Improve Your Energy and Health in 5 Easy Steps

Have you ever heard of somebody NOT wanting to improve their health? I haven’t. But what I do hear are a whole lot of excuses as to why they cannot; all the reasons that keep their hands tied, while health somehow eludes them. These rationalizations usually include gripes such as “I don’t have the time”, “I don’t have the money”, “I don’t know how”, “I don’t like vegetables”…and the list goes on. Am I judging? Not one bit; in fact, I was pushing the same hot air no more than 4 years ago. But after being tired of hearing my own lame excuses over and over again, I finally just jumped in head first and have never looked back! I found that convenience seems to be the biggest issue which holds us back; let’s face it…we’re an extremely lazy society. And interestingly enough, the reason why we are so lazy is that we simply lack the proper nutrition to fuel us in the first place; it’s a terrible cycle to be stuck in.

The thought of giving any extra effort beyond our daily “duties” makes us sick to our stomachs. Well, worry no more. I’m going to tell you how you can start getting onto the health track with a small handful of ingredients and a blender. Thats right, I’m talking about smoothies. But aren’t smoothies just another food fad like…fondue? Sure, if you’re only going to have one every other month when you go meet up with your “healthy friend” at Jamba Juice. But what if you could truly take your health back on your own? What if you could find 5 minutes each day to create a simple meal that fully nourishes you with whole food, can be dumped into a “to-go” cup and tastes amazing…would you shift your perspective?

I make a lot of smoothies. So many, in fact, that I have a backed up list of recipes I’ve yet to post on my site. I’ve always had a system when it comes to making them; but as complicated as many of my concoctions can be, you really don’t need all of the ingredients that I use in order to make a great smoothie for yourself. You also don’t need an insanely expensive blender; when I first started, I used a very affordable yet amazing machine by Kitchen Aid . You can snag it between $80-$130 USD on Amazon. We’ll go into further detail on ingredients below but for now, let’s do a quick reality checklist to see what you actually need get started:

Blender: This is what you’ll use to create your smoothies. Buy it once, use it everyday.

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Liquid Base: This is the foundation of every smoothie. Whether it be Filtered Water, Coconut Water, Tea or Non-Dairy Milk, this will be the liquid component.

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Baby Greens: In order to take advantage of the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which plants provide, you’ll want to get in your greens. Buy bagged; From “bag to blender”, no cooking required.

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Fruit – Not only do fruits add sweetness and flavor but they also contain many antioxidant and energy benefits. Stock up on Bananas and bags of frozen berries.

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Protein – When I first converted to a plant-based diet I was constantly asked where I get my protein from (and actually still do). Some of the best sources of protein to put into your smoothies will come from nuts, seeds and superfood powders. Some of my favorites are Hemp Seeds, Cashews, Flax Seeds, Hemp Powder and Spirulina. Another great thing to have on hand is a large tub of clean, plant-based Protein Powder (about 20 servings worth). One of the cleanest and most powerful brands that I have ever tried comes from Vega. See which products are right for you. My top 2 choices are Vega One and Vega Sport.

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That’s it in a nutshell. But if you’re really low on cash, groceries and/or time…all you really need is a liquid base and the protein powder. Super simple…super fast…super good! If you just keep those simple handful of ingredients on hand, you can’t lose. And if you want to step it up a bit (after you’ve become a smoothie wizard) refer back to these simple steps and tips for guidance.

1. Liquid Base
The first thing to always go into the blender is the liquid. Measurement markers are usually right on the blender jar, so no need for an extra measuring cup. A good rule of thumb is 8-12 oz, depending on how thick you want your smoothie to be. If you want to be able to drink it faster (on the go), you can always add more liquid for easier drinkability. If you’re in a pinch, filtered water is the easiest choice. Coconut Water is also an excellent choice for hydration and electrolyte replenishing qualities. For texture, creaminess and added nutrition, use a nut milk such as Almond, Hemp, Cashew or Coconut Milk; these are normally supplemented with B-12 and Vitamin D (which are crucial if your diet is plant-based). For the advanced “en-smoothiast”, you can even use chilled teas, health tonics, pressed vegetable juices, aloe juice, etc.

2. Baby Greens
The second step is adding your greens to the liquid. I have found that “baby” varieties work best in the blender due to their soft leaves which break down much easier…even in blenders that are less powerful than the holy grail Vitamix or Blendtec models. As far as convenience goes, you can’t beat baby greens because you can buy them in the market already prepped in a bag or container. Just bust it open, grab a giant handful and toss it into the blender with your liquid base. You can use baby varieties of Kale, Spinach, Romaine, Arugula, Spring Mix as well as many other varieties of fresh farm micro-greens and sprouts. Many people complain about not being able to eat enough servings of greens throughout their busy days; well this is your chance to pack it in there and get it down easy. Once you’ve tossed a couple handfuls in the jar, put the lid on and blend on the high setting until all the greens are completely blended. You should end up with green liquid and no tiny green bits.

3. Fruits and Veggies
My smoothies are primarily fruit based, aside from the greens. I do this on purpose because I also drink extracted vegetable juice daily. I “eat & blend” my fruits and “eat & juice” my vegetables. The reason I do this is due to the high sugar content in most fruits. If you blend the fruit, you keep the fiber which will help slow down the absorption of the sugars. Blend your fruits and juice your veggies! So, for this step I almost always start with 1 Banana OR 1 Avocado; it will give the smoothie it’s velvety texture. If you’re looking for creamy but would rather go without the extra sugar; go with the Avocado (packed with healthy fats, vitamins and aminos). Now throw in 1 handful of berries OR 1 piece of fruit (Apple, Orange, Pear, etc). The possibilities are endless; don’t be afraid to use your imagination. Once you’ve added these ingredients, blend on the “crush ice” setting to break up the fruits and then slowly switch over to the high setting. At this point, you should have a pretty good idea if its too thick (add more liquid) or if its too watery (add some ice cubes).

4. Protein Powder
Many seasoned en-smoothiasts go without protein powders but since I am a vegan, I definitely make sure I cover my bases and add it. I’ve also been working out quite a bit since my weight loss, so I’m trying to build some muscle as well (why not?). And if you’re trying to take as much of the guesswork out of smoothie-making as possible, protein powder is the easiest, quickest way. One serving can cover a good portion of your nutrition needs; just be certain that it’s a good one. Theres a lot of junk out there disguised as healthy supplements. Make sure you research and read labels. It should be plant-based, nutrient dense, high in protein, made from clean (whole food) ingredients, chemical free, non-gmo and on top of all that…taste really good! That said, I’ll do you a solid and save you the search. Look no further than Vega’s line of nutrition products. And since we’re talking convenience and essentials, we may as well be talking about Vega Essentials. 20 grams of plant-based protein, 3 servings of greens, 25% daily value of Vitamins and Minerals, 16% daily Fiber, 1g Omega 3s and only 130 calories per scoop. It’s available online, your local Pharmacy and now even Target stores. The price is not bad either; around $2 per serving which is less than a trip to the donut or coffee shop (do I even need to compare the health benefits of those food choices?)

5. Optional Mix-Ins (for when you become a pro)
I find smoothies to be a great opportunity to mix in other superfoods from nature that can increase the nutritional value of this meal in a glass. Of course, at first, you may just want to go with quick and simple shakes (steps 1 -4). That said, save this extra info for when you’re a seasoned smoothie pro and want to upgrade. Myself, I don’t think I’ve ever made a smoothie that did not at least contain some Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds. These seeds are so very important to everyday health…vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, Omegas; they are a powerhouse on their own. Based on what my body feels like, I will also add in a superfood supplement (or 2, or 3). Superfoods are berries, herbs, teas, mushrooms, etc that are found from all over the world. Each one has a unique nutrition profile and can help maintain different parts of the body. Their packed with antioxidants which the “basic” groups of popular produce simply do not contain. It’s always best if you can find the whole food itself; but if, like me, you simply do not have access…bags of the pure powder will do just fine. Some of the ones I use are Reishi, Lucuma, Goji, Camu Camu, Acai, Spiralina, Matcha, Hemp, Cacao and Maca. Other mix-ins to consider are soaked nuts, oats, quinoa, dates (pitted) and good oils such as Coconut or Hemp.

So, as long as you have a blender, some liquid and a excellent plant-based ingredients, you truly cannot fail at making a nutritious smoothie. Make this a new everyday habit to replace a small meal or some other habit you’d like to avoid. Before you know it, you’ll start feeling better and wondering what else you can incorporate into your health regimen. Now pour that amazing smoothie into a tall glass and toast to your newfound health!

Carrot Pineapple Citrus Endurance Smoothie

When I’m setting out to do a long ride, run or swim; I always plan my nutrition/fuel ahead of time.What I like to go for is a clean, complex carb blend that won’t weigh me down. I’ve learned that eating large solid meals (even hours beforehand) seem to hold me back. So today I whipped up this juice-smoothie which is packed with the fuel to stimulate, sustain and help recover from a long, tough workout.

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12 oz extracted Juice (Carrots, Pineapple, Yellow Squash, Orange, Lime, Romaine, Turmeric and Ginger)

2 Bananas

1/4 Cup Ground Quinoa Flakes

1/4 Cup Ground Whole Grain Oats

1 tsp Maca Powder

2 tsp Matcha Powder

2 Tbsp Chia Seed (soaked)

Juice the fruits, veg and roots in your juicer. Strain out any lingering pulp. Pour 12 oz of the juice into your blender jar (store any extra for later). Add the bananas, quinoa, oats, maca, matcha and Chia seeds to the blender jar. Add some ice cubes if desired. Blend all on high speed until smooth. I like to sprinkle some coconut and cinnamon on mine. Drink about 1 hour before your workout. 

10 Tips to a Successful Juice Fast

Juicing holds a special place in my heart; it changed my life 2 years ago when I fasted on it for a total of 45 days (20/10/10/5). I shed 70 pounds, went full on vegan, reversed my high cholesterol and high blood pressure, curbed many bad habits including (food addiction, alcohol and caffeine) and completely overhauled my eating habits from the ground up. This all happened over 6 months. Crazy, right? Nope. Not crazy at all. It’s science really. 

To me, it will always be known as the most powerful weapon in my arsenal; a weapon that fought (and won) against my most destructive habits. It changed both my physical and mental health forever. Some see it as a trendy, hipster fad; conventional doctors don’t recommend it; the mainstream media pokes fun at it any chance they get. But you’ve gotta let all that brain chatter go. It’s the real deal, if you do it right.

That said, I’d like to share with you some tips that were not only vital in making my juice fasts a success; but were the very things that helped keep me on the right path for good!

1) Drink warm Lemon Water when you wake up to jumpstart digestive system; this may even eventually replace your morning coffee habit.

2) Drink 5 or 6 (12-16oz) Juices every day. There is no limit, drink even more if you want.

3) Drink tons of water in between juices; it’s extremely important to stay hydrated throughout your fast.

4) Enjoy detoxifying Herbal Teas throughout the day. Not only does herbal tea continue to nourish and help with digestion; a hot cup of tea in your hands will be a welcome change to all the juice. It is calming and you will begin looking forward to it.

5) Drink 16 oz of Pure Coconut Water each day to replenish lost electrolytes. Very important.

6) Move your body! After the initial days of rest and detox symptoms begin to fade, go for a walk, a light jog or some yoga. This will keep you fit AND keep your mind off hunger as well.

7) TRUST! Stay the course…you will most likely feel crappy for the first 3-5 days; this is normal. It’s called withdrawal 😉 Once you get over that hump, it’s smooth sailing from there. Your body will tell you when it’s time to transition back to eating again.

8) Relax! Try to get into a meditative state throughout your fast. Deeply feel the good it is doing for you. I see people fail all the time because they get inside their head too much. They worry that they aren’t getting enough of “this or that”. Keep in mind that this is only temporary and you will eat again!

9) Make it fun! Mix it up and make different recipes. Use different types of glasses and straws. Chew the juice! Serve it to yourself in a different way each time. This will help avoid the monotony and lighten the mental load

10) KEEP IT UP!!

Are You Too Acidic?

The answer is: probably not…unless, of course, you are currently experiencing severe symptoms, in a coma or already dead. Even if one subscribes to the typical Standard American Diet (S.A.D.), our pH stays steady between 7 and 7.35. If this balance shifts by even one whole number, in either direction, it’s game over. Our pH level does not shift based on the food we eat. If it did, many of us would not be alive to discuss the issue. But before you label me a naysayer and smash your screen in frustration, please read on.

The consensus in the alternative health community is that a diet rich in alkaline foods increases the blood pH, making us more alkaline; whereas a diet rich in acidic foods will lower the pH, making us more acidic. Interestingly enough, this isn’t exactly what happens in the body and conventional doctors are having a field day with this information. In an effort to debunk us “crazy new-agers”, some doctors are aggressively making the argument that food has no immediate effect on blood pH since our body naturally regulates it. While the statement is scientifically true, it is also misleading and void of any further thought passed “right now”. In fact, the issue is not as “black or white” as either side makes it out to be. For instance, if I drink an alkaline rich green juice am I raising my blood pH? Nope. If I eat an acid rich Bagel with Cream Cheese am I lowering my blood pH? Nope. Does this mean the doctors are right? Sure, if you approach the subject from the same immediate, matter of fact perspective. What these doctors are failing to elaborate upon are the very truths that may eventually kill us.

When food is broken down and metabolized in our body it releases either an “acidic” or “alkaline” base into the blood. The trick is that this process does not directly affect the blood pH levels whatsoever; what actually occurs is that the pH levels in the food itself have an effect on the internal buffers that regulate the blood pH. Once these buffers are damaged, they cease to maintain proper pH levels, hence, opening the floodgates for these levels to change. This is the missing explanation that needs to be understood on both sides of the topic. And drum roll…it just so happens that “acidic” foods have been proven to damage our organs while “alkalizing” foods maintain, nourish and clean our inner systems. That said, the true nature of this debate is not about food increasing or decreasing blood pH; it’s about preventing the breakdown of the systems that already regulate it. The “crazy new-agers” still come out on top. Yay for independent research!

Conventional doctors focus only on what is happening to you “right now”, so they can make a quick assessment and send you on your way home or to the pharmacy. Our bodies are so very complex, most things that can go wrong with our health will happen over an extended period of time. Disease may take a long while to present itself to the body after many years of persistence against it’s natural functions to fight it. That said, unless you are currently experiencing a medical issue or emergency; you will most likely get a stamp of approval and a pat on the back on the way out of your annual checkup, regardless of what illness may be slowly transforming inside of your body. Armed with absolutely no guidance on what you should or shouldn’t be doing with your diet, what is there to worry about?

Unfortunately, our whole way of life has become greatly “acidic”; not only through food and drugs but also from the toxicity caused by pollutants, body/house care products, stress, anxiety and depression. So take a step back and really analyze what you’re choosing to use and consume everyday (both mind and body). Begin to make better choices that will replace the damaging ones and before you know it, you’ll begin lifting the weight of sickness from your very being. Why not start now with this fantastic green juice?

Super Alkaline Green Juice w/ Spirulina

5 large leaves Kale

1 Cup packed Red Dandelion Greens

1 Cup packed Parsley

3-4 Celery Stalks (w/ leaves)

1 Cucumber

2 Cups Watermelon Rind (or Watermelon)

1 stalk Fennel

1/2 Green Pepper

1 Green Apple

1/2 Lemon (w/ Rind)

1 1/2″ Ginger

2 tsp Spirulina (whisked into juice afterward)

Prep all ingredients to extract in your juicer (except for the Spirulina). Juice all ingredients. Stir in Spiralina. Makes 2 12oz servings.

References:

The Truth About Alkalizing Your Blood

http://drbenkim.com/ph-body-blood-foods-acid-alkaline.htm

Detailed Listing of Acid/Alkaline Forming Foods

http://www.rense.com/1.mpicons/acidalka.htm

Real Orange Juice (Extracted)

Golden Beet, Orange, Cranberries, Carrots and Turmeric

Instead of opening up a concentrated, sugary carton of OJ in the morning, why not make this real Orange Juice? The pairing of ingredients makes this a serious antioxidant powerhouse with a laundry list of benefits. Packed with fiber, vitamin a, vitamin c, vitamin e and beta carotene, this juice is Cancer’s worst nightmare; an alkalizer that is great for the eyes, brain, skin and heart. It can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and relieve inflammation as well. This juice is the swiss army knife of health. You can’t afford to NOT drink this.

1 Golden Beet
1 Orange
1/2 Cup Cranberries
3 Carrots
1 tsp of Turmeric (or 1″ Fresh Turmeric)

Prep and extract all ingredients in your juicer. If using Turmeric Powder, whisk into juice afterward. Enjoy!

STAY GOLD!

GOLDEN BEET, PURPLE & ORANGE CARROT, CELERY, ORANGE, APPLE, LEMON, GINGER, KALE, DANDELION GREENS, TURMERIC

I just love Beet juice…especially when it’s combined with Carrots and Oranges. This is one of those “slightly sweeter” juices, so if you’re on a reboot/detox, just be careful about adding too many sweets…reserve them as your 1 dessert juice of the day. Now that I’m eating (plant-based), I’m getting the needed fiber so sweeter juices are tolerated more by my digestive system (no glucose spikes). This juice is one of my favorites! I also added Turmeric to really drive home the gold…I take it regularly for joint pain (usually in Golden Milk). If you’re on a reboot, the Turmeric is optional. This is also a good pre/post workout juice…packed with energy! Enjoy.

1 Golden Beet
1 Purple Carrot
1 Orange Carrot
1 Orange
1 Green Apple
2-3 stalks Celery
5-6 leaves Kale
1 big handful of Dandelion Greens
1/2 Lemon
1 inch Ginger
2 tsp Turmeric (optional)

Makes about 2, 12 oz servings.

Juice all ingredients in your juice extractor. Whisk in the Turmeric Powder afterward. CLEAN UP BEFORE DRINKING (this reenforces good habits and a new regimen). Enjoy your juice w/ your favorite straw; although, for Earth’s sake, I recommend a glass one from Glass Dharma http://glassdharma.com.