Free Resources to Keep You Healthy & Centered during COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, likely throwing off your daily routine and sense of balance in this turbulent time.

Taking care of yourself, whether through fitness, nutrition or mindfulness, can help retain a sense of normalcy and keep you feeling (somewhat!) centered.

We’ve rounded up some of the best free offers from fitness apps, meditation apps and more below. We’ll be updating this regularly so bookmark this page and keep checking back! Continue reading

Tailored Nutrition is the Future of Wellness

CP_Personalized_Nutrition_LeadBy Gretchen Lidicker

Expert nutritionist and health coach Jared Koch isn’t immune to the challenges, philosophies and endlessly conflicting research about what to eat, just like the rest of us. His impetus for becoming vegan years ago wasn’t just for ethical and environmental reasons. It was also because at the time so many scientific studies focused on negative health consequences of eating too much red meat and saturated fat. It was seemingly, increasingly evident to him that “healthy eating meant being vegan.”

He hoped that his life-long chronic digestive issues would dissipate and the energy boost that an all plant diet promised would one day kick in. “I felt and looked terrible,” says Jared Koch, the founder and CEO of Clean Plates. He had made what he believed was a therapeutic dietary change which should have, according to studies and research, destined to bring him total wellness. Instead, He got worse. Educated and thoughtful about these very issues, Jared did not approach his dietary change like a quick fix. He stuck to it. He was often sick, and the longer he maintained his new diet, the more fatigued he felt. Worst of all perhaps, his digestive issues persisted. This lasted almost three years.

Bio-individuality and the Art and Science of Personalized Nutrition

Jared instituted an overarching, new approach to his diet. Since humans are bio-individual, meaning that we each have unique nutritional needs to be healthy, there cannot be one single definition of what is a“healthy diet.” Differences in our anatomy, metabolism, body composition, cellular structure, and genetics — big and small — create varied nutritional needs, unique to you and only you. Personalized nutrition is the path by which you learn your bio-individual needs, empowering you with the knowledge, ability, and tools to make the best decision about how to eat for your body. This approach changed Jared’s life. It changed his clients lives. It can change yours too.

Jared listened to his own body. Really listened. He monitored many factors which contributed to his well being and he created his own food rules for himself, to great success and increased pleasure. This personalized nutrition program was and remains, no easy process, but it can be life changing.

Personalized nutrition, by definition, means tailoring and customizing food and much more in accordance with medical and biological metrics like blood pressure reduction or bmi. We, humans, are multifaceted, social beings with many differences, so his approach “… requires us to consider not just bio-individuality but also factors like budget, personal taste, cultural background, daily work schedules, and food access,” Jared said.

The barriers that exist between each individual and their ability to determine and maintain their unique healthy diet vary considerably by circumstance. It’s not only about what foods you eat and your body’s reaction. It’s also about what food you have access to.

As we work as a society to stop targeting and correct gross inequities in our food system, that grievously affect younger POC and lower-income folks disproportionately, each person has to start to define and act upon what is “healthy” for their body and their lives. Personalized nutrition mandates real time, real world solutions for you, by you, just as you are.

Your Individual Needs & The Food You Eat

According to the American Nutrition Association, Personalized nutrition is a way of eating that focuses on understanding that “… human individuality ( is what ) drive nutrition strategies that prevent, manage, and treat disease and optimize health.” This means not subscribing to any one food philosophy, whether it be the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet or the animal product-free vegan diet. Instead, you subscribe to only one food philosophy — the one you create for yourself based upon how you react and feel after eating.

This definition might conjure up images of advanced analyses or unaffordable nutrigenomic testing. But the truth is that personalized nutrition is pretty simple — and you’re probably already doing it to some degree in your own life. Everyday, you make decisions about what to eat and you may already notice how those decisions affect your body. The knowledge you gain from observing yourself and noticing what feels good to you is what personalized nutrition is really about.

“There is a basic misunderstanding about what healthy is,” said Dr. Marvin Singh, an integrative gastroenterologist. He regularly sees patients who are eating certain foods because of something they read or a story of a friend of a friend who had great success with a particular diet. “People fall into these traps of thinking they have to eat a certain way,” says Dr. Singh. But the truth is, “there are a lot of nuances to health and nutrition and if you don’t understand that, you’re not doing yourself a service,” he continues. One of Dr. Singh’s goals with his patients is to get them to start looking at it from an individual, clinical point of view. In other words, he practices personalized nutrition.

Creating Your Food Philosophy

Creating your own food philosophy is easier said than done. Polarizing and often extreme diet philosophies echo our weight-loss-obsessed and control-oriented diet culture. Judgement, condemnation and shame are still very much a part of diet discussions, and older, passe, themes still tend to creep into even the most modern, wellness-oriented ideologies in 2020.

Diets are therapies. When we pigeonhole ourselves into a specific way of eating without leaving room for personalization or customization, for tailoring the information out there to our unique and specific needs, it backfires. As Jared explains: “You not only miss out on healthy foods you’d enjoy eating, you become so focused on not ‘breaking’ your diet that your health slides down on the priority list.”

And it’s not just your health and well-being that slides to the bottom of the priority list, either. Enjoyment does too. As Loneke T. Blackman Carr, Ph.D., R.D., an assistant professor of community and public health nutrition at the University of Connecticut explains: “Food serves a purpose that is inclusive of nutrition but not exclusive of joy, family, and tradition.” If it’s 2020 and the idea that celebrating and enjoying food still brings us pause, it shows that we haven’t come quite as far as we want to believe.

Decreasing Food Confusion

Labeling foods either “healthy” or “not healthy” does not allow for nuances that are vital to personalized health. Think about it: Foods like red meat, grains, and saturated fat have developed such a stigma that their public image may never recover, even if the science redeems them. To add fuel to the fire, nutrition studies often report conflicting results. One day eggs are nature’s greatest superfood — and the next day they’ll give you heart disease.

As Dr. Carr explains: “There’s so much information and misinformation and it’s coming from so many different sources. I totally understand where that confusion comes from.” Many people are so paralyzed by conflicting nutrition information and dueling opinions that they have no idea what to eat. As a result, people who are motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes, but don’t know which route to take, struggle to find a sustainable way to do so.”

Nutrition research is perhaps the most vital piece of the academic knowledge, but applying it to you, a single person’s body is the necessity. For example, one study from Kings College in London showed that individuals have significantly different physiological responses — such as blood sugar spikes and increases in blood fat levels — after eating various kinds of foods.

“Diet is a very personalized thing; food sensitivities, microbiome issues, and genetics are all involved and really influences what you should eat,” says Dr. Singh. When it comes to our DNA, our genes can affect our nutritional needs in more than subtle ways. “Some people have a genetic mutation in a gene that puts them at a greater risk for hypertension and heart disease if they eat more than 1500 mg of salt per day.” According to Dr. Singh, people without that gene can have 2400 mg a day without negative health consequences. The same is true for Vitamin C, caffeine, and certain B vitamins. Our dietary needs exist on a genetic basis.

So while there are some food rules that apply to everyone — “Fruits and veggies above all, whole grains, lean proteins, and some healthy fats are foods that are good for everyone,” says Dr. Carr — some nutrition questions lead you to a dead end. For example, when it comes to the “Are eggs healthy or not” debate, “There might not actually be an answer,” says Dr. Carr.

It turns out that we’ve been asking the wrong questions entirely. Instead of debating which diet is the best and which is the worst, we should all individually be asking a single prevailing question: What foods are right for me?

At first, answering the questions “What foods are better for me, or worse for me?” might seem impossible. There’s still a lot society needs to learn about food and culture, behavior, and the science of nutrigenomics — the study of how food influences our DNA and vice versa.

Personalized Nutrition Is Already All Around Us

When you start asking yourself “What foods are better for me?” you’ll most likely find that you’ve already been answering it in bits and pieces for years. Do you avoid certain foods because they make you bloated, give you reflux, or make you feel tired? Do you continue to eat certain foods because they make you feel like a superhero? Do you eat a vegetarian diet but add in fish because it makes you feel so great? If the answer is yes to any of these, then there you go — you’re already your own nutrition expert.

Personalized nutrition is already all around us in some ways. Consider the supplement world. Supplements personalize our nutrients and should be therapeutic. As Nick Bitz, N.D., the Chief Scientific Officer at Youtheory® explains, “Dietary supplements are anything but one-size-fits-all. Supplements can and should be tailored to an individual’s unique needs. Otherwise, you’re treating the disease and not the person.

Clinicians don’t suggest the same supplement routine for every patient. In fact, even two patients with the same health condition might be prescribed an entirely different supplement routine. “Every botanical has unique energetic properties and the key is to choose the right botanical that not only targets a specific health goal but also brings balance to someone’s body-type. Not every remedy is appropriate for every person,” says Bitz. If you’re treating a health condition, it’s always wise to work with a professional to develop a supplement routine, but if you’re just looking to support overall health, companies like Care/Of, Rootine and Binto will provide you personalized vitamin packs based on factors like your health history, your age, and your gender.

The Elimination Diet: Your First and Most Important Diagnostic Tool

The elimination diet is the most foolproof personalized nutrition diagnostic tool at our disposal. With an elimination diet, you remove all common food allergens from your diet for a period of time, and then systematically add them back in, one by one, while tracking your symptoms in detail. This allows you to pinpoint your food sensitivities with a high degree of specificity. The elimination diet isn’t for the faint of heart; to do it right takes a few months and you must follow it exactly, or your results won’t be accurate. The good news is that it’s free to do, has no risks, and can be done anytime, anywhere. Often if you do it with the help of a trained professional, it’s fairly expensive.

For Jared, it was really the elimination diet that helped him finally ditch food labels, restrictive diets, and all-or-nothing eating plans. Plus, according to him, “an elimination diet isn’t as difficult as it sounds if you have the proper guidance and structure and you plan ahead.”

After his elimination diet phase, Jared found that he felt substantially better eating red meat and noticeably worse eating sugar, gluten-containing grains, and surprisingly, too many greens. So today, he makes his own food rules based on that personal knowledge and he’s never felt better. An elimination diet is a life-altering tool we all have at our disposal to change the way we eat and live.

Although, hopefully, personalized nutrition will one day involve nothing more than a single, quick test that tells us which foods are better for our unique bodies and which foods should be minimized or avoided to achieve optimal health, as of right now we don’t have that yet. Currently, outside of allergy testing, figuring out what works best requires us to be perpetual students of our own bodies. That is why the elimination diet has remained such a helpful diagnostic tool.

Make Your Own Food Rules and Modify as Your Life and Body Changes

After settling on an eating plan that feels right today, you will always be on the lookout for changes that you may need. Our nutritional requirements change throughout our lives. If you start training for a marathon or get pregnant, for example, you’ll need to adapt your diet to accommodate your new needs. “You may benefit from a diet for a while and then you need to switch it up,” says Dr. Singh.

Personalized nutrition is about listening to your body and always prioritizing how you feel over hard-and-fast rules, restrictive labels, and even the latest, splashiest headlines and studies. At the end of the day, you’re the only one living in your body. And when it comes to your personal nutrition journey, the best place to start is with honesty, patience, and compassion. Only then can you cultivate a way of eating that gives you the knowledge and tools to meet your body exactly where it’s at and undertake the journey into total food freedom.

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The Key to Optimal Health is Eating Better Food, Not Less

SunBasketPlatedImage (5) (1)Article written by Sun Basket

Sometimes it takes $8 million and 12 months of research to tell you what you already know.

For years, conventional wisdom has held that to lose weight we need to consume fewer calories than we burn. But a new study led by the director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and published in JAMA has turned that idea on its head, showing that it’s the quality of the food, not the quantity that matters most.

The researchers followed a group of 609 adults for one year. Half the group was assigned a healthy low-fat diet while the other half was put on a healthy low-carb diet. The only instruction the two groups received was to opt for nutrient-rich foods in their most natural state. In classes with dietitians, the participants were taught to avoid processed foods high in sugars, refined oils, excess sodium, artificial additives, and preservatives. Everyone was encouraged to work out, but in general, they did not increase their levels of exercise. Most importantly, there were no instructions to restrict calories or portion sizes in any way. Instead, the subjects of the study were told to eat as much as they needed to avoid feeling hungry. After 12 months, there was a wide range of results in both groups. Some people lost as much as 60 pounds while others gained weight, but overall there was an average loss of about 13 pounds between the two groups. Both groups saw reductions in body fat, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

Sound familiar? Sun Basket’s Director of Nutrition, Lindsey Kane has been pushing the same advice since she joined our team. It’s not that calories don’t matter, they do. But this research showed that participants were able to satisfy their hunger with nutritious foods that are naturally lower in calories than processed, low-nutrient foods. By adopting an attitude of abundance and focusing on higher quality ingredients instead of ones with fewer calories, they were able to satisfy their hunger and feel good about their meals, rather than experiencing the deprivation associated with most diets.

Along with changes in what they ate, participants also reported changes in how they ate. Cooking more of their own meals, turning off the television, and sitting down to eat with their families, instead of eating on the run.

The truth is, eating for optimal health and weight management isn’t complicated. While there’s lots of controversy among health experts about the best approach to weight management, if you step back you’ll see that among millions of scientific theories and research studies, there’s a common denominator: A high-quality diet of nutrient-rich whole foods leads to better health outcomes and a lower risk of disease.

As long as you eat wholesome foods most of the time, there’s little need to worry about how many calories you’re taking in. It’s hard to overdo it with a meal of fresh salmon and asparagus, with a bowl of berries and yogurt for dessert. Refuse to swing with the research pendulum that declares one food is good and another is bad. Instead, cook real food for yourself and family, gather at the table, laugh out loud, and enjoy your meals. At the end of the day, that’s all the nutrition advice you really need.

 

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10 Small Wellness Tips that have a Big Impact on Your Health

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The idea of “living a healthy lifestyle” can feel overwhelming. What does that even mean? It’s easy to mentally equate health with strict diets and grueling hours of daily exercise. In reality, health is multifaceted and looks different for every person. There’s no need to be overly critical of yourself in your journey towards your own uniquely healthy lifestyle. Small changes to your lifestyle can have a huge positive impact not only on your overall health, but also in your daily exercise routine. Small steps are more sustainable and more likely to turn into healthy habits that ultimately stick. As personal trainer and fitness instructor Nina Saunders puts it, “Get a little uncomfortable in order to get comfortable.” Here are 10 small changes to try out in your daily routine that can have a big impact on your health.

1. Stand Up Alarm

Brianna Biffignani, professional dancer and certified fitness professional provides us with a timely tip: “Set an alarm on your phone to stand up at least once every 2 hours that you are working. Just standing up from your work space will increase overall health and make you more likely to walk around for a few minutes – even if it’s just a walk around your desk or office space. Maybe you’ll even incorporate a few stretches while you stand before getting back to work again.” 

2. Netflix Plank

Who else has been watching more Netflix than usual since quarantine? Gilmore Girls enthusiast Hit House Muay Thai instructor, yoga instructor (and Gilmore Girls enthusiast) Regina Postrekhina suggests that while binging on Netflix it’s a good idea to do a 1 minute plank between episodes. If you binge TV like us, you’ll end up doing at least three sets of these every evening. Still watching cable? “Plank during ads or commercials,” founder of The Ness, Aly Giampolo, suggests.  

3. Push Up Challenge 

Mike Pierce, Hit House instructor and fighter, has another quarantine suggestion. He shares, “Something I have been doing during quarantine is pushups every hour. It gives me a reason to get up from my desk and move each hour.” If that sounds like a big change, don’t sweat it: try incorporating one set of push ups once a day to start and build from there.

4. Rolling Not Scrolling

A lot of us reach for our phones first year in the morning to scroll through Instagram and look at the news. “Instead of scrolling through your phone, roll out your feet while drinking your coffee,” says Rowena Villanueva, founder of The Pilates Nook.

5. Airplane Mode

“Turn your phone on airplane mode by 10PM, and don’t turn it on until after you’ve taken your morning walk,” shares Cam Norsworthy, creator of Pilates service Cam On-Demand.

6. Serious Schedule

It’s easy to let the week slip by us and lose track of time. Sam Castro, Personal Trainer at Equinox, suggests taking a few minutes out of your day once a week to set up some plans. “Schedule your workouts for the week in advance so it can be a non-negotiable,” he says. 

7. Calf Raises 

Justin NG, founding instructor at Hit House and striking couch at NG Combat, provides us with a practical move to warm up your muscles. Waiting in line for something? Do some calf raises while you’re waiting!

8. Morning Dose of Protein

Marissa Graham, Professional Dancer, Certified Trainer at Dancers Who Lift (and virtual Hit House instructor) provides us with some insight to her morning routine, a simple healthy step: “Mix in a scoop of protein to your morning coffee. Caffeine plus hitting those macros… there’s no better feeling.” If you try this out, it’s recommended that you add a little milk or creamer to prevent your cup of joe from getting foamy. 

9. Back to… Boring Basic?

Co-Founder and CEO of Hit House, Tyler Scott, has some “straightforward” advice: “Prepare and eat the same meal for 7 consecutive days on the same hour. Keep it simple. Lots of protein with leafy vegetables.”

10. Bone Broth

Kara Rosella, professional stunt person, advocates for the power of bone both: “Add a cup of bone broth to your daily routine. It works wonders for digestion and skin!” She suggests investigating different bone broth powders available that are both easy to prepare at home and affordable (or try HealthKick partner Owl Venice for fresh Organic bone broth delivery!)

 

Emma Boelter graduated from Tulane University with a BA in English in 2017 and is currently pursuing her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Although she has writing experience in many different areas, right now she is focusing on providing clients with high-quality digital material. She currently lives in New Orleans, LA.

Dana VanPamelen is the co-owner of Hit House, a Muay Thai Kickboxing studio in NYC. She has a Masters degree in Marketing from Hofstra University and loves gathering wellness life hacks.

Vegan Recipes from Sakara Life

Classic Banana Bread with Vanilla-Tahini Butter

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Ingredients (Makes 12 slices):

For the banana bread

  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil, melted, plus more for the pan
  • 3 medium-ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 3 tablespoons raw honey
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups almond meal
  • 1 1/2 cups oat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free oats
  • 3/4 cup almonds, finely chopped
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped

For the vanilla-tahini butter

  • 1 cup store-bought organic pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons wildflower honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Himalayan salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Make the banana bread: In a small bowl, stir together the flaxseed meal with 2 tablespoons of water. Allow the mixture to sit for 2 minutes to thicken slightly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with oil and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the bananas, vanilla, oil, sugar, honey, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and flaxseed meal-water mixture. Add the almond meal, flour, and oats. Stir until combined. Fold in the almonds and hazelnuts.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the bread feels firm and the top has turned golden brown and is slightly cracked. If the bread starts to brown too quickly, cover with foil and continue baking. 
  5. Make the vanilla-tahini butter: In a food processor or blender, combine the pumpkin, tahini, honey, and vanilla with a pinch of salt and blend until smooth.
  6. Enjoy the bread warm, slathered with the tahini butter and a tiny sprinkle of salt. Store leftovers in the fridge—the bread for up to 3 days, the tahini for up to 5. This bread also freezes well. Wrap the loaf in foil and a freezer-safe plastic bag and store in the freezer for up to 2 months.

 

Taco Salad with Walnut “Chorizo”

taco_saladFrom Eat Clean Play Dirty: Recipes for a Body and Life You Love (Sakara Life)

We make our taco salad with classic flavors, including homemade pico de gallo (though you could also buy a fresh version from the grocery store), but the star is the spicy walnut “chorizo” that’s flavorful and satisfying. Walnuts are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which nourishes the brain and keeps hormones vibrant and in balance. Plus, with fiber-rich black beans and liver-detoxifying cilantro, this dinner is a delicious way to support the microbiome. You can serve this dish as is or add a stack of warm corn tortillas and reimagine as tacos. 

Ingredients (Serves 4):

Pico de Gallo

4 Roma Tomatoes, diced

1 large shallot, minced

2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ to ½ jalapeno (depending on how much heat you like), seeded and minced

4 sprigs fresh cilantro, eaves chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

Himalayan salt

Walnut “Chorizo”:

1 cup raw walnuts

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika 

½ teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons tamari soy sauce

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon wildflower honey

Himalayan salt

Salad Base:

2 avocados, pitted and peeled

Himalayan salt

1 cup, cooked and canned black beans, rinsed and drained

Juice of 1 lemon

12 cups mixed greens

2 cups shredded cabbage

8 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves picked

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Lime wedges, for serving

Directions:

Make the pico de gallo: In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, shallot, scallions, garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro and toss with the oil, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Let the mixture marinate while you make the “chorizo” and the salad.

Make the “chorizo”: In a food processor, combine all the ingredients with a pinch of salt and process until the mixture begins to stick to itself but isn’t totally smooth. Set aside. 

Assemble the salad: In a small bowl, mash the avocados with a pinch of salt.

In another small bowl, toss the black beans with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. 

Divide the greens and cabbage among 4-large plates. Top with the pico de gallo (juices and all), black beans (make sure to include some of the lemon juice), crumbles of the walnut “chorizo,” and the avocado smash. Garnish with the cilantro leaves and pumpkin seeds and serve with lime wedges.