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31 Dec Why Should You Eat Hormone Free?

You might be reading this title thinking, “what hormones?”, and it’s true – ‘hormone free’ is not quite as trendy a catch phrase as ‘organic’, ‘gluten free’ or even ‘pesticide free’, and many people might not be aware of this niche. However, hormones present in our diet can have quite negative and far reaching effects.

 

So where do the hormones come from? Well, mainly from conventionally farmed animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. In our modern day society, a lot of emphasis is placed on more, with consumers wanting more for their money, more to eat, just more in general. In order to cater for demand, farmers may use hormones. Meat animals such as cows or pigs may be injected with hormones to make them grow faster, resulting in higher turnover and less input required of the farmer – they can produce more for less, which is cheaper for them, and therefore cheaper for the consumer. Dairy cattle may also be injected with hormones which increase their milk production, so the farmer can increase their milk yield without increasing their herd. Hormones may also be used to ensure a consistent product.

There are differing views on the safety of these hormones and the extent to which they remain in the end product, however a key point is that in terms of human development and modern society, hormones are a very new addition – beginning as recently as the second half of last century. We are still discovering what they can do for farm animals, let alone what effect they may have on consumers. However, some negative consequences are becoming clearer every year.

  • Think of the animals. The use of hormones certainly raises the issue of ethics. Injecting cattle with hormones over and above their natural levels can have negative side effects, from behavioural changes to swelling, which signify poor welfare. Greater milk output (and therefore nutrient loss) may also result in malnutrition or malnourishment, meaning farmers need to use antibiotics – and these can end up in our food too!
  • Think of the environment. Excess hormones may be excreted, leaving them to soak into the soil and wash into waterways. From there, they can affect many other plants and animals which certainly won’t benefit from added hormones.
  • Think of yourself. Some residue may remain in the meat or dairy of hormone treated animals, and while the effects remain somewhat unclear, there have been links to early puberty, developmental and reproductive difficulties, and even some forms of cancer. Even with plenty more evidence yet to be gathered, it is clear that hormone residues are not something our bodies are used to processing. Not knowing exactly what is going into our systems is not a great way to nourish our health and wellbeing.

In our consumption driven society, economic benefit can overshadow potential negative effects of something like hormone injection. However, just from our brief overview it should be fairly evident that hormones are really an unknown that we are introducing to our bodies. Try making the switch to hormone free animal products, and feel better about your health and your impact!

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16 Mar Common Yoga Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Yoga is a wonderful form of exercise, helping us to stretch, strengthen, and massage our bodies. The benefits can extend through all areas of our life – however, if we’re not careful, so can any injuries sustained during our practice. It is easy to forget that such a nourishing and peaceful activity can in fact be the cause of significant pain, but by being aware of how this might happen we can take steps to avoid injury and ensure our practice is purely beneficial for the body.

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Whilst some yoga injuries can be sudden, and the result of dangerous practice, many more are in fact developed over weeks, months, or even years of incorrect posture. This is where an excellent yoga teacher comes in very handy, but it’s also important to be your own critic – use mirrors, video yourself, and above all listen to your body – you know it best after all! Be safe, and push to a point that is within your comfort zone. For more info on this, check out our post on finding your edge.

Here are 5 common injury areas:

  • The wrists are a tiny joint filled with delicate bones, but they are often subjected to huge forces – think arm balances, downward facing dog, and especially handstands. To support the wrists, focus on keeping the joint neutral with force running through to the fingertips and into the earth, rather than concentrating in the wrist.

 

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All illustrations sourced from www.yoga.com

 

  • The hamstrings are often an especially tight muscle as they do so much work in everyday life. But we do we do yoga to rectify this, right? Well, yes, but sometimes we can get a bit too enthusiastic about our newfound flexibility, and push past our ‘edge’ – this can be common in such an often used muscle as the hamstring. Always listen to your body, and remember that just because you can’t touch your toes right now, doesn’t mean you never will! Better to appreciate each gradual improvement rather than trying to advance too quickly and risking injury which will only set you back.

 

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  • Lower back. The lower back, or lumbar spine, is such a common injury area, in all areas of life – not just yoga! Back issues can be chronic and even leave you bedridden, so this is one of the most important areas to be wary of. With a correct, safe approach to our yoga practice, we can not only avoid injury, but also strengthen the back enough to prevent issues from occurring in future! It can be tempting to carry a lot of force through our lumbar area, so it’s important to remember that it doesn’t work alone! Try contracting the upper legs, glutes, and shoulders as well as the core to support and protect your back muscles and spine.

 

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  • Like the wrists, shoulders are often subject to large forces through a relatively small area. They often carry a lot of weight during inversions, such as shoulder or head stands, and even a simple downward facing dog. Remember to keep the joint itself relatively neutral, avoiding any unnatural twisting. Try to avoid letting force concentrate in the joint itself (like with wrists), and keep the core activated to ensure good posture.

 

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  • The neck is made up of just a few bones, yet supports the heaviest part of our body – the head – and enables it the flexibility to move in just about any direction! It does a fantastic job, however being so close to brain, as well as making up part of the spine, it is crucial that we protect and support the neck wherever possible. When performing inversions, remember to keep the core activated whilst taking more weight in the shoulders and arms. In poses which focus on the abdominal muscles, such as the boat pose, try to relax the neck as much as possible and support the head with your fingertips at any sign of tension.

 

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At the end of the day, only you know what you’re feeling and what is right for your own body. Yoga should be about harmony and self-love, and at no time should it be dangerous or punishing. As we always say, listen to your own body and just enjoy the sensation!

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10 Mar Dosha Series: the Kapha Dosha

A few weeks back, we introduced the Ayurvedic concept of dosha, which represents a particular energy within an individual. Check out the post here for a full recap, and to better understand which of the three doshas (kapha, vata, pitta) best represents your own body and mind.

The rest of the series of posts will focus on each dosha in turn, describing how best to balance your particular dosha and find harmony and wellness. This week, we will look at the kapha dosha. To recap, the kapha dosha is centred on protection, involving structure and what holds our cells together. Those who are dominated by this dosha tend to be sturdily built, slow, steady, and thoughtful.

Being slow and heavy types means that an unbalanced kapha dosha can lead to sluggishness. Physically, this may result in heavy digestion and bowel movement, weight gain, and oversleeping; whilst mentally it may lead to procrastination, stubbornness, or being overly sentimental. Evidently, it is important to balance this dosha in order to be productive, active, and achieve a complete sense of wellness.

The most common way to balance our doshas is through diet. Some useful dietary practices may include:

  • Limiting dairy intake. Small amounts of ghee and yogurt might be ok, but you may like to cut back completely at first, and then try slowly reintroducing.
  • Using raw honey as a sweetener is said to be ‘pacifying’ for a kapha.
  • Most legumes are well received by kaphas, including lentils, chickpeas, and tempeh. (Some tofu is ok, although it is quite a heavily processed product so you may like to exercise moderation here!)
  • Plenty of raw or lightly cooked veggies – goes without saying really!
  • Strong, warming spices like cumin, pepper (black or cayenne), cinnamon, and ginger are great ones to include – think a lentil and veggie curry, or a warm spiced tea (not too hot!).

Diet is not the only way to rebalance your dosha. Something which is almost as important as what you eat, is how you eat it. Enjoy your food mindfully, in a peaceful environment, and take a big calming breath before and after your meal.

Some other important ways to rebalance the kapha dosha include:

  • Since kapha is, by nature, the opposite of stimulated, new experiences can be a great way to avoid sluggishness and becoming weighed down.
  • Staying warm and dry.
  • Try to work in a daily routine, and rise early to avoid excessive sleep. It’s also a great idea to de-clutter your space, whether it be pantry, office, bedroom, or all of the above!
  • In terms of exercise, try endurance activities like running, cycling, swimming, and even dancing! These will clear your mind and stimulate your body.

 

Hopefully this has given you a great overview of how to rebalance the kapha dosha, for those of you who may be suffering from the sluggishness described. Give it a try, and see what works for you!

Make sure you stay tuned for next few posts in the dosha series!

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05 Mar Make Your Own Macrobiotic Bowl

It’s a pretty common argument that in order to maximise our health and wellbeing, we should eat food which is as close to its natural state as possible. However, this idea of a wholefoods diet can still be interpreted very differently, from raw vegan to paleo – everyone has a preference, and it’s important to find what works for both our beliefs and our body. In order to make our healthy habits a lifestyle, rather than a ‘diet’ with an expiration date, it can be helpful to have an eating philosophy, rather than a strict regime.

Macrobiotics is an excellent way to consider eating real, whole foods and avoiding highly refined or processed products. This approach suggests a focus on whole grains, vegetables, beans and legumes, and sea vegetables, with grains making up 40-60% of our intake. Miso soup is also an important addition. Whilst it is not a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet, it is certainly one that is based on plants, and locally sourced foods are seen as especially beneficial. By following this simple philosophy, one may develop a more intuitive sense of how diet affects wellbeing.

So, based on the above guidelines, it is really quite simple to create a nourishing, macrobiotic diet. Again, as this is a philosophy, it is not necessary to suddenly ‘become macrobiotic’ – simply keeping the ideals in mind is enough to create an energising and satisfying meal, such as this simple macrobiotic bowl.

Step 1: choose your whole grain. Brown rice is a great one to start with – add about half a cup of cooked rice to each bowl. You may wish to flavour your rice with a splash of rice vinegar, sesame oil or seeds, or soy sauce.

brown-rice-jar

Photo credit: Andrea Balt

Step 2: choose your vegetables. After whole grains, these are the next largest component and should make up 20-30% of your bowl (by weight). You might like to include carrot, broccoli, kale or other leafy greens, onion, or pumpkin. You may choose to have them raw, or lightly steamed, depending o on the veggie. These suggestions are just a start; remember that by varying our diet we can gain a wider variety of nutrients!

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Photo credit: Mark’s Veg Plot

Step 3: choose your legumes. When eaten with grains, legumes create a complete protein. Things like chickpeas, white beans, and lentils are easy and cheap to buy canned, or soak and cook them yourself (better still!). Other great options are fresh edamame, or crispy seared tofu or tempeh.

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Photo credit: VVRS Australia

Step 4: sea vegetables. Think nori, wakame, or dulse. A delicious and nutritious addition sprinkled on top of your veggies. Alternatively, you can stir these through the cooked rice.

Seaweed

Photo credit: M & J Seafood

Step 5: condiments or dressing. This is where you may like to add a spoonful of fermented goodness such as kimchi or sauerkraut. You could also add another splash of rice vinegar/sesame oil/tamari/all of the above!

Step 6: enjoy feeling nourished and grateful for these wonderful whole foods which are doing your body a world of good!

Here is a wonderful example of a finished macro bowl, thanks to Nourish The Roots (follow the link for recipe!)

macro bowl

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28 Feb Finding Your Edge

A little while ago, we spoke about the importance of Getting Comfortable with Discomfort. The importance of challenging yourself in order to make a positive change applies to all areas of life, from personal to business, and especially yoga. Today we focus on applying discomfort to the yoga practice, in order to find our ‘edge’. This refers to the point where we experience the intense sensations of a pose or sequence, without pushing any further into injury territory. The benefits of this can be huge, and may be both mental and physical.

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Thanks to Higher Perspective for the incredible photo!

From a physical perspective, finding your edge is essential in order to improve and strengthen your body. Having awareness of your own limitations ensures that you are not pushing yourself to the point of injury. However, working within our ability, and up to our ‘edge’ allows us to improve far beyond the realm of a practice which is simply ‘comfortable’. As you find and become familiar with your edge, you may notice it extending as your ability grows.

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Photo thanks to about.com

This improvement also applies to your physical endurance. Whilst it is vital to listen to your body and understand when to release a pose, it is also important to challenge yourself and extend your endurance where possible – again, this is where awareness of your edge comes into play.

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Beautiful photo thanks to Camel City Yoga

Mental endurance can also be strengthened by knowing your ‘mental edge’. You may notice that more experienced yogis can hold a pose for a long time without distraction, or that they are comfortable extending the length of their practice. Just like with physical strength, this comes with practice, and working within your mental edge.

Finding your edge is all about awareness and understanding. Above all, it takes practice! Learn to listen to your physical and mental cues and explore your own boundaries, but be sure to take things slowly and be careful. It is, of course better to be safe than sorry – you can always push a little further next time!

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23 Feb The Answer to Ageing

A bold title, that’s for sure. How can anything provide the ‘answer’ to the inevitable processes undertaken by our bodies as we age? Well, the good news is – we are already doing it! The body provides its very own system against toxins, imbalances and inflammation – this is known as methylation. Methylation is a chemical process involving all of our internal systems. It occurs constantly, during the various other processes taking place within the body. Without getting too scientific, methylation is responsible for detoxification, repair, and general maintenance of the body’s productivity. Which is great! The human body is an extremely complex machine, capable of a lot more than is generally understood.

The bad, or at least slightly more complicated, news? The process of methylation can be thrown out, causing the body to run less smoothly than it should – the once well-oiled machine becomes a little rusty, if you like. And since methylation contributes to such a wide variety of essential bodily processes and functions, it follows that lowered methylation may lead to a myriad of health issues. Many of these are chronic, and often referred to as the ‘diseases of aging’. A bit of a downer, but more good news – with a few extremely positive dietary adjustments, we can maximise our own ability to methylate. The benefits of better methylation range from significant increase in overall wellbeing to lowered risk of conditions including cancer, heart disease, dementia, diabetes, psychiatric disorder, and many more.

The even better news is that if you take interest in your own health and take steps towards living well, it’s likely that many of these ‘adjustments’ are already a part of your daily life! So what, exactly, leads to better methylation?

  • Eat your greens. Especially the leafy variety, and the darker the better. You might be rolling your eyes, having seen this at the top of every ‘how to be healthy’ list you’ve ever seen! Getting our greens should be a given, but for some reason they are often overlooked in spite of being one of the most important, beneficial dietary inclusions we can make.
  • Minimise animal protein. Fine in moderation, but too much can be difficult for your body to digest, and may lead to decreased methylation.
  • Avoid smoking, excess caffeine and excess alcohol – again, these are points you should be familiar with – methylation is just another reason to keep this one in mind!
  • Have a think about your B-vitamin intake. Deficiency in the B group vitamins can be linked to poor methylation, especially B6 and B12. Great sources include fish, eggs, cheese, beans, nuts, leafy greens (of course!), whole grains, and (if it’s your cup of tea!) liver.
  • Avoid overly processed foods. By doing this you will simultaneously be avoiding excess added sugar, salt, artificial flavourings, and any number of other additives. For this your body will only thank you!
  • Include some fermented foods in your diet – yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh… you know the drill! Healthy tummy = better vitamin absorption = better methylation!

It might seem like a slightly complicated list, but the basis is, of course, no different to any other dietary advice you will receive. With a healthy lifestyle, and a varied, whole foods diet, you should be well on your way to optimum methylation and better health!

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21 Feb The Power of Green

A smoothie can be a fantastic way to enjoy a tasty, nutritionally dense snack or meal. For those on the go, they are a quick and portable breakfast – throw everything into the blender, pour into a jar or bottle and you’re out the door! Even if you have a little more time to spare – the vibrancy you feel after a hit of fresh produce can be hard to beat!

Smoothies are typically fruit dominated, and a base of seasonal, fresh or frozen fruit is perfect. However, they can also be a great way to pack a few more veggies into your diet! Throwing handfuls of vegetables into your blender may seem a little strange initially, but when done right, they will only add to your glow.

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Thanks to The Science of Eating for the great photo!

So why green veggies? Well, we should all know by now how important veggies are in the diet – from our mothers harping on at the dinner table growing up, to journalists, authors, and scientists – this seems to be something we can all agree on! Ensuring your diet is filled with abundant nutrients is the best way to look and feel great, as well as reducing risk of health issues like heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer. A fresh, seasonal diet can also have wonderful mental benefits.

Veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre and water – they are low in calories, but high in nutrition! In particular, dark leafy greens are full of iron, calcium, vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene. Though they are often overlooked in favour of the latest trendy product, greens are one of the most potent superfoods we can eat!

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Photo thanks to Casey Jade – looks delish!

For optimum green smoothie deliciousness, here are a few of our favourite tips:

  • To start with, try adding a handful of leafy greens to your favourite fruit smoothie. Something like spinach is barely noticeable (except for the colour!), and as you grow accustomed to the colour and slight earthiness, you can up your veggie to fruit ratio.
  • Branch out and try some greens you don’t generally get in your day to day diet, like rocket or different varieties of kale – there is a world of greens out there beyond boring old lettuce! (Although lettuce doesn’t need to be discounted completely – it makes a lovely fresh smoothie addition!)
  • Subtle tasting veggies are a great way to sneak in some extra nutrients – think cucumber (also lovely and refreshing!), zucchini, or even broccoli! If you’re a fan of a more earthy flavour, you could try things like silver beet, swiss chard, and even celery.

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Here’s something to try: add a serve of veggies to your smoothie every day for a week, and watch your energy and vitality skyrocket. Once you go green, you won’t go back!

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16 Feb Why walk?

Walking – it might be a big part of your daily routine, or something you don’t give a lot of thought to. It’s certainly a very simple activity, but one which can have huge benefits for both your mental and physical health. Best of all, it requires absolutely no equipment and is suitable for almost anyone!

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Thanks for the photo, Best You magazine!

 

Here are just a few of the benefits walking can bring:

  • Just like other forms of exercise, brisk walking can increase your heart rate, helping to release endorphins and leave you feeling wonderful.
  • By getting your heart pumping on a regular basis, you are improving your cardiovascular fitness, which can make a huge difference in your daily life. Notice your energy levels increasing and your endurance growing!
  • Looking after your heart in this way also reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension and high cholesterol. A little bit of prevention can save you from a whole lot of medical drama down the line.
  • Unlike running or plyometric forms of cardio exercise, walking is extremely low impact, making it suitable for all ages and a range of abilities. Risk of injury is low and it can be a great way to strengthen and improve pre-existing injuries.
  • Walking is still classified as a ‘weight-bearing activity’, given that you are carrying your own body weight – therefore it is a great way to improve bone density and joint health.
  • Walking can be a great social activity. You may use it as a chance to catch up with a friend, or you may even choose to join a local walking group – these are cropping up everywhere and are a great way to meet new people, so be sure to scope out your local area.
  • If you’re feeling overly stressed or emotional, walking alone or with your favourite album in your headphones can be a great mental release. The combination of the meditative activity, getting outdoors in the fresh air, and the endorphin release will have you forgetting your worries in no time!

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Thanks for the photo, Guthrie Green!

 

In order to gain maximum benefit, try to spend 30 minutes a day walking briskly. If you struggle to find a spare chunk of time in your day, you can also try breaking it up – incorporating walking wherever possible until you don’t even realise you’re doing so much! Try getting off the train a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or even parking further away from where you need to be.

With just a few small changes, you’ll be looking and feeling better than ever!

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11 Feb Three Delectable Chia Pudding Recipes

Chia seeds are pretty great. Have a read of our post here to learn all about their superfood status! One of their best qualities is the ability to soak up liquid, forming a delicious little plant based, wholefood pudding!

A chia pudding makes a wonderfully nourishing and satisfying breakfast, especially if you are pressed for time in the mornings – all of the preparation is done the night before, leaving you to grab and go come morning time! Don’t limit yourself to breakfast though – a chia pudding is a great go-to afternoon snack to have in the fridge, to help you beat the 3:30itis! The right recipe can also make a great dessert, the perfect way to finish a shared meal with loved ones.

So we’ve done a bit of a round up, and here are our top three chia pudding recipes!

1. In true dessert-for-breakfast style, we love Jessica Cox’s Carrot Cake chia pudding. As indulgent as it is nourishing!

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2. Chia puddings lend themselves well to tropical flavours, like this coconut chia pudding by Chris at Tales of a Kitchen. Top with some fresh mango and let yourself drift off to a tropical island.

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3. Last but not least, where would we be without chocolate chia pudding a la Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows? This one is blended for an even smoother, creamier, yummy treat!

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05 Feb Yoga for Sore Necks

We all know yoga is a great way to strengthen our mind and body, and can often protect against injury or strain. However, certain aspects of our life can throw off our hard work, leaving us stiff and sore. Especially in this day and age, many of us spend a lot of our day sitting – be it in the office, car, train, or just in front of the TV! The main problem with too much sitting is that we get too comfortable, and our posture suffers. Unfortunately, this is often the cause of pain and reduced movement. Sound familiar? Well, before you head to the chiropractor, get in touch with your own body and see what some gentle, focussed yoga can do for you!

As always, begin with some gentle stretching. It is essential for the spine to be thoroughly warmed up – this will not only maximise the benefit of your practice, but also ensure you avoid doing any further damage! Roll your head in each direction; gently stretch each ear toward the shoulder; and turn to look behind you in either direction.

In order to fully benefit the neck, we can focus on loosening and strengthening the entire spine, creating a stable base of support. Our head is very heavy, and keeping it in a neutral, upright position can do wonders for your physical health. Work on moving between your downward facing dog and cobra poses, alternating with plenty of time spent resting in child’s pose.

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Image care of www.yoganonymous.com

The cat and cow pose is also perfect for getting that extension and contraction through the entire spine, as well as being a lovely gentle way to get a feel for your body.

Next, try incorporating some twists, such as the threading the needle pose. These are a great way to extend your muscles, helping to release built up tension. Learn more about twists and their benefits in our post dedicated to them, here.

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Image care of www.yogabasics.com

Be sure to spend some time in standing poses also, such as the mountain pose and some forward and sideways bends. Keep the knees soft in order to lessen any strain on the spine.

Whilst yoga can be a great antidote for those little niggles that keep cropping up, it’s important to listen to your body (as always!) and be gentle with yourself – you certainly don’t want to make the problem any worse! If you are unsure at any stage, be sure to seek the help and advice of your healthcare professional.

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03 Feb Fats 101

Type the word “fat” into Google and you will be swamped with over 700 million results in just half a second. From media to fashion, and journal articles to song lyrics, talk of fat is certainly in vogue!

When it comes to the fat in our diet, you will find an argument for every possibility, not all of them informed or even particularly knowledgeable. We get the confusion, really! That’s why we’re here: not to harp on about what you should or shouldn’t do, but rather to give you a good base of knowledge and help you to understand some of that information overload.

So where to start? Well, fats can generally be divided into two categories: saturated and unsaturated. These are scientific names describing the number of double bonds in the molecule. Saturated fats contain all single bonds between atoms. They come mainly from animal sources (but also include coconut products) and form solids at room temperature. Think butter, ghee, lard, coconut oil. On the other hand, unsaturated fats contain one or more double bonds. These are plant sourced, and form liquids. These are your olive, sunflower, canola, peanut oils. They may be monounsaturated (one double bond) or polyunsaturated (more than one).

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From left to right – coconut oil, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, ghee

Saturated fats are often seen as the ‘bad’ guys – being called out as responsible for everything from heart disease to cancer. This sort of research has been heavily promoted by heart foundations and dietary guidelines for years, leading to fairly well accepted belief. As a result, many efforts to be healthy involve eating less red meat and full cream dairy products, replacing them with lean meat and fat reduced products.

However, recent research is starting to suggest that maybe saturated fats aren’t so bad after all – with diets like paleo even promoting a fat intake which is certainly higher than that recommended by dietary councils.

Then there are coconut products, including coconut oil. This form of saturated fat is supported by many, who say that the special type of fatty acids in coconut oil differ from that in animal fats, making them more easily assimilated and even quite healthful in a balanced diet.

On the other hand, unsaturated fats enjoy a far more positive reputation. You’ll find these in all sorts of nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil… it’s generally accepted that these are heart-healthy, ‘good’ fats, especially with the rising popularity of the Mediterranean diet. But one important factor to consider is how these oils are manufactured. Whilst cold pressed olive oils are common and a great option (with more nutrients), many plant oils are extracted using complex refining processes involving solvents, bleaching, and deodorisation. In order to make plant based margarine-style spreads, oils are often ‘hydrogenated’, meaning their chemical makeup is altered in order for them to be solid, spreadable products.

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Left – refined and purified olive oil; Right – unrefined, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil 

In terms of fats, what is important may not necessarily be the type we consume. Rather, we need to focus on how processed the fat is – aiming to keep it as close to its natural state as possible. Surely a cold pressed virgin coconut oil, straight from the plant, is more easily accepted by your body than overly refined and potentially chemical ridden canola oil? What about butter, which undergoes little processing (and no chemical changes!) from source to final product, compared with margarine in which the original ingredients are unrecognisable?

At Organica, we believe it is important to eat a diet filled with minimally processed wholefoods, as close to nature as possible – our choice of fat is no exception!

 

 

N.B. One last important point – it is not recommended to fry with olive oil, as it has a low ‘smoke point’, meaning the structure of the fat may be disrupted and harmful free radicals released. Instead, you may opt for coconut oil or ghee, both of which are relatively natural products with higher heat tolerance.

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31 Jan Simple and Delicious Zucchini Soup

This recipe comes from a newspaper clipping which was inherited from a friend – so unfortunately, the origins are a little unclear, but we have tweaked and simplified the recipe to make it our own staple. This soup celebrates the nourishment of delicious green vegetables and came recommended from a trusted loved one – what more could you want?

When using homemade stock or broth, soup is one of the most nourishing foods we can consume – all those nutrients are slowly cooked out of the ingredients (be it bone broth or a more veggie based stock) and into the water which you then enjoy. It’s no wonder we feel so great after a big bowl of homemade soup!

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Illustration care of The Freedom of Education magazine

Not to mention the awesome serve of veggies you’re getting. This recipe celebrates zucchini, an often overlooked vegetable with a myriad of uses, which provides a beautiful soft and creamy background here. Like many other fruit and vegetables, zucchini is a wonderful source of dietary fibre – which will keep you full, as well as healthifying your digestion, lessening blood sugar spikes, and lowering cholesterol. Zucchini is also a great way to meet your daily vitamin C requirements, with benefits ranging from strengthened immunity to free radical protection. The humble zucchini is also a great source of minerals like manganese, magnesium, and potassium.

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Image care of Super Teacher Tools

The fresh, sweet flavours of green peas (I often cheat and use frozen ones for convenience!) and fennel really brighten this soup, turning it into a lighter contrast to heartier wintery soups. The rolled oats are a genius addition – adding substance and creaminess to the soup whilst keeping it entirely plant based!

The original soup is served with scallops and crème fraiche, which are a lovely addition if you’re not fussed about keeping things vegan. But really, even without them, this soup makes a perfectly satisfying and nourishing meal!

 

Zucchini Soup with Fennel and Peas

Serves 4-6

Olive oil (for the pan)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 gloves garlic, sliced or crushed
500g fennel, roughly chopped (1 large bulb, reserve fronds to garnish)
6 cups stock of choice (preferably homemade!)
½ cup rolled oats
2 cups green peas (fresh or frozen)
3 medium zucchinis, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and sauté until very soft. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and just starting to brown – careful not to overdo it! Add fennel and sauté for a few minutes, turning to coat with those yummy flavours building in the pan.

Add the stock and rolled oats to the pan and cook until the fennel is soft, about 25 minutes. Add zucchini and peas, and cook for a further 5 minutes until zucchini is tender and peas are warmed through.

Using a stick blender (or you can use your regular blender), process the soup until very smooth.

Garnish with the fennel fronds and enjoy!

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27 Jan Getting Twisty

Twists are a great movement to include in your routine – be it during your yoga practice, as you stretch after a gym workout, or even before bed, this simple addition can have a huge range of benefits. So what exactly is a twist? Well, they generally involve rotation of the torso or ‘core’ of the body, and may target any specific area from the head and neck to the pelvis. Stimulating this central area of the body is so, so important, for many reasons:

  • Spinal rotation – whenever you perform a twist, you are stretching your spine. The spine has such a central role in our lives – from being able to sit comfortably at our desks, carry the shopping, play sport… even simply bending over or walking around! A strong, supple spine is essential for it all!
  • Tension release – we can carry a lot of tension in both our spine, particularly the neck, and belly. Twists are great for opening up the neck, as well as chest and shoulders, for a wonderful release. Many twist poses also gently massage the stomach, allowing it to relax and making things much more comfortable!
  • Digestive stimulation – this gentle stomach massage can also be great for encouraging healthy digestion and getting things moving – see our post on digestive health here for more info on digestion!
  • Detoxification – as you alternate between restricting blood flow, and reintroducing a flood of fresh, oxygenated blood, you allow the core to rid itself of any waste cells and refresh, as well as improving stimulation. This blood not only contains fresh oxygen, but also an array of nutrients to assist your muscles and tissues.

As with most additions to your exercise routine, its best to start with some simple twisting stretches – everyone has different levels of mobility and flexibility, so be sure to start with what is comfortable and gently increase from there.

Here are some great alternatives to get you started, and as you start looking into more options you will realise that they are extremely diverse!

  • Supta Matsyendrasana, also known as the ‘knee down twist’ or ‘reclined spinal twist’, is a great one to start with. This is perfect before bed as it is done lying down and offers great release after a busy day.

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  • Ardha Matsyendrasana, or the ‘half lord of the fishes’ pose, is wonderful for that digestive stimulation.

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  • Sucirandhrasana, ‘threading the needle’, is great as you start to crave a deeper stretch across the shoulders and back.

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Thanks to http://www.yogabasics.com/ for photograph – check out their website for more great ideas.

As you progress, you can start incorporating twists into other poses such as chair pose (parivritta utkatasana), downward facing dog (parivrtta adho mukha svasana), or triangle pose (parivrtta trikonasana). Listen to your body, enjoy the benefits – just have a play!

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22 Jan On trend: Omega 3

By now you’ve no doubt heard of omega 3s. They are plugged all over the place, by everyone from naturopaths to the Heart Foundation. So what exactly are they, and what makes them such an important nutrient? Omega 3s are a type of fatty acid, specifically an essential fatty acid, which means the body is unable to synthesise them and we must therefore consume them within our diet.

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After getting a pretty bad wrap for a number of years, things are thankfully starting to change as we recognise how important fats are in our diets, and how many healthful properties they have. Fats are fantastic for brain function, nutrient absorption and even healthy weight maintenance – contrary to popular belief! It is, however, important to understand that in order to get maximum benefit from dietary fats, we need to consume them as part of a well-balanced diet and above all, it’s essential to enjoy the right types of fats! Stay tuned for a full debunking of all types of fat in the coming weeks – but for now, omega 3s.

Omega 3s have been linked to all sorts of positive health effects, from cardiovascular disease, to mental health and cognition, to regulated metabolism leading to healthy weight maintenance. What makes these little molecules so special? Well, scientists are still working on that one, but it may have something to do with them being a polyunsaturated fat, meaning they feature multiple double bonds for the body to break them down. In order to gain the ‘omega 3’ qualification, these double bonds need to be in certain places – without getting too scientific, however, the most important thing to remember is that in order to gain maximum benefit from any one nutrient in the diet, the rest of your diet needs to be up to scratch also – think more fruit, veggies, and fresh stuff, and less processed stuff. Furthermore, whilst you’ll find plenty of omega 3 supplements available, the best and most nutritious way to consume them is in a wholefood, that your body knows exactly what to do with!

Walnuts

Photo care of Australian Walnut Industry

 

So without further ado, here are the best dietary sources of omega 3 you can get:

  • Flaxseeds – see our post here on all the fantastic benefits of these humble seeds, and some great ideas to include them in your diet.
  • Chia seeds – we’ve given these ones a good wrap too, check it out here!
  • Walnuts – sprinkle them on your porridge, throw them in a salad, or just enjoy a few as a snack!
  • Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel – always go for wild caught were possible, as these have the best omega 3 levels, and try to include one of these in breakfast, lunch, or dinner at least once a week!
  • Eggs are a great one too, and extremely versatile! Not to mention the fact that they contain a total of 11 vitamins and minerals – what an ingredient!

With plenty of great options for just about any dietary preference, there’s no excuse not to get these into your diet ASAP – so go for it!

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18 Jan Shivasana: Simplicity at its Best

During your yoga practice, it is extremely important to find a balance between moments of work, and moments of rest. Resting poses are just as important, if not more so, than working poses as they allow the body to regenerate and reap the benefits of your practice. The most common resting asana you will learn is shivasana, known more commonly as ‘corpse pose’. The beauty of this pose is that it can be done anywhere, without any equipment, and is pretty difficult to get wrong! The pose is performed lying down on the back, with arms slightly separated from the body, palms facing up, feet naturally falling out and eyes gently resting closed.

shivasana

Image source: www.yoga.com

Shivasana is a fantastic way to pause and reconnect with yourself, not only during your yoga practice but at any other point during the day. You may begin your yoga practice this way, in order to focus and set your intention, and it is very common to finish in shivasana for your final relaxation. We touched on this benefit of shivasana in our post on Yoga for Sleep, and it is certainly a fantastic way to encourage restfulness. As you hold the pose, ideally you should carry your focus through the entire body, making a conscious effort to fully relax each body part before moving on to the next. Deepen your relaxation by revisiting your pranayam breath, allowing each out breath to carry away any stress, tension, or negativity.

You may wish to practice this pose in bed, before going to sleep. Another great way to practice is outdoors, preferably in contact with the Earth so that your whole body can absorb its energy.

Shivasana can do wonders when built into your daily routine – allow yourself enjoy this moment of peace, clarity and gratitude, before letting this internal positivity boost and empower the remainder of your day.

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15 Jan Spiced Quinoa and Carrot Salad from The Gratitude Project

Quinoa has gained a huge amount of popularity lately, and for good reason – it’s a true superfood. A good, basic quinoa salad recipe is a must have in your repertoire, and makes a great addition to a barbecue or dinner party. Today we’re sharing a fantastic recipe from The Gratitude Project, Angela Simson’s glowing blog which celebrates love, gratitude, and whole foods – all the things we’re big on at Organica!

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Quinoa is a fantastic complex carbohydrate, and is filled with fibre. This means that not only will it keep you satisfied between meals, as it slows the absorption of blood glucose, but also improve digestive health, and have huge long term benefits including reduced LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels and risk of colon cancers.

But quinoa’s real bonus is that it is a fantastic source of complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids in appropriate quantities to support your body. Quinoa is one of few plant based sources of complete protein, with most grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes being deficient in one of more amino acids. This makes it a fantastic base for a meal, especially for vegans or vegetarians.

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It’s also a fantastic source of magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and iron! Hard to argue with that superfood title!

Adding spices to the quinoa during cooking is a super easy way to impart great flavours, and the addition of simply dressed carrots, almonds, and raisins to the spiced quinoa takes this simple dish to the next level, but you could easily leave them out and instead decorate your spiced quinoa with leafy greens and your choice of seasonal veggies, with some tofu, chickpeas or a boiled egg for a great protein boost! Get creative and see what you can come up with.

Make sure you check out the orginial recipe and Angela’s gorgeous website here!

SPICED QUINOA AND CARROT SALAD

Serves 3-4 as a side dish, store leftovers covered in the fridge

Ingredients

1/2 cup quinoa
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground coriander

4 carrots
1 tbs honey
1/2 lemon
2 tbs olive oil

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup sultanas/raisins

Start by rinsing your quinoa under water for 30 seconds.  Strain and add to a saucepan with 1 cup of water and spices.  Season with a little salt and bring to the boil.  Once boiling, lower to a simmer and cook covered for 12 minutes.

While quinoa is cooking, ribbon your carrots and combine in a large bowl with honey, lemon and olive oil.

Toss all ingredients together and let cool or eat warm.

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11 Jan Dosha Series: Getting to know your dosha

This week we are bringing you the first in a series of posts on dosha, a concept which is central to Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is a traditional Hindu approach to balanced health and wellbeing, linking the body and mind. In Ayurvedic medicine, every person is seen as a unique individual. This is where the doshas come in – each dosha represents a certain ‘bodily humor’, or energy, and balance between the doshas is essential for good health.

Ayurveda believes that each person is a combination of three doshas, though one or two tend to be more prominent. These three doshas are Kapha, Vata, and Pitta. When in balance, with both each other and the individual’s needs, the effects on both emotional and physical health can be enormous. However, when something throws out this balance, be it a stressful life event, unhealthy daily habits, or just a build-up of factors, the effects can be quite damaging, ranging from fear or anxiety to depression or insomnia.

Just as each patient is treated individually, each dosha also benefits from specific attention, in terms of surroundings, diet, and exercise, particularly your yoga practice. In order to better understand your own health, and how best to manage it, it’s important to recognise and understand which dosha or doshas of yours are more prominent. See if you can recognise yourself as being Kapha, Vata, or Pitta oriented – if you’re struggling though, it could mean you are out of balance or out of touch with yourself, in which case a visit to your naturopath (or yoga teacher) could be helpful.

Kapha: controls growth and structure within the body, maintaining resistance and lubrication, as well as encouraging solidity and energy. Kapha types are generally strong in build, with good stamina. Their best qualities tend to be calmness; they are loving and forgiving.

Vata: oversees movement and flow, and related bodily functions such as heartbeat, the circulatory system and breath. They tend to have a thin frame and good agility. Vatas may swing between emotions rapidly, and love new enterprises.

Pitta: governs transformation, such as in metabolic processes of absorption, digestion, energy production, and temperature. Pitta types are medium size, in between Vatas and Kaphas. They are intelligent, with good concentration and decision making skills.

So, how did you go? Are there one or more doshas to represent your individualities? Maybe you need to attend to renewing your personal balance – the great news is, we will be covering just that in coming posts – stay tuned to hear all about it!

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08 Jan Healthy Snacking Made Easy

Often when making the transition to a healthier lifestyle, snacking is something that can stop us in our tracks. Meals are one thing: bowls of porridge, smoothies, big salads… once you get into the swing of it, healthy mains are a breeze. But then it’s time for your mid-morning cuppa, or the three-thirty-itis hits, and you’re thinking surely just a sneaky bar of chocolate will do the trick.

Although moderation and treating yourself are important, there’s a good chance that the bar of chocolate won’t in fact do the trick, and that the refined sugars and other processed ingredients will leave you high and dry before you even get back to your to-do list!

But don’t worry – you certainly don’t have to give up snacking completely. Just make sure your choice is a nourishing one to fuel you through to the next meal! The right snack will be delicious, satisfying, and intensely nutritious – which is where today’s recipe comes in!

Walnuts

 

Thanks Australian Walnut Industry for the photo

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Thanks BBC for the photo

cacao

Thanks BDHH for the photo – check them out for more awesome info on cacao!

These are just packed full of plant based goodies. The healthy fats and protein from the walnuts will leave you satisfied, as well as making these a great post-workout recovery snack. And the cacao – that stuff is a true superfood, filled with antioxidants, minerals, and tryptophan to boost serotonin production – they don’t call them bliss balls for nothing! The fibre in those beautiful dates will keep you full and energised through to your next nourishing meal, while those natural sugars will provide a perfect energy boost! Although we love fresh, gooey Medjool dates, in this recipe we have opted to use dried ones and simply soak them – your wallet will thank us ;)

Not only are these little guys perfectly portable for your gym bag, handbag, or even carry-on luggage for a flight, they are also super quick and easy to prepare, thanks to the food processor… Take 20 minutes to whip up a batch and keep a container in the fridge at all times for a healthy, natural pick me up – you won’t look back!

 

Super Simple Basic Bliss Balls

Ingredients:

1 cup of shelled, raw walnuts

1 cup of dried dates

1/4 – 1/3 cup of raw cacao powder – depending on how rich you would like them!

pinch of salt

desiccated coconut or crushed seeds/nuts of choice, to roll

Method:

Place dried dates in a bowl and pour warm water over them, to cover. Allow to soak for at least 20 minutes. Strain, and place in your blender or food processor. (Reserve the sweet soaking water for smoothies or porridge if you like!)

Add the walnuts to the dates and pulse until a gooey, sticky and combined mixture forms. If too gooey, add a few more walnuts; if too dry, add a splash of the date soaking water.

Throw in a pinch of salt and start with 1/4 cup of cacao, working your way up if you would like a richer, more intense chocolateyness.

When all that chocolatey goodness is well blended up, take approximately tablespoon sized chunks of mixture and roll them in desiccated coconut. Store them in the fridge, where they will firm up and stay lovely and fresh!

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05 Jan Getting Comfortable with Discomfort

Stress and discomfort can provoke extremely negative connotations. It is often suggested that prolonged stress to the body or mind can lead to chronic disease or disorder, and it is important to ensure release and relaxation are part of your daily routine. However, it can be equally as beneficial to include some forms of discomfort and challenge within the day. In her TED talk “How to make stress your friend”, psychologist Kelly McGonigal says “One thing we know for certain is that chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort.”

Kelly’s view is extremely relevant in terms of understanding yourself and your capabilities. Though it is great to know your limits, discomfort is often essential for creating positive change and expanding your horizons beyond what you expect. From something as simple as throwing a handful of green stuff in your smoothie and realising how great it makes you feel, to confessing your feelings for someone and having them returned – the old saying ‘life begins at the end of your comfort zone’ is truly pertinent.

In terms of yoga practice, the same theory applies. It is when you achieve a level of discomfort that you expand your physical boundaries, creating a more meaningful connection with yourself and being hugely beneficial to your self-perception – this is a great way to appreciate your own strength.

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image via tumblr

You should always listen to your body, and avoid any pain signals it is sending to you. However, there is a difference between pain and discomfort, and it is important to achieve this discomfort in order to get the most out of your practice. If your mind and muscles aren’t challenged, there is little likelihood of positive change and the many positive effects of practicing yoga will be diminished. It is difficult to strengthen your muscles without providing them with a reasonable load, and without mental stimulation you may quickly become bored or develop a negative relationship with your body and practice.

The biggest lesson you learn through getting comfortable with discomfort is that you can always connect to breath. And this applies to life and all those uncomfortable moments.

One of the biggest benefits of yoga occurs when you release a pose, allowing blood and oxygen to flood the affected area and create mental and physical clarity. Have a play around, even just with basic stretches if that is what you can manage, and notice the difference that a few moments of discomfort can make! Before you know it, you will be completely comfortable with the idea, and may even strive for discomfort – as always, just remember to listen to your body and find discomfort without causing undue strain. Appreciate and love your body, and reap the benefits in return!

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image via http://yoga-girls.blogspot.com.au/

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03 Jan 5 Tips for Digestive Health

Good digestive health is essential in achieving complete health and wellbeing. When your insides are dealing with your food the way they should, not only will you feel lighter, more energised, and a whole lot more comfortable, you will also absorb far more nutrients from your meals, meaning greater vitality and less risk of disease.

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Thanks to Jason Jay for the photo. 

During an indulgent festive season, there can be a lot of strain placed on your digestion. But not to worry – hitting the refresh button may be a lot simpler than you’d expect!

 

  1. Eat wholefoods. This is a huge one, as when you feed your body whole, unprocessed foods, it knows exactly how to deal with and digest them properly – that’s what it was designed to do! Think plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Not only will your body thrive on all those vitamins and minerals, the fibre contained in plant foods is extremely valuable, keeping you regular, improving your cholesterol levels and decreasing your risk of chronic disease such as colon cancer. Try to moderate your intake of animal products, as these can be harder on your body and take a lot more work to digest. How you eat is also very important – don’t rush, as your body can digest and assimilate nutrients much more easily when given the chance to do so!
  2. Drink plenty of water. Even if your diet is impeccably nourishing, without water to soften the food and help it pass more easily, you could get pretty uncomfortable! Hydration is also essential for transport of water-soluble vitamins, including the B-complex and C vitamins, ensuring your body can absorb and make use of these fully.
  3. Start your day with an easy detox, such as our apple cider vinegar and cayenne tea. After having a rest from digestion overnight, the morning is a perfect chance to kick start your system and get things moving for the day. An easy apple cider vinegar drink will do just that, as well as making a start on your hydration for the day and stimulating all the enzymes required for good digestion. Read more about these benefits on this post.
  1. Include prebiotics and probiotics in your diet. Having plenty of good bacteria, or probiotics, in your gut is essential for so many reasons – they fight the bad bacteria, protect from many forms of disease, help digest carbohydrates, prevent inflammation, and aid metabolism. A great way to encourage these ‘gut flora’ is by eating foods rich in probiotics, usually fermented foods such as yoghurt or kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso or tempeh. However, the good bacteria alone can’t do much – they need something to feed on, which is where prebiotics come in. Prebiotics are foods which our bodies alone can’t digest, so those probiotics get to work on them instead, keeping them active and effective. Great sources of prebiotics include raw garlic, leek, and onion, raw banana, and raw asparagus.
  2. Get moving. When you exercise, your whole body and all of its interconnected systems work a whole lot better. Stimulate your blood flow, boost your metabolism, and build your strength and good digestion will be a natural side effect! Post-workout stretching or yoga is also a great way to gently massage and stimulate your insides. Try including some gentle torso twists in your routine.

 Organic-Food

Thanks Indonesia Expat for the pic!

Try to gradually include a few of these in your lifestyle and you’ll be well on the way to better digestive health – not to mention overall wellbeing. What’s not to love?!

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30 Dec The Importance of Iron, and How to Enjoy It!

Iron is an incredible mineral in our diet, playing an important role in transporting the oxygen we breathe in, from our lungs to the bloodstream. Oxygenating the body is essential for mental clarity, maximum physical output and more. Iron is also essential in utilising dietary protein for muscle development and growth. It is important to avoid iron deficiency, as this may lead to anaemia, with symptoms including weakness or tiredness, and irritability.

Unfortunately, red meat intake is often considered essential for adequate iron intake – if you’re a plant based eater, you have no doubt been asked the question, “but how are your iron levels?” What a lot of people don’t realise, however, is that there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan sources of protein which provide great levels of iron, often even more than beef or other red meat! After all, those animals which are high in iron consume a diet full of grasses and leaves, and they are some of the strongest mammals on earth!

So how can you incorporate more iron into your diet?

  • Dark, leafy greens like spinach or kale are packed with iron, often containing more per calorie than beef! Try throwing a handful into your breakfast smoothie, or make a big salad for lunch or dinner.
  • Many legumes offer great iron levels, including chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and more. Depending on the season, a yummy chickpea salad or big lentil stew can be a great way to up your iron, at the same time filling up on protein.
  • Similarly, tofu or tempeh are a fantastic vegan option for iron, providing you with great quality protein in the form of a delicious and versatile ingredient. Stir fries, salads, homemade sushi – the sky is the limit!
  • Quinoa lives up to its superfood label, providing a great iron source along with its complete protein, complex carbohydrate and fibre. Use it anywhere you would rice, in curries or Asian dishes, or even instead of pasta with a rich sauce. It’s less popular cousin, millet, is a fantastic alternative to change things up.
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds and cashews, or nut spreads like tahini, are great ways to add some iron to your breakfast along with a boost of essential fatty acids – throw them on your porridge, or later in the day, onto a salad.

Hopefully these ideas provide you with some inspiration to boost your iron intake. Ensuring your vitamin C intake is adequate can also be a great way to boost absorption of iron. Whilst it is possible to consume too much dietary iron, this is unlikely on a balanced, wholefoods diet. Listen to your body and if uncertain, contact your health care practitioner!

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27 Dec Yoga For Sleep

Whilst yoga is often thought of as simply a way to move the body, or a class to take at the local gym, in reality it is so much more than that. It is a broad philosophy which, with a little practice, can enable you to strengthen and harness both your body and mind. The benefits of being in better control of your mental and physical state are huge, allowing you to live more freely, feel more gratitude, and get more out of every minute.

In this post we will focus on the best way to achieve a restful, rejuvenating night’s sleep through simple yoga practice and principles. Regardless of your goals or lifestyle, good sleep is essential for repairing the body and mind, and preparing you for a new day filled with energy and productivity. Getting enough sleep is of course key – most adults should aim for 7-9 hours. However, perhaps even more important than quantity is the quality of your sleep. A night of tossing and turning, and constant wakening will do more for your stress levels than energy levels! We recover and restore ourselves most effectively through deep, relaxed sleep – which you can achieve and maintain with a little bit of intention.

So let’s get started.

It is often the endless thoughts racing through our minds that prevent rest. A great way to start your evening yoga is with a simple meditative relaxation process. Take deep breaths to fill the blood with oxygen and clear the mind – practicing pranayam is also a great way to focus. Allow yourself to be thankful for the day that has passed, and if any thoughts are still buzzing around, try to release them with every out breath and let this be time for you. Breathe deep into the furthest corners of your body and let every muscle relax.

Feeling a little better?

When you’re ready and at ease, move into some gentle stretching. Now, especially, it’s important to listen to your body and avoid straining it – release the pressures of the day without creating new ones! Simple poses such as Baddha Konasana (bent angle pose) or Balasana (child’s pose) are a great start, releasing the central pelvis area whilst encouraging restfulness.

Ardha Matsyendrasana (seated spinal twist) is a fantastic one if you’re often troubled by digestive discomfort during the night, as it will gently massage and stimulate your digestive organs. This pose has the dual benefit of releasing the spine, essential for comfortable sleep. Pairing Bitilasana (cow pose) with Marjaryasana (cat pose) is a perfect way to extend the spine further.

Add stretches as you feel your body can benefit from them, remembering to spend time between each pose relaxing and letting yourself experience the blood flow. If comfortable, a great way to relax even further is to lie with your legs up the wall at a 90º angle in Viparita Karani, encouraging blood flow toward the core and brain.

To finish, come to lie in Shivasana (corpse pose) , on the mat or in bed if that feels right! Return to your deep breath and acknowledge the muscles you have stretched and warmed, allowing all tension to be released.

Ahhhh. 

If you struggle with rest, be sure to give yoga a try – even just 5 minutes of gentle breathing and stretching can be enormously beneficial to your sleep, and daily energy levels! If you’re uncertain about any of the poses mentioned, or your own skill level, the best place to start is by asking your yoga teacher or consulting one of the many websites available such as www.yoganonymous.com. Start small and enjoy the benefits yoga and great rest can bring!

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20 Dec Easy daily detox

Detox programs seem to be gaining popularity every month, with new packages cropping up everywhere from the internet to the supermarket. The idea is to remove built up toxins from the body, or literally ‘detoxify’ any residual chemicals, pesticides, or other waste which has accumulated as a result of diet or environmental exposure.

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Even just a simple Google search can bring up a ridiculous amount of options – most of them aimed at quick fix weight loss and making money!

In theory, detoxification is a great concept, allowing the body to renew and regenerate. However, many publicised detox programs take an extreme approach, ridding your body not just of toxins, but also a host of essential nutrients at the same time. Many claim far-reaching benefits, from weight loss to disease prevention. But what these programs don’t teach you is the everyday habits to practice in order to maximise your health. Whilst you may lose weight initially, if you return to an unhealthy diet post cleanse, it is likely that you will regain all of this weight and more as your body clings to the nutrients it was starved of. Ridding your body of toxins is a great way to reduce your risk of disease, however it is the long term behaviours which will truly affect your health.

In essence, good health and wellbeing isn’t the result of a short term diet or cleanse program, but a balanced, nutritious lifestyle. And the good news: it is possible to incorporate simple, every day habits into your routine which will give you all the true benefits of detoxification. The recipe we’re sharing today will do just that – from improved digestion to boosted immunity, this healthful drink will have you brimming with energy. It’s as easy as two ingredients and a big cup of water!

You may be familiar with apple cider vinegar as a salad dressing, which is great. However, it is important, especially for this tea, that your ACV is raw and contains cloudy sediment, known as the ‘mother’. The ‘mother’ is made up of strands of protein enzymes and is the basis of all the goodness in this tonic.

  • Raw ACV is fantastic taken 15-20 minutes before a meal, as it stimulates digestion and ensures proper nutrient uptake from your food. The acids present may also help break down fats for the body to use, rather than store, which is great for energy levels as well as healthy weight maintenance.
  • As well, it encourages regular bowel activity which is essential for cleansing the body and removing toxins at an appropriate rate.
  • Thanks to the pectin fibre in the ‘mother’, ACV can assist with easy digestion, reducing bloating or discomfort.
  • The good bacteria present in ACV are also great for reducing discomfort as well as having antibacterial and antifungal properties to further aid detoxification and improve overall wellbeing.

We favour brands like Braggs, which is organic, raw, and unfiltered – perfect!

Many well-known cooking spices have enormous health benefits which have aided traditional cultures for centuries. Cayenne pepper is a great example of this, with a strong history of healing.

cayenne pepper
Thanks http://www.ecorazzi.com/ for the lovely photo.

  • Cayenne heats the body, which is fantastic for regulating our natural rhythms. Heat may stimulate both the digestive and lymphatic system, helping to balance our diet and hormonal behaviour. Heat also encourages sweat, which is great for detoxification.
  • The spiciness in cayenne is a great intestinal stimulant, improving metabolism and regularity as well as reducing discomfort. The flavour may also stimulate saliva production, improving the initial stages of digestion as well as oral health.
  • Cayenne has been shown to have great immune, fungal and allergenic benefits, improving overall wellbeing as the body is able to focus on renewal rather than fighting ailment.

Combining a spoonful of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of cayenne pepper in a big mug of warm or room temperature water before breakfast each morning is a fantastic way to start your day fresh and invigorated. Play around with the quantities and see what works for your body and tastebuds, starting slowly and building up as you see fit. On top of a diet filled with fresh, seasonal produce, this easy detox drink is a great way to boost your body’s natural functions – give it a try and notice the difference it makes!

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17 Dec Achieving vitality through breath

We all know how significant breathing is – oxygen is perhaps the single most important, life giving substance we can consume. Taking a big deep breath just feels good, as your lungs expand with life and oxygen floods your cells. Breathing practice brings endless benefits, particularly controlled breathing or pranayam, which involves channelling and controlling the vital life force, or prana. From everyday stress release, to lowering risk of anxiety disorders or depression, and even benefiting digestion or asthma symptoms, just a few minutes of mindful breathing each day is an extremely worthy investment in your health. Better still, it’s easy, can be done anywhere, and costs absolutely nothing!

Pranayam can also make a huge difference to your yoga practice, as connecting the breath with each asana can focus and strengthen the poses, creating a deeper understanding of your body and energy. The ojai breath, also known as ujjayi, is the most typically practiced yoga breath, being beneficial to all poses. It may improve your awareness and endurance, resulting in a more grounded and meditative practice. This breath is also known for its heating capabilities, as internal heat is created which gently massages and cleanses your core.

Ojai may be referred to as the ocean breath due to the hissing sound which is achieved – it may also be useful to think of as the ‘mirror-fogging’ breath as you attempt to create a force similar to that required for fogging a piece of glass with your breath.

The breath is fairly simple to master, but as always, start slowly and build up your rhythm, listening to your body throughout your practice.

  • Begin practicing ojai in a seated position, familiarising with the breath before advancing to asanas.
  • Initially, both inhale and exhale through the mouth, controlling and slightly contracting your throat to achieve a slight whisper or hiss. It might be useful to lightly rest the tongue at the top of the mouth, just behind the front teeth. Imagine a mirror just in front of you fogging up with each breath.
  • When you feel you can control your throat during the entire breath, keep it contracted as you gently close the mouth and continue the breath through the nose. Allow the breath to energise and soothe you.
  • Take time to find a rhythm in your ojai breath, especially in the initial stages of practice. It is important to be gentle and avoid placing undue strain on yourself. Then, you can begin to introduce it in simple poses and sequences, building up slowly until you can maintain the breath throughout your practice.

You may choose to incorporate this breathing for a few minutes at any time of the day, even several times a day – focus on how it makes you feel and let that be your guide!

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12 Dec Why Flaxseeds Deserve a Place in Your Kitchen

Ahh, the humble flaxseed. Also known as linseed, you may have seen this tiny, glossy brown or golden seed sold whole, ground into a meal, pressed into an oil, or listed on the ingredients list of your LSA mix. If all of this is sounding pretty unfamiliar, listen up as these little guys are affordable, useful, and a nutritional powerhouse!


Image borrowed from www.readanddigest.com

Flax, like most seeds or nuts, is high in the protein your cells need to function and regenerate. Most of its carbohydrate comes from fibre, which is where flax’s powers really start to come into play. Fibre intake plays a huge role in digestive health, keeping you regular and having the ability to lower cholesterol and reduce risk of colon cancers! Just a little beware though – if you’re not used to a high fibre diet, best to start slowly and build up for optimum comfort!

Flax is also packed with heart healthy fats to assist metabolism and help you concentrate. In particular, flax is often known for its high omega-3 fatty acid content. This can help prevent a multitude of health issues from cardiovascular disease to mental health and cognition. Given that these omega-3 fatty acids are essential in our diet, flaxseeds are an absolute gem for those who prefer to steer clear of seafood such as salmon, a go-to source for a lot of people.

Is that packet in the corner of your health food store starting to shine a little brighter yet? If you’re still a little wary, just consider the vitamin and mineral content – flaxseed packs a huge punch of magnesium, as well as excellent levels of iron, calcium and vitamin B6.

So it’s pretty difficult to argue with the health benefits of the lovely flaxseed, and you’re no doubt itching to make room in your pantry. But before you invest, it’s always good to know just how you’re going to make use of something new in your diet. And good news – the possibilities are almost as huge as the nutritional goodness!


Image borrowed from www.eatseed.com

Flax’s high fibre content makes it a handy little helper in the kitchen – when ground into a meal, flax absorbs water to form a gel, not unlike chia seeds. This is great for thickening smoothies, porridge, baked goods… Mix a tablespoon of ground flax with a few tablespoons of water and you’ve got a vegan egg substitute! Sprinkle LSA (where flax is paired with sunflower seeds and almonds) on your cereal, use the oil to dress your favourite salad, add the seeds to your homemade bread mix… once you start using flax, you’ll wonder how you lived without it!

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31 Oct Chocolate-Orange Mousse with Cardamom Spiced Sauce

What if there was a way to make a rich, decadent chocolate mousse – that was healthy? A mousse to satisfy your chocolate craving whilst nourishing your body with abundant nutrients? A way to have your mousse and eat it too?

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Well, here’s the thing – there is! You may have seen a few avocado chocolate mousse recipes floating around, or maybe you’re new to the idea, in which case you may be a little bewildered, but stay with us! Here is a delicious dessert so packed with fruit, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats that you could easily eat it for breakfast! It’s also vegan, soy free, refined sugar free and gluten free, to suit a variety of eating preferences or intolerances.

 

The benefits are abundant:

  • Plentiful monounsaturated (“good”) fats from the avocado, which reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, improve cholesterol levels, assist with healthy weight maintenance and may even protect against some cancers.
  • These fatty acids are also associated with improved skin tone, making you shine from the inside out!
  • Like most fruits, avocados are a great source of dietary fibre which can slow absorption of sugars into the bloodstream and help you to feel satisfied for longer.
  • The avocado provides good levels of vitamins K, B5, B6 and C as well as minerals including calcium and folate.
  • As if this wasn’t enough, raw cacao brings its own benefits to the table, being PACKED with antioxidants, plenty of magnesium, and more.
  • Cacao is also a great wholefood source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid linked to serotonin production – think reduced stress levels and elevated mood. In other words, this is one dessert that will have your body and mind singing!

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We’ve spiced things up with a chocolate-orange mousse and a subtly spiced orange sauce, which takes this rich dessert to the next level – perfect for a dinner party – but feel free to keep things plain and simple if that’s your preference!

 

Chocolate Orange Mousse

Serves 4 – very rich!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium, ripe avocados
  • 1/3 cup raw cacao powder
  • 2 tbsps pure maple syrup
  • zest of 1 orange
  • pinch of salt

Slice open avocados and scoop flesh into a blender jug, or use an immersion blender. Add remaining ingredients and blend until well combined and silky smooth. Taste and adjust cacao/sweetness if necessary. Spoon into serving dishes and chill, covered, in the refrigerator.

 

Cardamom Spiced Orange Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 2 oranges
  • 3 cardamom pods

Using a sharp knife, peel and segment oranges. Place them in a small saucepan and squeeze over juice from remaining flesh.

Use a mortar and pestle to crush cardamom pods. Remove husks and add seeds to the saucepan of oranges. Bring saucepan to the boil, then reduce to low and simmer until liquid is reduced, about 20-25 minutes.

Allow sauce to cool to room temperature. Spoon over chocolate mousse and return to refrigerator to chill before serving. Sprinkle with toasted nuts and seeds of choice and enjoy!

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31 Oct Go-to vegan cupcake recipe

Everyone has their favourite recipes – it’s great to have something you can turn to with confidence, knowing that the end product will be a success. And of course, we all need a go-to cupcake recipe – for celebrating, commiserating or just a treat with your afternoon green tea!

Today’s recipe is a lovely one – and certainly fits the bill of a recipe you can fall back on. Get ready to share this one around!

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Better yet, the recipe is vegan – perfect if you’re a plant based eater, or even if you’ve just run out of eggs! Even if you aren’t completely plant based, it can be great to give your body a rest from digesting animal products like eggs and milk.

These cupcakes are grain free, gluten free, and nut free – making them extremely intolerance friendly, not to mention digestible. Coconut flour is to thank here, with its high fibre content making it an interesting one to bake with. However, its ability to absorb liquid often means a LOT of eggs are required, making this recipe a pretty special one. Give it a go and see for yourself!

Camilla from Power Hungry is responsible for this wonderful recipe. Check out her original post here and the rest of her fabulous blog while you’re there!

Just a heads up, before you start – although it’s fairly natural sugar, these cupcakes are fairly sweet, so if you aren’t accustomed to such sweet treats, you might like to cut back on the amount. Also, we used a particularly potent, pure vanilla extract and found that ½ tbsp was plenty!

Now, go forth and bake!

Vegan Coconut Flour Cupcakes

Makes 12

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup coconut milk (full-fat, well-stirred)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp whole psyllium husks (not psyllium powder)
  • ¾ cup coconut sugar or natural cane sugar (not too dark)
  • ⅓ cup virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract (gluten free, if necessary)
  • ½ cup PLUS 1 tbsp chickpea flour
  • 5 tbsp coconut flour
  • 4 tsp potato starch or cornflour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder (gluten free, if necessary)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt

Method: 

  • Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the coconut milk, water, psyllium husks, coconut sugar, coconut oil and vanilla. Let stand 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the chickpea flour, coconut flour, potato starch, baking powder and salt.
  • Add the psyllium mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just blended. Divide batter among prepared cups.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it (centres may sink slightly). Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting. Frost and sprinkle as desired, or feel free to leave them plain as we have – the tops have a lovely crunch all on their own!
  • If you’re dying for a perfect iced cupcake, try out Camilla’s Easy Frosting Recipe on her post, or simply whip up some coconut cream – leave can in the fridge overnight, then scoop out the firm stuff from the top of the can and whip it as you would normal cream! Yum!
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30 Oct Benefits of Meditation – A guide to sitting quietly

Relaxation, peace, clarity… these all come to mind when you think about meditation. And for good reason – meditation is all that and more! Whilst meditation is often associated with yoga, just about anyone can practice it, with no equipment required. It can be as simple as an everyday stress release, to the profound higher level of awareness reached by experienced meditators.

With the technologies and conveniences of our modern world, it can often be difficult to find a quiet moment in the day to focus and regroup. However, the benefits are incredible, and just a few minutes spent meditating can change the rest of your day for the better. It’s a great way to start the day with gratitude, clear your mind for a restful night’s sleep, or re-energise at any time at all!

As you get in touch with your mind and spirit, your emotional wellbeing is sure to improve along with your self-confidence and self-love. This is such a crucial part of your healthy journey that will make waves throughout your whole life. The spiritual connection you can achieve through meditation may also bring you in closer contact with your surroundings and loved ones. There are clear links between prolonged stress and poor health, and a simple daily meditation ritual can have deep physiological advantages.

There are many types of meditation, so you’re sure to find one that suits. Guided meditation is a great place to start, as a guide or teacher can help keep you on the right track and release those pesky, unnecessary thoughts. Mantra meditation has similar benefits, with a repetitive mantra helping to achieve focus.

However, it is not necessary to label your practice – let your body guide you and do what feels right. If you’re new to meditation, try just sitting somewhere quiet and comfortable for a few minutes each morning or night – even just two minutes is a great start if that’s what you can manage. Let your eyes close lightly and rather than trying to shut out all your thoughts, simply acknowledge and release them, letting them slip away and leave you at peace.

As you increase your awareness and enjoyment of meditation, there is a world of possibilities – from classes to spiritual retreats to wilderness journeys. As always, from little things – big things grow.

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30 Oct An Introduction to Yoga

Yoga is a beautiful way to move your body, connect with yourself, and practice gratitude. Best of all, it can be done just about anywhere, by just about anyone, with only one essential piece of equipment – yourself! If you’re a regular yogi, you’re probably quite familiar with sun salutations sun A and sun B, or Surya Namaskar as they are traditionally known. If not, no need to worry – this sequence of poses, or asanas is a great way to start!

This particular flow sequence is a fantastic way to start your day, with respect and thanks for a new sunrise. Starting a day with yoga is a great way to awaken your body, whilst clearing your mind for a busy day ahead. No need to limit yourself, though – surya namaskar is also great before bed as a way to wind down and relax, or any time throughout the day to boost and refocus yourself! The range of asanas offer a great way to check in with your body and find out how you’re managing.

Some specific benefits of this flow sequence involve:

  • being a great workout for the whole body, strengthening the cardio vascular system and toning arms, legs, and core as well as improving energy levels – it may assist with healthy, sustainable weight loss
  • great for balancing the hormonal system, as well as improving the function of the digestive, nervous, reproductive, excretory and circulatory systems – particularly through the breathing which is synchronised with the asanas, improving blood flow to vital areas
  • assist with anxiety or mental health issues as well as memory
  • resetting the body’s natural rhythms such as the menstrual cycle and sleep pattern through both relaxation and hormonal stimulation

sun salutation

Image taken from Andressa V. da Nóbregais at www.yoganonymous.com

The above image shows the sequence of poses that together form the salutation. If all of that is looking a bit foreign, it might be best to start with a yoga class. Here your teacher can guide you through your practice while demonstrating poses and checking your technique. Classes are also a great way to connect with likeminded others! If a full class isn’t an option, you can always try your hand with one of the many videos online, either on youtube or one of the great yoga websites available. There’s a fantastic list here! If you’re a little worried about taking that first step, don’t be. Everybody starts somewhere and the benefits are endless, even for just 15 minutes a day!

Please consult your doctor or health practitioner if in doubt about introducing new forms of exercise.

 

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30 Oct The ‘Loaf’ that really will change your life

There often comes a point in one’s health journey where they start to question their intake of bread. Whilst carbs are an essential component of our diet, the form they come in can make a huge difference. It’s important to make choices that will nourish our body, especially with all the modern day refined food available on supermarket shelves. Maybe your diet is a little too wheat-centric and you’d like to broaden your horizons. Or do certain grains or breads just not seem to love you back? Even if you’re just after something different, this post is for you. Today’s recipe is borrowed from a favourite blog, My New Roots – we’re bringing you “The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread”.

life changing loaf 1

For starters, this is one delicious loaf. Sweet or savoury, lightly smeared of piled high, it’s got you covered. But of course you’re no doubt wondering, how can a simple loaf of bread change my life? Sarah Britton, the genius behind the claim, agrees that it’s a bold one. But this is a bold loaf. Give it a try, and rest assured that you won’t regret it for a second. It might even become a pantry staple!

Gluten-free, vegan, full to the brim with whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Overflowing with fibre, protein, healthy fats….and flourless.  Taking, once ingredients sourced, no more than five minutes to combine with no kneading required – it’s a definite time saver.  Not to mention, it comes out perfectly every single time. With so little effort that it may just… wait for it… change your life!

life changing loaf 2

For more on the wonder of this loaf, go and check out Sarah’s post. Have a look around while you’re there, her beautiful blog will no doubt have you inspired!

Make your own variations by adding your favourite dried fruit or spices. For now, here’s the recipe… go for it!

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup / 90g flax seeds
  • ½ cup / 65g hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1 ½ cups / 145g rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
  • 1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
  • 3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 ½ cups / 350ml water

Directions:

1. In a flexible, silicon loaf pan combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it it.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.

3. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).

4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast!

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24 Sep So, you haven’t heard of chia seeds…

… It’s quite possible you’ve been hiding under a rock the last few years. But that’s ok, really. Because we’re here to enlighten you! These little guys are good. These tiny black or white seeds are popping up everywhere from supermarket shelves to cafés – and hopefully your kitchen cupboard! They’re fun to cook with, mild in flavour and a true superfood.

 

So where have they appeared from? Well, they’re actually an ancient food whose use dates back to Aztec tribes, where they were used to aid endurance and boost energy for running across deserts. If they’re that wonderful, just think what chia seeds could do for your modern day schedule…

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Chia seeds truly deserve their superfood label, making a very worthwhile addition to any diet. They are rich in complete protein, great for any plant based eaters striving for a balanced amino acid intake. This also means chia seeds are perfect for a post workout boost, as your muscle cells are rebuilding and will make good use of protein!

They are also brimming with healthy fats, in particular the omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in our diet. Such fatty acids are generally consumed by eating oily fish such as salmon, so this is another great reason to include chia seeds if you’re plant based, or even if you just struggle to get your fish quota each week.

On top of this, chia seeds are absolutely packed with dietary fibre to help digestion, which is so important in all of our diets, keeping us regular as well as lowering risk of cholesterol issues or even colon cancer. Chia seeds really shine when it comes to vitamins and minerals – they contain high levels of calcium, iron and magnesium – as if you needed any more reason to love them!

The even better news about chia seeds is that they’re great to cook with, for example:

  • Thickening: they absorb about 9 times their own weight in liquid, throw them in anything that needs thickening up.
  • Baking: mix a tablespoon of seeds with 2-3 tablespoons of water to use as an egg substitute.
  • Sprinkles: sprinkle them on just about anything from cereal to salads to smoothies – get creative!
  • Dessert: a few tablespoons of chia seeds with ½-1 cup of water or plant based milk, a few spices or some fruit, left in the fridge to thicken up, will turn into a delicious, vegan pudding that’s healthy enough for breakfast! Here is a great date and chia pudding recipe from Heidi at Apples Under My Bed, pictured below.

chia seed and date pudding

 

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19 Sep Welcome to Organica!

Welcome to Organica!

Organica lifestyle was founded by two best friends from Melbourne, Australia – Shantini Iyngkaran and Anjana Arunachalam – with a vision to create an urban sanctuary that would inspire and support a holistic balanced lifestyle.

The Organica journey started after a trip to Bali, where we found ourselves converted into urban yoginis, living our days immersed in a harmony of pure foods, yoga and heightened consciousness about the things that matter the most in life – love, health and happiness.

During a serene mountain retreat we shared our ambition to create our very own sanctuary space. This place would help to love and heal people and inspire them to a greater way of living, breathing and being. It is this dream that brought Organica to life, and we can’t wait to share the journey with you.

This blog will share ideas, stories, insights, recipes and anything else we can think of as Organica unfolds!

 

Shantini & Anjana

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