Health

20 TIPS TO HELP YOU SLEEP BETTER

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A couple of months ago, in the middle of this pandemic, I suddenly had a really hard time falling asleep (and staying asleep!). The anxiety of what was happening in the world kept me tossing and turning, and when I would finally crash at around 2 or 3 am, I would wake up every hour and obsessively check the news or start thinking about all the unknowns so it was impossible for me to get back to sleep. I’m sure many of you can relate to this sudden and persistent lack of sleep so I am going to share with you what worked for me and what I recommend to my clients who have trouble sleeping and hopefully it will help you too!

Regular, adequate sleep is ESSENTIAL to good health.  People underestimate how a simple lack of sleep can lower your immune system making you more susceptible to get sick. It also increases irritability, and contributes to weight gain, not to mention affecting the way you look by increasing under-eye circles, wrinkles and bloodshot eyes. Seriously, it’s a nightmare! (See what I did there? big grin ) Anyway, just because 2020 has gone off the rails doesn’t mean we should add to to the trauma. Here’s to improving the quality and quantity of your sleep with these 20 awesome, but simple tips:

1. Keep your room temperature cool 

A too-warm room makes you sweaty (nothing more gross than waking up in a pool of your own sweat, am I right? If you have never experienced that, count your blessings!) and a super cold one leaves you shivering. Go for a slightly cool temperature which helps decrease your body’s internal thermometer, initiating sleepiness and ensuring that you stay comfortable throughout the night.

2. Sleep in darkness

Darkness triggers the production of the natural sleep hormone melatonin.  When we are exposed to light at night, the production of this hormone decreases and our sleep is interrupted. Shut the lights and close the window shades – blackout shades are best – at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Skip the nightlight – I promise there are no monsters hiding under your bed.

3. Keep the extra noises out

Turn off extra noises and distractions. Make sure nobody is in the kitchen clattering some pots and dishes around or watching TV in the family room with theater-level sound. Maybe that’s just my house? Do what I do – yell at them across the house from your bed to stop tongue – then turn on a fan, or white noise via Alexa or a phone app, calming instrumental music or, if it’s comfortable, use earplugs to completely block out the noise.

4. Avoid using loud alarm clocks

Speaking of noises, it is very stressful on the body to be awoken suddenly.  Those buzzing alarms are especially bad for the endocrine system. If you have an alarm that can be set to music and wake you by gently getting louder or a fitness watch that will vibrate on your wrist to wake you up, those are much better.

5. Use essential oils

Incorporating essential oils or aromatherapy, into your nightly routine is a safe, natural and therapeutic way to encourage your body to wind down. I personally have this diffuser near my bed and I use either the Sweet Sleep Serum from Living Libations (absolute favorite brand but they ship from Canada so it can take a couple of weeks if you live in the US) or the Doterra Serenity essential oil blend. They each smell amazing and have a great calming effect. Living Libations smells a little more citrusy and Doterra’s has a stronger lavender smell so it’s just a matter of preference.

You can also use individual oils make your own blend using Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Roman Chamomile, Cedarwood or Sandalwood. Make sure your oils are pure (most store bought oils are NOT); otherwise they will not have the right effect and may even give you a headache.

6. Unwind your mind

To help overcome your sleep problems, read a good novel or a self-help book if that’s more your thing, a half hour or so before bedtime. This practice gives your body a chance to unwind instead of forcing it to try and head straight to sleep. Or try writing in a journal – for some people it helps to get all those anxious thoughts out on paper. I don’t personally do this but I am still putting it out there because I know it works for a lot of people!

7. Keep electronics out of bed

Watching television in bed and answering late-night work emails can trick your brain into thinking that your bed is just another spot to get things done and not the place to settle down after a long day. This is a tough one for me personally! But it is definitely too stimulating to the brain and makes it take longer to fall asleep.  It’s also disruptive of pineal gland function for the amount of light hitting the eye. Although you might think the night setting on your phone or tablet helps, its not enough. If you have no self control – no judgement here, I’m the same way – just put the electronics outside of your room. If you are like me, hopefully you will be too lazy to get them once they are out of reach.

8. Maintain a regular sleep schedule

Another key sleep habit? Keep your circadian rhythm in check by sticking to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible. As your body becomes used to getting into bed and waking up at the same hours, you’ll find it becomes easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally. Aim for an average of seven to eight hours of quality sleep a night. I know, I know, I am lucky to get 6, but…. goals!

9. Go to bed earlier 

It’s not just a sleep schedule that’s important but also the time you go to bed. Our systems, particularly the adrenals, do a majority of their recharging or recovering during the hours of 11PM and 1AM.  In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins in the same period of time.  If you are awake, the toxins back up into the liver, which then secondarily backs up into your entire system and cause further disruption of your health.  Yikes! It’s better for your overall health to sleep from 11PM to 6AM than from 1AM to 8AM.

10. Limit caffeine after 12 p.m

This would seem obvious, but many people think if they have it early enough, it won’t effect their sleep.  But a recent study showed that caffeine is not metabolized properly in some people and they can feel the effects long after consuming it, preventing them from falling asleep. In fact, a review of two randomized control trials showed that eliminating caffeine for a whole day was able to improve sleep quality and lengthen sleep duration. Instead of turning to coffee, try an alternative, caffeine-free drink instead such as dandy blend or organic herbal tea (see Tip #16).

11. Work out in the morning

That rush of endorphins you feel after a solid workout is awesome — until it’s the reason you can’t sleep at night. Try shifting your workout schedule to the mornings. You’ll feel great having completed your exercise session bright and early, and it’ll be easier to unwind at night. Plus, research shows that exercise in general is known to effectively decrease sleep problems and treat symptoms of insomnia. It doesn’t have to be a crazy hard workout – an hour brisk walk in the morning will have the same benefits.

12. Get some sunshine

Starting your day with natural light exposure helps reset your biological clock. It also balances your body’s melatonin and cortisol levels (the sleep and stress hormones), and serves as a natural source of vitamin D. Did you know that Vitamin D deficiency is not only linked to a lower immune system but may be linked to sleep disorders as well. The early morning walk mentioned above will cover both exercise and Vitamin D. I just love a good dual-purpose activity, don’t you?

13. Skip late night sugar and simple carbs

Avoid eating sugary sweets, simple carbs and fruit juice just before bed, as it can spike blood sugar and make you wake up feeling hungry — literally fueling insomnia. Instead, try one of these healthy bedtime snacks:

14. Avoid foods that you may be sensitive to 

In addition to avoiding sugary sweets and simple carbs, it’s also a good idea to avoid any foods you might be sensitive to. Not sure which foods are affecting you? The most common food sensitivities are: Wheat, Dairy, Soy, Corn, Eggs, and Nuts. Dairy and wheat products in particular may have effect on sleep, such as excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset and apnea. If you want to get more specific, I recommend an IgG Food Sensitivity Test. With a simple fingerprick, 96 foods+ can be tested from your own home using a kit that is sent to you.

15. Avoid alcohol

Although alcohol will make you drowsy, the effect is short lived and most people will wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep.  I know all you wine connoisseurs will disagree with me on this, and maybe a glass of wine does work for you, but if you go this route make sure you aren’t drinking the whole bottle (you know who you are winking ) Alcohol also keeps you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of it’s healing. If you need something to drink…..keep reading!

16. Drink some hot tea

Confession time – I LOVE tea and have a bit of an obsession with it. I’m not sure if it’s because I really don’t like the taste of plain water or if it’s because I love this incredible organic neem honey that I put in the tea…….or maybe I am secretly British, who knows! In any case, here are some of my personal favorite teas:

David’s Tea – Organic Super Ginger, Organic Calming Chamomile, Organic Peppermint and Organic Cinnamon Roobios Chai (Note: not all David’s teas are kosher and many contain artificial ingredients; I only recommend the ones that are Organic). Make sure the tea(s) you have before bed are caffeine-free.

17. Take a hot bath before bed

When body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating sleep.  Add a few drops of 100% pure essential oils like Lavender or Wild Chamomile (or one of the essential oil sleep blends mentioned in Tip #5) and/or pure Epsom Salts to your bath to relax you even further. Note: if your Epsom Salts brand makes you itchy, it’s likely not pure. If essential oils make you break out, you may be allergic/sensitive to that particular one OR it may not be pure as well. Unfortunately, many brands, even those found in health food stores, may not be up to high quality standards and contain irritating ingredients.

18. Have a good mattress

It probably goes without saying that if you have an uncomfortable mattress, it will be hard to fall asleep and stay asleep! A good mattress doesn’t mean the most expensive but it should be one that is the appropriate firmness for your body weight and health concerns as well as non-toxic and hypoallergenic for the most relaxing sleep. To learn more about the best non-toxic mattresses and why it’s so important, click HERE.

19. Use natural sleep supplements

When all else fails, or if you are just a chronic insomniac, we have to bring out the big guns! This is where quality supplements come in. There are a lot of “sleep formulas” out there but I’m not a fan because if you are sensitive to an ingredient it can have the opposite effect by keeping you awake and you won’t know the specific culprit. It’s best to take them individually, starting with Magnesium and then adding Melatonin and Valerian, as needed. For the exact supplement products I recommend see my sleep protocol.

20. Bonus Tip from a Certified Life Coach: Are panic attacks keeping you awake?

Panic attacks, especially during these times, are extremely common! Head over to this blog post on how to calm a middle of the night panic attack in under 5 minutes, by my good friend and Certified Life Coach, Sharon Langert, or you may know her as the original Fashion-Isha.

Well there you have it! Please comment below if you have a tip not listed that worked for you or if a particular one worked better for you than others – would love to know!

If, after trying everything mentioned, you still have problems falling asleep or staying asleep, there could be an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed. This is where a one-on-one consultation may be necessary.

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10 AWESOME HEALTHY SNACKS FOR QUARANTINE… AND BEYOND

Last week I took a poll on Instagram asking what my next blog post topic should be and overwhelmingly, the top reply was about healthy snacking options. I totally get it – with everyone at home because of COVID-19 it seems like we are eating all day long, doesn’t it? It’s not just the kids, though. I love snacking too with serious cravings for something sweet or dark chocolatey and it has definitely been more difficult to control these urges with such easy access to the kitchen all day. So I put together a compilation of my family’s favorite healthy snacks and treats and hopefully they will become yours as well. Snacking is totally OK when done right!

This blog post took longer to write than I expected because let’s face it, having the kids (and husband) home all day makes everything take longer! With the frequent interruptions of “I’m hungry”, “I have no idea what this teacher is talking about,” “My head hurts from staring at a computer screen all day”, “Just one more thing”, and “I’m bored”s, it’s an actual miracle I get anything done at all. But as an eternal optimist (not always but I try!), I take it in stride, since truth be told, I am rather enjoying having them around to share a laugh, a thought, or even a deep meaningful conversation between classes. Not to mention, the Holistic Nutritionist side of me loves knowing they cannot consume any junk food they would typically buy at school or get from their friends……ha!

I wanted to share with you everything we truly love and snack on around here including stuff you can easily make from scratch and a couple of store-bought options – so I plowed through and hopefully there aren’t any typos or bad links! Would love to hear your feedback in the comments. Enjoy!

Please note: some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I personally use all of the products listed below and recommend them. All food products mentioned are strictly Kosher at the time this post was published. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about any of the products mentioned.

1. Healthy 3 Ingredient Chocolate Banana Ice Cream

I found this super easy, delicious and nutritious ice cream one day when looking for ways to use my Vitamix to make a quick healthy treat. I had made ice cream this way before but with lots of ice which tends to make it less creamy and more like sorbet. Not that there’s anything wrong with sorbet – but if you want something closer to the texture of real ice cream in less than 5 minutes, this is the way to go!

Note that you definitely need a high speed blender for this one; a regular one just doesn’t have the power to get the job done. Get the awesome recipe HERE and top with some healthy favorites like organic gogi berries, sliced almonds or chocolate chips – we like the Enjoy Life brand mini chips.

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2. Easy Kale chips

My family LOVES kale chips and with good reason: they provide the same crunch you want from a chip but with so many more health benefits, not to mention a lot less calories! Kale is a great source of many important nutrients, including fiber, vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin C. It supports hearth health, aids in detoxification and more. Want to learn more about the benefits of kale? Click HERE for all the nutrition info and health benefits.

While making kale chips in a dehydrator will get them perfectly dry and crispy while staying raw, if you don’t have the time, patience or a dehydrator for that matter, then this is the next best way to do it. Watch THIS VIDEO to learn how to make quick and easy kale chips.

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3. Ginger Oat Bites

A quick and easy recipe made in the food processor, these raw bites contain fresh anti-inflammatory ginger, healthy fat almonds and walnuts along with organic oats for energy. No baking required, just form into balls and eat….. Delicious! Get the full recipe HERE.

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4. Spicy Roasted Chickpeas and Cinnamon Spice Chickpeas

Some of you might know I did the culinary nutrition program last year run by the awesome Meghan Telpner. Along with the incredible knowledge and insight I gained into the world of healthy cooking, I also love many of the recipes from her book, UnDiet as well as her blog. These roasted chickpeas 2 different ways are no exception and kids love them too! Click HERE for both recipes and to learn about the health benefits of chickpeas.

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5. Cut Up Veggies with 3 dips: Almond Turmeric, Avocado or Hummus

As a Holistic Nutritionists we are supposed to advise everyone to have fresh cut up veggies for snack but to be honest, I could never eat them plain. If you are like me, you definitely need something tasty to dip them into in order to enjoy them to their fullest potential. Well here we have 3 choices of delicious dips for your cut up peppers, carrots, celery, cucumber, and any other vegetable you choose. Shown below is the Almond Turmeric Dip. The other awesome dips are Avocado – or as I like to call it, Gorgeously Green Guacamole, and my favorite Sesame-free Hummus.

weight, Rebecca Lazar - 10 AWESOME HEALTHY SNACKS FOR QUARANTINE... AND BEYOND

6. Rice Crackers with Almond Butter, Banana, and Freeze Dried Fruit

Rice cakes have long gotten a bad rep for being a high glycemic, empty calorie food. But I disagree; when it comes to healthy snacking, these super thin whole grain rice crackers, made with organic puffed rice along with added healthy fats and antioxidant toppings are simply perfection! We love these Lundberg Stackers with organic almond butter and topped with sliced banana – or crushed freeze dried banana as shown below, crushed organic freeze dried blueberries or raw cacao nibs. Kids don’t like the bitter taste of cacao nibs? substitute with a few mini chocolate chips from the Enjoy Life brand mentioned earlier.

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7. Acai Bowl

Acai berries – and other “superfruits” such as macqui berry – have been all the rage lately and with good reason. These berries are rich in antioxidants and have been shown to decrease LDL “bad” cholesterol, boost brain function and even help prevent cancer.

The majority of store bought acai bowls are so full of added sugar and not-quite-healthy ingredients that you aren’t really getting the benefits you want. A healthy acai bowl is super easy to make with just frozen bananas, frozen berries, almond milk and acai powder or macqui berry powder -or both! Like the 3 Ingredient Ice Cream, this one is best in a high speed blender such as the Vitamix. Get the full recipe HERE. Top with any fruit, nut or seed you want….. or just enjoy it as is!

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8. Organic Green Popcorn

While there are a lot of options for store-bought organic popcorn these days, making your own is always more fun and delicious – and you get to choose which toppings to put on. There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh popped popcorn and with an inexpensive air popper the calories are around 30 per cup (without added oil)! I always recommend using organic popcorn kernels since the majority of conventional corn in this country is genetically modified and full of pesticides.

For the recipe below, make the popcorn following the machine instructions and add organic spirulina powder, or other superfood green blend you prefer, along with chili powder and Himalayan pink salt to taste. Why spirulina? Other than the green popcorn “cool” factor for the kids, it is high in natural anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals, essential for a healthy body and mind. Spirulina is also a good source of protein and iron – great for vegans looking for more ways to incorporate since it can often be lacking in a vegan diet.

I have to give credit to my friend Sharon Langert for helping me style this photo while I lamented my lack of food photography skills on a hilarious whatsapp chat!

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9. Sea Snax

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The slogan for these little snax is they are addictive; and they really are as I discovered after we purchased a family pack and it was gone in less than 10 minutes! SeaSnax is the original vegan, gluten-free, Non-GMO Project Verified seaweed snack that is lightly roasted using organic seaweed, 100% organic extra virgin olive oil and just a pinch of sea salt. There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Not only are they oddly addictive and delicious out of the box but you can use them as mini sushi rolls to add other vegetables too (along with one of the dips mentioned above!) or shred them to add to salad. With only 15 calories per serving and containing minerals such as iodine, manganese and iron you really can’t go wrong.

10. Made Good Granola Minis

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This is granola done right – and one of my kids all time favorite snacks. With hidden veggies and fruit in each serving and free from the 8 most common food allergens, you really can feel good about giving this one to the kids.

Eat them straight out of the bag or crush them to top organic plain greek yogurt with a drizzle of organic maple syrup – a much healthier version of those granola topped yogurts you find at the store!

There are of course, many other healthy snack options out there but be careful of hidden ingredients or misleading food labels. Organic products can be full of added sugar and the word “natural” on a food label doesn’t actually mean anything. Always go with ingredients you can pronounce and understand and products that have little to no added sugar – different than the naturally occurring sugars found in fruit. When purchasing dried fruit, organic is important in order to avoid artificial colors and sulphites (a preservative) which can cause allergies and have other detrimental health effects. It’s always best to (lightly) sweeten things yourself using organic honey, coconut sugar or organic maple syrup which contain naturally occurring minerals and enzymes. Check out this post about Ingredients to Avoid as well as this hilarious video to learn more!

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10 TIPS FOR HEALTHY EATING ON PASSOVER

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I often get a number of messages this time of year with clients, friends or family at a Kosher grocery store holding up a picture of a food product and asking me if I “approve” it as a healthy food choice for Pesach (Passover).  This year, there has been a lot less of that; whether people have too many other things to worry about because of Covid-19 or they simply aren’t spending as much time at the grocery store, I don’t know but I actually miss those messages!  Some of them were sent to make me laugh:  “How much of this cottonseed oil do I have to consume before I become genetically modified?” or “If I cross out the bad ingredients on this one with a Sharpie, can I use it?”

Messages from people trying to lose weight went along the lines of “If I promise to eat organic spelt matzah can I also buy this 7 layer colored chocolate cake – how bad could it be, it’s made with eggs?” while others genuinely want to know how it’s possible to eat healthy with the current products available, such as “Where do I find almond milk for Pesach that doesn’t taste disgusting?” (Answer: You can’t; it doesn’t exist).

As I discuss in this post, now more than ever we need to make sure we stay as healthy as possible and don’t consume things that will further weaken our immune system.  Not because it will stave off a pandemic but rather because if you do get the virus, your immune system will be strong and you will recover with mild symptoms.

Eating healthy on Passover is definitely more challenging than other times during the year.  Many of our favorite healthy/organic brands are not Kosher for Passover.  There is a SO much pre-packaged ready made “convenient” food that we are tempted to skip making the meals and snacks from scratch and buy them instead, looking away at the unhealthy ingredients and tons of sugar we know are in there. 2 weeks, we tell ourselves; how much damage can it do? I believe that if you have made a commitment to a healthier diet and lifestyle then it’s important to ignore those “convenient foods” as much as we can and make things from scratch with whole REAL foods and ingredients.

Now that all of us are at home and cooking for our families, we can get the kids involved and make the Pesach meal prep a family fun time.  Ask them what they would like to try – go through recipes online or in  cookbooks like this one or this one and see what healthy recipes interest them.  While many of the recipes call for unhealthy ingredients, it’s easy to swap or eliminate those ingredients in most cases (if there are too many, just skip that particular recipe.)  My kids and I did this today and it was interesting to see what new recipes they wanted to try and the (mostly) healthy menu plan we were able to put together.

Here are my top 10 tips for eating healthy on Passover:

1. Buy organic potatoes

I know what you’re thinking: “A gazillion pounds of organic potatoes will cost me a fortune!” But this isn’t the case; organic potatoes are really not much more than conventional ones.  The reason to spend a little extra? A 2006 U.S.D.A. test found 81 percent of potatoes tested still contained pesticides after being washed and peeled, and the potato has one of the highest pesticide contents of 43 fruits and vegetables tested, according to the Environmental Working Group.  So with all those potatoes being eaten on Passover, it’s a much better choice.  Thankfully, organic potatoes are still readily available in health food stores such as Greenwise or Whole Foods.

2. Buy organic eggs

Much like potatoes, we typically go through a gazillion eggs on Pesach so it’s important that they are as healthy as possible. This means no hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified ingredients are in the chicken feed.  This is a lot more difficult than buying organic potatoes this year, at least here in Florida where they only allow 1 dozen eggs per purchase but it’s still worth a try. Note that eggs labeled Omega-3 are not the same thing and this causes a lot of confusion among consumers.  The Omega-3 label simply means that flax seeds have been added to the feed.  To get the most health benefits, organic eggs are the best choice.

3. Use organic spelt matzah instead of wheat 

Spelt is nutritionally superior to wheat and easier to digest.  While spelt does contain gluten, the gluten content is less, and many people sensitive to wheat find they can tolerate spelt.  (Note that spelt is not suitable for those with celiac disease or those on a gluten-free diet).  Even if you aren’t sensitive to wheat, another benefit to choosing spelt instead is that it remains unaffected by concepts such as ‘agribusiness’, ‘cross-breeding,’ ‘hybridization’ and ‘genetically modified’ – words that have come to dominate our modern food supply.  What does this mean to you? Less toxic substances and chemicals being consumed, better for your health.  It is easy to find Organic Spelt Matzoh at your local grocery store.  If you are celiac or cannot tolerate gluten at all, oat matza is a good option, although I personally don’t like the taste.

4. Cook, bake and buy products only made with hexane-free grapeseed oil, avocado oil and/or organic coconut oil instead of cottonseed oil

According to most health experts, cottonseed oil is one of the unhealthiest oils ever!  Cottonseed oil contains natural toxins because in order to extract oil from cottonseed, these seeds have to be modified genetically.  The oil also contains unacceptably high levels of pesticide residues, since cotton is not classified as a food crop and farmers use many agrichemicals when growing it.  Additionally, since there is a similarity in the molecular structures of cottonseed and peanut oil, some people who are allergic to peanuts also suffer from the same allergic reactions after consuming cottonseed oil.  Interesting, right? Why every single packaged Pesach product contains cottonseed oil in 2020 is a mystery to me.  It seems the Kosher brands have a lot of nutrition science to catch up to!

Grapeseed, avocado and coconut oil can all be used for moderate to high heat cooking while organic olive oil is great for salads and lower heat cooking or baking.

5. Bake, don’t buy, Pesach cakes and desserts 

In addition to saving you lots of money, baking your own cakes for Pesach has many benefits over purchasing ready-made ones.  First, you can significantly decrease the amount of sugar in almost every Pesach cake recipe, without affecting the final result; in fact, it actually tastes a lot better!  Second, you can use Organic sugar or even coconut sugar which has a lower glycemic index and lower pesticide residue.  Third, commercial Pesach cakes are loaded with chemicals and preservatives in order to increase their shelf life, contains food coloring, unnatural flavoring and cottonseed oil.  Baking your own allows you to use the healthier oils and eggs mentioned above, eliminates the need for chemicals and gives you the opportunity to incorporate ingredients like organic raw almonds or walnuts for omega 3’s to add healthy fatty acids as well as fiber.  Choose recipes that have the lowest amounts of potato starch and preferably no matzoh meal/cake meal for the healthiest result.

6. Drink dry red wine at the Seder

Many of my friends will love this one! Red wine has some antioxidant properties as well as bioflavonoids, which help to fight free radicals — the damaging agents in your body that can lead to heart disease and cancer. What this means is that the cups of wine you consume for the Seder can offer some health benefits so skip the sweet wines which are loaded with sugar.

If you or your children are drinking grape juice at the Seder, use organic grape juice with no sulfites. Sulfites, or sodium/potassium metabasulfite as it is commonly labelled, are a potential food allergen that can cause headache, facial flushing and itching and are found in all wines and grape juice unless it specifies “sulphite-free” on the label.  It is more difficult to obtain wine without sulphites, but if you tend to get any of those reactions after drinking wine, you might consider making the switch. That being said, some people get a reaction due to other substances in wine. Since white wine often has a higher sulfite levels than red wines, if you don’t react to white wine, then you know that it’s something in red wine other than sulfites that is causing the problem.

7. Stick to whole foods

Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables! To switch things up a bit, try making ones you rarely eat during the year along with lots of different types of salads, roasted vegetables, fish, chicken, turkey and lean meats.  Don’t forget healthy carb options like quinoa and sweet potatos and drink plenty of water.  Simple recipes not only taste delicious, they are healthier and make your life in the kitchen easier!

8. Make your own mayonnaise

I don’t know about you but I can’t seem to find Pesach mayo that is all natural, let alone that tastes good! They have so many chemicals, along with the dreaded cottonseed oil and preservatives that give it a super weird taste.  I started making my own mayo a few years ago and never looked back.  If you haven’t tried that yet, I highly recommend it.

9. Skip the dairy

Dairy products are highly inflammatory, likely due to the amount of hormones and antibiotics in them.  But even if you use only organic milk it is extremely allergenic and not something I recommend for most people. On the other hand, organic yogurt is well tolerated by most people but impossible to find for Pesach.  Almost every brand is loaded with chemicals and preservatives that are not only harmful but also taste pretty terrible.  If you will really miss your yogurt, the only brand I have personally found that is made with no added sugar and simple ingredients is Mehadrin plain Greek yogurt.  You can always add coconut sugar or organic honey to sweeten along with fresh fruit.

But what about milk? As mentioned earlier, good tasting almond milk is a great option but impossible to get for Pesach.  Making your own almond milk is super easy and delicious.  Any good quality blender and nut milk bag will do the job and the milk can be stored in mason jars for up to 5 days or frozen in ice cube trays.

10.  Check ingredients

If you do want to purchase packaged food items for Pesach, always look at the ingredients and see this list for what to avoid. It may seem like everything you pick up at the store has one or more of these ingredients but you can definitely find more options than have been available in previous years.  Don’t want to spend time at the grocery store because of Covid-19? I totally get it. In that case look online before heading to the store.  You can also check out the Passover highlight on my Instagram page.

Stay safe, wash your hands, eat healthy and hopefully life will get back to normal real soon! Do you follow any of these healthy guidelines? Let me know in the comments! In the meantime, wishing you all a Chag Kasher V’sameach! happy

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BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM TO HELP COMBAT CORONAVIRUS

weight, Rebecca Lazar - BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM TO HELP COMBAT CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus is here and Boca Raton schools and shuls (synagogues) have shut down much like many other cities across the country. My once-a-week cleaning lady has canceled, 3 of my 4 kids are at home doing online school (for those of us who have never home-schooled our kids it’s so weird seeing them in their room on their online classes, right?), and my 19 year old son cannot come back from Israel where is a lone soldier in the IDF even though he has not started service yet and likely won’t be drafted for the foreseeable future (if anyone knows a way to get him out of this and bring him home, let me know!). I never thought I’d see this kind of eerie sci-fi movie-like existence in my lifetime, have you? The good news is I think we have enough toilet paper….at least for now! tongue

We all know the CDC recommendations by now and they are so important to follow as instructed: wash your hands for 20 seconds, don’t touch your face, keep a social distance, etc. etc. But what else can we do? Well, there ARE things you can do to help boost your immune system so that if you do get the virus it will be over quickly and the symptoms will hopefully be mild.

Please note that the advice I outline below is not to replace that given to you by your medical doctor as I have no way of knowing what medications you might currently be on or what your particular health situation is. Rather, these are general guidelines for you to help make the best food, supplement and lifestyle choices to keep your immune system as strong as possible in these crazy times with such an incredibly contagious virus around the world.

Immune System Boosters

One of my son’s teachers used to tell his class “you can’t boost your immune system – you’re not a car” which always made me laugh – and get annoyed – at the same time.  To his credit, my son would argue with his teacher, something along the lines of “my Mom always gives us extra Vitamin C and herbal medicine when we get sick” to which he would respond “well, that’s just stupid.” Okayyyyy.  It didn’t matter that there is scientific evidence or the fact that it worked a majority of the of the time….some people are just very stuck in their ways of thinking.

Yes, of course you can boost your immune system! Just like there are certain activities, foods (think white sugar and white flour) and medications that will lower your immune system, the same holds true for increasing it’s ability to ward off viruses and infections.  Some people think “Well, the coronavirus is so contagious I’m going to get it anyway so what’s the point?”  That may be true but it’s important to recognize that anything you put into your body, or on your skin for that matter, has the ability to either put you “up the slope of health” or “down the slope of health,” to quote one of my mentors, the highly respected Canadian functional nutrition practitioner and teacher Josh Gitalis.  Basically, as he explains, the higher up the slope of health you are, the faster and easier your body has to respond to any type of invader and the better off you are but you have to work on getting up the slope and staying there on a daily basis.  You aren’t “healthy” or “unhealthy” – you are somewhere along that line and must keep striving toward better health.  Hopefully that puts things into perspective!

Some of the recommendations below are known to be effective against the common flu virus and we are hopeful that it has the same effect with Coronavirus although we don’t know for sure.  Others are simply known to help strengthen your overall immune system:


Immune Boosting Foods:

  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables – but make sure you aren’t adding toxins to your body with pesticides.  Wash produce well but check out the annual Dirty Dozen list for produce especially high in pesticides.  It is recommended that those on this list are bought organic whenever possible.  If you don’t like to eat your fruits and veggies, juice them in this top-rated juicer or do what my family does and blend them into a smoothie such as in this high speed blender.  There are tons of fruit and vegetable smoothies online or get the kids involved and create your own!
  • Speaking of fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit are high in natural Vitamin C – known to help boost your immune system.  Interestingly enough, red peppers are even higher in Vitamin C than oranges! Red pepper juice, anyone? 
  • Drink lots of water – reverse osmosis or spring water is best.  I personally use this inexpensive, easy to install, under the sink filter.
  • Drink bone broth – I know it’s all the rage these days but with good reason: your grandmother was right, chicken soup really does help your immune system – and maybe your soul, too.  But to really get all the benefits that bone broth has to offer including strengthening your immune system, follow a bone broth recipe.  If you don’t want to wait that long for it to cook, use an instant pot and it will be ready in no time! 
  • Garlic and onions have natural anti-viral properties.  Chop them up and use them in whatever you are cooking and of course add some to your bone broth for extra benefits.  If you have IBS and/or are following a LOW-FODMAP diet, skip this suggestion.
  • Ginger – aside from being known as the anti-nausea herb of choice, it also contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols which inhibit the formation of inflammatory messengers of the immune system.[1]  It also contains antibacterial and antiviral properties and soothes lung tissues.  Make a simple tea with fresh ginger, lemon, mint and this delicious organic honey.

 

Immune Boosting Supplements:

  • Vitamin C – the immune system vitamin – 1000 mg 3x/day (or more).  Some suggest to take it to bowel tolerance – meaning, until you develop loose stools and then cut back on the dose.  Since this varies person to person, start with the recommended dose and go up from there.
  • Zinc –  the immune system mineral – 30 – 60 mg twice a day.
  • Oregano – but especially this type containing the Mediterranean source P73 wild oregano that was used in studies to successfully destroy bacteria and viruses. It is best to take it 3x/day when you feel the start of symptoms as taking high doses for a long period of time can have negative effects on the good bacteria in your intestinal tract (similar to antibiotics but not nearly as detrimental). 
  • Elderberry extract – in addition to being an excellent source of Vitamin C, it improves and strengthens immune system function, helps detoxify the body and reduces cold and flu symptoms. [2]
  • Echinacea – shown to have profound immune enhancing effects, and direct antiviral activity. [3] We like this brand.  That being said, it’s best NOT to take during a fever as it may increase the inflammatory response of this type of unfamiliar virus.  Best to take as a preventative measure or if your symptoms during the virus do not include a high fever.
  • NAC – N-Acetylcysteine is an antioxidant and precursor to glutathione, one of the major antioxidants in lung tissue.  In a double blind trial, using NAC during the flu season reduced the frequency and severity of symptomatic flu episodes. [4] While we don’t have studies showing it’s effectiveness specifically on Coronavirus, my guess would be that it would show similar effects.  I recommend this quality formula.

Make sure your supplements, whether they are Vitamins, Minerals, or Herbal remedies are low in sugar, and don’t contain fillers or other unnecessary ingredients.  It defeats the purpose to take high sugar, chemical filled synthetic supplements. They should also have enough of the active ingredient to do the job.  Often when studies are done showing supplements did not have a positive effect it was because they were too low in potency or made with unhealthy ingredients. [Hint – don’t buy them from Costco or your local drugstore.]  A health food store, quality brands like those I recommended above from Amazon or a professional Supplement Dispensary is a much better option.

Lifestyle:

  • Make your own easy natural hand sanitizer – get a spray bottle and add 70% alcohol along with a few drops of essential oil of tea trea (melaleuca), eucalyptus, thyme, lavender, rosemary, clove or a combination, and optionally a few tablespoons of pure aloe vera taken from inside the actual aloe vera leaf.  There are many brands of essential oils out there that are not pure and have added ingredients used to dilute the products.  Pure essential oils are NOT the same as botanical oils or the inexpensive essential oils you can buy at your local health food store. I personally have been using Doterra essential oils for a while since they have a great reputation but lately I have been switching to Living Libations which I feel are even more pure. 
  • Lowering your stress helps your immune system so do yoga or dance using an online streaming service (I love Les Mills on Demand), or go for a walk outside which will also benefit you by getting some sunlight.  The naturally occurring vitamin D helps your immune system as well and so many of us are deficient because of the overuse of sunscreen.  It is a good idea to be out in the sun for at least 15 minutes a day without any sunscreen. After that, use an all natural brand like this one or this one.  
  • If you feel like you are coming down with something don’t do a hard workout like running, heavy weight lifting or HiiT as these forms of exercise can increase cortisol levels – the stress hormone. But don’t sit still either – a light workout is fine as long as you feel up to it.
  • Sleep 8 hours a night – this is so important! Go to bed before 11 pm and sleep in complete darkness to have the best benefits.
  • Be happy – I know, I know, easier said than done.  Writing down things you are grateful for….it might sound cheesy but it helps.  I am personally grateful to live in Florida where I can sit in my backyard as I write this, go for a bike ride which is apparently safe for social distancing and of course grateful for my awesome family despite the fact that it’s only Day 2 of them being home and it has been a non-stop cooking and eating fest!
  • Most of all have faith….we will get through this! happy
If you found this helpful, please share with family and friends!

References:

[1] “The Healing Power of Herbs and Spices.” The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, by Michael T. Murray et al., Time Warner International, 2006, pp. 486–487.

[2]“The All-In-One Guide to Natural Remedies and Supplements: Discover the Health and Healing Powers of Herbs, Vitamins, Minerals, Fats, Enzymes, Amino Acids, Aromatherapy, Homeopathy, Flower Remedies, Leading Edge Discoveries, Nutraceuticals, Phytochemicals.” The All-In-One Guide to Natural Remedies and Supplements: Discover the Health and Healing Powers of Herbs, Vitamins, Minerals, Fats, Enzymes, Amino Acids, Aromatherapy, Homeopathy, Flower Remedies, Leading Edge Discoveries, Nutraceuticals, Phytochemicals, by Ken Vegotsky et al., AGES Publications, 2001, pp. 202–203.

[3]“Immune Support.” The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine, by Joseph E. Pizzorno et al., Elsevier, 2016, p. 391.

[4]“Influenza.” Nutritional Medicine, by Alan Gaby, Fritz Perlberg Publishing, 2017, p. 1249.

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DO YOU SUFFER FROM CHRONIC BLOATING?

weight, Rebecca Lazar - DO YOU SUFFER FROM CHRONIC BLOATING?

If you are constantly bloated seemingly no matter what you eat, have gas pain and discomfort, and feel like you wake up in the morning with a flat stomach but look preggers by the end of the day, read on!

MY IBS STORY:

As a child I suffered from chronic stomach pains but at the time I did not realize that “stomach” pains actually meant “lower intestinal” pains.  After enduring a bunch of medical tests in my teen years, my Doctor told me I had IBS.  He also gave me a post-it note – seriously, you can’t make this stuff up – with a short list of foods to avoid: Caffeine, spicy foods, fried foods, chocolate and popcorn. No explanation, no discussion on anything I was eating (and I was eating a LOT of crap) and no advice on anything else that could help.  Giving up these foods was difficult for me, I was a teenager after all and my Doctor literally took away my 5 favorite food groups, but I tried for about a month.  Not surprisingly, it did not help at all and if you read on, you’ll see why – and not just because the rest of my food intake was a bunch of poor choices.

So, what exactly is IBS?  It stands for “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” and in the medical world basically means, “We can’t find anything seriously wrong with you, but your intestines are irritated for some reason – possibly stress and anxiety and too much spicy food – and we have no way to fix it other than to offer meds that may or may not help, but will probably make your symptoms worse in the long run.”  OK, fine maybe that’s not exactly what it means, but you get the point.

All joking aside, an IBS diagnosis is given when other serious gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac disease, bowel cancer, Chron’s disease and also some gynecological conditions are ruled out.  The most common symptoms of IBS are lower abdominal discomfort, bloating, excessive gas and also alternating diarrhea and constipation.

Well, as it turns out, some folks at Monash University have been researching IBS and these types of symptoms for a long time and have a diet program that really helps.  Even if you haven’t officially been diagnosed with IBS, if you have the symptoms mentioned above and have ruled out other more serious issues, this program is definitely worth a try.  It helped me tremendously and I follow it for several weeks when I have a flare up.  At other times I follow a wholesome, nutrient-dense, fiber-rich, gluten-free eating plan with foods made mostly from scratch. By the way, this includes dark chocolate, some awesome spices and even organic popcorn! My old Doctor would have been so disappointed….

WELCOME LOW-FODMAPS

The program I am referring to is the Low-FODMAP diet.  FODMAP stands for Fermentable Olig-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols.  These sugars can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and fermented by bacteria to produce gas.  Current research strongly suggests that this group of sugars contributes to IBS symptoms.

Even though some FODMAPs are poorly absorbed in ALL people – think of what happens when you eat beans, for example – the reason such strong symptoms only occur in those with IBS can be due to a hypersensitivity in the gut and/or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (otherwise known as SIBO)What this means is that in some individuals, the bacteria that are normally located in the large intestine, move up into the small intestine which creates the symptoms of IBS.

Now, not all individuals diagnosed with IBS react to ALL of the different types of FODMAPs.  Some of the FODMAPs can be tested using a special breath test that can determine malabsorption, but others cannot be tested and should simply be avoided to help relieve symptoms.  The test itself is controversial and can have false results but is helpful under the right circumstances.

SOME HIGH-FODMAP FOODS TO AVOID WITH IBS:

  • Fruits such as Apples, Pears, Plums and Watermelon
  • Garlic (garlic infused oil can be used instead: simply cut up 1 whole bulb – not clove – of fresh garlic, add to 1 cup organic cold-pressed olive oil and gently heat on the lowest setting until fragrant; remove from heat, let cool and strain the oil into a glass bottle)
  • Onions (the green part of the spring onion and chives may be used instead, as well an Indian spice called Asafetida powder that has a strong onion/garlic flavor, but I have not personally tried it)
  • Beans
  • FOS: Fructo-oligo-sacharides, often found in Probiotic supplements
  • Nuts such as cashews and pistachios

There are a number of foods to be avoided and others that can be consumed in small quantities at a time such as asparagus, butternut squash, almonds and some dairy products as well as gluten containing grains like wheat and rye.  That being said, in my experience it’s best to avoid ALL gluten containing grains and dairy with IBS. For details on the exact types and quantities of the foods to be limited or avoided, you can download the official Monash University Low Fodmap app or where you can search individual foods or purchase this book.  For breath testing, and/or to discuss your particular health challenges and food sensistive that may also play a role in IBS, contact me for a personalized wellness plan.

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