All posts by Mira


About Mira

Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it's not just what you eat, but what's in what you eat. She is the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in their food. Dessy is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner whose mission is to educate and empower consumers. She curates the Lean Clean Green Subscription box, the premier, organic, earth-friendly, healthy, sustainable subscription box which can be found online at https://theingredientguru.memberbox.com

Unplugging For Mental Health

by Mira Dessy, The Ingredient Guru

Keeping yourself entertained and keeping your mind active is important to overall wellness and mental health. In fact, I would argue that it’s more important now than ever before.

Most people are home by themselves or with a limited number of people. During this challenging time it’s easy to get sucked into the temptation to spend the entire day on the phone checking Facebook and Instagram every 10 minutes in case some posted something new. Or to veg out completely and binge watch Netflix for 12 hours a day.

As fun as that might sound for a little while, a steady diet of this is not good for your mental healthy, not to mention our eyeballs. Anne Lamott has a great saying, “Almost everything will work better if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” So here are some great activities to help you disconnect from the electronic tether. Take a break from the television, your phone, your iPad, your computer, whatever electronic devices you’ve got and just unplug for a little bit. You’ll probably feel better after you do.

Connection and Conversation

How fortunate are we to have uninterrupted time where we can actually talk with the people we are sheltering in place with (that’s assuming you’re not alone and it’s not just you and the dog or cat). Instead of everyone running in different directions taking care of their own busy lives, sit down and connect. Talk about how you’re feeling, plan a vacation, share your dreams of what’s next. There are lots of wonderful conversations you can have. If you’re stuck getting started try one of these.

 

Reading is fun!

 

I love books. There are so many wonderful books out there. Fiction or non-fiction, it’s your choice. But there’s an endless supply of wonderful things to read. If you’re an e-reader person I’d encourage you to try paper, just so you can unplug for a while. And who knows, if you look around at home you may find books you bought that you meant to read but hadn’t got around to yet. Use this as an opportunity to cut down on your tsundoku pile. Looking for a good book recommendation on health and wellness? Consider joining The Healthy Readers Book Club. 

Art Projects

This is a great time to reconnect with your artistic side. We are ALL artists (here’s an article that describes my feelings on this topic exactly. One of my favorite ways to create is to doodle. Whether it’s painting, drawing, coloring books, collage, knitting, sewing, anything, let your creative spirit soar. And the best part is that this doesn’t have to be a solitary practice. If you’re sheltering in place with other people, why not take time to be creative together?

Creative Writing or Journaling

We’ve gotten away from the art of journaling. Many of us think we’re too busy to take the time to set pen to paper. But now? Well, why not take advantage of the time. You can share your thoughts about this time in history, write a story, write poems, or even share stories about your life. You may discover a reconnection to your inner thoughts when you take the time to slow down and actually write. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer prize winning essay. Just write from the heart and express yourself.

Board Games

When was the last time you took the time to play a game. To get caught up in the fun and laughter of a board game, or card game, or some sort of game? Why not haul out those boxes, dust them off, and make it a new family habit. Who knows, you may have so much fun that this becomes a regular weekly practice that you take forward into your new normal when this shelter-in-place situation is lifted.

Whatever your choose for your unplugging time, one of the best benefits is the healthy distraction from the cacophony of media overwhelm. At this point we’re all on the verge of burnout from the ever-increasing noise of the media. Not to say that you shouldn’t be informed, but let’s take a break, some emotional down-time, and unplug, just for a little bit.

How To Make Non-Dairy Milk

by Mira Dessy, The Ingredient Guru

If you are one of the approximately 65% of all adult humans who have trouble with lactose, you may have considered switching to non-dairy milk products. If nothing else, simply because you're tired of always paying more for lactose-free [insert dairy product here], or because you keep forgetting to bring your lactase enzymes with you.

What is lactose intolerance?

For those that may be struggling with this issue and learning about this for the first time, allow me to explain. Lactose intolerance is where the body cannot properly break down lactose, milk sugar. This can cause a number of symptoms including diarrhea, cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, and, although not frequent, vomiting.

Lactose, by the way, is why things like milk list 11g of sugar per cup on the label. There's no added sugar in the milk, it's part of the milk. Side note: if you're going to drink or consume milk, I strongly suggest that it be whole milk and organic, preferably pasture-raised. This also applies to or yogurt, or other dairy products. 

For those people who cannot tolerate lactose, most of the population, there is a solution. To purchase dairy products where the lactose has been split into it's component parts of galactose and glucose, making it easier to digest. Or taking lactase, an enzyme that their system lacks, which helps to break down the lactose.Other options

For those who would rather not deal with the issues around lactose intolerance there is another option. Plant-based milks. These are made by processing certain things like almonds, coconut, oats, rice, or hemp, and making a milk-like product. While it doesn't taste like milk, it's close enough that it's often an acceptable substitute.

Drinking plant-based milks can, however, come with it's own challenges. One is that because the plant-based options are thinner than milk, emulsifiers and thickeners are added. These are made from plant gums which can cause digestive upset if over consumed or for those with very sensitive digestive tracts.

Carrageenan in particular is strongly linked to digestive health issues and should be avoided in any product. Other plant gums can be just as overwhelming to the system, causing many of the problems that lactose does.

Making almond milk at home

Instead of buying plant milks at the store it is possible to make them at home. Almond and coconut are the easiest to make yourself. With just a little bit of time, a few healthy ingredients, and not a lot of equipment, you can enjoy your own delicious homemade milk.

Almond Milk

  • 2 cups almonds
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  1. Soak almonds in water overnight
  2. Discard soaking water and rinse almonds well
  3. Place almonds, salt, vanilla, and 4 cups of water in a high powered blender
  4. Blend on high speed for 2 minutes
  5. Strain through cheesecloth or a nut milk bag
  6. Solids can be refrigerated and used in baking within 4-5 days
  7. Refrigerate almond milk before serving

No Soy

You may be wondering why soy milk is not on my suggested list of plant-based milks. I don't recommend consuming it because soy tends to be one of the most highly genetically modified crops we have. Soy is also a phytoestrogen, meaning plant estrogen, and can disrupt hormones. Therefore it's best to avoid not only soy milk, but also the wide variety of soy-based products on the market.

Sources

 
Nardi, J. et al. Prepubertal subchronic exposure to soy milk and glyphosate leads to endocrine disruption. Food and Chemical Toxicology
Volume 100, February 2017, Pages 247-252. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691516304896

Vitamin D - sunshine

What’s The Deal With Vitamin D3?

Vitamin D3 Deficiency

Did you know that vitamin D3 is a super vitamin? Every cell in our body has a D3 receptor. In fact, it’s vitally important for our immune system to have sufficient amounts of Vitamin D3. Furthermore, depleted levels can lead to fatigue, bone pain, bone loss, hair loss, depression, and/or delayed healing.

Most of us don't tend to think about our vitamin D3 levels or how to support our bodies to get enough. But it's more critical than we think. Some of the contributing factors for vitamin D deficiency include: being darker-skinned, carrying excess weight, being elderly, not consuming a lot of cold water fatty fish, living further away from the equator (this means less exposure to the sun due to latitude), not spending much time outdoors, and using a lot of sunscreen. Side note: While it is important to use sunscreen, you should try to get 20 minutes per day of un-sunscreened exposure in order to absorb some Vitamin D3 naturally.

Vitamin D3 and Influenza

Respiratory ailments and influenza tend to be highest, in the colder season (Winter in the northern hemisphere, Summer in the southern hemisphere). These are the times of the year when most people have lower levels of vitamin D in their system. Either because they didn't have sufficient stores in their system to begin with or because they're at a latitude where they simply can't get enough exposure.

Over the years a number of studies have been done showing that increased Vitamin D3 levels are helpful to avoid or reduce symptoms of influenza. Results from one study shared, “Vitamin D deficiency predisposes children to respiratory infections. Ultraviolet radiation (either from artificial sources or from sunlight) reduces the incidence of viral respiratory infections, as does cod liver oil (which contains vitamin D). An interventional study showed that vitamin D reduces the incidence of respiratory infections in children.

COVID-19 Infection

A new study, released in April 2020, now indicates that higher levels of vitamin D may also reduce the risk of infections and death due to COVID-19. The supplemental recommendation from the study is, “To reduce the risk of infection, it is recommended that people at risk of influenza and/or COVID-19 consider taking 10,000 IU/d of vitamin D3 for a few weeks to rapidly raise 25(OH)D concentrations, followed by 5000 IU/d. The goal should be to raise 25(OH)D concentrations above 40-60 ng/mL (100-150 nmol/L).” 

It's important to understand that the numbers listed in this study are based on allopathic medicine.  Functional medicine recommendations for Vitamin D3 are 50-75 ng/mL.

Making sure that you have adequate levels is definitely important for overall wellness.  With this recent information, we can see that it’s even more critical to make sure your levels are where they need to be.  Part of the challenge, however, is that it’s not a good idea to simply take high doses of Vitamin D without knowing what your levels are.

Testing your levels

When it comes to testing Vitamin D3 levels the best option is micronutrient testing. It looks at not only your Vitamin D3 levels, but also co-factors such as Vitamin K2, and Vitamin A. When doing micronutrient testing my preference is for intracellular (inside the cell) rather than serum levels as that gives a more accurate reading in terms of what the cells have available. 

It is possible to test for Vitamin D3 without testing your other micronutrients. This can be done either through a blood draw at a doctor's office or laboratory draw station. Another option is to get a fingerstick test, this is one that can be purchased as an at home-testing kit. [To get a 20% off discount on this test you'll need to enter 2 coupons – GURU20 + VITAMIND.  You must enter both coupons]

Increasing your vitamin D levels

While adding foods that are rich in vitamin D3 is always a good idea, it can be challenging to get enough through food alone.  These foods include: cold-water fatty fish – salmon, sardines, tuna steak – milk (organic, whole), eggs (pastured), and shiitake or portobello mushrooms.

Other options for getting vitamin D are:

  • Getting sunshine on a regular daily basis. This does mean getting outside with no sunscreen for at least 20 minutes per day (weather allowing).  However, the amount that you can absorb in the colder months, when you need it most, is very limited due to the sun being lower on the horizon and the days being shorter. 
  • Adding cod liver oil to your diet. This is an excellent source of both Vitamin D3 and Vitamin A. The best option is raw, extra virgin. There is a theory that because we no longer regularly dose kids (and adults) with cod liver oil in the winter and we slather sunscreen on every time we are outdoors we have created a vitamin D3 deficient population.
  • Adding supplemental vitamin D3. When choosing a Vitamin D to take it is important to get a high-quality supplement without negative-ingredient fillers. And it's important to note that we've been talking about Vitamin D3, cholecalciferol. This is the most bioavailable form and is more potent than Vitamin D2, ergocalciferol. Many people tend to rely on their multi-vitamin for the Vitamin D levels, not understanding that the form found in most vitamins is actually D2 unless they specifically state otherwise.

Summary

To wrap this all up in one nice neat little package here's what you really need to know:

  • Test your Vitamin D3 levels to find out what they are
  • Get outside and get some sunshine
  • Boost your Vitamin D3 to at least 50 ng/mL

 

Affiliate statement: It is important for you to understand that some of the links on this site are affiliate links for which I may receive a small referral fee at no extra cost to you. While I may sometimes be asked to review a book, product, or service, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  My promise to you is that I will only put links on this site that I believe in, feel I would support, or am willing to purchase or use personally.  Full Affiliate Disclosure

Sources

Cannell, J.J., et al. (2006). Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiology and Infection134(6), 1129–1140. doi: 10.1017/S0950268806007175

Grant, W.B.; Lahore, H.; McDonnell, S.L.; Baggerly, C.A.; French, C.B.; Aliano, J.L.; Bhattoa, H.P. Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths. Nutrients 202012, 988.

crepes

Flourless Baking Ideas And Recipes

Out of flour?

More people are at home instead of out and about. Restaurants are offering limited service. Because of both those things that means more people are cooking at home. Including making desserts. But more people baking at home may lead to limited supplies at the grocery store for things like flour.  So there's an increased need for flourless baking recipes. Of course, flourless baking is nothing new if you're someone who usually eats gluten-free. You'll still find some delicious suggestions here.

For those who are just learning how to bake at home, you'll be happy to know that flourless baking is just as good. And it's not difficult. Sometimes it's even better than the floured variety for some baked goodies. 

I did a quick video about the idea of making sweet treats without flour

 

So if the supplies aren't readily available, it's time to look at different options. Luckily there are a number of them.  Here are my top seven suggestions for what you can make that don't require flour. 

Flourless Treats

  • Black Bean Brownies – these are absolutely amazing! Every time I make them for an event someone asks what the recipe is because these are so fudgy and just. that. good. When I tell them the secret ingredient is black beans people are surprised. But that doesn't stop them from having second helpings 🙂
  • Coconut Macaroons – This is another super easy 3 ingredient recipe that turns out delicious every time. Although these tend to be easily available around Easter/Passover time, the rest of the year notsomuch. It turns out they're so easy to make you don't need to wait for the right time of year to stock up.  Just be sure to buy unsulfured coconut shreds for the healthiest option.
  • Dessert Roll-ups – This is a delicious and easy way to use paleo-style pancakes as a dessert. 1 large banana, mashed + 2 large eggs, beaten + 1 teaspoon vanilla. Blend all ingredients together and then make thin pancakes with the batter. These can be filled with jam or chopped fresh fruit and then rolled up to eat. Or you can make a nut butter with jam or mashed fruit one. If desired top your crepes with a little whipped cream or a drizzle of honey. They're so delicious you may find yourself making another batch of batter.
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake – Warning, this is not a low-calorie recipe! But it is worth every single decadent bite. If you don't happen to have any it's possible to make your own almond flour using a vitamix or other blender. Just be careful because if you blend it too long you'll actually make almond butter (see nut butter cookies above).
  • Lemon Polenta Cake – Using polenta in place of the flour makes for a really delicious, moist cake. Just be sure to purchase non-GMO and glyphosate-free polenta. 
  • No-Flour Cookie Dough – Because sometimes you really just want to eat cookie dough. But these days, especially with the eggs, that's not really a good idea. So this flourless recipe is a great way to get that cookie dough texture and taste without risking salmonella.
  • Nut Butter Cookies – This is a really easy 3 ingredient recipe.  1 cup nut butter (I prefer almond) + 1/3 cup sugar + 1 large egg.  Mix all ingredients together.  Chill for at least 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line baking tray with parchment paper. Place heaping Tablespoons of dough on the paper.  Flatten with a fork (can criss cross for a pretty design). Bake 8-10 minutes.  Let cool 15 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 

 

Fight Inflammation

Fight Inflammation – 12 Tips To Support Your Immune System

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a part of the body’s natural healing process. After a trauma of some kind, a cut, an injury, an infection (bacterial, parasitic, or viral), the body responds by sending nutrients and immune cells to clear damaged tissue or fight infection. It’s meant to be a short term response.

The challenge is that when inflammation goes on for an extended period of time it then becomes chronic.  If it continues the immune cells fighting the inflammation can be stimulated to then also attack healthy tissue.  Inflammation that continues for a long period of time is highly associated with a number of health issues. These are broad-ranging and include arthritis, cancer, depression, diabetes, fatigue, and heart disease.

Symptoms of chronic inflammation

Symptoms can be varied. Sometimes they also look like symptoms for other health issues. If you think you are possibly experiencing chronic inflammation it’s important to talk with a healthcare professional to get a proper diagnosis.

Symptoms include:

  • Aches and pains – these can appear anywhere in the body from joints to muscles to other soft tissue areas
  • Acne and other skin outbreaks
  • Anxiety and depression – inflammation can often interfere with neurotransmitter (brain chemical) health which in turn may cause mood disorders
  • Chronic infections – this can be in different areas of the body but seem to reoccur regularly
  • Cognitive decline – studies show that increased inflammation can impact brain health and reasoning skills
  • Congestion
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Dry eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal health challenges – this is wide-ranging from abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, to acid reflux and chronic nausea
  • Obesity – weight gain can be due to what is sometimes referred to as “false fat” where the body holds onto water as part of the inflammatory process

How to reduce your risk

One way to lower your potential for chronic inflammation is to make changes to your diet and your lifestyle. These changes may not have an immediate effect but you need to remember that inflammation doesn’t occur overnight. Steady and regular focus on healthy choices and changes can have a positive impact and help to reduce chronic inflammation.

Foods That Reduce Inflammation

  • Choose healthy fats There are far too many saturated fats in our modern diet. The manufactured ones (margarine, trans-fats and vegetable oils) tend to increase inflammation. We need more omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats in our diet. These help to decrease inflammation. Good choices in this category include olive oil, nuts, and cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna.
  • Forget frying How you prepare your food matters. Frying can create compounds that increase inflammation and negatively impact gut health. Rather than deep-frying, consider sautéing lightly, steaming, or grilling foods.
  • Get more garlic This highly anti-inflammatory vegetable is widely known for its wonderful flavor. Garlic is also anti-viral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal making it a delicious, and beneficial, addition to your cooking repertoire.
  • Reduce refined carbohydrates Food-like items such as breads, cakes, pasta, and other refined products have been highly processed. The processing removes nutrients and makes them quick for the body to break down into sugars. These energy-dense/low nutrient products contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and chronic inflammation.
  • Reduce or avoid inflammatory foods There are a number of foods that contribute to inflammation. These should be reduced or completely avoided in the diet.  They include: coffee, black tea, soft drinks, alcohol (sometimes found in over-the-counter medications or herbal tinctures) nitrates/nitrites, sugar (especially white sugar), vegetable cooking oils, trans-fats (anything marked hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated), artificial sweeteners, and monosodium glutamate

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Inflammation

  • Avoid Toxins While you may be reading labels on your food products are you also checking personal care and cleaning product labels?  These things can have a high toxin load which is best to avoid. Reading the label and checking the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database for personal care products or their Guide to Healthy Cleaning will help you avoid many toxins.
  • Brush and floss Brushing and flossing your teeth is an important part of everyday oral health. It’s also effective at maintaining overall body health. This is because oral bacteria can travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. Studies show this bacteria to be linked to a number of inflammatory health conditions including gut disease. Recommendations are to brush at least 2 minutes twice a day and floss at least once a day.
  • Move your body Exercise is an important part of overall health. There may be a temporary inflammatory response to intense exercise, however, the long-term impact is improved blood flow, oxygenation, reduced inflammation, and improved mobility and quality of life. There is no one perfect exercise, simply the one that works for you.
  • Stay hydrated Hydration is an essential part of wellness. Dehydration has been shown to reduce metabolic function, increase the risk for a variety of diseases, and potentially to shorten life. Don’t stay thirsty, hydrate.
  • Stress less There is no such thing as a stress-free life. Ongoing, chronic stress has been linked to inflammation. It can be physical, emotional, mental, any form of stress that can have a cumulative impact.  There’s also no one-size-fits-all solution to lower our response to stressful situations. The best solution is to find a mindfulness practice that works for you and focus on taking some time to stress less.

  • Vitamin Zzzzz Most adults need somewhere between 7.5-9.0 hours of sleep each night in order to be rested and to support good physical and mental health. Practicing good sleep habits will have a beneficial impact on overall health and wellness.

You can lower your risk for the impacts of chronic inflammation by paying attention to what you eat, think, drink, and do.  Remember to make positive lifestyle choices and be proactive about your wellbeing. Choose to support your healthy aging by getting chronic inflammation under control.

Sources

Allen, M.D., et al. Suboptimal hydration remodels metabolism, promotes degenerative diseases, and shortens life. JCI Insight. 2019 Sep 5; 4(17): e130949.

Atarashi, K, et al. Ectopic colonization of oral bacteria in the intestine drives TH1 cell induction and inflammation. Science  20 Oct 2017: Vol. 358, Issue 6361, pp. 359-365

Bendsen, N.T., et al. Effect of industrially produced trans fat on markers of systemic inflammation: evidence from a randomized trial in women. October 2011 The Journal of Lipid Research, 52, 1821-1828.

Hall, A, et al. Garlic Organosulfur Compounds Reduce Inflammation and Oxidative Stress during Dengue Virus Infection. Viruses 2017, 9, 159.

López-Alarcón, M, et al. Excessive Refined Carbohydrates and Scarce Micronutrients Intakes Increase Inflammatory Mediators and Insulin Resistance in Prepubertal and Pubertal Obese Children Independently of Obesity. Mediators of Inflammation. 2014.

Mikkelsen, K, et al. Exercise and mental health. Maturitas. Vol 106, Dec 2017. pg 48-56.

Ozawa, M, et al. Dietary pattern, inflammation and cognitive decline: The Whitehall II prospective cohort study. Clinical Nutrition Volume 36, Issue 2, April 2017, Pages 506-512

Rohleder, N. Stress and inflammation – The need to address the gap in the transition between acute and chronic stress effects. Psychoneuroendocrinology. Vol 5, Jul 2019. Pg 164-171.

Zhang, J., et al. Thermally Processed Oil Exaggerates Colonic Inflammation and Colitis-Associated Colon Tumorigenesis in Mice. Cancer Prev Res November 1 2019 (12) (11) 741-750.

winter soup

Winter Soup

It's still winter

We've made it past the winter solstice and the days are slowly getting longer. But the weather is definitely cold and damp. And it still gets dark pretty early. On days like that, I think there's nothing like a nourishing, warming winter soup. Combined with a simple salad and a delicious cheesy biscuit, it makes a perfect dinner at the end of the day. Plus it's an easy meal that comes together pretty quickly.

 

Winter Soup
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 ribs celery, diced
  2. 1 white onion, minced
  3. 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  4. 1- 15 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
  5. 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  6. 1/2 cup spinach
  7. 1 large zucchini, diced
  8. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  9. 4 cups bone broth
  10. 1 tbsp dried basil
  11. 2 tsp dried oregano
  12. 1 tbsp dried parsley
  13. Optional: add 1 small hot pepper for a bit of a warming kick - if this is too spicy, the pepper can be cooked separately and added to the bowl before serving
To make in the Instant Pot
  1. Add all ingredients into the pot and stir to combine
  2. Seal and cook on manual high for 20 minutes
  3. Natural release 10 minutes then quick release
To make in a slow cooker
  1. Add all ingredients and stir to combine
  2. Cover and cook high 3-4 hours/low 6-7 hours
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste
  4. Garnish with fresh parsley
  5. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
 
For quick and easy cheesy biscuits I use this recipe from Pamela's and add 1/4 cup of shredded cheese. I get perfect gluten-free biscuits every time.
 
word of the year 2020

The 2020 Word Of The Year Is…

Here we are, the start of a new year.  All freshly minted.  Smelling like blank pages, freshly sharpened pencils, ready to rock and roll.  And you know what that means…time for a new word.

The history

If you've been following me for a while you know that each January I choose a word to serve as my focus for the next 12 months. I've been doing this since 2014.  Previous words have been, Inspire, Change, Balance, Focus, Mindfulness, and last year's word, Simple

It turns out last year was anything BUT simple. However knowing that this was my word, and having it on my inspiration board, meant that when I was evaluating things, or trying to bring order into chaotic situations, my uppermost thought was how to achieve that ideal of simplicity.

I like to encourage my friends and readers to pick a word as well and I love hearing about their word, what it means to them, and how they anticipate it will support them in the coming year.

Definition

Like previous years, the task of choosing a word is an important one. Not something I take lightly. I need to mull over the choices that seem to call to me until eventually settling on one that feels just right. Every year I find myself surprised at how the word somehow seems to find me. It's never a flippant or lightly chosen one, but one that I've truly searched for.

The word I've chosen for this year is Authentic – [ aw-then-tik ] – adjective

Winter Hydration Tips

Winter Hydration Tips

Why hydrate in cold weather?

We're used to thinking about hydration when it's hot outside. After all, when we're active and sweating we're losing moisture. But you may not think about the importance of winter hydration. It turns out staying hydrated in the winter is equally as important. During these colder, usually dryer, months, you are drying out both through your skin and by breathing. 

When cold, dry winter air hits your lungs, they have to warm it up and humidify it. This takes moisture from your body. And if you're spending lots of time outside, especially if you're a winter sports enthusiast, you'll need even more hydration because the more effort you expend, the more humidity your body releases.

If you're sweating you may not realize how much moisture you're losing. That's because when it's dry out sweat evaporates much more quickly. And because you're already cold you may not notice the increased cooling that comes from sweat drying.

Signs of dehydration

Dehydration can suppress your immune system and also leads to a number of other health challenges. Be on the lookout for these signs that you may need to drink up:

  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth 
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness or cramping

The hydration factor

Before we get to the tips to support healthy hydration in the winter it's important that you know what your hydration factor is. This formula is a general guideline. If you're spending lots of time outdoors, or expending extra effort, or even if you're at a higher elevation (say for skiing), you'll need to consider increasing how much hydration you're getting.

To figure out how much hydration you need, calculate your body weight. Divide that in half for the number of ounces needed to be properly hydrated. Divide that number by 8 to get the number of cups of fluid.

For example:

     150 pounds
     divided by 2 = 75
     divided by 8 = 9.4 cups

Take that number, divide it by four and then set a “hydration alarm” approximately every two hours. When the alarm goes off put your beverage in front of you with the goal to drink it before the alarm goes off again.

Remember that this does not mean plain water. Too much water is not healthy either as it can dilute your electrolyte balance. Adding hydrating foods or other beverages is a good option to support your body and help avoid dehydration.

How to hydrate in the winter

Winter tends to be the time of year when we turn to warm liquids such as herbal tea and soup. This is not only a comforting idea, but it's also better for us. This is because room temperature or warmer liquids actually help to stabilize your core temperature. 

Here's a list of a few of my favorite soups for winter. They're not only warming and delicious, but they're also nourishing:

The types of liquid you consume during the winter is also important. Avoiding excess consumption of caffeine (found not only in coffee and tea, but also in that wintertime favorite, hot chocolate) and alcohol is helpful.  Both have diuretic qualities and can contribute to dehydration.

Not just soup

In addition to including herbal teas and soups, it's a good idea to add fruits and veggies to your diet that have more moisture in them.  These include:

  • apples
  • pears
  • citrus fruits
  • winter squash

Top tips to avoid dehydration

In addition to making sure you're getting plenty of fluids, there are a few things you can to to help avoid dehydration:

  • Bring a water bottle with you everywhere you go (this tip is year-round, not just for summertime)
  • Layer appropriately – Have layers that you can add and remove as needed.  Overdressing so that you are hot and sweaty actually contributes to hydration loss)
  • Use a humidifier in your home to help keep the air comfortably moist (your dry skin and static-y clothes will thank you)
Mockstroni soup recipe

Mockstroni Soup

What is mockstroni?

I love minestrone soup. But it tends to come with pasta and I find I do better when I avoid eating gluten. This soup was born out of a need to avoid gluten but also not wanting to include gluten-free pasta. While I'm not opposed to gluten-free pasta, I find that it tends to disintegrate pretty easily in soup, especially if there are leftovers. So I created this very satisfying soup that features that classic minestrone combination of herbs, beans, and vegetables. Because it's not your classical minestrone I decided to change the name and call it mockstroni.

This soup is very hearty and can be served either as a starter to a meal or simply use bigger bowls and it becomes a meal all by itself. Don't forget that the traditional way to make this soup was to use whatever was in season. So feel free to experiment with whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand. Fresh herbs are always best, but in the wintertime (my favorite time to make this comforting soup) dry herbs are fine.  And if you want to make a vegetarian version, you can simply use vegetable broth instead of the bone broth.

Mockstroni Soup

Mockstroni Soup
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Ingredients
  1. Serves: 6-8
  2. 3 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  3. 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  4. ½ medium yellow onion, chopped small
  5. 3 medium carrots, chopped small
  6. 3 large stalks celery, chopped small
  7. 1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  8. 2 cups cooked beans (cannellini and red kidney beans work well)
  9. 4 C bone broth*
  10. 2 bay leaves
  11. 1 T. fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped (or 1 t. dried)
  12. 1 T. fresh thyme leaves (or 1 t. dried)
  13. 1 T. fresh oregano leaves (or 1 t. dried)
  14. ½ T. crushed red pepper flakes
  15. Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  16. 2 c. fresh green beans, cut into ½” pieces
Toppings
  1. 1/4 C. freshly parsley, minced
  2. Shaved parmesan
Instructions
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat
  2. Sauté garlic, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or just until the garlic starts to turn golden brown
  3. Add chopped onion, carrot, and celery and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until vegetables are soft and tender
  4. Add diced tomatoes, beans, broth, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes to the pot, stir to combine
  5. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low
  7. Cover and simmer 20-25 minutes.
  8. Remove the cover from the pot and add the green beans
  9. Stir to combine and continue cooking, uncovered, another 20-25 minutes or until green beans are crisp-tender
  10. Add additional broth, if needed, stir to combine
  11. To serve, divide among individual serving bowls and top with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.
  12. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. * If needed use extra broth to reach the desired consistency
  2. ** Fresh herbs are always preferred but if needed you can use dry herbs. Reduce to 1/3 of the fresh herbs called for
  3. *** 3 teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
Instant Pot Split Pea Soup

Instant Pot Split Pea Soup

The recipe is originally from my book The Pantry Principle.  Back then it was designed for a slow cooker.  Now that we have Instant Pots the recipe has been modified.

This is a delicious way to utilize split peas from your food storage.  If necessary this recipe can be modified to also used dried vegetables from your storage however this will require the addition of extra liquid.  See the parenthetical notes in the recipe for food storage modifications.

IP Split Pea Soup

Serves 6

The addition of the dulse, an edible seaweed found in the North Atlantic, to this recipe adds a wonderful flavor and a big boost of iodine and the other trace elements our bodies need. If you want to make this as a vegetarian dish simply substitute vegetable broth or water for the bone broth.

Making this soup in the Instant Pot is a great way to have a quick hot meal ready to eat after a long day.

2 carrots, diced (1 cup dehydrated carrot slices)
2 ribs celery, diced (1/3 cup dehydrated celery)
1 onion, diced (1/3 cup dried onion)
1 pound dried split peas, picked over and washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
6 cups bone broth 
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons dulse (a type of seaweed), crumbled

Place all ingredients except salt, pepper, and dulse in an Instant Pot. Stir well to combine. 

IP Cook Time 15 minutes  Natural Release approximately 15 minutes.

Slow Cooker Time – 8 hours on low

Remove bay leaf
Add salt and pepper
Blend together with an immersion blender
Ladle into bowls to serve and top with 1 teaspoon crumbled dulse