Kale Smoothies

Kale is the basis of my smoothies these days, and the farmer’s markets are overflowing with bunches. I taste a little piece of each kind and pick the sweetest most flavorful variety. These days, the lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur, Tuscan, or black kale) usually wins.

As a member of the Brassica family, also known as cruciferous vegetables, kale is a potent anti-cancer green and can help balance and detoxify hormones. As a dark green leafy veggie, it can also play a large role in keeping your brain healthy as you age. For flavor, I sweeten the smoothie with an apple and/or berries, and add a slice of lemon and a stalk or 2 of celery to balance acidity and salt. Don’t peel the lemon, as the peel has limonene, among a multitude of other antioxidants, phytonutrients and minerals, that can help the strengthen the detoxification pathways of your liver.

Kale Smoothie

Try this recipe for a Vitamix or Magic Bullet smoothie

3-4 leaves of kale
2-3 leaves of romaine lettuce
2 medium stalks of celery (I don’t add the leaves as I find them bitter)
Several stems of cilantro
¼ lemon
1 apple
¼ cup raw cashews
¼ in. slice of fresh ginger
Water and ice to help blend

Asparagus is Here!

I love asparagus season. Every year, starting in March there’s a trickling of expensive asparagus, usually from Mexico, and then around April the farmer’s market fills up with the local, sweetest stalks of the year.

A native of Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, asparagus is in the Lilly family, a cousin of the onion. Many of us know that promptly after eating asparagus, our urine has a distinctive odor. But it seems that only about 50% of Americans can detect this smell, whereas 100% of the French can, and almost no Chinese. There is debate as to whether this difference is because of one’s ability to metabolize what’s in asparagus into the stinky sulfur containing compounds, or is it the actual ability to smell them. It may be a combination of both, but the group 23andme did a population based study and may have found the autosomal dominant gene that allows us to smell that asparagus pee smell.

Its health benefits have been known for millennia throughout Europe and Asia and include cancer prevention and the treatment of heart disease, gout, joint pains, and constipation. It is a diuretic and may help prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Given its high folic acid content, regular consumption can prevent neural tube birth defects. Asparagine, a “non-essential” amino acid (originally isolated from asparagus), is essential to nerve and brain function and has been used as a nerve tonic among herbalists. Asparagus is loaded with antioxidants and many vitamins including vitamins C, A, E and K, folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, and the minerals potassium, iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and chromium.

I always enjoy simply steaming or boiling asparagus briefly (2-4 minutes depending on the size) and adding a little olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. This year, I’ve also been eating it raw, sliced very thinly in salads with radishes, herbs, and little gem lettuce.

Asparagus scramble:
1 bunch medium sized asparagus, sliced at a diagonal
2 medium red spring onions, coarsely diced
2 tsp Dijon mustard
6 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes until it turns bright green. Add a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, scramble the eggs, adding the mustard to the eggs until mixed well. Add the eggs to the pan with the onion and asparagus. Cook as you would scrambled eggs. Serve with fresh fruit or a small salad and garnish with chopped parsley or tarragon.

5 Hot Flash Remedies

Menopause can be a challenging time for many women and hot flashes are one of the most troubling symptoms. They can be embarrassing in public or at work, and they often disrupt sleep which makes all of live harder.

There are many small changes that can have big effects on hot flashes. Here are just a few:

Manage Your Stress
Our high adrenaline lifestyle may be why we have a much greater incidence of hot flashes than in other parts of the world. Find a daily method to bring calmness and relaxation that works for you. Breathing exercises can be particularly effect, like “paced breathing” where you count to 5 on the in breath, pause, and count to 5 on the out breath, making in and out the same length of time. Do this for a minimum of 3 breaths at a time, anytime and throughout your day, and notice how your body relaxes more and more with each time you practice.

Ground Flax Seed
This little seed is full of great nutrition and fiber. One small study showed a reduction of hot flashes by 50% with 2 tablespoons of flax seed taken daily. Start at about ½ Tb daily and increase the amount over a week or 2 to the full 2 Tbs. Add it to cereal, salads, or a smoothie. You can sprinkle it on almost any food.

Moderate Exercise
The benefits of daily exercise are remarkable, reducing risks of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, and osteoporosis. Moderate daily exercise may also reduce hot flashes. Be careful, for some women, overly vigorous exercise may increase them, so pay close attention to your body.

Maca
This “super food” of the Andes was shown in a small study to reduce hot flashes. It may also have many other fantastic benefits for menopause including helping with sleep, concentration, energy, vaginal dryness, and regulating adrenal function. It is generally considered safe since it’s been eaten as a food for millennia, and the dose studied was 2 grams of the dried root daily. Add the powdered form to your daily smoothie or it can be taken in a capsule as a standardized extract of 500 mg daily. As with all herbs, check with your health care provide when taking it, and always have herb holidays.

Bioflavonoids
Rutin, hesperidin and quercetin are common bioflavonoids, well known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Hesperidin is found abundantly in citrus, particularly the peel. An old study from the 1960’s showed relief from hot flashes with the combination of 900 mg hesperidin, 300 mg hesperidin methylchalocone, and 1200 mg of vitamin C daily for four weeks. It can be found in citrus bioflavonoid supplements. You can also get these powerful nutrients by adding lemon or orange slices (including the peel) to your smoothie.