The Ascend Health & Wellness Gift Guide
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Unsure what to give that special someone on your list? Check out our gift guide designed to help your (naughty or nice) loved ones achieve better health and wellness this holiday season.

While the holidays can be a festive and magical time, the pressure to find the perfect gift for your spouse/friend/colleague/whomever can be a bit stress inducing. In the midst of the hustle and bustle (and before you reach for that third spiked eggnog out of angst), we’ve compiled some gift recommendations to help you spread love—and wellness—this holiday season.

Before diving into the goods, let’s take a quick moment to step back during this season of spending and acknowledge what gifts truly promote happiness. While material items can spark momentary contentment, it’s often fleeting. Researchers have found that experiences bring longer lasting joy. Rather than just giving things this holiday season, consider what will bring about a deeper sense of happiness—experiences, time (either time together or short-cuts that free up more time), and health promotion. With that in mind, our gift guide includes items that can lead to healthy behavior change or wellness accessories that are easy on the eyes. We hope our list inspires you to give the gift of health this holiday season.

 

1. Ascend Underground gear: Hot off the presses, this new gear is almost as smokin’ as the workout itself. Stop by our studio and grab some before it’s gone!

 

2. S’well water bottle: Adequate hydration is crucial for your body and skin (read up on the importance of H20 here). Sip in style with these eco-friendly water bottles that come in a variety of colors and sizes. Did we mention the 25 oz size holds a full bottle of wine?

 

3. Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee: Can’t we all use a dose of ‘shrooms in our cup? Whether you’re shopping for a coffee drinker, cocoa lover, or matcha maniac, Four Sigmatic offers single-serve packets that make it easy (and convenient) to drink up the amazing benefits that functional mushrooms offer.

Take this gift up a notch by adding a Chemex coffee maker or handheld milk frother.

 

4. DOPE beet bliss powder: Get a daily boost of superfoods with this organic powder that combines beets, cacao, baobab, and mangosteen—the perfect addition to a recovery smoothie if you ask us.

 

5. Foam Roller: Fitness gurus will love the gift of self-myofascial release.

 

6. His & her Lululemon backpacks: For those who like to tote their workout gear in style—or pretend to.

For women &  For men

 

7. Wake Pray Slay journal: Both expressive writing and/or taking a few moments to journal about what you’re grateful for each day can lead to a more positive mindset. (Michelle, you’re the inspiration behind this one!)

 

8. Sur la table cooking class: For the foodie (or foodie wannabe) on your list. Choose from date night classes, workshops, or basic skill cooking lessons. With cooking at the heart of a healthy lifestyle, who wouldn’t love to get more comfortable in the kitchen? Online classes also offered.

 

9. The Laundress Sports Detergent: For the fitness guru who has everything, they’ll likely appreciate this detergent that keeps activewear in top form while removing sweat, odor, and stains.

 

10. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Make it easier for the people in your life to have access to local and organic produce.

Search the directory of CSA memberships by zip code

 

11. Glass prep containers: Meal prepping can lead to healthier eating, and having the right containers on hand makes the process a bit easier. We like these containers because they’re made of glass, have dividers (perfect for work lunches) and are both microwave and dishwasher safe.

Also, those looking for quick and convenient cooking, we’ve heard good things about the instant pot.

 

12. Salt soak (aka self-care stocking stuffers): Who wouldn’t want to hop into a warm bath with these salts? Great for soothing sore muscles, these packs will encourage your recipients to put themselves in a time out. Cue the relaxation…

 

Of course, you can always surprise someone (or yourself, we won’t tell) with an Ascend series class package. Classes can be used at Ascend Cycle or Ascend Underground.  Purchase a gift card here!  

 

That’s a wrap, friends. Happy gifting!

 

Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley Hart

Party Time Bites

Hey party people! Whether you’re hosting a seasonal party, an intimate gathering, or watching the big game, it’s always helpful to have a few healthy snacking ideas on hand. Ditch the traditional heavy hitters and try these more nutritious crowd-pleasers at your next get-together.

 

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Sweet Potato Crostini with Smoked Salmon and Chanterelles

These gourmet bites look fancy but are quite simple to prepare—and provide a healthy dose of nutrients to boot. Yum.

 

Ingredients

·      3 sweet potatoes, sliced into ½ inch rounds

·      ¾ lbs chanterelle mushrooms (or any variety), sautéed

·      smoked salmon

·      avocado oil

·      sea salt and black pepper to finish

 

Yogurt spread:

·      1 cup yogurt

·      ¼ cup dill, finely chopped

·      1/8 cup chives, finely chopped

·      juice of ½ lemon

·      1 tsp salt

·      2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spread sweet potato rounds on baking sheet and us a paper towel or brush to lightly coat with avocado oil.

 

Bake for about 20 minutes until cooked through but still firm. For a more golden finish, broil on high for a couple minutes, flipping halfway through (keep an eye not to burn).

 

 In a small bowl, combine all the yogurt spread ingredients and mix together.

 

Once sweet potato rounds have cooled for a few minutes, spread the yogurt mixture on top of each crostini. Top with either sautéed mushrooms or smoked salmon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with microgreens (optional).

 

Recipe Source

 

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Party crudité platter with beet hummus

Ditch the store-bough plastic veggie tray, and get creative with colorful vegetables, fruit, nuts, and interesting dips. The best thing about party trays…no rules! Just put together a combo of your favorite items and let people serve themselves. Win-win.

 

Click here for the recipe for this vibrant beet hummus

 

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Turmeric Roasted Chickpeas 

Because we’re always looking for new ways to add the powerful anti-inflammatory spice, turmeric, to dishes. These taste best fresh from the oven when they’re still warm.

 

Ingredients:

·      3 cups organic chickpeas

·      2 tablespoons turmeric

·      1 tablespoon coconut oil

·      1 teaspoon Himalayan pink sea salt

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Grease a backing sheet with coconut oil, then pour chickpeas, coconut oil, sea salt and turmeric onto the sheet. Mix with your hands until well mixed throughout.

 

Roast for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy!

 

Recipe source

 

Blogpost written by Ascend Content expert, Ashley Hart

 

Superfood Spotlight: Chocolate

Just in time for the holiday season, we’re here to remind you that chocolate can be good for us (yasss!). Cacao powder has many health benefits for our body, mind, and mood. Before you reach for that chocolate bar, learn what type is best, and why.

 

Cacao vs. cocoa: what’s the difference?

We’ve all heard that dark chocolate is good for us, but when faced with the different varieties, it can be confusing to know which form of chocolate is best and how they vary. To break it down, cacao powder and cocoa powder differ in how they are processed from the raw cacao beans. Raw cacao powder is made from cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans, while cocoa undergoes heavier processing from roasting the beans at high temperatures. This reduces nutrients, beneficial enzymes, and antioxidant levels but leaves a sweeter, milder taste. This form is typically combined with dairy, sugar, and other additives to make the milk chocolate candy we recognize at the store. It’s the addition of these extra items that make it less healthy. Raw cacao is much higher in antioxidant flavanols (much higher than blueberries, in fact!), though its taste is quite bitter. Reach for the least processed version when possible.

 

What are the health benefits of chocolate?

In addition to being a powerhouse of antioxidants (which fight free radicals to reduce cellular damage), chocolate has many additional health benefits. Raw or dark chocolate can provide a dose of important minerals and possible health benefits, such as:

Elevate mood: There’s a reason why the sweet stuff leaves us feeling blissful. Chocolate contains the chemicals phenylethylamine (PEA), serotonin, dopamine, and anandamide, which help lift our mood, improve feelings of wellbeing, and keep depression at bay.

Protect heart health: A compound in chocolate called theobromine acts as a vasodilator—helping to open blood vessels and improve circulation. Due to antioxidants and flavanols, chocolate has also been associated with lowering blood pressure and reducing LDL cholesterol (which leads to plaque build up in artery walls). Its anti-clotting properties also help lower the risk of stroke in aging adults.

Improve cognitive function and memory: Studies have shown that antioxidant-rich chocolate can help neurovascular coupling—which refers to how the blood flow changes in response to brain activity. This is important for sharp thinking and memory, and may play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Regulate insulin levels: The flavonol, epicatechin, has been shown to strengthen insulin sensitivity and regulate glucose production.

Provide important minerals: Chocolate is one of the richest sources of magnesium. Magnesium is vital for many functions in the body such as energy production, muscle and nerve function, bone formation, calcium absorption, heart health, and lessening anxiety. Cacao is also rich in iron, an important mineral for building red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout the body. Other minerals found in this superfood include calcium, copper, zinc, and manganese.

 

How to incorporate raw cacao in your diet

You can add raw cacao powder to smoothies, yogurt, hot chocolate, ‘nice’ cream, or incorporate into baked goods. Raw cacao nibs—broken up pieces of the cacao bean—can replace chocolate chips in some recipes or top snacks for an added crunch. We’re not going to pretend that raw cacao tastes the same as milk chocolate (we’d be lying) as it does have a bitter taste. Therefore, it’s best combined with something that has a natural sweetness. But watch added dairy—as dairy can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb the wonderful phytonutrients.  

The bottom line is this: moderate consumption of dark chocolate can be part of a healthy diet. To reap the benefits, add raw cacao to your diet or opt for dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao solids (vs. milk chocolate or white chocolate). The less processed the better, as too much added fat and sugar can counteract the health benefits. But most importantly, make sure to incorporate it in such a way that pleases your taste buds, too. Life’s too short not to enjoy what makes you happy.

 

Coconut butter hot chocolate recipe

As temperatures dip, cozy up with this deliciously satisfying and healthier take on hot cocoa.

SERVES 2

  • 1 ounce, dark dairy-free chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut butter
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 Medjool dates, softened
  • 2 ½ cups unsweetened, nondairy milk of choice
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in upright blender. Blend the mixture on high until the raw chocolate is scattered throughout and looks like tiny flecks.

Warm the coconut butter hot chocolate mixture on the stove in a small saucepan on medium heat, whisking frequently. When it’s simmering, steamy, and frothy on top, it’s ready. Pour into two mugs, and enjoy. Top with some grated chocolate.

*Note: you can add a dash of cayenne pepper, cinnamon, tocos, reishi, pine pollen (I added bliss booster to mine) or top with coconut whip.

Source: http://thefirstmess.com/2016/10/01/vegan-coconut-butter-hot-chocolate-recipe/

 

Turn up the beets! Roasted Beet and Butternut Squash Salad

This seasonal salad makes a delicious and festive side for your Thanksgiving meal—or any meal for that matter. The roasted butternut squash and beets (especially while warm) pair so well with goat cheese and peppery arugula. Keep it simple or jazz it up with some pomegranate seeds and pine nuts. Packed with vitamins and antioxidants, this salad is so good (and good for you).

 

Ingredients:

  • Arugula
  • 1/2 container of precut butternut squash (depending on size you may use a full container or you can peel, chop and roast 1 small butternut squash)
  • 5 small beets (I used a mix of dark and golden)
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

 

Dressing:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 420 F. While oven is preheating, scrub beets, remove beet leaves (you can sauté these at a later time if in good condition), place beets in a foil tent on a small baking pan. (I add a small dash of evoo before closing the foil tent).
  2. Roast beets for 20 minutes while you prepare the butternut squash.
  3. Place cut butternut squash on baking pan lined with parchment paper. Lightly coat with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Once the beets have roasted for 20 minutes, add the butternut squash to the oven and roast both for ~30 minutes (until butternut squash is done). The timing of the beets will depend on their size, and may require additional cooking time. They should be easily pierced with a fork when done.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend for 30 seconds. Taste and adjust as necessary. You could experiment with lemon juice or 1 clove of garlic if you choose.
  6. Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry pan over medium-low heat. Watch closely and stir frequently as they can easily burn. Once they turn a golden brown, they are done. Remove from heat.
  7. When the beets are done, open the foil tent and let sit until cool enough to handle. Using gloves or paper towels (to prevent your hands from staining), remove the outside skin. Slice or quarter the roasted beets.
  8. Place the arugula in your serving dish. Add the roasted beets, roasted butternut squash, and top with pieces of goat cheese, toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds. Lightly drizzle with dressing and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Save the remainder of the salad dressing in a jar or airtight container in the fridge. If eating leftovers, I suggest warming up the beets and squash before serving.

Recipe credit:  Ashley Hart

Have a happy (& healthy) Thanksgiving

Is it possible to indulge without #goingallout on turkey day? We think yes. Some simple strategies can help you keep overeating in check so that you can more fully enjoy yourself and your company this holiday.

 

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. It’s a time to gather with family and friends to reflect, express gratitude, and celebrate with a delicious feast. It also marks the start of the holiday season—where parties, festivities, and get-togethers are in full swing. While Thanksgiving and other holiday hangouts are a great time to connect and have fun, it’s easy to overindulge, over-commit our time, and experience more stress. This Thanksgiving and holiday season, we’d like to encourage you to be mindful of how you schedule your time and energy so that your health and wellness goals don’t fall by the wayside. After all, when we reflect upon what we’re thankful for, our health should be towards the top of the list. Establishing a balance of selective indulgence—whether mind, body, or time—will help you end the year on a high note, and ready to go after new goals in 2018.

To start the season off right, we’ve put together some tips to help you enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday and navigate the abundance of food without going overboard. Yes, it can be done.


Ten strategies to help you stay on track this Thanksgiving: 

1.    Start with a healthy breakfast. Starting your day with nourishing foods will prevent you from being ravenous when it’s time for the main meal. It will also provide the energy you need to cook and mingle. Make sure to pack healthy snacks if you’ll be traveling to your destination.

2.    Move it! From a turkey trot run, flag football game, or a walk after your Thanksgiving meal, plan a way to get some movement during the day. Recruit family members or guests to be active with you. Check our holiday schedule if you’ll be in town!

3.    Eat mindfully. Pay attention to what you eat. It’s far too easy to down an entire bag of chips if you’re mindlessly eating while watching a football game, for example. Use a plate for your snacks and appetizers to better regulate portions.

4.    Bring your own healthy dish. As a guest, plan to contribute a nutritious dish so you can count on having a healthy option available. Make a healthier version of a traditional recipe, or introduce others to your favorite dish.

5.    Snack on veggies. A beautiful tray of raw vegetables with a healthy dip is a great way to snack without filling up on too many calories before the meal. If you’re cooking in the kitchen all day, keep some veggies within reach to prevent excess grazing.

6.    Don’t deprive, but selectively splurge. Don’t deprive yourself from eating your favorite holiday foods (what’s the fun in that?). Instead, determine what you enjoy most so you can indulge on those items and pass, or go light on, the dishes that are less special to you. Have some of your favorite things, but not ALL of EVERYTHING.

7.    Save half of your plate for veggies. There are plenty of delicious vegetable recipes that wonderfully compliment the Thanksgiving meal OG’s. Simply roasted root vegetables are amazing (and easy!). Start with a satisfying soup (such as this butternut squash and coconut soup) to sneak in more nutrients.

8.    Go light on the heavy hitters. Stuffing, buttery mashed potatoes, certain casseroles, gravy, etc. can pack a whopping amount of calories and fat in a small dose. As mentioned earlier, decide what to splurge on before you fill your plate, and watch serving sizes for these dishes in particular.

9.    Drink water. It’s easy to down glass after glass of wine but remember to drink water throughout the day and evening to keep hydrated and prevent an unwanted hangover.

10.  Eat dessert. Yes, we said it. You’re less likely to over-indulge during the meal knowing there’s a delicious slice of pumpkin pie waiting for you. Select one desert (and not the entire pie) and go easy on toppings such as sauces or whipped cream.

 

Most importantly, as you enjoy delicious food at your gathering, remember what’s truly nourishing is to savor the conversations and cherish the time spent with good company.

Gobble Gobble!

 

Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley Hart

 

Roasted Butternut and Coconut Soup

Soup’s on! It’s the season for soup, and while there are plenty of delicious butternut squash soup recipes out there, the goat’s yogurt topping gives this one a unique twist! Warm up with this velvety soup on a weeknight or plan to include it as part of your Thanksgiving feast.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash

1 can coconut milk

1 cup boiling water (or vegetable broth)

1 sprig fresh rosemary (save ½ for serving)

½ - 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (tip: add 1 tbsp and blend as instructed, then add the second to taste. If your squash is on the smaller side, you may prefer less than 2 tbsp). 

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Chèvre yogurt:

150 g soft chèvre cheese (goat’s cheese)

4 tbsp full fat yogurt of choice

 

Directions:

1.     Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2.     Carefully slice the butternut in half with a sharp knife and remove the seeds with a spoon.

3.     Place both halves on a baking tray, cut side down. Bake in the oven for 25-40 min (depending on size of the butternut). The halves are ready when the skin is bubbly and slightly browned.

4.     Prepare the chèvre yogurt together by whisking the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

5.     Remove the butternut from the oven, and let cool slightly. Spoon out the flesh and place in a blender together with the rest of the ingredients. Blend on high speed until completely smooth. Add extra water or stock, if needed. Season to taste. Return soup to pot to keep warm, if necessary.

6.     To serve: Serve with a dollop of chèvre yogurt on top, freshly cracked black pepper, salt, fresh rosemary and a drizzle of olive oil. Top with a few pumpkin seeds (optional).

 

For a vegan alternative: replace the goat’s cheese with a vegan soft cheese and the yogurt with coconut yogurt.

 

Source: http://www.greenkitchenstories.com/roasted-butternut-coconut-soup/

 

Love Your Gut: Tips for Optimal Digestive Health
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It can be said that good health begins in the gut; in fact, the health of our gut mirrors how we look and feel. A healthy gut provides energy, proper digestion, glowing skin, and more, while a compromised gut can lead to a host of problems. We’ve got ten tips to help you get your gut in gear.

 

Our physical and mental health is directly tied to the health of our gut. In fact, this “inner ecosystem” is the cornerstone of our health as it influences our immune system, hormone levels, brain health, mood, digestion and inflammation. An imbalance of gut flora can lead to problems such as poor digestion and nutrient absorption, obesity, depression, and a host of inflammatory-rooted diseases. The good news is that our microbiome (the community of bacteria in our gut) is responsive and changeable based upon lifestyle factors, particularly our diet, which gives us control in restoring gut health and overall wellness.

What is good gut health?

There are trillions of microbes in the gut (totaling three pounds!) including beneficial and harmful bacteria. In fact, they outnumber the cells in our body 10 to 1. Our gut puts in work; it has the important job of digesting our food, pulling out and assembling nutrients our bodies need while identifying and excreting harmful toxins, allergens and viruses. Our digestive health becomes compromised when there is an imbalance in this ecosystem—too many bad bugs or not enough of the good guys. This dysbiosis can lead to lowered immunity and chronic inflammation.

With over two-thirds of our immune system residing in our gut, it’s important that we supply our bodies with proper nutrition to support healthy bacteria and protect our intestinal integrity. Did you know that the lining of the gut is only one cell thick?! When an inflammatory response is triggered in the gut (due to food sensitivities, toxins, stress, etc.), it weakens this wall and increases intestinal permeability resulting in a “leaky gut.” Leaky gut syndrome—when small food particles and toxins pass through the gut wall and enter the bloodstream—triggers an immune response and leads to low-grade inflammation. Chronic inflammation is tied to heart disease, cancer, obesity, autoimmune diseases, allergies, joint pain, and more.

Healthy bugs, healthy weight

The health of your microbiome can also influence your weight. Researchers have found that obese individuals have a lower diversity of gut bacteria. A lower number of certain bacterial strains, such as Firmicutes, can also lead to weight loss resistance. Since your gut is involved in regulating blood sugar balance, hormones and the storage of fat, it’s understandable why good gut balance works in your weight-management favor. Unhealthy bacteria levels can lead to craving more inflammatory foods that can cause digestive upset (IBS, gas, bloating, etc.), hampering motivation for weight loss.

The brain-gut connection

If you’re still not convinced that our gut has an enormous impact on our overall wellbeing, hear this: your gut is considered your second brain. Did you know that there are more neurons within your gut than in your brain? Hence, why we get butterflies in the belly when nervous and excited, or why you have “gut feelings.” Messages travel back and forth from the gut to the brain and can be impacted by stress, anxiety, or digestion issues. What’s more, 95% of serotonin (the happy hormone) is actually produced in the gut not the brain. Poor digestive health and problems with the production of this neurotransmitter can lead to feeling anxious or blue.

Tips to improve your gut health

Certain lifestyle choices can increase the diversity of your gut bacteria, improving overall gut health. Our 10 tips to nourish your gut flora, include: 

  1. Reduce your intake of highly processed foods and added sugars.
  2. Lessen your intake of inflammatory foods (foods that cause allergies or sensitivities). These include GMO’s, hydrogenated oils, gluten, corn, and conventional dairy.
  3. Add probiotic rich foods to your diet. Examples of fermented and cultured foods containing good bacteria include kefir, coconut yogurt, cultured dairy products, kimchi, kombucha, switchel, sauerkraut, and fermented vegetables.
  4. Eat foods with prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics feed the growth of good bacteria, and contain an insoluble fiber called inulin. Examples include dandelion greens, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, raw onions, garlic, bananas, berries, leeks, and jicima.
  5. Eat good fats such as avocado, coconut oil, ghee, and chia seeds.
  6. Choose quality protein. Avoid meat from corn-fed cows/conventional farms as they may have their own host of gut issues and are often raised with antibiotics. Certain spices (garlic, ginger, cumin, black pepper) can aid the digestion of animal protein. Sipping on meat bone broth provides minerals and nutrients that are healing for the gut lining.
  7. Only take antibiotics when necessary.
  8. Consider a probiotic supplement, especially if you need a course of antibiotics.
  9. Drink filtered water.
  10. Stress less!

Nourish your microbiome, and it will love you back. Keep in mind it may take some time to heal the gut, but the benefits are vast.

 

Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley H

Adaptogens 101
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Learn why these ancient restorative herbs are having a modern moment.  

 

If you feel like you’re walking around either stressed or fatigued at this very moment, you’re not alone. In today’s go-go-go society, it’s hard not to be. The multitude of demands we face (along with those we place on ourselves) can literally wear us down. Unfortunately, stressors in life will always be present; it’s unrealistic to think that life can exist without any form of stress (and some stress is good for us!). It’s how we face and handle stress that can influence its toll on our wellbeing. Finding that release on the bike is a great way to let go and recharge. Adaptogens are an additional tool to boost vitality and help mitigate adverse health effects caused by stress.

 

What the heck are adaptogens and why all the hype?

Adaptogens are a class of unique plant herbs that can “adapt” their function depending on your body’s biochemical needs. Chronic fatigue and stress—whether major life-changing events or consistent daily stressors—can add up and take a toll on your adrenal system. The adrenal glands produce hormones that help your body respond to stress and control processes that regulate your metabolism, immune system, and blood pressure. Ongoing hormonal imbalance can lead to both mental and physical ailments over time. Adaptogens take the load off of your adrenal glands by reducing the output of stressful hormones. When your stress hormones aren’t constantly ramped up, you are in a better state (less anxiety and brain fog, more energy and clarity) to face life’s challenges. What’s more, these powerful plants can increase energy while simultaneously providing a sense of calm, bringing you back to balance.

Adaptogen herbs have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Unlike medications typically prescribed in Western medicine, adaptogens do not target or treat a specific action in the body. Rather, they work in a subtle fashion to heal your body as a whole, strengthening its ability to respond to stress. Further, they come without harmful side effects that can accompany many medications. Once they’ve served their purpose, adaptogens are absorbed and excreted by our bodies without harm. They do their job and bounce.

For an herb to be classified as an adaptogen, it must meet the following criteria:

  1. It’s nontoxic, even with long-term use,
  2. It offers nonspecific, widespread support, treating the body as a whole so it can better resist multiple forms of stress (physical, chemical, and biological), and
  3. It has a normalizing influence, which helps bring the body back into balance.

 

How to use these powerful plants

Adaptogens work best when taken in small doses over long periods of time. They are gentle and slow acting, so it may take several weeks or more to notice their effect. Available in powder or capsule form, you can purchase individual herbs or combination products that group together several herbs with overlapping benefits. Adaptogens have varying tastes, but the powdered form can easily be added to smoothies, coffee, matcha lattes, or other tonics. You can get creative and add them to certain foods such as energy balls or pancakes.

Here is a list of just some of the many amazing adaptogens out there, along with brief snapshot of their potential benefits:

Eleuthero: supports the immune system, can enhance cognition, improve the quality of sleep, and promote a general sense of wellbeing. Great for athletes, eleuthero boosts endurance and shortens recovery time.

Ashwaganda: can ease anxiety, promote better sleep, fight fatigue and exhaustion, support the immune system, and enhance endocrine function.

Astralagus: strengthens immunity and boosts energy. Astralagus can help shield the body from the damaging effects of stress.

Cordyceps: a mushroom with anti-aging and immune enhancing properties. It supports kidney and lung health and may enhance athletic performance.

Asian Ginseng: used for thousands of years, this stimulating herb is known for helping the body withstand stress. It can promote longevity, protect against some cancer, and restore the body’s immune response.

Holy Basil: can protect the heart from stress, lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and regulate hormone levels. It also supports memory, and may be helpful for allergies.

Reishi: a medicinal mushroom with antioxidant properties. It reduces inflammation and supports immune function, increases resistance to colds. It can ease chronic pain, improve sleep, relax muscles and help reduce cholesterol.

Rhodiola: this brain booster helps with mental clarity, memory, stress reduction and depression. It also helps balance cortisol levels in the body, raising or lowering as needed. It boosts energy too, so better to take in the morning!

 

A note of caution

It’s important to note that adaptogen herbs are not evaluated or approved by the FDA. Consult with your doctor before taking any adaptogens (or other herbs) to review any potential interactions with medication or health issues. Several adaptogens are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Just as our bodies have individualistic needs and sensitivities with food, the same can hold true for herbs. Your best bet is to meet with a qualified herbal specialist to find what will work best for you.

Side note: I plan to meet with a qualified herbalist here in Del Ray to find the best herbal concoction for me. If you’d like to hear more about my experience, hit me up!

 

Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley H.

Apple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Celebrate the season’s bounty with soft, vegan, gluten-free cookies.

 

Move over apple pie! These apple oatmeal raisin cookies combine the flavors of fall with a hint of sweetness. The perfect solution for using up your apple-picking bounty, making these gluten-free, vegan cookies should be next on your fall bucket list. The only downside is that they go really well with a cup of hot coffee in the morning, so they may not last all day (you’ve been warned). #bakeitup  

Serves: 24-28 cookies

 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed plus 4 tablespoons warm water

1 ½ cups oat flour (to make: blend together ~2 cups whole oats in food processor into a fine flour)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup creamy almond butter

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

¼ cup applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup Truvia brown sugar blend (I substituted ½ cup coconut sugar)

1 cup whole rolled oats

¾ cup finely chopped apple

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup raisins

 

Directions:

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.     In a small bowl, combine flaxseed and water. Set aside to thicken for 5 minutes.

3.     In a large bowl, stir together the oat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

4.     In a medium bowl, combine the almond butter, coconut oil, applesauce, vanilla, and brown sugar. Add the thickened flaxseed mixture and stir well.

5.     Stir the whole rolled oats, apples, walnuts, and raisins into the dry ingredients (large bowl). Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well. Note: batter will be thick and sticky.

6.     Drop rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheet and press down slightly. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the bottoms are nicely browned. (Note: do not under-bake or cookies may fall apart). Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before cooling completely on the wire rack.

Source: https://www.loveandlemons.com/apple-oatmeal-raisin-cookies/#more-28513

 

Superfood Spotlight: Turmeric
GO FOR THE GOLDen spice and tap into the myriad of health benefits that turmeric can provide.

GO FOR THE GOLDen spice and tap into the myriad of health benefits that turmeric can provide.

 

As the cooler temperatures move in, our cravings naturally shift from the lighter meals of summer towards heartier dishes made with warming spices and seasonings. Mother nature wisely nudges us to include more immune-boosting ingredients in our cooking this time of year (whether we realize it or not). Take a look around the farmer’s market and you’ll find seasonal harvest eager to give us the boost we need to stay healthy through the fall and winter months. Now is also the perfect time to incorporate superfood spices, such as turmeric, into your diet.

 

The basics

Native to southeast Asia, turmeric is commonly found in Indian cuisine. Part of the ginger family, turmeric can be purchased in fresh root form or as a ground spice. In the supermarket, you can find turmeric root located near ginger (it resembles the knotty root). Turmeric root should be stored in the refrigerator or it can be frozen until ready to use, while ground turmeric should be kept in a sealed container in a dry, cool place. Turmeric has a warm, peppery and slightly bitter flavor. Often associated with curry dishes, turmeric is a wonderful seasoning for roasted vegetables, can be used in soups or stews, added to smoothies, salad dressings, or eggs, grated directly onto dishes, or warmed up in a comforting cup of golden milk. There are multiple ways to add this delicious spice to your regimen—and reap the benefits.

 

The health benefits of turmeric

Turmeric contains many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. The star compound in turmeric, curcumin, has been widely studied for it’s medicinal properties. Most notably, research suggests that curcumin is anti-inflammatory, meaning that it helps reduce swelling in the body. Over time, inflammation can cause chronic diseases and take a toll on our immune system. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin may help alleviate arthritic joint pain and reduce muscle soreness (post-spin turmeric smoothie anyone?). Oh, and it can give your skin complexion a radiant glow.

A powerful antioxidant, curcumin may ward off certain types of cancers. It’s been shown to play a role in cellular detoxification (which also helps lower cancer risk) and improve liver function. Curcumin may help regulate blood sugar levels as well as lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The healing compound can ease bloating, improve certain digestive diseases, and may even aid with weight loss. But that’s not all—curcumin may improve cognitive function, fight Alzheimer’s and elevate your mood. Is there anything this magical spice can’t do?

 

Important considerations

Before you get spice-happy, it’s important to know that how you consume turmeric matters. There are certain side effects of which to be mindful, so consider these points before you up your intake:

·      Bioavailability: turmeric has low bioavailability (ability to be absorbed by the body). Consuming along with black pepper has shown to improve absorption. The active compounds in turmeric are fat soluble, so it should be consumed with a fat source (such as healthy oils, coconut butter, ghee, yogurt, etc.).

·      Interactions: turmeric may interfere with anticoagulant medications that are used to slow blood clotting. If you are taking such medications, you should not increase your turmeric consumption or take a curcumin supplement.*

·      Stomach upset: for some, turmeric may cause irritation to the stomach. If you find that increasing your consumption negatively impacts digestion, stop or reduce your intake and monitor how you feel.  

·      Stain: turmeric is used as a natural food dye…therefore it can stain, so be careful!

·      Quality of supplements: for optimum results, it is best to consume turmeric in food form (vs. pill). If you choose to take a turmeric or curcumin supplement, opt for organic and select a good brand as the quality of supplements can vary. Also check to make sure the capsule includes black pepper.

·      Dosage: it’s important to note that the dosage used in research studies is usually quite high compared to what you would typically consume at home in one meal or drink. To reap the benefits, try using the spice daily in multiple ways so that the dosage of curcumin adds up.

·      Research: most of the research has been conducted in labs or is preliminary, so more clinical research needs to be done before conclusive evidence on the health benefits of turmeric and curcumin can be confirmed for humans.

Turmeric is no new kid on the block, yet it’s recent bump in popularity has led to wider availability of turmeric lattes and golden milks at various juice and coffee shops. While fresh ingredients often yield the best results, you can find powdered mixes that allow you to enjoy a turmeric tonic at home in no time (the gaia golden milk blend rocks, btw). Try this golden milk recipe at home and relax with a nourishing cup of liquid gold.

 

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Golden turmeric milk

Ingredients:

8 ounces organic cashew milk (or coconut milk/other nut milk)

1 heaping teaspoon of chopped turmeric (can substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric)

1 heaping teaspoon chopped ginger (can substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)

1-2 teaspoons coconut butter (or coconut oil)

1-2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup, depending on preferred level of sweetness

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

freshly cracked ground black pepper

dash of sea salt

Optional additions:

1 tablespoon collagen peptides

adaptogens of choice

 

Instructions

Heat milk on the stove until just simmering. Combine remaining ingredients in blender. When milk is hot, add it to the blender and blitz with the rest of the ingredients. Enjoy with an added dash of cinnamon or turmeric on top or garnish with a cinnamon stick.

*As always check with your primary physician before making dietary adjustments to treat health conditions.