Food Science, Health and Wellness, Travel, and More
I'll be honest - ever since I worked at a gym, I haven't been very good at following workout programs at home. I've tried Insanity, P90x, kickboxing, and Pinterest workout challenges. Lately, my workout routine has mostly consisted of running around after my rambunctious infant, so I wasn't very keen to work up another sweat after a long day when I'd rather slip into pajamas.
Enter in Yoga with Adriene. I was pleasantly surprised when I hit my first full week of following the videos DAILY - without trying too hard. My husband even remarked that he noticed a difference on the days I did yoga and when I took my "rest" Sundays. Adriene isn't particularly different than other yoga instructors, but I appreciate the ability to select from a variety of workout intensities (full disclosure: I spent a whole week seeking out videos with "stretch," "relaxation," and "refresh" in the title). She has a fun presentation, sometimes says some off-the-wall comments, and can be pretty funny. Moreover, she's very relatable and real, so it's more like practicing yoga with your friend instead of attending a class.
These videos aren't all easy, either. There are days where Adriene powers through moves that I can't even keep up with - definitely a goal to work up to! Or she does some advanced yoga moves, which sometimes I feel would be better practiced in an environment where feedback from an instructor would be beneficial.
Physically, I've noticed my flexibility slowly increasing (I've always had a problem with my hamstrings). Psychologically, there have been improvements in mental clarity - even when my kid is trying to climb all over me while during my practice. I've started to brew a cup of chamomile mint tea before yoga to aid in the relaxation even further - take this excuse to pamper yourself! Honor the time when you come to the mat as a gift you're giving yourself and those around you. The midday slump has been a perfect opportunity to squeeze in Adriene's 17-40 minute videos, and having the ability to select a shorter practice is great for those days when time is pressed. As an added side bonus, I've noticed my son putting his little booty in the air to mimic my downward dog! I love that I'm setting some great exercise examples for my son while taking the time for myself - I'm a much better, more patient parent when I've had the ability to take some time for myself.
Over the past few weeks, yoga has become an integral part of my day in a way I never really thought would happen. I've known the benefits of yoga, but each of the in-person classes I attended felt like glorified stretching. Adriene is very encouraging of accepting where you are at in your yoga practice, as well as offering modifications to help you attain the most out of her videos. Some days are a huge push to get out the mat, but each day I find myself motivated by how I feel after I'm done. Sometimes there's nothing better than taking a little extra time for yourself in Shavasana or corpse pose to regain composure, feel relaxed, and reorient yourself before tackling the rest of the day.
Want to give it a try? You can find her videos here.
I'll be honest - I was so hungry and the food was so enticing that I completely forgot to take the picture until a few bites were already missing! The Hideaway Cafe certainly lives up to its name - the place is very small with only a handful of tables, and has a diner-type vibe. The restaurant is tucked away in the back of other shops and is difficult to spot unless you're looking for it.
This omelette is filled with turkey, colby jack cheese, and mushrooms - and as you can see from the picture, is quite sizable. The hashbrowns were well-done and crispy (which is how I enjoy them), and they came that way without any prompting. Overall, the food was slightly greasier than other restaurants I've been too, but it didn't detract from the scrumptious flavor. The waitstaff was incredibly conscientious and prompt, and the experience was delightful.
On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give Hideaway Cafe a solid 5. The food was delicious, the coffee was good, the service was excellent, and I would definitely try another dish there again.
In college (and sometimes even now), my friend and I would send each other ridiculous amounts of "cute" photos – I’d send her pictures of baby polar bears, and she’d send me images of adorable (human) babies. Over time, I learned a few cool things about polar bears, so it was especially terrible to see one of the latest articles from National Geographic. Polar bears are starving due to ice melting, and it’s illegal in Canada (where this photographer was shooting) to feed these polar bears anything to sustain them. These poor bears are slowly laboring in a painful emaciated state trying to find food, and are dying in increasing numbers. Original National Geographic video here.
Why do I care about polar bears?
Polar bears have really awesome unique traits, along with having some of the most adorable cubs. Moreover, it saddens me to see any animal in this state - to have their habitat literally disappearing in front of their eyes and not have an ability to rebuild their environment. As hard as we try, we can't grow ice back in the Arctic. But we can create an awareness and possibly change things for polar bears, and all Arctic animals, in the future.
Ursus maritimus is the polar bear's scientific name - it means sea bear. All of the polar bear's body is designed to be a powerful swimming machine. Polar bear fur has two components, a dense underfur and top guard hairs.
Did you know?
Polar bear fur isn’t actually white – and their skin is actually pigmented black! Each hair shaft is free of pigment and is completely transparent with a hollow core. This design scatters and reflect visible light, just like snow, to give the bear an overall white appearance. Their black skin covers a layer of fat that can be up to five inches thick.
These white-appearing bears have rough, black footpads to grip the ice, along with claws that measure up to two inches long. Polar bears primarily hunt seals, and in the spring and summer tend to sleep more during the day as the seals are more active at night.
Fun Fact: Almost 60% of polar bears are found in Canada! The rest are dispersed amongst Alaska, Greenland, Russia, and Norway.
Male polar bears reach sexual maturity around ages six to ten, while females are between the ages of four and six. The mammalian urge to "nest" is seen in polar bears, as female cubs build snow dens and stay safely tucked away during their gestation period and birth, usually from September to April.
Fun Fact: Wild polar bear cubs are most often born in December! Twins are most common. Cubs are blind, toothless, and covered with short, soft fur, and nurse for approximately twenty months before moving on to prey.
Polar bears primarily hunt ringed seals, as these seals are the only food source with a high enough fat and calorie content to keep a polar bear sustained. Ringed seals cut ten to fifteen breathing holes in the ice, using their sharp claws on the front flippers. These breathing holes are open during the entire winter, even in ice up to six feet thick. The seals surface about every five to fifteen minutes at one of the holes or use air pockets trapped under the ice. Polar bears wait for seals to breathe at the openings - they locate them with their sensitive sense of smell and anticipate the seals emerging. Their nose is so powerful it can detect a seal twenty miles away, smell a seal den covered with snow, and find a seal’s air hole up to one mile away! This can take hours, and up to days! Polar bears often lie still and pounce with impressive speed and force when in sight of their prey.
Fun Fact: Polar bears can eat 100 pounds of blubber in one sitting!
A group of polar bears is called a pack or a sleuth, and unlike their brown and black cousins, they do not hibernate (cold weather is just a fact of life!). They can swim up to six miles per hour, and have been known to swim over 60 miles without rest for food. The polar bear’s fat not only stores energy and keeps them warm, but it also increases their buoyancy when they swim!
Fun Fact: the word "Arctic" comes from the Greek word for "bear," and "Antarctic" comes from the Greek, meaning "opposite of the Arctic" or "opposite of the bear." You will only find polar bears in the north pole, while penguins are found in the southern hemisphere (so unfortunately those cute images of them together just aren’t accurate).
So what can we do about it?
1. Speak up and create an awareness about these poor animals losing their habitat, share this information with your friends!
2. There are a number of polar bear conservation efforts out there that always could use more help! Polar Bears International and World Wildlife are good places to start.
3. And finally, let's cultivate an awareness of what we do that impacts our earth, so that we can hopefully improve the world in the future for humans and animals alike.
Original National Geographic video here.
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To be honest, I’m not sure there would be a blog here right now if I hadn’t stumbled across this glorious book. Jen Sincero spoke to a part of my soul and kicked me out of my daily rut. This book is witty, sarcastic, full of ridiculous scenarios, and more importantly, chock full of inspirational mantras, stories, and anecdotes.
Please note, this is not for the faint of heart when it comes to swearing, cannabis references, and straightforward kick-in-the-ass questions. What I found the most interesting is that none of the basic tenets are rocket science – and everyone from Napoleon Hill to Oprah have eschewed the same principles. Yet, there’s something about relatable Jen that makes you want to wake up happy and take on the world for breakfast. As the book unfolds, you realize you have the same potential to succeed as anyone you wish – whether that be like Elon Musk or Kim Kardashian. Living life the way you want it, not the way it is, may seem like insanity. Yet it’s so much more enjoyable than the way most people spend their days! Someday, maybe, and possibly are eradicated from my vocabulary.
Today is the day I’m making sh*t happen. I am the rockstar of my own life. I am accomplishing those goals.
If everything was available to you, what would you do? Do you realize everything IS available to you, every moment, of every day, and you just have to ask for it? How many times have you cursed your lack of money, when money is neutral, and neither good nor bad?
While some of these statements may make me sound like a crazy person, I’ll let Jen do the rest and have her show you how you, too, are a badass.
Find it here:
P.S. Jen, if you ever read this, you're my friend and just don't know it yet.
I was unsure about T's Cafe since I couldn't find their menu online, but I was pleasantly very surprised at the delicious breakfast. This is an potato hash with scrambled eggs, avocado, and turkey. While I usually end up taking half of my meals home, this one I devoured entirely at the restaurant. The mix of flavors was perfect - the potatoes were well seasoned, the avocado creamy, and the turkey added a nice flavor to the overall dish. While I could have chosen to have my eggs in any manner, I'm happy I chose scrambled because they complimented the rest of the textures in the meal. Even the presentation was very pleasing to the eye, and the whole table commented on the delicious combination of flavors.
The atmosphere was comfortable, very open and a sizable cafe. For a Sunday morning it was decently busy, but the waitstaff was still very attentive.
On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give T's Cafe a 5. The scramble had excellent flavor, and I would definitely go back again to try something new.
I was rather excited to try Lockwood Table Cafe - the reviews were excellent, and when we got there on a Sunday morning it was already packed and took almost a half hour to be seated. The egg soufflés sounded extremely delectable, especially when the one I ordered was bacon and gouda. However, I was pretty disappointed. The bacon and cheese were placed on top, and if there was any cheese in the actual soufflé itself it didn't seem to be detectable at all. There seemed to be a few bits of bacon scattered throughout, but it tasted more like a bowl of very dense scrambled eggs. Soufflé brings to mind something very light and fluffy, and this soufflé was not. I ended up pouring the eggs out onto the plate and chopping in the cheese and bacon slice in order to try and salvage some flavor. I think I would have been better off ordering scrambled eggs than attempting the soufflé. The potatoes were bland and were only saved (slightly) by the pesto on top.
Not pictured is vanilla yogurt and strawberries, which I will say was very tasty. However, I don't see that as a demonstration of the cafe's culinary expertise, so I wouldn't put it on my list to go back again.
On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give Lockwood Table Cafe a 1. While I'm not usually very vocal about not liking food, the overall culinary experience was disappointing after such a long wait. I'd be hard pressed to give them another try, and would prefer to experience other restaurants over going back.
Mmm, my mouth is still watering over the delicious omelette I had at Beachgrass Cafe. If the day had been a little nicer, it would have been great to sit outside, but for brunch in the morning it was a little cool to sit in the shade. Inside the atmosphere was a little cramped, but it wasn't too busy for a Sunday morning.
I ordered the ABC omelette - avocado, bacon, and cheddar cheese - and I added in some broccoli for extra green. The avocado was creamy, the omelette was well done (see picture), but in a good way (I enjoy my bacon and cheese on the crispier side). While I could effuse about the omelette, the potatoes were rather bland in comparison. They were sauteéd in a vegetable mix of peppers and onions, but that didn't really add much flavor to the potatoes overall. I enjoyed mixing the omelette with the potatoes (perhaps that was the point), and the flavors did meld together well without anything being too overpowering. The (plain) coffee was rather unremarkable, and seemed to taste a little bit like inexpensive diner coffee (yet the price didn't reflect that!).
Overall, on a scale of 1 to 5, I would give Beachgrass Cafe a 4 (mostly not a five because of the potatoes and the coffee), but would most definitely go back again to try something new.
Everyone wants to speed up their metabolism and lose weight, right? Well, there’s been some interesting research regarding capsaicin and fat metabolism. While you may feel like your mouth is on fire, the capsaicin is turning your body into a fat burning machine! All of the underlined words are in the glossary below.
One study found a correlation between those with higher BMIs (Body Mass Index) and capsinoid ingestion (see study here) - those with a higher BMI experienced more fat burning over a 4-week period than those with lower BMIs. However, even those with low BMIs experienced fat burning, just not to the same extent as those who had more mass. What was the most interesting is that these capsinoids were capsaicin analogues (similar on a molecular level) that are much lower in pungency than their capsaicin cousins. So for this study in particular, it would not have mattered if you had chosen a spicier pepper over something more mild.
Another study found that obese mice supplemented with capsaicin had a lower body weight than obese mice on just a high-fat diet (study link). Their findings expanded to observing adipocytes, or fat cells. What’s interesting about adipocytes is that they can be created quickly, however, they can only shrink thereafter - not be eliminated. Many people end up rebounding from their weight loss due to multiple factors, but one reason is that the fat cells aren’t actually purged, just reduced in size. Researchers found that there were fewer large adipocytes in the adipose (fat) tissue of obese mice supplemented with dietary capsaicin than in that of the control.
This means capsaicin has the ability to change the overall size of fat cells!
Moreover, it changes the type of fat tissue. There are two types of adipose tissue - brown and white. In contrast to white fat cells, brown adipocytes contain numerous small fat droplets and a higher amount of iron-containing mitochondria (making it appear brown), as well more capillaries to distribute nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.
Higher deposits of brown fat are found in newborns, hibernating mammals, and metabolically active adults. Typically, brown adipose tissue is activated by cold environments, and its ability to dissipate energy protects the body against body fat accumulation (study link).
Capsaicin imitates the effects of cold exposure to decrease body fat through the activation of brown fat tissue!
Capsaicin’s benefits even extend into blood glucose (sugar) levels - subjects supplemented with capsaicin had significantly lower levels of glucose in their blood after an hour (study link). Red pepper was also able to decrease appetite and subsequent protein and fat intakes throughout the day when added to breakfast (study link), and was shown to increase heart rate after ingestion (as I’m sure any spice foodie can relate to!).
Chile peppers are popular in hot climates due to this increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight reaction), which causes increased sweating. Sweating a cooling mechanism for the body, and is a welcome relief in hotter climates.
Want to increase the fat burning capabilities of capsaicin?
Put it to work with science! Capsaicin is a fat-soluble, non-polar molecule – which is why they recommend drinking milk instead of water to neutralize the pepper sting in the mouth. The casein in milk is a fat-soluble, non-polar molecule that binds to the capsaicin to “neutralize” the sting away from the TRPV1 receptors in your mouth. One study found that adding a mixture of capsaicin and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) to meals were able to increase diet-induced thermogenesis (fat burning) by over 50%! (study link) In the science world, a margin of 50% is incredible. Turn up the burn in your meals with the combo of capsaicin and medium-chain triglycerides.
? A medium-chain triglyceride is a fat that is easily digested and sent directly to your liver, where they possibly have thermogenic (heat-creating) effects and the ability to positively alter your metabolism (link). Medium-chain triglycerides don’t need bile salts to be digested and go directly from from the digestive system to the blood stream without being modified like longer chain fats. This allows the body to better utilize them over other, more complex fats (link).
Coconut oil is a great source medium-chain triglycerides — roughly 62–65% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are MCTs. While coconut oil has MCTs, concentrated MCT oil is almost entirely medium-chain triglycerides. However, I’m more of a proponent for using whole ingredients over extractions, as coconut oil has other benefits that contribute to overall health. MCT concentrates are often derived from palm and coconut oils, which may not be sustainably sourced or cleanly processed.
Coconut oil has the highest natural concentration of lauric acid apart from breastmilk, which is vital for its antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral qualities.
I’ve heard the concern that peppers are a nightshade, and we should therefore avoid them due to the inflammatory alkaloids found in these plants. However, there are a few considerations. Nightshades are members of the plant family Solanaceae, whose edible members include eggplant, tomatoes, and white potatoes. Some research attributes joint pain and gut problems to certain alkaloids in these plants, due to the nature of alkaloids as a deterrent for bugs and pests. Healthy human digestive systems can handle these alkaloids, but those with compromised digestive tracts and immune systems may have a problem with consuming nightshades. So while the minor irritation of capsaicin triggers an anti-inflammatory response in a healthy individual is beneficial, it can have the opposite effect on someone who is immunocompromised. If you fall into the category of someone who is sensitive to nightshades, cooking them reduces the alkaloid content and may help, as well as addressing the root cause of the sensitivity.
Adipocyte - a cell specialized for the storage of fat, found in connective tissue.
Adipose - body tissue used for the storage of fat.
Alkaloid - any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds of plant origin that have pronounced physiological actions on humans.
Immunocompromised - having an impaired immune system.
Mitochondria - an organelle found in large numbers in most cells, in which the biochemical processes of respiration and energy production occur.
Non-Polar Covalent Bonds - a type of bond that occurs when two atoms share a pair of electrons with each other.
Sympathetic Nervous System – a part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which also includes the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The sympathetic nervous system activates what is often termed the fight or flight response, which accelerates heart rate, widens bronchial passages, decrease movement in the large intestine, constricts blood vessels, increases peristalsis in the esophagus, cause pupillary dilation, goose bumps, sweating, and raises blood pressure.
TRPV1 Receptor - detection and regulation of body temperature, along with the sensation of scalding heat and pain.
This past Thursday there was a lovely launching reception for Sandi Star’s newest book – Beyond Gluten – A Healing Transition. As someone who has been gluten free for over ten years, I was especially keen to listen to any new information and of course, check out some delicious gluten free treats.
Sandi’s inspiration for the book began similarly to my own journey with gluten - we both sought out answers for health maladies that would not resolve with modern medicinal practices. This lead her to heal herself by going gluten free and focusing on overall gut health. With newfound energy and enthusiasm, Sandi studied holistic medicine and clinical nutrition to help other realize their health goals. Her book began as a guideline for clients, which turned into a 200-page volume.
Beyond Gluten educates readers on triggers that can cause diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, and other health maladies, how to begin eating gluten free, optimal foods for health, and even 50 pages of recipes with beautiful pictures.
Interested in learning more? Check out her book here: http://www.karmic-health.com/store/store/products/beyond-gluten-a-healing-transition/
Clockwise: Paleo Pumpkin Bread, Peanut Butter Brownie, and Spice Cake from Praeger Bros. My favorite? The scrumptious and rich (but not too sweet!) Peanut Butter Brownie!
The event was hosted at the hip and cozy Leap Coffee.
You might know a little about Scoville Units – and that a lot of them means it’s a spicy pepper. But you may not realize how the scale is antiquated, and that we’ve moved far past the initial methods used by Wilbur Scoville. In 1912, Scoville created a test (called the Scoville Organoleptic Test for the nerds out there), which took dried pepper, dissolved in alcohol to isolate the capsaicin we learned about earlier this week, and then diluted in a solution of sugar water. This concoction was then given to five trained testers (and to think this whole scale we’ve used for over a hundred years was created by five people). The solution was then diluted with more sugar water until a majority couldn’t detect the heat anymore. The heat level was then determined by how diluted it became, and rated in multiples of 100 Scoville Heat Units.
While I’m sure millions around the world would agree certain peppers are definitely the spiciest, here are a few flaws in the system:
Nowadays, we use high-performance liquid chromatography, which allows for a mathematical formula to rate the peppers according to their relative capacity to produce perceived "heat."
Scoville Units aren’t just used for chile pepper eating contests or hot sauce descriptions. One study in 2010 showed a relationship between tumor cell growth inhibition and the amount of capsaicin, determined by Scoville Units, in the peppers being studied. Another study in 2008 demonstrated that capsaicin is rapidly absorbed through the skin, and is thought to produce an analgesic to help manage pain. Did you know that capsaicin can reduce post-operative nausea and vomiting when applied to acupressure points? A study in 2005 showed us that some natural ways of reducing pain might be more effective than other pharmacological treatments.
According to the Journal of Endourology, a study showed that capsaicin acts as “a specific neurotoxin that desensitizes C-fiber afferent neurons, which may be responsible for the signals that trigger (bladder) overactivity.” Bladder problems? It might be time eat more hot sauce!
This magical molecule can kill tumors, block pain receptors, and have the ability to desensitize specific types of neurons. Just look for the peppers with the highest numbers on the Scoville Scale!