Category: Mind & Body

Herb infused chocolate

Why you Need to try Herb-Infused Chocolate

Are you a chocolate lover looking to take your passion to the next level? Herb-infused chocolate will take you there. Prepare your palate for flavourful bliss with the combination of herbs and chocolate. For the first-timers out there that haven’t tried this type of chocolate before, here’s why you should:

  • It’s delicious: herbs in chocolate have a mild and balanced flavor and enhance the chocolate.
  • It has a unique flavor: Compared to milk, white and dark chocolate varieties, herb-infused chocolate will leave a unique lingering flavor on your palate. Mint may be one of the most pronounced flavours you will find, but there are many different types available.
  • It contains more nutrients: adding herbs, means adding nutrients. Learn more. Don’t forget that the right kind of chocolate is good for you. Read our blog post to learn more: 7 Reasons Why You Should Eat More Chocolate.

Herbivore, a farm run by Gabrielle Gaul on the outskirts of Palm Springs, supplies us with fresh-cut organic aloe leaves that are harvested on a weekly basis, as well as herb-infused chocolate.

Located on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park, the farm grows an array of herbs, including rosemary, mint and basil, as well as aloe. Once harvested, the herbs are slow-dried for 5-7 days (depending on their moisture content) to preserve and enhance their flavors. In this day and age, slow drying herbs is a lost art. Most big companies abandoned this process a long time ago and replaced it with rapid heat drying, to cut costs. This has negative side-effects, as it results in dried herbs that are almost devoid of taste and nutrients – not the case with Gabrielle’s herbs. Once they are fully dried, they are blended into the chocolate mix.

One of the things that sets Gabrielle’s organic herb farm apart from most others, is her clean, chemical-free, loving growing methods in this pristine high desert area where GMO is not even a thought.

Herbivore-Gabby

We asked Gabrielle a few questions:

What’s your favorite chocolate flavor, or would it be more accurate to say one of your favorites?

My favorite is Salted Pecan & Sage. I’ve always had a thing for the sweet / salty combo.

What made you think of making herb-infused chocolate?  How did you come up with the idea?

The idea struck me when I had a chocolate craving at the farmer’s market. I thought, “I wish someone sold chocolate here… Hey! I could do that!” When I pitched the idea to my market managers, we agreed that it would be have to be a healthy artisan chocolate, utilising the herbs from my farm.

What do you love about the farming and chocolate making, and your business in general?

There are so many things I love about my business. It’s difficult to name just one. To plant a seed, care for it, harvest it and then share it is very satisfying. To share a creation of your own is very satisfying. Working with nature on a small scale, rather than mass producing is very satisfying. To educate folks on the difference between real food and processed gunk is satisfying. Not promoting GMOs, waste, animal cruelty or harm to the environment is very satisfying. Working WITH nature, rather than trying to improve upon it, is the most satisfying.

Zebra Organics was the first ever to give Gabrielle and Herbivore a platform to sell her products, outside of the local farmers market, where we met her many years ago. We are proud to support our friend and passionate artisan farmer/chocolatier Gab and her efforts to produce a quality of chocolate that is rarely seen these days. Her chocolates are a real treat, rich with flavor and texture that surpasses gourmet expectations.

We are happy to help support Gabrielle and Herbivore by bringing her chocolates to your door. Order Herbivore Organic Chocolates from zebraorganics.com

Herb infused chocolate

sauerkraut-cooking

Top Ways to Enjoy Sauerkraut

We recommend eating raw or slightly cooked sauerkraut to maximise health benefits. Exposure to high heat while cooking will kill the probiotic microorganisms in sauerkraut and will reduce their cancer preventative properties.

Sauerkraut goes well with olives, avocados, and fatty fruits. For a simple salad, toss microgreens with olive oil and sauerkraut, and top with sprouted almonds, pumpkin seeds, or pistachios. You can also enjoy sauerkraut straight out of the jar for an instant snack that’s packed with flavour and is rich in probiotic bacteria, beneficial enzymes, and fiber.

Kale, beets and sauerkraut come together to create this Simple Brown Rice and Veggie Bowl. This is a delicious, healthy dinner option.

When shopping for sauerkraut, you may come across different flavours that are a spin off traditional sauerkraut. From red cabbage, to cucumber-dill and apple-fennel, your palate will enjoy the fresh, crunchy texture balanced with a combination of flavours. We are pleased to offer a range of Sauerkraut options at our online store.

Here’s why you should include sauerkraut in your diet:

Reduces breast cancer risk

Here’s some good news for females: Eating three or more serving per week of raw or short cooked cabbage and sauerkraut significantly helps to reduce breast cancer risk. Find more details from US and Polish researchers here. The anti-cancer component in sauerkraut is attributed to the high level of glucosinolates, which limit cell mutation during the initial phase of carcinogenesis.

Promotes digestion

A few teaspoons of cabbage juice or fermented juice from sauerkraut before a meal will assist in digestion by stimulating acid production in the body.

While the priobiotic bacteria helps promote digestion, sauerkraut is also great source of vitamin C and some B vitamins. It can even assist in the prevention of scurvy, a disease that results from a vitamin C deficiency.

Sauerkraut translates to “sour cabbage” in German. Over 2,000 years ago Chinese laborers that constructed the Great Wall of China ate shredded cabbage drizzled with rice wine. It has since evolved into a mixture that contains salt and sometimes spices along with fermented shredded cabbage. The fermentation process increases the vegetable’s bioavailability of nutrients.

Feature image by jules via Flickr

Shilajit Mountain Mineral Resin for Longevity & Stress Reduction

Shilajit, meaning “Rock of life” in Sanskrit, is a dietary supplement derived from ancient, purified organic plant material in the Himalayas. It is known for restoring energetic balance in the body. Medical research indicates Shilajit may positively impact cognitive disorders linked with aging such as Alzheimer’s disease (International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2012).

Shilajit is a blackish-brown powder secreted from high mountain rocks when they are warmed by the sun, particularly in the Himalayan mountains between India and Nepal. It has also been found in Russia, Tibet, Afghanistan and in northern Chile. The thick paste is dried and ground into a fine powder. Considered the root of Ayurvedic medicine, Shilajit has been prominent in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It has been used as a rejuvenator and antiaging compound.

Shilajit contains up to 85 minerals and trace elements. High in fulvic acid, Shilajit has been found to have health benefits that include prolonging longevity. Traditionally, it has been consumed by Nepali and Northern Indians and children have typically taken it with milk at breakfast. It has been used for centuries to help treat urinary infections, jaundice, digestive disorders, enlarged spleen, epilepsy, nervous disorders, chronic bronchitis, and anemia. It has also been used to treat kidney stones and to reduce anorexia, among other conditions (International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2012).

Shilajit is an excellent source of fulvic acids – and is perhaps the most superior natural source of fulvic acids available to us. These minerals help the body transport electrical signals and help to enhance hydration. Fulvic acids also have the ability to neutralise free radicals throughout the body and to detoxify simple toxins (Global Journal for Research Analysis).

Shilajit has received many praises over the years. Some reasons people include it in their diet:

  • Re-mineralize the body
  • Modulate Inflammation
  • Enhance Libido
  • Build Hormones
  • Restore and Repair Aging Cells
  • Oxygenate the blood
  • Scavenge Free Radicals
  • Increase Metabolism and Energy
  • Support the Endocrine System
  • Chelate Toxic Substances
  • Assist the Breakdown/Absorption of Nutrients

Purified, ready-for-use forms of Shilajit exist for human consumption. Dissolve a quarter of a teaspoon of Shilajit powder in hot water, tea, or warm milk. We recommend this dosage once a day. Monitor your energy levels and increase dosage to up to three times per day for greater energy and effect. Shilajit enhances the action of other herbs making it a great addition to super-food smoothies and tonics.

Shilajit is potentially able to prevent several diseases. Further research is required on a biological and clinical level.

Lacking Energy? Try Herbal Tonics

Herbal Tonics are a form of preventative medicine. Tonics are a class of herbs that strengthen the body by supporting its natural defences and promoting stamina. Nourishing and health building, Herbal Tonics build wellness over time and promote your most vibrant state of being.

Based on the idea of building health and not just curing illness and disease, Herbal Tonics support overall well-being and vitality, while encouraging healthy aging. According to Medicinal Herbalists, the bitter taste of Tonics stimulate enzyme production by the liver. Enzymes assist us with absorbing food and offer us more nutrients to help us fight infection.

There are many different types of herbal tonics on the market today. Tonics promoting energy, immunity, and joy are among those you may come across.

Energy Tonics often consist of a blend of the most commonly used adaptogenic herbs to protect your body from the draining effects of stress. Benefits include:

  • Boost energy
  • Support athletic performance
  • Push back fatigue
  • Promotes mental alertness
  • Help maintain emotional balance while under stress

Immunity Tonics are a blend of immune-toning herbs and medicinal mushrooms.  They help to restore your immune system to a healthy, balanced state. Daily use will help build and maintain radiant health. Benefits include:

  • Promote overall wellness
  • Prime immune function
  • Support a healthy, balanced allergic response
  • Tone & build Chi
  • Support body’s natural defences
Source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Source:
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Joy Tonics are a combination of aromatic herbs and flowers that help you through life with fluency and ease. Joy Tonics minimise tension in our nervous system, internal organs, and blood vessels. Benefits include:

  • Promote joyful spirit
  • Enliven the heart
  • Lessen occasional sleeplessness
  • Relieve occasional stress
  • Ease tension in the body
  • Calm during times of grief, transition, loss

Adding a drop of Joy Tonic into sparkling water will help to volatilize the aromatics in the blend, and dilute the taste of the alcohol.

Visit our store to view our range of Certified Organic Herbal Tonics by Urban Moonshine. Zebra Organics supports Urban Moonshine’s mission to reignite interest in and restore the use of Herbal Tonics in modern times. Take Herbal Tonics daily on a regular basis for best results. We encourage you to embrace tonics as a part of a regular regime to build radiant health. To learn more about the Energy Tonics, watch this video by Urban Moonshine:

Is Your Body too Acidic?

With the huge amount of acid-producing foods that we consume coupled with the acid-forming tasks that the body naturally carries out, it has become increasingly challenging to maintain a slightly alkaline state. The key to preventing disease is maintaining a slightly alkaline pH.

Dr. David Williams, a medical researcher, biochemist and chiropractor, who also has a reputation as one of the world’s leading authorities on natural healing, vouches for this.

Signs that your body’s pH is hovering in the extreme acidic end are:

  1. Chest pain
  2. Indigestion
  3. Nausea
  4. Feelings of hunger

How to make your body more alkaline:

– Eat alkaline foods: You can find a list of alkalizing foods –here

– Avoid acidic foods: deep fried foods, processed foods, meat, dairy products, eggs, fish and refined sugars. Beverages high in sugar are acidic, including pop, energy drinks, sweetened teas and fruit juice.

– Reduce stress in you life: Research conducted around the world has demonstrated that there is a correlation between daily stress in your life and the body’s acidity. Stress is often linked to anxiety: Read our blog post 9 Natural Remedies for Anxiety to learn how to reduce stress.

– Consume fresh vegetable juices daily. If you don’t own a juicer, consider investing in a Vitamix. Try our Healing Raw Green Soup recipe that’s loaded with veggies.

healthy-juice-orange-alkaline

The idea that food influences the pH of the body dates back to the early 1900’s. Upon testing different foods, researchers discovered the majority of foods were either alkaline-producing or acid-producing. A link was made between patients that brought their pH back to a normal range and their reduced health complaints.

pH levels are determined by measuring the balance of acidity and alkalinity present in your body. The scale below reflects the difference between the two; values below 7 are acidic and above 7 are alkaline. Our body’s optimal pH level of the blood is 7.4. It is crucial that we seek to maintain a level as close as possible to this to ensure the enzymes in our body function optimally.

Ph-Scale

To achieve optimal pH, many experts recommend a ratio of 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods.

The American physician M.D., Dr. Gabriel Cousens states in his book Conscious Eating,

“It is not the food which determines if it makes us acid or alkaline. It is how the body responds to the food. It may be possible some people have a constitutional tendency to be either acid or alkaline in their metabolism regardless of their diet.”

6 health boosting smoothie additions

Smoothies can be a nutritional powerhouse if they are created with health-boosting bonus ingredients. Aside from fresh fruits and vegetables, adding some powerful powders and seeds to your blended beverage is a simple way to include more vitamins and minerals in your diet. Here’s a list of some of our favourite options:

1. Cacao powder and cacao nibs

Zebra-Organics-Cacao-11 copyNaturally loaded with antioxidants, cacao can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, which can translate to a healthier heart. Cacao can help trigger the release of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins. Instead of a chocolate milkshake, add cacao powder or cacao nibs to your smoothie. They blend well with banana and almond butter.

Here’s a delicious recipe that includes a raw cacao blend called Anandamide: Blissful Anandamide: Tonic Recipe for Beginners

2. Maca powder

coffee-powder-263355_1280

Originating from the Peruvian Andes mountains, maca is believed to enhance your mood, reduce stress and assist in easing tension, while boosting energy. Made from the maca root, maca has a distinct caramel or malt-like flavour that will give you smoothie a hint of sweetness and a touch of bitterness. Try adding a hint of cinnamon with maca.

If you’re a fan of nut milk-based smoothies, try adding maca to your next smoothie. Here’s how to make Homemade Nut Milk.

3. Bee pollen

bee-pollen

The packed pollen ball found in pellets inside bee hives is a highly nutritious food according to a study. It contains a balance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and essential amino acids. It may help foster digestive and immune system function and support the cardiovascular system.

Commonly used by herbalists as a holistic remedy, high-quality, fresh bee pollen granules will be soft and fragrant. The tiny yellow, orange or brown granules can be added directly to your smoothie (if you haven’t tried them before, don’t be afraid to chew on some granules). Note that natural honey does not contain bee pollen.

4. Chia seeds

Source: Stacy Spensely
Source: Stacy Spensely

When exposed to liquid chia seeds form a gelatinous, sticky coating that helps them act as a bonding agent to foster digestion. Rich in fibre, chia seeds contain more healthy Omega-3 fatty acids than flax seeds and other grains, according to Harvard Medical School.

Adding a table spoon of chia seeds to your smoothie will give it a nutritious boost. Two varieties of chia are most commonly found in health food stores and supermarkets; white and gray-black seeds, which can be used interchangeably.

5. Hemp seeds

Source: Ruby Ran (this image has been modified)
Source: Ruby Ran (this image has been modified)

Containing protein and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, hemp seeds are soft and very easy to digest. Adding a tablespoon to your smoothie will give it a slightly nutty and earthy taste. The seeds are small and blend well, so it’s likely you won’t even notice them in your smoothie.

Further reading: Health Benefits of Hempseed

6. Matcha (Green tea powder)

Source: Mattie Hagedorn
Source: Mattie Hagedorn

Originating from Japan, this concentrated powdered form of green tea contains 137 times more antioxidants than brewed green tea, according to research. Although matcha contains caffeine, it also contains a substance that unlike coffee, slows the release of caffeine into the bloodstream, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Matcha has a noble aroma and will add a hint of sweetness to your smoothie, along with a deep vegetal taste. Its fresh taste awakens the senses.

Making your own smoothie is the best way to know exactly what ingredients it contains. Smoothies can be water or milk-based. They are quick and easy to prepare, taste great, and are a fantastic way to help achieve your daily recommended serving amount of fruits and vegetables.

Top 4 Reasons to Eat Slower

Today our pace of life is faster than ever. Many of us find ourselves with little time in our daily lives for anything and operate with a sense of urgency. When we do find the time to eat, we we gobble down our food. This lifestyle is concerning because it’s stressful and unhealthy.

The simple act of eating slower can bring positive change to your lifestyle immediately. Next time you eat, we suggest clearing your mind and drawing attention to your food. Focus on taking smaller bites and chewing each bite more times, to stretch out the amount of time you enjoy your meal. It will add on a few extra minutes, but the effects will be profound.

The Slow Food Movement was launched in Italy in 1986 in response to the growth of fast food companies. It was an attempt to salvage the slower-paced lifestyle that was historically more common and involved eating food in a more relaxed and social way.

Noodles-chopsticks

If find you’re always the first one to finish your meal, here are some reasons why you should consider slowing down your consumption:

1. Maximize enjoyment of food

Eating slowly allows you to experience the flavours, textures and smells of what you’re eating. You might find that you do eat slower when you’re consuming a meal you value more than your typical meal. Learn to savour every meal and enhance the pleasure of eating by chewing food slowly – this means 10-20 chews per bite.

2. Improve digestion

A smooth and complete digestion involves chewing thoroughly. As digestion begins in the mouth, you have the ability to kick off your body’s natural digestion process by eating slowly. An uncomfortable feeling in your stomach after a meal is an indication that you may be experiencing indigestion from eating too fast.

3. Reduce stress

“Mindful eating” in a calm and relaxed environment can reduce stress and increase satisfaction. Be in the moment and give your food your undivided attention, instead of rushing through a meal and thinking about what you’re going to do next.

According to the New York Times, mindful eating “Involves becoming aware of that reflexive urge to plow through your meal like Cookie Monster on a shortbread bender. Resist it. Leave the fork on the table. Chew slowly. Stop talking. Tune in to the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.”

4. Assists with weight control

Many sources suggest that eating slowly will lead to you eating less food than if you ate quickly and hence, consuming fewer calories. It takes approximately 20 minutes for the brain to tell your body that you’re full. If you’re a fast eater, you’re more likely to eat past the point where you’re full. Harvard Medical School has addressed this: Why eating slowly may help you feel full faster. In addition, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that eating slowly reduces energy intake between meals.

This is way of life that requires sure and steady support. Here are some additional tips for slower eating:

  • Place utensils down between bites
  •  Make conversation at the dinner table
  • Use different utensils such as chopsticks
  • Set aside time to eat. Make an appointment to refuel your body
  • Create a pleasant eating environment with relaxing music

7 Scents that Foster your Wellbeing

As one of the five ways in which we connect with the world around us, smell is a powerful trigger of memories, moreso than any of our other senses. We’ve all smelt something that has transported us back in time, experiencing vivid emotions as they were back then. When you get a whiff of pine trees, you’re reminded of summer camp. When you smell freshly baked muffins, you may think of baking in your mom’s kitchen. It is no coincidence smell is intimately linked with memory; there is science backing why we treasure these aromas.

The part of our brain that processes smell, the olfactory bulb, is directly linked to the emotional centre of our brain, creating a sense of nostalgia with a simple sniff. Scents, unlike taste or touch, are directly correlated with past experiences.

Memory-inducing powers aside, aromas have a significant impact on our mind and body. We’ve highlighted 7 scents that boost wellbeing through aromatherapy.

1. Lavender can help you sleep

Well-known for its calming and soothing effects upon inhaling, lavender has been used as a remedy for an array of ailments, including anxiety, depression, and fatigue. It has been added to baths historically to help purify the body and spirit. Perhaps its most powerful feature is that it’s able to help treat insomnia. In folklore, restless sleepers stuffed their pillows with lavender flowers. This would slow down nervous system activity, enhance sleep quality, promote relaxation, and improve mood in those suffering from sleep disorders – and this is backed by science. Try adding a couple of drops to your pillow before you go sleep.

Further reading: 9 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

lavender

2. Cinnamon boosts brain function

As one of the world’s most popular spices, cinnamon has some fantastic health benefits when consumed and inhaled. When consumed, it’s been found to help lower blood sugar and ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Aside from consuming cinnamon, the aroma of cinnamon fosters brain function.

One study found that chewing cinnamon flavoured gum improved cognitive processing in participants. Compared to peppermint and jasmine, cinnamon significantly produced positive effects on brain function specifically related to attention processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory and visual-motor speed. Try keeping a bottle of cinnamon oil on your desk to help boost concentration at work or home.

Zebra-Organics-Cinnamon

3. Pine can reduce stress

Known for its strong, woody, fresh, coniferous scent, pine refreshes the mind and soothes emotions. Pine as a stress management tool helps reduce anxiety. See our blog post 9 Natural Remedies for Anxiety to learn what participants in a Japanese study experienced as they walked through a pine forest.

pine-forest

4. Citrus boosts energy levels and alertness

Instead of a cup of coffee, opt for citrus as a pick-you-up. The invigorating smell of lemon and orange scents help boost energy and alertness. According to a study conducted at a University in Holland, citrus aroma was found to increase physical activity, reduce response times in young participants and diminish negative emotions.

lemon

5. Vanilla can lift your mood

Medical studies have revealed that the scent of vanilla decreases stress and anxiety. Cancer patients that underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a diagnostic procedure known to be stressful, described a huge 63 per cent less anxiety when heliotropin (a vanilla fragrance) was administered during the procedure.

Another study published in Chemical Senses Journal revealed that taking a whiff of vanilla bean amplified participants’ feelings of joy and relaxation. The results were presented on a mood map, which measures emotions ranging from happy and relaxed to depressed and apathetic.

Source: Ted Major
Source: Ted Major. This image has not been modified.

6. Peppermint may enhance concentration

Peppermint is commonly known for its cooling and relaxing effects, and because it’s an effective relaxant it is often used to treat sufferers of stress, anxiety, and restlessness. 

A study at the University of Cincinnati showed that test subjects who were exposed to the aroma of peppermint demonstrated increased performance on tasks requiring ongoing focus. Further research may be required to confirm this as “hard science”. Skeptics argue that peppermint is more likely to enhance performance in common tasks.

7. Jasmine helps with restful sleep

Considered to be one of the most exotic scents, jasmine has been described as smelling heavenly, sensuously rich, intense, sweet and warm with fruity undertones. Like lavender, drops of jasmine oil can also be applied to your pillow before going to bed if you have trouble sleeping. In fact, one study revealed that compared to the scent of lavender, inhaling jasmine resulted in greater sleep efficiency and reduced sleep movement. Another 2010 study found that not only does the scent of jasmine enhance alertness, it can also be a way to help aid the relief depression by uplifting mood.

jasmine

For quick reference here’s a list of essential oils and their suggests uses:

Calming: Lavender, vanilla, sandalwood
Waking up: Peppermint, rosemary, lemon or orange peels
Soothing: Ginger, pine needles

We encourage you to introduce these aromas into your life and to monitor how you feel to determine positive change.

9 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Anxiety has the potential to interfere with our daily lives. We are all prone to experiencing feelings of worry, nervousness or uneasiness at times. Consider these simple lifestyle changes that are natural remedies for these symptoms.

1. Drink Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea has been used for thousands of years as a herbal medicine to calm anxiety and help people sleep. Its medicinal properties come from the terpenoids and flavonoids in the dried flowers. According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, chamomile extracts reduced anxiety symptoms significantly compared to placebo.

Image_Chamomile

2. Inhale lavender

Studies have proved the calming, soothing and sedative effects of breathing in lavender oil. It has been found to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature significantly. Test subjects in studies were found to be more energised and felt fresher after inhaling lavender oil. Try rubbing 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your cupped palms and inhaling deeply. It can also be rubbed onto your temples and wrists and at night, and you can also put a few drops onto your pillow to help you sleep.

lavender

3. Consume 1-3 grams of omega-3s per day

A new study has revealed that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils may help reduce anxiety (and inflammation) in young healthy adults. Ohio State University conducted the 12-week study and found that symptoms of anxiety in the bloodstream of test subjects was 20 per cent lower during higher stress periods after consuming omega-3s.

Eating omega-3 fatty acids at least twice per week may provide the body with these healthy oils and lift your mood. Omega-3 is found in fish, including salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafoods including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils. You may also consider a fish oil supplement.

The National Institutes of Health recommends that at least two per cent of your total daily calories are consumed as omega-3 fats. Thus a person consuming 2,000 calories daily would need to eat at least two grams of omega-3 fats.

salmon-salad

4. Spend 15 minutes a day in the sun

Soaking up 15 minutes of sun each day is the best way for the body to naturally absorb vitamin D and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Take a 15 minute break to de-stress and enjoy some outdoor activity.

In a 2007 study, researchers at Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Medicine discovered the calming, psychological affects associated with taking a walk through a forest: “Forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress. Forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.” If you’re in an urban area, lower your stress hormone by taking a walk through a nearby park or tree-lined street.

Further reading: Top 3 Sources of Vitamin D

hands-hand-book-reading

5. Yoga/Meditation/Deep breathing exercises

Many studies support the improvement of anxiety through breathing exercises in yoga and meditation, by lowering heart rate. One study conducted in India involved test subjects participating in an integrated lifestyle program over ten days. Subjects had an array of conditions, from diabetes and hypertension to depression and anxiety. Subjects had significantly alleviated their anxiety within ten days as a result of practising relaxation techniques such as shavasana and meditation.

Dr Andrew Weil recommends three breathing exercises, from stimulating breath, to relaxing breath and breath counting. You can read more about them here. You don’t have to be in a yoga class to breathe deeply; try it from your couch or office.

Photo_Maui

6. Reduce caffeine consumption

A stimulant that raises your heart rate and your muscle’s ability to relax, caffeine boosts energy levels and can make you anxious and jittery. Try cutting down your caffeine intake and you may notice small improvements in your mood and more frequent moments of calm. Remember that caffeine is found in an array of foods, including chocolate, tea and soda. If your caffeine intake comes from coffee, try switching to a drink with less caffeine such as green tea, which has more health benefits.

Further reading about green tea: Health Lessons From International Cuisines – China

water-flowers-drink-pot

7. Exercise for 10 minutes daily

Exercise has been found to improve mental health by assisting the brain in coping with stress. Some studies have revealed that exercise has the power to immediately lift mood in depressed people. Though the effects are temporary, a brisk walk or other simple activity has been shown to provide several hours of relief. Exercize floods your body with endorphins to make you feel good. Evidence also exists to support that those who exercise regularly and vigorously are 25 per cent less likely to develop depression or anxiety disorders. People who are fit an active also generally have lower rates of anxiety and depression, compared to sedentary people (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).

girl-forest

9. Assess your diet for anxiety-aggravators 

 The link between stress/anxiety and nutrition is not new. For many people, making food changes is enough to eliminate anxiety. Certain foods that have been found to trigger and aggravate stress/anxiety include;

  • Tea, coffee, cocoa, energy drinks
  • Butter, cheese
  • Fried foods and foods high in saturated fat
  • Processed meat and shellfish
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol, soda and chocolate drinks
  • Almonds, macadamias and other nuts

Make yourself aware of these and note that you don’t have to avoid them completely, but consume them in moderation to relieve anxiety (Stress Management Society).

Foods for anxiety relief include fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and yogurt. Make sure these are abundant in your diet and drink plenty of water.

“Bring a spirit of exploration to how you eat, learning new recipes and food preparation techniques, trying new foods and finding enjoyment in shopping, cooking and eating. If you simply start eating real, whole, good quality foods, you’ll notice how much better you start to feel mood-wise, and you’ll probably start to sleep better and have fewer cravings.” – Trudy Scott, author, The anti-anxiety food solution

If you experience anxiety, be mindful of these ideas and pay close attention how you feel when you make these dietary and lifestyle changes. Some of these tips will provide temporary relief, while others are geared toward alleviating anxiety long term. It may take some time to learn what works for you in reducing anxiety.

arame-sea-vegetable

Guide to Sea vegetables

Sea vegetables are packed with a broad range of minerals (particularly iodine), making them a great addition to a healthy diet. As many of us are unfamiliar with these nutrient-loaded foods, we’ve compiled a guide that sheds some light on how to add some commonly consumed sea vegetables to your diet.

Widely consumed since ancient times in Asian countries including Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia, sea vegetables are also prominent in most countries located by water, including Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, the Pacific Islands and coastal South American countries. Sea vegetables have a long history and have been consumed by Japanese people for more than 10,000 years and makes up more than 10 per cent of their diet today. Honoured guests and royalty in ancient China were served sea vegetables as a special delicacy.

While land plants tend to be brittle and often have rigid stalks and leaves from growing in soil, sea vegetables are soft and flexible. A simple, flavourful addition to vegetable dishes, salads and soups, sea vegetables don’t require cooking.

The World’s Healthiest Foods recommends 1 tsp of sea vegetables per day. They are the highest known source of iodine and also contain vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B2. They are also a good source of vitamin A and copper, protein, pantothenic acid, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B1. (Read more at World’s Healthiest Foods).

Kelp

The most readily available type of edible seaweed, kelp is generally found in dried form and can be eaten right out of the bag. It can be soaked for several minutes in warm water and added to vegetable stir-fries, bean stews, soups, cooked grains or simple noodle dishes. It complements carrots, onions, kale, cabbage and other greens well. It will add a salty flavour to dishes.

Kelp is a very sustainable plant that grows exceptionally fast and can grow back fully within ten days of being harvested.

A study by the University of Berkeley’s School of Public Health found that kelp can reduce the level of hormone related to breast cancer risk.

Kelp noodle salad
Kelp noodle salad

Kombu

A member of the kelp family, kombu is a thick, dark green algae. Commonly eaten in Japan, it comes dried and is used to make dashi, the essential broth used to make soup and noodle dishes. It’s cooked until soft and used to make salads. It can be roasted until crisp, then crumbled and used as a substitute for salt. It is known to help release toxins from the body and strengthen the blood (The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health).

If you’re not well acquainted with sea vegetables, try kombu egg soup. Its flavour is fairly mild and it requires minimal ingredients. You can find a great recipe here.

Photo by Annabelle Orozco
Photo by Annabelle Orozco

Wakame

Closely related to kombu, wakame is commonly used to make seafood salad and miso soup (it will often be floating on top in thin strips). It can be purchased dry or fresh and is available in powder form. When cooked, it turns a translucent green colour. Restaurants in Japan and Korea will often toss wakame with sesame oil over a bed of lettuce. The chewy seaweed complements the delicate lettuce well. Wakame helps protect against high blood pressure. tumours and infection (The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health).

Source: Weddingraphy Studio
Source: Weddingraphy Studio

Arame

A brown kelp commonly used in Japan, China and Korea, arame is characterized by a sweet, mild taste and delicate texture. Ready to eat after a brief soak in water (for at least five minutes), it turns dark brown when cooked and is a great addition to soups and salads and complements other vegetables well. Try sautéing soaked, drained arame with garlic and onions, red pepper, sweet corn. You can follow the recipe here.

Packed with iron and calcium, arame strengthens teeth and bones and enhances circulation (The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health).

Dulse flakes

Dulse does not require cooking and can be eaten right out of the bag as a snack. They are a great, healthy substitute for corn chips or potato flakes as they have a crunchy, salty flavour. A red seaweed originating from the waters of the Atlantic Coast of Canada and the shores of Ireland and Norway, dulse flakes can be eaten raw, roasted, fried, dried or can be used to thicken soups. They are excellent for sprinkling onto salads, soups or other favourite dishes. Keep on the dinner table for seasoning foods instead of using table salt.

Source: Steph
Source: Stacy

Nori

If you’ve eaten sushi rolls before, you’ve eaten nori. Thin and crispy, nori is the mildest form of seaweed and is generally found roasted in sheets. It can be eaten plain as a healthy snack, or you can try wrapping up gobs of tuna tossed with olive oil. Rich in protein, iron and calcium, nori fosters kidney and urinary function and helps improve circulation and reduce cholesterol. Try brewing a carrot daikon tea with nori to cleanse the body and help foster digestion. You can try this recipe.

Source: Paul Downey
Source: Paul Downey

When purchasing sea vegetables, look for tightly sealed packages. Available in different forms, choose ones that best fit your culinary needs. Sea vegetables should be stored in tightly sealed containers at room temperature, to maintain freshness and prolong shelf life for at least several months.

There is ongoing debate concerning the possibility of sea vegetables being contaminated with toxic or heavy metals. Considering their excellent ability to act like a sponge and absorb all the beneficial minerals in sea water, it seems plausible that they would also absorb all the negative compounds, such as mercury, lead and arsenic. Many studies have revealed the low probability of health risks from heavy metals via sea vegetable consumption. Only one type, Hijiki, is considered to be high-risk when it comes to arsenic exposure. Based on numerous studies, we recommend avoidance of hijiki unless available it’s certified organic (read more here).

Naturopathic physician Dr. Paul Gannon reveals how healthy, easy and delicious Asian cuisine is. Watch the video below to learn how to make a wakame (seafood) salad that your family and friends will enjoy.