Detox Cleanse – Day Three – Fini! Next Challenge???

happy girlHurray! I just downed the last of my smoothie meals for the 3-Day Detox Cleanse.   When I wake in the morning, I’ll determine whether or not this challenge was beneficial; examining the pros and cons.

With all the extra fruits and vegetables I have on hand since my hubby declined to continue the program with me past the 1st breakfast, I’ll have to think of good recipes to use them up or freeze them.  It REALLY bothers me to waste food, so it’s time to be creative!

This cleanse was part of spring cleaning my health.   I’m still tackling chores in the household, outside and within. 

Winter wreaks havoc on the skin, especially for those who live in cold climates. To get my skin in shape for the warmer weather, I’ve been exfoliating and using body cream to keep it smooth and hydrated.  Lotions are fine to use for everyday hydration at other times of the year, but in the winter especially, body creams and butters work best at keeping the skin moist and smooth. 

It’s best to use body creams when the skin is still moist, after stepping out of the bath or shower and lightly towel drying.   Moist skin helps absorb the creams and lotions better.  Some of my favorites are:

For the Face:     Neutrogena

Neutrogena facial moisturizer

For the Body:   Mango Body Butter and Shea Cashmere Lotion

Mango body buttershea cashmere

foot cream

For the Feet:   Shea It Isn’t So

On that note, I think I’m off to a nice warm bath and then some more pampering!

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

3-Day Detox Cleanse – Day One is Done!

Okay, I’m a meat and potatoes kind of gal, always have been.  In the past few years, however, I’ve become more health conscious, cutting back on red meat, eating more lean fish, poultry and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my daily diet.  As part of my nutritional research, I’ve collaborated with a registered dietitian to see which plan works best for my age and current health condition.detox cleanse

As I mentioned in a previous post, I decided to include a Detox Cleanse as part of my Spring Cleaning plan.  Detox cleanses come in all shapes and sizes; celebrities swear by them.  Most of those, however, do more harm than good.  They’re aimed at reducing weight rapidly, with the majority of it being water weight.  Along with the weight, your body also loses essential  nutrients.  In the short term, a daily fast or cleanse may not be harmful but without the vitamins and minerals your body needs to survive, these types of cleanses are not sustainable.

My research once again brought me back to the 3-Day Detox Cleanse.  This plan was developed by a family physician specializing in Functional Medicine, Dr. Mark Hyman.  It was introduced by renowned cardiac physician, Dr. Mehmet Oz.  The purpose is not primarily to lose weight, but eliminate toxins from your body, giving you more energy and clarity. 

There are side effects that go along with this detox cleanse but I haven’t experienced any as yet.  Each meal is the same, followed for 3 days.  Here’s the plan:

Detox Cleanse Breakfast SmoothieBreakfast

Morning Detox Tea:  Green Tea with 1 slice lemon and 1 tsp. Stevia

Breakfast Drink:

1 cup water

1 tbsp. flax seed

1 cup raspberries

1 banana

1/4 cup spinach

1 tbsp. almond butter

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice     Mix all ingredients in a blender or juicer

1/2 Multivitamin and Probiotic Supplement

Detox Cleanse Lunch SmoothieLunch Drink:

4 celery stalks

1 cucumber

1 cup kale leaves

½ green apple

½ lime, squeezed

1 tbsp. coconut oil

½ cup almond milk, unsweetened

1 cup pineapple       Mix all ingredients in a blender or juicer

 1/2 Multivitamin and Omega-3 Supplement

 Snack:  Repeat favorite drink

 Detox Cleanse Dinner SmoothieDinner Drink:

1/2 cup mango

1 cup blueberries

1-1/2 cup coconut water

1 cup kale leaves

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/4 avocado

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tbsp. flax seeds       Mix all ingredients in a blender or juicer

 Detox Ultra Bath:  (at night)

Add 2-1/2 cups Epsom Salt and 10 drops Lavender Oil to a warm bath and S-O-A-K for 20 minutes.  (Sorry, photos off limits…nothing to see here folks!)

I’m not a huge fan of lavender so I opted for the Epsom salts and some bath oil I already had on hand.  It was heavenly, but having to clean the bathtub afterward spoiled the mood!

I’m familiar with what my personal nutritional needs are but recommend anyone attempting this or any other diet, consult with your physician first.  Some side effects can be fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, irritability or headache.  Don’t forget, some of these side effects are as a result of toxins leaving your system.  If you’re used to having caffeine, you may experience a headache due to withdrawal.  I normally have 2-3 cups of coffee in the mornings yet didn’t get a headache.  I wasn’t hungry either; couldn’t even have my SNACK smoothie, yet some people experience hunger.  It could just be that you’re not used to having liquid meals and prefer solids.Detox Cleanse Breakfast Smoothie blended

 I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Breakfast Drink; it wasn’t like the “Vitameatavegamin” Lucy Riccardo advertised but it’s not a fruity smoothie either.  Once my tastebuds got used to the flavor and texture, I enjoyed it.Detox Cleanse Lunch Smoothie blended

The Lunch Drink however was another story.  It was thick and not at all appealing to me.  This is where my husband called it quits.  He had about 4 mouthfuls but couldn’t finish the rest.   He was able to drink the Breakfast Smoothie but just could not get this one down.  Ha ha… I knew he wouldn’t last!  But now I’m lonely and have to finish the remainder of the plan by myself.

 Detox Cleanse Dinner Smoothie blendedThe Dinner Drink was okay, much better than the Lunch Drink but not as good as the Breakfast Drink.  Drinking several glasses of water throughout the day along with exercise helped curb my anxiety and appetite.  I’m going to bed feeling both full and sleepy.

 So Day 1 is finished.  Yea, I survived!  Only 2 more days to go.  I think I can, I think I can…

 When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.” ~ Author Unknown

In Anticipation…

SnowI wasn’t happy to wake this morning to find everything covered with snow AGAIN…and it was still coming down.  Looking on the bright side, at least it wasn’t more than 6 inches – manageable but still took over an hour to shovel… by myself.  What’s with the groundhog though, who said “oh yeah, Spring is right around the corner?” 

 Thankfully I was able to enjoy my morning coffee in peace before heading off through the snow to the hairdresser.  New stylists always frighten me.  I’m never certain how my hair will turn out.  But I had a coupon; the salon was rated well so I thought, “what the heck?”  The cut and color were perfect; the styling, not so much.  Another experience to keep in mind.  At least with a good cut, I can style it as I like.

Detox Diet FoodsThe best part of the day was heading off to the grocery store to gather all my ingredients for the 3-Day Detox Cleanse I’m beginning tomorrow…with DH as my partner.  This is the first time he’s actually agreeing to any type of diet or exercise regimen.  I’m impressed (on the surface.)  The bill was around $90, I had some ingredients at home already and it was for two people; total cost about $15 per person per day.  Pretty good I’d say.Receipt 

Tonight however, we slid to the dark side, knowing full well we’d be deprived of our wildest desires (solid foods, especially breads and chocolate) for 3 full days!  We ate with complete abandon…fried flounder, brown rice, spinach and mushrooms.  The dessert, chocolate fudge ice cream (albeit low sugar) , was the highlight!

 We’re going to enjoy the remainder of the evening, relaxing on the couch, switching between World Cup Baseball and movies on the big screen, accompanied by snuggly, warm furry creatures, as the fire crackles in the background.

 Tomorrow begins an experiment of will, determination and perseverance.  Let’s see who folds first!

How Toxic are You?

“…tough choices become easier when we think about them in terms of doing the right thing, and although it may hurt initially, it invariably makes things better in the long run.” ~ Robert Vaux

 body cleanse

It’s not often you’ll find me speechless but that’s what happened this evening.  As part of my “Spring Cleaning” campaign, I made a commitment to complete a 3-day Detox Cleanse; what a perfect way to “spring clean” my body I thought.  Although not a fan of “quick-fixes,” I’ve done research on this particular plan and it’s the healthiest I’ve found.  I’ve wanted to do this program since last summer.

 The reason I’m speechless is that I actually convinced my husband to join me in this quest.  For the life of me, I can’t understand how I talked him into acquiescing.  Of course, he was adamant about proceeding at first; after all, he is NOT a fan of fruits and vegetables, no less those blended together in a drink.  He can handle a banana smoothie on occasion but only if I add some peanut butter or chocolate syrup.  Not this time!smoothies

 

Four drinks a day plus some supplements and a nice Detox Bath at night for three days – almost like being at a Spa!  I’m not sure how much I’ll enjoy drinking fruit & veggie beverages daily, forgoing solid food for 3 days.  One thing I know for sure; I’ll have to be the best cheerleader in town if I hope to encourage my hubby to tough it out with me.  Hopefully the nice, warm, relaxing bath at the end of the day will help entice him…key word being “hopefully.”

Oh and then there’s the exercise.  I showed him the TurboJam workout video I attempt to do daily.  He gave me one of those “are you kidding me” kinds of looks and said “good luck with that one.”  I’ll have to find another way to get him to do some cardio with me….hmmm,  60 minutes?  Maybe I can get him to do at least 30!

detox bathThis ought to be interesting.  I’m heading to the grocery store tomorrow for all the necessary ingredients.  I’ll also be tweeting and posting our progress on Facebook.  I’m thinking, if I tell my DH “others” are following us for the 3 days, maybe he’ll feel too proud to back down.  Oooh, I can’t wait!

 

My goal is not really to lose weight, although I’m sure I’ll lose a little water weight one way or another.  I really just want to get rid of excess garbage and toxins in my system so I’ll feel more motivated about continuing to eat healthy and exercise regularly.  Here’s hoping the results will be well worth the effort. 

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right. Which one are you?”  ~ Henry Ford

Eager for Spring: Fresh Omelets and Salads

“Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

IMG_0355The past few days have been hectic but for no particular reason.  Ever have those kinds of days where you do LOTS of NOTHING and by the end of the day, you’re exhausted but feel you didn’t get anything worthwhile accomplished?  Made me long for the peace and serenity of Hawaii.

I can’t wait for Spring and am tired of making the same old meals every day.  Checking the fridge I found lots of fresh veggies just calling out to me. I usually don’t buy such a variety, since it’s only the two of us now and I’m the only one who really eats vegetables.  But I’m very happy I had them on hand.

These meals were healthy, tasty, satisfying and best of all, easy to make. 

 Egg White_Spinach_Mushroom Omelet

Egg White, Spinach and Mushroom Omelet

Ingredients:

·       3 egg whites

·       1 tbsp skim milk

·       ½ tsp Italian herbs (or your choice)

·       Freshly ground black pepper

·       1 cup chopped fresh spinach

·       ¼ cup sliced fresh mushrooms

·       1 tbsp reduced-fat cheese, shredded (I used Sargento Low Fat 4-Cheese Italian; can also substitute Parmesan if desired.)

Preparation:

1.    Whisk egg whites, milk and herbs together in a small bowl.

2.    Spray small skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium heat.

3.    Add mushrooms to pan and sauté 1-2 minutes.  Add spinach.

4.    As soon as spinach begins to wilt, pour egg white mixture over vegetables.

5.    When edges of mixture begin to set, lift sides and gently tilt skillet to allow remaining liquid to flow underneath.

6.    When egg white mixture is fully cooked, sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

7.    Fold omelet in half and serve immediately.

Avocado_Tuna Salad

 Avocado and Tuna Salad

Ingredients:

·       1 avocado

·       1 can ( 5oz.) tuna in water, drained

·       2 cups romaine lettuce

·       6 grape tomatoes, halved

·       1 cup sliced, peeled cucumber

·       2 hard-boiled egg whites, sliced

·       1 peeled carrot, grated or julienned

·       ½ lemon, squeezed, juice

·       2 tbsp. lite honey mustard dressing

Preparation:

1.    Slice avocado, remove pit and scoop contents into small bowl.  Add drained tuna and blend both together with fork.

2.    Add tomatoes, cucumber, hard-boiled egg whites and carrots over lettuce. 

3.    Mound avocado and tuna mixture on top.

4.    Sprinkle lemon juice and dressing over top as desired.

 Enough for 2 servings.

I hope you try one of these for your next meal.  They’re a nice change and make me eager for Spring!  Bon Appetit!

March Madness – To Purge or Not To Purge

“I have sporadic OCD cleaning moments around the house. But then I get lazy and I’m cured. It’s a very inconsistent personality trait.” ~ Chris Hemsworth

Spring Clean

Ahh, it’s finally March!  Spring is around the corner.  Time to purge all the clutter, toxins, burdens, excesses and negativity from your life!

When I used to think of the phrase “Spring Cleaning,” I considered it to mean cleaning my home…only.  You know, moving and vacuuming under heavy furniture, cleaning the ceiling fans, heat and air conditioner vents, wiping out the inside of the refrigerator, freezer and oven, washing windows, etc.  I missed A LOT back then.

Spring cleaning is not only about the items in your home that you don’t either need to or want to clean daily or weekly.  It’s a perfect time to clean out all the things in your LIFE that seem to be “unclean” (for lack of a more appropriate word).  I’ll be going into greater detail with additional blog posts as we get closer to March 20th – the First Day of Spring (in the USA).

I began thinking of several areas in my life that I’d like to begin with, the most obvious being my home.  Take the bathroom for example.  Having a touch of OCD, I tend to keep the bathroom organized without too much on the vanity with the exception of a box of tissues, soap, toothbrush & cup holder and a small decorative basket with daily used items (hairbrush, hand cream, nail file, lip balm, etc.)  Makeup1

I like to keep my make-up, toiletry, hair product drawers and under the sink fairly organized but it’s definitely time to check for expiration dates or unused products here.Makeup2

Toiletries

Products such as suntan lotions, OTC medications and first aid supplies should be checked for expiry dates and condition.  This is also a great time to clean/soak/sanitize your hair and makeup brushes and get a new toothbrush.  The same tip applies to cosmetics. 

Discard worn brushes or sponges, clumpy mascara, old lotions, creams, gels and lipsticks.  Replace as and if necessary.

Next area is my bedroom.  NightTable RWhile my clothes drawers and closets are fairly neat and tidy (thanks to sock, lingerie and jewelry organizers), the 3 drawers on each side of my bed contain items I either rarely use or don’t even know they’re there.  Now is the perfect time to sift through and purge these drawers.  Many of the items are nomads - migrating into the drawers from their original location.

Nighttable L

It was in these drawers some time ago I came across my childhood diary!  Wonder what other goodies lurk inside…

Ooh, I see an old Pacman TV game controller, a halloween wig, manilla envelope with Christmas receipts from 2010…

Onto the kitchen.  I’ll only begin with the pantry that houses my cooking and baking supplies.  Yikes – I’m sure some of these boxes, jars, cans and bottles were purchased way back when for some reason!  Maybe I was in the mood to bake something using Marzipan?  I know it wasn’t this past holiday season…hmmmm…Pantry

Well, at least my spices are pretty fresh and neatly stacked, most in alphabetical order (for convenience).  I’m sure there’s other products lurking in this closet and in the adjoining one (with regular food items) that need to be checked for expiration dates. 

I remember finding some canned goods a  couple of months ago that were bursting at the seams.  Not a good sign! 

Some flour or grain products are stored in the refrigerator for freshness but I’ve seen (on rare occasions) little black “things” in and around an old box of pancake mix or flour.  Time to take everything off the shelves, toss old, expired or otherwise spoiled food items and give the pantry a good scrubbing.  Bet my food will look and taste better afterward!

Over the next few days and weeks, I’ll be tackling other “Spring Cleaning” aspects, not only within my home but concerning LIFE in general.  Purging clutter is good for the mind, body and spirit and is extremely liberating.  Here I go kids … ’till next time…

“When you have cleared all of your clutter, you can be of greater service to those around you.” ~ Michael B. Kitson

Diamond and Silver Anniversaries Remembered

“Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.” ~ James C. Dobson

 Stella_Ray AnnivYesterday would have been my parents 75th Wedding Anniversary.  Years pass in the blink of an eye.  From what I understand, the ceremony was small and modest but charming just the same.  I decided to get married the day after their wedding date, 25 years ago.  The date had special meaning to me and each year I become more aware of the similarities between the two marriages.  Sadly, my mom had passed some years prior to my wedding; however I was grateful to have had my father escort me down the aisle.

 

Ray_Stella 1940sIt’s unfortunate I have no photos of their wedding day although I remember spotting what was rumored to be my mom’s wedding dress in an old cedar Hope Chest.  The dress appeared to be about a size 0 or 2 by today’s standards and was a stunning yet casual, pastel periwinkle blue, my mother’s favorite color.  Truth be known (and it will be now), I tried it on when I was in my late teens or early twenties and tore some of the seam stitching; I was obviously a little larger than a size 2!  I still wonder what ever became of that dress…  (Notice the difference in my dad’s hair in 25 yrs?  From a “bush” to “barely there!”  LOL)

With 5 brothers and sisters, it’s also baffling that no one can recall where the boxes of photo albums and black and white snapshots stored with the cedar chest disappeared to.  As a child, I used to flip through the photos, giggling at how funny the styles looked “back then.”  I’ll keep my fingers crossed and say a prayer that someday they’ll materialize before I’m too old to see them clearly!

M_C Wedding fullM_C Wedding ringM_C Wedding Dad 

My 25th Anniversary began with a mammogram and bone density screening.  That was so much fun!  Not.  Actually, I planned to have the tests done on this date so it would be easier for me to recall when I had them for future reference.  So far, the remainder of the day is up in the air.  Maybe the man I considered my “Prince Charming” a quarter century ago will have a surprise in store.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Some Food Fun on Valentine’s Day

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to all! 

 Many couples celebrate this day by going out to eat at a fancy restaurant, however this year we decided to spend some quiet time at home, just the two of us.  Our daughter is away at college.  I sent her a nice “care package” last week filled with lots of goodies for the holiday to let her know we miss her. 010

 

Since we were staying home, I thought I’d have a little fun with food today.  Instead of making the same old thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I thought I’d play around in the kitchen.  Okay, so the food wasn’t really gourmet fare, but it was fun to make, healthy to eat and totally satisfying (especially the dessert!)

 Happy banana strawberry smoothie

A strawberry-banana smoothie was perfect for breakfast.  Even the food was smiling (before I wielded my paring knife!)  Made with non-fat yogurt and a drizzle of Agave, this frothy breakfast was delicious, filling and less than 300 calories (based on an average serving.)

 

By the time lunch came along, we weren’t that hungry.  I had some cantaloupe chunks and walnut halves while I made my husband a nice little turkey sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread with a mug of hot skim chocolate milk.    

 

???????????????????????????????For dinner, I decided to make a Shrimp and Broccoli dish which was delicious, easy to prepare and wholesome.  I served the shrimp over a bed of brown rice and a small green salad with lemon squeeze on the side to round out the meal.  Before marinating the shrimp for about 15 minutes in a mixture of soy, garlic and ginger, I put together another heart-shaped happy face for the holiday!

 

???????????????????????????????Being Valentine’s Day, I decided to splurge on dessert and make some of my husband’s favorite cookies, Mint Chocolate Chip, as I spelled out a loving message.  A couple of these delightful chocolate sensations with a nice warm cup of tea really hit the spot.  We plan to spend the remainder of the evening relaxing by the fire. 

 I hope everyone gave and received lots of love today.  And if you have pets, I hope you gave them lots of extra love today too!  Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers, you know…

From CameraPhone 008

“We love the things we love for what they are.” ~ Robert Frost

Memories – So Far Away; So Very Clear

“Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.” ~ Jean de Boufflers

While contemplating writing a memoir, I recently began rummaging through boxes full of old memorabilia I almost forgot I had.  Ask anyone who really knows me; I despise paper and if it isn’t needed for tax purposes, personal documentation or other legal matter, more often than not it gets tossed.  So when I happened across clippings, letters and other such papers meticulously stored in several small cardboard boxes, I knew they must be something I deemed worthwhile keeping.

 Steve 19650002Sure enough, opening one of the boxes, I discovered a small collection of faded colored photographs that appear to have been taken in the mid 1960’s.  Instantly, I was transported back in time to my childhood living room.  There was that big old television – with its folding doors which protected me from Mighty Mouse as he burst onto the screen at the opening of each episode.  And there was my brother, mid-afternoon, still in his bathrobe, clowning with my uncle and neighborhood friends.  It’s amazing how many wonderful memories can emanate from one old photograph.

 SJD Ltr1 11_65It’s a shame some of the photos and letters I found in the box were so faded.  Luckily several letters were fairly legible and the photos still had some color to them.  I especially enjoyed reading the letters my middle brother Stephen wrote me while he was away at college.  Twelve years my senior, his writing conveyed levity, tenderness and love.SJD Ltr2 11_65

 

I must admit, reading the part where he asked me if I wanted to “play house” was a little creepy.  SJD Ltr3 11_65Back in those days however, little girls loved to “play house.”  There was nothing wrong with my brother wanting me to visit and help him straighten up his apartment; I was good at cooking, cleaning and ironing even at the tender age of 8.  Other notations regarding schoolwork, music, friends, pets, and especially about my father were heartwarming.  (Curious why he mentioned “witch” in both letters…I was always an “angel!”)

 The last few years have been challenging for my brother.  He faced a series of unexpected and unpleasant situations.  I pray my brother continues to heal and hope revisiting these letters brings a smile to his face.  We may live many miles apart, but he, along with my other brothers and sisters, are always close to my heart. 

 SJD Ltr1 10_66

Discovering these priceless memories help me realize how truly blessed I am.  These are feelings I didn’t recognize as a child.  Today, everything is quick – a text here, a tweet or status update there.  How many people actually take the time to sit down and write a letter?  Not many.  Life is so fast-paced that we often don’t realize how much we are missing.  A simple note or letter is able to bring so much joy to another person, joy that brief electronic communication fails to convey.

 I never did finish the letter to my brother; I wonder what I would have said next…but it would have ended with “Love, your sister Marybeth”  (that’s now my alias!)

SJD Ltr2 10_66Call me old-fashioned or traditional, I don’t mind.  Sometimes I feel I can’t live without all the new technology and make certain I’m current with it, as best I can be.  At other times, I’d rather do things the way I used to, MED 10_66 replylike making bread from scratch rather than using a bread machine (if I had one).  Several minutes of vigorous kneading works wonders for a person’s sanity.  The treasured little box I found brought me back to basics.  I can’t wait to see what other wonderful memories are yet to be revived.

Steve_Mom weddingSteve Hawaii2 2006

Gastronomic Coupling

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~ Virginia Woolf

February is American Heart Month as well as the time we celebrate lovers on Valentine’s Day. So what’s more appropriate than talking about food pairs for health! Physicians, nutritionists and dietitians alike tout the benefit of eating certain foods in combination for maximum health benefit. I’ve personally found combining specific foods satisfying as well as nutritious.

Below are some of the food combinations called “Dynamic Duos”* … for a good reason!

green tea_lemonGreen Tea + Lemon = A Healthier Heart

Green tea has been linked to a reduced risk of heart attacks, thanks to catechins, the brew’s powerful antioxidants. But studies show only about 20 percent of these healthful compounds are available for our bodies to absorb. The good news: Recently, when scientists added lemon juice to green tea, the availability of health-enhancing catechins skyrocketed to a whopping 80 percent.

Stay-Well Strategy: After brewing yourself a cup of green tea, squeeze in the juice of one whole lemon (you can also use an orange, lime or grapefruit, all runners-up in the study). Don’t want to DIY? Look for bottled green teas that list “ascorbic acid” (also known as vitamin C) among their ingredients. Scientists say the vitamin C in citrus fruits can also improve catechin absorption.

broccoli tomatoBroccoli + Tomatoes = Cancer Control

Broccoli and tomatoes are both cancer-fighting all-stars, but research reveals eating them together may offer even more protection. In a recent study, scientists found consuming tomato and broccoli at the same time was more effective at slowing the growth of cancerous prostate tumors than eating either vegetable alone.

Stay-Well Strategy: The amount of produce used in the study translates to about one and a half cups of broccoli and two and a half cups of fresh tomato (or one cup of tomato sauce). To tap into their potent powers, order a pizza generously topped with broccoli or sprinkle some florets over your next plate of spaghetti.

Red Bell Peppers + Black Beans = Improved Immunity

Eating more meatless meals lately to do your heart (and the planet) a favor? You’ll absorb more immune-boosting plant iron by adding in some red bell peppers. That’s because the iron in picks like beans exists in a form called non-heme iron that’s harder for your body to absorb than the iron found in red meat (heme iron). But, adding a dose of vitamin C-rich produce like red peppers converts the iron into a type that’s easier for the body to use, explains registered dietitian Heidi McIndoo, author of the book, When to Eat What.

Stay-Well Strategy: In one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women absorbed nearly three times more iron from their meal by adding just 63 milligrams of vitamin C. This amount translates into about a half cup of chopped red bell peppers. To tap into their healing powers, toss these health-enhancing peppers into your next pot of chili.

eggs mangoEggs + Mango = A Firmer Facade

Want to improve the overall look and strength of your skin? Try consuming this power couple. Eggs are naturally rich in two special amino acids (building blocks of protein) that are essential for the formation of skin-plumping collagen. “And foods rich in vitamin C, like mango, work with these acids to boost collagen production. This helps build back lost stores in the body, which can significantly improve the appearance of skin,” explains Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian in New York City.

Stay-Well Strategy: To give a boost to your next breakfast, pair an omelet with a cup of fresh mango chunks, which supply nearly an entire day’s supply of vitamin C.

Green Tea + Black Pepper = A Whittled Waistline

Forget drastic diets: At your next meal, sip a cup of green tea and shake some black pepper over your entree. “A study recently found that the combo boosts the absorption of EGCG, a key antioxidant in tea tied to calorie burning, by a whopping 130 percent,” explains registered dietitian Cynthia Sass, author of the new book Cinch!: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches. Bonus: According to research published in Nutrition Journal, people who drank green tea with their meal reported feeling more full and were less likely to want a second helping than those who drank plain water. Experts say the compounds in green tea can affect the hormones that regulate hunger and fullness.

Stay-Well Strategy: Studies say as little as a half-teaspoon of black pepper can increase the absorption of tea’s beneficial compounds, so brew a cup of tea to sip, then take out your mill and get grinding!

kale radicchioRadicchio + Kale = A Stronger Skeleton

Cup for cup, kale is the king of calcium (it contains three times more than spinach). However, food scientists say you’ll soak up even more of this bone-building mineral by combining kale with some radicchio. Why? The crimson veggie is a rich source of inulin, a carbohydrate that naturally enhances calcium absorption in the intestines, according to a recent study in the journal Nutrition Research.

Stay-Well Strategy: To shore up your skeleton, toss these tasty greens together in a salad.

avacado romaineAvocado + Green Salad = Complexion Protection

You’ll absorb more skin-protecting plant compounds called carotenoids from your veggie salad by adding a little avocado. “Carotenoids reduce free radical damage to effectively protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays,” explains Glassman. In a recent study at Ohio State University, people who ate avocado in their salad of lettuce, spinach, and carrots absorbed up to 15 times more carotenoids than those who didn’t eat their salads with avocado. Studies show carotenoids require some fat to be optimally absorbed by the body, which means avocados, which contain solid stores of healthful monounsaturated fats, healthfully fit the bill.

Stay-Well Strategy: To nab this nutrition perk, slice a half of an avocado into your next green salad.

Yogurt + Bran Cereal = Better Digestion

This breakfast is a natural immunity booster. Full of good bacteria, yogurt acts as a probiotic. It encourages healthy bacteria to flourish in your digestive tract, keeping sickness-causing bugs at bay. But probiotics work even better when paired with the prebiotics found in wheat bran. Why? Prebiotics act as nourishment for probiotics, helping them better thrive in the gut so they can do their immunity-boosting magic, says registered dietitian Dave Grotto, author of the book, 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.

Stay-Well Strategy: To get in on this good-gut action, first look for probiotic-rich yogurts that sport the label “live and active cultures.” Then, mix one cup of this yogurt with three quarters of a cup of wheat bran cereal.

Apricots + Almonds = A Tip-Top Ticker

This power pair helps prevents LDL “bad” cholesterol from oxidizing, a process that happens whenever LDL reacts with free radicals. “And oxidized LDL is harmful because it encourages dangerous plaque build-up in the arteries,” explains registered dietitian Elaine Magee, author of the book, Food Synergy. But, in a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers found that the phytochemicals in almonds reduced LDL oxidation when paired with the antioxidant vitamins E and C, both of which are found abundantly in apricots.

Stay-Well Strategy: For a satisfying, heart-healthy snack, combine a quarter-cup each of dried apricots and raw almonds.

yogurt blueberriesYogurt + Blueberries = A Stronger Body

Spoon up this tasty snack after a sweaty workout. The reason: Research reveals blueberries possess brain-boosting benefits to keep you better focused during your fitness routine, while yogurt’s hefty stores of protein help repair the little tears in your muscles that naturally occur during exercise. As if that’s not enough, the carbs in both the yogurt and fruit naturally replenish your muscles with glycogen, a stored form of energy (dipping too low in glycogen can quickly trigger fatigue). Yogurt’s protein also stimulates a hormone that transports those energizing carbs into your muscles to give your next workout more get-up and go.

Stay-Well Strategy: If you’re doing intense exercise and need to be at the top of your game, be especially speedy about eating this recovery snack. Why? Your body’s most efficient at stashing away glycogen in the first 15 minutes after your workout, says Magee

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil + Tomatoes = Disease Defense

Tomatoes boast all four major carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene) plus three potent antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C) that may help fight cancer and heart disease. “You’ll absorb more of these protective chemicals if you eat them with olive oil,” says Magee. “It’s high in healthy monounsaturated fats and slows digestion so you can soak up more of them.”

Stay-Well Strategy: Mix a little olive oil in your next marinara. You’ll get a bigger phytochemical punch with cooked tomatoes (leave the skin on, since it’s loaded with them). Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed form, so it contains the most beneficial compounds, says Magee. Just store it away from heat and light to prevent it from going rancid.

oatmeal strawberriesOatmeal + Strawberries = A Healthier Heart

Oats contain two important phytochemicals called avenanthramides and phenolic acids. These compounds have been shown in research to work synergistically with vitamin C to reduce the harmful effects of “bad” LDL cholesterol and help prevent the plaque build-up that can lead to heart attacks, says Magee.

Stay-Well Strategy: Enjoy a half cup of sliced strawberries with your morning bowl of oatmeal.

Cinnamon + Whole Grain Toast = Increased Energy and Speedier Slimming

Sprinkling on this spice may help keep your blood sugar at a healthier level, which prevents dips in your energy and spikes in your hunger level, says Sass. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cinnamon was found to slow the rate of stomach emptying after meals and reduce the rise in blood sugar after meals to negate more noshing later.

Stay-Well Strategy: For a healthier version of that childhood staple, cinnamon toast, use whole grain bread, trans-free margarine and a study-backed teaspoon of cinnamon. Note: Experts say you’ll nab more protective compounds if your cinnamon is fresh: Whole sticks last up to a year, ground cinnamon for six months.

garlic onionsGarlic + Onions = Head to Toe Protection

These aromatic veggies both contain a number of organosulfur compounds; heart-healthy plant chemicals that help keep arteries flexible and free of plaque, says Magee. Some of these compounds have even been studied for their power to detoxify carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) in the body. Eating both at the same time means you’re “covering your bases” and boosting your chances of getting more of these healthful compounds, she says.

Stay-Well Strategy: Cooked together, they make a delicious base for soups and sauces or simply sauté veggies like broccoli in a mix of olive oil, garlic, and onions.

Enjoy your “coupling” … you’ll love the results!

*Material reprinted from ivillage.com by Sally Kuzemchak, M.S., R.D.