9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas

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September brings us Better Breakfast Month, a time to intentionally enjoy that most crucial meal of the day. At least, we grew up hearing about the importance of breaking our long overnight fast. However, most people find it easier to head out for the day without fueling up.

In fact, only about 1/3 of people surveyed say they take the time to eat breakfast. I understand. I’ve been in that skipper category. Busy schedules, oversleeping or simply not intentionally preparing breakfast all contribute to skipping this meal.

Read on to discover why it really is vital to eat breakfast. And check out 9 healthy breakfast ideas.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas title meme

Why Breakfast Is Important

Overall, those who eat breakfast are healthier than those who skip it. They maintain a better weight and have a lower BMI (body mass index).

Starting the day with breakfast reduces hunger, boosts energy and encourages better food choices throughout the day. A healthy breakfast regulates blood sugar levels and curbs overeating later.

Plus including breakfast breaks the body out of the slower metabolic rate it slips into overnight during sleep. Awake, the body needs to get back up to speed and to do that, it requires fuel.

The brain’s supply of energy, in the form of glucose, depletes overnight too. To think clearly and increase concentration, a healthy breakfast is essential.

Ready to up your breakfast game? Try any of these 9 healthy breakfast ideas.

Smoothies & Smoothie Bowls

This is my breakfast of choice, 90% of the time. After drinking a glass of celery juice (read about the benefits of this juice HERE), I make a fruit smoothie for breakfast.

For me, this is the best possible way to refuel my body. Smoothies are easily digested, introducing fructose quickly into the bloodstream for the energy the body needs.

Begin with two bananas in a blender. Add fruit of choice. I primarily use frozen fruit to create a frosty, thicker smoothie. Fill the blender container about half way with filtered water or dairy free milk and blend. For extra health benefits, include spoonfuls of spirulina, Atlantic sea dulse, barley grass juice powder, chaga mushroom powder, plant based protein, flax seeds or chia seeds.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas smoothie
9 healthy breakfast ideas – fruit smoothie

For fun, turn that drink into a smoothie breakfast bowl. Use less liquid to create a thicker smoothie. Pour the mixture into a bowl and then add toppings of choice. Some favorites for me: unsweetened shredded coconut, berries, nuts, chia seeds and sliced fruit.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas smoothie bowl
Turn that smoothie into a smoothie bowl.

Overnight Oats

This simple, nutritious breakfast begins the night before. Easy and versatile, you’ll love the convenience of delicious overnight oats.

Combine in a small mason jar:

  • 1/3 cup gluten free oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/3 cup dairy free milk, such as almond or coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup dairy free plain yogurt, such as coconut milk yogurt
  • fresh fruit of choice…berries make an excellent addition
  • add 1 tbsp chia or flax seed, if desired
  • add 1/4 tsp cinnamon if desired

Cover jar and place in the refrigerator the night before. Open and eat right from the jar the next morning.

Search on Pinterest or Google under “overnight oats” to find a variety of tasty recipes.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas overnight oats
9 healthy breakfast ideas – overnight oats

Chia Pudding

Considered a superfood, these little seeds deliver big health benefits. Chia seeds are an excellent source of protein, vitamins E and B complex, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. They are higher in Omega-3 fatty acids than any other food and especially beneficial for chronic inflammation, heart disease, brain function, cancer and autoimmune diseases. Chia seeds also combat diabetes by helping to stabilize and control blood sugar levels.

Chia pudding is so simple to make. Combine 1 cup dairy free milk, such as almond milk, with 1/4 cup of chia seeds in a mason jar or container with a lid. Cover and chill overnight in the refrigerator. Add berries, nuts or sliced fruit and enjoy.

Like overnight oats, searching for chia pudding on Pinterest or Google yields tons of recipes to try.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas chia pudding
9 healthy breakfast ideas – chia pudding

Gluten Free Pancakes

For an occasional Sunday brunch, I enjoy a plate of gluten free pancakes. I’ve tried multiple made-from-scratch recipes. Honestly, I’ve found that the easiest way to make a stack of hotcakes involves a mix.

I love Birch Benders Organic Gluten Free Pancake Mix. Simply add water and make pancakes…two or three or a dozen. Topped with fresh fruit such as strawberries, blueberries or sliced bananas, and a drizzle of organic maple syrup, breakfast feels like a real treat.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas gluten free pancakes
9 healthy breakfast ideas – gluten free pancakes

Fruit Bowl

Another simple…and gorgeous…breakfast option is the fruit bowl. I use whatever fresh fruit I have on hand. A favorite for me combines fresh blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and pitted bing cherries. Any combination of fruit works. Try melons with blackberries, mix together bananas, mangoes and pineapple or pair grapes with papaya. Drizzle organic, locally produced honey over the fruit to sweeten if desired or enjoy the mix of natural flavors.

For convenience, cut up fruit the night before and chill in the fridge.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas fruit bowl
Try any combination of fruits for an easy and colorful breakfast bowl.

Avocado Toast

This popular meal makes a filling and satisfying breakfast.

I toast gluten free bread and top with sliced avocado. The fun doesn’t stop there. Spread on vegan mayo. Add sliced veggies such as radishes or tomatoes. Top with arugula, spinach or sesame seeds. I love a good sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper on my avocado toast.

This breakfast makes a simple evening meal as well.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas avocado toast
9 healthy breakfast ideas – avocado toast

Apple Porridge & Cooked Apples

Anthony William, author of the Medical Medium books, introduced me to raw apple porridge in Thyroid Healing. See the easy recipe HERE. Filled with dates, raisins and cinnamon this breakfast bowl recipe is delicious.

Inspired, I created a recipe of my own, using my instant pot.

Add 1/4 cup of water to the bottom of the instant pot. On the steaming tray, add two chopped apples, skin on, and a handful of raisins. Sprinkle with cinnamon, lock on lid and steam for one minute. Spoon into bowls and add walnuts or unsweetened shredded coconut. This wonderfully fragrant meal is perfect for chilly winter mornings.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas apples
Cooked apples make a wonderfully healthy breakfast.

Vegan Blueberry Muffins

I typically considered vegan muffins and banana bread a treat, best enjoyed with a cup of afternoon tea. And I prefer to stick to nutrient rich foods to break my fast most of the time. However, for those who love breads for breakfast, vegan muffins and quick breads such as banana, pumpkin and date offer ideal healthy alternatives.

Try these gluten and oil free blueberry mini muffins. They also make great afternoon snacks that complement a cup of hot herbal tea.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas muffins
Vegan muffins make a great healthy alternative to traditional muffins.

Vegan Blueberry Banana Bread

This beautiful loaf is free from gluten, refined sugar, eggs and diary products.

I learned in Anthony’s Liver Rescue book that the fructose in bananas is the liver’s favorite source of food. It provides quick fuel to the liver and wakes up sleepy cells. Bananas soothe the lining of the intestines and also calm the nerves attached to the intestinal tract. This fruit is one of the most antibacterial, anti-yeast, antifungal foods available. It’s a great fruit to combine with other nutrient-rich foods…such as blueberries!

Find the recipe for this amazing bread HERE.

9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas banana blueberry bread
9 healthy breakfast ideas – banana blueberry bread

Don’t Skip Breakfast

I hope these simple ideas for healthy breakfasts encourage you to NOT skip out on the most important meal of the day. Fuel your body, wake it up and enjoy knowing that you’ve given yourself the best possible start to the day.

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Healthy Potato Recipes

 

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Today is National Potato Day and what better way to celebrate than with a collection of my favorite healthy potato recipes!

A couple of days ago, my sister asked me to name the vegetable I like the best. Without a doubt, the simple, earthy potato tops my list. I’m grateful for potatoes, actually. They are foundational to my plant based lifestyle.

Potatoes often get a bad rap, blamed for all kinds of health disorders from inflammation to diabetes to cancer, and labeled as a low nutritional food.

Not true!

The entire potato is edible, with the skin high in nutrients. Because they develop underground, potatoes draw trace minerals from the earth. They provide potassium, B6 and amino acids…in particular Lysine in its bioactive form. Lysine fights against cancers, viruses such as Epstein-Barr and shingles, liver disease and inflammation.

Potatoes strengthen the kidneys and liver, soothe over excited nerves and help the digestive system heal from Crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers. This antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial vegetable relieves stress, supports the brain and helps us feel centered and grounded.

Healthy Potato Recipes title meme

National Potato Day

Celebrated annually on August 19, National Potato Day recognizes the importance of this versatile and tasty vegetable. Mashed, baked, fried or steamed, potatoes truly are a mainstay of the American diet.

The Incas in Peru first cultivated this vegetable, as early as 8000 BC. Spanish conquistadors carried potatoes from Peru to Europe in 1536. By the early 1800s French fries appeared in the US and NASA and the University of Wisconsin partnered to make potatoes the first vegetable grown in space in 1995.

Currently, more than 4000 varieties of potatoes exist. And potatoes grow in all 50 states, making it easy to enjoy a potato recipe on this special day.

In honor of the day, below are some of my favorite healthy potato recipes. Click on the links for the full recipes.

Healthy Potato Recipes baked potato
Healthy potato recipes – baked

Simple Potatoes

Most often I enjoy a simple baked potato, without dairy products such as butter or sour cream. I use plant based butter if desired. Combined with simple grains such as brown rice, legumes or an assortment of fresh or cooked veggies, a potato bowl is nutritional and satisfying.

It’s also easy to cube potatoes, leaving the skin on, and steam them for four minutes in the instant pot. I season with sprinkles of garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt and black pepper.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Another easy favorite is oven roasted potatoes.

Crispy on the outside and yet tender inside, these potatoes make a great side dish or meatless main meal. Eat alone or create a veggie bowl featuring the oven roasted potatoes and other cooked veggies, a salad or raw veggies such as sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.

Healthy Potato Recipes roasted
Healthy potato recipes – roasted

Deviled Potatoes

These tasty bites offer a great alternative to deviled eggs.

This fun recipe makes a great snack or a satisfying meal! I love the little kick of added mustard. And no silverware needed. Pick these deviled potatoes up with your fingers and eat them!

Healthy Potato Recipes deviled
Healthy potato recipes – deviled

Dairy Free Potato Soup

I grew up loving my mother’s homemade potato soup. Fortunately, it’s easy to create a dairy free version to enjoy today.

This savory soup, adapted from my mom’s recipe and a vegan one I found, is full of other hearty vegetables. The broth gains richness from an easy to make cashew sauce.

Healthy Potato Recipes soup
Healthy potato recipes – soup

Nachos Style Potatoes

This amazing recipe, from Anthony William, substitutes baked potato “chips” for corn chips. It features a wonderful garlic aioli! Nachos style potatoes make the perfect lunch or weekend dinner.

Healthy Potato Recipes nachos
Healthy potato recipes – nachos

Aloo Matar

This fragrant, delicious meal is a Punjabi dish from India. It features potatoes and peas in a spiced tomato base. I absolutely LOVE this quick and easy recipe.

I even adapted it to create a flavorful aloo matar soup.

Healthy Potato Recipes aloo matar
Healthy Potato Recipes – aloo matar

Potato and Herb Salad

This fresh take on traditional potato salad comes from Anthony William as well. It features herbs such as chives, parsley, dill and cilantro. It’s the perfect meal for the end of summer.

Healthy Potato Recipes salad
Healthy potato recipes – salad

Shepherd’s Pie

This incredible one dish meal features lentils and vegetables in rich broth, topped with dairy free mashed potatoes. It’s just right for a chilly fall evening.

Healthy Potato Recipes shepherds pie
Healthy potato recipes – shepherd’s pie

Lentils, Potatoes and Brown Rice

This instant pot recipe combines the goodness of lentils and brown rice with cubed potatoes. I love this homey meal, seasoned with thyme, rosemary and garlic.

Healthy Potato Recipes lentils and potatoes
Healthy potato recipes – lentils, potatoes and brown rice

Madras Curried Lentils and Potatoes

And finally, this is one of my all time favorite meals.

This flavorful but not too spicy curry is the perfect make ahead meal that simmers in the slow cooker all day. The tantalizing aroma makes me smile in anticipation!

Healthy Potato Recipes madras curry
Healthy potato recipes – madras curry

Healthy Potato Recipes for Every Day

For National Potato Day…or every day…these potato recipes are sure to please.

Watch this blog for new potato recipes. I’m always looking for fresh healthy ways to prepare my favorite veggie.

What about you? Do you have a potato recipe you prepare again and again?

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Vegan Cowboy Beans

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Since embracing a plant based lifestyle, I’ve looked for a replacement for my mom’s famous Settler Baked Beans. That tasty dish contains bacon, ground beef and brown sugar, all ingredients that I now avoid.

While preparing a round up of vegan one pot meals, I came across this recipe for vegan cowboy beans by Contentedness Cooking. Check out the original recipe HERE.

I adapted the recipe slightly. That’s one of the pluses of this simple recipe, it is easy to create your own unique dish based on preferences and what you have on hand.

Vegan Cowboy Beans title meme

Vegan Cowboy Beans

I love that this recipe comes together in minutes, using canned beans and pantry staples. And all the ingredients go into one pot for easy prep, cooking and cleanup.

The original recipe called for homemade barbecue sauce. I’d love to make my own soon. However, to keep it simple and quick this evening, I picked up sugar free classic barbecue sauce at Natural Grocers. I also grabbed several cans of organic beans there too along with a can of organic tomato sauce.

Any canned beans are fine. Use what you have or get creative and mix things up. I chose great northern beans, black eyed peas and a blend of pinto, kidney and black beans.

Vegan Cowboy Beans ingredients
Ingredients for Vegan Cowboy Beans

Vegan Cowboy Beans Recipe

Vegan Cowboy Beans

This savory bean dish is full of flavor.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 6 cups mixed beans, drained and cooked
  • 1/4 cup sugar free barbecue sauce
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • In a large pan, saute onion and green bell pepper in olive oil. Cook until veggies soften, about five minutes.
  • Add beans, barbecue sauce and tomato sauce. Stir well. Add ground mustard and garlic powder.
  • Bring beans just to boil, over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 servings.
Keyword Cowboy Beans, Vegan

 

 

Vegan Cowboy Beans simmering
Vegan Cowboy Beans simmering.

Enjoying This Flavorful Dish

By the time I cleaned up my prep area and washed the few dishes I dirtied, the beans were done.

What a delicious and quick meal. And how versatile. The barbecue sauce I selected added a bit of a kick, which I loved. Substitute any style and flavor of barbecue sauce. And swap out the teaspoon of ground mustard for a tablespoon of prepared mustard, if desired. Or used minced garlic instead of garlic powder.

I enjoy including chopped green bell peppers. Use your favorite vegetables. Plus, any combination of beans may be used.

I enjoyed these vegan cowboy beans! They are perfect for a backyard cookout or to tote along to a family potluck dinner. If you intend to share with others, the recipe is easily doubled.

That’s what I’ll do when I cook up my next pot of cowboy beans!

Vegan Cowboy Beans ready to eat
Ready to eat!

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Eat the Rainbow

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We’ve heard how important it is to include colorful fruits and vegetables in our diets. Those foods with vibrant colors contain powerful nutrients that sustain a healthy body.

What does it mean, to eat the rainbow?

And which foods pack the most health benefits?

Check out the following info and then have fun, creating colorful meals that boost the immune system and deeply nourish the body.

Eat the Rainbow title meme

Eat the Rainbow

The typical diet consists of fast foods and packaged meals and snacks. These highly processed foods, loaded with fats, sugars and additives, do little to nourish the body. Rather, they contribute to poor health, illnesses and diseases.

A diet built around a variety of fruits and vegetables provides benefits that nurture the body, creating optimal health and wellness. Colorful produce contains healing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Eating the rainbow of fruits and veggies is an easy way to ensure the body remains strong and healthy. And a strong, healthy body is better able to resist illnesses and thrive.

The colors in fruits and vegetables are derived from natural compounds that help protect the plants from harmful bacteria and viruses and the sun’s rays. Those same phytochemicals offer protection to us as well.

Red Fruits & Vegetables

Phytochemicals: lycopene, citrulline and ellagic acid

Benefits: helps fight cancer, reduces risks of heart disease and diabetes, improves skin health and vision

Red fruits and vegetables to include: strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, red skinned apples, cherries, cranberries, red grapes, red onions, pomegranates, red peppers, tomatoes, beets, radishes

Eat the Rainbow - watermelon with mint
Eat the rainbow – watermelon with mint and lime

Orange & Yellow Fruits & Vegetables

Phytochemicals: vitamin C, beta-carotene, hesperidin (in citrus fruits)

Benefits: boosts immune system and cell growth, reduces risks of heart disease and stroke, improves eye health, increases blood flow, protects skin from sun damage, keeps joints healthy

Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables to include: oranges, grapefruits, lemons, mangoes, pineapple, papayas, peaches, cantaloupes, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, yellow summer squash, corn, orange and yellow peppers, golden beets

Eat the Rainbow orange salad
Eat the Rainbow – orange, avocado and olive salad

Green Fruits & Vegetables

Phytochemicals: lutein, isoflavones, isothiocyanates, folate, vitamin K

Benefits: boosts the immune system, detoxifies the body, restores energy and vitality, helps maintain a healthy pregnancy, improves mood, repairs DNA damage, improves digestion, protects body against colds and viruses and disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and insomnia

Green fruits and veggies to include: green grapes, green apples, kiwi fruit, limes, avocado, cucumber, broccoli, celery, kale, romaine lettuce, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, cilantro, green beans, peas, zucchini

Easy to Make Meals Using 5 Common Staples soup
Eat the rainbow -veggie bowl

 Blue & Purple Fruits & Vegetables

Phytochemicals: anthocyanins, resveratrol, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, vitamin C

Benefits: protects against cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurological diseases, improves brain health and memory, reduces inflammation, repairs damage from oxidative stress, slows the aging process, normalizes blood pressure, supports liver and kidney health, heals urinary tract infections, helps to prevent colds and flu.

Blue and purple fruits and veggies to include: blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, plums, prunes, figs, purple cabbage, eggplant, purple carrots, purple sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, purple cauliflower, purple kale, purple asparagus

Eat the Rainbow Sweet Potato with Purple Cabbage
Eat the Rainbow – baked sweet potato with braised purple cabbage and onions, topped with cilantro

White & Brown Fruits & Vegetables

Phytochemicals: allicin, quercetin, sulforaphane, anthoxanthins

Benefits: protects against cancer, strengthens bones, supports heart health, lowers cholesterol, balances hormones, reduces inflammation

White and brown fruits and vegetables to include: bananas, cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, onions, mushrooms, parsnips, Daikon radishes, jicama

Eat the Rainbow - veggies
Eat the rainbow – veggies ready to chop

Best Ways to Eat the Rainbow

Chopped salads, veggie bowls, soups and stir fries are great ways to eat the rainbow.

Combine fresh fruits together for a refreshing salad. Include berries, chopped mangoes, pineapples, oranges, sliced bananas…all of your favorite fruits.

One of my favorite meals is a chopped veggie salad. Tear dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, romaine lettuce and arugula into small, bite sized pieces. Don’t fill a bowl with greens and then sprinkle on veggies. Make the greens part of the chopped salad without allowing them to dominate it.

Add a variety of veggies, chopped in a mini food processor. I like to include tomatoes, red, orange and green peppers, red onion, radishes, mushrooms, avocado, carrots, celery, cucumber, zucchini, asparagus, yellow squash, broccoli and cauliflower. Whatever fresh produce I have on hand in the fridge or pantry, goes into the salad. After combining well, I pop the salad into the fridge and let it chill for at least a couple of hours. This combines the flavors. It is SUCH a tasty meal.

For stir fry chop or slice veggies, quickly fry in vegetable broth or a small amount of coconut oil and serve over brown rice or riced cauliflower. Or create a big pot of vegetable soup.

Eat the Rainbow and Improve Health

Have fun adding as many colorful foods to your diet as possible. Not only do these foods create a beautiful, nutritious meal, they feed the body at a cellular level. Use as many fresh, organic non GMO fruits and vegetables as possible, leaving the skins on when you can, for the best nutritional value.

Make salads, run fruits and veggies through the juicer, combine fruits in smoothies, stir fry vegetables, steam them in the instant pot, cut fruits and vegetables up and eat them as a snack with sugar free peanut butter or dairy free yogurt.

I challenge you, in a playful way, to go beyond the occasional apple or banana. Get creative in adding more and more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Trust me, your body will thank you by responding with increased health and vitality.

You are what you eat, the saying goes. Be a rainbow.

Eat the Rainbow chopped salad
Eat the rainbow – chopped veggie salad

Make chopping veggies easy with this mini chopper:

 

Click on photo to order

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Eyebright Herb Benefits

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I appreciate the many health benefits of herbs. These powerful plants truly provide medicine for the body. From boosting the immune system to easing inflammation to relieving bloating, there’s an herb for that!

This post features an herb called eyebright. Common in Europe, Asia and the US, eyebright is a small flowering herb that thrives in poor soil. The tiny flowers are white with purple streaks and a yellow center. The herb grows in grassy areas such as yards, fields and ditches. Considered a semi-parasitic plant, eyebright draws water and nutrients from the roots of nearby plants.

The stems, leaves and flowers are used medicinally in teas, tinctures, lotions and dietary supplements.

Eyebright Herb Benefits title meme

Nutritional Value of Eyebright

Eyebright contains flavonoids with antihistamine properties. Those flavonoids inhibit the release of histamine, which triggers allergy symptoms such as a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes.

The herb also provides plant compounds that protect against damage from free radicals. And eyebright contains tannins that possess anti-inflammatory properties.

Additionally, the herb offers vitamins A, B1, C and E along with zinc, selenium and copper.

Eyebright Herb Benefits

Although not as well known as other medicinal herbs, eyebright has been used for centuries in Europe and Asia and provides the following benefits:

  • relieves eye problems including irritation, inflammation and allergy symptoms
  • prevents sun damage to skin cells
  • improves acne and skin irritations
  • lowers blood sugar
  • soothes sore throats and eases symptoms of colds and coughs
  • combats sinus infections
  • antibacterial
  • antiviral
  • protects the liver from free radicals, toxins and viruses
  • enhances memory and improves cognitive performance
Eyebright Herb Benefits
Eyebright Herb Benefits – dried form

Ways to Use Eyebright

Purchase eyebright in health food stores or order online.

It is available as dried, herbal tea bags, capsules, tinctures, extracts, lotions and eye drops.

For tea, add 1 – 2 teaspoons of dried eyebright, or an herbal tea bag, to a cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Eyebright may taste slightly bitter or astringent. Add raw, organic honey to sweeten, if desired.

Take 1 – 2 ml of the tincture or extract, up to three times a day.

Or take 1 400 – 500 mg capsule 2 – 3 times a day.

I’ve seen posts about making a DIY eyebright solution to wash the eyes with, to ease inflammation and irritation. However, I can’t recommend that. Extreme caution must be used with any home remedy for the eyes, to prevent infection.

There are commercially prepared eye drops available that contain eyebright.

Have you heard of the herb eyebright? I’d love to know if you’ve tried it!

Eyebright Herb Benefits flower
Eyebright Herb Benefits – flowers

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Health Benefits of Valerian

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The health benefits of valerian go beyond providing a restful night’s sleep. This flowering herb offers a range of healing properties that soothe and support the body.

Check out these benefits and easy ways to include valerian as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Health Benefits of Valerian title meme

What is Valerian?

Valerian, also commonly known as valerian root, is native to Europe and parts of Asia. It’s grown in the US as well. The herb is a perennial flowering plant adorned with sweetly scented pink or white blooms. Valerian normally blooms during the summer months.

The name of the plant derives from the Latin word valere, meaning “strong and healthy”. The Greeks and Romans appreciated valerian for its medicinal properties, using it as a sleep aid and as an early remedy for epilepsy.

Valerian root contains oils and other active components that produce a soothing, restorative effect on the body’s nervous and muscular systems. The plant also contains calcium, manganese and quercitin.

Health Benefits of Valerian
Valerian flowers

Health Benefits of Valerian

This extraordinary medicinal herb offers the following healing properties:

Lowers Blood Pressure

Valerian’s soothing properties lower blood pressure, which in turn improves overall heart health. High blood pressure creates increased risks for stroke and heart attack.

Promotes Sleep

Well known for aiding insomnia, valerian reduces the time it takes to fall asleep while improving the quality of sleep. Unlike prescriptions or over the counter meds, valerian has few side effects and it’s less likely to cause grogginess the next morning. Valerian root is frequently combined with other herbs, such as lemon balm, to soothe the body into rest.

Health benefits of valerian - better night's sleep
Health benefits of valerian – a better night’s sleep

Eases Menstrual Cramps

Valerian’s natural antispasmodic abilities relax muscles, calming severe uterine contractions that cause cramps during menstruation. For many women, those cramps are extremely painful and debilitating. Valerian acts as a muscle relaxer, easing cramps and pain while reducing stress.

Relieves Anxiety

Valerian increases a chemical in the body called gamma aminobutyric (GABA). GABA helps to regulate nerve cells and naturally calms anxiety. In fact, studies show that valerian works as well as antidepressants at reducing anxiety, without the serious side effects of those drugs.

Health Benefits of Valerian
Health Benefits of Valerian – eases anxiety. An afternoon in a hammock helps too!

 

Soothes the Digestive Tract

Valerian’s antispasmodic properties also calm and relax the digestive system. It is especially helpful for those suffering with irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally, the herb helps to control hunger and reduces the urge to eat during times of stress.

Helps with Stress Management

By reducing anxiety and improving sleep, valerian helps with daily stress management. Improving GABA levels enables the mind and the body to relax, which increases wellbeing and quality of life.

Health Benefits of Valerian
Valerian roots

Using Valerian

Valerian is available dried, as a tea or tincture, and in capsule form. It is easily found in health conscious stores or online. Check out the Amazon links below.

For insomnia, try a cup of valerian tea, a teaspoon of tincture or a capsule without two hours of bedtime. Brew tea by steeping one teaspoon dried valerian root in a cup of very hot water, for 5 – 10 minutes.

To help with anxiety, take 200 milligrams of valerian up to four times a day.

Continue valerian for up to six weeks, to improve sleep and lower anxiety.

Possible Side Effects of Valerian

Valerian is considered a safe, natural alternative to prescription drugs and over the counter meds. However, a few people experience dizziness, an upset stomach or increased anxiety while using valerian. Talk to a doctor before taking this herb and discontinue if any of the above symptoms occur. Also, do not combine valerian with melatonin or over the counter or prescription sleeping aids and antidepressants.

Have you tried valerian? What’s your experience using this healing herb?

Health Benefits of Valerian
Health Benefits of Valerian – relaxation

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Alkaline Foods Vs Acidic Foods

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After embracing a plant based lifestyle, I heard a lot about alkaline foods vs acidic foods. I understood enough to know that one is better for health than the other. But why? My curiosity led me to investigate.

Do you wonder which foods contribute to creating an alkaline body…and which create acidity? Or perhaps you wonder…what difference does it make anyway?

Check out alkaline foods vs acidic foods and discover why they DO matter to health.

Alkaline Foods Vs Acidic Foods title meme

Alkaline Foods

Alkaline and acidic refer to the pH level in the body. All systems, tissues and fluids range from 0 to 14 on the scale. A lower pH level is more acidic and a higher one is more alkaline. A slightly alkaline pH of 7.35 – 7.45 for the body is considered ideal for health.

Our kidneys help to regulate pH by maintaining electrolyte levels and either excreting or absorbing acidic and alkaline ions through urine. However, a diet high in acidic foods can have a negative impact on health while one higher in alkaline foods provides benefits.

And by benefits, I mean that eating enough alkaline foods helps to promote an optimal environment within the body for health. The kidneys work well. Weight is easier to maintain. An alkaline body lowers the risks for heart disease, strengthens bones, balances hormones and improves brain functions such as memory and cognitive abilities. There is also evidence that consuming more alkaline foods eases pain and inflammation in muscles and joints.

Alkaline Foods Vs Acidic Foods Berries
Alkaline Foods Vs Acidic Foods Berries

Foods that are Alkaline

Choose foods from this list of foods, adding them to the diet weekly. They help to neutralize the effects of acidic foods.

  • green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, lettuce, celery, parsley, arugula and mustard greens
  • cauliflower and broccoli
  • sea vegetables, such as Atlantic dulse, nori and kelp, and sea salt
  • root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots and beets
  • fruits such as kiwi, watermelon, berries, nectarines, apricots and apples
  • nuts such as almonds, cashews and chestnuts
  • onion, garlic and ginger
  • beans and legumes
  • citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes and oranges

Citrus fruits may come as a surprise, however they are actually one of the best alkaline foods. Citric acid has an alkalizing effect on the body, providing relief from acidity and heartburn.

Alkalizing lemons
Alkalizing lemons
Alkaline Foods Vs Acidic Foods Processed Meats
Alkaline Foods Vs Acidic Foods Processed lunch meats

Acidic Foods

A diet that is high in acidic foods creates an environment in the body that contributes to disease and feeds pathogens. Acid forming foods typically include animal proteins, wheat products and alcohol.

Too many acidic foods throw the body out of balance. The results are lower bone density, acid reflux and heartburn, kidney stones and disease, chronic pain in muscles and joints, headaches, back pain, muscle spasms and hormonal imbalance. An acidic body is at higher risk of heart disease and brain impairment.

Acidic coffee
Acidic coffee

Foods that are Acidic

The typical American diet is highly acidic. Limit these foods, to reduce acidity and improve health.

  • milk and dairy products such as cheese
  • meat
  • eggs
  • alcohol
  • caffeinated drinks such as coffee and soda
  • artificial sweeteners
  • wheat products including breads and pastas
  • lunch meat
  • highly processed foods such as cereals, frozen dinners and store bought snacks
Alkaline Foods Vs Acidic Foods Greens
One of the best ways to get your greens…in a smoothie.

Tips to Help

One way to support a healthy alkaline body is to switch to a plant based diet. However, if you are not ready to do that, these tips can help.

  • substitute beans or legumes for meat two or more times a week
  • try eating only fruits and veggies for breakfast and lunch
  • combine fruits and greens into a nutrient packed…and alkaline…smoothie
  • eat fruit instead of highly processed store bought snacks
  • cook more at home, to avoid processed foods
  • reduce coffee and soda intake by switching to water or unsweetened herbal teas
  • try chicory tea in the morning instead of coffee
  • sweeten herbal teas with organic honey or maple syrup instead of artificial sweeteners
  • focus on whole foods rather than processed foods
  • use wild caught salmon in place of farmed fish

I can’t personally recommend bottled alkaline water. For one thing, I’m eliminating plastic use from my life. And I prefer eating foods that naturally balance the body, over drinking alkaline water. Will it hurt? No, not if you occasionally drink alkaline water. Again, grab a piece of fruit instead or enjoy a fresh chopped salad. Gain the health benefits that those foods provide, beyond contributing to an alkaline body.

In the battle of alkaline foods vs acidic foods, I’d love to see you on the side that promotes health, wellness and vitality.

Alkaline Foods Vs Acidic Foods Veggies
Fresh veggies

Pick up dried chicory below, by clicking on the photo.

 

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5 Healthiest Nuts to Eat

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On a plant based diet, or any healthy diet, nuts are a great snack option. Most nuts are higher in fats, so a small handful a couple of times a week is optimal. And nuts are an ideal source of fiber and protein.

Nuts contain other important and beneficial nutrients. Read on for the 5 healthiest nuts to eat, to receive the most from your snack.

5 Healthiest Nuts to Eat Title Meme

Nutritional Nuts

Overall, nuts are a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats along with omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. They also deliver vitamins and minerals.

In spite of their higher fat content, nuts have many health benefits. Studies have shown that nuts help to prevent diseases and may even prolong life by reducing the risks of some types of cancers.

Here are the 5 healthiest nuts to eat.

1. Walnuts

Walnuts are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). They are also a significant contributor of protein, fiber, vitamin E, melatonin and magnesium. Walnuts also contain a plant compound called polyphenols that reduce inflammation throughout the body, which in turn lowers the risk of many diseases, including cancer.

Walnuts also reduce bad LDL cholesterol while boosting good HDL cholesterol. They also contribute to better heart health, regulated blood pressure and increased blood flow through the circulatory system.

Additionally, walnuts are considered brain food. Eating walnuts increases cognitive function and reasoning abilities.

Healthy Walnuts
5 healthiest nuts to eat: walnuts

2. Almonds

Almonds provide a significant amount of protein, fiber, vitamin E and magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, calcium and iron.

This tree nut improves cholesterol levels and supports heart health. Its high fiber content aids in weight loss and lowers blood pressure. And consuming a few almonds during a meal helps to regulate blood sugar levels that can rise after eating, in people with diabetes. For those with type 2 diabetes, almonds can lower inflammation.

Almonds also improve gut health by supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria.

5 Healthiest Nuts to Eat Almonds
Almonds, one of the 5 healthiest nuts to eat.

3. Pistachios

This popular green nut, typically packaged still in its shell, is high in fiber and protein and provides vitamin E and magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and phosphorous.

As with walnuts and almonds, pistachios improve cholesterol levels. Eating just a couple of ounces of pistachios a day also increases good HDL cholesterol. Additionally, pistachios decreases the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and help maintain a healthy weight. Their antioxidant properties prevent oxidative damage to cells.

And pistachios help to keep blood sugar levels down after a meal.

Healthy Pistachios
Health boosting pistachios.

4. Cashews

Cashews have a creamy texture, making them perfect for baking and vegan sauce making. They are also an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamin E and calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium. Cashews also provide antioxidant properties.

This tree nut reduces blood pressure, improves blood lipid levels and increases good HDL cholesterol.

5 Healthiest Nuts to Eat Cashews
Fiber and protein rich cashews.

5. Hazelnuts

Nutritious hazelnuts have a distinctive flavor. They are also an excellent source of fiber, protein, vitamin E and calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.

They lower the risk of heart disease and reduce bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Hazelnuts ease inflammation throughout the body and improve overall blood vessel health. Additionally, they increase the amount of vitamin E in the blood.

Healthy Hazelnuts
The last of the 5 healthiest nuts to eat, hazelnuts.

Ways to Benefit from Nuts

Try including nuts in your diet, in these ways:

  • combine them with unsweetened raisins, dried cranberries, unsweetened dried coconut and seeds to make a homemade trail mix
  • drink nut milks such as cashew milk, almond milk or hazelnut milk
  • use sugar free nut butters that only contain nuts and a small amount of sea salt
  • add raw nuts to salads
  • use in baking recipes
  • make vegan sauces from cashews
  • eat plain, as a snack
  • make your own vegan cheeses and milks, from nuts

Remember to enjoy nuts in moderation, due to their fat content. Eat a small handful at a time or include in recipes on days scattered throughout the week. And check out some of my favorite recipes below, that include healthy nuts.

5 healthiest Nuts to Eat Tabbouleh
Parsley Tabbouleh with almonds.

 

Favorite Recipes Using Nuts

Dairy Free Potato Soup with Cashew Sauce

Broccoli and Macaroni Bake

Raw Blueberry Pie with Cashew Crust

Vegan Banana Blueberry Bread with Walnuts

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Parsley Tabbouleh

Amazon finds:

 


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Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars

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One thing that many people enjoy about fall is pumpkin flavored everything. From pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin donuts and gnocchi, this rich and homey flavor defines the season.

This evening I happily tried a new pumpkin recipe, adapted from litecravings.com. These easy to prepare bars are full of pumpkin flavor and spices. They do not contain gluten, eggs, oil, grains or refined sugar.

Vegan Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars Title Meme

 

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars

I used organic canned pumpkin puree for this recipe. The rest of my ingredients were organic as well and non GMO. Make sure you are using pumpkin puree, rather than pumpkin pie filling, which is loaded with sugar. I found non GMO peanut butter powder at my local Natural Grocers, in the refrigerator section of the bulk foods aisle. I located the almond meal, which gives the bars a nice texture, in the same section. You can use almond flour instead, if desired.

The original recipe required two eggs. I used “flax eggs” instead. Check out this post, for four egg substitutes, including flax eggs, that work well for baking.

Vegan & Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars

These easy to prepare bars are rich with pumpkin flavor and spices and do not contain eggs, oil, refined sugar or gluten.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 9

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree, organic if possible
  • 1/4 cup powdered peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce, organic if possible
  • 2 flax eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, aluminum free
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for the almond meal.
  • Fold in almond meal, just until combined. Pour mixture into an 8x8 cooking pan, lightly greased with coconut oil.
  • Top with walnut pieces, if desired. Dark chocolate chips would be good too.
  • Bake 20 - 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in middle comes out with just a bit of batter clinging to it. It's okay to slightly undercook the bars. Begin testing for doneness at 20 minutes.
  • Let cool completely, at least one hour. Bars do even better chilled for several hours in the fridge so that they set. Cut into 9 bars,
Keyword Gluten Free, Pumpkin Bars, Vegan
Ingredients for vegan pumpkin bars
Ingredients for vegan and gluten free pumpkin bars.

Pumpkin Bars that Taste Like Fall

I admit, I rushed the cooling process so I could finish up photos and complete my blog post! However, these vegan and gluten free bars are so good! The bars are slightly sweet and loaded with spiced pumpkin goodness. Because my bars were still warm, they tasted like a delightful cross between pumpkin pie and pumpkin brownies.

The remainder of the bars will chill in the refrigerator overnight. I baked them for about 25 minutes. I think next time…and there will be a next time…I’ll leave them in two minutes longer.

I enjoyed a couple of vegan and gluten free pumpkin bars with a cup of hot peppermint tea. They were perfection…and the taste of fall….in every yummy bite.

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars

 

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Purple Hull Beans and Vegetables

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In a recent post, I mentioned that I looked for hull beans at the farmer’s market, without success. I have a recipe I’m eager to try and hull beans are a late summer crop.

However, on the next visit, I scored! One market vendor offered purple hull beans for sale. I purchased a large container of the beans, excited to create a hearty meal from them.

Purple hull beans and vegetables are another perfect end of the season treat, using fresh produce. For another great recipe, check out Summer Succotash.

Purple Hull Beans and Vegetables Title Meme
Background template created by my blogging friend, Lisa Mitchell.

What are Purple Hull Beans?

These staples of the south are closely related to black eyed peas. They thrive in warm, sunny environments. Other names for this bean are southern peas or cowpeas. Purple hull beans originated in Africa and came to the United States by way of Egypt, Asia and Europe.

The outer pod, or hull, turns a deep purple color as the seeds inside mature. Peel back the hull and snap out the beans, which are a pale green color when fresh. Purple hull beans are considered creamier, smoother in texture and sweeter than black eyed peas.

My cousin, Michael Lauderdale, used to grow purple hull beans in his garden. I loved visiting his farm and dining on a big bowl of freshly prepared beans. My favorite summer meals continue to be simple ones made from garden produce. I couldn’t wait to try my new recipe featuring a mix of purple hull beans and vegetables.

Purple Hull Beans and Vegetables In the Shell
Purple hull beans in the pod.
Purple Hull Beans Shelled
Shelled beans.

Purple Hull Beans and Vegetables

The recipe is adapted from the wonderful book, Vegan Under Pressure. I used garden fresh tomatoes, onions, green bell peppers and hull beans along with canned non GMO corn. The pressure cooker creates a healthy meal in minutes.

Purple Hull Beans and Vegetables

Purple Hull Beans and Vegetables

Enjoy end of the summer produce with this savory dish.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker

Ingredients
  

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cups shelled hull beans
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup tomato, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups corn, fresh or canned, non GMO

Instructions
 

  • Heat pressure cooker (I use the meat setting). Saute onion and garlic in small amount of vegetable broth, for 2 minutes. Add bell pepper and continue to stir and cook, for another minute.
  • Add hull beans, vegetable broth and cumin. Lock on lid and bring to pressure. Cook for 5 minutes. Let pressure release naturally. Carefully remove lid.
  • Taste to make sure hull beans are tender. If not, cover and return to pressure and cook for 1 - 3 minutes more. Carefully remove lid.
  • Stir in diced tomatoes and corn. Simmer in open pressure cooker for 5 minutes, until tomatoes begin to break down. Or replace lid and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
Keyword Purple Hull Beans and Vegetables
Purple Hull Beans and Vegetables Before Cooking
Purple Hull Beans and Vegetables before cooking…
After cooking purple hull beans
…and after.

Savoring an End of Summer Meal

This pot of purple hull beans and vegetables completely satisfied my craving for a hearty end of the season meal. The combination of beans and vegetables was perfect. I used my own DIY Broth from Vegetable Scraps for the stock. And the cumin lent a hint of spice to the mix.

Greg and I enjoyed a steaming bowl of this delicious meal, without adding anything else. However, purple hull beans and vegetables are excellent as well served over brown rice, quinoa or a plain baked potato.

I’ll be looking for more hull beans on my next trip to the farmer’s market. This is a meal I can enjoy well into fall, as long as the beans are available.

Purple Hull Beans and Vegetables
A bowl of summer goodness.

Pick up a copy of Vegan Under Pressure and get your own Pressure Pot. They are so handy to have in the kitchen.

 

 

 


 

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