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To Juice or not to Juice?

Monica Ruiz-Noriega

Whether you are detoxing, fasting or attempting to lose weight, juicing has become a highly popular activity. But should we all do it? Should you be juicing rather than eating? I guess it all depends on why you are juicing and how your general health is. I would like to share with you what I think are some of the benefits and drawbacks of juicing.

Benefits -

Juicing offers an easier way to get more fruits and vegetables into our diets. This is relevant because in addition to vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables are loaded with phytonutrients with antioxidant effects that offer a lot of health benefits.  

When we make juices, we use raw fruits and vegetables. The vitamins, phytonutrients and active enzymes that they offer do not get destroyed like they do with cooking. 

People with some sort of digestive issues and whose digestive systems  are not functioning properly tend to have trouble tolerating a lot of the fibre contained in raw fruits and vegetables. When you juice them, you remove all of the fibre from the fruits and vegetables, so these people may be able to tolerate juices and thus enjoy all the benefits that these have to offer. 

Drawbacks -

Depending on the fruits and vegetables you are juicing, juices can contain a lot of sugar. Additionally, as I stated above, when juicing, you remove all the fibre. The fibre of fruits and vegetables is important as not only is it beneficial for the gut flora but it also helps you feel full longer.

Juicing a lot of green vegetables is really popular, but some raw vegetables such as kale, broccoli and cabbage contain goitrogens - substances that can affect thyroid function and could prove problematic for people with pre-existing thyroid issues. 

Another big con is that it can be expensive to do it correctly. You need to use a relatively large amount of produce to make a fairly small volume of juice. Should you choose to do it with only organic fruits and vegetables, the price will get even higher. 

In my opinion, occasional juicing, or even a small amount daily can certainly be an important part of a healthy diet. But in no way should juices substitute a healthy, whole-food diet that includes both raw and lightly cooked fresh foods, with minimum amounts of toxins. 

 

 

 

ACRYLA WHAT?

Monica Ruiz-Noriega

 

During my morning commute listening to the ratio, among the hundreds of news about Trump and his government, I heard a note that really caught my attention. NPR reported that The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is raising alarms about a toxic chemical found in some brands of animal crackers and cookies - ACRYLAMIDE.

Acrylamide forms from a reaction between sugars and the amino acid asparagine, naturally present in foods, when these foods are cooked at high temperature, fried or baked for too long. While the chemical is common, it’s also on the list of toxic chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.

According to the CEH, this chemical poses particular threats to young children - "given their smaller size and the types of foods they consume, children typically take in twice as much acrylamide, per pound of body weight, as adults. In pregnant women, higher levels of dietary acrylamide have been linked to reduced birth weight and head circumference, key indicators of a child’s future health"

(You can see the full list of animal crackers and cookies with the highest levels of acrylamide in

http://www.ceh.org/news-events/press-releases/content/cancer-causing-chemical-found-walgreens-disney-animal-crackers/)

Your highest-risk foods for acrylamide exposure fall into three basic categories: (1) fried, processed foods like potato chips and french fries; (2) baked snack foods containing wheat and sugar, including cookies and crackers; and (3) processed foods involving toasted grains, including toasted wheat cereals, instant coffee and dry soup mixes.

If you want to minimise exposure to this toxic chemical, in addition to limiting your intake of the above foods, make sure you consume a good amount of foods that help your liver in the process of detoxification from this nasty chemical. Foods like cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, as well as garlic and onions.

Longer cooking times and cooking at higher temperatures can increase the amount of acrylamide in foods further. Choose cooking methods that do not promote acrylamide formation, such as steaming, slow cooking and sautéing in low heat, instead of frying, broiling, grilling and roasting.

This reinforces even more the importance to consume fresh, homemade goods, where you know exactly how food was made and what´s in it!

Post-Election reflexion - Are you feeling scared and sad?

Monica Ruiz-Noriega

anx·i·e·ty

aNGˈzīədē/

noun

  1. a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

- New Oxford American Dictionary

Resonate with anyone? For me, it sums up EXACTLY how I’ve been feeling.

This last week has been a difficult one for many Americans, and indeed others around the globe. During this time of fear and uncertainty, I have been longing for peace and some sense of reassurance that everything would turn out okay. I found this comfort through practicing   yoga and meditation and, in particular, by spending more time outdoors.

While nature is always changing, it is a sort of constant for me.  Green spaces offer that grounding environment that I can still turn to when everything else is chaotic. Even after an event as historical as this, the woods and the beach will be there, and they won’t be different than they were yesterday.

According to the Harvard Medical School Health Publications, since the 1970s meditation and other stress-reduction techniques such as Yoga have been studied as possible treatments for anxiety.  The increasing popularity of both practices has provided growing evidence that meditation and yoga can help manage this condition. Exercise, spending time in Nature or even socialising with friends, are other useful self-soothing techniques.

I consider myself very fortunate for many reasons, but right now, I feel particularly thankful to live in an area where you can find more Yoga Studios than fast food venues, and where beautiful open spaces are not hard to find. Northern California (and the Bay area in particular), is well known for its views and majestic scenery, offering spectacular “restorative” green spaces where one can withdraw for a little self-reflexing and self-soothing.  

In fact, the alleviating effects that spending time in nature can have on anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues — and especially when combined with exercise – are pretty well proven. Exposure to nature is often used as part of therapy for short-term recovery from stress and long-term improvement of people’s health and overall well being, as well as to improve self-esteem and mood.  Indeed, people feel a little more energetic even after just looking at pictures of nature!

Meanwhile, incorporating exercise into the time we spend outdoors is all more beneficial. In 2010 English scientists reported that just five minutes of outside exercise resulted in pretty dramatic improvements in self-esteem and mood. Exercise helps release endorphins, which improve our natural immunity and reduce our perception of pain. They may also serve to improve mood. Another theory suggests that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which improves mood even more directly. It's hard to imagine how a stroll in a pretty park wouldn't make us feel better than a walk in a dreary setting. I know it helps me relax and cheer up!

I’ve balanced exercising outdoors with regular meditation (or meditating outdoors for bonus points!). The practice of sitting still and comfortably, of focusing on my breathing, and of bringing my mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future has allowed me to relieve a lot of the stress I’ve been carrying since the election. Never underestimate the good a moment of peace and quiet can do!

So, if like me you’re feeling bit anxious, unsettled, and upset, my suggestion to get your mind back into gear would be to start a daily meditation practice using guided meditation apps like Headspace, going out, and moving around. I hope you find as much comfort in these practices as I have.

Mindfulness colouring: an engaging and relaxing activity that helps combat stress

Monica Ruiz-Noriega

I’m trying to make it a habit to take 15 minutes of my day and use that time to slow down, relax, and come out of the craziness of my everyday life.

A couple of months ago my 16-year-old daughter brought me a very thoughtful gift: a ‘mindfulness’ colouring book. This prompted me to begin practicing on a regular basis an activity that I’ve always enjoyed: colouring.

Studies have shown that colouring is an effective way to relax and reduce stress and anxiety, as well as help clear your head and make you more focused. So what better way to wind down every day than by colouring?

I’ve noticed that, while waiting at a doctor’s office, after eating my lunch, or while enjoying a cup of tea, other than reaching instinctively for my phone to check my email or read new posts on Facebook, I’m now spending that time colouring.

Colouring has also given me a helping hand when out for lunch or dinner. What better way to resist that deliciously tasting bread basket they bring you while you wait for your meal than by engaging instead in this relaxing activity? I have not only been able to resist eating the bread but I’ve also been able to relax a bit before I start eating, and thus I have been having better digestion. If you’re trying to skip dessert but everyone else at the table is having it, maybe engaging in this type of activity would help you to take your mind off the food and relax while others enjoy their dessert.

I have always been an advocate of not using electronics while eating. As a mother of three kids (two of them teenagers – and you know how difficult it can be to convince teens to disconnect from electronics) I always bring with me enough coloured pencils, colouring books, and blank paper for them to entertain themselves while we’re waiting.

I swear by my mindfulness colouring book (which you can find pictured above), but any kind of doodling or colouring can be beneficial. Do it before you go to bed to help you unwind and disconnect. This will get you in a more suitable state of mind for sleep and your sleep might be deeper and more restful. Do it before and after eating to help you slow down. Do it while waiting, before an exam, during your downtime at the end of the day, or any time you’re feeling at all stressed or bored. Who says colouring is just for kids?

Healthy and Beautiful Skin from Within

Monica Ruiz-Noriega

A few days ago I was invited to organise a workshop the main goal of which was to talk about foods that are important for supporting and nourishing our skin. The enthusiasm, curiosity and overwhelming response of the people who attended the workshop made me realise that skin nutrition is a subject that interests people a lot. This experience inspired me to write this piece.

Nature has provided us with a wide range of nutrients that we need to include in our diet to support and nourish the skin. Lacking any of these nutrients can compromise the health and stability of the skin. However, maintaining a healthy skin is a much more complicated process that is affected by many other different factors.

Healthy skin depends enormously on a digestive system working effectively. If the foods that we eat cannot be properly digested and the nutrients in those foods cannot be absorbed then, we are not going to be able to supply the skin with the nutrients that it needs.

If any of the body's main detoxification and elimination pathways, the liver, lungs, kidneys or intestines are compromised, the body will try to find the means to get rid of toxins and wastes in some other way and this could be through the skin. This could be reflected in your skin as acne, skin outbreaks, dry skin, eczema, dark circles, puffy skin, and others.

Nutrients reach skin cells via an extensive capillary network. As the skin is a continually renewing layer, it is important to ensure that there is a constant supply of nutrients. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain healthy and flexible arteries, veins and capillaries so that nutrients can reach the skin cells and waste can be removed and eliminated.

A number of lifestyle factors also affect the appearance of your skin. Stress is believed to have an effect, as it can exacerbate several skin disorders and there is evidence that wound healing is impaired by chronic stress. UV radiation from the sun is well known to damage the connective tissue of your skin, contributing to the appearance of wrinkles and brown spots. Cigarette smoking extrinsically prematurely ages the skin. Cigarette smoke appears to activate enzymes in the skin that degrade the connective tissue of the skin's dermis (e.g., collagen).

Personal skincare habits may also have a profound effect on the skin. Some ingredients used in skin care products can be damaging to the skin, causing inflammation, irritation, dryness or an imbalance in the skin's protective acidic nature. Try to avoid those products that contain artificial colours and fragrances, Sodium Nitrite 3 and Formaldehyde, Parabens, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Phthalates. If you consider that much of what we put onto our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream (this is how nicotine and contraceptive patches work!), it follows that we should be as concerned about the products we put onto our skin as we are about the foods that we eat.

To find out more about the harmful ingredients in your skincare products, visit the EGW's Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics following this link http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

If you want to learn about how to 'listen' to what your skin may be trying to tell you and how internal and external factors affect your skin, follow the link to this very informative page: https://experiencelife.com/article/what-your-skin-is-trying-to-tell-you/