I love spring. Not just because it is the start of my racing and gardening season, but because it is the beginning of a long and delicious grilling season. For as long as I can remember I had a love affair with the grill. Many people will tell you that olive oil or butter make everything delicious, but I would like to respectfully disagree. I say there is nothing better than the smokey flavor of freshly grilled… anything. I mean it. Try grilling some vegetables you don’t like to eat normally and prepare to be amazed! Stove top cooked zucchini is good, but thinly sliced, grilled zucchini is divine! Grilling is to food as hair, make, and Photoshop is to supermodels. Food by itself is good, just like a model without the makeup is attractive. You grill the food and it is a knockout, just like the girls you see on magazine covers.
In addition to being one of the most primal and delicious ways to prepare food, grilling is also incredibly convenient. When compared to cooking on a stove top or baking, grilling requires less cleanup. I’ll take that any day of the week! Understandably, when warmer weather hits, I spend a lot of time at the grill.
Below is one of my favorite, quick and easy salads that uses grilled chicken breast. You don’t even need to heat up the chicken if you don’t want to! I prefer cold proteins on my leafy greens, so this is the ultimate “take-me-to-work” salad.
Grilled Chicken Salad
1/4 cup Fresh Champignon or Baby Bella Mushrooms (sliced)
1/4 cup Red Radish (thinly sliced)
1/4 cup English Cucumber (thinly sliced)
2 cups Baby Spring Mix with Herbs
3.5 oz Grilled Chicken (cut into bite sized pieces)
2 tbsp. Dill (optional)
1 tsp. Olive oil
Drizzle of lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss. If you are not planning on eating this salad right away, keep the dressing separate until ready to eat. This will keep your greens crunch and fresh.
After a long and cold winter our homes are not the only the only places where we need to do some spring cleaning. Winter diets tend to concentrate of fattier, heavy food that are designed to inspire feeling of warmth and satiety. And as we shed our layers of clothing, air out the house, and clean out all of the nooks and crannies from built up clutter and dust, we should do the same with our diets.
Spring season is finally in Georgia! It is hard to believe that just four hours north of where I live there is still snow and ice! To celebrate the warmer weather and to help you refresh your menus, I give you this Bruschetta recipe. It is quick and easy, stores well, and can be a great addition to a post workout / run meal.
2 Roma tomatoes (diced)
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup Red onion
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp Olive oil
Salt to taste
Whole wheat bagel crisps
In a small bowl combine the diced cilantro, red onion, lime juice, and olive oil. Set aside to marinade while you dice your tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to your onion mixture, salt and pepper to taste. Serve atop of whole wheat bagel crisps, whole wheat pita chips, or just eat it like a salad.
If you have been anywhere around a TV set, a radio, or a computer, you have noticed the great abundance of “get fit now”. It is that time of the year again. The time when supplement companies and larger than though trainers are pushing their miracle cure all product on the unsuspecting consumers with low self-esteem. Do these products work? Some of them. Do they work safely and for a prolonged period of time? No.
We live in a society that is largely driven by instant gratification and impulse. No one wants to work to be fit, but everyone wants to have a fit body of a fitness model. After all, it is much easier to pop a pill and eat a pizza while watching football, than working out and eating clean. Does anyone think about the consequences of taking these drugs? Does anyone stop to ask why they work so quickly and so effectively? No. Why? Because blissful ignorance with a skinny fat body is significantly safer than a challenging and at times difficult reality in which one has to find information, process it, and work to get the results that they want. In short, half-baked approaches breed half-baked results and a lot of disappointed, misinformed consumers. So, what can you do to get lasting weight loss results? Read on.
What I have to say right now may not be what you want to hear, but I am not in the business of cuddling and propagating fitness myths. I am here to give you the hard truth and save you the time you’ll spend doing research on your own. Here’s the deal. Most “magic” weight loss pills, shakes, and powders are unsafe. If you have to order your food premade, you’ll gain all of your weight back after you stop eating “out of the box”. There is no such thing as getting “toned and fit” without changing your daily lives.
The only way to get true and lasting results is by keeping a clean and sustainable diet, maintaining a healthy attitude, and exercising daily.
Keeping a Clean and Sustainable Diet:
Let’s face it, if you drastically cut calories, completely cut out certain food groups or expect perfect rigid compliance to a dietary plan, you will eventually slip. In fact, when you slip you will binge, feel guilty, get down on yourself, and try to maintain the same diet with even more restrictions than before to make up for your pitfall. Does that sound like a healthy relationship with food? No. To me, that sounds more like an eating disorder and we all know that eating disorders are very unhealthy.
A sustainable diet should revolve around a lifestyle. When you decide to get in shape, you have to realize that you are on a journey and just like any journey, this one will have peaks and valleys. The secret to sustainable, healthy weight loss is realizing that a valley isn’t going to undo everything you worked for. So, if you make it a priority to eat healthy 90% of the time, that one piece of cake on your birthday, a plate full of delicious food on Thanksgiving, and a bowl of macaroni and cheese every other month aren’t going to send you on an express train to fat town.
A clean sustainable diet should involve all of the major food groups (unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating certain things) in moderation. Eating for weight loss is an art form that will take time to master fully, there is no diet that perfectly fits all, and there are no shortcuts. A clean, healthy diet with proper caloric intake (you can’t starve yourself!!!) takes time to develop and perfect.
I encourage you to do your research, look at various food plans, study strategic eating, and custom design your own eating plan. It will take time, but in the end you will be rewarded with energy, better health, and a lean, strong body.
We briefly touched on this subject in the previous section when we discussed a healthy relationship with food. You can’t punish yourself for slip-ups and deviations of off the plan, but you also have to hold yourself accountable for what you do in daily basis. Having a support group helps, but at the end of the day it is between you and your refrigerator, or between you and your bed.
You have to make a plan and stick to it regardless of what the world around you wants. If you know that what you are doing is right for you, then no one else has the right to keep you away from your goals and your dreams. Not even you. You have to push yourself every day. I wish I could tell you that it gets to a point where going to the gym or out on a run is automatic. No. I still have days when I question why I am up at 5 am on a cold winter morning. There are days when the last thing that I want to do is drive to the gym and lift a bunch of weights when the laundry is piled up, dinner needs to be cooked, and I still have a mound of paperwork to get through. However, I don’t make excuses. I put on my big girl pants, lace up my shoes, and I tell myself that it is better that way. I can say with full confidence, I am yet to regret a workout that I did.
However, healthy attitude goes far beyond building a healthy relationship with food and regular, hard workouts. A healthy attitude also encompasses how you view the world. It is easy to be mad and sad about your circumstances, but when you make a decision to take control and change, you become empowered. Feeling strong and in control is what gets people in the gym initially, but most quickly get discouraged because the results didn’t come fast enough. Here’s the hard part: you have to remain positive and have faith in the fact that the results will come if you actually follow a program that you set for yourself. You have to force yourself to become an optimist on those days when you just want to quit because the pudgy feeling isn’t going away fast enough.
Again, I wish I could tell you that feeling discouraged goes away with time – it doesn’t. But if you keep at it long enough, you will learn that the voice inside your head that tells you “it’s not working”, “you don’t have the body for this”, “you are too old” etc. is a total liar. With time, you learn to ignore your own little critic and you learn that when the voice rears its ugly head, you are closer than you ever were before to achieving that one goal that you set for yourself.
A good diet and a great attitude aren’t going to get you far without exercise. Consistent, challenging, daily exercise paired with a great diet is a sure recipe for a fabulous body. Now, let me clarify, I am not telling you to go out and do Zumba (although it is a fun way to initially lose some extra weight). The exercise that I am talking about involves 3-4 heavy weight training sessions and 3 cardio sessions a week. You can’t be a cardio queen and expect a toned body of a fitness model. You have to lift HEAVY weights. Let me say this right now: there is no way that you are going to end up looking like a she Hulk unless you are SPECIFICALLY working to attain that aesthetic. So, no, don’t tell me that lifting heavy turns women into men. It is a total myths that is propagated by men who are scared of strong women, women who are scared of hard work, and skinny fat models who would be out of a job if the rest of us woke up and realized that having the ability to pick up more than 5 lbs at a time makes you more attractive and gives you the lean, toned look you actually want. Yes, I’m talking to you ladies.
Gentlemen, I have to caution you against trying to show off. Heavy training means lifting the weight you can ACTUALLY lift with PROPER form. Allow me to elaborate: that means that you shouldn’t be squirming under a barbell during your bench press like a deranged worm because you loaded the bar too heavy. You are not a hero if you get hurt, so why set yourself up for failure? Take it easy, maintain proper tension throughout your exercises and watch your body bulge with awesome rippliness faster than the guy who has been trying to “out lift” you all alone and has been doing it wrong.
I don’t know about you, but for me, a fit strong body is a status symbol. You can’t buy it, you can pay someone to surgically make it. You have to invest the time, the sweat, the tears and the doubts to achieve it. There are challenges to achieving your perfect physique at any age and in any circumstance, so don’t discount the efforts of the younger crowd just because of their age or the older crowd just because of their experience. We all face different struggles, have different body types, and respond to different things better than others. Building a body you want takes time, it takes trial and error and you have to be willing to invest in your journey fully in order to rip the perfect results.
Arugula or Eruca sativa is an annual, leafy green that belongs to the Brassicaceae family of plants. Despite its lettuce like appearance, Arugula is a close relative of cabbage, kale, mustard greens and cauliflower. This Mediterranean native has a sharp, spicy flavor profile and is a commonly found in Italian, Slovenian, Egyptian, and West Asian, Northern Indian, and Brazilian cuisines.
Medicinal Uses through History:
Arugula appears in Greek and Roman medical lore as an aphrodisiac, diuretic, and a way to restore sight. There have been some records found that indicate arugula was used to treat survey in sailors and administered to those with stomach pains and heartburn in the form of brewed tea. In ancient China arugula and dandelion were considered an effective way of detox and were said to contribute to healthy liver function.
Much like the rest of the cruciferous family, arugula is high in vitamin C, A, K, folate and potassium, fiber, phytonutrients, and other antioxidants. Some research suggests that many of the phytonutrients (indoles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates, sulforaphane) found in arugula have been linked to cancer prevention.
di-indolyl-methane (DIM) a compound derived from digestion of indole-3- carbinol found in arugula and other cruciferous vegetables has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Some research suggests that DIM may have beneficial effects against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) of the cervix. However, the study is inconclusive at this time.
Foods rich in Vitamin C help boost immune function, lower cancer risk, improve iron absorption, and help protect cells from free radical damage. Vitamin A found in arugula functions as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent and promotes retinal, skin, mucous membrane, teeth, and skeletal health. Arugula contains a significant amount of B-complex vitamins (thiamine, niacin, B-6, riboflavin) which are crucial to cell health and proper metabolic function. Another key nutrient found in this leafy green is Vitamin K. 100 g of arugula contains nearly 90% of daily value of Vitamin K which is important for bone health.
Choose Your Arugula:
- Look for crispy bright green leaves
- When picking arugula, avoid collecting from flowered plants as the leaves become bitter
- Store in the refrigerator at relatively high levels of humidity.
Cooking With Arugula:
Arugula is best consumed raw or lightly wilted. Try arugula in a salad, on your turkey burger, or as an addition to your smoothies or juices. In some parts of Italy arugula is used as a pizza topping. It is added right after the pizza is out of the oven to prevent significant wilting.
Wood R (1999). The new whole foods encyclopedia: a comprehensive resource for healthy eating. New York: Penguin/Arkana. ISBN 0-14-025032-8.
Cabbage is a leafy green, annual vegetable that is closely related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. There are a number of cabbage plant varieties, the most popular of which is the smooth-leafed, firm, green cabbage. There are two other common varieties of cabbage: red and savoy. Red cabbage is a smooth-leafed, firm, deep purple in color with a strong flavor profile. Savoy cabbage on the other hand has a “ruffled” leaf, yellow-green in color, and has a mild flavor profile and softer texture.
Throughout the centuries, cabbage has been used as food and as medicine. Cabbage plants were introduced into European cuisine around 600 B.C. by migratory Celtic tribes and became a dietary staple shortly thereafter. Currently, Russia is leading the charts with the highest consumption of cabbage per capita with Belgium, Netherlands, and Spain coming in as close seconds.
Cabbage as Medicinal Herb:
Because of its high antioxidant and fiber count, cabbage has been used as medicine by many cultures. The Ancient Greeks recommended the use of cabbage leaves as a laxative, cabbage juice to treat poisonings, and help heal bruising. The Romans and Egyptians used cabbage as an anti-hangover cure and a method to prevent drunkenness.
In the early 20th century, cabbage leaves were used to treat ulcers and abscess. Some scientific evidence suggests that certain properties found in cabbage leaves can reduce the pain of engorged breasts (during lactation), and extend the duration of breast feeding by increasing milk production. Other scientifically unsupported uses of cabbage in medicine include the treatment of rheumatism, sore throat, hoarseness, appendicitis, pneumonia, removal of warts and boils, and treatment of mild depression.
Cabbage, much like most of cruciferous vegetables, is a great source of beta-carotene (Vitamin A), vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. However, unlike most cruciferous vegetables, cabbage boasts impressive levels of polyphenols, an antioxidant in the phytonutrient category.
Phytonutrients are organic components of plants. The term itself derives from the word phyto meaning plant. Although these organic components are not necessary for a person to survive, scientists believe that consumption of phytonutrients can prevent certain cancers and help with minimizing the effects of our toxic environment. Phytonutrients serve as very powerful antioxidants and help enhance immune response, regulate estrogen metabolism, aid in DNA repair caused by exposure to carcinogens, as well as effectively activate a detoxification enzyme (cytochrome P450 and Phase II enzyme system) to remove carcinogenic byproducts of the metabolic process.
Polyphenols are one of the major groups of phytonutrients and are found in a variety of plants such as onion, cranberries, tea, red grapes, grape juice, strawberries, apple, raspberries, blueberries, red wine, cabbage, and nuts. Polyphenols can be divided into two categories: flavonoids and non-flavonoids. Flavonoids are the most extensively studied polyphenols in conjunction with metabolism and cancer prevention.
With that being said, even white cabbage has incredible high amounts of polyphenols (50 milligrams per ½ cup). Red cabbage can arguably be even more effective in terms of delivering a higher concentration of antioxidant and detoxifying nutrients per ½ cup. Red cabbage contains high concentration of flavonoids known as anthocyanins (a very powerful antioxidant that is found in blueberries, Okinawan sweet potatoes, cherries, and other purple colored fruits and vegetables). In addition to having antioxidant qualities, anthocyanins are also an extremely effective anti-inflammatory.
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, cabbage juice has been used for centuries to treat stomach ulcers. Recent evidence suggests that cabbage can contribute to overall health of intestinal lining and stomach by regulating bacterial population, reducing inflammation, and regulating bowl movement.
In addition to antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, cabbage also contains an impressive concentration of glucosinolates.
Glucosinolates are organic compounds that contain sulfur and nitrogen. Yes, glucosinolates are the reason why your house starts smelling “sulfurey” when you cook your favorite cabbage dishes. Glucosinolates are converted to isothiocyanate compounds which in turn can be very effective in prevention of a number of colorectal cancers.
Different varieties of cabbage contain different amounts of glucosinolates. Savoy cabbage, for instance, contains high concentrations of sinigrin, a glucosinolates that has received a lot of attention in recent years as a cancer prevention chemical.
Although the research on cancer prevention is still on going, adding at least one serving of cabbage to your daily consumption of vegetables can prove to be beneficial for your weight loss and overall health.
Choosing the Perfect Head:
When choosing your cabbage, make sure that the head is firm, bruise free, and has bright, crispy, colorful leaves.
Avoid buying precut cabbage. Once the cabbage is cut it begins to lose some of the essential vitamins and minerals. If you have to store some of the cabbage (that you precut) you should try to use it within a couple of days.
Keep your cabbage cold by placing it in the refrigerator or in a cellar. This will help keep your cabbage fresher longer as well as slow down the breakdown of vitamin C.
Green, Red, and White cabbage will usually keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, while Savoy cabbage should be consumed within a week, and Bok Choy within a few days.
According to some scientists, steaming the cabbage promotes better release of nutrient. Although that might be true, we find that steaming cabbage turns it into an awful mess and produces less than appetizing aromas. We recommend that you sauté, pickle, of consume your cabbage raw. Additionally, you can add your cabbage to soups and stir fries.
Kushad MM, Brown AF, Kurilich AC, et al. Variation of glucosinolates in vegetable crops of Brassica oleracea. J Agric Food Chem 1999 Apr;47(4):1541-8. 1999. PMID:13320.