Healthy Living

5 Herbs to Spice up your life this Winter

With the seasons changing and the temperatures decreasing, it’s important to make the appropriate changes to your diet. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we use warming herbs in the winter, and cooling herbs in the summer months in order to create a balance within the body. So today I wanted to write a quick blog on 5 different herbs that you can add to your diet in order to warm your interior, boost your immunity and promote optimal health this winter season! ❄️

I just want to start off by saying that herbal medicine that originates from the Traditional Chinese Medicinal system is a lot different than how most people think of herbal indications. Take cinnamon for example, we generally think of cinnamon as beneficial because it has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. We also associate it with its ability to reduce inflammation.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we actually refer to cinnamon as Rou Gui which basically just means cinnamon bark. It’s renowned for its ability to warm the interior, expel cold and alleviate pain due to its specific temperature and taste. Rou Gui is acrid and sweet and flavour, and hot in temperature which is perfect for when the temperature outside decreases. It also assists in the generation of Qi or energy and blood. In TCM terms, that means that it’s great for boosting immunity and energy levels within the body.

So without further ado, let’s talk about some interesting and useful herbs that are a great addition to any diet during the colder months!

1. Rou Gui (Cinnamon Bark)

I briefly mentioned Rou Gui, but I would like to talk more about this amazing herb because it has so many benefits! Rou Gui is a warming herb that is apart of the category of herbs that warm the interior and expel cold. It’s great for boosting immunity, reducing inflammation and reducing pain. Because it’s hot in temperature, it does a great job at pushing the cold out and moderating the effects of cooling foods that we eat!

As someone who is plant-based, I eat a lot of salads, fruits and drink a lot of smoothies- all foods that are “cold” or “cooling” in nature. In the winter months, eating just cold foods can cause stagnation, pain and therefore cause illness. I typically sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on my fruits and add some to my smoothies to balance it out!

2. Sheng Jiang (Fresh Ginger)

In TCM, there are two different kinds of ginger: fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang) and dried ginger (Gan Jiang). Gan refers to dried, while sheng means fresh- today we are going to talk about fresh ginger!

Sheng Jiang is big in Chinese Medicine with good reason- it’s a great herb for boosting the immunity, warming the middle and stopping vomiting. Because of its slightly warm temperature and acrid flavour, it has the ability to release the exterior and promote healthy digestion. We all know that fresh ginger does not taste the best 😅. But because of it’s unique qualities, it has very unique indications!

Drinking ginger tea when the weather gets colder is beneficial because it has the ability to boost your immunity and regulate digestion. Next time you feel yourself coming down with something, try making yourself a cup of warm ginger tea!

3. Jiang Huang (Turmeric)

Turmeric or Jiang Huang is one of the main herbs used in herbal medicine for reducing inflammation within the body. In addition, its active ingredient is curcumin, giving turmeric its yellow colour. Interestingly enough, Huang means yellow, which you can see displayed in the Traditional Chinese Herbal name above. Curcumin is a natural anti-inflammatory that can help improve many conditions such as heart disease, cancer, digestive disorders and even degenerative diseases. 

In TCM, Jiang Huang is apart of the category of herbs that regulate the blood. Its temperature is warm, and its taste is considered acrid and bitter. Bitter herbs generally have the function of moving blood, therefore this herb is also great for reducing swelling and pain! It’s also used in many complex herbal formulas to address menstrual conditions such as amenorrhea or dysmenorrhea. 

I add Turmeric to my diet by buying it fresh at my local grocery store and cooking it into curries and sauces. I sometimes do juicing as well and it’s a great addition that will make any juice glow! ✨

4. La Jiao (Cayenne Pepper)

I actually had to ask around about what this herb is called because it’s surprisingly not mentioned in many Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal books! So as much as I love cayenne, I’m not sure if it’s used that often in herbal medicine. But I thought it was definitely worth mentioning!

Aside from adding a lil spice to meals, cayenne pepper has so many health benefits! The active ingredient that gives these peppers their medicinal qualities is called capsaicin. Capsaicin has metabolism boosting properties! Because cayenne peppers are naturally hot in temperature, they have the ability to increase the amount of heat that your body produces, therefore naturally burning off calories. This process is called diet-induced thermogenesis which causes an increase in your metabolism and metabolic function. Many isolated studies have demonstrated that people who add cayenne pepper to their meals typically burn a few more calories than those who do not. Although the effect is small, I still find it interesting that cayenne pepper has this indication! 

5. Ding Xiang (Cloves)

Cloves or Ding Xiang is typically used in herbal medicine for warming the interior and expelling cold. It’s apart of the same category as cinnamon, however it has a few varying indications. It’s great for the stomach with conditions caused from eating too much cold. Like I mentioned earlier, adding any warming herb to your diet during the colder months is beneficial because it allows your circulation to move more effortlessly throughout your organ systems. In TCM, we have a diagnosis called “Stomach Cold” which manifests as abdominal pain, vomiting and aversion to cold. This is a great herb for that exact indication as it’s warm and acrid in nature! 

I love adding cloves to my diet by making my seasonal gingerbread cookies. The best way to buy them is whole and then grinding them down yourself using a mortar and pestle. 

Conclusion 

Thank you so much for reading my blog on herbal qualities! I personally love combining Traditional Chinese Medicine with modern day nutritional needs to balance out my diet. Herbs are great way to do that because they have such specific tastes and temperatures that can be used for many different indications. 

However, I think it’s important to mention that the purpose of this blog was to teach you a little bit about herbs and some medicinal uses they have. If you’re interested in adding warming herbs to your diet, please do so in moderation like you would with any ingredient! Just like eating too many cold foods, eating too many warming herbs is not the best for your body. The key is being mindful and taking note of what works for you. 

Thank you again for reading, please be sure to subscribe to my website and stay tuned for my new personalized services! 🌸

Sources

Bensky, D. (2004). Chinese herbal medicine: Materia medica. Eastland Press Inc.

Deng, Z.-jia, Zimmerman, G., & Ye, Q.-bo. (2014). Chinese medicinal formulas. People’s Medical Publishing House.

Maciocia, G. (2005). The practice of Chinese medicine: The treatment of diseases with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Churchill Livingstone.

nutrition

Carbohydrates: Everything you need to know

Carbohydrates also known as sugars are very important macronutrients. However, they are usually given a bad reputation because of their association with weight gain and diabetes. But the reality is that not all carbohydrates are bad for you, many of them are actually very important for your health because they fuel your brain and body with vital energy!

Knowing how to choose the proper carbohydrates for your diet is so important. Not all carbohydrates are made out of the same components, so not all of them will have the same effect on your body. Choosing the proper foods that provide your body with the right carbohydrates will benefit you in so many ways!

So, without further ado let’s dig into the benefits, the properties, the different types of carbs and how to differentiate the good from the bad!

What exactly are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates or Carbs are small molecules that are mainly made out of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms. Fiber, starch and sugar are all classified as carbs. They are broken down by our digestive system into smaller molecules such as glucose in order to provide us with the fuel that we need for our daily routines.

All sugars are considered carbohydrates, but the term “sugar” is only commonly used to describe small carbohydrates that have one or two sugar units. Carbohydrates are commonly broken down into three different categories depending on the number of sugar units:

  • The simple carbohydrates like glucose and fructose only consist of one sugar unit, and are commonly known as monosaccharides. 
  • A carbohydrate like sucrose, or lactose contains two sugar units and is classified as a disaccharide.
  • Other more complex carbohydrates like starch and glycogen are part of the polysaccharide and oligosaccharide groups.

Why do we need carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are important because they help fuel our body and organ systems with energy. When you eat a meal that contains carbohydrates, your body will use chemicals to break down the carbs into smaller pieces. From there, the sugars that your body has broken down will enter your bloodstream. As soon as the sugars enter the blood, your pancreas will release a hormone call insulin. Insulin is responsible for transporting sugars from your blood into your cells, where simple carbohydrates can be used as a great source of energy for your body and brain. Our central nervous system, cardiac muscles and kidneys all need carbohydrates to properly function!

This process is usually straight forward, however, unhealthy carbs can affect the rate that this process occurs. 

Simple sugars vs processed sugars

Diets high in simple sugars and processed sugars are strongly linked with coronary heart disease, diabetes and fatty liver. Simple carbohydrates unlike complex carbs are absorbed very fast, causing a quick and immediate burst of energy that we all are too familiar with! That’s because the rush that you feel after you eat something very sweet is caused by the high amount of added simple sugars, which are in the form of refined sugars and processed syrups. Refined sugars provide no nutritional value, they lack vitamins, minerals and fiber. These sneaky sugars are one of the reasons why carbohydrates are shunned and considered bad!

However, not all simple sugars are refined sugars, so not all sugars should be thought as bad.  

So, as I previously mentioned, simple sugars in the form of refined sugars are terrible because they are only added calories and should be a huge no no in your diet.

But not all simple sugars are actually bad for your health. Many simple sugars are very nutritious and are found in healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. These types of sugars are considered as naturally occurring carbohydrates, which are completely different than the bad ones! Unlike the processed simple sugars, natural carbs are full of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are great fuel for your brain and digestive system!

 Well, the same goes for complex carbohydrates!

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates unlike simple carbohydrates are absorbed by your digestive system slowly, and provide a lower but steadier release of energy. However, complex carbohydrates can also be divided into two groups, refined and unrefined.

The complex carbohydrates that are considered refined, have no nutritional value. They have been stripped from all of their nutrients, similarly to the refined sugars that I previously mentioned. Refined carbohydrates such as white flour, pasta, pizza dough, and many processed breakfast cereals can have unhealthy effects on your blood sugar levels. This is because when you eat high amounts of complex carbs, your body quickly absorbs the sugars and releases insulin. Insulin is used to remove the excess amount of sugars from your blood, however the quick release of insulin can have negative effects like increased appetite, causing you to crave more food and ultimately making you gain weight. Research has also shown that refined grains can drastically affect your mood and energy levels. And if that is not enough, they also contribute to the build-up of fat, diabetes and heart disease.

Thus, understanding which complex carbohydrates are the best for you and your body is crucial for a healthy diet.

Carbs that are actually good for you

Don’t let all of the bad stuff that I mentioned about refined simple sugars and refined complex carbohydrates make you feel like you need to avoid carbohydrates! Carbohydrates are necessary for our health and the key is to avoid refined carbs.

Healthy complex carbohydrates are not rare, they are easy to find, so let me help you! 🙂

Here are some healthy sources of carbohydrates that have amazing nutrient profiles:

  • Chickpeas are a great source of protein and complex carbohydrates. One cup of these lil guys will set you up with 10 grams of fiber, which is one third of the recommended daily fiber intake. Chickpeas also provide your body with a healthy source of calcium and phosphate, two elements crucial for bone development. Click here to check out my chickpea tuna recipe which is a great source of healthy carbs!
  • Old-fashioned oats are also a great way to increase your daily source of healthy natural complex carbohydrates. Half a cup of oats will provide you with 27 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of proteins and various other minerals and vitamins. 
  • Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite sources of complex carbohydrates because they not only have 26 grams of healthy carbs, they also provide beta carotene which is an amazing antioxidant that takes care of you and your skin!! 
  • Black beans are super healthy for you. They will provide you with an incredible amount of nutrients that will help you feel full for longer compared to other foods. One cup of black beans will set you up with 41 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of fiber, 15 grams of protein, and various other nutrients that are crucial for your health and wellbeing. 
  • Quinoa is a perfect way to enjoy all of the benefits associated with whole grain foods for people who are intolerant to gluten. Yes, you read that right, quinoa is a seed not a grain. So, none of the problems associated with gluten will affect you if you stay on a quinoa vibe 😎
  • Lentils unlike quinoa and whole wheat bread are very cheap. They are a great source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Lentils are also very low in fat, making them a great choice for a filling and healthy meal! 

Conclusion

I really hope that you learned something new about this very interesting macronutrient! Carbs are not bad for us at all, and it’s crucial to realize that there are good carbs (naturally occurring) and bad carbs (refined, processed).

In any case, read the ingredients of each food you consume and try your best to avoid anything that’s processed. Your mind and body will thank you 🙂

Healthy Living

How to Become More Motivated

We’ve all been there- feeling unmotivated and drained at times. However, if you don’t push yourself to accomplish your goals and achieve your dream life, no one will. It’s so important to be motivated, set goals for yourself and make sure that you are always on top of things. You have to be your number one supporter and really believe in yourself!

I know that it’s definitely easier said than done, however I know that you have the will power and drive to make changes in your life that will positively benefit you. The sacrifices and time it takes to design a better life is well worth it, trust me! I’ve learned that being motivated can attract better things and better people into your life, and you may even be able to inspire others along the way 🙂

Here are 5 tips that help me stay motivated and achieve my goals:

1. Write down 3 goals each morning

Okay so this is actually so important! Checking your phone when you first wake up is so damaging to your mental health and your mind. We are so impressionable in the mornings, meaning that if we get a message with bad news or a mean photo comment, it’s really going to affect our morning and possibly slow us down. The best thing to do is wake up, make yourself a nice smoothie or lemon water and write down 3 things that you would really like to accomplish in the day.

Whether it’s doing your laundry, or practicing a hobby- it will get you further than not setting goals for yourself. Just imagine where you could be in six months if you started accomplishing just 3 tasks daily!

2. Align your lifestyle with your goals

When I started this blog three months ago, I was still doing things that were setting me back. For example, watching Netflix at night before bed. It seems harmless, but the 45 minutes spent watching Dragon’s Den, could have been spent on my brand and my life instead.

That’s when I started aligning my life with my long-term goals. Instead of watching TV at night, I started brainstorming ideas for future blogs and posts. This simple switch made a huge difference in my life because it made me value my time above anything else. So take it from me, if you spend your time wisely you will value it a lot more.

3. Practice being more grateful, positive and thankful

Seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty is just a better mindset to have. The interesting thing about our mentalities is that we get to choose how we feel in certain situations. Instead of feeling frustrated that you haven’t advanced as much as you’d like in 2 weeks, be grateful with the progress that you did make. Each time you find yourself frustrated or stressed, take a step back and really ask yourself why you feel this way.

Confronting your feelings and stopping any negativity in its tracks is a great way to re-wire your brain and become more mindful in the future. I’ve always said that a negative mind cannot give you a positive life!

4. Work hard and always keep your progress private

The sad reality is that not everyone is going to be happy for you when you start accomplishing more and doing better. Keeping your future goals and current progress to yourself is important because you do not want to allow the energies of others to affect your motivation or ambition. For example, if you tell your friend that you are starting a new blog and they don’t act super happy for you, you may start to doubt yourself. Whether you realize it on a conscious level or not, this affects you and can easily de-motivate you.

Keep your progress to yourself and keep working hard. Like I said, you are your main supporter!

5. Network and make it happen!

Connect with like-minded individuals and make it happen! If you’re into health, start following health related accounts or local gyms on your social media. If you’re into music, start following local artists or musicians. You would be surprised by how many amazing people you can actually meet through Instagram. I personally reach out to a lot of accounts, and it’s so cool when you meet someone who shares similarities. If this intimidates you, ask yourself what do you have to lose versus what do you have to gain from reaching out to others online?

It’s a great way to connect, get inspired and push yourself even further. When you start surrounding yourself with better people, you too will be able to better yourself.