Thursday, May 28, 2015

“You Eat _____, Right?”

Vegan, gluten-free, Paleo. You could insert any one of those and more into the title and it would form a question I’m asked all too often: how do you eat, Emily?

And the answer to that would be… however I want to eat.

Since my blog is growing, I felt it was important to address this. People like to know what the person who’s giving them advice or sharing ideas with them believes and practices, and including it in my blog adds to the reality I strive for with Keeping it Real.

I don’t play hard and fast with rules when it comes to the way I eat. I allow myself to go out to restaurants to eat, and I don’t restrict any food groups in particular. If I absolutely had to define the way I eat at home, it would be a plant-based, high-fiber diet. How did I come to this conclusion? Well, let me tell you:

1. I love fruits and vegetables.

I believe that loving what you eat is one of the most important aspects of eating at all. Fortunately, I actually do enjoy eating kale in all of its forms, along with most every other vegetable. Plant foods are also convenient. I can take a banana or apple in my bag without worrying that it’ll be a breeding ground like meat would be. Granted, I do eat meat, but fruits and vegetables are my priority. My goal when I’m eating is first, to get all of the essential nutrients I need from my food, and second, to enjoy it.

2. It’s sustainable.

The process of growing plants is far more efficient than raising animals. Plants produce gases that are good for the environment, leave behind less waste, and if crops are rotated correctly, can replenish the soil they are grown in. While I know that me eating more plants doesn’t have a huge impact on the global aspect of sustainability, it certainly does for my personal financial aspect. While I do enjoy meat, it’s not the cheapest to buy. I do eat meat, but it’s far cheaper to make some beans and high protein (and fiber!) grains.

I can also practice sustainability at home by having my own garden. Space in an apartment complex is limited, but there are plenty of resources for container gardening, which is how I’m growing my chard plants.

3. The science.

Plant-based diets are naturally high in fiber. The potential health benefits of fiber are huge, and a lot of them are still unknown. To keep things simple, some of the less mainstream benefits include: an improved immune system (fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in your intestines and may also interact with immune cells), increased fat oxidation (using fat for energy. It does this by increasing the expression of genes that code for certain fat metabolizing enzymes), and it slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to prevent high blood sugar and insulin resistance.

I could go on about the benefits and wonderfulness of fiber, but the rest of the plant needs some recognition, as well!

As we all know, plant foods contain, in differing amounts, all of the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that we currently know the body needs. I subscribe to a “whole foods” system in this area, and believe that the best way to get all of the nutrients your body needs is from the diet first. If you absolutely can’t get enough of something, then take a vitamin supplement. Phytochemicals are also present in plant foods, and while their purpose and function are still mostly unclear, they have been observed to have great health benefits.

Now for the part where I present my opinion:
Though research tends to focus on single nutrients and their impact on a specific disease state, enzyme, or function, I do believe that eating a varied, plant-based diet provides benefits beyond those of supplements. For example, carrots don’t only have vitamin A; they also contain vitamin C, K, and a number of other nutrients, some of which may still be unknown.

4. It works for me.

I found a way of eating that promotes health that I enjoy. It provides me with the essential nutrients I need, it maintains my current weight, and I leave myself room to enjoy foods that aren’t strictly “whole” or “plant-based”.  I do not consider it a “diet”, in the modern use of the word; it is a lifestyle, and a lifestyle approach to eating and exercising is what I encourage. I’m not strictly vegetarian, vegan, or even organic. I purchase what I can afford, and I make it work. I eat eggs (yes, yolk included), fish, meat, and even ice cream and desserts, but I also enjoy tofu, almond milk, and sweet potato burgers.

Just remember, health is not and should not be a fad. I recommend talking to a registered dietitian before changing your diet, and research in-depth and independently of what blogs (mine included) tell you. No two people are the same, and no single way of eating is ideal for everyone. Eating and activity should be purposeful, enjoyable, and personal.


Benefits of Fiber

Sustainability of Plant-Based Diets

Saturday, May 9, 2015

CocoNUTS for Summer :)

Remember my ButterNUTS for Fall post way back when? No? Then you should go read it! It was the beginning of a school year; my half-way point through college. Today, I have less than a week before my graduation ceremony! A lot has changed since then, but my love of inspiring health is one of the few things that hasn't. I no longer have to worry about chemistry labs (ha!), or even 40-hour work weeks (yet). I'm taking my year before starting a dietetic internship off not only to save money for it (because they're dang expensive!), but also to gain new experiences in nutrition, become a DTR (dietetic technician, registered), and hopefully start working part time in a hospital.
For now, though, I'm enjoying life simply, loving my job at Dutch Bros. Coffee, and finding new ways to inspire, enlighten, and teach others how to improve their health.

So tonight I bring you: Simple Saturday. A delightful recipe with 5 (unprocessed or minimally processed) ingredients or less.


 This recipe really only needs 3 ingredients, but so much more goodness can be added to it if you want. The main base is:

Coconut water
Mango puree
Chia seeds

If you have this lovely mango chia 'jam' already made in the fridge, you could even say there are only 2 ingredients for this drink.

 To make the jam, you need:

2 ripe mangoes
1 tbsp chia seeds
lemon or lime juice (optional, but it cuts the sweetness a little)
water (optional)

Simple peel and chop the mangoes, then add to a blender and puree until smooth. It will be thick, and you can add some water if you would like to make a larger recipe (I added about 1/3 cup). If you don't add water, use less chia seeds because it will already be thicker. If you pick good mangoes, they should be sweet enough on their own and won't require any added sweeteners.

Place the jam in the fridge for at least an hour before making the drink. This way the chia seeds can gel up.

When you're ready to serve, simply place the desired amount of mango chia jam into the bottom of a cup. The more mango, the sweeter, so I put more! Top with ice and chilled coconut water, and you're done! Relax and enjoy out by the pool with a good book or while sitting on your couch in the air conditioning writing a blog post about it ;)

Coconut Mango Chia Refresher

2 tbsp mango chia jam 
8 oz. coconut water
Desired add-ins

As you can tell, I added some sliced strawberries and fresh, raw coconut pulp to mine (fresh coconut water is amazeballs). If you add chunky things, I recommend using a boba straw, which are now available in a lot of major grocery stores. This recipe is extremely flexible, so if you don't like mangoes, try using peaches, strawberries, pineapple, or any other fruit you like for the jam.

Coconut water is rich in electrolytes, making it a wonderful, natural alternative for sports drinks like gatorade. This recipe sweetens it up naturally and healthfully with the mango jam, and adds in some fiber from the chias (by now you should all know: fiber is my fave), as well as omega-3 fatty acids. I hope you enjoy this drink as much as I did!

I'm so excited to finally have time to contribute more to the blog, and hope to have another post up in the next week, so be on the lookout for more soon!