Thursday, September 25, 2014

Better-For-You Broccoli

Most people are well aware that broccoli is one of the healthiest veggies out there.  It also happens to be cheap and delicious.

I always keep some of these beauties in my fridge.

What you may not know is that you could be unintentionally cheating yourself out of broccoli's most powerful health benefits every time you prepare it.

The active ingredient in broccoli, sulforaphane, does wonders for our bodies.  It protects the brain, supports eyesight, detoxifies, reduces inflammation, improves the skin, and prevents cancer.

Unfortunately, much of the enzyme needed to produce this compound is destroyed when broccoli is cooked.  No enzyme means no sulforaphane, therefore no amazing health benefits.  This is also true for other cruciferous veggies, like cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

One easy solution to this problem is to eat our veggies raw.  This way, the enzyme doesn't get destroyed and all of the sulforaphane is produced.

I'm okay with an occasional raw broccoli floret here or there, but most of the time it just doesn't cut it for me.  I can eat veggies for days, but please roast them in some olive oil and sea salt first.
That's the stuff. 

Luckily, there are a couple of ways to eat our broccoli cooked while still retaining the nutritional benefits.  Dr. Michael Greger does a great job of explaining it in this recent video.

One easy strategy is to chop the broccoli up ahead of time.  When the sulforaphane precursor mixes with the enzyme, after some time sulforaphane is born.  Once the sulforaphane is created, you can cook the broccoli all you want without losing it.  You just simply wait about 40 minutes between chopping and cooking.
Frozen broccoli, however, lacks the ability to form sulforaphane even if pre-chopped, due to the fact that it has already been blanched.  It has plenty of the sulforaphane precursor, but the enzyme was already destroyed before it was packaged.

That's where strategy #2 comes into play.  Since mustard powder (along with horseradish and wasabi) actually contains the needed enzyme, sulforaphane can be created by simply sprinkling a little of this seasoning onto your cooked broccoli. You can also use this method if you just don't have time to pre-chop.  It only takes a tiny pinch of the powder, and I actually really like the flavor it adds.
This dish we had earlier this week of black beans, roasted broccoli, and Daiya cheese stuffed inside an acorn squash was a real winner.  I went ahead and pre-chopped the broccoli and added a little mustard powder, just to cover my bases.
Ever since I found out about this mustard powder miracle, I've been sprinkling it on to any and every cruciferous vegetable I see.  It would be silly to let all of the amazing benefits of sulforaphane just go to waste!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thred Up {A Review}

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I cleaned out my closet and sent a huge bag of clothes in to ThredUP.

ThredUP offers an easy way to make a little extra money on clothes you no longer wear.  Once you sign up, the company sends you a big polka dot "clean out bag" in the mail.  You then stuff that bag as full as you want with gently used, name brand clothing and accessories.  The return shipping is already prepaid, so you can just drop it off at the post office or any UPS location when you're ready.
After the employees at ThredUP review your items, they e-mail you with a list of what was accepted and how much you earned.  You can use your money to shop on the website or cash out via Paypal.

For an extra fee, ThredUP will return any items back to you that were not accepted.  Otherwise, they are automatically donated to charity.

I chose the latter option and just made sure to fill the bag only with things I didn't mind parting with forever.

In the end, of the 25(ish) items I stuffed in the bag, ThredUP probably accepted a little less than half.  My paycheck came to a total of...drumroll...$50.46.  I was pretty happy with that, considering most of these items would have ended up at Goodwill had I not sent them in.  Here is a list of what they accepted:
It's a little weird to see my own clothes up for sale to the public.  I wore this dress to a wedding four years ago, and now some stranger will be wearing it out on the town.
Some things ThredUP did NOT accept:
  • A couple of Jay's Ralph Lauren Polo shirts - they were in good shape, so I'm not sure why.
  • A pair of Hudson jeans - maybe just too old?
  • A nice bridesmaid dress - the website warns that they do not accept bridesmaid dresses.  Since this one could have totally worked for another occasion, I thought I'd give it a shot.  Oh well. 
  • Numerous other name-brand tops and bottoms - probably just too worn-out. 
I can't exactly remember everything I sent in originally.  It would have been nice if they e-mailed back a complete list of what was sent in, with explanations as to why certain items were rejected.  I was really surprised that they accepted Old Navy and Forever XXI dresses but not some of my nicer, more expensive items.  I'm sure they had their reasons!  

Overall, I was really happy with the service.  Putting the bag in the mail was just as easy as taking a trip to Goodwill, and now I have an extra 50 bucks in my pocket.

After looking around the site, it's tempting to use my credit towards a little shopping of my own.  There are so many high-end items for a fraction of what they would cost in stores.  If you decide to check out the website, you can use this link and we will both get a $10 credit.  I'm sure we could all use some new things for fall!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Week-Long Birthday

I'm not usually one to draw birthdays out, but this year has been a bit of an exception.  Since it was an extra big one (30!), I've pretty much been celebrating for the past week and a half.  I have to say, it's been really fun stretching out the festivities.
Last weekend, my dad came to visit from Las Vegas so that he could help me ring in the new decade.  My mom hosted a big family get-together on Sunday with my family and Jay's both in attendance.
It was nice to have so many family members together in one place.  I had a great time and received some really nice presents.  My mom also served a delicious spread of Mediterranean food (hummus = my favorite) and made fresh squeezed margaritas.  Yum!

Monday night, Jay took me out to dinner to celebrate just the two of us.  It was a gorgeous night to eat outside, and we stayed at the restaurant way too late for a school night talking and sharing a bottle of wine.  I wish I had remembered to snap some pictures.

This weekend, Jay surprised me with a second present (a new TV for our bedroom) and also organized a party with some of our friends at a local winery.  We were fortunate to have the most gorgeous weather and it was a wonderful afternoon.
We also carved out time this weekend to participate in the annual Heels for Hope 5K run for ovarian cancer. It always falls right around my birthday, and it's nice to have a healthy event on the calendar to balance out all the eating and celebrating.  Plus, of course, it is a great cause.  I hadn't run in a very long time (possibly since my 10k in April?), so I was really proud not have to stop and walk.  Jay and I finished with a decent time and then cheered on my mom who was not far behind.
I guess my birthday has officially come to an end, but there is still plenty to look forward to.  I love that fall is right around the corner and can't wait to start decorating!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Getting Grounded

Earthing - ever heard of it?  It's a concept that sounds pretty kooky but also makes a lot of sense at the same time.

The idea of earthing (also called grounding) is that, just as all humans receive energy from the sun, we also receive vital energy from the earth.  Basically, the earth maintains a negative electrical potential on its surface. When you are in direct contact with the earth, the electrons are conducted to your body, which brings you down to that same electrical potential.  Therefore, just like an outlet, you become "grounded."

Throughout history humans always had contact with the earth, whether it be through walking barefoot, sleeping on the ground, etc.  Nowadays, the modern floors of our houses and soles of our shoes keep us from having that direct connection.  If you never step outside barefoot, it's possible to go years without ever actually touching the earth.

It's hard to say exactly how much of an effect earthing really has.  The research is rather limited, but initial studies have indicated that it does have anti-inflammatory and stress-reducing effects on the body.  Many say that regular earthing helps them to feel better, sleep better, and have more energy.  Vasper, a cutting edge, science-based fitness company in California, has added grounded copper plates to their exercise machines to replicate the positive effects of walking barefoot on the ground.  NASA is using grounding techniques with their astronauts, as well.

Jay started reading up on earthing a few years ago, and he makes and effort to connect to the earth as much as possible.  As an Athletic Trainer, he was especially interested in the anti-inflammatory effects and how it could benefit athletes.  He always says, "It could be nothing, but it could be everything!"  Since earthing is completely free and harmless, it certainly doesn't hurt anything to give it a try.  Plus, it does feel good to ditch the shoes and put your toes in the grass or sand once in a while!

If you don't have too many opportunities to walk around barefoot, you can actually connect to the ground indoors.  There are a variety of grounding products available that plug into the bottom hole (the "ground port") of an outlet, which is directly connected to an existing ground rod in your home.  Jay has a little mat that he puts his feet on while watching TV or working at the computer.  Most recently, he bought us some body bands to wear around our ankles while we sleep.  I used it for the first time two nights ago, and putting it on was a little strange - like I was getting shackled to the bed or something.  But it really doesn't bother me once it's on, and I've been sleeping like a baby.  It makes a lot of sense to be grounded at night, since that's where you spend the most consecutive hours in one place.

Here is a video that Jay helped me put together demonstrating how to check if you're grounded using a multimeter.
If you would like to learn more about grounding, there is a documentary and a book that can both be found on Amazon.  Also, you can use the code SHARE10 to receive 10% off your purchase at earthing.com.  Now go outside and get grounded!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Weekend Update {Volleyball, Grilling, and Organizing}

Hi, how's the week going?  I had a great weekend, followed by a very loong Monday.  It was open house night, which meant I pretty much stayed at work until it was time to go to bed.  And talking the entire day was not too helpful for my voice, which still hasn't entirely returned.

The weekend was great, however.  Jay's school hosted the first boy's volleyball tournament of the season, and his team won the whole thing!  They played great and it was a lot of fun to watch.
After the games on Saturday, I went over to my friend Bri's house for dinner along with some other teacher friends.  She and her boyfriend put together the best healthy summer dinner of grilled kabobs, salad, and watermelon.  I packed my skewer with veggies and it was awesome dipped in hummus.  Kabobs are easy but feel so festive - I definitely need to remember to make them more often.
On the side, Bri made a salad minus the lettuce.  I loved how she just tossed a bunch of fresh veggies with dressing and basil from her garden.  The lettuce was entirely unnecessary.
Since Jay and I always have a surplus of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and fresh herbs from our garden, this is something I plan to make a lot for the remainder of the summer.  So simple and fresh!

For dessert, there were blueberry muffins packed with HUGE blueberries and homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Yum!
With how hot it's been here, we've been trying to grill as much as possible rather than turning on the oven.  Meals like this are a great way to avoid heating up the house.  I think veggie kabobs along with my favorite Field Roast vegetarian sausages would make for an excellent combo.  

Sunday was pretty low key.  I helped tutor a friend's daughter with her Spanish and completely cleaned out my closet.  I'm trying an online consignment shop for the first time called ThredUp.  Once you sign up, you can order a big bag that the company will send you for free (at least the first time).  You then stuff it full of all the name brand clothing items you can possibly fit.  The postage on the bag is already pre-paid, so you can just drop it off at the post office or a Fed Ex location to send it back.  ThredUp will either pay you for the clothes and resell them or donate them to charity.  I must have stuffed at least 30 things into that bag - I could barely lift it into my car. 
I'm excited to see what they offer.  I'll let you know how it goes!