Foods You Never Knew You Liked: Coconut Water

A few nights ago, we were blessed to stay with a family in Charlotte, NC on our way to a tour stop in West Virginia. After dinner we went into their basement to watch a movie, where I discovered a health nut treasure trove: a refrigerator full of coconut water! It reminds me of living in South Florida and getting fresh coconuts from a ethnic grocery on Saturday afternoons. Needless to say, I had some in the morning after my run and, to my delight, the family sent me packing with four huge bottles to take on the road with me.

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When we got in the van, I was surprised to find that I was actually the only one excited about our new stash of hydration! Apparently several people in our crew were weirded out by the coconut water, or had taken a small a taste at breakfast and not been a fan. I am still working on making converts, but I wanted to share a bit about the benefits of coconut water with you all, and maybe you’ll try it, too!

Coconut water has been affectionately called “natures sports drink”- with more potassium than a banana and more electrolytes than Gatorade, it is the perfect, all natural companion to your workout. One serving also has 170% of you daily Vitamin C, which gives the immune system a great boost. It also comes in a Tetrapak, a new form of packaging that is completely recyclable- something to be proud of!

As for the taste- lets just say, for most people, it’s an acquired one. It is mostly sweet, not too coconutty, with a bit of a salty tinge to it. It takes some getting used to, but once you do, you’ll be hooked! Your body knows what is good for it- it’s not uncommon to start craving coconut water, even if you didn’t like it at first.

One of the great ways to use coconut water is mixing it with something else- another fruit juice, or- my favorite- as a smoothie base. The favors blend perfectly in with green smoothies and fruit smoothies, and give you a burst of healthy energy. As I mentioned before, I love it after(and during) a workout, and also during long car rides, as it is much better for your body than coffee, but has similar sustaining effects.

Here are some great brands you can find at your local grocery store:

Vita Coco
Zico
Naked

Many of them come in yummy favors, like pineapple, mango, even chocolate!

Have you tried coconut water before? How do you use it? Let me know!

Easy Health Tips: For Ladies Only

But seriously, if you’re a dude, just stop reading. You don’t want this.

Ok, let’s get real. Periods suck, and our coping mechanisms suck worse- popping pills with who-knows-what long term effects, medications that could affect our long term fertility, binge eating terrible (yet delicious) things, laying on the couch in agony? Is there really no other option?

Since I first got my period, I can remember lying on the floor of my bedroom trying not to move and positioning heating pads on my back and belly to try to relieve the pain. Painkillers didn’t help, so soon I just didn’t bother. I just accepted that one or two days a month would be hell and I would just have to get over it.

In the past few years, however, experimenting with diet and alternative medicine has not done away with the pain and discomfort entirely, but certainly has made it manageable. I hope maybe some of these tips will help you!

CUT OUT caffeine, sugar, alcohol, processed foods-especially the week before your period. All of these things mess wi your body and prevent it from being in a place to properly function. Eat whole foods and drink plenty of water.

STAY ACTIVE. This is the hardest for me, but it really is worth it. Even taking a short walk outside in the morning can lessen cramping for the day and help things to flow smoothly-literally. There are also many yoga poses recommended for dysmenorrhea (heavy cramping) including child’s pose, bridge, wide squat, and pigeon. Be careful, though, to avoid inversions while on your period. This is a great sequence to try at home.

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wide squat pose

AVOID HORMONES LIKE THE PLAGUE. So many women in the US struggle with hormone imbalances caused simply by eating foods and using products that contain hormone disrupting agents. This includes meats that aren’t organic, many cosmetics that are filled with chemicals, perfumes, and conventionally grown produce, among other things. This is a fascinating subject, one that Jillian Michaels tackles thoroughly in her book Master Your Metabolism. Key points-eat organic. Be careful what you put on your skin and what you clean your house with. This is all effective how your hormones work and likely making your periods worse.

GET TESTED for a serious hormone imbalance. I found out a few months ago that I gave a hormone imbalance, and I now use a little cream before I go to bed and it has made everything substantially better- shorter, lighter periods, less cramping, less PMS before my period. Be careful, however, with treatment options- synergic hormones are dangerous and can cause even more damage in the long run as your body starts to adjust to the new hormone level. Look for a bio identical hormone replacement that works with your body to boost your levels. I like Emerita Pro-Gest, and I have heard good things ago Arbonne ProLief.

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TRY A TEA. There are many readily available tea blends for treating period symptoms, I have tried most of them and always had good results. My favorite is Traditional Medicinals Female Toner. You have to drink a lot (2-4 cups per day) of these teas to really get the benefits, but it is so worth it.

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DETOX BATHS with things like Epsom salts, activated charcoal, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda help pull toxins from your body that could be disrupting your hormones, interfering with bodily processes, and making your periods worse. The heat and relaxation of a bath don’t hurt, either!

BE BRAVE and try some alternative equipment. Tampons have always been the easiest thing, but they could be causing unnecessary discomfort by plugging things up rather than letting them flow. Pads avoid this traffic jam effect, and there are many great companies that make reusable pads that are easy on the pocketbook. I can’t stand the diaper feeling, so I have moved to a Diva Cup with great results- check them out here.

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Do you have any tried and true tricks to share?

Grow Your Hair!

I’ve been getting a lot of comments lately about how long my hair is getting and how fast it has grown. About two years ago, I shaved my head almost down to the skin in solidarity with my mom’s fight with breast cancer and I pretty much wanted to find any and every way to make it grow back as soon as possible. I suppose that made the experience genuine-experiencing similar frustrations that a chemo patient might in trying to get hair to grow back.

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Along the way, I had many awkward periods of hair, but also found many solid tips for getting hair to grow out long and strong. I’ve been seeing a lot of these floating around lately, so I thought I would share my favorites.

EAT FOR THE HAIR YOU WANT. Guys, you really, truly, seriously are what you eat. Not only your hair, but your skin and nails will improve with following a whole foods diet, avoiding meats that have hormones, and drinking a lot of water. Think of food as your body’s fuel- if you are feeding it garbage, or not enough food, or too much food, it won’t run properly. Your body needs good nutrition to do it’s job!

TAKE A VITAMIN. A prenatal one is best if you can, because of extra folic acid that will boost hair and nail growth. I started taking prenatals about six months ago and I have noticed a significant difference in the rate that my hair and nails have grown since.

USE STIMULATING SHAMPOOS and scalp treatments. This is one of my favorites! There are certain essential oils and ingredients that stimulate blood flow in the scalp, which subsequently aids in hair growth. Things like cinnamon, clove, peppermint, rosemary, and caffeine have all had good results. I use New shampoo by LUSH, which has cinnamon and clove oils- massage it in at the beginning of my shower, leave it sitting on my scalp, and rinse it out at the very end. It’s made a huge difference in the thickness of my hair as well.

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LUSH New Shampoo

DEEP CONDITION YOUR HAIR- with the right things. Your scalp may be in great condition, but if your hair is breaking at the ends, it’s not going to seem like its growing at all! Most readily available deep conditioners utilize silicone as their “conditioning agent” which really does nothing but coat your hair in plastic- making it look and feel nice in the short term, but causing breakdown of hair integrity in the long run. My best advice is to do a DIY treatment of one of the following, at least once a week:

-olive oil
-honey
-egg
-coconut oil or milk
-mayonnaise

Any combo of the above would work as well. Massage into hair thoroughly, concentrating on ends, and leave in for at least 20 minutes before shampooing out. Take care with the oils, as they may need to be shampooed more than once. If you normally use conditioner, skip it afterwards, your hair will be fine 🙂 you may even find, like I have, that you can forgo conditioner altogether in favor of a weekly treatment- which is budget friendly, too!

EXAMINE YOUR PRODUCTS. Just like silicone isn’t really the friend you thought it was, your shampoos or conditioners could contain ingredients that are doing much more damage to your hair than good. Things like alcohol, sulfates, propylene glycol, and parabens are in almost every shampoo and conditioner and are really terrible for your hair. Find a fun natural brand that skips most or all of these ingredients. My favorites include Dr. Bronners, LUSH, Origins, Aveda, and Aubrey Organics- and homemade, of course.

LAY OFF THE HEAT STYLING. I know, this is super hard for a lot of us, but it’s the worst culprit of breakage and also the most avoidable! Experiment with your hair and find some no-heat regiments that you can employ that will leave you feeling beautiful and your hair feeling healthy. Personal favorites: the sock bun, twisting my hair while it dries to make it curl, using a salt spray to create air-dried beach waves.

MASSAGE YOUR SCALP. Love that feeling when your stylist shampoos your hair? So does your scalp. Similar to stimulating shampoos, scalp massage gets blood flowing and encourages hair growth. Try a few minutes when you get up in the morning, before bed, while at a stoplight, or while in the shower.

Have you had success with any of these tips? Do you have hair growing tips of your own?

Staying Healthy on the Road: Tips for Traveling and Eating Well

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part of our travel route home tonight

Two weeks ago, I embarked on a two week journey with my husband and our close friends a the band, Willet, toured around the Midwestern US. At first, this was a difficult transition for me- I love to cook, and really value being in control of my diet and activity level. Being limited with food options, prearranged lodging, and long days got to me, but I quickly realized that I needed to let go of my control and embrace the opportunity. I could still be in control of my body, I just needed to be intentional and careful! So, with that in mind, I want to share some of my lessons learned from my first two weeks on tour:

-It is easy to eat mindlessly, and calories add up faster than you think. While, on the whole, I think that counting calories is a bad idea, I do think that having an idea of what your body needs and being mindful of what you are putting into your body is necessary for everyone. A few days into the trip a few of us downloaded a calorie counting app to aid in that process, which was eye-opening for everyone. We have to think about what our body needs, and what it doesn’t need, and eat accordingly. Which brings me to my next point…

-It is really important to stay true to a whole foods diet as much as possible. Traveling make us especially susceptible to fatigue, illness, adrenal exhaustion, among other things. Processed foods and increased caffeine intake can completely wipe out our immune system, while whole foods can make it stronger and better able to face the challenges of travel.

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we we thankful for a green room with a fruit platter

-Hydration is key, even if it means that you stop to pee more often. Drinking water helps the body naturally detoxify, and the more often you are doing that, the better. Hydrating also makes sure that basic body processes are functioning at optimum level, and maintains an even energy level. Not drinking water just isn’t a good idea.

-Fast food will always be terrible, but anywhere you go, there are at least a few good options, like salads or yogurt parfaits. My personal favorite is Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad-the half portion makes a great meal by itself. Gas stations almost always have a healthy food selection of granola, trail mix, protein bars, fruit, or yogurt. It’s all about willpower.

-You have to be prepared. I hardly ever take conventional medicine, but I use medicinal teas and essential oils frequently. Before leaving, I packed a small bag with a few of my most common remedies, and I was able to continue to avoid conventional meds because I was prepared when I needed something. Sleepless nights were taken care of with lavender oil and chamomile tea, sinuses with eucalyptus, anxiety with kava root tea, and cramps with raspberry leaf tea. There’s something for everything, if you are willing to try!

-Exercise can make or break a trip. I started focusing on doing daily cardio about halfway through my trip and I noticed a by difference in my mood and energy level because of it. I aimed for 30-45min of cardio, and 10-15min of concentrated strength sequences per day. It’s fun to mix it up, too- running in new places, swimming laps at a pool, trying a new class at a gym.

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a pretty stop: st louis, mo

Next week we begin the first leg of a two month tour- and I am sure there will be more lessons to learn! What are your favorite ways to stay healthy when traveling? <