It’s January. For the majority of us in the United States, it’s cold and dark. Before you consider hitting the couch for a “cuddle alert” that lasts until April, read on for a couple of juicy tidbits that made headlines this week. Just when you thought all the benefits of exercise were already discovered…..
-Cardiovascular exercise makes you smarter: Neuroscientists have recognized that cardiovascular exercise breeds mental clarity. Previously, scientists believed that our brains had a fixed amount of neurons by the time we reach adulthood. It was recently discovered that new neurons in the brain are actually produced throughout one’s life. What prompts new neurons to emerge? Cardiovascular exercise.
-Bones may play a role in maintaining a healthy weight: We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking. It’s recently been discovered that sitting not only wreaks havoc on our cardiovascular systems, it also may trick the body into thinking it is lighter than it actually is. Apparently, innate to our biology, there are systems in place to keep us at a steady weight. Hormones like leptin get released to downgrade hunger when the body recognizes a surplus in energy. The new thinking is that the same might be true for our skeletal system. Being sedentary might trick the body, via a decrease in sensation from our bones, that it is lighter than it actually is. Consequently, the hormonal cascade that might occur, had our bones been given the correct information, might not.
Ok, so there is a new theory every other day as to why we should exercise but given the obvious upside and and little to no downside, why the heck not?
For more exercise motivation check out the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook or follow on Twitter!
In a perfect world, I’d be a fantastic food photographer. I admire recipe blogs with gorgeous pictures that make you want to lick the screen. Alas, at least right now for me, pretty pics are a low priority. It’s fun to pull out the big guns and create visually appealing and palate pleasing meals for my guests but the truth is, most of my day-to-day food is far from sexy.
So what’s a plant-loving woman to do when she’s inspired to spread the good word but sometimes makes smoothies that are the same color going in as they are coming out? (kidding, well, sort of….). Share anyway. Sometimes I am blessed to come across a super easy and super delicious meal when the pantry is down to bare bones and time is of the essence. The following is a good example.
Full disclosure, I was trying to get a picture but was not having success and it was late and we were hungry, so J got the final shot. I think he did pretty well, even though the food is pretty ugly. My sister tells me the key is plating the food on a white background (she always was the more stylish one….). Enjoy this easy, breezy, plant based meal.
Mexican Stuffed Baked Potatoes and Broccoli for Two:
-2 russet potatoes or two Japanese sweet potatoes (or one of each if you are indecisive like me ;))
-2 Mexican style veggie burgers*
-2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli, optional lemon, salt, and pepper to season
-1 jar good quality salsa*
*You can make your own and freeze or go with store bought. If going with store bought look for those made with whole food ingredients. We’ve been using Engine 2 Pinto Habanero Burgers and the ingredients are: Cooked brown rice, pinto beans, collard greens, caramelized onion, corn, roasted red pepper, garlic, serrano chili pepper, habanero chili pepper, cilantro, black chia seed, chipotle chili pepper, coriander, cumin, sea salt, ancho chili pepper, black pepper, arbol chili pepper
*You can make your own or go with store bought. If going for store bought look for those made with whole food ingredients. We’ve been using Green Mountain Gringo Medium and the ingredients are: ripe tomatoes, onions, tomatillos, apple cider vinegar, fresh jalapeño peppers, fresh pasilla peppers, cilantro, parsley, fresh garlic, sea salt, cumin
-Heat oven to 400 degrees
-Wash and pierce potatoes a few times with fork
-Bake for 60 – 90 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes
-Toward the end of the potato baking cycle, adjust heat according to veggie burger package directions. Add veggie burgers and cook for recommended time on package (if using homemade, 8 minutes per side at 400 is usually a good rule of thumb for frozen burgers)
-Steam broccoli in Instant Pot or on stovetop:
Instant pot frozen: 4 minutes
Instant pot fresh: 3 minutes
Stovetop frozen: 5-8 minutes
Stovetop fresh: 4-5 minutes
-When veggie burgers have approximately 5 minutes to go, remove potatoes and cut in half to release steam
-Plate potatoes and smash with fork
-Crumble veggies burgers into a small bowl
-Add salsa and mix until combined
-Top potatoes with veggie burger salsa mixture
-To prepare broccoli, either season with lemon, salt, and pepper or simply toss with salsa
For more plant based ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook or follow on Twitter!
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with herbs (the kinds that are legal in all 50 states…). Whether you want to relax or need sustained energy, adaptogens are a great tool. I got hip to these plants when trying to bring my hormones back to balance after having my first child. I am usually not the type of person to blindly follow a suggestion from an employee at a health food store, but being at the end of my rope I did just that. Turns out the lady knew what she was talking about. Adaptogens are the bomb. Since then I’ve been studying up on them and having fun playing with different types.
What are they? They are plants that protect the body from stress, both mental and physical. They came into the spotlight back in the 40’s when the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Health was looking for something that would help soldiers more easily endure adverse conditions. They were later used by athletes to enhance physical and mental performance and have more recently been brought to popular consciousness.
Curious about ways to incorporate adaptogens into your own healthy lifestyle? Read on:
-Try some tea: You can find bagged herbal teas with either a single or combination of adaptogenic herbs at most health food stores or online. Prefer loose leaf? I love cold brewing mine in a french press and leaving it in the fridge for at least 8 hours (or overnight) for maximum effect. Some popular teas are Holy Basil (also known as Tulsi), Skullcap, and Reishi mushroom (yes, some mushrooms have adaptogenic properties too!)
-Cop some capsules: To be honest, capsules are my least favorite way to consume adaptogens. I would rather enjoy a cup of tea than feel like I am taking medicine. However, if you are looking for something easy and quick, they are a useful option.
-Take a tincture: Tinctures are kind of a happy medium between tea and capsules. You can take a dropper full and hold it under your tongue for 30 – 60 sec and swallow or just add it your favorite beverage. Keep in mind tinctures tend to be stronger than tea, so be sure to read the directions on the bottle.
For more on adaptogens, as well as a variety of other topics I write about, visit the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook or follow on Twitter!
As we finish the week this Fitness Friday, I’d like to throw an idea out to all you weekend warriors: Exercise is important, but it’s not serious. It’s a motto that I’ve learned to incorporate over the years and have found it to be more true these days as I watch my two year old son explore his physicality.
No one has to tell him to move, he just does. And he loves it. Whether he is jumping on the bed (J’s influence for sure), boogying down in the kitchen to Tower of Power (while singing “Down to the nightclub…”), or climbing a too-tall play structure while I clench my jaw envisioning another broken leg, he exudes pure joy.
It makes me think that, at least for most of us, exercise is like free and good-for-you Valium. So why is it that something like 80% of Americans don’t get the minimum recommended amount? It seems like exercise has run into a bit of a branding problem. What once was a joyous romp on the playground now conjures up images of slogging it out on the treadmill, waiting for those godforsaken 30 minutes to be up.
Below are a few examples that might change your view on what moving for health’s sake actually looks like. Granted, I’d love to see more adult-friendly trampoline parks and playgrounds, but these three fun-focused movement options give me faith that things are moving in the right direction:
-Hit Up a Morning Rave: Whether you are already a morning person or strive to be one, this is pretty cool. Morning dance parties have been popping up in major cities as an alternative way to start the day. Dance party before desk work….why not?
-Get Away to an Adult Summer Camp: Truth be told, I never went to camp when I was a kid but was a counselor for a few years as a teen. Even so, this new vacation option is intriguing. Whether your into more classic activities like swimming, archery, and boating or long for something a little more esoteric, adult summer camp is a great way to get your mind right about movement.
-Join the Circus: Well, not really. But circus arts fitness is a real thing. You can swing from a trapeze, do some aerial tricks, or even learn how to juggle! (Talk about an alternative upper body workout!)
For more fun workout ideas check out the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook or follow on Twitter!
In the morning, our house looks and sounds a lot like a smoothie shop. There is a cacophony of blending. Smoothies, lattes, nut butters….you get the picture. Below is the recipe for T’s favorite “juicy juice” (his preferred name for it, not mine). While I personally love the taste of berries mixed with greens in a smoothie, the color can be less than appealing. Enter mango. This mixture of mango, banana, soy milk, hemp seeds, spirulina, and greens creates a smoothie that looks like it belongs in Emerald City but tastes like a sweet treat. Why spirulina? Aside from it being one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, its chlorophyll binds with heavy metals and helps remove toxins from the blood while boosting the immune system. If you are someone who wants the benefits of leafy greens but doesn’t want their smoothie to taste like a salad, this recipe is for you!
See the Green (Don’t Taste the Green) Smoothie!
-1 cup frozen mango chunks
-1 cup organic unsweetened soy milk (I like West Soy or Edensoy, just organic soybeans and water!). Adjust amount to desired consistency.
-1 tablespoon hemp seeds
-1 teaspoon spirulina
-Two large handfuls of greens (baby spinach blends best but any will do)
*If you like you could add some vanilla or plain plant based protein powder. We occasionally use Pure Food brand. Just 7 ingredients, organic, and no artificial anything.
*Pro tip: peel and cut banana into chunks and freeze overnight for a super smooth texture.
Place all ingredients except greens in high speed blender. Blend until smooth. Place greens in and blend until they disappear. Enjoy!
And now for the illustrated version:
For more plant based ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook or follow on Twitter!