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The Shape of Foods Help our Organs?? – EGGPLANT, AVOCADOS and PEARS

16 May

This is part of a series on how our food can help certain organs that resemble their same shape. I already shared with you how the following foods benefit these organs:

Carrots – Eyes

Tomatoes – Heart

Grapes – Heart

Walnuts – Brain

Celery, Rhubarn, Bok Choy – Bones

Beans – Kidneys

Sweet Potatoes – Pancreas

Now, look at the Eggplant, Avocado and Pear… they’re all shaped like a WOMB. So according to this theory they’re good for feminine health, for the womb and cervix. To be honest, I searched and searched the internet to find data that supported this theory… I couldn’t find anything specific to womb or cervix.

However, I did find some interesting facts important to women’s health and issues over all:

  • According to some internet research, avocados are great for our sex drive because they contain high levels of folic acid to help metabolize proteins giving you an energy boost. They are also known to benefit a women’s libido due to the high potassium content. That potassium content also helps with fatigue, depression and poor digestion.
  • Avocados are a complete food, providing fat, protein and carbohydrate – every vegetarian’s dream! They contain healthy fats we could all do with in our diets. But the fat is GOOD fat; in the form of monosaturated. They contain good levels of vitamin B6 to help you fight stress and give you the energy to keep going.
  • Avocados are excellent for the skin. Research shows that substances in the pulp of avocados appear to trigger DNA to produce more embryonal collagen – the soluble kind we start our lives with, producing smooth and supple skins.

  • Pears are a good source of Vitamin C and copper, both are antioxidant nutrients that protect the body against free-radicals and aging. They’re also a good source of fiber to help regularity and lowers cholesterol levels. Fiber also binds to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon, preventing them from damaging colon cells. A study in postmenopausal women showed a 34% reduction in breast cancer risk for those consuming the most fruit fiber compared to those consuming the least.

  • Eggplants contain powerful antioxidants too. They help letting nutrients in and wastes out, especially in brain cells. They also help to relax blood vessels, improve blood flow and reduce cholesterol levels, particularly if taken in juice form. Even the National Diabetes Education Program, Mayo Clinic and American Diabetes Association recommend an eggplant based diet as a choice for management of type 2 diabetes.
  • Eggplant has been found to be especially useful in the treatment of colon cancer due to the high amount of fiber found within eggplant. But, the fiber found in eggplant has other uses–like helping people lose weight. Eggplant keeps dieters feeling full for a longer period of time and prevents from being as tempted to snack between meals.. Eggplants are filled with water and it’s important in the maintenance of healthy skin and hair.

Here are some recipes to help you increase your eggplant, avocado and pear intake:

Guacamole

Avocado and Tomato Sandwich

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Greens and Pear Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

Eggplant Milanese

Babaga-hummus

Eggplant and Mushroom Sandwich

Pasta with Eggplant Puree

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Gluten-Free Finds – Food for Life English Muffins

28 Oct

Recently I had to go on a wheat-free, corn-free diet and being the bread/cereal lover that I am, I was crushed. I went to my local health food store and bought a few things so I wouldn’t feel deprived, especially during breakfast.

I love fruits for breakfast… in a fruit salad or a smoothie, but it’s not enough for me. I always need to supplement my breakfast with something heartier. Something that will keep me feeling fuller longer.

Enter the Food for Life English Muffins… OMG!! I am now obsessed with these. They’re crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. They have super delicious texture, in my opinion. It has even the “nooks and crannies” of that other more popular brand.

I like to eat them with cream cheese (ahem, Tofutti’s Better than Cream Cheese if you’re vegan ) and preserves – strawberry or apricot. YUM!!! I even had a few of these for dinner a few nights.

You find them in the frozen food section of your health food store. I just take them out of the freezer and warm up in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes. To be honest I never time it, but the muffins begin to split a bit when they’re ready.

With options like these, anyone can easily go gluten-free, even if it’s just for 30 days!!!!

My Favorite Travel Breakfasts…

23 Jul

You already know I love to travel.  You can certainly be aware of this by reading my previous posts on my recent visits to New York, Mexico, Paris, India, Miami…

And when I travel I get extra hungry, particularly for breakfast.  I can skip lunch; I can skip dinner… but I would never ever skip breakfast.  I am a sucker for big breakfasts and this is what I usually try to do:

 

Start with a fruit salad – Any fruit you like will do.  I try to stick to acid fruits together, like pineapple, grapes, strawberries.  And when I go for melons – watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew – I try not to mix them with any other fruit.  I also like the papaya and mango combination, if available.  While in India recently, I enjoyed a lot papaya and pomegranate seeds… YUM!!

At home it’s difficult for me to make me a fruit salad,  that’s why I make myself smoothies from fresh fruits or fruits that I froze myself.  When I travel is simple to just serve yourself fruits that someone else cut for you…

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Follow with something more hearty – I like oatmeals, pancakes, breakfast potatoes, toasts,  etc.  A few of my favorite things to eat while I travel are:

 

 

And when I am traveling outside the US, I like to also try a few local things, even if they’re far removed from what I am used to having.  Like Chole Bhature or Dosas when I was traveling in India, “tacos al vapor” while in Guadalajara or croissants and tartines when in Paris… 

Include some kind of freshly squeezed Juice – Orange Juice is usually my favorite, but I can go for watermelon, grapefruit, apple or even vegetable juice… whatever is freshest and prettiest.

      

 

Hope that if you’re not an avid breakfast eater, this gives you a few ideas on what to try the next time you have the buffet in front of you… or inspire you to get adventurous to try interesting breakfasts when you are traveling…

How to become Vegetarian

6 Nov

Many people ask me how I decided to become a vegetarian.  Most people think it is a decision you just make one day and BOOM – you immediately stop craving any meat products.  While many people might have done it that way, such was not my case.    From the moment I started to get close to a vegetarian lifestyle to the moment I decided to seriously try to be a vegetarian took me nearly 4 years.

First, when my mom decided to go veggie, I decided not to eat meat products at home.  I didn’t want my mom to feel inhibited in her own kitchen.  I thought I ate out often enough to be able to “hack” eating only vegetarian food at home.  After doing that, I noticed that I started craving meat less and less when I was ordering out in restaurants.

When I moved out of my mom’s house, I decided that my kitchen would remain vegetarian so she would not feel uncomfortable when visiting me.   I also decided at some point in between to stop buying canned goods, to stop drinking regular carbonated drinks, to stop buying foods with artificial coloring or chemical ingredients I can’t pronounce.  I started buying foods made with whole grains, as well as fresher and more authentic choices.  I decided to take some cooking classes to help me shift the way I looked at foods and to get to know new ingredients options.

So, to help the ones that might be considering becoming vegetarian but do not know where to start or consider it too daunting of a project… I say to all of you – START SMALL.  Break it down into smaller steps and you’ll be more likely to be successful. Here are some ideas you can implement yourself:

Decide to stop eating your least favorite meat product first.  For most people it’s red meat, for others it’s seafood.  Whatever it is for you, it’ll be easier to leave what you like the least.  Little by little, you might decide then to stop eating some other meat product, and another, and another, and another…

Consciously decide not to eat meat several days a week.  Start with 2 days.  Hey, you’ll still have 5 other days to eat “whatever”.  You’ll start seeing the difference in how you feel those days.  Maybe you’ll like the recipes and choices you have those days so much, that you’ll unconsciously increase those days little by little.

Decide to eliminate from your pantry canned goods, foods with chemical preservatives, artificial ingredients or animal additives.  I started buying evaporated milk in cartons, tomato sauces, roasted red peppers and olives in glass jars.  Frozen vegetables and fruits substituted the canned variety.  I started buying whole grain rice, 100% whole wheat bread or 100% whole grain cereals.  Sodas were out of my diet.  Whenever I wanted something carbonated, I would have a Perrier or San Pellegrino with lime.   I stopped buying foods whose list of ingredients were larger than the actual product and if I just could not pronounce something in the list I would just put it back.  Off-limits ingredients now are gelatin, carmine coloring, eggs, rennet, which are all animal-based ingredients.  Always go with the simpler ingredient lists… even going down to buying products with no ingredient list at all. Which takes us to our next point…

Start planning your meals with a larger quantity of fresh products – more fruits and vegetables.  Make that lasagna filled with mixed vegetables or spinach instead of ground meat.   Include more fruits in your breakfast – like fruit salads or fruit smoothies.  Always include a salad with at least 3-4 ingredients as a side dish.  Eat fresh fruits as snacks during the day.

Redefine your dinner plate – look at the rice, the pasta or a casserole as the main part of your dish.   Think of that vegetable rice or spinach and mushroom risotto as the main dish.  To me, a macaroni and cheese or vegetable lasagna with a side salad and plantains is a round meal.  Pastelones or casseroles containing potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, and a variety of vegetables and vegetable proteins eaten with a nice salad is a complete meal.

Experiment cooking with ingredients that are new to you.  To me it was getting to know sun-dried tomatoes, the different varieties of mushrooms (button, Portobello, cremini, shitake, porcini, enoki, trumpets, etc.), the different varieties of lettuces (Romaine, Boston bib, arugula, frisee, mesclun greens, endive, radicchio, etc.), sugar snap peas, leeks, artichokes, polenta, tofu, textured soy protein, quinoa, kelp, umemboshi paste, agar agar, brown rice syrup, agave nectar,  rice pastas, panko breadcrumbs, among others.

 

Take some vegetarian cooking classes and visit vegetarian websites or blogs (wink, wink) for recipe ideas.  It’s a good thing you’re already reading this.  That means you’ve already found my vegetarian blog.  Learn how to make new recipes… but also see that making onion soup with vegetable stock will taste just as good as your traditional recipe, if not better.  Mofongos can be made just as good without the pork rinds.  Even a bacalaito can be made without the salted cod fish (bacalao) and taste great, because most of the flavor comes from another place and not from the animal products.

 

I hope these ideas will help you see that living a vegetarian lifestyle is not as daunting as you may have thought.    Even if going vegetarian is not the thing for you, integrating some of these ideas into your lifestyle will definitely have you eating better and more healthful.  Try it… you’ll not regret it.

The Importance and Benefits of Fasting

15 Apr

While most people celebrate Holy Week with the official beginning of summer in Puerto Rico, too few people celebrate its true religious meaning.  I remember when we used to stay in on Holy Thursday and Holy Friday to watch religious movies – the life of Jesus, the Passion of Christ, stories of Moses and the Old Testament and the stories of the Virgins, like the Virgin of Fatima or the Virgin of Guadalupe.  That is certainly here a thing of the past…

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To me Holy Week is a time to reflect on Jesus’ life and our life as well.  And since I started practicing YOGA, I’ve been celebrating Holy Week with a spiritual retreat.  I just returned from one Easter Sunday.  We do these retreats by fasting… and some people think we’re nuts.  But if you want to be a healthy individual you should start to practice fasting more often.

fasting

When most people think of fasting, in the religious sense, they think of doing something to sacrifice themselves, as a punishment  for whatever they did wrong…  in yoga, we see fasting as a way to improve our health, to give our body a break from the hard-to digest foods that might not be as good for us as we think.  It’s a way to bring more health into our lives.

The purpose of fasting is to help detoxify your body.  This detoxification helps to eliminate and alleviate many ailments that might be creeping up on us because of the unhealthy eating habits we might be holding.  And the fasting I am speaking of if to spend a day without eating cooked or processed foods…  to spend a whole day eating lots of fruits, raw vegetable salads, water, juices.  These are things we already know we should be eating more of… why? Because eating raw fruits and vegetables is the best for us to maintain our health.  So isn’t it neat to select a day out of our week to try to eat only fruits and veggies??  Letting our food be also our medicine…

fruit_vegetables

 

Here are a few of the benefits of doing a weekly fast:

  • We give the digestive system a much needed break. Fruits and vegetables are much easier on the digestive system than breads, pastas, rices, cheeses, legumes, soy products, etc.
  • Fasting will help cleanse the blood and help eliminate toxins lodged in your body.  These toxins come from various sources – the contaminated air we breathe, chemical medications we might have taken, artificial colorants and preservatives in food, stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, cigarette smoke, among many others.
  • When you ingest fresher foods your vital energy will increase.  People think that by eating lighter you’ll feel sluggish.  On the contrary, my experience has been that when done right, a day of eating just fresh veggies and fruits, with lots of water and juices make you feel very light and clean inside… with a great sense of well being. You will feel full of energy and ready to take on any challenge that faces you.
  • And over time your defenses against diseases will improve and your skin will be brighter too.   Since I have become vegetarian and practicing fasting I get much less colds than I used to before.  You will not be completely immune, but when I used to work in an air-conditioned office full of moms that got sick every time their kids got a cold.  It was like a chain reaction in that office – one person getting sick after the other and I was most of the times spared.

How to do a day of fasting? Simple:

  • Because you’re eating lighter, you should have at least your 3 meals and 3 snacks throughout the day.
  • Start your day with a large fruit salad or a fruit smoothie.  My SS Smoothie and the Stealth Shake might be good alternatives for you.  Try to make them with fruit juices or coconut water.  I do stay away from soymilk and regular milk on these days, but I will admit, I use yogurt sometimes… because it has active live cultures.
  • Throughout the day, drink lots of water and other liquids, like fresh fruit juices – freshly squeezed orange juice, grapefruit juice, kiwi juice, papaya juice… or have some coconut water.

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  • Have a great big salad for lunch – lettuces, tomato, cucumber, peppers, onions, broccoli, radishes, cauliflower, carrot, fennel, sprouts, etc.   Have it with a delicious dressing that will make it all more appetizing.
  • As snacks you can munch on fresh fruits and nuts, such as apples, pears, mangoes, papaya, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc.

nuts

  • For dinner you could have another salad accompanied by steamed veggies – I personally have a delicate digestive system and I must have my salads with steamed /lightly boiled vegetables.  I sometimes steam potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, and/or cauliflower.  I make a nice fresh dressing with the left over salad I might have from lunch and it all tastes awesome.

 

Some words of extra advice…

  • Eat fruits prior to eating salads.  Fruits have large water content and sometimes, when eaten after heavier foods (ie vegetables or steamed root vegetables) it might give you uncomfortable gas.
  • Because you’ll be eating more fresh foods and will be drinking water and juice more often than your regular daily diet, you’ll go to the bathroom more than usual.  So be open to that idea and choose a day when you’ll have a bathroom accessible.
  • Fasting is easier when made at home.  It is harder on our psyche when we are trying to fast and people around us are eating stuff we are avoiding for the day.  Do not make it harder on yourself… try to pick a day when you’ll stay at home with your “menu” set out for the day.
  • Prepare in advance.  Before the day you have chosen to fast, go to the market and buy your favorite fruits and veggies.  See what’s beautiful and freshest in the market so you’ll be excited to build a menu around those great finds. 
  • Give yourself the opportunity to try out new things.  I sometimes treat myself to certain fruits and veggies I do not regularly buy to give my salads some needed variety.  And I know I must eat them in the next few days. 

 

Hope you might have learned a bit about FASTING and might be inspired, or at least not afraid, to try it.  I try to do it as often as I can and I can attest to its benefits.

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