10 Foods to Befriend

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Eating well can be difficult all on it’s own.

This isn’t helped by constantly changing fad diets, research studies, and misinformation that is rapidly spread all over the internet. Sometimes the foods touted to be best can only be found on the obscure top shelf of the independently owned health food store for 23 dollars per ounce. 

Food is meant to fuel us, heal us, and make us happy. So here are ten (hopefully) controversy-free foods that are intended to do just that and can be found at your local grocery store.

Deep Green Veggies

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Spinach, kale, broccoli, collards, arugula, and so on.

Throw them in smoothies with blueberries and almond butter. Sauté them with eggs. Put fancy cheese and olive oil on them.

Green leafy vegetables have high concentrations of potassium, calcium, vitamins A, C and B-6, tons of iron (most greens have more per ounce than beef), and a hefty dose of fiber.

Studies show they reduce risk of heart disease, improve healing, and give us pretty skin.

Garlic

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Keeping away vampires and endothelial dysfunction since 4000BC. 

Garlic is a powerful antimicrobial. It kills bacteria and fungus, and has been proven to do so as well as traditional antibiotics.

There are hundreds of studies linking it to decreased blood pressure, and it can even help prevent pre-term labor.

Garlic is just good for your cells. All of them.

Best news: garlic is also good for your tomato sauce, steak, salad dressing, and risotto.

Embrace the garlic breath, gang.

Avocado

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Avocados are delicious and creamy. They make sandwiches infinitely better, are the perfect pal of enchilada soup, and can be enjoyed on their own with a little salt and pepper.

They are rich in nutrients and healthy fats, are linked to better blood sugar regulation, they are a great savory substitute to meat and mayo.

Coconut

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Recently the subject of much hype, coconut is totally worthy of it.

Coconut was previously victimized because of it’s high fat content, particularly saturated fat, but new research is revealing how different fat from coconuts (and other plants) is from the traditional french fries, mac and cheese, and rib-eye that comes to mind when we think ‘fat’. It doesn’t have the same links to obesity and heart disease we hear so much about.

It contains lauric acid, a potent antimicrobial. It has anti-aging properties when it is applied topically.

It is the safest oil to cook with, as it can withstand the high heat of a frying pan that makes other oils become rancid.

Coconut water is tasty (although incredibly overpriced), coconut meat is hard to come by (unless you are lucky enough to live on a tropical island), so stick with coconut oil, which has the most research proven to be incredibly beneficial and can be bought inexpensively in bulk.

Sweet Potatoes

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Sweet potatoes are full of beta-carotene and powerful anti-oxidants. They have anti-inflammatory powers, promote proper digestion, and regulate blood sugar.

Mashed sweet potatoes are creamy and comforting like regular mashed potatoes, except really good for you.

Flax

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Perhaps one of the cheapest and most effective way to get tons of fiber and omega-3s is ground flax seed. Two spoonfuls in water before you go to bed insures your digestive system to keep moving.

Flax is full of anti-oxidants and can easily be added to muffins, smoothies, and pizza crust.

Proven to help lower cholesterol levels and lead to better breast cancer outcomes, flax is an extremely accessible superfood.

Buckwheat

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Of all the gluten-free grains, buckwheat is a gem.

It makes great flour, has a great texture, and is incredibly affordable.

Great for blood control-regulation, it is also packed full of vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids.

Berries

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Loaded with vitamins and fiber, berries are a beloved pal of yogurt, oatmeal, and spinach salads.

The more research done, the more comes out about how beneficial cherries, blueberries, raspberries are for you, fighting cancer and inflammation.

While it is always a good idea to buy organic to support ethical farming and healthy soil, it is especially important with berries, as a pesticide often used is a proven neurotoxin. Buying frozen berries is cost productive and ensures you are buying berries picked at the height of their season.

Probiotic Yogurt

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I am so lactose intolerant that looking at ice cream makes me bloated, yet I can eat yogurt till I’m blue in the face. Luckily for those without ample lactase digestive enzymes, the production process of yogurt removes a lot of the lactose.

In fact, yogurt that contains good bacteria can help your gut out, fighting bloat and discomfort.

NPR ran a really great story about yogurt that showed not only can probiotics decrease bloating and improve digestion, it has emotional benefits:

“Pretty dramatic effects can happen in animals when you change their gut flora,” says Tillisch. “If you take an animal with inflamed gut, and give them a probiotic, they don’t act anxious anymore.”

To find a yogurt that is worth your buck, make sure it either lists bacteria on the ingredient list (such as lactobacillus) or states it contains naturally occurring cultures.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid dairy that contains hormones and antibiotics, as they can negate the benefits.

Walnuts

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A handful of nuts in the middle of the day can satiate hunger and regulate blood sugar.

Bonus: consistent consumption of walnuts lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol.

 Happy eating!

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The Female Heart Attack

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One of my biggest frustrations with the American health care system is how we have failed to inform women how differently they can experience myocardial infarction (heart attack).

We have been taught heart attacks look the same for everyone: impending doom, severe pain, shortness of breath.

The startling truth is, women often have entirely different heart attack symptoms than men. 

The Office on Women’s Health has put together this easy-to-read, simple graphic:

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The hilarious Elizabeth Banks partnered with Go Red For Women to create this informational video:

You don’t need to be a health care professional to carry and share this life saving knowledge.

Eat well, move daily, and listen to your body. Take action when you sense something’s wrong. Share what you know with other women.

It’s that simple. 

#SorryNotSorry: What’s a Cervix?

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#SorryNotSorry is a series of posts about subjects that are uncomfortable to talk about (sometimes even for a women’s health-crazed nurse) but nevertheless important to confront.

This is the female reproductive system:

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I’m sure you’ve seen an image similar to this before, perhaps in sex-ed or as a curious google-er.

So while this image is likely familiar, in recent years, through conversations with women from vastly different age groups and backgrounds, I have found that the anatomy that correlates to this image is more or less undiscovered.

Empowered feminists in their mid-30’s, shy housewives, hyper-sexual eighteen year olds, married ladies, even grandmas frequently have one thing in common: They have gone their entire lives without touching a very tangible part of themselves, this lovely biological structure:

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The cervix.

There is a culture of shame about our bodies that is so pervasive that women from all cultures, races, and ages by and large feel embarrassed about what’s going on underneath their skirts.

The end of that starts with us rejecting the idea that our bodies are anything but incredible.

The cervix is amazing.

It opens a centimeter to let an egg out once a month when it goes unfertilized, it opens ten centimeters to allow for a baby to enter this world.

It releases awesome lubricating mucus when you’re feeling frisky, and let’s you know when you’re fertile.

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Pretty awesome right? High five to cervixes everywhere.

How To Grow Your Gratitude

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You go to a few yoga classes or read a spiritual book, and the word ‘gratitude’ will eventually show up. The idea to be thankful for the good things in our lives is tied to all major spiritual ideologies and religious schemas.

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Okay. Be thankful. It’s a simple enough task, but how do we integrate gratitude into our daily lives?

There are workout buddies for exercise junkies and book clubs for voracious readers, so I propose a new kind of accountability: gratitude partners for those looking to better engage in thankfulness.

Every day over the past six months, my friend Emmy and I text one another five things we are grateful for.

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Emmy and I being supremely grateful for one other.

The things can be momentous (I passed my boards, the cyst was benign, I made it home on the treacherous icy roads alive) or simple (big comfy wool sweaters, sweet potatoes, postcards from old friends).

Going off the mantra “you should meditate 30 minutes a day, unless you don’t have time to meditate, then you should meditate an hour”, the harder or more frustrating the day, the longer the gratitude list. The days the cat peed on the floor, the friend let you down, you are exhausted, overworked, sick: list twenty things you’re grateful for.

This simple practice has done more than make me happy for the things I have. It has moderated my entire perspective on life. When things work out, I am grateful, but not elated or so tied to the success of whatever that thing is. When things fail, don’t work out, or otherwise disappoint me, I feel far less attached to them, because I still ate that fantastic sweet potato, I still have love and health and really good coffee in my life.

This Melody Beattie quote lives on my to-do chalkboard, an it is one of my favorite reminders that gratitude permeates our whole lives, if we let it.

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So it is my humble suggestion that you find someone to help encourage appreciation every single day, and watch it change everything.