Learning to listen
One of the things I have learned in the past few years is to pay attention to my body's reactions to both food and the environment. I've also learned how to follow my intuition. Growing up, I often heard my mother say, “listen to your body" or "your body knows best” but I never fully “heard" or "connected” to my body until recently.
Listening to your body is a skill, a connection, a love, and a respect that comes from within.
While I was attending the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) to become a health coach, Joshua Rosenthal, the institute's founder and director, gave a lecture about daily vitamins and following your gut. I’ll never forget the lecture. He explained that he has a routine of vitamins he takes daily. He also explained that, if his body tells him not to take specific vitamins for a day or two, he doesn’t. He explained that our bodies know best and that the body is always changing. Just because a supplement was good for you two months ago, it is not necessarily good for your body now. His message was to trust your body and to evaluate what makes sense on a day to day basis.
Applying what my body communicates
It takes patience to truly pay attention to the feelings and reactions occurring in our bodies. Mental training is key. When I am listening to my body I have to stop, tap into my brain and try to connect with all of the different functioning parts in my body. I check in to see how everything is feeling and functioning and I direct my energy to different parts of my body that I feel need my attention.
I acknowledge my mental state by asking myself how I am feeling. Am I calm? Stressed? Happy? Overwhelmed? I then see what kinds of ingredients I have in my home or garden that can help to balance my mood and improve how I feel. This is a skill that I teach my clients, how to utilize food to help achieve balance. For example, If I am feeling sad, I know that goji berries and green leafy vegetables enhance the release of mood-boosting hormones. If I am feeling low energy, I scan my body and ask follow up questions like "How are my iron levels?" or "Have I had enough vitamin C?". If either is low, I quickly think of what I can make with the baobab powder that I have in my pantry since baobab provides ample amounts of vitamin C, has iron in it, and enhances iron absorption. As a bonus, it is great for immune health too!
I take time to center myself and sit still so that I can connect to me. I then come up with a game plan that fits. On the days that I feel like I need extra support via supplements, I take them. On the days I feel great with food intake and overall health, I don’t take supplements. I ask myself if the food I have for the day is enough to achieve my health goals and to feel my best. After I complete my body assessment and assess my overall mood, I consider the ingredients I have to cook with for the day. Only after this full assessment can I decide whether or not I need to add supplements.
Honoring my body everyday and checking in to see what I need is my priority. Some days I take supplements along with food and other days I rely solely on the nutrition on my plate. There are many factors one needs to keep in mind to have a well rounded healthy life. It’s been helpful for me to have a holistic approach that requires a mindful exercise regime, personal challenges and goals, and food and supplement intake, when making my daily assessments.
Different approaches and thinking
Some people believe that the benefits of vitamins and supplements contribute to good health. Some take vitamins on a regular basis because their doctor tells them to. Others take vitamins and supplements because they know that their body simply needs something that they aren't getting from their food. For example, pregnant women often take folic acid supplements to protect against their babies being born with neural tube defects. Similarly, people with increased risk of developing osteoporosis often take vitamin D supplements as it helps to maintain bone health. Some people need vitamin supplements because they have particular medical conditions that can lead to deficiencies while others are simply looking to improve their body's efficiency or boost their mood.
We must each be our own advocate and work to provide our bodies what we feel it needs to be our best. I believe in having regular check ups with health teams but it is also important to understand what our bodies are saying. We must ask questions and understand explanations from health professionals but we also need to check in with our bodies to see if the advice we are getting matches up with what our bodies are telling us. Our bodies speak to us and we have a responsibility to treat it with the utmost respect. Nobody knows you better than you.
Being able to connect and guide yourself to obtain your best health outcomes begins with believing in yourself and honoring what you feel your body needs.
Sit in a quiet place. Be still. Give yourself a hug and tune in... to YOU.
You are where you should be.
Let the good bacteria in your gut grow while enjoying a delicious snack. Trust me, you will want to make this tonight!
Green Banana Latkes
Makes 5 cakes
Place the quinoa flour in a small bowl, add ¼ cup water and mix. The mixture should be slightly moist and plump.
In a separate bowl, toss the shredded banana, cabbage, parsley, herb sauce, turmeric, coriander, fennel, salt, arrowroot, and amaranth flour until well combined. Stir in water and lime juice. Add the quinoa mixture and mix well.
Using a ¼ cup, scoop and pack mixture, dividing into 5 latkes.
Put a cast iron pan on medium-high heat. Melt the ghee and arrange all five banana latkes in the pan. Fry until each side is brown, about 4 minutes per side.
Garnish with lemongrass dressing and sprinkle fresh sage on top
Fresh Herb Sauce
Makes about 1 ¾ cup
Finely chop all herbs and place them in a mixing bowl.
Add a pinch of salt (optional: you may add any other cooking seasoning you choose. I like Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle and Mural of Flavor).
Add 1½ cups of olive oil or enough to cover the herbs. Stir to blend the herb sauce.
Put in the refrigerator or leave on counter. Sauce is good for up to 3 weeks.
Have you ever asked yourself how you feel before choosing what to eat?
By taking a moment before each meal to check in with your body, you can make better food choices that are tailored to your body’s immediate needs. Before you eat a meal, take a moment to get in touch with yourself to see how you feel. Are you feeling sluggish, tired, excited, energetic? Are you gassy or bloated? Are you too hot or too cold?
Knowing how we feel can help us determine what to eat, because food can help bring balance to our mind, body, and soul.
For the past several years I have been studying Ayurveda and living an Ayurvedic lifestyle. Part of the philosophy of Ayurveda includes living life in balance. Food plays a big role in how we feel every day and can help us achieve a balanced life. By understanding the metabolic effects and healing properties of spices, herbs and other ingredients you can cook foods to help balance out your being. Food is delicious. Food gives us fuel. But food can also ground us when we are feeling anxious, give us energy when we are feeling lethargic, cool us down when we are feeling fiery and emotionally unstable. The key is to find out how you feel and use specific ingredients that promote the effects you need to help balance you out.
For example, when I have low energy and I am feeling sluggish, I tend to use herbs like ajwain seed, ginger root, and black pepper because they stimulate digestion and help amp up my metabolism. They wake my system up and get me going. I also tend to eat cooked foods instead of raw foods because our bodies are able to break down cooked food much easier, enabling the nutrients and vitamins to absorb quicker. The result is that we receive the energy much faster. I also tend to drink warm water with cinnamon and cloves when I am feeling sluggish since this combination aids digestion and gives a boost of energy that leaves me feeling satisfied and complete.
Understanding what to eat to achieve a desired effect is important but it is equally important to know what kinds of foods to avoid in order to keep your body functioning optimally. If I am feeling sluggish, for example, I make sure NOT to eat raw kale salad because it requires my body to work very hard to break it down. Additionally, I avoid cooking with coconut oil because coconut oil tends to be heavy on the digestive system. I also avoid using avocado and taro root because, although both foods are very healthy, they are heavy and tend to weigh me down.
Knowing and understanding how to utilize food for how you feel and understanding the healing properties in ingredients is a skill that I like to teach. I believe it can have a transformative effect on how we live our lives and how we see food. Maintaining our energy levels is something that very few of us pay attention to but it has a tremendous effect on our lives, our interpersonal relationships, and our productivity.
As an Ayurvedic chef, I work with individual people that want to cook for themselves and I teach them to see food in a new way. By reviewing ingredients that suit our goals as we chop, saute and have fun in the kitchen, we transform the way we approach food. By being mindful, honoring our bodies, and choosing ingredients that give the body what it needs to feel its best we nourish our entire being.
Be connected to your mind and body. Maintain balance with nurturing foods. Cook for how you feel, feel your best, and live your best life.
I love the holiday season and one of my favorite recipes this time of year is cranberry sauce. In my quest to remove refined sugar from my diet, however, I needed to rethink my traditional cranberry sauce recipe. This recipe uses no processed sugar and, instead, uses maple syrup (Grade B), which is full of magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc. It has tons of antioxidants, boots your immune health and acts as an anti-inflammatory in the body.
If you don’t have maple syrup in your pantry, I suggest you get some. It has a very long shelf life and, if kept in a glass bottle, can last even longer. Many people ask me what the difference is between Grade A and Grade B syrup. Grade B is produced later in the season and has a darker color, a thicker viscosity, a more robust maple flavor, and more minerals.
I like this recipe because you can still taste a hint of the bitterness of the cranberries, yet its not overwhelming because it is cooked with the warm sweet flavors of cloves. The fresh orange and lime juice medley really complement the dish and allow the flavors to shine.
Note: You cannot replace syrup with honey in this recipe. When honey is heated (above boiling point) it becomes toxic to your body.
by Divya Alter, from What to Eat for How You Feel: The New Ayurvedic Kitchen (Rizzoli, 2017)
Grind all ingredients to fine powder. Store in airtight container, in a dark and dry place.
Clean Eating Starts with Clean Food!
Consider this scenario:
You are at a party and see a fresh fruit plate; you make a beeline toward the fruit. When you reach for the bright red strawberry, do you think about whether the food was washed, how it was washed, or where it was grown?
Did you know that strawberries are one of the dirtiest fruits we ingest? They typically carry pesticides and pesticide residue. Conventional strawberries contain as much as 10 times more pesticide chemicals than organic strawberries.
While most pesticides are designed to kill “pests”, some pesticides can also impact our health. The likelihood of this impacting our health depends on the amount we are exposed to, how often we are exposed to it, the type of pesticide used, and even interactions with other chemicals that are in the products we use.
It is time we recognize these facts and begin to consider them before we eat. Knowing where our food comes from and how it will affect us is a crucial step in taking responsibility for our health. Knowing the foods that have the highest amount of pesticides is a positive first step.
Check out one of my favorite websites https://www.ewg.org/ where you will find information on the “Dirty Dozen”, an up-to-date list of produce that contains higher concentrations of pesticides. While on the website, please check out the “Clean Fifteen”, a list of produce that has fewer pesticides and lower total concentrations of pesticide residues.
Though studies have shown that washing our produce can reduce the pesticide residue, it will not eliminate them altogether. We must choose our fruits and vegetables wisely and clean our food thoroughly before we ingest it. Clean food always makes for healthier bodies!
You will never heal your body without loving yourself.
LOVE comes first.
If you read my About me page, you know that I have struggled with pain and complications from surgeries gone wrong and medication that has caused different body parts to stop functioning properly. The healing process is something that takes time, proper rest and a healthy state of mind. In order to heal, self love and acceptance comes first.
While training for a triathlon, I broke my sesamoid bone and elected to have foot surgery. After the surgery, however, my foot never healed properly. I’ll never forget the day I woke up and tried to get out of bed. As soon as I planted my foot on the floor, the pain I felt was unbearable. It felt like my foot was on fire and, when I looked down, I saw my foot... bright red, immensely swollen... with puss oozing out from where the doctor had made the incision. This is not the sort of thing you want to see first thing in the morning. When I went to the emergency room, I learned that I had a staph infection. I was treated with antibiotics via a PICC line delivering the medicine straight into my veins. I stayed in the hospital a few days and was discharged.
I kept waiting to feel better and heal but that never happened. My foot continued to become more and more swollen and the pain never stopped. After about a month, I learned that the staph infection had gotten into my bones and I had to have an emergency surgery to clean out the infection. After the surgery, my life continued to change for the worse. I was on a PICC line receiving antibiotics for a total of 5 months, I spent 2.5 hours a day for 4 months in the hospital receiving hyperbaric treatment and I had 2 nurses that would visit me at my home weekly to dress my wound and administer more medicine. At that point, I wasn’t able to be the mother and wife that I wanted to be. I wasn’t able to do much for anyone. I was attached to a PICC line and a 7-foot pole holding up bags of antibiotics that took 7 hours a day to administer. I couldn’t play with my 3-year-old daughter or my 4-year-old son. I missed out on snow days with my kids, baking with them, making play-dough with them and playing with them the way I envisioned.
After about a year when things started to look a little better and I was able to be more independent, I caught strep throat from one of my children and was back on antibiotics. This was the final straw. As soon as I took the antibiotic, something in my body stopped working. It seemed that my gut couldn’t take any more antibiotics. My stomach became distended and I reacted to everything I put in my mouth. My digestive system was not working. I was lethargic all the time, foggy, and not myself. I became depressed and still had pain in my foot! I went from doctor to doctor and no one could understand why I was so distended or why my body was storing so much fat despite being on a low-calorie diet. I was diagnosed, misdiagnosed, and diagnosed some more. I tried western medicine doctors, functional medicine doctors, doctors that studied integrative medicine, natural healers, acupuncture, Ayurvedic doctors. I tried every diet you could think of. One year went by, two years went by, three years went by…. Still my body was not functioning properly and my foot was still in pain. I was angry and confused because my body was not healing.
During this chapter in my life, I met a body worker in Arizona who touched my foot and asked me if I loved myself and if I loved my foot. I could immediately answer the question about whether I loved myself… that was easy, I do love myself. Answering if I loved my foot, however, was much harder. I realized that my negative feelings were preventing me from healing. I was upset with myself for choosing to undergo an optional surgery. I was upset with myself for trying to rush the healing process and I was upset that I was getting worse and not better. I was discouraged when I looked in the mirror and saw what was happening to my body. After my time in Arizona, I made a truce with myself. I decided love both myself and my foot. I decided to be kind to myself and I forgave myself for having elective surgery. I let go of the anger I was carrying and I started to love my whole self. That is when the true healing started. Being able to let go of negative feelings opened up space in my heart to heal. I realized that I have always had everything I have ever needed. I just had to connect to my true self and disconnect from the negative feelings I had been holding onto. I was able to accept myself for who I had become and accept what was happening to me in the present moment. I could now respect myself and I trust in my healing.
To date, I am still not 100% healed, in fact I am not sure I will ever be. My body's reactions remain a mystery. In many ways, my healing journey has helped define my life purpose. It has changed how I live my life and inspired me to reach out to others. I have learned to find a deeper love within myself, one so powerful that it makes me want to spread it throughout the world. We cannot heal without loving ourselves and accepting ourselves for who we are at any given moment. As Huey Lewis says… “it’s the power of love”.
Have you ever stopped, quieted your mind and connected with yourself to answer this question… “What do I love about myself?”
Go ahead and answer it. Hold on to it and shine for the rest of the day!
Have you ever given any thought to what’s in your food? When we eat meat we are ingesting far more than just the simple animal proteins we may be expecting. Our meat is affected in so many ways; how it is raised, what it is fed, how it was treated. As the old adage goes, we are what we eat and knowing more about our food helps us make better choices!
The next time you take a bite of a hamburger, you might want to ask yourself: Do you know where the cow came from? On what farm it was raised? Was it an industrial farm? Was it a sustainable farm? Was it an organic farm? What food was it fed? Were there any hormones or antibiotics pumped into the cow during its lifespan? Was it raised in a stressful environment? Did it roam around in a field or was it confined all day long?
All animals are affected by how they eat, how they move, and even their moods. It is now generally accepted that farm raised animals that are allowed to move freely and fed a natural diet similar to what the animal would eat in the wild are far healthier. Science shows that animals that are raised in unnatural industrial farms and feedlots with restricted movement and that are fed an abundance of toxic, fattening foods, result in incredibly stressful environments that create sick animals. Consumable product that comes from sick animals makes for sick people, regardless of whether or not they taste good or are “enhanced” with BBQ sauces, seasonings, etc.
Livestock and poultry often receive hormones and antibiotics for various reasons besides illness, including speeding up growth of the animals, and preventing disease while allowing the animals to be kept in unhealthy crowded spaces. Using antibiotics this way can result in the breeding of “superbugs” — bacteria that have evolved to resist the antibiotics being used. The bacteria can be found on and in the animal and, during slaughter, these superbugs can then enter the food chain. Ultimately, the evolved bacterium ends up in our kitchens or in our guts. If these resistant bacteria cause illness, it may be more difficult to find a working antibiotic for treatment.
On the other hand, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides: fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.
While at a restaurant, here are some questions you might consider asking your food server to help you choose the healthiest of choices!! Its your time to take ownership of what you ingest.
Where is the food sourced?
What food options have been previously frozen?
What is the freshest entrée on the menu?
Is this made in-house?
Are these foods organic?
What kind of oil and butter do you use?
How are these fruits and vegetables cleaned?
A good rule to remember: do not just put food in your mouth because it tastes good. When putting food in our mouths, always keep in mind the importance of knowing that it is what your body needs to feel good. Knowing the source of where your food comes from can help you navigate what to eat. You have control to put clean food in your body. Be empowered and keep yourself constantly educated to make the choices that are best for you and your body!
Information sourced from:
As a way to visualize how food enters our system, we painted how we imagined the digestive process to be and how the food affects the body. This was a fun exercise to open dialogue about food and our relationship with it in context to our digestive system. You can try it too!
Ryann Morris is passionate about food and nutrition. She strives to inspire others to be more mindful of food and the effects it has on their bodies. She is a graduate of both the Ayurvedic Nutrition And Culinary Training (ANACT) program at Bhagavat Life and the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) where she was certified as a holistic health coach.