Do You Have an MSG Sensitivity?

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Do you have an MSG sensitivity?

Monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG, is a food additive used in thousands of restaurants and food products. Its purpose is to boost the flavor of processed, canned and frozen foods.

MSG is derived from glutamic acid, a type of protein found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables. It is produced through a fermentation process that was first discovered in 1866. By 1909 a Japanese food company began commercially producing monosodium glutamate.

The use of MSG in foods and products is controversial, due to a wide range of symptoms that some people experience shortly after consuming the additive.

Since cleaning up my diet, I’ve noticed that I do have physical reactions to MSG. Perhaps you do too.

Do you have an MSG sensitivity title meme

What’s the Controversy with MSG?

Glutamate acid is an amino acid found in many foods. However, monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt derived from glutamic acid.

Natural glutamate is broken down naturally in the body. It is regulated so that excessive amounts are eliminated from the body to prevent toxicity. However MSG is isolated, and not attached to other amino acids. That means it is broken down quickly, rapidly raising levels of glutamate in the blood. Those excess levels of glutamate cause symptoms in people with an MSG sensitivity.

Anthony William, author of Medical Medium, states:

“MSG typically builds up in the brain, going deep into brain tissue. It can then cause inflammation and swelling, kill thousands of brain cells, disrupt electrical impulses, weaken neurotransmitters, burn out neurons, make you feel confused and anxious and even lead to mirco-strokes. It also weakens and injures the central nervous system.”

He goes on to say that MSG is especially harmful when dealing with an illness affecting the brain or central nervous system. Regardless, it is an additive to avoid.

Symptoms of an MSG Sensitivity

Here are common symptoms, experienced by those with a sensitivity to MSG:

  • muscle tightness
  • numbness and tingling
  • headaches including migraines
  • pain in the back of the neck
  • flushing
  • weight gain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • trembling and weakness
  • free radical formation and oxidation
  • heart palpitations
  • increased blood pressure
  • worsening of asthma symptoms
  • higher risk of metabolic syndrome, which is linked to heart disease, diabetes and stroke
  • dry mouth and excessive thirst
  • confusion and anxiety

MSG Sensitivity Fast Food

Where is MSG Found?

Although MSG is most often associated with meals in Chinese restaurants, it’s found in thousands of foods and even personal care products such as toothpaste.

MSG can lurk in:

  • canned soups and broths
  • fast food such as burgers and fried chicken
  • potato chips and seasoned tortilla chips
  • seasonings
  • convenience meals
  • cold cuts
  • processed meats and foods
  • instant noodles
  • ice tea mixes
  • salty snacks
  • sports drinks
  • soy sauce
  • salad dressings
  • crackers
  • bouillon
  • personal care products

How to Avoid MSG

The best way to avoid this additive, and MSG sensitivity, is to limit or entirely eliminate foods from the list above. Focus on more fresh fruits and veggies. And prepare meals at home as much as possible. When you prep and cook your own meals, you know exactly what’s in them.

Read food labels. Look for MSG or monosodium glutamate listed on the label.

Additionally, MSG goes by a variety of other names, making it more difficult to spot the additive on food labels. If you see these words …

  • autolyzed yeast
  • hydrolyzed protein
  • hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • sodium caseinate
  • yeast nutrient or yeast extract
  • Torulo yeast
  • natural flavoring
  • glutamic acid

…it’s very likely that the product contains MSG.

MSG Sensitivity Doritos

Dealing With MSG Sensitivity

I can now tell, within a few hours, if I’ve eaten something that contains MSG. My mouth becomes very dry and I experience excessive thirst. I may also notice pain in my stomach and a headache.

When I ate a nutrient poor, albeit typical, American diet, MSG stayed in my system. No wonder I experienced daily headaches, constant dry mouth, heart palpitations and frequent stomachaches.

Cleaning up my diet has detoxified my body. I am very aware now if I eat something that is harmful to me. I’m grateful for the built-in sensors and indicators in my body that help me identify and avoid foods that are not the best for me!

I prepare most of my meals at home. And I read those food labels!

I’ll be sharing recipes in upcoming posts, such as DIY seasoning salt, that are MSG free alternatives.

Do you have an MSG sensitivity?

MSG Sensitivity Salts

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Broadleaf Plantain Benefits

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The desire to learn about the healing properties of plants is closely connected to my own journey. As I heal, I appreciate more and more that plants play such a vital role in my health.

My garden is full of herbs that supply me with the makings for tea. However, I love foraging too, and discovering that plants I consider weeds are actually wild herbs. They are full of healing benefits as well.

The broadleaf plantain benefits are many. And yet, until last fall, I considered this common plant an annoying weed. I’ve been aware of plantain since childhood. Mowing over the broad leaves created a funny brrrr – up-up-up noise that reminded me of sound of playing cards attached to bicycle spokes.

My research of broadleaf plantain benefits inspires me to protect several plants in the garden area, keeping them for medicinal purposes.

Broadleaf Plantain Title Meme

History of the Broadleaf Plantain Plant

This herb is one of the most abundant and widely distributed medicinal plant in the world. In ancient times, broadleaf plantain, not to be confused with the banana like fruit also called plantain, treated digestive and female disorders along with snake and spider bites.

Native Americans used the herb for snake bites as well, earning the plant the name Snake Weed. They also applied the leaves to wounds.

Another name for broadleaf plantain is soldier’s herb because of its on-the-spot use as a first aid plant for injuries and illnesses.

Today broadleaf plantain is readily found in yards, along sidewalks and fencerows, and anywhere the soil has been disturbed. It thrives in high foot traffic areas as easily as it does nestled against a rocky outcropping. It tolerates poor soil conditions and doesn’t seem picky about the amount of sun that it receives.

Broadleaf Plantain for ForagingBroadleaf plantain growing in my yard.

Broadleaf Plantain Characteristics

The plant’s leaves may be eaten raw, in salads, or steamed with other greens. Small leaves are the most flavorful and tender, although the larger leaves may be used for teas and tinctures. Plantain possesses a slightly bitter taste. The larger the leaves, the more bitter the taste.

The plant sends up stalks that produce tiny flowers and then even tinier light brown seeds. The seeds and stalks are edible as well.

The herb is high in iron and calcium, and vitamins A, C and K.

Broadleaf plantain is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial, making it a great medicinal herb for “hot” conditions in the body such as fevers, infections, inflammation and irritations.

Broadleaf Plantain IdentificationThese hardy plants return after the lawn is mowed. The new leaves are perfect for salads and teas and first aid use. See the tiny white flowers opening on the stalks?

Broadleaf Plantain Benefits and Uses

External Use

For external use, plantain is the perfect first aid herb. Crush, or chew, one or two leaves and apply to the skin or brew a strong tea from the leaves and use in a spray bottle.

  • soothes the pain, itching and swelling of insect bites and stings by calming the histamine response
  • relieves irritation and discomfort of skin rashes, hives, eczema and psoriasis
  • takes the heat out of burns and sunburns
  • eases pain of cuts and scrapes and keeps them from getting infected
  • calms poison ivy and relieves itching and swelling
  • draws out embedded splinters
  • also has a drawing effect on boils and soothes pain and swelling

Because this plant is found everywhere, it can quickly be utilized when first aid is needed. Suffering from a sudden wasp sting? Crush or chew the leaves until broken down and then spit the mass of leaves onto the bite. The relief is immediate. Yes, it sounds gross to chew up leaves and spit them out. Remember, however, that you are creating a poultice that is very healing and soothing.

Internal Use

As powerful as the broadleaf plantain benefits are for skin irritations and wounds, the wild herb is equally suitable for a host of symptoms and disorders within the body.

  • lowers cholesterol
  • helps control diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels
  • reduces the pain, swelling and discomfort of hemorrhoids
  • heals irritable bowel syndrome
  • soothes the entire digestive tract and urinary tract
  • treats bladder and kidney infections
  • relieves indigestion, acid reflux and ulcers
  • as a mouthwash heals canker sores and gum irritation
  • acts as an expectorant
  • calms a dry cough as well
  • treats and helps to prevent seasonal allergies

 


Dried broadleaf plantain
Click on photo above to order dried broadleaf plantain.

Foraging for Broadleaf Plantain

As you mow the yard, watch for this amazing wild herb. Perhaps before the blades mow it down, you might collect a few of those healing leaves. Create a tea by steeping the leaves in very hot water for 15 minutes, for drinking. Steep the tea overnight to create a strong brew for topical use. Store in the refrigerator.

Or, in the manner of our wise and resourceful ancestors, chew up a leaf to apply to a bite, sting or scrape for soothing, cooling relief. The next time I slice into my hands and fingers as I’m pulling weeds in the garden, I’ll pluck a couple of leaves to make an on-the-spot poultice.

That simple act makes me feel like a healer.

Broadleaf Plantain

Visit my Amazon Storefront for a variety of tea supplies and dried teas.

Cindy’s Amazon Storefront

 

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6 Bedtime Teas

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When I talk to people about their health, insomnia comes up frequently. Defined as sleeplessness, insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep.

In the US, three million people a year experience sleeplessness. Causes include poor sleep habits, depression, anxiety, lack of exercise, certain medications or chronic pain and illness.

Most sufferers rely on over the counter or prescription drugs to help them fall asleep and stay asleep. For years that was true for me. I took allergy meds every night for the drowsiness they induced. When I realized how dull they made my brain, I switched to melatonin.

Since embracing a plant based lifestyle, my ability to sleep has improved greatly. I no longer take anything at night, to help me sleep.

I’ll be sharing several posts around this difficult to heal condition. Today I start with herbal remedies…six bedtime teas.

6 Bedtime Teas

6 Bedtime Teas

Easing insomnia is a complex matter of changing habits, eliminating foods and situations that impede sleep and consuming the right foods to help calm and relax the mind and the body.

Instead of reaching for meds, try drinking one of these herbal bedtime teas about an hour before turning in.

Chamomile

Long used as a healing herb for inflammation, chamomile also reduces anxiety and soothes the body into sleep. The antioxidant apigenin binds to receptors in the brain, lowering anxiety and initiating drowsiness.

Regularly drinking chamomile tea helps people to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, improving the overall quality of their rest.

Steep two teaspoons of fresh or dried chamomile in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Sweeten with raw organic honey, if desired.

6 Bedtime Teas

Passionflower

Passionflower tea is made from the dried leaves, stems and flowers of the plant. Traditionally, passionflower decreases anxiety and improves the quality of sleep.

In a recent study, those who drank passionflower daily for a week reported better sleep quality, compared to those who did not drink the tea. Another study showed that passionflower, when combined with valerian root and hops, is as effective as the prescription drug Ambien in improving insomnia.

Steep two teaspoons of dried passionflower in one cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Sweeten with raw organic honey, if desired.

Lavender

This aromatic herb helps calm the body and mind through its healing properties and its scent. For centuries lavender has helped people to sleep better, especially those with anxiety disorders or chronic insomnia.

Drinking the tea and inhaling the soothing fragrance from the hot drink lowers heart rate and calms nerves. Those who drink lavender tea frequently find that their quality of sleep improves. Plus, they awaken with more energy and less fatigue.

Steep two to three teaspoons of fresh or dried lavender blooms in one cup of very hot water for 15 minutes.

6 Bedtime Teas

Lemon Balm

One of my go to herbs, lemon balm is a member of the mint family. It has many healing properties. As one of the bedtime teas, lemon balm calms inflammation, relaxes tense muscles, reduces stress and improves sleep by initiating a sedative effect.

With its citrusy scent, lemon balm offers aromatherapy benefits as well. And it is extremely easy to grow your own plants.

Steep this mildly flavored tea by combining two teaspoons of fresh or dried leaves with one cup of very hot water. Sweeten with raw organic honey, if desired.

Peppermint

Another member of the mint family, peppermint contains anti-inflammatory properties that relax tense muscles and reduce stress. In fact, peppermint’s ability to work as a muscle relaxant induces feelings of calm and peace, making it an ideal tea to drink before bedtime.

Peppermint also relieves nausea, an upset stomach, and gas and bloating, soothing the digestive system so that sleep can occur.

Steep two to three teaspoons of fresh or dried peppermint leaves in a cup of very hot water for 15 minutes. As a bonus, peppermint is very easy to grow in the garden or in containers.

6 Bedtime Teas

Ginger

For a few people, ginger acts as a stimulant. However, if digestive problems such as an upset stomach or nausea are keeping you awake, ginger is an effective sleep aid. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties calm achy muscles and joints, soothing pain so that the body can relax into sleep.

Ginger also relieves tension and lowers stress.

Steep a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Or combine a teaspoon of dried ginger with a teaspoon of dried turmeric and add a 12 to 16 ounces of warm almond/coconut milk to create this wonderfully healing nighttime drink.

Bedtime Teas for a Better Night’s Sleep

Consistently drinking one of these bedtime teas signals the body that it is time to prepare for sleep. The healing properties of the herbal teas soothe the body in myriad ways while lowering anxiety and stress.

Choose one tea and try it for a week or enjoy a different tea every evening. Herbs can be combined too, to create fresh, delicious blends that are just as effective.

In the coming weeks, watch for posts with more tips for eliminating insomnia from your life.

6 Bedtime Teas

Click links below, to order dried herbs for bedtime teas.

 


 

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Vegan and Gluten Free Goulash

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It’s known by many names, this easy to make dish. Some call it beefy macaroni or macaroni dish. Others call it hash or just stew. My mom calls it one pot meal. I call it goulash. My kids grew up eating it.

The actual name of this tasty meal is Hungarian goulash. Originating in Hungary, goulash is a meat and vegetable stew, seasoned with paprika. Although it is now eaten around the world, it is one of Hungary’s national dishes and symbolic of that country.

Traditionally, goulash is prepared with tender chunks of beef or for a quicker version, ground beef. I haven’t eaten goulash since shifting to a plant based lifestyle. However, with leftover brown rice macaroni in the fridge, this evening presented the perfect opportunity to cook up a pot of vegan and gluten free goulash.

Vegan and Gluten Free Goulash

Vegan and Gluten Free Goulash

I not only avoid meat, dairy and eggs, I also don’t eat foods with gluten in them. Pasta doesn’t have to be off the menu however. Gluten free pastas are readily available. Look for them in the gluten free section of regular supermarkets and health conscious food stores as well. My favorite product is a brown rice pasta available as macaroni, spaghetti and other pasta favorites. It cooks just like regular pasta and looks and tastes the same. It just doesn’t have the gluten in it.

Vegan and Gluten Free Goulash
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Vegan and Gluten Free Goulash

This tasty goulash recipe has all the flavor without the meat and wheat pasta.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Vegan and Gluten Free Goulash
Author: journeywithhealthyme
Cost: $2/person

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (Optional) May water saute instead.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can red beans
  • 2 cups gluten free macaroni, cooked
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions

  • Add one cup dried gluten free macaroni to pan of boiling water. Allow to cook while prepping veggies. Need two cups cooked macaroni.
  • Heat coconut oil over medium high heat in large skillet. Or add small amount of water to water saute. Add onions, garlic and green bell pepper, cooking and stirring until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add diced tomatoes. Heat through. Stir in red beans, paprika, sea salt and pepper. Continue cooking and stirring, until beans are heated through.
  • Drain gluten free macaroni and add to bean and tomato mixture. Mix well and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Serves 4.

Vegan and Gluten Free Goulash

Vegan and Gluten Free Goulash

Vegan and Gluten Free Goulash

The Taste Test

So, how is goulash, without the beef?

I didn’t miss the meat at all. The vegan and gluten free goulash was full of the robust flavor of veggies and pasta in a rich tomato sauce. The paprika gave a hint of spiciness without overpowering the vegetables. I loved it.

The beauty of this recipe is its versatility. A pinch of cayenne pepper ups the heat level. Or lean toward Italian spices like oregano and basil. Thyme and rosemary bring their own unique flavors to the mix.

On a whim, I added a can of red beans to my goulash, as a protein source. Mushrooms make a flavorful addition as well, or add carrots. I like using what I have on hand, which was, after all, the inspiration for creating goulash tonight. Leftover pasta should never go to waste!

This satisfying and delicious vegan and gluten free goulash goes into my menu rotation. I’ll enjoy playing around with the ingredients!

Vegan and Gluten Free Goulash

You might like these vegan recipes too:

Vegan Stuffed Peppers

Vegan Black Bean & Corn Salsa

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Find gluten free pasta by clicking on photos below:



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Health Benefits of Catmint Tea

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I’ve grown catmint in my garden for years. This herb, which is closely related to catnip, is considered more ornamental for garden use. Catmint blooms with purplish blue flowers in late spring and summer and thrives in full sun.

Both varieties are members of the mint family and both are attractive to cats. In fact, that’s why I keep this easy to care for perennial in my garden. My three cats love to spend time roaming around the garden and they check out this herb frequently. I’ve seen them rub against the plant and nibble on the leaves.

I’m experimenting with using catmint for a variety of purposes, for the cats. As I worked with the plant, I wondered if its distinctively scented leaves possessed health benefits for people. Of course it does!

Late this afternoon, I experienced my first cup of catmint tea.

Health Benefits of Catmint Tea

Health Benefits of Catmint Tea

The active ingredient in catmint (and catnip) is nepetalactone. It is thought to contribute to the following benefits in humans:

Stress Reliever

Catmint has a calming effect on the entire body, relieving stress and quieting the body and the mind. This makes the herb beneficial for reducing anxieties and easing restlessness and insomnia. While calming anxieties, catmint strengthens the immune system which helps the body become less reactive to stress.

Digestive Aid

The plant’s calming effect soothes the stomach as well, relieving nausea, diarrhea, cramping, excess gas and bloating. Because catmint has antispasmodic properties it can even ease tightness in the gastrointestinal tract, eliminating abdominal discomfort.

Health Benefits of Catmint Tea

Respiratory Issues

Catmint’s active ingredient also contains mucilage properties, making is helpful for suppressing coughs. It also relieves congestion. And it speeds up the healing of colds, flus and fevers.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, catmint is effective in healing arthritis, gout, sprained muscles, achy joints and even hemorrhoids. The herb soothes the pain and swelling associated with rashes, hives and bug bites.

Insect Repellent

Essential oil of catmint can be mixed with a carrier oil and applied to the skin as an insect repellent. The oil also soothes skin irritations and improves the healing process. Applied to the temples, catmint essential oil helps to treat headaches and migraines.

**Do not use this herb in any form, if you are pregnant. Check with a doctor before using if you suffer from liver or kidney dysfunctions.

Health Benefits of Catmint Tea

Preparing Catmint Tea

To brew a cup of catmint tea, add several short sprigs of fresh catmint, or two teaspoons of dried herb to a cup and pour in hot water. Cover and steep for 15 minutes at least. Sweeten with raw organic honey if desired.

Catmint is also available in capsule form, tinctures, essential oils and salves.

I snipped several fresh sprigs from my catmint plant in the herb garden to create my tea.

This plant has a very pleasant, distinctive scent. I can’t quite pin it down, however the scent stirs a memory of a similar aroma. So I was looking forward to seeing how it tasted.

I was not disappointed! The taste is subtly minty with a hint of spiciness. I loved it, actually. In fact, this herbal tea now ranks in my top five favorites, for flavor!

How amazing, that an herb my cats adore has so many health benefits. Catmint tea goes into my afternoon tea rotation. I think I adore it too!

Health Benefits of Catmint Tea

Purchase dried catmint to make your own healing tea, by clicking on photo below.


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Beyond Meat Brats

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Are you familiar with Beyond Meat, the company creating a stir in the food industry? Their plant based hamburgers and sausage brats are showing up in grocery stores and restaurants.

With all the media attention, I felt curious about the claims that these products are amazing. Let me add that after three years of embracing a plant based lifestyle, I don’t crave meat at all. Greg, who has been plant based almost as long as I have, occasionally does. Or at least, a sizzling burger or brat on a commercial looks good to him.

We decided to taste test the Beyond Meat Brats, for a Try This Tuesday experience.

Beyond Meat Brats

The Beyond Meat Company

This company, founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown, began with the question, “Why do you need an animal to create meat?” Brown wondered if meat could be created directly from plants. It turns out, yes it can.

Their Mission Statement includes the belief that there is a better way to feed the planet, that’s beneficial to people, animals and the earth. Producing savory alternatives to animal based products solves the growing issues attributed to livestock production: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources and animal welfare.

Beyond Meat uses the building blocks for meat…protein, fat, trace minerals and water…to create plant based substitutes without sacrificing taste or texture. Currently the company offers plant based hamburger patties, crumbles (resembles ground beef) and two varieties of sausage brats. Their products are available in grocery stores and health conscious stores such as Natural Grocers. Look for Beyond Meat products in the meat section.

Beyond Meat BratsGraphic from Beyond Meat website.

Beyond Meat Brats

I picked up the Beyond Meat Brats at my local Natural Grocers. I carefully read the label before purchasing.

Beyond Meat Brats contain 16 grams of protein, made from peas, fava beans and rice, per serving. Other ingredients include apple fiber, coconut and sunflower oils and fruit and vegetable juices. The casing around the brats is plant based as well. It’s made from algae. Don’t worry. You can’t taste it.

What they do NOT contain is impressive. There are no GMOs, soy, or gluten in these brats and also no hormones, antibiotics, nitrites or nitrates.

The brats come in the original flavor and a spicier Italian version.

The promise is that Beyond Meat Brats look, sizzle and satisfy, like a pork brat.

I was about to find out.

Beyond Meat Brats

Beyond Meat Brats with Green Peppers and Onions

Since I had green peppers, onions and garlic on hand, I created a simple dinner using those ingredients plus brown rice and the Beyond Meat Brats.

Brats with Green Peppers and Onions

  • 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, mined
  • 1 package Beyond Meat regular brats, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice, cooked

Saute pepper, onion and garlic in a water or a very small amount of coconut oil. I did this while the brown rice cooked in the pressure pot.

As onions turn translucent, about three minutes, add sliced brats. Continue to stir and cook over medium heat until brats are browned, about five more minutes.

Spoon over brown rice and serve. Makes 2 – 3 servings.

The brats did sizzle. They smelled just like pork or beef brats, as they cooked. And they browned up nicely, holding their shape and texture.

How would they taste?

Beyond Meat Brats

The Taste Test

My simple dinner looked and smelled wonderful. Would the taste hold up to the hype?

Yes. Yes it did.

The Beyond Meat Brats tasted wonderfully like regular brats, with just the right amount of seasoning. The texture was as good as the taste. Combined with the green peppers, onions and garlic, the brats delivered and dinner met all my expectations for flavor and texture.

Greg enjoyed this special treat very much.

And a special treat, savored occasionally, it will be.

Why?

I like the way I eat. And more importantly, I like the way I feel. The veggies and fruits, legumes and nuts, seeds and limited grains that I enjoy are very, VERY good for me, and I truly don’t miss meats, eggs, sugar and dairy products. I don’t ever intend to go back to my old way of eating and my old way of feeling.

Plus there’s another reason. The Beyond Meat Brats contain 43% less fat than their animal counterparts. However, they are still a bit high in fat for me to consume them on a regular basis.

I’m glad for the Beyond Meat Brats experience. The company is great, with a philosophy that I can agree with. Their future is bright, I believe. However, these healthier brats might make it onto the menu once a month or so. Like the occasional healthy dessert, these will be a special treat rather than a regular dinner item.

Have you tried Beyond Meat products yet? Let me know what you thought!

Beyond Meat Brats

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6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

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I posted previously about the negative effects that sugar has on the body. Check out 8 Toxic Ways Sugar Impacts the Body. As I did with wheat flour and milk, I offer as a follow up a list of healthy alternatives.

Try reaching for one of these 6 natural substitutes for sugar, the next time you need a sweetener.

6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

What Not to Use as Sweeteners

Refined sugar, created through a lengthy process involving chemicals, is not healthy for us. It contributes to poor health and a host of disorders. Plus, the substance is addictive.

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, are no better. Although considered safe by the FDA, these sweeteners produce unwanted side effects. Headaches, liver and kidney disorders, mood swings, increased appetite and thymus gland problems are all linked to the use of artificial sweeteners.

High fructose corn syrup, which is present in many packaged foods, is produced primarily from genetically modified corn. The liver metabolizes this fructose quickly, increasing fat in the liver and leading to digestives disorders.

6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

These tasty alternatives to refined sugar, artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup are natural and actually good for the body.

Coconut Sugar

The coconut is an amazing fruit. From it we get coconut water, coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut flour and coconut sugar, along with the flesh of the fruit. Coconut sugar, which resembles coarse brown sugar, is high in minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and phosphorous. It is also rich in antioxidants.

The sugar comes from sap extracted from the coconut flower. It then goes through a heating and drying process, via evaporation.

Look for this alternative in supermarkets and health conscious food stores. In recipes, swap out refined sugar for coconut sugar on a 1:1 basis. Try these Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, using coconut sugar.

6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

Dates

Dried dates are powerful, easily digested fruits. They are high in vitamin B6, potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and 70 other bioactive minerals that support digestive, brain and liver health. This amazing food fortifies muscles and nerves and even possesses anti-cancer properties.

Besides enjoying dates as they are, use to sweeten a variety of recipes. Cakes, quick breads, and pie crusts benefit from the addition of dates. Chop them up and soak in water first, to soften. Try out these Apricot Bars made with four ingredients.

Bananas

These versatile fruits are rich in fiber, potassium and vitamins B6 and C. Because of their sweetness, bananas are great natural substitutes for sugar.

Overripe bananas are sweeter and easier to process. Swap one cup of banana puree for every cup of sugar in a recipe. Simply chop bananas and puree in a blender or food processor, adding a tablespoon of water if necessary. This is a wonderful Blueberry Banana Bread recipe to try.

6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

Raw Organic Honey

Raw honey truly is a superfood. It is high in iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and vitamins B6 and B12. Honey is also rich with enzymes, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Raw honey supports the immune system and helps to fight off colds, flus and allergies.

It is important to use raw organic honey, rather than processed. Pasteurized honey loses many of its health benefits. Look for raw organic honey at farmer’s markets or health food stores that purchase from local beekeepers.

Drizzle raw honey over fruit or gluten free oatmeal. Sweeten tea, sauces and curries with it. Or create this wonderful Turmeric Milk using raw honey.

6 Natural Substitutes for Sugar

Organic Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is processed from maple trees in the US. Sap is collected from the tree, boiled to evaporate water and then filtered. This natural sweetener contains manganese, calcium, zinc and potassium and it’s rich with antioxidants that neutralize free radicals. Look for the darker maple syrups, as these are higher in antioxidants.

Use maple syrup in baking, marinades, glazes, sauces and over gluten free pancakes. This steamed apple dessert is a simple yet tasty way to enjoy organic maple syrup.

Organic maple syrup is available in supermarkets and health conscious food stores. Or order online by clicking on photo below.


Stevia

Stevia is a plant native to South America. Processed from the plant’s leaves, stevia is many times sweeter than sugar. It contains zero calories however, and none of the negative side effects of artificial sweeteners.

However, I offer a caution with stevia. Some people experience an unpleasant aftertaste with it. And some products contain stevia that is processed with chemicals, making it a less than desirable sugar substitute. Read labels.

Look for pure, organic stevia, available as a liquid, dissolvable tablets or in powdered form. Purchase pure organic powdered stevia by clicking on photo below. Because a little stevia goes a long way, when substituting for sugar in recipes other bulking agents such as more flour or fruit puree must be used. I’ve never personally used stevia, so I don’t have a recipe for this one!


Which Natural Substitutes for Sugar Do I Use?

Since becoming plant based, I’ve tried all of the above natural substitutes for sugar, with the exception of stevia. However, I purchase dark chocolate chips sweetened with organic stevia and it’s a good product.

I primarily use coconut sugar and organic maple syrup for baking. Raw honey is perfect to drizzle over fresh berries or add to turmeric milk. Dates add sweetness to pie crusts and fruit bars.

Breaking the Sugar Habit

For me it became important to break the habit of having “sweets” after a meal or with afternoon tea. Nowadays, my snacks are fruits such as apples, watermelon or a bowl of mixed berries. By choice, I reserve baked goods and cookies for celebrations or infrequent treats.

When I do want to try a new recipe or honor a special occasion, it is wonderful to know that healthy and tasty natural substitutes for sugar exist…and I can use them without guilt or ill effects!

6 Natural Substitutes for SugarGluten free, refined sugar free pancakes with fruit and organic maple syrup.

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Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

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I enjoyed a first today. In the spirit of foraging, I gathered a wild edible yesterday from my backyard and allowed it to steep overnight in water. This afternoon, for tea time, I sipped on a refreshing cleavers cold water infusion.

I’ve read about the medicinal herb cleavers, that many consider a weed. Oddly enough, I even dreamed once about gathering the plant. It wasn’t until I studied foraging for wild edibles last fall that I realized I pull this “weed” out of my garden every spring, by the handfuls. In fact, I’ve been familiar with cleavers since my childhood. I’ll bet you know it too!

Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

What is Cleavers?

Cleavers originated in Europe, covering much of the extended continent, from England to Siberia. Today it flourishes around the world, including Canada and much of the United States.

And when I say flourish, I mean that it grows everywhere, appearing in early spring. Look for it growing along rivers, sidewalks, fences and tree stumps or in great clumps in meadows and fields. Cleavers thrives especially well in cultivated gardens, I’ve discovered.

While it has a fancy Latin name, Galium aparine, this prolific plant is more commonly known as cleavers. That’s not what I called it though, as a child. I  called this plant “sticktights”. It’s also known by a variety of descriptive names such as grip grass, stickyweed, catchweed, velco plant, everlasting friendship and sticky willies.

The main identifying characteristic of cleavers are the fine sticky hairs that cover the plant. These sticky hairs enable the plant to cling to clothes or fur that it comes in contact with. That’s a pretty cool way to propagate! After the plant flowers it produces tiny sticky seeds as well, that create a nuisance for dogs or cats that brush against them. I used to pick these sticktights out of my pets’ fur after a romp through nearby fields.

Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

Identifying Cleavers

Cleavers is a wild edible that is easy to identify. The bright green plant puts out long straggly stems with spaced out whorls of six to eight leaves. Cleavers does flower, producing tiny white blooms. And the miniscule seeds are covered with itty bitty soft barbs. The best way to test the plant, to make sure it is cleavers, is to pluck a stem with leaves and press it against your shirt. If it sticks, it’s cleavers!

Cleavers Cold Water InfusionCleavers growing around a stump in my backyard.

Health Benefits of Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

Used medicinally for centuries, cleavers offers many health benefits to those wise enough to recognize its gifts. The plant has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent properties.

Cleanses the lymphatic system

Cleavers helps to reduce water weight and edema by cleansing and stimulating the lymphatic system. This reduces swelling in glands, tissues and cysts. Cleavers is naturally diuretic making it an excellent tonic for the kidneys and urinary tract. Its cleansing and flushing effect is good for the whole body as it detoxifies and purifies the blood.

Has cooling properties

This herb reduces fevers and helps to prevent heat strokes during hot summer months. Its cooling properties calm inflammation, within the body and on the skin. Cleavers even takes the sting out of sunburns.

Heals wounds and skin irritations

Fresh cleavers leaves provide relief from cuts, wounds, rashes and bug bites. Lightly crush the leaves and apply to soothe skin redness, swelling and irritation.

Cleavers’ antiseptic properties help to treat the skin conditions eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. Use tinctures or teas to begin treatment from within the body, while using a cleavers wash to soothe the skin.

Improves liver function

By stimulating the liver, cleavers improves digestion and the elimination of toxins from the body. It is also effective in treating ulcers, bladder inflammation and irritable bowel syndrome.

Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

Creating Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

Fresh cleavers leaves are delicious added to salads or included in a steamed greens meal. The herb is available for purchase as a tincture and a dried tea.

The easiest way to enjoy the health benefits of cleavers is to gather it in your yard or another place free from herbicides and chemicals.

Cleavers tea can be served as a hot drink or as a cold water infusion. My studies suggested that the cleavers cold water infusion provided slightly more benefits that a hot tea. I loved the idea of making a something different from my typical hot herbal tea.

I gathered cleavers from my backyard. Truthfully, I almost waited too long to try this herb. I pulled up cleavers plants in early spring, clearing them from my garden. It was difficult to find the herb when I wanted it. Finally yesterday I located cleavers growing near the wood pile for the fire pit.

To create a cleavers cold water infusion, chop fresh cleavers plants and drop them into a tall mason jar. Cover with filtered water, screw on the lid, and allow water to steep in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, strain and serve.

Cleavers Cold Water InfusionCleavers cold water infusion, chilling in the fridge.

A Different Kind of Afternoon Tea

I sampled my cleavers water this afternoon, in place of hot herbal tea.

How did it taste?

I expected a slight bitterness but there wasn’t any. At least, the water did not taste bitter to me. However, I am very accustomed to herbal teas, without added honey for sweetener. The cleavers cold water infusion had a mild green taste, but not like grass. The water was refreshing and satisfying, more like cucumber infused water or one made with aromatic herbs.

Cleavers infused water gets a thumbs up from me. I have enough water left over to enjoy a cup tomorrow. And a few more plants in the backyard, that escaped my earlier weed pulling frenzies. Next spring, I’ll leave more cleavers to grow in my garden. I recognize and appreciate their incredible value now.

Cleavers Cold Water Infusion

If you are feeling adventurous, try out these other wild edible teas:

 

Order cleavers tincture or cleavers dried tea below:

 

 


 

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Signs of Dehydration and Foods that Hydrate

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Everyone knows the importance of drinking enough water. And yet, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. By definition, dehydration occurs when more fluids are leaving the body, through sweating, breathing, urinating, defecating and crying, than coming in.

It seems simple enough to prevent dehydration. Just drink enough water. However, for many people, the thought of chugging glass after glass of water throughout the day is daunting. In addition, other drinks that we might reach for instead of water fail to satisfy thirst.  And they actually contribute to ongoing dehydration.

There are signs of dehydration, that indicate the body isn’t getting enough water. And fortunately, there are many ways to increase water intake, including consuming foods that hydrate.

Signs of Dehydration and Foods that Hydrate

Signs of Dehydration

The following signs of dehydration are symptoms that indicate the body is not receiving enough water and/or is already chronically dehydrated:

  • constipation
  • dark urine
  • headaches
  • lightheadedness and dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • muscle cramps
  • rapid heartbeat
  • extreme thirst
  • less frequent urination
  • no tears
  • unsatisfied hunger
  • fatigue
  • low blood pressure
  • skin disorders
  • brain fog
  • irritability
  • kidney stones

These common symptoms are frequently attributed to other causes. We learn to shrug and put up with these signs of dehydration, missing what the body is trying to communicate. Severe dehydration can result in serious health issues, including organ failure.

Thankfully, rehydrating and staying that way is possible. The process takes consistency and awareness.

Signs of Dehydration and Foods that Hydrate

Tips to Hydrate

There is varying information about how much water we need. However, a good guide is 72 ounces for adult women and 104 ounces for adult men. This is a general guideline. Exercising, working outdoors or warm temperatures may up the requirement for liquids.

The body responds quickly to consistent hydration with a lessening of symptoms.

To ensure adequate hydration, employ the following tips:

  • carry water at all times, in a metal or glass container, and refill throughout the day
  • drink at least one glass of water with every meal
  • increase water amount when exercising or outdoors in hot weather
  • juice fruits and veggies
  • start the day with a lemon or lime water, followed by a glass of freshly prepared celery juice for amazing health benefits (Want to know even more about this miraculous drink? Visit www.celeryjuice.com and pick up Anthony’s new book about celery juice HERE.)
  • include two or more cups of herbal teas during the day
  • keep a pitcher of infused water in the fridge, adding herbs, veggies or fruit for flavor
  • eat your water, with high water content foods

Juices are a great way to increase water consumption IF you make them at home or buy drinks that are organic and without added sugar. If warm weather discourages hot herbal teas, brew tea as usual and then chill or serve over ice.One of my favorite summer time drinks is Hibiscus Lemonade.

Have fun with infused waters. Add any combination of herbs, fruits and veggies. Try mint leaves with lime juice or sliced cucumbers and strawberries. You are more likely to drink infused water if it’s prepared and chilling in the fridge.

When dehydrated, avoid alcohol, black tea, soda, coffee and other caffeinated drinks. They don’t quench thirst. They actually rid the body of water, furthering dehydration.

Signs of Dehydration and Foods that Hydrate

Foods that Hydrate

If the thought of drinking lots of water makes you feel bleh, add foods throughout the day that contribute to water intake. These foods not only restore balance to the body, they prevent future dehydration.

  • strawberries – 92% water
  • watermelon – 92% water
  • pineapple – 87% water
  • tomatoes – 94% water
  • radishes – 95% water
  • carrots – 90% water
  • zucchini – 95% water
  • cucumbers – 90% water
  • cantaloupe – 90% water
  • grapefruit – 88% water
  • kiwi – 85% water
  • peaches – 89% water
  • oranges – 88% water
  • lettuce – 96% water
  • celery – 95% water
  • bell peppers – 92% water
  • cauliflower and broccoli – 92% water
  • cabbage – 92% water
  • eggplant – 89% water

I’m not suggesting that drinking water be replaced with eating liquids! However, to give the body the crucial water that it requires, adding foods from this list helps to ease dehydration and keep the body adequately hydrated.

Challenge yourself, to see how many of the tips for hydrating you can work into a day. Create meals and snacks around the high water content foods. Although hydration is a serious matter, make a game of getting enough water throughout the day. Keep a water intake chart. Download an app. Involve the kids, who are just as chronically dehydrated as adults. Have family contests. Reward yourselves with fun mason jar glasses or colorful water bottles.

Signs of Dehydration and Foods that HydrateCucumber, tomato, dill salad.

The Difference Hydration Makes

Chronic dehydration was my reality, for most of my life. I didn’t drink enough water. Instead, I sipped on diet sodas or iced teas. My body warned me, with symptoms such as dry mouth, headaches, muscle cramps, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness and no tears.

I felt thirsty most of the time, which is a classic symptom of dehydration. As the saying goes, if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. And yet I hated to drink very much water. Why? Because I didn’t want to be trotting off to the bathroom frequently. I actually hear this reason for avoiding water often. And I get it. However, it is the way the body is meant to work. Drink enough water and the body flushes toxins and fats, organs stay healthy and the digestive system works smoothly and efficiently.

One of the sweet surprises, after switching to a plant based diet, was realizing I no longer felt thirsty all the time. For the first time in my life, I felt hydrated. My symptoms went away.

What a difference enough water makes. My body thanks me for my diligence with improved health and wellbeing. Your body will thank you too.

Feeling thirsty, after reading this post? Good! Go get a glass of life giving water.

Signs of Dehydration and Foods that Hydrate

 

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Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

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Ahhh, honeysuckle. That sweet scent transports me back to my childhood and long, hot summer days. The vine didn’t grow in my yard. However, the flowering plants covered the neighbors’ fence, across the street. In fact, honeysuckle covered one corner section of their yard, creating a small “secret garden”.  I’m grateful for the kindness of this dear couple. Looking out their window, they often spied me sitting quietly there in the corner, breathing in that tantalizing scent.

Later my grandfather, an avid gardener, nurtured a honeysuckle plant in his backyard. I brought home a start from that plant, as an adult with a yard of my own. Sadly, that plant did not thrive.

Now I have a honeysuckle vine, gracing a trellis near the front porch. It is a European variety, showing off cream colored blooms tinged with bright pink. Last fall, as I studied foraging for wild edibles, I discovered that fragrant honeysuckle flowers are suitable for tea.

I’ve patiently waited for spring and for my honeysuckle to bloom, so I can sip on my first cup of honeysuckle tea. Days of heavy rain finally gave way this afternoon to sunshine. To my delight, the first honeysuckle flower fully opened to the warmth.

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Beyond its amazing scent, which has benefits as well, honeysuckle is a medicinal plant, used for thousands of years to boost health in a variety of ways. The flower has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Traditionally used in tea form, honeysuckle is available also as an essential oil.

Honeysuckle offers these impressive health benefits:

Powerful Detoxifier

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, honeysuckle tea is known as a natural way to remove heat and toxins from the body, making it an excellent tonic for the liver.

Heals Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Honeysuckle is an potent remedy for colds, flu symptoms, bronchitis, COPD, asthma, fever and pneumonia. The plant acts as an expectorant, helping to relieve congested air passages.

Relieves Digestive Disorders

This flowering plant is helpful in treating digestive disorders such as ulcers, diarrhea, nausea, bloating, Crohn’s disease, urinary tract disorders and pain and inflammation in the small intestine.

Improves Oral Health

Honeysuckle’s antibacterial and astringent properties improve gum health. Create a natural mouthwash by combining two cups of boiling water with half a cup of honeysuckle flowers and leaves. Let steep for at least five minutes. Remove flowers and leaves and allow mouthwash to cool completely before using. Gargle and swish in mouth daily.

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Helps with Type 2 Diabetes

Studies show that honeysuckle decreases high blood sugar levels and reduces insulin resistance when used over a period of time.

Eases Arthritis and Auto-Immune Disorders

Honeysuckle’s powerful anti-inflammatory abilities bring relief to those suffering from arthritis symptoms. The plant shows promise in helping those with auto-immune disorders also, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, bursitis and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Heals Skin Infections

Native Americans boiled fresh honeysuckle leaves and bathed skin wounds with the tea to prevent infection and speed healing. Today, honeysuckle oil is added to skin creams and ointments to help heal skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. Honeysuckle slows the aging process as well, fighting free radicals that damage the skin and cause wrinkles.

Aromatherapy

I’ve recently learned about the benefits of aromatherapy. Inhaling the sweet scent of the honeysuckle flower relaxes and calms the body. Further, the scent stabilizes mood, relieves stress and helps to prevent depression.

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Possible Side Effects of Honeysuckle Tea

There are a few possible side effects with honeysuckle. It is not recommended for pregnant women or for young children. Because it regulates blood sugar levels, do not use honeysuckle tea if you are already taking medication for this condition. And there are a few people who are allergic to this plant and may experience mild skin irritation. Talk to your doctor before drinking honeysuckle tea, if you have concerns.

Preparing Honeysuckle Tea

Preparing the tea is simple:

If using fresh flowers, add two or three large blooms to a mug. Pour boiling water over the flowers, cover and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey, if desired.

When fresh flowers aren’t available, add 1 – 2 teaspoons dried honeysuckle to a cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey, if desired.

I plucked that first honeysuckle bloom this afternoon, and added another that appeared close to blooming. After steeping in hot water for 15 minutes, I tried my first sip.

The freshly brewed tea was light green in color, with a delicate slightly sweet aroma. And the taste? Honeysuckle tea is similar to green tea, with a mild, earthy flavor. Although it doesn’t taste like honeysuckle smells, there is a distinct honeysuckle quality to it, a hint of flavor from that sweet nectar within the flower.

I enjoyed it very much!

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Tastes Like Summer

For me, honeysuckle tea tastes like summer. Inhaling the scent as I made tea, sipping on the hot liquid, had the same effect as sitting in the secret garden created by those fragrant vines. I felt peaceful and full of joy, centered and whole.

I could easily see back through the passage of time, to my younger self, sitting happily in that corner garden, thinking big thoughts and watching the bees dance among the honeysuckle flowers. In my imagination, she turned to look at me. I raised my cup of honeysuckle tea in acknowledgement and appreciation.

She smiled.

Health Benefits of Honeysuckle Tea

Want to experience another wild edible tea? Try Sweet Violet Tea.

Check out Lowe’s Garden Center, for a variety of honeysuckle plants.

And you can order dried honeysuckle by clicking on photo below:


 

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