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Day #13 - Coffee 101

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Day #13- Coffee 101

I was a teenage barista.  It sounds like some kind of confession.  But, it was the perfect job for me at the time.  I loved coffee - the smell, the taste, the variety of beans, and of course the buzz.  As the years went on, I started to feel funny after drinking coffee. My stomach wasn’t handling it well and I sometimes felt hung over after drinking it. I couldn’t figure out what the deal was so I switched to green tea and figured my coffee days were behind me. 

Then, I went to Costa Rica for a yoga retreat.  Each morning, they had fresh roasted coffee brewing.  And when I say fresh, I mean I could see the land where the beans were growing across the street.  I couldn’t help myself - I drank it and it was so clean, fresh and I felt a light buzz but not those funny feelings I had been having back in the states. I brought that coffee home and squeezed every cup I could out of that bag of beans.  But, when it was gone, I couldn’t go back to the average java that most coffee shops were serving - it gave me all of those strange feelings again.

I gave coffee up again for a while until I found a few amazing coffee shops that were getting premo beans, grinding on site, and brewing properly.  The difference was pretty profound - I was getting all the benefits of the coffee but none of the weird side effects.

Speaking of benefits, what’s so great about coffee?  There are a number of benefits! Coffee is an incredible source of antioxidants that are very well absorbed, caffeinated coffee seems to benefit Parkinson’s patients, and it may help prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Coffee consumption is linked with lower rates of depression and suicide, and it may help protect women from skin cancer.  Studies are showing improved athletic performance from coffee because of it’s ability to increase fatty acids into the blood stream which get utilized as fuel.  Also, there’s a study that shows coffee can reduce your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.  

That being said, coffee can be filled with pesticides, mycotoxins (toxic mold), and other chemicals from poor transportation, storage or roasting processes.  This explains why I’d sometimes feel hung over after coffee.  I’m allergic to mold and sensitive to chemicals in general. 

How do you find the coffee with the benefits and less of the drawbacks?

First, choose a responsible producer who is transparent about their coffee. I very much like Dave Aspry’s Bulletproof Coffee beans.  He’s gone to great lengths to make sure that the beans are properly dried and roasted to minimize mycotoxins.  His basic blend is fresh and delicious.  For some reason, I don’t find his decaf to be as enjoyable despite the fact that he uses a Swiss Water Process, which doesn’t use chemicals to decaffeinate the beans.  For decaf and for other varieties of beans, I head over to Terroir Coffee which was created by George Howell.  Years ago, he founded Coffee Connection in New England which he sold to Starbucks back in the 90‘s. After that, he spent the next few years traveling the world looking for the best coffee, which you can order directly from his website. Due to his meticulous standards, you might have to wait for a certain date to get the specific beans that you want.  This means that it’s as fresh as what I drank in Costa Rica.  And, their incredible selection means you can get a coffee that’s got flavors from nutty, chocolate and caramel to citrus, berry, and floral. 

How you brew your coffee will also make a difference in the flavor and possibly the way that your digestive system handles your coffee.  I personally use an aeropress or cold brew my coffee.  These allow for less acidity in your coffee and therefore less gastrointestinal distress

My tendency is to drink coffee black, but if I want to change it up I make it Bulletproof with raw goat butter, blended in my vitamix for a nice frothy warm mug of coffee “with cream.”   

If you are the type who gets their java on the go, search for places that focus on organic, fair trade, coffees and brewing methods that are per cup utilizing a Clover system, chemex, aeropress, or cold brewing methods.  You may have to try some different shops but it will be worth it.  Places making great coffee will have knowledgable staff.  If they can’t tell you where the coffee is from or how it’s brewed, you probably aren’t getting very good coffee.

While I love coffee, it’s still not a daily beverage for me.  I don’t need the caffeine buzz (I’m pretty alert first thing in the morning and coffee will make look like this) and I’m not addicted to it.  So, I left it on the diet list so I can enjoy it from time to time when I feel moved to.  If you are completely attached to your morning caffeine, it might be wise to take a break for a few days. Try tea or yerba mate instead and see if you feel different.  Try getting a higher quality coffee and see if perhaps you feel better, stronger, and clearer. If you are going to drink something ever day, make it as delicious and nutritious as you can.  You deserve it.

Day #12 - All About Tea

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Day #12 - All About Tea

I've loved tea for years and been drinking it since childhood.  Herbal tea, black tea, green tea, white tea, fermented tea, aged tea... you name it, I've tried it.  And so through the years, I've gotten pretty particular about my tea.  I'm no connoisseur, I just know what I like.   

Caffeinated or not, the afternoon or before bed is when I love to drink a nice warm cup of tea (even in the summer!)  During this diet, herbal tea has been a real life saver.  I often drink it after dinner to help me get past a sugar craving.  It’s a soothing and peaceful ritual which is also why I enjoy it in the middle of a busy afternoon. 

As usual, I have standards for my tea.  First, they need to be organic or at least come from a reputable source.  What I mean by this is that some teas aren’t labeled organic for a number of reasons, but I trust the company or purveyor of the product and their standards and the quality of the tea speaks for itself.  

One of my favorite new tea shops is a very authentic Chinese tea shop called Tea Drunk.  It’s owned and operated by the most adorable woman, Shunan, who has sourced all of her teas herself.  Her knowledge and standards are very high and her teas are of fantastic quality. When I want a good Oolong, Pu-eh, or Red tea (or black tea as we Americans call it), I go see her.  I’m not sure her teas are labeled “organic” but it doesn’t seem to matter.  Tea with pesticides will taste poor to a tea expert.  They can actually sense the chemicals and it ruins the tea.  A competent source will know the difference and choose the best quality tea to serve to their customers.  And they'll talk your ear off if you ask them about their teas. 

If I want tea from other parts of the world, I will stop by Harney and Sons.  They are locally here in Soho and have a tasting bar for you to test out a tea of your choice.  But, they also have online ordering options for those of you outside of the city.  Their menu of teas is extensive and since they are master tea blenders, they put together combinations of teas in creative ways that can be really fun and exciting.  Their hot cinnamon black tea is super warm and inviting and is a favorite in the winter.  Their green tea with coconut, ginger, and vanilla is a summer favorite, which is also good iced. Their thick mache is also pretty wonderful too.  Having been in touch with one of the owners, I can say that they are still constantly searching for great teas around the world.  

As for herbal teas, there are lots of mainstream brands out there but some of them are adding sweetners, preservatives and more.  I recommend going with a company that is choosing simple herbs for ingredientTraditional Medicinals is a brand that focuses on single herb teas like raspberry leaf, dandelion, and licorice and they are very transparent about their products, providing a lot of information on their website about where the herbs come from and sustainability practices.  Research Celestial Seasonings or Teavana and see what you come up with.  You might be surprised.

Also, It’s wise to realize that herbals teas can have medicinal properties.  Simple google searches can help you learn more about the properties of herbs.  For example, raspberry leaf is great for women’s uterus, dandelion is detoxing and helps the large intestine do it’s job, and licorice can be very soothing for a sore throat or upset stomach but it also slightly raises blood pressure.  For the most part, most herbal teas are mild and you can drink them daily without much concern.  But, if you are on medications or have a serious health condition, make sure you are aware of any potential interactions. 

You never know where you might find a great tea! My friend Gina gave me some lovely herbal tea from “t by Sarah” and I liked it so much, I ordered their "Be Well" blend and their "Ginger Twist" tea right off their website.  You can see the quality of the herbs and the taste is clean and soothing. 

Okay, you might be saying that tea is pretty great but what about coffee?  Don’t worry... as a former barista, I’m no coffee hater but I’ve got pretty tough standards for my coffee.  That post is coming up next.  Meanwhile, why don’t you go make some tea and watch the winter weather. :-) 

Day #11 - Pasta Pasta!?

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Day #11 - Pasta Pasta!? 

Some people really don’t like the idea of cutting out pasta.  I get it, I mean, I am Italian after all!  Thing is, regular pasta messes me up big time.  My blood sugar spikes and crashes making me hungry again right away and cranky (can we say ‘hangry?’).  Then there’s the bloating and the log jam it creates in my stomach and intestines which leads to pain, gas and a whole host of other issues you don’t want to hear about.  

But, I know that pasta is inexpensive, quick and convenient and it’s a great medium for just about any sauce.  So, here are a few of the alternatives that I use when I’m craving a noodle for my meal but don’t want the unpleasant side effects.  

Mung Bean Noodles

Mung bean noodles are often sold as celephane noodles.  Those tend to be high in carbs and kind of sticky. But, there’s a company (Explore Asian) that makes fettuchini mung bean noodles and these are my favorite. They cook up firm and never get soggy or sticky.  

They are naturally high in protein and fiber and they don’t upset my stomach at all.  I will boil them and then leave them in the fridge to use as a base for any protein or veggies that I am cooking throughout the week.  You can use traditional sauces on these noodles and they’ll taste great.  They also work for stir fry dishes too.  Sometimes, I will put a little olive oil, nutritional yeast and a dash of salt or liquid aminos on them and eat that that way (yeah, it’s not everyone’s style, I know.)  They are also good with a hearty marinara or a ginger shitake sauce.

Spaghetti squash

A friend posted this spaghetti squash dish a while back and I LOVE it.  I’ve made a few small changes to the dressing... I use pecans instead of peanuts/peanut butter.  I have this great all natural no sugar added local hot sauce that I use instead of sriracha.  I use aminos instead of soy sauce and avocado oil instead of grapeseed oil (just a personal preference).  Otherwise, this recipe is pretty stellar.  I make extra lime-nut sauce and leave it in the fridge to use on steamed or roasted veggies.  It’s a winner for sure. 

Miracle Noodle

These noodles are made of a soluble fiber that’s been extracted from the root of a japanese plant.  It’s mixed with a food grade calcium called pickling lime which helps the noodles keep their shape.  The noodles are sold soaking in liquid and must be rinsed before being used. Some people say that they have a strange smell when you first open the package but I haven’t had this happen.  I do rinse the noodles off well and they have no smell or real distinct taste to them after that.  They will absorb whatever flavors you cook with them.  This is certainly the most processed of the noodles that I’m mentioning.  That said, their website has some super creative recipe ideas.  This one in particular I had to try.  

I substituted cashew milk for cow’s milk and used a few drops of stevia to sweeten it instead of Splenda.  I also didn’t add any heavy cream.  I thought it actually tasted good, albeit strange, and a bit like what I’d imagine faux cream of wheat to taste like.  You can judge for yourself.

Rice noodles and noodles made from beans are also out there.  These tend to be harder for me to digest so I avoid them.  Perhaps you've found a brand that works for you?  If so, let me know! I'd love to try it out.

Hope this helps you with your pasta fix!  Let me know if you have any questions!