heart health

Flax Oil Pesto (and 5 reasons to consume flax DAILY)

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I had the opportunity recently to chat with a new friend who is currently managing a tumor by diet alone. As I chowed down on a delicious whole foods meal prepped by this friend and his wife, I was on the edge of my seat listening to his story. Several years back he found out about a large tumor dangerously close to his thoracic spine. Long story short- he decided not to undergo any of the radiation, drug therapies, or surgeries recommended to him. Instead he dedicated himself to a clean diet and has watched his tumor decrease drastically over the years. He even let me see the photos of his MRI's. Pretty incredible. Though it was late in the evening, I was not going to leave his house without finding out what his "cancer-fighting" diet looked like. The details are a story for another day, but I bring this up because one of his daily staples is flaxseed oil. I wasn't entirely surprised. Flax is like nutritional gold, and it confirmed what I already knew about its amazing health benefits. Let's take a look:

  • Heart Health: The high content of omega 3's in flax help clear the circulatory system of cholesterol and fat deposits, minimizing risk of stroke and heart attack. Regular intake of flaxseed has been shown to lower levels of LDL-HDL cholesterol.
  • Mental/Emotional: These omega 3's are one of the brain's essential building blocks and are necessary for maintaining brain and nervous system function.
  • Digestive Health: Flaxseeds contain a unique "gel-forming" type of fiber that helps regulate the movement of food through the intestines, as well as optimizing nutrient absorption. 
  • Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory: The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of flax are their contribution to a healthy cardiovascular system. Oxidation and inflammation are often contributors to a wide variety of other health problems including immune dysfunction, GI issues, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance/ weight gain, asthma, and cancer.
  • Cancer: It is these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that make flax a great preventative tool for cancer. Inflammation and oxidative damage are often contributors to cancer. Studies are showing that because of flax's hormone balancing properties, it is especially significant in risk reduction for breast, prostate, and other hormone-related cancers. The lignans in flaxseeds that have these hormone balancing properties also support phase II detox pathways, increasing the removal of toxins that may otherwise act as carcinogens. 

Adding just 1-2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed or oil to your daily diet is a great way to boost your overall health. Buy flaxseeds whole and grind them in a coffee or spice grinder for optimal potency. Keep ground flaxseeds and flax oil in refrigerator to prevent rancidity.  Add into smoothies, salads, baked goods (bake at lower temperature), or use the ground seeds as a binding agent. My latest fave? Flax Oil Pesto!

Flax Oil Pesto

Prep Time5 minutes

YieldAbout 1 cup pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup flax oil 
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed down
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, packed down
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or cashews
  • 1/4 cup black olives
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Be careful not to let your machine heat up too much, as the flax oil is sensitive and we don't want to overheat it.

Notes:

If the flavor of the flax oil is too bitter or strong for your liking, sub 1/4 cup flax oil for 1/4 cup olive oil to tame it down.

I am especially diggin my Flax Oil Pesto with spaghetti squash and feta....

References

Bauman, Edward. 2014. Therapeutic Nutrition. Vol. 2. Penngrove, Ca: Bauman College, Print.

"Flaxseeds." Flaxseeds. George Maljan Foundation, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=81>.

Murray, Michael T., Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria, 2005. Print.

Magnesium: the relaxer

Why Magnesium?

Almost all of our body’s processes require magnesium in some way.  It helps regulate cell membrane function, works with ATP to produce energy, and activates the following:

·      Protein and carb metabolism

·      Enzymes for energy production

·      Enzymes for glucose to glycogen conversion

Magnesium is vital to heart function, especially energy production and muscle contraction. It also aids in kidney health by preventing stones. Mg aids in muscle function and prevents cramping, and can ease symptoms of PMS. Mg is a relaxer as well; aids with sleep!

Signs You May Be Deficient:

  • Insomnia 
  • Muscle cramps  
  • Fatigue      
  • Migraine
  • Irritability  
  • Constipation     
  • Heart arrhythmias

Where do I find Mg??

  • Buckwheat
  • Leafy greens: spinach, collard greens, parsley, dandelion greens
  • Sea veggies (esp kelp)
  • Avocado
  • Beans and legumes
  • Pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts
  • Wheat germ and wheat bran
  • Dried figs, apricots, and dates

Notes on supplementing Mg:

Ideally we want to get all our minerals from diet, but supplementing Mg may be beneficial to those with kidney disease*, PMS, heart problem, or muscle cramps. About 200 mg is a good amount per day, best taken in chelated forms with B6. Look for Mg in citrate, taurate, glycinate, succinate, or malate form. Soaking in a bath with Epson salts is also a great way for the body to absorb this mineral

 *Best form of Mg for those with kidney disease is MgCl  

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Potassium Ice Cream

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Wait...what? Yep, you read it right. 

Backup real quick- why potassium? Maintaining a proper sodium to potassium ratio is key for cell health as well as maintaining fluid and PH balance within the body. A healthy ratio of potassium to sodium intake is about 5:1, but most Americans are consuming an excess of sodium and not near enough potassium, creating a ratio something like 1:20!! Getting some extra potassium in the diet will help improve heart health, reduce fatigue, relieve muscle aches/soreness, reduce water retention/bloating, and is especially beneficial for those who exercise and sweat often

Bananas seem to be the obvious source of K, but did you know that 1 avocado has almost 4 x the amount of a banana? Tomatoes, peaches, chicken, lima beans, and apricots are also great sources.

So, given what you now know about potassium you can either start poppin' the K supplements, or indulge in some creamy, chocolate, potassium ice cream. The decision should be an easy one. 

Potassium Ice Cream

Makes 2 Servings

Freeze time: 1 hour

Prep time: 5 minutes

You'll Need:

  • 2 medium ripe bananas 
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 4 tsp cocoa or cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Honey or other sweetener to taste (optional, I think the sweetness of the banana is enough)

Remove both the bananas and avo from their peels and cut into pieces. Put both in freezer until frozen. Once you've got frozen bananas and avos, it's so easy from there. Put them in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients and blend until you have a nice smooth consistency.

This recipe is absolutely scrumptious, but I'm already fantasizing about other possible variations (coconut, pumpkin, peanut butter chocolate- please throw out your ideas in the comments!

Enjoy, knowing that you're doing a GOOD thing for your body with this one!