Adaptogens

photo 2

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch
By definition, an adaptogen is “a nontoxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological function.”

So basically, it helps your body respond to stressors and helps normalize physiological functions.

They are called adaptogens because they “adapt” their function according to what your body needs at the time you take it – they are similar to a thermostat, in that when the temperature is too high, the thermostat will set off the function that allows the system to cool the house. When it is too low, the thermostat will set in motion the action to raise the temperature.

I had heard about essential oils having adaptogenic properties, and have used lavender essential oil in such a way. There have been mornings that I have been a little groggy and tired, and I will put some lavender on and it awakens and invigorates me. Then there have been times that I have been a little scattered or high strung and I’ve wanted to center myself and calm down a bit, and I will put lavender on, and it does the trick.

Well, as a follow up to the blog post earlier on stress and adrenals, I’ve been looking into adaptogens a bit more. I went to my bookshelves and I found this book: “Adaptogens, Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief,” by David Winston and Steven Maimes. It gives a great overview of what adaptogens are as well as gets into the individual adaptogens and what they have been used for in Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine, as well as modern day applications. It also talks about combining adaptogens for better results, and using adaptogens in food, and even using adaptogens in animals.

I also like how the book has a section on various ailments and which adaptogens are used for each ailment. For example, the following adaptogens have been noted to help with sleep problems: American ginseng, ashwagandha, eleuthero, jiaogulan, rhaponticum, rhodiola, and schisandra.

Of particular interest to me was the herb and adaptogen, ashwagandha. It enhances endocrine function and helps to re-regulate thyroid and adrenal glands. It is also used for anxiety, fatigue, cloudy thinking, stress-induced insomnia, and nervous exhaustion, along with helping with some auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (and even osteoarthritis in animals). It has also shown to relieve some perimenopausal symptoms like muscle pain and cloudy thinking.

Adaptogens have been used for thousands of years in other cultures. Fortunately, more information is seeping into Western culture about them. We can learn a lot from the practices in other cultures, and even if modern medicine doesn’t fully catch on, it’s worth doing your own research and seeing for yourself if adaptogens are something that may help you and your health.

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Fall Recipes – For the Bounty of the Season!

Holland Farmer's Market

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

Since I didn’t post a recipe like I normally do on Mondays, I thought I would leave you this week with some tasty and healthy recipes to play around with over the weekend. If you make it to your local farmers market Saturday morning, make sure you pick up the fresh fall ingredients for a couple of these recipes, and enjoy the bounty this season brings!

The first one is the Perfect Kale Salad. I first saw it on Kris Carr’s website. With ingredients like kale, avocado, walnuts and pomegranate seeds, how can you go wrong?

http://kriscarr.com/recipe/perfect-kale-salad/

Or click here for a portion of Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett’s new book, “Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet. “The GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome and Gut and Physiology Syndrome) Diet focuses on healing the gut so you can heal your overall health. I just bought this book and the recipes look pretty healthy and not too complicated. I love that they are all designed to heal the gut – something I’m pretty sure all of us could use!

Heal your gut

I also just bought Erin Gleeson’s cookbook, “The Forest Feast” this past week (I know, it’s a problem I have!). It’s filled with vegetarian recipes and what I especially love about it is that it is also a work of art. The layout of the recipes is a little different than most – it’s very visual and very simple. Here’s one to take advantage of the butternut squash that’s in season as well as those last of the season tomatoes (I thought I was done with my tomatoes in the garden, and with this warm weather we’ve been having, they’ve gotten a second wind) – it’s a recipe for Butternut Caprese.

For another fall vegetarian option, try a recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen’s website (yes, I have their cookbook too!) – Pumpkin Black Bean Patties.

My list wouldn’t be complete without a recipe from Food52 – Butternut Squash and Cider Soup. I’ve tried a number of butternut squash soups, but never one that has cider – what a perfect combination!

Let me know if you try any of these and what you think!

Julie Bauer & George Bryant’s Cookbook: “The Paleo Kitchen”

Paleo pancakes

By Nancy Smorch, The Foodie Bitch

I posted a picture of these pancakes the other day, and since I bought Julie Bauer and George Bryant’s cookbook, “The Paleo Kitchen,” a couple of weeks ago, I’ve made these pancakes 4 times!

Although I can’t give out their recipe here, I strongly encourage you to buy their cookbook, and if you know of anyone who is looking to cook a little healthier, in a Paleo way, again, I definitely recommend this as a gift.

I like to mark good recipes in my books with a sticky note – let’s just say my copy of “The Paleo Kitchen” is covered with them!

photo 8I’ve tried a lot of Paleo pancake recipes and this is the best one.  Sometimes Paleo pancake recipes can be too grainy because they call for almond flour – which I like – but often it gives the pancakes an unpleasant texture, especially for those in my family who don’t need to eat Paleo and have been pancake fans for years (Frankie!).

This recipe calls for tapioca flour and coconut flour, so it isn’t gritty.

Also, sometimes when you don’t use sugar (which they don’t in Paleo recipes), the honey doesn’t always sweeten the recipe enough, or will sweeten it in a way that I’m not used to.  I mean, I LOVE honey, but sometimes it just doesn’t do the job as a sweetener.  But in this recipe it works.

Although, I have to admit, I added a little Grade B maple syrup from Pleasant Hill organic blueberry farm, and that worked as well.

The recipe also calls for coconut oil to cook the pancakes in the griddle, and I went ahead and used organic pasture butter.  I also love butter (I’m not totally Paleo, but I do love the foundation and basics of the Paleo philosophy), so I used that for “greasing” the pan, and also put it on top of my pancakes with the maple syrup when they are done.

Anyway, check out The Paleo Kitchen, and enjoy the beautiful photography, and the Foodie Bitch-approved Paleo recipes.

Definitely make sure the Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes are at the top of your list to try first!

Oatmeal With Mango Mash

Hearty oatmealBy Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

Given that I am off eggs for a while (sigh), I had to search for other breakfast options. Salads – even though the lettuce was from our garden – just didn’t keep me satisfied for very long. So I started searching for something that was nutrient dense and a little more hearty.

My search through my cookbooks led me to Thrive Energy Cookbook, by Brendan Brazier.

Thrive Energy Cookbook

It has 150 plant-based, nutrient-dense recipes. Brendan is a nutritional consultant to many NHL, NFL, UFC, and Olympic athletes, and is actually the creator of Vega whole foods nutritional products (I did not know all of this until just now!).

Anyway, the book is full of interesting looking recipes, that actually look really good. The one I decided on for breakfast was the “Hot Oatmeal with Mango Mousse & Raspberries.”

I actually didn’t have a few of the ingredients, so I changed the recipe quite a bit, but I’m so glad I found it, because it served as a great inspiration for a new twist on oatmeal!

Oatmeal with mango mousse

So here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

1 cup organic gluten-free oats
1 cup milk of choice (I used rice milk)
1 mango
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. pasture butter
Blueberries
Sea salt to taste

Instructions:

Prepare the oatmeal as you usually would, using the milk instead of water. I personally add a pinch of sea salt while it’s cooking.

As it’s cooking, peel, cube, and mash the mango in a small bowl.

Add the maple syrup and mix well.

When oatmeal is done, pour it into a bowl and stir in the mashed mango.

Top off with 1 Tbsp. pasture butter, if desired, along with some blueberries – it is blueberry season, after all.

If you like, you can add nuts or seeds for a little something extra. The first time I made this, I added almonds and hemp seeds.

Note: this is a really good and easy breakfast – so much so that I have made it 4 times in the last 5 days… there was also a sale on mangoes at Meijer, 5 for $5, so it was perfect timing!