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I’ve given my blog a makeover! Now you can access all Living in the Real World articles from one main page.
Don’t forget to enter my POM juice giveaway!
I have a very big collection of herbs and spices in my pantry. I adore herbs and spices, and I like playing around with different flavour combinations in dishes. But it seems that I always come back to the same ones, because for some reason I just can’t get enough of them: cinnamon, cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, and rosemary. Those are my standbys: if I feel that I need a little something extra to jazz up a dish, I’ll toss in one or a combination of the above, and voila! Problem solved.
When we tend to gravitate towards the same kinds of foods, it’s usually because that food contains something our body really needs. We can learn something about what might be missing from what we can’t seem to get enough of. In Chinese medicine, it has to do with warming/cooling foods and the effect that these things have on the body. I was curious about the health benefits from the spices that I mentioned above, and what that might mean about what my body is lacking and therefore requires from external sources. This is an overview of what I found:
- 1 tsp of cinnamon contains the same amount of antioxidants as 1 cup pomegranate juice or 1/2 cup blueberries
- Contains polyphenols, which act like insulin and thus regulate blood sugar levels (diabetics, rejoice!)
- Has anti-inflammatory properties to prevent blood clots
- Boosts metabolism and aids digestion
- Protects against fungi diseases and can help with the healing process when you have the flu
- Helps with digestion and insomnia
- Boosts immune system
- Detoxifies and prevents against cancer
- Improves health of skin and skin disorders
- Combats respiratory disorders
Red Pepper Flakes:
- Rich in antioxidants
- Increases satiety, making us feel full faster and thus helps to control our appetites
- Boosts metabolism
- Kills bacteria that causes stomach ulcers and stomach cancer
- Clears congestion
- 1 tsp of oregano contains as many antioxidants as 3 oz of almonds and 1/2 cup chopped asparagus; gram for gram, it is 4 times as potent as blueberries when it comes to antioxidants
- Inhibits bacteria and parasite growth
- Very good source of nutrients such as fibre and iron
- Ancient Greeks and Romans used oregano as a symbol for happiness (aww!)
- Excellent source of vitamin K
- Excellent source of vitamin K (I find that oregano and basil often go very well together, so it makes sense that they would have a similar nutrition profile)
- Very good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin A
- Good source of magnesium and potassium
- Blocks an enzyme in the body that causes swelling, thus helping people who have arthritis
- Contains flavanoids which prevent cell structure from being damaged by radiation and oxygen
- Stimulates the immune system and increases circulation
- Improves digestion
- Contains anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce the severity of asthma
- Increases blood flow to the brain, thus improving concentration
- Fresh rosemary has 25% more manganese than its dried counterpart, but it also has 40% less calcium and iron than when it’s dried, so it’s good to use both interchangeably to reap all of the benefits
The Universal Food Rating System is as follows:
Excellent Source: the food provides more than 75% of your recommended daily value of that nutrient per serving
Very Good Source: the food provides more than 50% of your recommended daily value of that nutrient per serving
Good Source: the food provides more than 25% of your recommended daily value of that nutrient per serving
Spices for Health
I find it really interesting that so many of these herbs and spices have the same kinds of health benefits. And all of them are things which I know that my body really does need help with. I found the notes about digestion and insomnia particularly interesting for myself, personally. I’m looking forward to bringing this up with my nutritionist to hear what she has to say about all of it. It could be that my body needs extra help with all of those antioxidants, too.
How about you? What herbs and spices do you find yourself using repeatedly? Do you think that it might be partly because your body needs the properties and nutrients contained within those herbs and spices?
This is turning into Giveaway Wednesdays or something, but I’m sure no one’s really complaining… Besides, the father dear is arriving home today from his life in Cambodia for just two weeks (exciting!!!), so I feel the need to share the happiness by spreading the pomegranate-giveaway love!
POM Wonderful is celebrating National Pomegranate Month by offering to do a giveaway for three Living Healthy in the Real World readers. Pomegranates are little bundles of health and they’re so very pretty. POM Wonderful is hosting a recipe contest, and as I’m interested in experimenting with pomegranates in the kitchen, I thought I might have some fun with it. You all know how much I get a kick out of cooking/baking. These are two recipes that I have invented which I believe are gloriously tasty. Try them and tell me what you think!
Pomegranate Salad Dressing
Combine 1 peeled mandarin orange, 1 tbsp each cider vinegar and grape seed oil, 1/4 cup pomegranate arils, and a sprinkle each of salt and pepper in a blender. Blend and enjoy over salad! This is really yummy and has a strong vinegar flavour which I quite enjoy- it would be perfect for a summery salad. It’s also a beautiful pink colour. Feel free to add more pomegranate arils for enhanced fruitiness. I’ve also had the suggestion to add some mustard into the mix, which I think would be delicious, so next time I will certainly be trying that out. My roommate raved about this dressing, so that’s always a good sign.
Peanut Butter Pomegranate Brownies
Sound a little odd? Why yes, yes it is! But it’s also delicious. This is something I used to make a couple years ago, but without the pomegranate arils. When I tasted the POMx bars in California, I remembered these brownies and decided to try adding the arils- the bars and this homemade brownie are remarkably similar in taste and texture!
There are a couple variations on this recipe that I’ve made, mostly because PB2 and chocolate protein powder are things that I don’t include in recipes when other people are going to be eating the food. I’ll give you my favourite healthified version first, and the adapted (and easier) version second:
Soak 1/2 cup dates (roughly 12) in water for about an hour. Throw them in a food processor (without the water) and add 1/8 cup pomegranate arils. Pulse the dates/pomegranate arils until they’re in little chunky pieces. Mix up 1/2 cup PB2 with 1/4 cup water and add the PB2 mixture to the dates. Then add 1/8 cup NutriBiotic Vegan Chocolate Rice Protein Powder to the mixture as well. Pulse it all in the food processor until it is mixed up and clumped together. Spoon into a small dish and press down. Refrigerate or freeze and enjoy!
Easier version: Put 1/2 cup soaked dates in a food processor along with 1/8 cup pomegranate arils and pulse until they’re in small pieces. Add 1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter and 1/8 cup cocoa powder to the mixture and pulse until it’s all mixed together well; refrigerate/freeze.
I’m not going to lie, the first version is much tastier. And it’s got added protein and healthy goodness! However, both PB2 and this chocolate rice protein powder are quite expensive, and they’re also very difficult to find. The second version is still worth it, trust me. Unless you accidentally put twice as much cocoa powder into the mixture as the recipe calls for. I advise against that. Especially if you’re making the brownie for someone else (whoops, my bad). If that happens, you can frost this brownie with Better ‘n Peanut Butter and do a poor decorating job with a few pomegranate arils. Not that I would have done that, of course (damn, my secret is out).
My third favourite “recipe” for using pomegranate arils is to put some in the bottom of a champagne flute, add good quality champagne, and drink. Tastiness in a glass.
To enter to win a case of POM juice, I want to hear your favourite ways to use pomegranate arils/juice. Do you have any special ways that you use them? Do you have any suggestions for how my recipes mentioned here can be improved? If you have a really awesomely innovative/creative/delicious/healthy idea, your chances of being picked as winner might just increase a wee bit. There’s your motivation! Giveaway is for Canada/USA; winner announced one week from today (Wednesday, November 25).
Yesterday evening, all of the lights and the Internet in my apartment abruptly cut out. I had a post all written up for today on LiveWriter, yet somehow it got lost. My computer battery died, I shattered a glass on the ground, and all of the work that I needed to do required the Internet. When I called the caretaker, she said that she couldn’t do anything about it until this morning. I called her at 9am today, only to find that she had forgotten to get someone to fix the issue.
Now my lights are back, my Internet is working, but the stove and oven, for some strange reason, are failing to work. And I cannot find the post I’d written on LiveWriter. I’m also behind on the chores that I need to do today before I go to school for the entire afternoon/evening.
Luckily, last night our heating did not cut out, and neither did the plug-in for the fridge. So I did not freeze last night nor did our food go bad. Thank goodness for that. In the grand scheme of things, it really isn’t such a big deal that we lost lights/Internet for all of an evening and part of the morning- it’s just rather frustrating when you realize how much you depend upon those kinds of things!
Today I am very, very grateful for electricity.
Your homework for today: leave me a comment telling me one situation which you have been in recently where things weren’t looking so good, but there was still some form of silver lining in it. Also, what are you especially grateful for? We have to start the week off on a good foot!
Women’s Health features an article this month which shows how lifestyle activity has drastically changed over the years. It’s the little things that add up: standing at your desk, for example, burns about 30 calories more than sitting in front of your desk. How often are you stuck in front of the computer for? Even if it’s just a few hours each day, over time, all of that accumulates into something a whole lot bigger.
I’m squeamish about escalators and elevators. When I was travelling through Italy, I’d be huffing it up the staircases with an enormous backpack as tall as me resting on my shoulders, much to the amusement of my travelling companions. Stairs vs. elevator: about 380 calories worth of a difference.
But it’s not, as I mentioned in our recent poll, about “burning calories”. It’s about incorporating enough activity throughout the day so that we achieve a good balance. If I am in front of my computer (standing, naturally, rather than sitting ;)), and it occurs to me that I haven’t seen the sunlight all day, I know that something is wrong.
In my Oral Communication class, our most recent presentation was a persuasive speech. A number of people were talking about food and health-related issues, which I loved. One of my classmates spoke about the importance of Vitamin D, and how everyone in our city should take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months. I partially agree with this statement, but I also feel uncomfortable with it.
Any time that we need to supplement our diet, or go to the gym for a workout, or even things like taking a nap in the middle of the day, it’s worth asking ourselves why exactly we need to do that. What’s missing from our lives that we need to compensate in these other ways? If we’re supplementing our diets, if we’re relying on the gym for exercise, if we can’t make it throughout the day without a power nap, what does that say about our lifestyle?
Since I began eating mostly-vegan, I do own protein powder, and I’ll add a half tablespoon to my oatmeal or when I’m making granola bars or other sweet dishes. I don’t take naps throughout the day, because I can’t shut down my brain partway through the day like that, but I have begun drinking Nighty Night tea* before bed to help me sleep better so that I don’t wake up in a state of exhaustion the next day. And yes, I also go to the gym a couple times a week: it’s the perfect study session.
I recently had the opportunity to see the film Food, Inc. and it blew my mind. Sure, I knew pretty much all of the information presented in the documentary, about all of the rotten stuff in the food that we eat and the way that the workers are treated, but I didn’t really *know* it. Seeing that documentary was such a relief- a relief to know that important people out there who can spread awareness to a wide range of people and who can probably make something of a difference are out there making movies like this. What does disappoint me about it is that it didn’t hit the major theatres (not around Winnipeg, anyway). It was only at the “obscure” movie theatre here, for a short period in September, and then just one more week during November. So much garbage hits the major theatres that surely a really good quality documentary like this should get huge amounts of publicity.
Part of me is a little sad about it all. It would be nice if we didn’t need to supplement our diets- if we really could get all of our nutrients from whole foods, and didn’t have to worry about all the crap that is put into even our fruits and vegetables. It would be nice if we didn’t need to take naps or drink special tea to ensure that we get proper rest. It would be nice if we got all the exercise we needed just from our lifestyle activity and didn’t have to go to the gym or use these ergonomic, posture-improving Herman Miller chairs (cool/eco-friendly as they are!) to get our muscles moving.
I suppose that as long as we don’t overdo it with the “fake” alternatives to real food/exercise and the like, we’re doing all right.
What do you think? Where do you “stand” on all of this?
*this tea is brilliant. It works even better than adding calcium powder to a glass of water at night. I have never found anything which helps me sleep as much as this tea does. Hunt it down and drink a mug in the evening if you have any kind of sleeping problems!
Edited to add: Rodale Books have kindly offered TWO copies of the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook to give away- Bag Lady, send me your mailing address!