Oxidative Stress

We hear a lot about antioxidants and oxidative stress these days. For our body to function at its best and healthiest, we need to make sure we neutralize the oxidative damage inside the body.

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to detoxify their harmful effects by using antioxidants to neutralize them.

We need oxygen to live. We obtain energy by burning fuel (the food we digest) with oxygen in a carefully controlled metabolic process. Unfortunately, this process also generates dangerous byproducts, free radicals. Even the simple act of breathing creates free radicals. The problem isn’t the free radicals, though, the problem is not having a strong enough immune system to fight them.

We need to neutralize free radicals, because left to their own devices, they cause a lot of destruction.

Damage caused by free radicals:

  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • osteoporosis
  • senility
  • aging

So, as you can see, we need to be sure we are keeping oxidative stress under control. We can do this by reducing our exposure to free radical causing substances, and by eating a diet highly effective at neutralizing those free radicals.

What causes free radical damage:

  • environmental toxins
  • medications
  • alcohol
  • BBQ’d food
  • Meat and cheese
  • Deep fried food
  • Emotional stress
  • Overtraining

Foods that fight oxidative damage:

  • brightly colored fruits and vegetables
  • berries
  • grapes
  • green/white tea
  • herbs/spices
  • certain essential oils

The bottom line is, oxidative stress is a normal byproduct of metabolic functions our bodies go through, but we also need to make sure we are remedying the situation by avoiding over exposure to that which causes an abundance of free radicals and ensuring we load the body with healing foods. An abundance of free radicals, left untreated, causes too much harmful and potentially deadly damage. Since it is so easy to counteract that by eating delicious plant-based nutrition, be sure to load your plate up with health promoting foods!

Creamy Mac & Cheese with Cashew Cream Sauce

When I first served this for dinner, one of my kids squealed so loud I thought he hurt himself. But then he got up and started doing a happy dance. He said this is “THE BEST MAC & CHEESE EVER!!”  My other son agreed, wholeheartedly. They love mac & cheese and I have a few variations on this blog. There are so many different ways to make “cheese” sauce without actually using cheese at all. This one is by far the fastest to prepare. And apparently, according to my boys, the tastiest because of how creamy it is.

The nutritional boost with this one comes from the cashews. They are the lowest fiber nut but still packed with important vitamins and minerals. They are high in magnesium (strengthens bones), high in copper (eliminates free radicals), high in good fats (energy booster), and high in anti-oxidants (anti-aging).

 

1 cup whole un-salted raw cashews

2 cups water

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

2 tbsp tapioca starch

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 lb gluten free macaroni elbows

  1. In a strainer, rinse the cashews. Then place in a bowl and cover with the water. Let them soak for 4 hours or up to overnight. Even if you have a high power blender, it is best to soak them. It makes them much easier to blend and it gets much creamier.
  2. Put all of the ingredients (except the macaroni) in a blender and blend until smooth. Then pour into a saucepan and heat on low until it begins to simmer. Stir occasionally to be sure it doesn’t scorch or stick to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Prepare the pasta according to package instructions. Drain. Then pour into the saucepan with the sauce and stir to combine.

Breakfast Scramble Burrito

love this meal! It is hugely nutritious, full of plant foods, and high in vegan protein.

I serve this with my flatbread to make it a tortilla or burrito. It is great for breakfast, but I make it for dinner sometimes, too. It’s always a clear winner in my house.

Mushrooms has serious health benefits. So if you haven’t had them before, I urge you to try this meal. I used cremini mushrooms and they have a mild taste. Mushrooms support heart health, fight cancer, boost immunity, lower inflammation, improve energy, support brain function, and are even a good source of vitamin D.  So chop ’em up and toss ’em in!

1 package extra firm tofu, cubed (non-GMO, organic)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups onion, diced

1 cup potato, diced

1.5 cups cremini mushrooms, diced

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tbsp lemon juice (or 3 drops Young Living lemon essential oil)

Himalyan sea salt/pepper, to taste

  1. Drain cubed tofu.
  2. Heat a large skillet and saute the garlic and onion for a few minutes using a splash of vegetable broth or water. Add the diced potato and mushroom and saute for 12 minutes, covered. Reduce heat and stir frequently to prevent sticking.
  3. Add in the tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon, and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, covered, until potato is cooked through.
  4. Serve on flatbread and add any toppings or garnishments you like. Lettuce, salsa, pineapple, vegan cheese sauce….the possibilities are endless!

Flatbread

Gluten free, super soft & flexible, and really delicious. These are great for making quesadillas, sandwiches or for tacos.

These are quick to make and have minimal ingredients. No fillers or chemical additives. And I can assure you they taste better than packaged tortillas or flatbreads.

 

They are flexible without crumbling, which tends to be the issue with a lot of gluten free baked goods. The tapioca flour helps keep this stretchy and flexible.

 

2 cups gluten free flour (I used 1 cup white rice flour + 1 cup tapioca flour)

1 tsp Himalayan sea salt

1 1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder

1 cup oat milk

  1. In a bowl mix the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Add in the milk and mix until dough forms.
  3. On a generously floured surface, using your hands, press a golf ball sized amount of dough out to form a flat circle. Using a roller won’t work well because it is a slightly sticky dough.
  4. Heat a griddle or large skillet to medium high and cook each side for about 2 minutes.

Pineapple Refresher

This smoothie screams tropical thirst quencher. Pineapple contains necessary and vital digestive enzymes and there really is no better hydrator than coconut water. Some benefits of coconut water include lowered blood pressure, increased athletic performance (thanks to electrolytes), boosted energy, reduced cellulite, and reduced muscle tension.

Pop all these ingredients into a blender and enjoy a cool refreshing smoothie on a hot day while boosting your health at the same time!

 

1 banana

1 cup pineapple (include the core, a lot of the nutritional benefit is in the core)

1 cup mango

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk

top with coconut water (I used pineapple infused coconut water, but plain coconut water works, too)

  1. Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Cilantro Lime Corn

This is a delicious, fresh, and bright side dish to accompany a veggie burger or served in a taco or burrito bowl.

It is quick and easy to make. You could eat it right away, or let it sit for an hour (or longer) to really let those flavors meld together. You can also eat it hot or cold.

1 16oz bag frozen corn (or you can cut fresh corn off the cob)

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

juice of 1 lime

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt

ground black pepper to taste

  1. Cook corn in a saucepan with water or vegetable broth,
  2. Once corn is done, mix corn with remaining ingredients in a large bowl and either serve immediately or let sit for at least an hour to intensify the flavors.

 

The Importance of Enzymes for Digestive Health

What is the key to good health? Proper digestion.

How can we dramatically improve our digestion? Enzymes.

Enzymes are complex protein molecules that are manufactured by all plant and animal cells. They are important because they break up large food molecules into smaller units that get absorbed into every cell.

Unfortunately, with the Standard American Diet (SAD) heavy on processed foods and drinks, too many people have poor digestion. Plus, as we age, we become more challenged by various forms of stress, environmental pollution, and emotional issues. This leads to depletion of our body’s natural ability to make enough enzymes to meet our enzymatic needs necessary for optimal digestion. Poor digestion means inadequate nutrient absorption.

You know the saying, “You are what you eat”? Well, that isn’t entirely accurate. It’s more like, “You are what you digest.”

What are the keys to proper digestion? You guessed it…ENZYMES.

Enzymes are necessary for every cell in your body, not just for digestion but for all of your physiological processes. The body needs enzymes to function properly, not just for digestion. Without enzymes, we wouldn’t be able to breathe, swallow, drink, or eat.

Two major categories of enzymes are digestive and metabolic.

Digestive enzymes help you break down food to be absorbed and utilized by every cell in your body. In addition to breaking down food, they help with gut healing, controlling pathogens, and immune support. Since your immune system begins in your gut, if you have digestive and enzyme issues, it is likely your immune system isn’t functioning properly.

Metabolic enzymes help the cells carry out a variety of functions related to reproduction and replenishment. They are involved with running your circulatory, lymphatic, cardiac, neurologic, endocrine, hepatic, and reproductive systems. They also maintain your skin, bone, joint, and muscle health.

Here are just some of the activities in your body that require enzymes:

  • Energy production
  • Absorption of oxygen
  • Fighting infections
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Getting nutrients into your cells
  • Carrying away toxic waste
  • Breaking down fats in your blood
  • Proper hormone regulation
  • Slowing the aging process

Sadly, 90% of the food Americans buy and eat is processed food. That means the American diet is high in cooked, processed, and sugary food. Combine that with the overuse of pharmaceuticals and you have a body that is depleted in its ability to make enzymes. Insufficient enzyme production is at the root of much of the stomach issues plaguing our country.

Enzymes help the body digest and assimilate nutrients from proteins, carbohydrates, fats and plant fibers and they assist in all chemical reactions taking place in the body including regeneration of cells and tissues and the elimination of toxic waste products. A healthy immune system depends on enzymes.

That begs the question, do we have an infinite supply of enzymes? The answer is no. We do not.

Our fast-paced lifestyle with a preoccupation with convenience has resulted in overly processed, polluted food-like products, all of which create free radical damage in our body known as accelerated aging.

According to Dr. Edward Howell, the pioneer of Enzyme Therapy, “Enzymes are substances that make life possible. They are needed for every chemical reaction that takes place in the human body. Without enzymes, no activity at all would take place. Neither vitamin, minerals, or hormones can do any work without enzymes.”

Dead foods are devoid of enzymes and place a heavy burden on our body to tap into its enzymatic reserves. It takes a lot of energy for the body to make these enzymes.  Our body will tap into its reserves to break down dead foods, but it can only do so for a limited time, until finally it reaches a point where it gets tapped out and depleted. Since we do not have an unlimited supply of enzymes, it leads to enzymatic failure. Repercussions of enzymatic failure are indigestion, constipation, and inflammation. Inflammation eventually leads to chronic disease and ultimately death.

Yikes!

So where can we get enzymes? How can we make sure we don’t use ours up? Raw foods. Plants.

Raw plant foods (foods not heated above 117 degrees Fahrenheit) are enzymatic rich foods and consuming them decreases your body’s burden to produce its own enzymes. The more foods you can eat raw the better. Ideally, it is suggested that you eat at least 75% of your food raw. When food is heated above 117 degrees, the natural enzymes present are also heated and denatured, meaning they become inactive, making the enzymes ineffective in the digestion process.

The most powerful enzyme-rich foods are those that are sprouted (seeds and legumes). In addition to sprouted foods, papaya, mango, grapes, pineapple, avocado, bee pollen, and raw honey are also rich in enzymes.

The more living foods you eat the more your body can direct its energy into producing metabolic enzymes. You can also lower your body’s demand for producing digestive enzymes by avoiding chewing gum. Chewing gum fools your body into believing it is digesting something, so it pumps out digestive enzymes. Why waste that precious resource?!

Avoid the situation where you are depleted of crucial enzymes. Eat mostly raw foods, as they contain their own enzymes and reduce your body’s need to make its own.

A great way to get an abundant amount of raw foods in your diet is juicing and blending. Fresh pressed juices and smoothies are nutrient rich, healing, and full of essential enzymes.  Beware of bottled juices, though, as they are generally pasteurized to ensure they are shelf stable and to kill harmful bacteria, but by doing so, they are rendered nearly devoid of all enzymes (leaving you with just a sugary caloric beverage). Investing in a juicer is a great option. You can juice your fresh produce and drink it straight away to flood your body with vital nutrients and enzymes. The only thing you are missing with juicing is the fiber, as that is what is removed during the juicing process. This is where blending comes in as a nutritional option. With blending you use the entire plant food, getting the nutrients, enzymes, and the fiber.

Also, you can never go wrong with a huge salad of leafy greens and a variety of veggies!

For juice and smoothie inspiration, check my juices/smoothies tab for delicious recipe ideas!