea salt or  Himalayan Crystal Salt  in its place. During this phase you are reducing the general glycemic index of your meals and thus maintaining a better blood sugar count.

4. Purge grains and dairy

During this phase you are almost a paleo dude! Skip those grains altogether. If you have grown up with a lot of dairy products and they have no bad effects on you at all, go on a quasi-paleo diet. On a quasi-paleo diet, you’d limit milk, yogurt, cream and cheese to as few as 3-4 servings a week and limit grains to oats, barley and occasional brown rice.

But if you have decided to go head to toe into the paleo direction, switch to dairy alternatives like almond milk, hummus for butter, vegan friendly salad dressings and coconut milk based ice cream or sorbet. I’d stay far away from tofu and soy milk as soy has undesirable hormone disrupting properties.

5. Be cautious while grocery shopping

Oh boy! There’s hidden sugar in every product. Stay on guard while you browse grocery aisles. Read ingredient labels. There’s known to be sugar in sauces, tomato puree, salsa and even curry paste!

What are your options now that you have eliminated most of your comfort foods? Well, now that you have maneuvered your lifestyle to fit into the paleo principles, or maybe the quasi-paleo principles, watch out for more supportive articles and recipes on the Soul Food website!

Panchakarma – The 5-fold Ayurvedic Therapy

What is Panchakarma?

Panchakarma means five actions and in Ayurveda, Panchakarma is the fivefold detoxification therapy practised on a patient (not necessarily sick) once every year or two. Panchakarma therapy is offered by many Ayurvedic institutions all over the world and in the recent years have become very popular in North America due to many individuals opting to take the natural age old alternate medicines.

Let’s outline the basic five actions of a Panchakarma procedure.

1. Abhyanga – Massage:

In Ayurveda, massages are more than just relaxation, scented oils and lotions, expensive massage parlors and so on… Abhyanga can be performed every day, time permitted, or once a week. The oils used are normally herb infused or therapeutic essential oils in quality carrier oils. When performed on a regular basis, Abhyanga promotes the absorption of the herbal essences in the oil, and it helps the skin perform its various tasks efficiently.
The main accomplishments of an Abhyanga are increased circulation, soothed nerves, improved mental clarity and alertness, toned muscles, lubricated joints, improvement in purging of wastes, healthier and smoother skin and restored tranquil sleep at night.

2. Gharshana – Dry skin brushing and exfoliation:

Most followers of Ayurvedic principles perform this ritual for at least 5 minutes every day. Soft sponges, cotton cloths or dry brushes can be used to gently rub skin before a shower (not while one is wet during the shower). Gharshana starts with rubbing the head in a circular motion, neck and arms in long sweeps towards the direction of the heart and belly and joints again in a circular motion. The procedure is complete after long strokes over the legs and feet.
Gharshana performed daily helps unclog pores and tone the skin and eliminate toxins via the largest organ in the human body, which is of course, the skin. It also improves blood and lymphatic circulation and helps balance hormones.

3. Swedhana – Perspiring:

Swedhana is the twin therapy of Abhyanga and almost always follows the massage. A Swedhana treatment is normally a steam bath where herbs are added to the water that steams. When the body is touched by the herbal steam, the body temperature is elevated, encouraging the person to sweat, thus moving toxins out of the body.
Swedhana also relieves stress, reduces muscle and joint pains, improves circulation, liberates one from inflammation, promotes weight loss and rejuvenates the skin.

4. Shirodhara – Steady flow of oil over the forehead:

Shirodhara is a form of Ayurvedic therapy that involves gently pouring liquids over the forehead continuously for 20 to 30 minutes to promote relaxation and stimulate the pituitary gland. The soothing oil is streamed directly onto the ajna chakra (third eye, the point between the eyebrows) and the entire forehead.
Shirodhara has several benefits although today’s Americans get one mostly for the profound peace and bliss it brings. Most stress related conditions like insomnia, anxiety, chronic headaches, hypertension and asthma are cured by Shirodhara. Shirodhara also improves the functioning of sense organs and central nervous system, also elevates mood and fights depression.

5. Udvarthana – Dry Scrub

Udvarthana is also a massage, but not performed with oils. Udvarthana meaning upward strokes is generally performed with herbal powders to exfoliate the skin and to reduce cellulite. Udvarthana is mostly performed right after an Abhyanga treatment when the body is still oily and a Swedhana session is recommended right after.

Three ways to use essential oils

Biologically active volatile compounds from woods, herbs, spices or resins are found in high concentration in essential oils. A little goes a long way when it comes to essential oils. Good quality essential oils can be very expensive, a 10ml bottle costing up to $20-$60 depending on what it is extracted from. High quality essential oils are therapeutic whereas the cheap ones might be potentially dangerous if used in therapy. But essential oils in general have known to combat diseases, alter moods and heal a long term ailment.

Cheap essential oils are flooding the market, buy a kit of the finest, therapeutic oils here: doTERRA Essential Oils Introductory Kit

Essential oils can be used individually, along with carrier oils or in a blend. Combination of certain oils have proved to be a stronger healing power than individual oils. There are 3 ways you could use essential oils for best results – Inhale, absorb and ingest.

Inhale:

  • Add a few drops of essential oils to hot water and inhale when you have a terrible cold and nasal congestion. Breathing in the steam with a towel over your head and the pot of hot water directly under your face for about 20 minutes a session brings out best results. Wintergreen, eucalyptus, peppermint and camphor essential oils work best for this purpose.
  • Dab some essential oils into a cotton swab and insert it into an inhaler and draw in the scent every 20 minutes. Use peppermint and rosemary for ultimate focus during exams and peppermint alone for a headache. Use lemon, lavender, bergamot or citrus essential oils to lift a depressing mood or kill a panic attack and for a good sleep breathe in some neroli, ylang ylang, lavender or chamomile.
  • Add a few drops directly into an oil burner and inhale the diffusion for an hour or two in a quiet room at home. The same oils that you could use in an inhaler can be diffused directly in an oil diffuser. Diffusing a blend of pine, vetiver and lavender in an office can reduce stress among employees and bring about better frames of mind.

Absorb:

  • Add a few drops of essential oils to a tablespoon of carrier oils and massage it into your skin. Use professional guidance to understand what essential oils benefit you the most. Some might cause more harm than good or have conflicting effects. For overall best absorption massage the blend at your pulse points, at the base of your spine, around the belly button and soles of your foot.
  • Add some drops of your favourite essential oils into a cup of bath salts and add it to your bath to soak in for up to 45 minutes.
  • Add a few drops of lavender, frankincense, myrrh, jasmine, sandalwood or rosewood into your body lotion for all day absorption.

Ingest

Internal use of essential oils is least understood and most misinterpreted. Do not ingest essential oils without professional help and support. Not all essential oils can be used for internal consumption. Some oils can cause severe damage if ingested. Consume only those oils that are therapeutic quality and labeled safe for internal use, needless to say a little goes a long way, so take only one drop in half a litre of water and assess your liking and tolerance for it.

A few oils generally regarded as safe are rosemary, lemon, grapefruit, orange blossom, cinnamon, cinnamon leaf, basil, oregano, peppermint and clove.

Cooking with essential oils can be a great experience. Use herb and spice oils to dramatically enhance the taste and flavor of your dishes. Just remember to use no more than 2-3 drops for 6 servings or you’ll have an overpowering flavor blast.

Stay in tune for my next article on how to use essential oils in your daily personal care products.

 

Bee Pollen – A complete nourishing super food.

Bee pollen is considered a complete food. In fact, bees intend this pollen from flowers to be complete foods for their young ones. It’s by far considered the most nourishing food on earth for humans too. This is where I get my Bee Pollen Granules

Worker bees produce a mix of honey and pollen, commonly known as royal jelly, a super revitaliser which is rich in B5 and other B vitamins, plus amino acids, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, and manganese.

Strengthens immunity

Start taking bee pollen six weeks before an allergy season to strengthen the immune system and reduce the intake of over the counter anti-histamines. Bee pollen is a perfect antibiotic and immune booster.

Healthy vibrant skin

Regular intake of bee pollen supplement produces healthy vibrant skin, reduces wrinkles and helps battle against acne.

Aids weight loss

Bee pollen being rich in amino acid phenylalanine helps reduce cravings, suppress appetite and aids in weight loss.

Cellular regeneration

The restorative power in bee pollen increases muscular strength after a workout or during convalescence. It is known to increase endurance levels in sportsmen and athletes. German naturalist Francis Huber called bee pollen “the greatest body builder on Earth.”

Supports fertility

In women, bee pollen stimulates the ovaries and helps increase ovulation, thus combating infertility.

There are many ways you can include bee pollen into your diet. My favorite one is to eat a teaspoon of it as it is, in the morning before breakfast. You can even sprinkle it over a smoothie or chia pudding and chew it along. Spread it on fruit or add it to preserves just before consumption. Blending bee pollen into the smoothie could leave a plastic-ky feeling in the mouth, but if you like the texture, hey, go ahead!

If the texture and taste of bee pollen is not something you appreciate, several bee pollen supplements are available in capsule forms at health stores everywhere and my personal favorite to use is this one from Life Extensions 

If you have never taken bee pollen as a supplement, start today!

Vanilla Chia Pudding

When I saw beautiful pictures of chia puddings on Pinterest, I kept saying to myself, there’s no way I’m spending time to create puddings for breakfast until I looked up one recipe… I couldn’t believe just how easy and least time consuming it was and now my family has chia pudding three times a week for breakfast!

If you have never made this before, start off very simple. As you go, I’m sure you will get creative and create dozens of chia pudding recipes of your own. Here I would like to share a very simple vanilla chia pudding. Please do be sure to share your favorite ways of having chia in your meals!

All you need for this pudding is:

Two heaped tablespoons of chia seeds

A cup of almond milk (the lightly sweetened one if you like)

A few drops of natural vanilla extract

Method: Add all three ingredients together into a bowl, stir well and leave it in the fridge over night for a delightful breakfast of chia vanilla pudding! The chia will expand 8 to 10 times its size overnight and make a pudding with jelly like consistency. Be sure you are not duped by artificial vanilla “flavor” available in the market. This kind is not grown on a plant, but is manufactured in a laboratory.

Some of the variations I make are

Adding cinnamon and cocoa nibs to the pudding just before eating

Adding fruit preserves or fresh fruit and substituting almond milk for coconut water or fruit juice with no sugar added (The featured picture has preserved berries on top and my kids love the taste and flavor)

Adding roasted nuts and dry fruits

Adding drinking chocolate mix

My favorite part of making this breakfast is that it takes only five minutes the previous night and all you have to do in the morning is grab it and enjoy! Who doesn’t love a time saver like this for busy mornings!

Oh this superfood called chia seeds!

Chia seeds used to be for Chia pets, but not anymore. In the past 5 to 10 years Chia has become the superfood that everyone is raving about.

Although it has been popular only for the last few years, Chia seeds have been around for thousands of years. The Mayans used Chia seeds for strength, (actually in the Mayan language, chia means strength) and also to enhance one’s sex life and the Aztec Warriors carried Chia seeds with them to war because just a cup of those seeds could bulk up into a big meal and that made it a war staple.

Here are a few facts about Chia seeds that makes it the wonder food it is today.

  • They are very high in antioxidants… Having one spoon of chia seeds is equivalent to having 2 pints of blueberries. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body, thus preventing cell damage and nipping diseases like cancer in the bud.
  • Chia is high in manganese and magnesium content. In fact one oz. of chia seeds fulfils 30% of the daily requirements of manganese and magnesium and 20% of calcium. The potassium in Chia seeds helps relief from edema.
  • They absorb water 12 times of their weight. Their very capacity to hold water makes chia seeds a great food for athletes to consume before or after a run as they maintain hydration and retain electrolytes.
  • Not to mention Chia is very rich in dietary fiber which is the property that keeps one regular and also full for a longer time. Of course that’s the best reason why it’s a weight loss super food.

So how do you eat these chia seeds?

Beware! It is not a good idea to swallow a spoonful of seeds and then follow it up with water. This might cause stomach cramps because of the clumping together of the seeds in the gut before it has had a chance to expand. Always prepare the Chia and let it sit for some time before consuming. Here are some amazing ways to enjoy chia seeds:

  1. Mix 2 tablespoons of Chia into a cup of yogurt and let it sit for a couple of hours before consumption.
  2. Add ground up Chia seeds to shakes and smoothies and let it sit for 10 minutes
  3. Sprinkle a few seeds over a salad or mix it into a salad dressing
  4. Soak it in almond milk for a couple of hours and add it to a fruit salad or cottage cheese for breakfast
  5. Make a fruity chia gel and store it in a jar in the refrigerator for dipping raw fruit or a vegetable snack
  6. Beat an egg or two, add half a teaspoon of Chia seeds, let it sit for 10 minutes and make an omelette out of it. Add some green onions, tomatoes and mushrooms for extra taste and fun
  7. Follow this recipe for an amazing chia vanilla pudding.

13 super foods that we pay little attention to

Herbs and spices have been the super foods that have played a vital role in healing for centuries. The human body in itself is an excellent self-healer. For centuries, medicinal knowledge of food has been passed down from one generation to the other. Most of these have been used in medicinal healing in just about every ancient civilization I can think of. 

It is heart breaking that the human race is now forgetting what healed us forever and a day, and are grabbing handfuls of harmful chemical pills for every little ailment. There are over 80 herbs and spices that can replace prescription drugs and over the counter meds all in all. I’d like to implore you to stop worshiping Big Pharma and start consuming at least 13 of the below mentioned foods in adequate quantities and watch the healing process within.

As the book by Michael Josephson says “You don’t have to be sick to get better” It simply means that improvement is always possible, start prevention, live longer, healthier and happier.

Give yourself a gift of radiant health and rekindle your love for food. This is one relationship that will never break easily.Click on each to see what magic these foods can perform for you!

  1. Bee Pollen
  2. Cumin
  3. Ginger
  4. Cinnamon
  5. Turmeric
  6. Cayenne Pepper
  7. Peppermint
  8. Oil of Oregano
  9. Apple Cider Vinegar
  10. Moringa leaves
  11. Coconut Oil
  12. Honey
  13. Lemon

A couple of forgotten food quotes:

Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.- Hippocrates

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.-Mark Twain

The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.
– Thomas A Edison

Amazing health benefits of ginger

Ginger! Oh ginger!

This pungent miracle root found its beginning in India and China and is known in ancient Indian and Chinese medicine to prevent and cure several health disorders.

Its close relatives are turmeric and galangal who are also equally equipped with wonderful healing properties. We are going to talk about those relatives very soon. Here are some amazing health benefits of ginger…

  • Drinking steeped ginger tea can help overcome nausea, calm a troubled stomach and digest a sluggish meal. Make ginger chai at home! Grab some loose tea leaves, a quarter tsp of dry ginger powder, one pod of opened cardamom with the peel, three cloves and some crushed cinnamon. Steep in a cup of hot water at 97— for 5 minutes, add honey and milk/almond milk if you wish, stir and enjoy!
  • Drinking a boiled infusion of ginger, lemon and honey can help cure a common cold or even flu.
  • Ginger is known to ease pregnancy related morning sickness. If drinking a tea seems to strong, just scratch a small area on the root and inhale it until the nausea subsides. Burning ginger essential oil can also help the same.
  • Ginger is very anti-inflammatory. Soaking in a tub with a few drops of ginger oil can ease muscle tensions and injuries after heavy workouts.
  • Ginger is also a fantastic detox agent. Add ginger to smoothies and juices and also grate it over any dish and consume every day. A cup of ginger tea in the morning can kick a sluggish metabolism and thus support weight loss.
  • Ginger is one super food I can go on writing about. Other than the great properties mentioned above, it’s also a wonderful ingredient that helps control blood sugar, boost heart health, strengthen immunity, reduce cholesterol and help fight free radicals to prevent cancer.

Here is a recipe for an amazing sauce to go with spring rolls or grilled chicken: Grate some ginger, add some chopped green onions, a spoonful of peanut oil (Be aware of allergies) and a dash of salt. Mix everything together and serve with whatever you wish to go with it! It can also act as a salad dressing with an Asian accent.

Warning! Too much of ginger might potentially cause problems.

Drinking too much of this strong tea might not be a good idea as it might give rise to a burning sensation in the stomach.

If you are diabetic, or suffer from low blood pressure, too much of ginger can cause a major drop in blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Enjoy this wonderful natural medicine in small beneficial amounts. I’d limit my ginger intake to about one piece a day the size of my thumb!

The dirty dozen v/s The Clean Fifteen

Every time you put something in your body, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.

The Environmental Working Group has provided two lists of fruits and vegetables, one that has the most pesticides has been called “the dirty dozen” and the other that has the fewest is called “the clean 15”. The Environmental Working Group’s mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.

This categorizing was meant for consumers to make informed choices about what produce is better off only organic and what exposes us to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Here are the dirty dozen:

Apples Grapes Cucumbers
Peaches Celery Cherry tomatoes
Nectarines Spinach Snap peas
Strawberries Sweet peppers Potatoes

 

And here are the clean 15.

Avocados Onions Eggplant
Sweet corn Asparagus Grapefruit
Pineapples Mangoes Cantaloupe
Cabbage Papayas Cauliflower
Sweet peas Kiwi Sweet potatoes

 

 

So I’d highly recommend you set a working budget for organic fruits and vegetables from the dirty dozen, so you are on the right path to clean food! Happy eating!

A miracle called Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper, scientifically called as capsicum is also known as cow-horn pepper and is related to bell peppers, jalapeños and paprika. Cayenne pepper is grown in tropical regions with temperate climates. It is used in powder form in cooking, as flakes for sprinkling on food and extracts are used to make supplements.

I am sure everybody has stumbled across this beautiful spice sometime or the other. Some of us use it much more than the others and some of us have been very scared to try the pungent heat of this fruit for a long time. Don’t be shy, just take a look at the miracles that Cayenne pepper can work for you. If you are not at all used to this spice, start with moderation and increase intake as you go.

Here is why I call it a miracle spice:

  • Cayenne pepper is a natural metabolism booster and is therefore used as a weight-loss supplement. Shed those extra calories everyday by drinking a warm glass of lemon water mixed with cayenne pepper.
  • It improves sluggish circulation by dilating the veins and increasing oxygen supply to the heart. This action of this pepper helps adjust blood pressure to normal levels.
  • John Christopher, a natural herbalist recommends drinking a warm glass of the lemon cayenne water mentioned above, every day. He suggests that one shouldn’t slowly sip it or drink small amounts every now and then, but instead chug it all at once for best results. Start by adding small amounts of the pepper to get slowly used to the heat of the fruit.
  • It is also a rubefacient, meaning, a natural detoxification agent. Cayenne pepper is used along with several raw fruits and vegetables for short periods of cleansing. During this detox period, grains, tubers, sugar, processed foods and dairy is strictly restricted.
  • I add cayenne pepper to my homemade pain relief balm… (Ask me for the recipe J) The capsaicin in the pepper is used in a lot of pain relievers in the natural drug store. It has an immediate effect on joint pains, arthritic pain and muscle cramps.
  • Sprinkling it on a soup or stew helps unclog a stuffy nose. The decongestant nature of cayenne pepper liberates mucus from the respiratory paths and ensures better sleep when you have a cold.
  • This miracle fruit is also rich in antioxidant flavonoids like lutein, xanthin and carotene. The antioxidants protects the body from free radical damage and keeps cells healthy, fighting diseases like tumors and cancers.

Need 5 ways to start using cayenne pepper? Here you go!

  1. Blend some beets, carrots, apples, lemon and cayenne pepper into a smoothie and enjoy while you detox.
  2. Add it to flavor eggs or vegetables along with a pinch of salt.
  3. Spice up your salad by adding a quarter tsp of cayenne pepper into the dressing.
  4. Use it in an Indian curry powder to enhance the taste of meat, beans, lentils and vegetable dishes.
  5. Add some salt, yogurt and cumin powder to a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and mix it well to dip raw vegetables.