The kids heading back to school means you are headed back to work. And, I am not just talking about your actual job, you know, the one where you go to an office everyday throughout the Monday through Friday workweek. I am talking about packing lunches, that’s right, it is that time again. Packing your children’s lunches is a great way to guarantee they are getting the nutrients they need, as you do not always know what is prepared at the school’s cafeteria. Here are five superfoods you can sneak into your child’s lunch. Superfoods will provide the extra health boost they need!
1. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are great because they can be put into almost anything. In addition, chia seeds pack a powerful nutrient-rich punch, they are high in protein, fat and omega-3s. Chia seeds have been said to protect the body from chronic diseases. Sprinkle some chia seeds into your kid’s sandwich, yogurt or smoothie and they will instantly have a super lunch.
Filled with mass amounts of fiber and potassium, avocado is truly one of the more delicious superfoods. And, with a plethora of uses it is easy to sneak in some avocado to your kid’s sack lunch. Start by introducing them to guacamole, and then you can put a little guacamole with some blue corn tortilla chips or veggie chips into their lunch. Once they warm up to the avocado, use it in sandwiches, salads or other main courses.
Finally, something a little easier. Everyone loves blueberries, right? I mean how can you now appreciate such a delicious fruit. Most importantly, this fruit is one of the most powerful superfoods you can consume. High in antioxidants and phytonutrients, low in sugars and rich in vitamin C, this berry is a modern-day wonder. But, perhaps the easiest thing about blueberries is that you don’t even have to sneak them in. Just put the berries in a small container in your child’s lunch and they are sure to eat them up.
Hypertension and heart health are issues very close to my heart (ha ha, no pun intended). Literally EVERYONE on both sides of my family that has died of natural causes has died of either heart attack or stroke, and many of the women have died between the ages of 58-63. Needless to say, I take my heart healthy very seriously. Luckily, I have 3,000 years of Chinese Medicine on my side to help me be heart smart throughout my life.
When it comes to diet in particular, Chinese or commonly called "Oriental" medicine (OM) nutrition combines ancient wisdom with modern science. OM nutrition is a holistic approach, which aims to balance all five flavors within most meals with one or two flavors being emphasized for therapeutic purposes. OM nutrition for a hypertension emphasizes bitter flavors, sour flavors and energetically-cooling foods.
OM theory states the bitter flavor benefits the heart in moderation but an excess is harmful as it has a drying effect; for example, coffee is bitter. In moderation coffee acts as vasodilator increasing circulation but in excess it can raise blood pressure and has a diuretic effect. Modern scientific research has discovered while the human genome has 25 bitter taste receptors 12 of these are expressed in the human heart.
Foods with bitter flavors include: romaine lettuce, dandelion, arugula, rye. Foods that combine bitter with pungency include: citrus peel, radish, scallion and white pepper. In OM nutrition the pungent flavor can help disperse phlegm (e.g. plaque). Foods that combine bitter with sweet include: asparagus, celery, tomatoes, lettuce, quinoa and papaya. Lemon rind is bitter and sour; vinegar is also bitter and sour.
Bitter flavors have a yin, or cooling effect, clearing heat in the body while encouraging a descent of Qi, which aids in the draining of fluids. For example, celery contains the phytochemical phthalides which relaxes arterial wall tissues to increase blood flow and thereby reduce blood pressure. The fiber, magnesium and potassium in celery also help lower blood pressure and regulate fluid balance. Caution: according to OM, those with a lot of dryness and/or bone disease should moderate their intake of bitter flavor.
A tomato a day keeps the doctor away! The combination of lycopene, vitamin C and E, potassium and folic acid in tomatoes make it a power food for heart health. The bitter flavor of tomatoes come from the seeds; to reap the full benefit of tomatoes eat the seeds too. Heirloom tomatoes in season have the most flavor, find the tastiest tomatoes at your farmer’s market or trying growing your own.
Summer is the season of the heart according to Chinese medicine, meaning it is the season most likely to bring our hearts out of balance if we are exposed to excess heat, which can then create and/or exacerbate internal heat. During the summer OM nutrition recommends drinking and eating foods that cool the body and heart such as green tea, cucumbers, watermelon and lemon.
Chrysanthemum tea is a very popular summertime tea in Asia because it is so well known for its cooling properties; it is helpful for headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure, chest pain and also fevers. You can add chrysanthemum flowers to your morning green tea and in the evening combine it with chamomile tea for extra cooling benefits!
OM nutrition cautions against overdoing cold foods and drinks. Too much cold inhibits the digestive process. Drinking warm beverages and soups, as well as eating foods with a little pungency (chili pepper, garlic, ginger) causes the body to perspire slightly which naturally cools the body.
For those who happen to have hypertension plus a lot of dryness: dry skin, dry eyes, dry mouth and thirst, constipation and even hormonal deficiencies can benefit from increasing their healthy fat intake. Many nutrients are fat soluble, the body uses cholesterol to make hormones, bile and vitamin D. Healthy fats nourish yin in OM nutrition theory. Some Americans who suffer from hypertension are also thin with an underlying yin deficiency, such as those with the onset of hypertension that coincides with menopausal symptoms. Sources of healthy fats include: nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, flaxseed oil and fish.
Eating beans, peas and grains are high in potassium, magnesium, fiber and are high in choline which is vital in lowering hypertension and boosting fat metabolism. Whole grains are also a good source of niacin and vitamin E and are recommended for healthy arteries, especially those that are slightly bitter such as: rye, quinoa, amaranth and oats.
Try this OM Nutrition Recipe for Heart Health:
5 Flavors Chickpea Salad for Healthy & Happy Heart
15 oz cooked organic chick peas (1 can)
1/2 c cup cooked quinoa or 1 cup brown rice (warm)
4 stalks celery, minced
6-12 cherry tomatoes, chapped in 1/2 or 1/4
8-12 Romaine lettuce leaves, chopped
2 TBSP red onion, minced
Toss with dressing made with:
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP lemon juice + a little lemon zest (organic is best)
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp honey or agave
1-2 garlic cloves (minced or pressed)
1/8 tsp Himalayan or Sea salt (or to taste)
fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
Foster, S. R., Blank, K., Hoe, L. E. S., Behrens, M., Meyerhof, W., Peart, J. N., & Thomas, W. G. (2014). Bitter taste receptor agonists elicit G-protein-dependent negative inotropy in the murine heart. The FASEB Journal, 28(10), 4497-4508.
Kastner, Joseph, MD, L.Ac, (2009) Chinese Nutrition Therapy, Thieme, Stuttgart and New York
Pitchford, Paul (2002), Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California
Ried, K., Frank, O. R., Stocks, N. P., Fakler, P., & Sullivan, T. (2008). Effect of garlic on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC cardiovascular disorders, 8(1), 1.
Willcox, J. K., Catignani, G. L., & Lazarus, S. (2003). Tomatoes and Cardiovascular Health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 43(1), 1-18.
As the school year kicks back into gear so should the healthy habits that you and your children have practiced. Notice how I said “practiced,” because we all know during the summer-vacation months we tend to indulge a little. Maybe you have had one too many backyard barbecues, or three too many trips to your favorite ice cream shop down the street. Whatever your summer vice may be don’t worry about it, you can regain those healthy habits from before and introduce them into your children’s lives!
So to help you get back into the swing of things, here is a list of 7 ways you can communicate healthy habits to your kids to set the tone for a fun and healthy school year:
1. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.
Get everyone in the family moving, don’t just emphasize the idea of being active to your children without participating in the activities. In addition to making it fun for the whole family, exercising as a unit will allow you to interact with your child and help them stay healthy and active. It can be as simple as a walk after school or after dinner or a family yoga or aerobics session. My kids love doing exercise videos with me, and often like pretending to be teacher!
2. Eat a Variety of Foods.
Don’t just stick to the same food regimen. Make sure you try a vast array of different nutrient-rich foods to boost the health of yourself and your children. There are many different vitamins and minerals out there, and if you just stick to the same old mac n’ cheese menu with the occasional lasagna, you are missing out on an abundance of healthy nutrients for your children!
3. Limit the Screentime.
It is no stranger that we live in a world constantly absorbed by some type of technology. From work to leisure time, technology is present in our life in one shape or another almost 24/7. But, it is best to try and limit these habits. They promote a lifestyle with less movement and activity, it has been shown to lead to increased obesity and cardiovascular disease. So try and limit your child’s time behind the screen and get them moving.
4. An Important Meal For School Kiddos: Breakfast.
Fuel up! Before you send the kiddos off to school and bring yourself into your "favorite place," aka work, make sure to create a nutritious breakfast. A breakfast loaded with carbohydrates, milk, cereal and fruits is a great way to regain all the energy lost from the previous day. My favorites breakfasts for my kids? Gimme Some Oven No Bake Energy Bites. You can decrease the sweetness by adding some coconut oil and decreasing the honey and/or substituting dried fruit for the chocolate chips, or any number of variations - including the ones included in links on the page. The flax, oats and chia provide great fiber and essential fatty acids, the nut butter excellent protein and healthy fats. My kids love to make 'em and eat 'em, its a win win!
5. Pick Rewarding Rewards for Your Kids.
Sometimes parents tend to reward a job well done or the completion of chores with a trip to the ice cream shop, some candy or a new video game (if you’re feeling really generous). Change the types of rewards and incentives you present to your children. Maybe take them on an excursion to their favorite park, or another outdoor adventure, whatever you decide make sure it is creative and helps to influence healthy habits in your children.
6. Eat Fruits and Vegetables with Every Meal!
We have already emphasized the importance of eating healthy, but there should also be a frame of reference for what this means. One way to encourage healthy eating is to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet. A neat way to do this is to have fruits and vegetables as a snack during every meal period.
7. Be the Best Role Model.
Your children tend to emulate and copy they way you behave, so why not exhibit healthy habits that they can catch on to and then practice themselves. Be the best role model possible for your children and work together as the both of you craft and practice healthy habits for the new school year and beyond.
Until next time, enjoy trying to incorporate some of these healthy habit kickstarters into your week with your family, and so will I!
Yours in health,
I hope you enjoy this article on the heels of the Olympics by contributing author Kim M. Filkins, L.Ac. Thanks Kim for the great insights!
Acupuncture has been used time and again to help athletes relieve pain. But acupuncture and the accessory modalities associated with it can do so much more. Using acupuncture treatments can actually enhance an athlete’s performance and recovery from any sports-related injury. Let’s take a look.
When an athlete is in training, he or she is constantly pushing themselves to be better: a better time, a longer jump, a further distance, etc. An athlete’s body is put through constant stress. Muscles are pushed to their maximum and sometimes tiny microscopic tears form. If the athlete were able to rest properly, these micro-tears would heal. But, when an athlete is in training, the micro-tears don’t have time to heal properly. So the body becomes fatigued, sometimes painful and the probability of serious injury increases. Acupuncture helps the body to heal, restores healing levels of energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”) and strengthens the body inside and out, thus accelerating the athlete’s recovery time.
One of the accessory modalities in the toolbox of most acupuncturists is something called gua sha. Gua sha involves gently scraping the skin with a smooth instrument like a ceramic spoon. The areas scraped are directly over the muscles. Gua sha stimulates blood flow to the muscles allowing them to relax. Gua sha is a great recovery tool for athletes and it was even recently featured in the 2016 NBA Finals. Gua sha is best performed by a trained professional who knows the body well and can determine the best pressure level for your condition.
Athletes who receive acupuncture treatments while in training generally recover quicker. They also tend to have more energy and stamina. Acupuncture can be used as a training tool for athletes with great success. But, if you are unable to get regular acupuncture treatments, you can still utilize acupressure on specific points to help boost your Qi and energy levels. One such acupressure point is on the stomach energetic meridian, stomach 36. To locate stomach 36, the leg should be flexed. The point is on the lateral or outside of the leg about three finger breadths from the lower edge of the kneecap, in between the heads of the tibia and fibula (lower leg bones). Applying pressure to this point will increase levels of Qi and blood in the body providing more stamina and fighting fatigue.
Another point to utilize is along the large intestine energetic meridian which runs down the arm to the tip of the forefinger. This point is large intestine 4 and it is great for calming spasms and relieving pain. When you squeeze the thumb and forefinger together, the point is at the apex of the mound of flesh that is created. Large intestine 4 is frequently used by acupuncturists to combat pain anywhere in the body.
As any athlete knows, stretching prior to a game, match or run is imperative. One of the best ways to stretch is tai chi. Tai chi is an ancient martial art that focuses more on being defensive instead of aggressive. It also utilizes almost every muscle in the body through slow, fluid, animal-like movements. The other nice thing about tai chi is that it helps you focus on your breathing, which helps greatly when training. By practicing tai chi prior to a workout or event, the athlete is getting the best of both worlds, a full body stretch session as well as breathing techniques. Overall, this makes for a more balanced and relaxed athlete. There are many forms of tai chi and tons of videos available, so try l and find one that works best for you and your particular sport.
As you can see, traditional Chinese medicine has much to offer for athletes both from the training standpoint as well as helping with recovery from an injury. Always seek out a properly trained, fully licensed acupuncturist so you can get the maximum benefits. When you add acupuncture to your training regimen, you should notice quite a difference in your performance.
Now go get em!
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.