The Benefits of Broth

This is the post in which I lose all of my vegetarian readers. 

I used to be vegetarian too, and I have nothing against it.  In an age of fast food, it can be a decent lifestyle to live.  But when I started experiencing issues with my fertility and my health, I began researching how the foods I eat play a role in how my body functions.  It may seem obvious that what we eat has a lot to do with our overall health, but I discovered its true benefits to depths that I never even considered before.

And that’s when I turned to traditonal foods and slow cooking.  I learned about how traditional foods contain essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to keep my body healthy, promote optimum nutrition, and can even work towards healing our body of various issues that weigh us down.  In the midst of modern diet fads, I’ve learned that the most healthy, nourishing path I have found is traditional foods — the whole foods that have stood the test of time and have been used for centuries by healthy societies. 

One of the most valuable foods I have found is bone broth

Bone broth/stock is one of the most traditional and oldest foods out there.  You’ll see it in every culture for centuries down the line.  And there’s a reason for that.  Bone broth is extremely healthy.  It is high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and trace minerals.  Bone broth is also known to give great relief to those suffering from arthritis and joint pains and inflammations because of the glucosamine and chondroiton it contains.  Most people know bone broth as a healer for colds, but it’s also important for people with Celiac to help restore vitamins and nutrients that we have a hard time absorbing in addition to helping heal digestive issues from Celiac along with other issues such as acid reflux and ulcers. 

The gelatin that comes from bone broth is also important in its own right.  French researchers found that gelatin aided many health concerns such as ulcers, diabetes, infectious diseases, and it helped to improve digestion in small children.  It contains non-essential amino acids that help detoxify your body.  Gelatin is also a supplemental protein that helps support your joints and connective tissues.  (And ladies, it will also help your hair, skin, and nails grow strong and shiny!)

A cure-all in traditional households and the magic ingredient in classic gourmet cuisine, stock or broth made from bones of chicken, fish and beef builds strong bones, assuages sore throats, nurtures the sick, puts vigor in the step and sparkle in love life–so say grandmothers, midwives and healers. For chefs, stock is the magic elixir for making soul-warming soups and matchless sauces.  — Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation

Hang tight, because this week, I’ll show you some tips and recipes to make your own bone broths at home.  You’ll be surprised at how easy and inexpensive it is to make your own broths and the many ways in which you can incorporate this super food into your diet.

(all images in this post were found via Pinterest)

Gimme a Boost!

Everywhere I look, people are coughing and sneezing.  My Facebook news feed is full of people talking about themselves or their loved ones getting sick.  It’s that time of year!  I haven’t gotten sick yet (knock on wood!), but plenty around me have — including my husband.  Here are the tips and tricks I’m practicing to give my immune system that extra “boost” to ward off sickness and chase it away once it has arrived.

1.  Avoid sugar and dairy

Sugar feeds on germs in your body and can actually help prolong or increase the life of your illness.  This can even include natural sugars, which is why drinking orange juice for vitamin C is actually a big fat myth.  The high sugar content in your OJ will actually feed the germs in your body and override any positive effects you get from the vitamin C.  It’s best to get your vitamin C elsewhere! (More on that in a sec)

2. Eat whole foods rich in vitamins

I have mixed feelings about supplements.  The reality is, most vitamin pills just end up being wasted money because you pee out the most important goodness that you’re wanting your body to absorb.  Truly, the best and most reliable source of getting in your vitamins and minerals should be by comsuming them naturally through whole, real foods.  However, will you still find some supplements on my counter?  Yep.  Getting my vitamins through food is my first priority, but yes, I still take a few pills just for extra measure. But when cold and flu season hits, it’s good to step up certain foods to get extra vitamins and minerals that are known to boost the immune system and ward off sickness. Here’s a short list of foods that will give you the most benefits for vitamins that are known to ward off illness: 

Vitamin C
Red and Green Hot Chili Peppers
Bell Peppers (yellow having the most vitamin C of all the colors)
Thyme
Kale
Spinach
Broccoli

Vitamin D
Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Salmon
Eggs
Shiitake Mushrooms
Goat’s Milk

Zinc
Sesame Seeds
Roast Beef
Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
Peanuts
Garlic
Chickpeas

Vitamin A
Paprika
Sweet Potatoes
Carrots
Kale
Spinach
Butternut Squash

3.  Indulge in Nature’s Antibiotic

Garlic.  Garlic is absolutely fantastic and can provide so many health benefits.  Not only is it a great source of zinc, but it can also cleanse your body, ward of parasites, and act as a natural antibiotic.  It also helps lower blood pressure, balance blood sugar, and is a great anti-viral and anti-bacterial wonder-food. 

When garlic is crushed or minced, it produces something called allicin which has antibiotic effects to it.  Garlic for medicinal purposes is best consumed raw, because many of its components that are healing are lost with heat and cooking.  Eat raw garlic as often as you can either from swallowing pieces of it like a pill, or from mincing it and downing it with some honey, creating a raw garlic spread for toast, or by crushing it and putting it into pill capusles.  But be careful because too much garlic on an empty stomach can cause a tummy ache!

4.  Stock Up On Herbal Immune Boosters

I believe that herbs are God’s gift to us through nature for not only creating culinary variety, but a vast array of natural medicines too.  Here are some natural herbs that I use for boosting the immune system:

Echinacea and Goldenseal
Echinacea is pretty common and has been known for a long time to be an anti-inflammatory and a great anti-viral herb for fighting the influenza.  Goldenseal also treats your respiratory tract and soothe your congestion and inflammation.  The two together have been known to create a powerful team and help boost the immune system.

Mullein
Mullein has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy.  The Native Americans used it to treat the croup, and it has been used for coughs and any respiratory issues.  It is a natural expectorant, reduces mucus production, and is often used in treating issues like bronchitis.  I do want to note, however, that it is NOT recommended to be taken by women who are pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive.

Astragalus
Astragalus is a very common herb in traditional Chinese medicine that is used to boost the immune system, treat cold symptoms, and relieve upper respiratory infections.  This herb helps to increase your white blood cell count which is important when fighting off illness and infections, and it also helps increase your metabolism which promotes your body processing and ridding itself of toxins.  I should note that astragalus can interact with certain medications and shouldn’t be taken by anyone using immune suppressing medications.

Thyme
Thyme in its different forms is known as one of the best all-over body cleaning herbs and is a great immune booster.  Thyme can be used as a cooking herb, made into an essential oil, tincture, tea, or used in baths and aromatherapy.  Thyme tea is often given to people with pneumonia for relief.  It is great for fighting infections in the digestive and respiratory tracts which is why it is commonly used for illnesses like the cold, flu, coughs, and asthma. 

Other herbs and such good for relief:
Honey
Lemon
Peppermint
Licorice
Ginger
Marshmallow

5.  The Common Sense Stuff

A tired, ragged body is going to function just as word down as it feels.  Getting plenty of sleep and rest is essential for letting your body play it’s A game and keeping the immune system high.  Make sure to allow yourself plenty of sleep each night so your body can re-charge from its busy days.  Handwashing is also commonly known as the number one disease fighting prevention.  ALWAYS wash those hands!  And because frequent hand washing can dry out the skin, it’s just as important to moisturize them afterwards so you can prevent cracks, which also leave you vulnerable to germs and bacteria creeping in as well.  Finally, drinking lots and lots of pure, filtered water is also important because it keeps you hydrated and keeps your body flushed of toxins and chemicals that can build up from the environment. 

A bit of a disclaimer:

I am not a doctor and I am not a certified-anything.  This post (and my entire blog, for that matter) is meant for educational purposes but I cannot diagnose, prevent, or treat any disease as I am not formally trained or certified in medicine or herbs.  All of this information I have gathered from books, online resources, personal experience, and the wisdom of people more educated than me whom I trust.  It should be noted that you should seek medical counsel from your practitioner before using any herbal remedies, especially since some natural herbs can interact with each other and with various medications.  Always do your own research and use the treatments you personally feel most comfortable using at your own discretion and risk.

Tips to de-stress your life

(image via Pinterest)

I am forgetful.  I am unorganized.  I am a procrastinator. I get easily overwhelmed. 

And what do those four traits make me?  A very stressed out, frazzled person.  If those traits aren’t bridled and tamed, that is.  New Year’s is around the corner, and I don’t believe in resolutions.  I believe in refinements!  I know that the tools to live a peaceful, calm, less stressed life are within me or available to me.  The trick is refining my routines to do little things that can mount up to a big difference.  Here are little things I’ve gathered from other people or from refining my own experiences that I’m currently using to de-frazzle my own life.

1.  Free your brain

Yes, that’s right.  You don’t have to let your brain carry the weight of so much responsibility!  My father calls his planner his “brain.”  Every little appointment, meeting, even when a bill needs to be paid, he writes it down in his planner.  That way he can forget about, he says.  Great idea! I’ve started doing this and it helps, but it requires consistency.  First, you have to write down something as soon as it comes to your attention or is scheduled.  Then, it needs to become a daily habit to look at your brain and see what’s scheduled.  I look at mine in the morning to see what’s ahead for today, and glance at it once at night so I can anticipate what’s coming tomorrow.  That way you don’t have to rack your brain for when that presentation is scheduled — it’s written down.

2.  Be a strategic menu planner

Making menus is not only good for your budget, but it keeps you from asking the question, “So, what do you want for dinner?” over and over.  No more scouring the fridge to see what you can put together with what’s on hand.  If you make a weekly menu, you’ll know what you need at the grocery store, you’ll know what you’re eating each night, and you can plan shorter meal prep times around busier days and more elaborate meals when you know your time will allow. People eat multiple times a day — food preparation, eating, and clean up takes time, so you’d be amazed at how vital having well thought out food menus can effect your overall quality of the day.

3. Get set up the night before

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run out the door late because I can’t find my keys or the brown shoes I want to wear with my skirt were hiding under the couch.  Taking a half hour each night to prepare for the next day will help you walk out of your house with a stress-free confidence and the only thing you’ll be leaving behind is that nagging feeling of “Did I forget something?”  Plan out your clothing the night before and iron it if need be.  Pack your lunch before and have it sitting in the fridge.  Set your keys, purse, wallet, and whatever else you’ll need for the day in the same place every night so that it’s all there and waiting for you to grab without searching for each item. 

4.  Turn your responsibilities into appointments

You wouldn’t just not go to a doctor’s appointment or a work meeting, would you?  Of course not! (At least, I hope not!)  Sometimes it’s easy to let the dishes go or bypass the vacuuming because you don’t h-a-v-e to do it.  However, I’ve found that if I actually schedule my responsibilities such as bill paying, laundry, and other chores into my daily or weekly routine, they’re much more likely to get done.  This way, you can expect them and anticipate them and you’ll also have the freedom to arrange your responsibilities in a way that spreads them out so they don’t seem overwhelming as they pile up from procrastination.  Little appointments every day will go a long way in taking care of all your home life responsibilities.  Treat them as REAL appointments.  Write them in your brain err, planner, and keep your personal appointments! And when you’re done? You can forget about them. 

5. Take some time, every day, that is just for you.

If you have to make this a scheduled appointment to make it happen, then do it!  But every day, even if it’s just a half hour, should be completely dedicated to you and something that relaxes you.  Whether it be sitting in silence, reading a book, sipping some coffee or tea, or taking a walk, meditating, whatever speaks to your spirit and fills you up with contentment and peace, make sure you do it every single day, even if you have to schedule out when that is.  The key is to do something that relaxes you and frees your mind of worry, stress, or anxiety. 

6. Don’t unnecessarily weigh your body down

Most of us lead busy, demanding lives.  Whether you’re a stay at home mom, you work in a fast paced restaurant, you travel for a living, or you’re in a high stress office job, your body and spirit has enough on its plate to carry as it is.  Don’t load up your plate (literally and figuratively!) with junk that will only drag you down.  This means eating real, whole, healthy {un}refined foods that will give you the energy you need to keep going.  Caffeine, sugar, empty calories, and refined carbs are going to slow down your body, make you lethargic, and keep you from thinking as clearly and sharply as you otherwise could.  Eating healthfully is vital to reducing your stress and making your mind and body feel better, which will in turn help you get through the day with ease and a sense of being centered and balanced.  The same goes for staying well hydrated as you run around in your life.

7.  Sleep

This is a universal truth that most people think doesn’t apply to them.  If you wake up groggy and tired, you’re going to stay groggy and tired your whole day.  You won’t think clearly, you won’t have energy, and trying to get through your day under these conditions is only going to stress you out and put you in a bad mood.  Feeling rested equals feeling prepared.  Just because you’re not a toddler anymore doesn’t mean you don’t need a bedtime.  If you have to schedule yourself a bedtime to make sure it happens, then do it.  But to make your waking hours count, then you really do need to dedicate some of the 24 in a day (preferrably at least 8 of them) to a good night’s sleep.

8.  Wind down and relax

After going about your daily responsibilities, taking care of work, cleaning up the house, paying the bills, taking care of the family…. you cannot just crash and burn.  Living is like exercise.  You don’t run on the treadmill and just pull the stop button.  That would be disasterous and bad for your body!  You have to slow down, cool down, and gradually decrease.  This is the same for your day, especially if you live a high powered go-go-go kind of life.  Right before bed, calm down.  Relax.  Unwind.  If this has to double up as your bit of you-time every day from tip number five, then so be it.  But make sure that you don’t just hit the “off switch” right before landing on the pillow.  You need some time to decompress, to process the day’s events, do some deep breathing, and free your mind of all you’ve been thinking about.  This will put your body in a better place to prepare for sleep and repairing itself for a new day.

9.  Extend yourself some grace

All the above ideas are great, but no one is perfect.  Also, no one can predict exactly how the day will go.  We can plan it out, we can try to get something done, but unforeseen things will pop up.  You’ll have to detour and for one reason or another, something just might not get done.  And you know what?  That’s ok.  Life is a journey, and even in its messy state, it is beautiful.  Enjoy the journey and when things don’t go as planned, remember that you can try again tomorrow.  Most worries don’t have as terrible consequences as we think they’ll have.  Be gentle with yourself and extend grace if you don’t finish everything or accomplish all of your goals and simply start again tomorrow.  Be happy for what did accomplish and be accomodating for what didn’t.  Life will go on.

Don’t Be a Goose

You know the song.

“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat….”

Don’t be the goose. 

Part of living a naturally {un}refined life is being aware of yourself, your surroundings, and your needs.  It’s a lot more than just cooking with the right ingredients or being aware of food sensitivities.  It’s being {w}holistic about your life.  Here are just a few tips that help me personally when entering the holiday season!  Feel free to comment and leave some of your own suggestions because everyone is unique!

1.  Be a Rule Breaker

It’s cultural conditioning to think that what you eat during the holidays doesn’t count.  The joking comments about free calories and such? Yeah.  We all know that’s not true.  Holidays are a time to indulge, yes, but indulge in them holistically. What do I mean by that? Indulge in the holiday music, indulge in the decorations, the cozy sweaters, the winter weather, and most importantly, indulge in spending time with your friends and family.  Holiday festivities are about a LOT more than just food.  If you turn your attention to the whole picture of the holidays, perhaps you’ll be less focused on the edible aspects of Christmas.

2. Implement a Strategy

I’ve learned to do this on the basis that I can’t mindlessly eat whatever is available with all my food intolerances.  I’ve had to practice looking at restaurant menus ahead of time, politely asking someone what will be served when I’m a guest in their home, etc.  Setting a realistic goal about what kinds of foods will be served and what portions you’ll eat will get you in the mindset to feel prepared.  If you’ve mentally prepped yourself, you’ll be less overwhelmed by temptation when you’re surrounded with the goodies.

3.  Offer to Contribute

Be polite and take some under-cover control at the same time!  Not hosting Christmas this year? Offer to bring a side dish or a dessert to the party and then make sure you bring something that you can eat and feel good about.  You’ll be a sweet guest and know in advance you’ll have something to eat.  I do this all the time to make sure I’m not allergic to everything offered. 

4. Eat Before You Go and Pay Attention To Your Stomach

There’s nothing wrong with snacking healthfully before you go to your holiday party. Don’t eat till you’re full! Meals are a community based event and should be enjoyed as such.  But there’s nothing wrong with getting half way full per se on foods you feel confident about so that you don’t have to stress over finding enough of the naturally {un}refined foods at your party.  Also, bear in mind tip number one.  The holidays aren’t a free pass to over-indulge in food — no one says you have to, need to, or should.  It’s a cultural thing that you’re free to go all counter-culture on.  Groovy.

5.  Avoid Being the Goose by Not Being the Cow

Holidays are notorious for candy dishes and food just sitting out for people to graze on.  That’s where you can run into problems — the automatic hand dip into the red and green M&M’s?  Mmm hmmm…. been there.  Don’t do it.  Be conscious of your actions.  In all of your life, you should do everything with purpose and intent.  This includes eating.  Keep yourself occupied and busy and full of joy from socializing or focusing on activities so that you won’t mindlessly eat.  Purposefully sit away from candy dishes so that it’s out of your reach.  If you need something in your hand or on your plate for comfort or psychological reasons, choose a glass of water or a plate of healthier snacks that you enjoy.

6. Stick to Color and Avoid the White

Except the snow, that is.  But eating things like white pasta, white cookies and cake (and things that would be naturally white if it wasn’t for food coloring and chocolate!), chips, etc etc… you know what I’m talking about.  White foods are normally processed foods full of empty calories that will drain your energy, mess with your system, and throw you off balance.  Stick to colorful foods that you can easily identify as naturally {un}refined.

7.  Water

Drink water before you eat.  Drink water after you eat.  Drink water between meals.  Drink water between other drinks — especially alcohol.  Water is your friend.  It will hydrate you, nourish you, and fill you up so you’re not filling up on sugar and other stuff.  Become BFFs with water and your body will thank you.

8. Don’t Deprive Yourself

This is the fastest way to “fail.”  But what people need to realize is there’s a big gulf between depriving yourself and over-indulging.  Stand somewhere in that gulf.  Because for as bad as over indulgence is, you’ll consume your mind with pity and frustration if you see everyone around you eating your favorite holiday treats and you condemn yourself to none.  This is where tip number 2 can help you out.  If you want a cookie — have one!  Adore grandma’s pie? Eat a slice!  But don’t go overboard with the sweets.  Eat just enough to enjoy what’s there and feel like you haven’t deprived yourself of the iconic holiday treats in your culture.  Again, part of living holistically and having a healthy state of being is to be gentle with yourself and extend to yourself some grace when you’re not “perfect,” because really — who is?  Set a reasonable goal for yourself and enjoy fully up to that line.  And then, go indulge in all the other parts of the season that are out there waiting to be enjoyed.

Happy Healthy Holidays from Naturally {Un}refined!