The Right Oils.

When cooking, it is important to understand that while you may have healthy food ready to cook, saute, or fry (the latter not my favorite), if you cook with unhealthy oils, it is all for naught.

Most people have a negative connotation when they hear "fatty acids". Let's clarify this. There are bad fats, but there are good fats that our body needs.

Our body requires omega-6 fats, called linoleic acid, derived from fatty acids. But, where are most people getting fatty acids from? Refined oils, such as corn oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil. Many restaurants and fast foods process their foods in high refined omega-6 fatty acids. The result of refined fatty acids in the body is inflammation, obesity, heart disease, and oxidized cholesterol leading to clogged arteries, to name a few.

Instead of refined oils, choose good omega-6 fatty acids such as grape seed oil, walnut oil, sesame seed oil, coconut oil, and my favorite extra virgin olive oil (evoo). Unlike refined oils that are high in saturated fat, good fatty acids are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The latter can actually help decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels, while refined oils can also lower bad cholesterol but they also lower good cholesterol and cause the oxidized cholesterol discussed earlier.

There is just too much to cover about the benefits of all these oils, but especially evoo. The benefits of evoo are extensive. "In Italy, physicians usually recommend olive oil to patients after they have had heart attacks. Olive oil helps decrease the stickiness of platelets, thus helping prevent coronary thrombosis and blood clots (What Would Jesus Eat?, Dr. Don Colbert, pg. 118)."

The three oils I use are Extra Virgin Olive Oil (of course), Grape Seed Oil (because this can handle heat at 400 degrees, unlike evoo), and Coconut Oil. The best part about these oils is not only their health benefits internally, but externally as well. I use evoo and coconut oil on a daily basis as body lotion and they're amazing!

How to make sushi.

Step 1: Lay out your Sushi Nori (Seaweed)

Step 2: Flatten cooked short-grained rice on seaweed making sure that you leave one inch on top and bottom.
Step 3: Lay on rice either avocado, salmon, or whatever your sushi choice may be, as shown above
Step 4: Begin to roll the sushi tightly. You may also purchase the sushi mat (but I use my hands)
Step 5: Water the top inch to help it stick when you roll it shut.
Step 6: Cut sushi roll in half
Step 7: Follow by cutting smaller slices as you like (I cut them into 6 even slices)
Step 8: It won't be perfect, but it tastes wonderful!
For a list of all ingredients click here. You can add Bragg's Amino Liquid in a separate small bowl. It tastes just like soy sauce. For this particular meal, I had leftover salmon and rice so I made a separate plate for us with steamed broccoli.
Then I finished it off by making a wonderfully colorful salad with spinach, beets (leaves, root, and stem), watercress, carrots, onions, tomatoes, feta cheese, craisins, apple cider vinegar, evoo, and lots of love =)

The Mediterranean Diet.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, yoyo dieting is one of the worst things you can do for your body. Women usually do between 8-10 diets in their life. What does that do? Ruin your metabolism. What's more is that when we say the word "diet" people automatically think weight loss program. Well diet is really just an eating lifestyle, not a temporary fix to lose weight only to then gain it back plus a little more.

I'm surprised I haven't recommended the book that changed my eating habits sooner. It's one of my favorite books that led me to change my way of eating to a healthier one: the way Jesus ate. 

"What Would Jesus Eat?" by Dr. Don Colbert has been such a motivation and a wonderful teaching instrument to help people understand what it is we are putting in our bodies and why we should eat certain foods. One of the best diets: Mediterranean Diet.

It's NOT hard and it tastes delicious. Most of the recipes I've posted are part of it (that I made up myself just using the right ingredients). There's no designated recipes, there's no counting points, there's no focus on just carbs, there's definitely no fat free foods involved or low fat anythings, it's just REAL food that's amazing! The foundation: Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

This really is a must read, regardless your religion. This book contains basic fundamentals to health, nutrition, vitality and living a full and healthy life!

Here's to your healthstyle!!!


Last night, I made quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) for the first time. It was delicious! I made it into a rice pilaf with red pepper and carrots, with a side of wild salmon and steamed broccoli.

So what exactly is quinoa? Well it looks like a grain, tastes like one, but in fact is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. Quinoa is an amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked. I actually thought it tasted a little like cous cous.

So what are the health benefits? Well here are just a few:
1. It's great for those on a gluten-free diet because it's not made from wheat.
2. It's a good source of magnesium (which helps relax blood vessels)
3. Good for cardiovascular health
4. It's a very good source of manganese and a good source of copper, two minerals that serve as cofactors for the superoxide dismutase enzyme (Superoxide dismutase, SOD, is an antioxidant that helps to protect the mitochondria from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.)

These are only a few out of so many more. For a more detailed list of the health benefits of this amazing grain click here.

It's so easy to cook. You can even use your rice cooker. There are so many different recipes you can use to make it suit your taste buds, but don't miss out on all the health benefits this grain provides!

Natural...Beyond food.

It wasn't until recently that I fully understood what it was to be all around "holistic". I pride myself in eating organic produce, eating raw whenever possible, eating natural foods without additives, preservatives or food colorings, eating the best choices when out with friends, but all that can be in vain if I don't take care of what is going on the largest organ of the body: the skin.

Skin absorbs everything that is placed on it, almost as if it were food. Toxins and chemicals, as most of us know, are in most processed foods, but we don't give it a thought that most of the shampoos, conditioners, soaps, toothpastes, bodywashes and especially hair dyes are the same if not more. We trust that brilliantly marketed products are trustworthy because they're "made for the skin". Newsflash, they're not. In fact, they're more harmful then beneficial.

So where do you start? Here's a brief list of the top 10 synthetic ingredients that are in cosmetics and shampoos. Check your own bathroom and you will notice at least two in each product you own. There are very few organic products without all of them. I'll give you a great alternative later. Here's the list:

1. Methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl paraben: Used as inhibitors of microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products. Have caused many allergic reactions and skin rashes. Widely used even though they are known to be toxic.

2. Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA): Used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. They can also cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of hair and skin. DEA and TEA are ammonia compounds and can form cancer-causing nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. They are toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time (they are in most shampoos and soaps)

3. Diazolidinyl Urea and Imidazolidinyl Urea: Widely used preservatives. The American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be a primary cuase of contact dermitites. They release formaldehyde (what they use to embalm corpses) which can be toxic.

4. Sodium Lauryl/ Laureth Sulfate: A cheap, harsh detergent used in shampoos for its cleaning and foam-building properties. Often derived from petroleum, it is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the phrase "comes from coconuts". It causes eye irritation, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, skin rashes and other allergic reactions (this is usually the second ingredient, after water, in most shampoos - sometimes even organic ones).

5. Petrolatum: Also known as petroleum jelly, this mineral oil derivative is used for its emollient (supposed to smooth the skin and reduce dryness) properties in cosmetics. It has no nutrient value to the skin and can interfere with the body's own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness and chapping. Practically the opposite condition it claims to alleviate. They use it because it's incredibly cheap.

6. Propylene Glycol: Usually a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema. When you see PEG or PPG on labels, there are related synthetics so beware!

7. PVP/ VA Copolymer: A petroleum-derived chemical used in hairsprays, styling aids and other cosmetics. It can be considered toxic, since inhaled particles can damage the lungs of sensitive people.

8. Stearalkonioum Chloride: A quaternary ammonium compound used in hair conditioners and creams. Developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, it is a lot cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or herbals, which are beneficial to the hair. It's toxic and causes allergic reactions.

9. Synthetic Colors: Used to make cosmetics and shampoos "pretty", synthetic colors, along with synthetic hair dyes, should be avoided at all costs (including in your food!!!). They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6. Many synthetic colors can be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). If a cosmetic contains them, don't use it.

10. Synthetic Fragrances: it's used in cosmetics and can have as many as 200 ingredients. There is no way of knowing what the chemicals are, since on the label it will simply read "fragrance". Some problems caused by these chemicals are headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritaion - and the list goes on.

These are just a few of the main ones but there are so many more. The key is to avoid any ingredients that are unnatural or manmade.

I have an excellent example of something that happened to me only last week. I found a lotion I purchased earlier this year. It was Acai Pomegranate scented lotion from Victoria Secret. I read the label and found parabens, fragrance, and sodium laurel sulfate. I figured since I'd paid $6 for the small bottle, I'd use it. BIG MISTAKE. I rubbed it into my hands and I broke out with a few hives right where I rubbed in the cream. Serves me right.

There's a few excellent lines that are really wonderful with the ingredients:
1. Myshelle Dermaceuticals
2. Aubrey Organics
3. Jasons Naturals (careful with some of their products)
4. Tate's (probably the most amazing and natural line I've found but super pricey!)
5. Dr. Bronner's (great products and affordable - especially their body wash, all natural oils)
6. Weleda
7. Burts Bees

I've used a combination of several of these lines, but here's a cheaper way to be natural that I've used:
  • Olive oil for the skin as lotion, as shaving lotion in the shower, as shampoo (not recommended for oily hair), as face wash
  • Jojoba oil for the skin as lotion, great for cellulite, wrinkles, as shampoo, as face oil. I purchased jojoba oil because I noticed it was included in several products I wanted but were too pricey. This seemed to be a common denominator and I love it.
  • Jojoba Oil
  • Vitamin E oil (Jasons) - I use this twice a week on my face after cleansing it about an hour or two before going to bed so it starts soaking it in. It leaves my face resilient and soft in the morning. 
As far as hair dyes go, I don't think it's necessary to explain the harm of what you can already smell as it's being done. There are great alternatives to this as well: henna. Natural and even comes in color options like you'd get at your local drugstore. There's no amonia, no peroxide, and safe enough to be able to use it if you're pregnant.

Remember, you're not just feeding yourself through your mouth, your skin receives more toxins from the environment and outside influence than any other part of your body, and in addition to that, whatever you're placing on it as food. Just as you need nutrients in your body, so does your skin.
Feed it well =)