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Spice It Up.

What if you were told you could prevent inflammation, burn more fat, stop infections…all simply by spicing up your life? The health benefits associated with adding spices to your foods spices
are immense and have received a lot of traction lately in the health industry. Some spices have been known to benefit your heart, provide anti-bacterial and antiviral properties and are high in vitamins and trace minerals. Not to mention they can help boost the taste of so many meals without adding extra calories.

Some of the most common spices and their benefits include the following:

Cayenne pepper – “hot” due to its capsaicin content, a substance that helps heat up your body and fire up your metabolism to burn extra calories and fat. It has also been known to relieve aches and soreness. Other benefits may include improved circulation, heart health and fighting some cancers and ulcers.

Ginger – commonly known to treat upset stomachs, ginger may also help gas and bloating, sore throats, colds, arthritis and motion sickness.  It has also been known to lessen workout induced soreness and inflammation and may even be attributed to higher memory. It can be ingested in multiple ways and is readily available.

Cinnamon – has one of the highest antioxidant values of any spice and has been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar and triglyceride levels, help with nausea and help the body in burning fat. It is also a great source of manganese, iron and calcium…and can reduce risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Oh…and it kills bacteria! I add cinnamon to my coffee every day.

Fennel – high in calcium and rich in niacin, fennel is also high in vitamin C and can help promote a strong immune system and is an excellent source of dietary fiber and iron – helping to boost your metabolism and keep your digestive tract healthy. And, it’s a natural appetite suppressant and can help detoxify and exfoliate the skin.

Turmeric – a common ingredient in mustard, butter and cheese to add to their yellow hue. Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory and has been known to provide pain relief and may have benefits to treating Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and breast, stomach and colon cancer. It also contains anti-bacterial properties and helps digest fat quickly.

Oregano – has been known to have antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant and antibiotic properties. It contains vitamin K, which has bone-building properties, and can help fend off the stomach flu. The oil and leaves of the plant have been used medicinally to body aches and illnesses.

Basil – known for it’s powerful antioxidant properties that can protect the body from premature aging, skin issues and some types of cancer. The plant pigments are said to protect your cell structure from oxygen and radiation damage and can also be applied to wounds to help prevent bacterial infections.

Cumin – super rich in iron, cumin helps keep your energy level high and your immune system strong. It has also been associated to boosting brainpower, especially memory.

It’s especially important to keep your spices fresh and use them before the expiration date. Your best option is to buy the plant source and use it directly to spice up your meals.

Experiment with your recipes and add a little extra spice to your life.

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Protein Powders Explained

As I promised in my last blog, (http://heelstolaces.com/protein-questions-answered) below is a description of the most common types of protein powders on the market. Protein powders have grown in popularity and are no longer just for elite body builders. They are a way to ensure you are getting enough daily protein, serve as a quick meal substitute or provide a post-workout recovery. I like to add mine to smoothies, make a shake after a workout or add a scoop to my oatmeal or pancake batter for a protein filled breakfast. It’s important to remember, protein powders are supplements and are best used to supplement a healthy diet of nutritious whole foods.

The Basics First:

‘Concentrated’ or ‘Isolated’. In order to make the powder, the non-protein parts are removed from the food source. ‘Concentrated’ powders are about  70-85% pure protein (with the remaining 15-30% consisting mostly of carbohydrates and fat). Powders that are ‘isolated’ take the process one step further, and remove even more of the non-protein content resulting in a protein powder that is up to 95% pure.

Complete vs. Incomplete Protein: Amino acids that cannot be produced by the body are known as essential amino acids. Complete proteins contain all 10 essential amino acids, whereas incomplete proteins contain some, but not all, of the essential amino acids.

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WHEY PROTEIN

Whey is the most popular protein supplement on the market. It is the by-product in the process of turning milk into cheese and is a complete protein that is quickly absorbed into the body.  Whey has been shown to promote lean muscle growth and fat loss. It can also help repair and rebuild muscle especially when consumed within 60 minutes of a workout. Look for whey protein isolate—not concentrate—as it contains the highest protein concentration and very little fat.

Cautions: Because it is a by-product of milk (aka lactose), people with allergies to lactose may find it hard to digest. Additionally, be wary of the artificial sweeteners and chemicals added to many of the different flavors available. Be sure to read the label.

CASEIN PROTEIN

This protein is also derived from milk, but uses a separation process that isolates the milk protein from the carbs and fat. Because casein digests over a long period of time, it is a good choice for a meal replacement, as it helps you feel fuller longer. It is can also be taken right before bed to prevent muscle breakdown and promote muscle growth while you sleep.

Cautions: As a by-product of milk, casein can also be difficult to digest for those with lactose allergies. Look for “calcium caseinate” on the label to be sure that you are getting the purest form of this protein. And, again check for artificial ingredients, which are often used to improve the taste of casein as it doesn’t mix as easily with liquids. Lastly, expect casein to be more expensive than whey.

SOY PROTEIN

Soybeans are one of the few plant protein sources that are a complete protein. The protein is concentrated or isolated after the soybeans have been hulled and dried into soy flour. Soy can be a good option for vegetarians and those with milk intolerances. Soy has been shown to improve immune function and bone health.

Cautions: In recent years, soy has come under heavy scrutiny because it is often genetically modified to produce greater crop yields at a very low cost. Many foods are already full of soy and, depending on your current diet, it may not be wise to add yet another source of soy. Additionally, some studies have linked soy consumption to health concerns. If you do choose soy, consume it in moderation, and be sure to look for labels that read soy protein isolate, which contains more protein and isoflavones, and less cholesterol and fat as compared to soy protein concentrate.

EGG PROTEIN

Egg protein is just that – protein from eggs. It is a complete protein made by separating out the yolks and dehydrating the egg whites. These powders also contain valuable vitamins and minerals found in whole eggs.

Cautions: Egg protein is also one of the most expensive protein supplements available and can be a problem for anyone with egg allergies.

BROWN RICE PROTEIN

Yes, there is small amount of protein in rice! It is extracted from the rice to make the powder. Brown rice protein is hypo-allergic and easily digested, making it an excellent alternative for anyone with a sensitive stomach or allergies to soy or dairy.

Cautions: Brown rice protein is not a complete protein and is best when paired with other plant-based options like hemp or pea powder to ensure that you are getting all the essential amino acids.

PEA PROTEIN

This plant-based protein, derived from the yellow split pea, is highly digestible and has a fluffy texture (no mushy peas here!). Pea protein is high in glutamic acid, which helps convert carbs into energy so they won’t be stored as fat. It is considered a highly satiating protein, which may help promote weight loss. And if those reasons aren’t enough, it often has few additives or artificial ingredients, and is closest to its whole-food source.

Cautions: Isolated pea protein is often labeled as complete because it can contain many of the essential amino acids, but it is still deficient in certain amino acids. So, like rice protein, pair it with other vegan sources of protein, such as brown rice or hemp.

HEMP PROTEIN

Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant. A complete plant-based protein, hemp also offers the inflammation-fighting power of omega-6 essential fatty acids and is high in fiber. It is hypoallergenic and excellent choice for those following a vegan diet. Some studies have also suggested hemp protein may be more helpful in weight loss than other protein powders, due to its high fiber content.

Cautions: Since hemp is only harvested in select countries due to its association with cannabis, it is often the most expensive protein powder available.

There are lots of choices out there to fit all different nutritional needs. Don’t be afraid to try different blends and options to see what works best for you. And lastly, be wary of very low cost powders as they often use inexpensive protein blends that are hard to digest and may contain many artificial ingredients.

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Skinny Cocktails

I was planning on a longer more cerebral blog post, but I decided that some skinny cocktails recipes might be more appropriate for this time of the year.  If you are on vacation or simply wondering if it is 5pm yet, then you might enjoy these summery cocktails from Skinnygirl Vodka .  And as added bonus, it’s National Lemonade Day on August 20th (who knew!).

skinnygirl_vodkas

Skinnygirl® Lemon Drop

·         2 parts Skinnygirl Meyer Lemon Vodka

·         Lemonade mix

 ·        Splash of lemon juice

·         Lemon slice for garnish

Preparation: Rim glass with lemonade mix, shake ingredients with ice and strain into martini glass. Garnish with a lemon.

Skinnygirl® Lemon Patch

·         1 ½ parts Skinnygirl Meyer Lemon Vodka

·         Splash of DeKuyper Triple Sec

·         Splash of lemon-lime soda

·         Raspberries or lemon slice for garnishglass-lemonade-3

Preparation: Mix ingredients in a glass with ice. Top with diet lemon-lime soda. Garnish with raspberries and a lemon.

 Skinnygirl Splash

·         2 parts Skinnygirl™ Bare Naked Vodka

·         1 part black tea (or powdered iced tea mix)

·         1 part lemonade

·         Lemon wedge (optional)

Preparation: Mix ingredients in tall Collins glass. Garnish with lemon wedge (optional). Enjoy!

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