Tag Archives: ginger

Herbal Allies // Turmeric Lassi

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I finished my fourth term in nutrition grad school last Friday. I haven’t shared much about it here but this last winter has been intense. It was the best yet in terms of how much I’ve enjoyed the content and knowledge I’m acquiring. It has been a long haul though and because it coincided with tax season (for William) and spring marathon training for me, life has mostly consisted of attempting to completely fill up my brain with tough biochemical and physiological concepts and then subsequently trying to turn it all off, unplug as much as possible, and just run.

Motivation for any sort of inspired eating kind of went by the wayside. And I never realized how much being able to share just one meal a day with my favorite human is helpful for me to maintain a healthy relationship to food until he worked the craziest hours. Turns out, I’m equally good at doing the same when he wasn’t around to stop me.

It is time for a short stint of rest and focusing on other projects now, for the both of us.

Did I tell you I (of course) chose the longest concentration option of my nutrition program? I am focusing on herbal medicine as a component of clinical nutrition. Back in early 2016, I spoke to why I hadn’t enrolled in the nutrition program at my nearest university and really searched around for one that fit, that merged my interest in herbal medicine, ancient healing modalities such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, and had the rigorous scientific component I was craving. The program I ended up with fits me so well. I’ve pretty much loved every class, even as the content has gotten much more technical. The herbal classes, while still plenty intensive, have been welcome to continue engaging in creativity with the content I’m learning during this time.

One of the practicing herbalists in my program taught me early on that specific herbs will speak to us, we will develop an affinity for them, and we should trust that. Cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric are my little trinity that ‘speak to me’ the most and I find myself adding them to meals and drinks on a fairly daily basis. I’ve shared about them more than once before in Turmeric Ginger Seed + Nut Bars, Tahini, Date + Turmeric Bars, and my Good Energy Maca Latte.

Now that the weather has warmed a bit too, I’m more inclined to incorporate cooler, smoothie-type snacks and mini-meals into my routine. This Turmeric Lassi is my longtime go-to smoothie when I feel like I need a refresh/mix up in my eating patterns, and I often reach for it during an interchange of seasons. With this stint between school trimesters and welcoming William back to regular dinners at home, it’s definitely a new season for us.

 

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So what is so great about the common herbs/spices in this recipe?

Cinnamon // While most of us know cinnamon as the comforting and feel-good spice for baked goods, there’s actually a fair bit of evidence to suggest cinnamon can be used in higher, medicinal doses to improve blood sugar imbalance in type 2 diabetics. That isn’t why I enjoy it, however. I like it because it is warming, stimulating, and improves circulation. Plus, it simply tastes and smells delicious.

Ginger // Common fresh or dried ginger is exceptionally beneficial in controlling inflammation and muscular pain, increases circulation, and also aids in digestion. Like cinnamon, it is a warming and pungent spice, and I particularly enjoy it both through the winter and on chilly spring days.

Turmeric //  One of the current “superfoods,” turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. Much of the recent research points to it as a highly beneficial nearly catch-all herb, but it is most often associated with controlling inflammation and therefore improving joint and muscular health. The thing about turmeric that is not often shared, however, is that the beneficial curcumin compound it contains is exceptionally difficult to become bio-available in the body. Taking it with a small amount of ground black pepper and with another ingredient that contains fat helps turmeric work its magic in our systems.

Rosehips // The berries from wild dog roses are among nature’s richest and most-potent sources of Vitamin C, the vitamin we all associate with improving the immune system and warding off illness. It is a good herb to add in any time physical or mental stress is high.

 

Turmeric Lassi, makes 1
The spices here are in a higher, more medicinal dose than might be used in a standard smoothie recipe. I enjoy them but if you’re a little wary, begin with less and add more as desired. Though I make this with either applesauce or a banana, (and sometimes both instead of yogurt), I enjoy this more with applesauce. Using a banana will result in a sweeter smoothie if that’s more your interest. The photo above has a teaspoon of elderberry syrup swirled in for even more immune-enhancing effects. Elderberry is a tasty option for including if you feel a seasonal cold coming on. 

3/4 cup unsweetenened applesauce or 1 frozen banana
3/4 cup unsweetened plain coconut yogurt
1/2 – 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 – 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
dash of ground black pepper
1 tsp. rosehips powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. chia seeds
1 oz. fresh lemon juice (about 1/4 of a large lemon)
sweetener to taste, if needed (honey, maple syrup, powdered stevia leaves, etc.)
1 tsp. elderberry syrup, optional

  • Add all the ingredients to a food processor and puree until smooth. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the chia seeds to thicken it up a bit for a smoothie bowl.

Tahini, Date + Turmeric Bars

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Over the summer, I learned about 30 herbs and/or spices that are commonly used in western herbal medicine in my second herbal medicine class, and I really relished the opportunity to both broaden and deepen my understanding of natural plant medicines. In addition to learning that skullcap, the plant I had chosen to focus on learning about for an entire term in my first class, is the most popular herb sold through my university’s herbal dispensary, I spent the summer delving into a lot of research about specific herbs for treating inflammation and allergies due to my project for a client with seasonal allergies. I was limited to working with only the herbs in our class list, however, and because of that I chose a fairly non-traditional approach to working with allergies. Turmeric was among the herbs we studied, and though I did not end up recommending turmeric for allergies, I realized I easily could have and was probably expected to.

Though I know a lot more about the benefits of turmeric than I did before, there is much research to suggest that the curcumin compound it contains has extremely strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant abilities and it is beneficial in all manner of disorders and imbalances. Among others, it has antibacterial, anticancer, anti-rheumatic, anti-tumor, antiviral, anti-phlegmatic, and anti-parasitic properties. I’ve recommended it to my mom who has arthritis, runner friends for pain, and have taken it myself for (nearly instantaneous) relief after slamming my knee into a door. Though my knee incident was an exception, I take a different approach to using herbs than we would for pharmaceutical drugs; I don’t take them for their quick effect. Instead, herbs work to slowly and gently bring the body back into balance, and they work better in conjunction with other lifestyle supports, like getting enough rest, a balanced diet, exercise, etc.

Turmeric is extremely trendy right now, and while there is good reason for it to be, I also like this article about practicing caution with it, as with all herbal medicines. Too much of anything, even a supposed health food, can push us into imbalance. While I came to this conclusion on my own and no longer pop a curcumin supplement for running recovery “insurance” on a regular basis, I do tend to use it in small amounts frequently–and mostly because I really enjoy its flavor.

What I really enjoyed about the class is that we delved into the research on a number of common herbs and spices–ones we are already using and that aren’t the new trendy superfoods–like the ginger and cinnamon these bars contain. After 14 weeks of reading a ton of research articles, I finished the class even more in support of the importance of eating healthfully as the norm and using herbs and spices in small amounts throughout the day in whatever foods we’re eating so perhaps there’s a little less need to use any medicines–herbal or otherwise–to “fix” imbalances.

 

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Tahini, Date + Turmeric Bars, makes 8
I regularly rely on bars for after workouts and for busy afternoon snacks on the go. While I have a few versions of granola or energy bars on this blog that I do go back to, for the last few months I’ve been opting away from oats and grains as a main ingredient. Instead, I’ve been adapting a new favorite packaged bar. It has taken many renditions but now that I’ve finally gotten the base consistency to my liking (actually better than the packaged bar which I find a little too sweet,) I’m excited to begin delving into a few different flavor combinations, especially as William doesn’t favor my heavy affinity for the ginger/cinnamon/cardamom/turmeric spice combination and prefers the berry/fruity realm instead. For these bars, don’t forego the black pepper, as it helps the turmeric to be become more bioavailable. Additionally, for the options I’ve listed, the first is my favored ingredient but I also enjoyed the other options listed. Enjoy!

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup cashew or almond butter
3 medjool dates, pitted
6 Tbs. hemp protein powder or hemp seeds
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cardamom, optional
dash of black pepper
1 Tbs. brown rice syrup, apricot jam, maple syrup or honey
1-2 Tbs. water, as needed
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried figs or apricots, diced
2 cups crispy rice cereal or 2/3 cup oats, finely ground

  • Puree the tahini, nut butter, dates, hemp, salt, vanilla, spices, and syrup in a food processor until completely combined. Add 1-2 Tbs. water as needed to bring it together, if it’s a little dry. You can also a little more syrup or another date but I found that option a little too sweet.
  • Then add the raisins, diced figs or apricots and crispy rice or finely ground oats. Puree a couple more times until these last ingredients are just incorporated but not completely broken down.
  • Turn out and press into a 8×8-inch baking pan, or something of similar size. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, and then cut into individual bars, store, or eat as needed. They will last in the fridge for at least two weeks with no change in texture/consistency.

Character Training- A Running Update + My Good Energy Maca “Latte”

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I’m re-reading one of  my favorite books about running right now. It’s Ryan Hall’s Running With Joy, which is his daily journal that he kept in preparation for the 2010 Boston Marathon. I seem to quote Ryan a lot on this blog because he’s my first and favorite elite athlete. Ryan offers a Christian perspective to his training that can be applied to any area of life and it’s one that I relate to and gain perspective from often, both as a runner and in my faith-life.

 

One of the latest little gems that I picked up from Ryan was on character training. …I’m trying to keep a positive attitude but it’s tough, Ryan says. I want to see this as an opportunity for Christ to work in me and develop my character. Character training is harder than any workouts I do. 

 

If you’re a regular reader, you may or may not remember that I went into a running slow-down a few months ago around the turn of the year. I stopped running completely due to a weird foot injury. The whole experience brought about an unearthing of a lot of deep emotional baggage through which I’m still sifting and processing. The short and simple update on the injury is that I’m still working through it. My feet seem to bounce back and forth between one hurting one day or week, and the other the next. I’ve come back up to a few miles a week and people ask me all the time how I’m doing, whether I’m back to running. For the most part, my answer is “no, not really.” I say this even though my garmin and training journal clearly show progress. Some part of the perfectionistic, type-A runner in me does not consider 10-15 easy miles per week running even though it’s clearly what I’ve been doing. To be clear, this outlook only applies to myself. If I had this conversation with any other person, I’d want to smack them on the forehead and affirm, “You’re a runner. You’re running!”

 

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I bought the training journal in the above picture as a gift to self last fall, after a particularly big-for-me accomplishment. I saved it up for the beginning of the year, as I was looking forward to putting it to use to accomplish some big goals. When the injury appeared and I had to stop running completely, I did not want to use it. It made me feel like crap to be logging zero-miles for weeks at a time, even worse to have gone to the gym to cross train and realize I couldn’t do that either. I made a pact with myself that I’d still use it though, choosing to write down where I was at both mentally and physically and provide an accurate recording of the experience. In the past, I haven’t been so good about this and I look back at old training journals and see only a record of miles or times logged. There’s never been much description of where my head has been or how my body has felt. I have had lots of past injuries and none of them have been as mentally traumatic as this one. From the beginning, I have felt there is something significant to learn from this experience.

 

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I find that life often throws messages at me from all angles, bombarding me when there’s something I need to work on. Last week, it was the idea that I do A LOT of negative self-talk. I do it without realizing. I yell fairly violent words at myself for being clumsy, for forgetting, for being less-than-my-best. I bottle up and resent parts of me, I throw angry thoughts at my feet, and then push them as far as I know they can go in running. I will them to feel better, all the while silently berating them for being so broken. It was suggested that I recognize when I’m being negative and simply work on stopping those thoughts at their very beginning, with the idea that illness begins in the mind and can subsequently influence bodily illness. After having multiple professionals look at the physical reasons/weaknesses that might be causing and perpetuating the injury to no avail, I feel even more resolute in this.

 

My New Year’s Resolution was Thankfulness brings Increase, the idea of taking what God has given, no matter the joy or suffering, give thanks for it, and use it for His good. This practice has helped me to feel unbelievably blessed in much of my life, and I’ve been able to recognize there are far more important things than me, my problems, and what I want to do. In the past week too, since the beginning of simply recognizing my personal negativity, it has been curbed dramatically, likely in part because I don’t truly think so little of myself as all the negative thinking might imply.

But–I’m also a pusher. I want to see progress of the physical sort. What was a celebration last week, if not progressing, feels like stagnancy and/or going backwards this week, and on and on. It is character training to not always be moving forward, getting better. I had a thought when I was in the middle of the zero-miles months that this phase is true preparation for the goals that are still waiting for me. I am being prepared mentally in ways I never could have been without this phase, for the time when I’m ready to be tested again physically.

 

I cannot agree more with Ryan’s words. Character training is far harder than any workouts I do or have doneIt is far harder than any physical pain I have endured in this or previous injuries. And for that, today, I am especially thankful, for I see very real progress in character training. :)

 

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Good-Energy Maca “Latte”, makes 1 steamy cuppa

Adapted from Laura, this is my good-energy drink of choice lately. There’s a lot of talk that maca, a root vegetable from the Andes, is an adaptogen, and helps the mind and body positively respond to stress. I’m not really interested in the exact science of it because I feel a genuine lift every time I sip it. The taste of maca reminds me mildly of butterscotch which pairs nicely with the flavors of ginger and turmeric, and the color, too, is cheerful, so there we have it. The pinch of black pepper isn’t necessarily noticeable in taste, but helps the turmeric be more bio-available. Add it if you like.

12 oz. unsweetened almond milk

2 tsp. maca

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/8 tsp. ground turmeric

a pinch of black pepper

sweetener of choice

In a small saucepan, whisk the maca and spices into the milk over medium heat. Once the mixture nearly begins to simmer, remove from heat, pour into a mug, and add sweetener to taste.

 


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