Happy Spring! It’s Time To Eat Your Dandelion Greens!

Photo by Brenda J. Sullivan

Happy Spring!! Astronomically speaking that is. But that doesn’t mean its warm outside and flowers are blooming here in New England. Mother-nature can be cruel sometimes and tease us mercilessly with a beautiful warm sunny day and dump a foot of snow the next.

So technically (at least around here) we wait until the end of April to officially declare spring. In the meantime, if you live in a similar climate as we do, why not begin work on your winter body now. So when the warmer weather is here to stay, you’re looking and feeling pretty darn good!

On another note, did you also know that today is also International Happiness Day? What are you happy about? Post it in the comments below. I’d love to know.

I’m happy that today is a bright, warm sunny day. This is the first day I opened the greenhouse to cool things off and bring in some fresh air. I’m excited that soon, I’ll be back in the garden planting this seasons herbs and flowers for our Farm to Bath herbal bath and body products. Cue the confetti… Whoohoo!


It’s Our Ancestors Fault Or Is It?

According to scientists we consume an additional 200 calories per day during the long winter months because of low levels of Vitamin D. Other researchers believe its part of our DNA we inherited from our ancient ancestral relatives.

Back in the day eating more calories was critical to surviving a long winter. The more “fluffier” our relatives were the better chances they survived the cold, harsh winters than the skinny rail thin ones. Remember there were no McDonalds or grocery stores to supply them with food when it ran out.

They either starved to death, froze to death, or survived on their reserved body fat. It was survival of the fittest or in this case the fluffiest. Thank goodness we don’t have to live that way anymore and can control our environment and what we eat!

Whatever the reasons we gain weight, come spring, what goes on, must come off. Whether it’s our DNA flipping its hibernation switch (my analogy) or we’re getting more Vitamin D because the days are longer. Our body is telling us its ready to shed the extra pounds.

What Are Detoxifying Foods?

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There is a whole industry devoted to detoxifying one’s body, and sometimes it can be confusing and misleading. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is some middle ground without committing to a strict detox cleanse and spending hundreds of dollars for someone to tell you what you already know. Stop eating junk!

There’s no one size fits all to detoxing. You just need to be aware of what you’re eating. I call it “conscious eating.” Eat more plant-based foods and herbs. Eliminate foods high in sugar, fat, carbohydrates, and processed foods.

Here is a general idea of what a detox lifestyle looks like. Typically there are 3 goals:

“(1) to remove potentially “toxic” foods, (2) to eat a simple diet so that detox organs like the liver can focus less on digestion and more on detoxification, and (3) to increase your consumption of water and foods that encourage the detoxification organs to do their job more efficiently.”

Body into Balance, Maria Noel Groves, 97

Just stated, eat a simpler diet, especially in the spring. This is when your body is ready to shed its winter weight. This may be the reason why trying to stay fit during the winter is like pushing a car uphill. Your body isn’t listening because you may be Vitamin D deficient and its in hibernation mode.

Don’t get me wrong, weight loss can be made at any time of the year, but it’s tough to fight those comfort food cravings during the cold winter months if you’re low on Vitamin D. Just be aware of what you’re eating and have a plan.

Talking to your doctor is also a good idea. Have your Vitamin D levels checked as a precaution. It’s important to have a baseline, so you know if your weight gain is related to a Vitamin D deficiency.

I get mine checked annually, and my doctor adjusts my Vitamin D supplement dosage as necessary. The bad news is as I get older, my Vitamin D levels drop too severely low levels during the winter months; which is triggering other health problems.

The good news is, all of this is in my control. My doctor tells me I can mitigate any future damage by merely getting outside and walking and eating more nutrient-dense foods.

After doing a lot of research on winter weight gain and Vitamin D deficiency, I found some detox and weight loss friendly herbs and vegetables that are nutrient dense that I’ve added to my diet. I thought this would be helpful to you in achieving your own health goals.

Detox Friendly Foods:

Bitter veggies:
Artichoke
Lettuce
Escarole
Radicchio
Arugula
Bitter greens
Bitter Melon

Diuretic Veggies:
Dandelion (greens, flower and/or root)
Parsley
Burdock Root
Celery

Cruciferous Veggies:
Broccoli
Kale
Watercress
Cabbage
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts

Others:
Asparagus
Avocado
Beets
Berries
Sour Citrus
Cranberries
Pomegranate
Garlic and Onions
Mushrooms (cooked in Broth)
Green Tea
Flax and Chia Seeds
Walnuts
Water

Culinary Herbs and Spices (especially Turmeric)

Body into Balance, Maria Noel Groves, 97

All of these foods listed can play a superstar role in detoxing your body naturally and should be easy to incorporate into your diet daily. However, there is one green that is a real Superhero. It hits 3 of the most common health goals most people want to achieve.

Dandelion Greens – The Superhero Green!

Photo by Brenda J. Sullivan

I love this green and try to incorporate it into my diet as much as possible. It’s one of the few herbs that does so much good for the body. A once favorite herb/green during the Great Depression, it hardly gets a mention in herbal and culinary circles today. But, there are still a few diehard fans out there.

According to Rosemary Gladstar, International Herbalist, this green is:

“… One of the most widely used herbs in the world, dandelion is highly respected, both for its preventative and for its remedial qualities…”

Herbal Healing for Women, Rosemary Gladstar, 28

The dandelion chemical composition focuses its energy on nurturing the kidney and liver. The most significant health benefit I discovered is dandelions act like a diuretic.
Unlike, synthetic diuretics, that deplete the body of potassium which can cause other health issues, such as muscle weakness, fatigue, digestive issues, just to name a few problems. Dandelions are high in potassium and replace K naturally at the same time helping the liver and kidneys eliminate excess water and toxins.

Health Benefits Specifically For Women:

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In some women, hormonal changes can have severe effects on their bodies. Research suggests that eating dandelion leaves and roots during a woman’s menstrual cycle can help with bloating, PMS and breast tenderness.

Also, dandelions are also known as a bitter. Bitter greens help stimulate the bile in the stomach which encourages better digestion, which detoxes the body and helps with elimination.

This can be important for women who have issues with cravings, bloating and constipation during their cycle. This green can help move things along and reduce some of the discomforts.

Personally, I can gain up to 20 pounds of water weight during my moon cycle. To help reduce the fluid buildup, and the uncontrollable cravings, I’ll take dandelion root supplement daily. I make sure I drink plenty of water and eat fresh dandelion greens several times a week to help flush my system. This keeps things moving through my intestines which is reducing the pressure in my stomach and back. Think of your body as a deflating balloon.

In addition, I cut back on the amount of gluten, starches/carbs (e.g., bread, pasta, white potatoes, white rice, and corn) and the worst offender for PMS sugar!

Move That Body!

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Dandelions are rich in Vitamin A, C, Iron and Calcium which are essential for healthy bones among other things. This is important for a woman who is menopausal or has been diagnosed with osteopenia which can happen to women over the age of 50.
Also, moving your body is essential to dropping that winter weight.

Our ancient ancestors didn’t continue sitting around when the snow melted. They got outside and started hunting and gathering to feed their family. So you’re already genetically programmed to move! No excuses here…

I try and go for a walk for at least 45 minutes to an hour a day. If I can’t get that much time in, I’ll find 20 minutes somewhere and jump on the treadmill and do a quick 20. I don’t have a perfect record, but I try to get more days in than not.

If you don’t have a treadmill, do circles around your coffee table, around your kitchen, dining room, bedroom, or in your yard, whatever. Just get moving and work up to an hour, its better than doing nothing. I promise you’ll feel better.

Dandelions Achieve 3 Health Goals:

  1. It is a bitter, that helps get a sluggish gut’s digestive juices moving. Yes, pooping is good for you when trying to lose weight!
  2. It’s a natural diuretic that doesn’t deplete your body of potassium and other essential nutrients. Dandelions are naturally high in potassium, Vitamin A, C, Iron.
  3. It’s perfect for bone health, especially for those who are diagnosed with osteopenia. Dandelions are naturally high in Calcium.

Honestly, I haven’t found another green that can do so much good for one’s body. It truly is a Superhero Green!

Recipes:

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Dandelion greens can be eaten raw, sautéed or steamed. I often add them to a brown rice dish or just saute them in a little olive oil and garlic which is my favorite way to eat them.

If you’re interested in eating them wild, the best time to harvest them is in the spring and early autumn. Make sure when harvesting that no fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides have been sprayed or sprinkled on them. So please be careful if you decide to harvest wild dandelions.

Otherwise, you can pick them up fresh at your local health food store or grow them yourself. There are seed company’s that sell the seeds. Just do an online search.

According to the Flavor Bible, dandelions go great with the following foods:
Anchovies
Bacon
Garlic
Dijon Mustard
Peanut Oil
Onions
Ground Pepper
Salads
Salt
Vinegar

Dandelion Greens with Salsa Verde

Photo by Brenda J. Sullivan

 

2 – 3 pounds dandelion greens, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Salsa Verde Sauce:

 

Photo by Brenda J. Sullivan

1/3 cup parsley chopped fine

Zest of a graded lemon

2 garlic cloves pounded into a puree

1 tablespoon drained, rinsed and finally chopped capers

Salt and ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice or  champagne vinegar

Mix ingredients in a bowl and set aside for flavors to blend together. This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature first, then drizzle over greens toss well, before serving.

Note: This recipe is enough for several dishes. Only use a tablespoon or so on these greens. Refrigerate the rest.

Dandelion Greens Cooking Instructions:

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat gently infuse

the olive oil with the chopped garlic. Don’t burn the garlic!

Add dandelion greens and sauté until greens are wilted. Salt and

pepper to taste.

Drizzle a tablespoon of the salsa verde over greens and give a quick toss and then serve.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, if you have questions about your health please consult with a licensed medical professional. The information in this article is for educational purposes and not meant to treat or diagnose any medical conditions.

Links within this posting are affiliate links to Amazon

References:

Body into Balance, Maria Noel Groves, 97

WebMD, What is Osteopenia? DerSarkissian, C 

The Flavor Bible, Karen Page, Andrew Dornenburg, 175

Herbal Healing for Women, Rosemary Gladstar, 28

The Woman’s Herbal Apothecary, JJ Pursell, 167

The Art Simple Food, Alice Waters, 45

Why you get fatter in winter… even though you eat LESS, Laura Topham for the Mail on Sunday, dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2052975

The Day(s) After A Feast

Sorry, this is so late posting – here is my friend Coach Theresa’s latest guest post.  Once again she hit it out of the park! Now I don’t feel so guilty! I am definitely going to try her morning drink routine.  Enjoy the posting!!!

Brenda

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The Day(s) After A Feast

I dunno about you but it seems like one day of indulging often brings another and another and before you know it you’re guiltily humming Annie’s “tomorrow” inside your head. There’s always a reason to indulge. And you know? It’s actually good for you. So for starters let’s just get over the guilt and purposely indulge in some extra calories every once in a while.

My rule is that it’s ok to indulge as long as my digestive enzymes can recognize it as food, that is, no processed yoga mat material or preservatives and trash included in my cheat days. Stick to real food even the sinfully rich variety and with moderation, you will recover. Yes, you CAN have your proverbial cake and eat it too. I do it all the time –figuratively speaking.

If you are on a sustainable plan of everyday healthy living that involves whole foods nutrition and appropriate portion sizes for your body, you are very much ahead of the game. But it’s also easy to have too much of a good thing. Being on track involves following an 80/20 rule and making sure that the 20% doesn’t expand to 80. This is where most of us fail because that proverbial slope can be so slippery.

If you are struggling, take a good look at what you are eating. Often times this sparks a lot of motivation! If you are eating well and within your recommended calories and are still experiencing difficulty with your weight, then we need to look at your activity level, and of course your last check-up.

Keep in mind that when we are hungry it is very hard to objectively assess intake and we are often lenient with ourselves. It is important to examine the picture as a whole. For me, as a mom, I wasn’t counting eating my kids’ leftovers! (leftover cupcake frosting is my favorite. There are, oh so many, external reasons to expand “that exception” AFTER “exception day”. This can start with simply more piled on social events in a given season, accessible leftovers, and vacation time.

Just mentally, all of these external factors can send you off in the wrong direction and seriously throw you for a loop that can get you stuck in a whirlwind of cravings and mindless eating. When I manage my cravings well, my perspective on how I can also handle unrelated situations in my environment also changes. It is very empowering!

My first recommended course of action on my START day is to get a workout in as soon as I wake up. It seriously jolts me back into reset mode. Go immediately when you wake up. Drink some water and carry some with you throughout the day. Start with 5-10 minutes of stretching that is appropriate for the type of workout you will do and then jump right in. Pop in a DVD, go for a walk/run, yoga, a bike ride, a class, whatever it is you do, get there first thing, before breakfast (if your health allows or go as soon as practicable if you need to regulate your body first.) The idea is to go as early as possible.

Exercise will have the amazing effect of making you feel good and simply even reminding you where “the course” (on that track) is so you can get back to it sooner rather than later.

Before your workout, try a warm cup of lemon water with a dash of cayenne. Surprisingly the cayenne is not too spicy in this mixture and has the added benefit of supporting digestion and elimination as well as detoxing the body of that feast. Ditto for the lemon with its own list of benefits. Think of this as a great way to rinse out. This may send you to the bathroom before your workout, so give yourself a few minutes to think that through before lacing up! (True story. Ha!)

Be deliberate in keeping a bottle of water near you throughout the day, and of course drink it. It sounds silly but it IS easy to forget!

Immediately after a workout, I recommend a recovery smoothy rich in fruits, vegetables, and protein. What is great about this is that you are providing your body with a nutrient-dense meal it has to work very little to break down. This high level of nutrition will aid in restoring your balance and help you fight cravings.  A simple recipe can use ½ banana or ¼ avocado for creamy texture, 1 cup of leafy greens such as kale or spinach, 1 cup of frozen berries of your choice, a tbsp. or flax or chia seeds and a scoop of protein powder. Add some ice and 6 oz of your favorite milk, another 6 oz of water and blend to a smooth consistency. It’s that easy and it will help you resume your eating schedule much more easily.

This is key. Resume eating whole foods after recovery. Don’t crash diet. Give the smoothy an hour to digest and then have your first meal of the day. You will feel much better and empowered to break the cheats.

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Another thing I like to recommend is adding some fresh juice as a snack or a pick me up. You might be feeling sluggish the day after a big feast and you might find yourself reaching for more caffeine. Try and have a fresh pressed juice instead and truly recharge your batteries. A favorite go-to of mine contains 2-3 leaves (with stems) of kale, 2-3 whole carrots, an apple or a pear with about ½ inch of ginger root.

 

April 3             April 4

If you cannot access a juicer consider making an effort to add more greens and fruit to your diet to avoid snacking and enjoy some green tea.

If you have a season of temptation coming up, (I, for example, just had 4 Birthdays and a Big Fat Greek Easter within 1 week, yikes!) consider planning ahead and having things in place to set your recovery plan in motion immediately. It will help you bounce back faster and empower you to make more changes. You are in control. You’ve got this. We’ve got this. Cheers, to your health!

Theresa

CoachTheresaWV is a Health Coach and Personal Trainer whose goal is to help people transform their life through self-care. She believes in lifestyle habits that include fitness and clean living for their empowering and life-changing effects. As a coach, she helps individuals reach their specific goals and put systems into place for continued improvement and sustained change. A mom of 2, Theresa does this for her children as well as a growing online and community following, helping people reach health and fitness goals one day at a time. Follow her at www.TheresaWV.com on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/trainandtransformyourlife/ or email her at CoachTheresaWV@gmail.com for a complimentary consultation.