Tag Archives: Healthy Living A to Z

Healthy Living A to Z: Y is for Yoga

Yoga is made up of a variety of techniques and practices aimed at integrating mind body and spirit. The goal is to reach a state of oneness with the universe or enlightenment. There are many paths of yoga. Hatha Yoga, which is often thought of as “yoga” in the Western world is just one of them. Yoga is a practice of personal exploration which can be incorporated into any religious belief system. http://www.yogabasics.com/learn/yoga-101-an-introduction/

In the West yoga has become mainstream and is known by many as a purely physical form of exercise for health, disconnected from the spiritual aspects. There is so much more to yoga than this.

If your yoga practice is focused solely on physical exercise, I encourage you to dig a little deeper. Slow things down a bit and practice the postures in a slow, purposeful way. Focus on your breath and be in the moment. Feel the joy of total relaxation during the closing meditation..

Finally, there should be a deep sense of mutual respect between teacher and students. If that is not present or if a teacher tries to shame or belittle you for your size or current state of physical fitness, it’s time to find a new teacher.

Healthy Living A to Z: X is for Xanthan Gum

If you are a gluten free baker you are probably familiar with xanthan gum. Many believe this is a necessary ingredient in gluten free baking, but some people are sensitive to it and others prefer to avoid it for other reasons.

Xanthan gum is made by mixing fermented sugars with the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. It has medical uses for lowering blood sugar and total cholesterol in people with diabetes, as a laxative and sometimes as a saliva substitute for people with dry mouth. Xanthan gum is also used to thicken and stabilize foods, toothpaste and medications. [Source: http://www.webmd.com]

I don’t use it in my gluten free baking. I have learned to use the properties of various gluten free flours to increase stability and produce a nice texture. Some flours such as brown rice and buckwheat work fine on their own. Blends with at least some starch in them (corn, tapioca, potato, arrowroot, etc.) also seem to do well. Adding flax seed meal to the flour may also help. By not using xanthan gum in gluten free recipes you will not necessarily avoid it entirely as zanthan gum is used in commercial products, including salad dressing and medications as well as some gluten free flour blends

To use xanthan gum or not is your choice. Do your research and be aware there are other options.

Healthy Living A to Z: W is for Walking

My grandmother was a walker. So was my mother. Both were extremely healthy in their 80’s. In fact both could out walk me.

We all know there are physical health benefits of a good walk. According to the Mayo Clinic, a brisk walk can help maintain a healthy weight, prevent or manage conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, strengthen bones, lift your mood and improve balance and coordination. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/walking/HQ01612

But there is more. Walking can also be a way of quieting our minds and becoming centered.

If you know you should be more active, stop beating yourself up over not finding time to go to the gym. Start where you are and just get moving. A great way to start is to get up and go for a walk.

Healthy Living A to Z: V is for Variety

You may have heard the old saying variety is the spice of life. Variety is important for health and longevity. The following are ways we can use variety to our benefit.

Eat a Variety of Foods
The best way to get the important nutrients you body needs is to eat a variety of foods, preferably minimally processed or whole foods. Be sure to get variety in the colors of the fruits and vegetables your eat — think eating the rainbow. The nutrients give the foods their color.

Engage in a Variety of Physical Activities
We all know that it is important to get up and move. One way to keep this from becoming drudgery is to vary your activity. Run, walk, play tennis, soccer, basketball, dance, take an exercise class. Mix up your activities, make them fun and you will get more out of your workouts.

Engage in a Variety of Mental Activities
It is important to keep the mind active throughout life. This can be done by taking classes, learning a new skill, taking up a new hobby or doing puzzles or word games.

So what are some of the ways you get variety in your life? Talk to me.

Healthy Living A to Z: R is for Rest

Copyright 2014 R.A. Robbins
Copyright 2014 R.A. Robbins

No matter how hard we try we cannot ignore the need of body, mind and spirit for rest. If we do not take time to rest and renew sooner or later the universe will intervene. For me this is when the car breaks down, the computer crashes, the electricity shuts down, or if all else fails to get my attention, I become physically ill unable to do much of anything.

First we must be sure we are getting enough sleep. The body must have sleep to recharge and repair itself. But rest can also involve meditation, spending time in nature, listening to music and other activities that are fun, joyful and help us reconnect with the Creator.

Set aside one day each week to rest, relax, recharge and reconnect. Turn off the “electronic devices.” Resist temptation to turn every activity into work, money or an opportunity for “success” and just be. Listen to the universe and you may receive the greatest inspiration yet.

Healthy Living A to Z: Q is for Quinoa

Copyright 2014 Rogene A. Robbins
Copyright 2014 Rogene A. Robbins

Qui what? It is pronounced keen-wa. Don’t worry we all have trouble with that one.

Quinoa is the seed of a plant related to beets, spinach and tumbleweed. It was known to the Incas as “mother of all grains” and is gluten free. For questions about cross contamination contact the manufacturer or distributor.

Quinoa is high in protein and is a “complete” protein. Other benefits include being a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus as well as high in magnesium and iron and a good source of healthy fat.

Rinse until water runs clear to remove the naturally bitter coating. Quinoa can replace rice in dishes and as a base for pasta sauce or stir fry. It also works as thickener in soups, stews and casseroles as well as a meat extender in meatloaf, meatballs, etc. Seed or flakes make a nutritious hot cereal. Quinoa is also found in some gluten free pastas and cereals.

Quinoa flakes may be used as oatmeal. Quinoa flour is ground Quinoa seeds which maybe combined with other flours for baking, but does not work well on its own.

If you are worried about getting enough fiber or protein try quinoa. These tiny seeds are a nutritional powerhouse. It also doesn’t hurt that they taste good.

My recipe for Pumpkin Quinoa Pilaf with Bacon in available in Have Yourself a Healthy Little Holiday.  The recipe for Cranberry Quinoa Pilaf may be found in The Gluten Free Good Life.  Both e-books are available at Espirational Books.

Healthy Living A to Z: P is for Portion Control

It is possible to eat too much, even eating healthy food. These are two tips for controlling portions I use.

Plate size can help control how much you eat. If your dinner plates are very large, try using a salad plate. You can still have a full plate, while consuming less. Remember meals still need to be balanced and at least half of your plate should be vegetables.

Have two instead of one. When I prepare certain foods I know we will always want two. When I make muffins, I make minis so we can still have two and eat the same amount as if we ate one. I also make my salmon patties smaller so Bob can have two. He never notices they are smaller.

How do these work? These little tricks fool the brain into thinking you are eating more than you actually are. When you are finished the brain can tell the body “that’s good, we’re done.” Of course there is a scientific explanation, but it’s not as much fun.

Healthy Living A to Z: L is for Lentils

Copyright 2014 by R.A. Robbins
Copyright 2014 by R.A. Robbins

Lentils are legumes and come in varieties which cook to different consistencies. They are an ancient food, mentioned in the Bible and are naturally gluten free.

Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse but often overlooked. Seen as “poverty food,” in this case low cost means high nutrition. High in protein, soluble and insoluble fiber and low in fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories, they are also rich in folate, manganese, protein, iron, phosphorus and copper and are a complete protein. Evidence suggests lentils help lower cholesterol due to high fiber content and help control blood sugar. However, if you have gout, kidney stones or other conditions related to uric acid, talk to your doctor before eating lentils.

Lentils do not have to be soaked before cooking. With a mild flavor, they can slip into a dish unnoticed or be seasoned as desired. They may be used to thicken sauces, as an extender in meatloaf, as a one dish meal with veggies, tomatoes and onions, as veggie burger or loaf and of course in soup.

Some seasonings such as salt and vinegar may interfere with the cooking process.” No one wants crunchy lentils so season after cooking.

Spend some time getting to know lentils. They are a nice legume to have around.

Healthy Living A to Z: G is for Gratitude

Gratitude changes everything
Gratitude changes everything (Photo credit: symphony of love)

Gratitude is defined in the Merriam Webster Learners Dictionary as a feeling of appreciation or thanks.  [Source Merriam Webster Learners Dictionary]    Don’t you love the simplicity of this definition?

Many times it is easy to think of all the difficulties in our world, but how often do we say thanks?  Do you let the people in your life know you appreciate them?  Do you thank them for the simple things they do to make your life better?  Do you thank the grocery clerk who rings up your groceries?  This is something I have learned from Bob.  It took me a long time to understand that when he thanked me for cooking dinner or cleaning house he was sincere, but now I find myself thanking him for even the little things.

It is important to feel gratitude but I think it is even more important that we express it.  When you wake up thank God for a new day.  And don’t forget to spread the gratitude around.  You might find the whole day goes better.

Healthy Living A to Z: F is for Flaxseed

This is a flax seed "egg." Copyright 2013 by R.A. Robbins
This is a flax seed “egg.”
Copyright 2013 by R.A. Robbins

Not everyone may be familiar with flaxseed.  Flaxseed is high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as phytochemicals called lignans.   It is used to improve digestive health and may help lower total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and reduce heart disease risk.   Ground flaxseed is easier for the body to digest.  Grind your own in a coffee grinder or purchase flaxseed meal.

You may add flaxseed to a variety of foods including yogurt for a little extra nutritional boost.  I like to replace 1/4 cup of the flour in my baked goods with flaxseed meal or use it as an egg substitute.  Mix one Tablespoon with 3 Tablespoons of hot water for each egg you are replacing.  Let sit until the consistency of egg whites.  When Colette Martin told me about this I didn’t think it was possible, but it does work.

There are other seeds on the market now with similar benefits including chia and hemp seeds.  Flax is usually less expensive.

For more information: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/flaxseed/AN01258