Secrets of the World’s 3 Healthiest Nuts

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Did you know November is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month? (It’s also National Stuffing Month, but we’ll save that for Thanksgiving.) Being a peanut butter lover myself, I spent some time a couple of weeks ago scouring the Internet for some tasty vegan peanut butter recipes to share, which have been popping up on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in recent weeks.

I also got to thinking about nuts as part of a plant-based diet. Nuts seem to be either much maligned or joyfully celebrated depending on dietary views. Some people avoid them like the plague, fearing their high fat content. Others liberally munch on them and merrily drizzle nut-based sauces on anything and everything. I fall somewhere in between, preferring to get a dose of whole-food fats from a variety of nuts and seeds every day without going overboard.

There’s no reason to avoid these nutritional powerhouses in your own diet. Nuts are much more than a source of unprocessed fats, and looking at the top three healthiest choices shows why they deserve a place on your plate. (Or in your hand, on salads, in baked goods…)

california-almonds-by-blary54-free-images

blary54/FreeImages

Almonds

Almonds are a personal favorite of mine. Back when there was a shortage of Trader Joe’s raw almond butter, I freaked out when I found jars of it at the Northampton location and promptly bought every single one. I’ve also been known to snack on apples, raisins and almonds pretty habitually in the afternoon to the point where I still refer to the combination as the “old-school Sam snack.”

While you don’t have to be quite so obsessive, it’s a good idea to munch on almonds or enjoy almond butter stuffed dates once and a while. Almonds contain high levels of vitamin E, a natural antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Eating the skins increases the antioxidant power.

Compared to other nuts, almonds are high in fiber (3.5 grams per ounce) and protein (6 grams per ounce). They’re also an excellent source of biotin, part of the B vitamin family responsible for helping to metabolize macronutrients, keep nerves healthy and aid in amino acid production. Monounsaturated fats support a healthy heart and cholesterol levels, and eating almonds has been shown to be beneficial for blood sugar levels.

Almonds are perfect in muffins, sprinkled on salads, stirred into oatmeal or used as garnish on Moroccan-spiced dishes!

Pecans

For years, my mom has made the pumpkin pie from The Joy of Vegan Baking for Thanksgiving. The recipe calls for exactly 16 pecan halves, which I’ve diligently picked up from the co-op’s bulk section just in time for baking.

It turns out you don’t need to make excuses to garnish dishes with (or scarf down) pecans during the holidays. The nutritional profile speaks for itself:

  • 12 grams of monounsaturated fat per ounce
  • Lowers LDL and raises HDL for a more favorable cholesterol balance
  • High in antioxidants, including carotenes and ellagic acid
  • High in B vitamins for energy production and metabolism
  • Good source of trace minerals, including copper, manganese, phosphorous and zinc
  • Packed with anti-inflammatory magnesium, which may help lower blood pressure

Of course, if you’re eating pecans covered in sugar or as part of a gooey pie, you’re getting a lot of bad along with the good. Stick to raw or lightly toasted nuts most of the time, and save the treats for special occasions. (Sweet potato casserole, anyone?)

walnuts-by-crispul21-free-images

cripul21/FreeImages

Walnuts

Walnuts are stars when it comes to omega-3 content. High in polyunsaturated fats, these nuts have been studied quite a bit for their heart-healthy qualities. Omega-3s reduce inflammation and promote good blood flow, making them key players in cardiovascular health. One study showed walnuts may be beneficial for bones, too, citing a correlation between high consumption and lower levels of certain bone turnover markers in the body.

Tossing some walnuts on your salad or in your granola also delivers:

  • Phenols
  • Flavanoids
  • Tannins

These all have antioxidant properties, with tannins in particular showing anti-carcinogenic and antimicrobial effects. Some of the antioxidants found in walnuts are hard to get from other foods, so make room for them in your meals whenever you can.

In a (Healthy) Nutshell

I chose these three nuts as “the healthiest” based on Dr. Michael Greger’s video ranking nuts by antioxidant content and several other sources linked throughout the post. But that doesn’t mean other nuts aren’t just as good for you! Peanuts, for example (because, hey, Peanut Butter Lover’s Month!), are high in protein, monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and important trace minerals. Macadamia nuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios and their other nutty companions are also worth checking out.

So go ahead, get creative. Have some peanut butter toast in the morning. Sprinkle pecans in your salad. Try out cashew butter in your next cookie recipe.

Or get your fix any time of day with these nutty ideas:

Need help making nuts (and other healthy foods) a regular part of your diet? I can get you on track! Start a consulting program with GreenGut Wellness today to get a personalized health plan.

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5 Compelling Reasons to Eat Whole Grains

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These robust plant foods offer a wealth of benefits

Grains. Love them or hate them, they’re the foundation of many traditional diets around the world and continue to be a staple in modern civilization. Most of the grains eaten today, however, have been refined to the point where they no longer provide the nutritional value that makes the original whole forms such an amazing staple food. These “empty calories” have given rise to the prevailing thought that grains are bad, carbohydrates are killing us and we all need to run in the other direction every time we see a bowl of rice.

Whole grains, however, are something we should be running to. Slowly but surely, the public eye is being opened to the fact that grains in their original, unrefined forms are among the healthiest foods out there. These grains are nourishing, power-packed choices that can be enjoyed at any meal. They’re delicious savory or sweet, with vegetables or fruit, tossed with herbs or seasoned with spices. However you like to prepare them, grains like rice, quinoa, millet, barley, amaranth, teff, corn and wheat can do amazing things for your health.

Better Heart Health

In How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger cites a study showing consumption of three servings of whole grains a day — which is about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of cooked grains — reduced the risk of a heart attack by 15 percent and strokes by 25 percent. The Whole Grain Council reports higher numbers, showing a 25 to 28 percent risk reduction for heart disease and a 30 to 36 percent drop in stroke risk among those including whole grains in their diets.

stalk of whole grain oatsThe high fiber content of whole grains may have something to do with these benefits, according to Brenda Davis in her detailed compendium, Becoming Vegan. High fiber diets have been linked with a lower overall risk of cardiac events as well as a reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the first place. Fiber combines with cholesterol-rich bile acids and lowers fatty acid synthesis in the liver, leading to lower blood levels of these potentially damaging substances. Fiber may also work to remove undesirable blood clots by breaking down the fibrin necessary for clots to form.

Methyl donors may be another reason why grains are so good at protecting heart health. When the body metabolizes the amino acid methionine, an intermediate compound called homocysteine is formed. Unless homocysteine is remethylated — that is, unless it gets a methyl group from another compound such as choline, betaine or inositol, all found in whole grains — it may lead to an increase in inflammation and promote adhesion within blood vessels. Inflamed blood vessels don’t heal well, and prolonged damage to the inner lining, called the endothelium, can promote clot formation and increase the risk of atherosclerosis. Whole grains also contain vitamin B6, folic acid and zinc, which also play a role in controlling homocysteine levels.

Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Fiber is at least partly responsible for the statistics showing that consuming three servings of whole grains a day can lower diabetes risk by one third. A study by Harvard Medical School showed similar benefits in a group of 11 overweight and obese subjects consuming six to 11 servings of whole grains per day. Even with partially refined foods such as breads, pasta and baked goods included in the serving count, subjects experienced a 10 percent drop in fasting insulin, lower insulin secretions and greater glucose infusion into cells when compared to a similar diet containing refined grains.

When fiber-rich foods are ingested, the fiber delays absorption of both fat and carbohydrates, resulting in a more stable glucose response, which in turns reduces the need for high levels of insulin to normalize blood sugar. Since high blood sugar and excessive insulin production may both contribute to type 2 diabetes risk, it makes sense that whole grains appear to confer benefits. The Whole Grains Council places total risk reduction between 21 and 30 percent for people who consume whole grains.

Cancer Risk Reduction

Phenols, lignans and saponins are phytonutrients found in whole grains, and they’re superheroes in the fight against cell damage. Cells throughout the body are bombarded every day by artificial compounds in food and body care products, chemicals in the environment and the daily effects of metabolism. When left unchecked, the effects of these encounters have the potential to initiate cancer as cells mutate and multiply. Phytonutrients have antioxidant properties to prevent the damage from getting out of hand. The compounds found in whole grains are particularly effective against colorectal cancer. Eating three servings per day has the potential to lower the risk of the developing the disease by 20 percent.

Lignans also act as phytoestrogens, notes Dr. Greger in How Not to Die. These “plant estrogens” create a buffer to control high levels of estrogen associated with hormone-driven cancers, especially those of the breast and prostate. By docking on hormone receptors, phytoestrogens block the more aggressive estrogens believed to play a role in the development of these cancers. To get the benefits of lignans, however, you need a healthy gut. Whole grains contain only the precursors to lignans; a strong community of friendly gut bacteria is necessary to transform them into the final product.

Improved Digestion

whole grain brown rice in a jarEven before people knew what fiber was or how it worked, its role in digestive health was clear. A visit to the General Store & Apothecary Shop at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT, reveals a surprisingly large collection of products created to counteract the effects of inadequate fiber intake in a population that ate a great deal of cured meat and other high-fat, low-fiber fare. The same problems are evident in the large amount of shelf space modern pharmacies devote to digestive aids.

Unfortunately, Americans and other cultures eating predominantly Western-style diets continue to consume levels of fiber far below the recommended amounts, with average intakes hovering around 15 to 17 grams. Adequate Intake (AI) levels are set at 38 grams for men ages 19 to 50 and 25 grams for women in the same age bracket. Older men should consume at least 30 grams and older women at least 20 grams.

Those eating vegan diets that include whole grains average between 35 and 50 grams of fiber per day, and whole-food plant-based diets may provide up to 60 grams of fiber per day. Grains often figure predominantly in these eating plans. Fiber consumed at these levels provides enough food for the diverse community of bacteria that thrives in the human gut. As these bacteria break down strands of fiber, they release short-chain fatty acids that strengthen colon walls. Complex sugars called oligosaccharides act as prebiotics to provide more nourishment for these bacteria.

A strong colon is a healthy colon, and people who eat more fiber may be at a reduced risk for diverticulitis, irritable bowel disease, hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer. In fact, one study showed that consuming ten extra grams of fiber per day reduced the risk of this type of cancer by 10 percent.

Nutrient Content

Refining grains strips away the outer bran and germ, removing up to 80 percent of the healthful compounds that give the whole forms their benefits. When eaten in their unrefined states, grains provide a range of nutrients, including:

  • B vitamins: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Each of these nutrients supports one or more essential bodily processes. Some, like selenium and zinc, act as antioxidants. Zinc is essential for over 100 enzymatic processes, and selenium is a critical component in thyroid hormone conversion. Many B vitamins support energy production and a healthy metabolism. Folate is essential for cell division, which is why pregnant women are encouraged to consume more of this nutrient. Magnesium balances out calcium to promote bone health. Other benefits for immunity and cell activity can also come from these vitamins and minerals.

Learn More About Whole Grain Benefits

The Vegan Health Guide: Whole Grains — Discover the health benefits of specific grains, why you should choose whole instead of refined and how to find the best grains when shopping!

Health Studies from the Whole Grains Council — Search by grain or health condition to find studies detailing the perks of including whole grains in your diet.

More Than Just Fiber? — This abstract discusses the “whole grain package,” suggesting the benefits of these foods may come from far more than the nutrients usually studied in isolation.

Lignans: The Linus Pauling Institute — An objective scientific look at the potential health effects of lignan consumption.


I’d love to hear about why you love whole grains. Share your favorite grains and recipes in the comments!

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

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Coconut Spinach Rice with Kidney Beans — A Recipe to Feed Your Gut Flora

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Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Ladies and gentlemen, I love spinach.

Really love spinach.

To the point where I’ll happily buy the 2.5-pound “spinach pillow” sold at the local co-op and blow my way through it in a few days. It goes in everything — breakfast scrambles, oatmeal, salads and, like this recipe, beans and rice.

Of course, there are plenty of other leafy greens to love, which I also enjoy in abundance — kale, chard, bok choy, mustard greens, arugula, dandelion greens, collards…the list goes on. But one thing these other greens lack is the special ability of spinach to almost literally melt into a dish when cooked, an ability I’ve found is crucial to the taste and texture of certain Indian dishes.

coconut-spinach-kidney-bean-rice-curry-recipeI first discovered this when making the chana saag from the Forks Over Knives cookbook. It calls for two pounds, yes pounds, of spinach, which may sound like a lot until you consider just how much spinach cooks down. In this particular recipe, it simmers lightly in some nondairy milk along with the usual spices you find in vegan curry, some tomatoes and a good helping of chickpeas. The end result is something that can only be described as velvety. Other greens just don’t seem to do the same thing.

Hence why spinach was the green of choice for this recipe, although I’ll admit it was also somewhat inspired by the Coco Spinach Rice in The 30-Minute Vegan. Combined with brown rice and kidney beans, spiced with fresh ginger and hot curry powder and cooked in coconut milk until it’s just the right texture, spinach brings an infusion of green and a whole lot of nutrition to this bean and rice dish — including, it turns out, fuel for a healthier gut!

World’s Healthiest Foods gives a detailed breakdown of spinach nutrition, including:

  • 987% daily value of vitamin K in one cup of cooked leaves
  • High in the carotene precursors of vitamin A
  • Good source of folate (as is most foliage!)
  • Good source of minerals such as manganese, magnesium and iron

Research also suggests compounds called glycoglycerolipids, abundant in spinach, may protect against free radical damage in the lining of the gut. Why is this important? Damage can lead to inflammation, and an inflamed gut is an unhappy gut. Eating spinach may help keep inflammation at bay and promote healthy digestion, reducing the risk of diseases associated with a damaged gut lining.

Then, of course, you have the added bonus of beans, which, among other things, provide fiber to feed gut bacteria. I chose kidney beans here for two reasons: one, I’m a sucker for well-balanced colors and the dish needed something red, and two, they have a deeper and more earthy flavor than other bean varieties. This complements the light sweetness of the coconut milk and the heat from the curry spices.

(Just as a side note, you can go as mild or as hot as you like with the curry powder. I like the hot kind from Penzey’s, which delivers a lot of heat. If you’re using a milder mix, you might have to add a little more to get the same depth of flavor.)

Coconut Spinach Rice with Kidney Beans
 
Prep time
Cook time
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This easy dish combines flavorful spices, creamy coconut milk and silky spinach with hearty kidney beans to form a complete plant-based meal. Fiber and other plant starches feed your microbiome, supporting gut health while you enjoy a delicious meal.
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp hot curry powder (I use Penzey's)
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 3 cups cooked or 2 (15.5oz) cans low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed if canned
  • 12 to 16 ounces spinach, chopped
  • 1½ cups dry long grain brown rice (basmati is particularly nice)
Instructions
  1. Place the onions in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add a splash of water to the pan if the onions start to stick.
  2. Add the garlic and the white parts of the scallions (save the green parts for garnish). Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add the rice, coconut milk and curry powder along with 2 cups of water. Cover, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 40 to 45 minutes.
  4. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, stir in the spinach and beans.
  5. When the rice is done, taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve immediately, garnished with the green parts of the scallions.
What’s your favorite leafy green? Can you even decide? Tell me about your favorite dish in the comments!

Looking for more help with gut health? Book a starter package with GreenGut Wellness today and get 10% off with the code GGJS2016 from now until 11/15!

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Staying Healthy on the Outside — Plant-Based Body Care to Feed Your Skin

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With a name like GreenGut Wellness on my logo and an Audible library made up largely of books about food and the microbiome, it’s obvious I’m a little obsessed with gut health. But true health is about a lot more than what you put inside your body — what goes on the outside matters just as much!

Think about it: how often do you later, exfoliate, shampoo, condition, shave and moisturize? How many body care products are you using every day? And what the heck is in them, getting absorbed through your skin and winding up in your bloodstream?

An integral part of going plant-based should be to replace the harmful chemicals in your shower and bathroom cabinets with natural alternatives. Here are five of my personal favorites to get you started.

RAD Soap Co.

In the past, I’ve sung the praises of the truly RAD products made by my friends at the RAD Soap Co. This family owned and operated natural body care company has been growing steadily since I first discovered their table at the Schenectady Greenmarket several years ago. In fact, as I write this, they’re prepping to open their very first retail store in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, NY — stay tuned for more on that! (I’ll be plastering the opening all over Instagram, I’m sure.)

RAD stands out with their unique approach to personal care products. Starting with a base of all-natural ingredients derived almost exclusively from plants (a few products do contain beeswax), they add ingredients like beer, coffee, tea and medicinal mushrooms to create soaps, creams, sugar scrubs and lotions unlike anything you’ll find from other companies. They’re big fans of oils like hemp, coconut and olive, and they produce several products specifically targeted to manage common skin conditions.

Over the years, RAD has added pet care products, hand sanitizer, bug repellent and roll-on perfume to their line, using the same all-natural ingredients I fell in love with when I bought my first bar of their soap.

I can’t possibly pick just one product as a favorite from this company, but I’m currently loving the entire line infused with Death Wish Coffee (which yes, is as strong as it sounds). The soap, cream and scrub incorporate caffeine and actual coffee grounds to give your entire body a wake-up call. Turns out caffeinated body care products can also:

  • Tighten skin
  • Fight inflammation
  • Combat free radical damage
  • Reduce the appearance of under-eye circles

I’m fond of using the Shuga Bubs scrub when I’m feeling “blah” and need a quick pick-me-up. It does everything — cleanses, moisturizes and exfoliates — so you get your entire skin care regimen taken care of at once. (Incidentally, if you wash your hair with peppermint Hempstile afterward, your bathroom will smell like a peppermint mocha latte. Just sayin’.)

You can keep up with RAD as they expand the reach of their fantastic vegan-friendly products around the world (literally) by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

organic soap round by mzeynepd freeimages

The Fanciful Fox

I first met Kathie of The Fanciful Fox at a vegfest — I think it was my first year at Vegetarian Summerfest, but it may have been a smaller local festival like Valley VegFest. The reason I can’t remember is that her products pop up at just about every vegan event. Unlike some ubiquitous vendors who you can’t believe keep getting a table, The Fanciful Fox is a spot you’ll want to stop every time you get a chance.

What will you find? A completely vegan line of soaps, hair care, body lotion, lip balm, deodorant and men’s personal care products. My first purchase from the company was, of course, a bar of soap, and it was no small feat to choose which one. With names like Through The Woods and Vegan Bakery, how do you make up your mind?

I have the same problem when picking out a lip balm. Her scents are so spot on that it’s more a matter of deciding what “taste” I want to experience than being concerned over whether or not it will help my dry lips. Since the blend of natural oils and shea butter more than takes care of the latter, the former can become a bit like a trip to a candy shop or soda fountain. I’ve tried the chocolate peanut butter, the peanut butter and the chai tea, and so far it’s impossible to pick a favorite. (Although the chai spice does complement the fall weather nicely.)

Recently, I tried Kathie’s cocoa butter body lotion in the Beatnik Poet scent. Like some of my favorites from RAD, this lotion has a sort of “hippie” vibe thanks to the inclusion of patchouli. I’ll admit that, since discovering RAD, I’ve been reluctant to buy lotion from anyone else, but since I’m already a fan of the “intense” healing balm from The Fanciful Fox (which, for some reason, I can’t find on the website), I wanted to give it a try. It’s smooth, rejuvenating and has a fantastic smell that lingers for just long enough. It’s not quite as thick as some of the lotions I’m used to, but a little still goes a long way.

All ingredients in products from The Fanciful Fox are 100% vegan and “tested on dirty vegans, not animals.” (Best tagline EVER!) Many of the ingredients are fair trade and organic, and every flavor and scent is natural. Check her out on Facebook!

J. R. Liggetts Solid Shampoo Bars

I’ve been a fan of solid shampoo pretty much since I first started dabbling in natural body care and discovered some rather unusual (and kind of over-the-top) shampoo bars. I can’t remember where I first stumbled across J. R. Liggetts, but it’s a far cry from the crazy colors and wacky scents of my first solid shampoo encounters.

The company makes a whole line of bars, but my favorite is the tea tea and hemp. No artificial colors or scents are used — it’s just a blend of natural oils and essential oils with a mild smell and smooth feel. It lathers up richly and leaves your hair squeaky clean — almost literally! I’ve found I need to use conditioner or some other product for added softness to get manageable hair with this one, but that’s okay because there are plenty of natural and vegan options for that, too! My personal favorite quick finisher is a dab of coconut oil rubbed into a combed through damp hair.

The biggest benefit I’ve found from using natural solid shampoos is they bring out my hair’s real color. I didn’t know what my hair actually looked like until I stopped dumping a bunch of chemicals on it. After a while, I noticed it was lighter, shinier and more vibrant — and other people, including my brother and some male friends who don’t usually pay attention to that sort of thing, remarked on the change.

Solid shampoo is great for traveling, too. No worries about your shampoo exploding in your bag and leaking everywhere, and no TSA restrictions if you’re like me and don’t like spending a gazillion dollars on checked baggage.

Flagship Pomade Co. “Insubmersible” Pomade

I had long hair for the first 30 years of my life (except, of course, for those early years when it was first growing in), and last winter I decided I wanted something different and had most of it cut off. This opened up a whole new world of hair care products, including pomade. After some searching, I decided this particular product was the best idea for controlling the inevitable fluffiness and frizz my hair experiences and to ensure my new haircut kept its shape.

(As a side note, I don’t recommend going from long hair to an asymmetrical bob in quick succession when it’s cold out. Your neck will not thank you!)

To find a natural and vegan option, I hit up Etsy and discovered the Flagship Pomade Co. Not all their products are vegan (the oil-based pomades contain lanolin), but The Insubmersible is. Made with a combination of natural wax, oils, borax and essential oils, it’s a thick pomade that works in quickly and leaves hair with a matte finish. The scent is an amazing blend of bay, clove, citrus and vetiver. To me, the predominant scents are orange and spices. It might be too bold for some tastes, but I enjoy it quite a bit.

There’s not much that can tame my hair when the humidity sets in, so the Flagship Pomade Co. gets extra points in my book for creating a product that’s not only vegan but also able to keep my hair smooth in all kinds of weather. I find I can easily pat down or comb out any “imperfections” without a lot of effort when I use this pomade. It’s also great for adding body and texture to layered haircuts.

How to Find Vegan Body Caretake a shower by vierdrie freeimages

With the cosmetics industry responding to consumer demands for more natural products, it’s getting easier to find vegan-friendly products made without a host of potentially harmful chemicals. Look for products sporting official vegan certification, the vegetarian mark or the Leaping Bunny logo to identify vegan and cruelty-free options. Vegan Cuts also offers a monthly beauty box subscription, allowing you to try different products every month and find new favorites.

Just like your gut, you skin has a diverse microbiome that can be disrupted by outside assaults, including common chemicals in body care products. Consider what you put on your body as mindfully as what you put in your mouth — you are, after all, “feeding” your skin every time you apply a product. A good way to determine if a product is safe is to ask yourself if you’d be okay if you ingested it. If it can’t go in you without causing harm, it has no business being on your skin, either.

Of course, in addition to the health benefits of moving away from chemicals in body care, you’ll also enjoy better skin and healthier hair!

What are some of your favorite all-natural, organic and vegan body care products? Share in the comments!

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Quantum Vegan is now GreenGut Wellness!

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Eating vegan, focusing on gut health and providing the best in plant-based wellness consulting

My friends, it’s been a long road, but I’m finally here. And you’re here with me!

As you may have noticed, things look a little different around here. Okay, quite a lot different. That’s why I’m so excited to be writing this post. Ladies and gentlemen, fellow fans of eating vegan food and everyone who’s looking to improve their health…

Quantum Vegan is now officially GreenGut Wellness!

Why the Change?

After two years of bringing the benefits of plant-based diets to clients, blog readers, social media followers and the veg-curious in New York’s Capital District area, I felt it was time for a change. Quantum Vegan was great as a blog and fun as a business, but it didn’t quite match up with where I felt my interests were tracking.

greengut-wellness-woocommerceWhy GreenGut Wellness?

I’ll admit to being fascinated by the microbiome as a whole, and gut flora in particular. I’ll spend hours reading studies, listening to books and watching videos about it. I’ve been known to stay up too late getting hung up on a particularly interesting bit of information.

Part of this stems from my own struggles with gut health. As I studied nutrition consulting through the Bauman College program, I paid particular attention to the units on digestion, hoping to pick up information that would help me heal from years of imbalance. And I did. By God’s grace, between eating vegan and employing natural remedies, I was able to eliminate some of the more serious symptoms I was experiencing.

Healing your gut is so important because of just how much immune function goes on down there – about 70 percent of immune activity! When you get the gut balanced out, it’s amazing how many other problems start to resolve themselves.

What to Expect

My aim with GreenGut Wellness is to use the power of plant-based diets to help you reach your personal health goals. It’s the same basic approach I had with Quantum Vegan, but with some new features:

  • Focus on digestive health
  • Personalized service packages
  • Packages to book at your convenience
  • Seminars tailored for businesses and organizations

I’m also planning more frequent social media updates with articles, images and videos to bring you the latest and best in the plant-based community. And keep an eye right here on the blog for updates, announcements, recipes and gut health tips.

Stay Connected with GreenGut Wellness!

I’m excited to share this new journey with you! Follow GreenGut Wellness on social media to make sure you don’t miss a minute of it:

  • Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/greengutwellness
  • LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/greengut-wellness
  • Google+: https://plus.google.com/b/102257355377350131210/
  • Twitter: @green_gut
  • Instagram: @green_gut
  • Pinterest: @green_gut

Ready to get started on the road to better health? Book a customized package today, and see how establishing a healthy gut can transform how your entire body feels.

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Red Robin Song Guest House: A Stunning Vegan Retreat in Upstate New York

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August is prime time for “last hurrah” summer vacations. It’s not always easy to pursue the plant-based lifestyle while you’re on the road, but I’m excited to share with you a fantastic little vegan bed and breakfast I discovered not long ago, practically in my backyard.

Located on 85 private acres in New Lebanon, NY, Red Robin Song Guest House is a 100 percent vegan bed and breakfast with the unique distinction of having an onsite animal sanctuary. This cozy retreat is just a short drive from Albany on one side and Pittsfield on the other and is surrounded by popular local attractions such as Jiminy Peak, the Lebanon Valley Speedway and Tanglewood.

I met the owners, Lisa and Jeff at Albany VegFest back in June and had the chance to visit Red Robin Song for myself a couple weeks ago. Setting out in the evening after a very stressful and frustrating day, I was immediately struck by how relaxing the drive was. The road led from a fairly populous area to a quiet, secluded spot in a very short time, and when I pulled in the driveway, I was already feeling better.

Lisa greeted me and gave me a tour of the house and the grounds. Red Robin Song has three comfortable rooms, including the Lily Pad suite with a private bath and Jacuzzi, all with views of the grounds.  Guests at this bed and breakfast in New York have access to WiFi, a communal dining area and a beautiful great room/sitting room.

That was easily my favorite spot in the whole place. It’s comfortably arranged with chairs, couches and a collection of plants bathed in sunlight from big windows. There’s a projector for watching movies or streaming your Netflix account while you’re staying. If you prefer quiet leisure time, the bookshelves are stocked with reading material and games.

Outside, there are plenty of animals to visit with. Currently the sanctuary houses:

  • 4 dogs
  • 6 goats
  • 7 cats
  • A mini donkey and a mini horse
  • A rooster & a hen
  • 4 baby beavers that will be released into the wild next year

Guests can sit in an enclosure with the cats for one-on-one time or walk the many trails on the grounds to see the beaver ponds and other natural attractions. All profits from the bed and breakfast go toward caring for the animals.

Of course, I can’t talk about a vegan bed and breakfast without mentioning the well-stocked kitchen where fresh plant-based meals are prepared for guests every morning. A variety of fresh vegan snacks is available throughout the day. For dinner, check out one of the veg-friendly restaurants in the area before heading back to unwind in the sitting room or hang out with the animals for the evening.

Red Robin Song Guest House is vegan bed and breakfast you don’t want to miss. I was so taken by the relaxing atmosphere and inviting accommodations that I called my mom on the drive home and suggested she and my dad head there for their annual fall getaway. I can’t wait to spend a night there myself.

I think so highly of Red Robin Song that I want to spread the word about their unique location to as many vegans, vegetarians, and veg-curious travelers as possible. That’s why Quantum Vegan and Red Robin Song are coming together to offer a special deal to guests booking multiple nights: the chance to experience all the bed and breakfast has to offer and enjoy wellness consulting services during your stay.

Ask about this package deal when reserving two or more nights for pricing info and more details. We’re offering:

  • All the amenities of Red Robin Song Guest House
  • One hour of personalized consulting
  • A one-on-one plant-based cooking class

It’s still in the early stages, but our goal is to expand this deal into a full wellness retreat. What would you want to see in a vegan health retreat? Share your input in the comments — Lisa, Jeff and I are eager for your opinion!

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View more photos on the Red Robin Song website!

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The Importance of Using Pure Water for Cooking and Cleaning Food

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As a vegan, you’re already committed to living a healthy lifestyle. You’ve found animal-free recipes that are delicious and easy to prepare, and you’ve already noticed the health benefits that being dairy-free, egg-free and meat-free can offer.

To bring your healthy cooking and eating up a notch, it’s also important to pay attention to the water you use for cooking. While you might already drink bottled or filtered water, filling your pots and pans with high-quality water is just as important.

The potential dangers of tap water

Although the Environmental Protection Agency has set minimum testing schedules for certain pollutants to ensure that our drinking water is safe, it can still become contaminated. For example, it might contain chemicals from industrial waste or minerals like lead or mercury. Some cities fluoridate the tap water or add chlorine, which you may wish to avoid. In many cases, people simply do not like the smell or taste of their local water.

clean and cook with pure waterHow tap water influences the taste of food

When you use tap water to boil pasta or cook veggies, the unpleasant taste is absorbed into the food and can negatively impact the flavor and color of the food. For example, if your city’s tap water contains chlorine, it will bleach veggies as they cook, leaving them looking drab and dull instead of vibrant. Unwanted minerals that make water “hard” can also have an impact on the way yeast performs in dough. If you bake a lot of your own bread and rolls and use tap water in your recipes, you might be frustrated that the baked goods don’t rise properly.

The solution: a high-quality water purifier

To make sure the water that flows from your tap is as clean, healthy and as great-smelling as possible, purchase a high-quality water purifier. This way, you can still take advantage of the convenience of filling your pots from the kitchen faucet without the worry of using water that makes your food look and taste funny. One unique option is the eSpring water treatment system by Amway that combines ultraviolet and carbon filter technology to reduce more than 140 contaminants in water while still allowing beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium to flow through.

(QV note: I started using a DuPont water filter recently due to concerns about environmental contaminants and have noticed a marked change in the way the water tastes. I do all my cooking with it and make sure only to drink from the tap with the filter installed.)

A few words about washing fruits and veggies

Most of us already know the importance of washing our produce before eating it; in addition to removing soil from the food, it also helps to wash away contaminants and pathogens that can make us ill. To ensure that your fruits and veggies are as clean as possible, you want to do a bit more than rinse them under filtered tap water.

  • First, clean your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, and wash your fruits and veggies under the filtered water.
  • If the food has a lot of nooks and crannies, like broccoli or asparagus, soak it in filtered water for two minutes and then rinse.
  • Pat the produce dry using a clean paper towel, not the dish towel you used to dry your hands; this will remove even more bacteria from the food.

Please note, even if you are eating only organic fruits and veggies, it’s still important to follow these steps. (QV note: There may not be any pesticides, but produce can get fairly dirty during shipping, packing and stocking!)

Don’t waste all the hard work involved in preparing healthy vegan meals by using unfiltered tap water. Make sure your food looks and tastes amazing by rinsing, washing and cooking your food with high-quality filtered water. Your family will thank you for it.

Thanks to Alison Stanton for this post! Alison has been a freelance writer for the past 15 years. She enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, and always looks for opportunities to learn about new subjects.

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

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