Five Foods You Need to Try This February

Five-Foods-You-Need-To-Try

If you are interested in getting the most nutritional bang for your buck, look no further than superfoods. What’s so super about them, you ask? Basicially, superfoods are simply those that are plentiful in multiple nutrients and have been shown through scientific research to offer health benefits.

You are no doubt already eating a superfood-rich diet — broccoli and blueberries to name a couple — but there are lots that you probably aren’t eating. Here are 5 healthy superfoods to get your hands on this February.

Chicory

Types of Lettuce | thewellnessscientist.com

Photo courtesy of keithcr

I grew up in Louisiana, and I was a huge fan of the local Community brand coffee with chicory. I couldn’t imagine that the same chicory I used to drink in my coffee was the same chicory I now see offered as a seasonal green in fancy restaurant salads — but it was (one was the root and the other was the leafy greens, but still the same plant!)

Chicory root is known to detoxify the liver, as well as to aid digestion — both of which would come in handy after a weekend in the Big Easy 🙂 

The greens, on the other hand, pack a punch of vitamin A, vitamin K, and choline to name a few.  Cruise by your favorite farmer’s markets in February and pick up a head of chicory to serve up in your salads or to saute and serve under your favorite protein.

Kumquats

Kumquats | thewellnessscientist.com

Photo courtesy of jeltovsk

This was not intended to be a post about Louisiana, but again I am struck by a memory of numerous kumquat trees that lined the neighboring fence of my elementary school’s playground. We had no idea what these little orange globes were until a teacher told us, but burned countless hours picking these sweet little beauties as kids.

The peak of the growing season is in the winter lasting until about March, so now is an ideal time to try this citrus fruit that is high in potassium, as well as vitamins C and A.

To eat, rinse & toss the whole thing in your mouth – be careful with the seeds!

Maca

Superfood Smoothie | thewellnessscientist.com

Photo courtesy of Alvimann

Maca is a root originating in South America which has been shown in clinical studies to boost libido. Maca is also known to improve stamina in athletes, regulate hormonal imbalances, and even help with fatigue.

Maca is available in powder form, which is great for adding to smoothies and protein shakes. Don’t go overboard, though … the powder can be quite bitter in large doses.

There are a variety of teas, energy bars, and even chocolates that contain maca — a super convenient way to taste test this superfood.

Parsnips

Parsnips | thewellnessscientist.com

Photo courtesy of MaxStraeten

I love parsnips and include them in one of my favorite winter comfort dishes, Winter Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie, a recipe I found in Food & Wine magazine. 

Parsnips are high in fiber, which we need to aid in the prevention of heart disease, and some types of cancer. They also contain a healthy dose of folate, a nutrient necessary in energy metabolism and essential for women planning to become pregnant.

When you go on a hunt for parsnips, they look like a big white carrot. They’ll probably be hiding next to the radishes and other root veggies in almost any produce section of a any supermarket during the winter months.

Passion fruit

Passion Fruit | thewellnessscientist.com

Last but not least … passion fruit … you can’t leave this seasonal fruit off the list in February because of its name alone!

Passion fruit is a great source of vitamins A and C, and don’t be afraid to eat the seeds for an extra dose of fiber.

These exotic beauties are also a good source of plant-based iron, a perfect healthy snack for vegetarians who may need an iron boost.

Fitness Friday: How To Recover After a Half-Marathon

If you’ve been following me for awhile, then you know this past Sunday was the day of my second half-marathon! We ran a beautiful course in Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina. We were really lucky with the weather being warm and sunny when just days before it had been cold and raining.

At The Finish Line

Now that the race is over, good race recovery is super important. Here are some tips on How To Recover After A Half Marathon.

Recovery Phase One: After You Finish

Walk it Off

After you cross the finish line, don’t collapse into a heap! I know you are tired, but do a little walking  to give your legs a proper cool-down & keep cramps at bay.

Hydrate

Continue hydrating after the race. Water is good, but if you have access to Gatorade, coconut water, or something with electrolytes that’s even better. There will likely be beer at the Finish Line. By all means, imbibe if you wish but keep chugging water as well so you don’t get dehydrated.

Stretch It Out

This one is a must.  After cooling down for a bit, stretch your legs! If you were great about stretching while you were training, keep it up! Be thorough … stretch your hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, and IT bands. You’ll be SO glad you did the next day and several days after!

 

Recovery Phase Two: An Hour to Several Hours After You Finish The Race

Eat!

After you’ve done your stretching and had some H2O, find something to eat. Most races will have foods such as bananas, sports bars, etc. Not all races are created equal, so if it isn’t specified on the Race Day info that food will be available, bring some with you.

Rest

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep to facilitate the healing process. Sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body after an effort like this, so rest up!

 

Recovery Phase Three: A Day Or Two After the Finish

Keep Hydrating!

When you wake up the day after race, you are probably  going to experience a little muscle soreness in your legs (perhaps elsewhere too). Keep drinking water and eat healthy vitamin-packed foods to speed up your recovery.

Schedule a Massage

After 13.1, you’ve earned yourself a massage appointment to work out the kinks and aches & pains due to the DOMS effect (delayed onset muscle soreness).  Ask the therapist to spend extra time on your calves, hamstrings, or whatever is the most sore.

Do a Little Recovery Jog

Take a walk around the block or jog if you are up to it. This will help loosen up tight muscles and speed up recovery too. Two miles should do the trick!

Celebrate!

Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done! You just ran 13.1 miles — that is AMAZING! I see so many people beating themselves up because they didn’t meet their goal time. Stop the negative self-talk! You just did something incredible, so celebrate your awesomeness.  And as they say, you still lapped everyone on the couch!! 🙂

To make things easier, I created this Half Marathon Recovery Checklist that you can Pin, Printout, Save, or whatever!

If you like it, give it a Pin!!

Half Marathon Race Recovery Checklist | thewellnessscientist.com

 

 

Fitness Friday: “Love Your Body” Stretches

Love-Your-Body-Stretches

Happy Valentine’s Day! Show your body a little love today by doing some of the stretches in this awesome roundup of “Love Your Body” Stretches

Stretching can help you: Avoid injury, Increase Range of Motion in Your Joints, Improve Circulation, and Increase Energy

For tight hamstrings, try the Modified Hurdler Stretch

Photo courtesy of fitsugar.com

Photo courtesy of fitsugar.com

  • Sit on the floor with your left leg straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee, placing the sole of your right foot against the inside of your left thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch legs.

 

On Your Side Quad Stretch

Photo courtesy of bodybuilding.com

Photo courtesy of bodybuilding.com

Photo courtesy of bodybuilding.com

Photo courtesy of bodybuilding.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1) Lie on your right side, with your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle resting on the floor in front of you (see photo on left).

2) As shown in right photo, bend your left knee behind you holding your left foot with your left hand.

3) Switch sides

Tight shoulders? Try the Eagle Arms Stretch

Photo courtesy of yourspineguide.com

Photo courtesy of yourspineguide.com

 

And lastly, for your back …

Seated Trunk Twist

 

Photo courtesy of self.com

Photo courtesy of self.com

This one will get your back, as well as your obliques!

1) Sit up tall on floor with your legs extended out in front of you.

2) Rotate just your ribcage to right (keep your butt on the mat & hips as still as you can). Keep your abs engaged!  Twist as far to the right as possible without allowing your butt to come off the mat.

3) Return to center & repeat on the other side for one rep. Do a total of 10 reps!

 

 

 

Fitness Friday: Best Cardio Workouts

Best Cardio For Heart Health

Hey guys! Today is National #GoRed Day, a movement started by the American Heart Association to raise awareness about heart disease in women and SAVE LIVES!

Did you know that just 30 minutes of physical activity per day can reduce your risk of heart disease?

Here are some GREAT Cardio workouts to get you started!

Interval Running

from Back On Pointe

Interval-Running

Walking Intervals with Kathy Smith

walking with kathy smith sm

 

 

Jump Rope Circuit

from Peanut Butter Fingers

Photo courtesy of Peanut Butter Fingers

Photo courtesy of Peanut Butter Fingers

 

Lower Body Blast

by Pieces in Progress

Lower Body Blast workout

 

Question: What are some of your favorite cardio workouts?

Tell me in the Comments below!

 

Brands that Give Back: Treat Yourself and Support Breast Cancer Research in October

Hello, lovelies!  I would be remiss if I didn’t dedicate my first post of October to an area of great importance to all women …

BREAST CANCER AWARENESS

The CDC’s website says:

“The best way to find breast cancer early is with a mammogram. If you are a woman age 50 years or older, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years.”

I’m not sure when the recommendation changed from age 40 to age 50. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, you should talk to you doctor about getting screen sooner.

A few stats from the CDC’s website, for your information:

How many people get breast cancer each year?
In 2009:

211,731 women and 2,001 men in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer.
40,676 women and 400 men in the United States died from breast cancer

 

The support to find a cure for breast cancer is immense.  I remember doing my first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k back in 1999. Walking along with these people, both survivors as well as friends and family, was such an amazing feeling. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt such emotion and support as I did during that event. It was amazing!

Every year, brands give back by developing and selling products from which a portion of the proceeds will go to organizations such as The Susan G. Komen Foundation, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and many others.

Every day in October, I am featuring one of those products on my Instagram feed. Follow me on Instagram & don’t miss a single one of these products.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think of doing this until October 2nd … SO, the first product I posted was on Wednesday, October 2nd.

This awesome PINK pie plate called the Bake For The Cause Pie Plate is made by French company, Emile Henry.  10% of the proceeds from each pie plate sold will be donated to Breast Cancer Research.

Emile Henry Bake For the Cause 9"-Pie Plate

Emile Henry Bake For the Cause 9″-Pie Plate

 

Today’s featured item is an AWESOME pair of PINK skinny jeans from True Religion.  You’ve been doing your squats & leg work religiously, right?  I think you deserve these!  Ten percent of sales will go to Susan G. Komen!

HALLE SUPER SKINNY BREAST CANCER JEAN from True Religion

HALLE SUPER SKINNY BREAST CANCER JEAN from True Religion

Stay tuned to my Instagram feed for a new product that gives back every day during the month of October.

Question: Know of a product that I should feature? Please let me know about it in the comments below!

 

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5 Reasons Why Laughter is the Best Medicine

 

Does your best friend, partner, dad, or someone in your family make you laugh every time you talk to them?  If you said “YES,” then you may want to spend time with your favorite jokester.

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

I spent a couple of hours the other evening catching up with a group of friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in about a year.  I swear, I laughed so hard my cheeks were sore the next morning!  It was well worth it, though. And guess what? Research has shown that laughing boasts lots of health benefits.  Some of them include:

1) Calorie burner.  10-15 minutes of laughing burns off about 50 calories.  Nothing compared to running, but not bad for sitting around having a good time.

2) Immunity booster.  Stress takes a huge toll on our immune systems.  Some studies have shown that laughing may boost the number of antibodies and immune cells we produce.

3) Tension tamer. Laughter can also stimulate blood circulation and help our muscles relax.  Both help reduce stress symptoms!

4) Pain reliever.  Scientists at the University of Oxford found that a good laugh is linked with feeling less pain, likely because laughing causes a release of endorphins (which can also act as painkillers.)

5) Memory sharpener.  In a study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Maryland, humor during instruction led to increased test scores.

What makes you laugh? Got something funny to make us all crack up? Leave it in the comments!!

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10 Fun Things To Do This Summer

School may have started already, but we still have Labor Day to look forward to and a whole month of summer left.

Before summer’s end, try a few of these fun summer ideas.

10 Fun Things To Do This Summer | thewellnessscientist.com

Having fun makes us happy, and happiness is a part of good overall health and wellness.

Summer Fun

  1. Have a barbecue & eat outdoors
  2. Watch the sunset
  3. Go swimming
  4. Play mini-golf
  5. Go to the beach and build a sandcastle
  6. Buy produce at a Farmer’s market
  7. Ride a bike (or trike)
  8. Go for a hike
  9. Take a weekend road trip
  10. Turn off the AC and sleep with the windows open

I’m sure there are tons more summer fun ideas.  What would you add?

 

Are You Making These 5 Dieting Mistakes?

 

Trouble losing weight or keeping it off?  Make sure you aren’t making one of these common dieting mistakes.

Are You Making These 5 Dieting Mistakes?

Setting Goals That Aren’t Realistic

Setting an unrealistic goal will almost guarantee failure.  Instead, set S.M.A.R.T. goals when it comes to weight loss.  Donald Hensrud, M.D., weight loss expert from the Mayo Clinic recommends 1-2 pounds per week.  If you lose weight at this pace, you are more likely to keep it off.

Choosing the Wrong Kind of Diet

A diet that doesn’t include any of the foods you like to eat may work in the very short term, but it is unlikely that you’ll achieve you longer-term weight loss goals.  Several studies have found that following a low-fat diet doesn’t make it any easier to lose weight or to keep weight off.   Study participants who followed moderate- or high-fat diets lost just as much weight as those who follow low-fat diets.  Successful weight loss depends largely on one thing — burn more calories than you consume.

Not Planning Ahead

If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll be reaching for the first thing you can get your hands on at lunch or dinner time to satisfy your hunger.  Take the time (maybe on a Sunday morning to plan for the coming week) to make a list of your favorite nutritious meals.  Shop for all of the ingredients and plan your meals for the week at one time.  Bring low-calorie snacks like an apple or a small Greek yogurt to the office to make hitting the vending machines less tempting.

Drink More Water

Drinking water aids weight loss and flushes out toxins from the body.  According to an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, obese participants in a six-month clinical trial both lost weight and reduced waist circumference by drinking water compared to participants who drank caloric beverages.

Skipping Meals

Meal skipping is not a successful way to lose weight.  Frequent meal skipping actually reduces your metabolic rate, making weight loss more challenging.  Eating regular meals keeps you energized throughout the day and makes it less likely that you’ll overeat at night to compensate.

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How To Be Your Best Self

 

How To Be Your Best Self

That particular week seemed more difficult than others.  I felt angrier and my patience was pretty much nonexistent.  I remember sitting in a team meeting and, for no reason, tears started to well up and I discreetly left the room so that no one would notice.

I was leading a very big project at work, and things were running as smoothly as one would expect, but I was literally on 24/7.  I couldn’t remember the last time I’d taken a day off.  A year or two maybe, with the exception of Christmas day.  For about two years, I had dreamed of going to a destination spa I’d discovered online.  I could practically feel the tranquility through the photos on the website.  In a minute of desperation, I called the spa & was told they had availability for the next week.

meditation-lake

1) TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

The spa was usually booked weeks in advance, so I took their availability as a sign, booked the trip, and committed to taking the next week off.

The timing wasn’t great from a work perspective…in two week’s time, I was going to be hosting a conference with over 100 guests flying in from around the world.

But some crisis or extremely urgent work matter was always on the horizon…there was never a good time to take a day off, much less an entire week.

Sound familiar?

My colleague swore that she’d get in touch with me if there was any out-of-control emergency that should couldn’t handle herself.  I let out a big exhale, and a few days later I was off!  And you know what?  The office didn’t fall apart, the conference was a huge success, and I did a better job hosting because I was able to relax and recharge.  Anxiety gone.

Take time for yourself.  You deserve it.  Jobs come and go.  Bosses you admire move on to other jobs.  You are with yourself for the long haul … so give yourself the down time you need.

2) NURTURE YOURSELF

We’re all grown-ups with jobs, relationships, and maybe kids of our own, but there is an inner child in all of us that needs nurturing.  Instead of nurturing that inner child, we busy ourselves and/or pick up bad habits to avoid feeling alone, sad, or inadequate.

I used to be the queen of negative self-talk.  My diet was awful, I didn’t exercise, I drank coffee or soda all day, and I didn’t get enough sleep.  I was even going to therapy, but I wasn’t doing the work I needed to do outside of that hour/week, so it took a really long time to get where I needed to be.  That was my path.  I made it, but I wish I hadn’t suffered as long as I did for no good reason.

Take the time to take care of yourself physically.  Get a physical every year.  Have you blood drawn and check for things like high cholesterol on a regular basis.  Drink water, eat healthy foods, and get the amount of sleep that you need.  No job in the world is worth feeling miserable every single day.  If you don’t take care of yourself, who else will?  And what about the people you take care of?  If you can’t take care of them, who’s going to do that?

Make self-care a priority. You will never regret it.

3) LET GO OF YOUR CONTROL OBSESSION

When I arrived at the spa, the control freak in me was delighted to find that someone had carefully selected a full day of yoga & exercises classes, short wellness seminars, and body treatments for me based on my “pre-arrival interview,” and I had schedule waiting telling me what I’d be doing the next day.

Desperate for soul-nourishing, I had decided in advance that I was going to become a yoga devotee during my week away.  On my first morning at the spa, I showed up to the first yoga class on the schedule, just before 8 a.m.  I found myself a spot at the front of the class, little overachiever that I was.

Then something happened, instead of the instant bliss-fix that I had planned, all I could feel was the pain and tightness of my hamstrings and my hunched shoulders.  I started to feel defeated, like I had failed before I had started, and I couldn’t stop the negative thoughts spiraling in my mind.

The teacher invited the class to “open our hearts.”  (OK … I’m actually embarrassed to admit the first thought that popped into my mind, but if one person can resonate with this, then it’s worth it!)  The first thought I had when this teacher said “Open Your Heart” was “F-YOU!”  I was actually angered by this complete stranger’s suggestion that I trust her and allow myself to become vulnerable.  Inside I was screaming, “I’m here, aren’t I?  I’m trying!!!  What else do you want from me?”  Somehow I viewed her kindness as an intrusion — a criticism that I wasn’t trying hard enough.

I couldn’t get past it that week.  I wasn’t ready to give up control.  I toughed out that class until the end, but I never went to another yoga class the entire week.

Luckily, there was more than yoga planned to improve my wellness that week.  A couple of days later, I met with Sarah, my assigned personal trainer.  I was in my early thirties at the time, but I felt like I had the body of an 83-year-old!  Like on The Biggest Loser when they tell the contestants “Your body age is actually 79!”  That was what I felt like.

Sarah was nice, but she was there to prove a point.  She challenged me with “heavy” 10-lb hand weights and encouraged me during the interval training she had designed for my session.

That 1:1 experience was what I needed, along with a little positive reinforcement.  I was able to let go and be vulnerable.  I started running outside after that meeting with Sarah, and it was during those runs that I was able to feel a certain freedom.  Once I let go of the need to control any and every situation (which is impossible, by the way), I finally felt like the universe was on my side.

My advice here?  Just let go.  Sounds easier said than done, but it is incredibly powerful.  If you need to talk to a professional or a friend, coach, or mentor to get there, do it!  Once you stop fighting, it gets so much easier.  And you’ll be so much happier.

4) BE GRATEFUL.

One of the most popular items on the schedule that week was a one-hour wellness seminar called “How To Be Happy.”  I think every single person in attendance that week was packed in to the room for that message!

One of the big takeaways from that session was practicing gratitude.  We were asked to keep a gratitude journal for the rest of our stay.  Before bed each night, we were to write down five things that we were grateful for each day.  In doing so, we were creating a scenario where we were looking for positive things that happened during the day.  It could be something big like, “I’m grateful for the amazing personal trainer I met today and the way she encouraged me” or something as small as, “I’m grateful that we had cheesecake for dessert tonight — I love cheesecake!”

Keep a gratitude journal.  You’ll spend the day looking for things you can write about, making it harder to focus on negativity or problems!

5) TRUST YOURSELF

A few years later, I was rummaging through a closet and found the binder of resources I had taken home with me from the spa to continue working on my goals.  I found a little note that read:

“Great job this week! You can tell you feel refreshed.  Keep this feeling going by exercising daily.  You have to make yourself a priority — you deserve it!”

Wise words!  I made a risky decision and started a whole new career and chapter in my life.  Today I make my living writing about health, wellness, and self-care.  I also coach women who are looking to make healthy changes to their lives and improve their level of happiness.  I eat healthier, I get more rest, and I make exercise and my personal relationships a priority.  I’m happy to say that once I was able to silence my inner-critic, I also came to enjoy yoga and its many benefits!! 🙂

Trust yourself.  We deserve much more care and kindness than we tend to give ourselves.  And really, the only validation we need is our own.

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5 Foam Roller Stretches to Ease Sore Muscles

 

I was very gung-ho to start some at-home weight training this week, and jumped full steam ahead into the Better Butt Workout courtesy of Nike Training Club app for iPhone.

The fifteen-minute workout was a good one with three sets of five killer moves.  Given that I used muscles that have been on a break for WAY TOO LONG, two days later I am still suffering from muscle soreness.

I know how well my trusty foam roller helped me stay loose and pain-free during my half-marathon training, so it made sense to turn to the foam roller to stretches to ease my sore hamstrings and glutes from the Better Butt Workout!

Here are 5 Foam Roller Stretches to Ease Sore Muscles in your legs and glutes!

(Note: all stretches to be performed with a full standard-size (3′ x 6″) foam roller)

Need a foam roller? The Magic Roller from Balanced Body is a great one!

1) The Quadricep Massage –  to relax muscles and increase circulation to the front of the thigh muscles.

How to do it: Kneel on floor.  Place the roller on the floor horizontal to your body.  Lie face down (prone position) with the roller just above your knees.  Your elbows should be bent & forearms touching the floor.  With your arms, gently roll your body forward towards your upper thighs.  Push body back and return to starting position.  Repeat for 30 seconds – one minute.

2) The Gluteus Maximus Massage – to improve circulation to the muscles in your butt!

How to do it: Sit on the foam roller placed horizontally on the floor with feet and hands on floor in front of the roller.  Push roller backward with your butt.  Allow roller to glide back and forth under your butt muscles for about 30 seconds.

3) Piriformis Stretch – another good butt stretch!

piriformis-stretch-foam-roller

How to do it: Kneel down.  Place both palms on roller horizontal on the floor in front of your body.  Stretch arms out straight.  Extend one leg back.  Lean forward as roller is pushed forward.  Hold for 30 seconds.  Repeat with opposite leg & hold.  Do this twice.

4) Sitting Hamstring Stretch – this one is my favorite!!  I always have sore hamstrings because mine are super tight!  This will S-T-R-E-T-C-H the back of your thigh muscles.

seated hamstring stretch

How to do it: Sit on the floor with both legs straight out.  Bend one knee in bringing the sole of your foot in towards the opposite thigh.  Straighten out the other leg and place heel on the roller.  Flex your toes towards your body.  Hold for 30 seconds.  Repeat on opposite side.  Do this twice.

5) Supine Hamstring Stretch – A supine stretch is one that is done lying face up.  This one will also stretch the back of the thigh muscles.

How to do it: Lie on your back and bend your knees.  Place the roller lengthwise between your knees and ankles.

supine-hamstring-stretch-1

Press knees and ankles into the roller.  Extend your legs up towards the ceiling and flex your toes.

supine-hamstring-stretch-2

Hold as long as it is comfortable and return to starting.  Do this 3 times.These stretches are all ones that I learned from a book by Caroline Corning Creager, P.T. called Therapeutic Exercises Using Foam Rollers

All of the photos in this post were also taken from the book!

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