Apparently gargling with salt water really does help fight colds

So this obviously not a recipe-related post, but if your winter has gone anything like mine, chances are you might find it useful!

I have been sick way too often this winter, and I’ve been looking for every possible way to fight back against this trend.

I’d always heard the advice about gargling with salt water to kill germs, but does it really work?

Well, yes, according to this Gawker article which cites the Mayo Clinic:

“A randomized study of 400 people during cold and flu season… found that salt water gargling three times a day, with or without a cold actually being felt, reduced respiratory infections up to 40 percent.”

Wow.  40%?!?  That boggles the mind.

Basically, gargling draws excess fluid out of inflamed tissues, and helps to loosen thick mucus, which can have germs trapped within it.  And once it’s looser, the easier it is for the body to expel it.  (Sorry, I know that’s gross!).

I feel like I should resolve to now gargle salt water 3x a day for the rest of the winter.  I’m not sure I’ll actually live up to this, but at the rate things have been going, it couldn’t hurt.

 

Advertisements

Coffee: a great tool for dealing with chronic pain

photo12280915

Coffee is probably my favorite substance on earth.  It makes me feel amazing, helps me wake up on a morning when I haven’t had enough sleep, and even takes away some of my pain.

For a long time I felt a little bit guilty about drinking it because there is so much written about the evils of coffee within the world of alternative health.  People blame it for triggering anxiety, for worsening pain, and for causing digestive problems and insomnia.  The way some writers phrase it, abstaining from coffee is almost like a measure of one’s moral fiber.  If you really want to get better, you have to stop drinking coffee.

I once did a trial period of weaning myself off of coffee/caffeine and then went a few weeks without drinking it to see if I had any less trouble sleeping at night.  I didn’t, and I missed the productivity boost it gave me during the day.  When I drink coffee, it’s not as if my pain suddenly disappears.  But the caffeine seems to give me a rush of optimism and energy that temporarily relegates the pain to the back of my mind and makes it easier to get things done in spite of it.

Photo12280914_1

Like so many claims floating around the alternative medicine world, I have come to consider the anti-coffee chorus to be as much of a fad as anything else.  True, there are some people who don’t react well to caffeine, but it’s not necessary for so many alternative health practitioners/writers/self-promoters to be putting articles on the Internet claiming that everyone needs to stop drinking coffee.

The fact of the matter is that scientific studies have shown that drinking coffee has several health benefits.  I’m going to outline what I’ve learned about some of those benefits here.

Coffee as a pain-reducer

When I read that scientific studies were finding coffee reduced people’s levels of pain, I wasn’t surprised.  I love working out within a few hours of my morning coffee.  Here is some of the evidence thus far:

  • A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that runners who first ingested caffeine were able to complete a 1500-meter run more quickly than runners who’d ingested the placebo.  The caffeinated runners also had higher readings for V02 max, an indicator of the body’s ability to transport oxygen in the bloodstream.
  • Another study at the University of Illinois compared the pain-relieving effects of caffeine among male cyclists.  Not only did they find that caffeine reduced the cyclists’ perception of pain, but they also found it appeared to reduce pain equally among those who were regular coffee drinkers and those who were not.  This shows that people who drink coffee regularly do not need to worry about building a tolerance and needing to drink more coffee to get the same pain-relieving effects.
  • A study conducted in Norway found that coffee could reduce the back and neck pain among office workers who worked at computers all day.

This is not to say that coffee is some kind of magical painkiller, and there are definitely risks to having too much.  Once in a very long while I get heart palpitations if I accidentally have too much caffeine, and the idea of combining exercise and heart palpitations doesn’t sound great to me.  But if you always make your coffee the same way or buy it at the same place, drink it slowly, and stick to having one cup over the course of a few hours, you should be fine.  Everything in moderation– exercise in moderation, preceded by coffee in moderation.

Coffee has a ton of antioxidants

Antioxidants are amazing substances found in food that help protect your body’s cells from cancer-causing agents called free radicals.  Multiple studies have shown that coffee is high in antioxidants.

  • A 2005 study at the University of Scranton in Pennslyvania showed that coffee has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants out of all of the foods in the “standard” American diet.  Granted, this is probably in part a measure of how terrible the standard American diet actually is, but I’ll take it.
  • Although most studies focus on other antioxidants, there is some evidence to suggest that caffeine itself can act as an antioxidant, too.

If you’re like me, you probably could be better about including fruits and vegetables in your diet.  As the author of the Scranton study points out, fruits and vegetables are still better than coffee from an “overall nutritional point of view” because of their vitamins, minerals and fiber.  But still, it’s nice to know that on the days when eating well doesn’t end up happening, coffee is there to pick up some of the slack.

Coffee may reduce your risk of developing many different health problems

At this point, most of these claims are still in the research stages, but it all sounds promising.  I’m looking forward to reading more on the following topics as more studies are done:

  • It may also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, although the major study that was done showed you needed to have three cups of coffee to get the most benefit.  I’m personally not sure I can handle that much, but I’m sure a some coffee is better than nothing.

Again, most of these studies are in the preliminary stages, but when you look at all of them in total, I think it’s pretty clear that something awesome is going on here.  Assuming you react well to caffeine, it can be a great tool to help you get to the gym on a day when you’re not feeling great but know you should go.  I’m not an advocate of forcing yourself to work out, but after having a cup of coffee you might find you actually want to.

If you still don’t like coffee, I understand.  I’m not going to tell you you have to drink it.  But I will tell you that you’re missing out. 🙂

Photo12280914

Strawberry & Feta Salad

So simple, and yet so delicious!

I’ve actually been meaning to post this recipe for a while.  It was the perfect summer salad to make on a swelteringly hot day in back in Massachusetts in August.

Of course I feel a little silly saying this now, as I write from foggy, 60 degree San Francisco  in September, where people are actually starting to wear lightweight down jackets.

Oh well.  It’s still a great salad! And if you’re sad about summer coming to an end, maybe this post will help you feel like it isn’t over!

image

I was originally inspired by the Watermelon and Feta Salad I had at b.good a few weeks ago.   I couldn’t stop thinking about “fruit and feta salads in general,” and so I decided to see what happened with strawberries.

Basically, I threw together:

  • chopped romaine
  • sliced strawberries
  • sliced red onion
  • crumbled feta cheese (got just as much as I needed from the antipasto section of the supermarket, rather than buying a whole 8 oz package).

And there you have it!  I think it came out really good.

image

I served it with olive oil and vinegar, however I think it would be really good with creamier dressings as well.

Hope you enjoy!

Great tips on meal-planning from The Kitchn

photo(22)
Enter a caption

One of my ultimate food-goals is to become amazing at meal planning.

However, I still have a ways to go, so here are some really helpful tips from The Kitchn!  It’s a great site for all things cooking-related– I definitely recommend checking it out.

Some key points from this article that I found really useful:

“Plan just a few meals for the week.

Instead of cramming the week full of elaborate meals, focus on three to four dinners. Leave a night on the schedule for eating leftovers and plan at least one meal that you can cook without a recipe.

Shop for staples.

In addition to shopping for specific meals, make sure you have a few staples that you can turn into dinner without a recipe, like eggs for a quick omelet or a can of black beans and tortillas for crispy tacos.

Double one dinner.

Take one recipe and make it two times; eat one for dinner this week and freeze the other for your future self.”

There are more tips there if you want to check the article out!

****

By the way– I’m trying to post more often on my multiple blogs.  One of the reasons I post so infrequently is that I’m a perfectionist, so I don’t post until I’ve been working on something for way too long!

On this blog and my other sites (Sunlight in Winter and My Sacroiliac Joint Saga) I’m going to start experimenting with different formats of posts, including shorter posts to highlight an article or a concept that resonated with me.

I’m curious to see what kind of responses I get.  Hope you enjoy!

Save

Save

Great advice on starting a food blog (and IBS!).

I recently discovered this really helpful post from Colleen Francioli of FODMap Life (fodmaplife.com).

I really admire her site, because she talks about all the IBS-related topics I have yet to have the courage to write about in detail on my own blog!

She makes the point that although there are tens of thousands of food blogs in existence, we are all arriving at our favorite foods and recipes (not to mention what works for our bodies) from a different perspective.  So instead of thinking about how your own food blog is going to “compete” with all the successful blogs that are already out there, why not think about what makes your approach different?  The opportunity is there to create a niche.

Colleen writes,

“…your story is probably much different from the other bloggers.  Your thoughts, tastes, favorite dishes and style of photography is different.  You’ve traveled different places.  You were raised and influenced differently. All of your experiences will shape what you can ultimately share on your food blog.  That is what makes you unique.”

I really found this post, as well as her site in general, to be very encouraging.

I hope at some point to finally get up the nerve to write about my own experience with um… dietary sensitivities…  but until then, I definitely recommend checking out Colleen’s site!

 

Blueberry, Yogurt & Coconut Milk Smoothie

IMG_3346

I’m not gonna lie, “learn to make smoothies” has been on my to-do list for a while.  And when my roommate got a Nutri-Bullet for Christmas, it pretty much eliminated the last of my excuses.

So I decided 2016 would be the year I finally get into making smoothies.

As someone with a sensitive digestive system, I often find it hard to consume enough calories during the first part of the day.  It’s pretty common for me to experience blood sugar “crashes” where all of a sudden I feel exhausted and dizzy, until I eat something.

I’ve always thought smoothies would be a good way to get some calories in, without asking my stomach to do too much work.

IMG_3347

This smoothie does just the trick.  I’ve adapted it from a recipe I found at Real Simple, however I’ve cut out a lot of the sugar for mine.

Recipe:

  • 1/3 cup culinary coconut milk (make sure you buy the kind for cooking– it’s very thick and usually comes in a can.  Do not buy the watered-down kind that is meant as a substitute for dairy milk, which usually comes in a box like rice milk).
  • 2/3 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2-3 tbsp water (you must add water whenever you blend frozen ingredients)

So easy!  Just blend ’em all together!

IMG_3348

A few notes:

Coconut milk seems to be very trendy right now, and is also the subject of some controversy.  Some people claim it has unique health benefits, and some say the fact that it is so high in saturated fat negates those benefits.

I personally believe in the recent research which has come out saying saturated fat may not actually be harmful at all– it is only trans fats which we should avoid.   I’m personally not worried about the fat in this smoothie, but by all means– read up and make your own decision.

If you’re lactose-intolerant like me:   I used this lactose-free yogurt from Green Valley Organics.  So far I’ve only seen it available at Whole Foods.

IMG_3353

I personally think it’s worth the extra effort to find “lactose free” dairy products– that is, products that come with the lactase enzyme already mixed into them.  I find this to be a more effective method of eliminating lactose, compared to Lactaid pills.

Anyway… that’s my recipe!  I hope you enjoy it!

 

 

Insanely Good Veggies with Cumin, Butter and Honey

photo(43)

This is a side dish that Romina (my roommate) made to go along with her prosciutto-wrapped pesto chicken.

She took raw carrots and Brussels sprouts, and coated them with salt, cumin, and honey.  (You can improvise with the amounts and just do them to taste.  This recipe would also probably be good with just about any vegetable you could think of).

She then put them in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator overnight, so they would soak up the flavors.

photo(38)

The next day, she put them in a greased baking tray along with the proscuitto-wrapped chicken.

Once everything was arranged, she added a few slivers of butter here and there, to melt in the oven and spread over everything.

The idea, of course, was for all of the flavors to mingle ever so slightly– the cumin/honey from the veggies, and the pesto from the chicken.

She baked the whole thing for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, being sure to check the how well cooked everything was for the last 8 minutes or so.

It came out so delicious.  Cumin and honey– what an interesting combination.

photo(42)

I do want to mention one thing, however.  One of my goals for this blog is that everything on here will be safe for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other digestive issues.

Quite frankly, I would not really call Brussels sprouts a great food for people with IBS.  They are high in a kind of sugar called raffinose — the same sugar found in beans– which the body cannot digest on its own.

I will write more on this later, but for now check out section 2 of this article for more information.

One thing you can do, however, is to take a digestive enzyme before your first bite (such as Beano).  This enzyme, which your body cannot produce on its own, helps to break down the raffinose so your digestive system has less trouble with it.

Apart from that, I think you could probably make this recipe with just about any vegetable, or even with carrots only.

Hope that’s helpful!  Bon appetit!