Body & Brain Boost Pumpkin Oatmeal

Body & Brain Boosting Pumpkin Oatmeal

HELLO FALL! I can’t quite rock the leggings look anymore (at least not gracefully) but I’m fully embracing my boots and autumn-flavored things. There’s a pint of Hoffmans’ pumpkin ice cream in my freezer, Baugher’s apple butter on my counter, and pumpkin puree in my fridge. It’s like something biological happens when the cold weather hits, making us all crave these things.

Here’s the crazy thing- something biological DOES happen! Our bodies are designed to need more beta carotene, vitamin C, and warming food in the fall and winter, when the weather is colder and our immune systems can become repressed. It’s no coincidence that things like pumpkin and citrus come into season, bursting with their essential vitamins that are perfect for this season!

This quick morning dish, full of flavor and supplemental goodness, boosts brain function, digestion, good fats, fiber, vitamin C, and beta carotene levels. This is a bowl of super foods!

You’ll need:

1/2 cup of oats cooked in 3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon each: flaxseed, chia seed, wheat germ, pumpkin seed
Cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice) to taste
Raw Honey (or regular is fine) and sea salt, to taste

Cook oats in the water- the oatmeal won’t be soupy, but you’ll add pumpkin to it which will thin it out a bit! After the oats are cooked, swirl in the pumpkin, flax, chia, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. Spice, salt, and honey to taste- you may like yours sweeter, while I prefer mine a little salty, to balance the rich flavor of the pumpkin.

Here’s all the amazing health benefits you’re enjoying! Do your body some good this fall 🙂

PUMPKIN– An underestimated superfood, this autumn gem is full of fiber, vitamin C, and beta carotene. It also works wonders on digestion- it eases upset tummies like a charm! You can even bake dog treats with pumpkin to help pups that might be having digestive issues.

CINNAMON– Helps to balance blood sugar, high in antioxidants, aids in detoxification and boosts the metabolism.

OATS– Oats are an amazing source of fiber and protein, and work to balance the blood sugar throughout the day. Incorporating oats into the diet can reduce cardiovascular disease risks, lower cholesterol, and lower type-2 diabetes risk.

FLAXSEED– Famed for being a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (that even stays intact through baking!), flaxseeds are also great for digestion. They are also a surprising antioxidant source- containing more polyphenol antioxidants than even blueberries.

CHIA SEED– The wonder seed! Who knew that such a nutritional powerhouse was growing silly spiky heads when we were younger. Chia seeds are intensely good for hydration- they absorb 2x their weight in fluids, which helps slowly release into our systems when we need it most! For more on Chia seeds, check out this previous post on health benefits and ideas to incorporate into your diet!

WHEAT GERM– Again, very high in omega-3 fatty acids, this is a famed ‘brain builder’ supplement. It’s packed with B-vitamins, which make it ideal for pregnant women and those who don’t eat much animal proteins. It’s also high in fiber, which aids in digestion and detoxification. Minerals found in wheat germ include iron, zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium, and calcium.

PUMPKIN SEED– Also called pepitas, these babies are high in iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and Vitamin E. This is a great food for pregnant women to incorporate into their diets. Raw or activated is best, but toasted brings out a great flavor as well!

RAW HONEY– Chock full of B vitamins, vitamin C, antioxidants, beneficial enzymes, pre and probiotics, honey is also highly regarded for it’s antibacterial and anti fungal properties. Great for incorporating ingot he diet if you feel a cold coming on, or applying topically to a cut, scrape, or burn to prevent infection and speed healing.

The World’s Worst Cold Season

Hi, friends!

It goes without saying how sad I am that I literally haven’t posted a blog in over a month. This blog is therapeutic for me- a way to process what I am learning, share what I am passionate about and, yes, release a bit of frustration sometimes. Well, that frustration has certainly come to a head in the past weeks because it seems that myself and everyone I know is sick! Seeing this, I thought I would share some steps you can take to prevent and combat the common cold when it has you down and out.

About three weeks ago, I came down with the worst cold I have ever had- I was like a walking Nyquil commercial. I had a sore throat, itchy eyes, terrible sinus congestion, couldn’t sleep as a result, it was just awful. Never had I come down with such a stereotypically miserable cold. It just so happened that I was co-Music Director for that weekend’s Chrysalis Retreat, and the one thing I was dreading was beginning to happen- losing my voice. Well, I made it through- and here are some of the tricks I used to keep my voice and my sanity during those stuffy days:

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Medicinal Teas. My two go-tos were both from Traditional Medicinals: Gypsy’s Cold Care and Throat Coat. Spoiler alert- they both taste kind of awful, but they are both very effective. Gypsy’s lessens general cold symptoms as well as cutting down on the duration of the cold, while Throat Coat is particularly useful if you are prone to laryngitis whenever you get sick, like me. There are mixed views on using Throat Coat when you are sick- especially if your throat issues are sinus related, it can sometimes make you produce more mucus in an attempt to lubricate the throat. Bottom line- use your best judgement. Don’t use it for the first time before a big performance unless you know how your body will react.

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Honey. So much of it. Raw and local is best. Over the course of the Chrysalis weekend, I downed close to a two pound bottle of raw honey (a lot of this in attempts to cover the taste of the Throat Coat tea!). Honey is an antiseptic and a lubricant, which helps both coat and heal your throat.

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Neti pot or other sinus rinse. Yes, this is uncomfortable at first, but you are not only removing excess mucus, but neutralizing PH and flushing out any germs and allergens in your nasal passages. I was doing this upwards of 4x a day when my cold was at its worst.

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BLOW your NOSE. I can’t emphasize this enough! Keep tissues with you all the time- Target sells really cute little ’tissue wallets’ that I should by stock in. The more you can get that stuff out, the better off you are going to feel. Sniffing and swallowing (gross, I know) is only going to keep you sick. It can even give you an upset stomach. Just don’t let it happen.

-Sleep sitting up. Not completely, but prop two or three pillows under your head to keep post-nasal drip at bay. It sicks but you will probably end up sleeping better than you would have originally.

-Check out your environment. We recently discovered a lovely mold infestation in our closet- no wonder we are staying sick forever! Make sure that you don’t have a culprit hiding somewhere…

-Healing baths. This can help any type of sickness- taking a hot bath is like having a self-induced fever- your body temperature rises and your body’s immune responses are heightened, which helps fight off germs. Adding helpful herbs like peppermint, eucalyptus, or rosemary can aid in clearing congestion. If you don’t have a bath tub, put some essential oils in the corner of your shower and inhale in the steam!

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-Steam inhalations– these are my favorite! Boil a pot of water, pour it into a bowl and add some essential oils (eucalyptus is the most effective). Form a tent over your head with a towel and inhale! Have tissues ready because this can work very quickly! I like to do this after I do a sinus rinse- it leaves me clear and feeling good.

-Supplements. Vitamin C is a given, but Vitamin D is also proven to help ward off sickness! Echinacea is an easy-to-find herb that is a powerhouse for strengthening the immune system. It is often paired with Goldenseal. Green tea and other antioxidant-rich supplements will help, too!

-Eat foods that will help your body heal. Focus on getting a plant-based, whole foods diet especially when you are sick. Get away from the processed foods! Dairy especially is a big hindrance to healing and makes you produce more mucus. Red meats take more energy for your body to digest, which pulls energy away from the healing process. Juices are great when you are sick, because they are chock full of nutrients but easy to digest- letting your body focus all of it’s energy on healing! Garlic and Onions are two foods that are especially good for mucus cleansing. Ideally- a whole foods vegan diet. I know it’s hard, but do your best!

-Get your rest. If you are run down, so is your immune response. Get enough sleep and take care of your body, it will take care of you!

Wishing you a health and energy this cold season,

Karli

The ‘Bunny Spice’ Smoothie

Are you in the full-on winter blues yet? I am. One of the really cool things I’ve learned about creation and food is how the Lord really has equipped us to take care of ourselves by eating seasonal foods. It’s no coincidence that things like citrus, pumpkins, and carrots all come into season in late fall, and are full of the Vitamin C and Beta Carotene we need to support our immune systems through the winter!

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This smoothie is one that I adapted from a great book, Raw Food Real World- though they use fresh almond milk instead of yogurt. Either way, it’s a great one for the fall and winter, when we should be consuming as many ‘orange’ foods as possible- boosting our immune systems and restoring the vitamins that we often lose without the abundance of fresh produce that summer provides. Play around with this recipe until you find what suits your tastes- some people prefer to highlight the sweetness of the carrot, others the spice of the ginger. Make it yours!

1 cup fresh carrot juice (or from a health food brand, like Knudsen’s)

Fresh juice from a 1-inch ginger knob, or 2 teaspoons powdered ginger

1 banana

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or a blend of cinnamon and nutmeg

1 6-oz container vanilla yogurt

OPTIONAL: ice

Combine everything in a blender and serve! Some people prefer this one thickened up with some ice- I can take it or leave it. I like to sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice on top as a finishing touch. Using fresh juices in this one really makes a difference, so pull out that juicer if you have it- but store-bought juices are a fine substitution as well. Enjoy, little bunnies!

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Recipe

This smoothie is absolutely delicious, and really, really good for you.  Raw, canned pumpkin is hard to come by for the socially responsible shopper (the most commonly carried brand is Libby’s, which is owned by Kraft Foods, one of the biggest companies to avoid) but many stores now carry a beautiful brand of organic pumpkin sure to delight both your taste buds and your morals!  Just be sure to look in the Natural Foods section of the grocery store- it should be there.

Pumpkin is high in fiber and beta carotene, and the spices add a nice digestive and circulatory kick.  Coconut milk gives you a dose of important healthy fats, and yogurt adds protein and probiotics.

 1 can organic pumpkin

1 6-oz container organic vanilla yogurt (regular, or Greek for double protein)

¼ cup coconut milk (adjust this according to thicken the smoothie to your liking- and             according to what type of yogurt you use)

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or a blend of cinnamon and nutmeg, or to taste

OPTIONAL: amber agave syrup or brown sugar, to sweeten to taste

Blend everything up in a blender and serve!  You can add ice if you like, but it will water down the flavors.  I drink mine from a chilled glass and it’s the perfect way to start a holiday morning!

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!