Thursday, January 9, 2014

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

With the temperatures dropping, I figured now would be a great time to test out some new soup recipes. After looking through a few different blogs with soup recipes I decided on a thick and creamy cauliflower soup. I used the recipes I found as a starting point, but decided to add my own flare from there and, well... the results were delicious! This soup is thick, creamy, and has a "cheesy" taste to it.

You will need:
1 large head of cauliflower (about 8 cups)
1 large white onion
1 bulb of fresh garlic
1/2 a large ripe avocado
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

Start by cutting up the cauliflower and placing it in a large boiler pan. Add enough water to completely cover the cauliflower, then bring to a low boil. While to cauliflower is cooking, peel and dice the onion and bulb of garlic and grill in a skillet until the onions are caramelized. Once the cauliflower is soft, drain the water and let it set for a few minutes in a strainer. Cut into your avocado and throw half into the blender. Add in nutritional yeast, two cups of hot water, grilled onions and garlic, and salt/pepper to you liking. Blend on a high speed until smooth and creamy. If you have a small blender you might have to divide the ingredients up and do it in two parts, which is what I did. I just blended half of all the ingredients twice, and then combined both mixtures in a my larger boiler pan. If you want to re-heat the soup make sure you set the burner to a very low temp. If the soups starts to boil it will bubble and splatter everywhere (trust me, I learned the hard way). Then just serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Super Foods for Weight Loss

"Super foods" are great for just about everything! They boost our immune systems, supply out bodies with a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, help reduce inflammation, give us more energy, and reduce the risk of all kinds of disease. Along with all of these wonderful health benefits, super foods also aid in healthy weight loss and management by helping the body to use energy as efficiently as possible. Including more super foods into your diet in general is a great idea for better health, but if you are specifically trying to lose weight, here is a list of some of the best super foods for weight loss.

1. Chia and Flax Seeds
Don't let these little seeds fool you. They may be small, but they are packed with fast blasting power! Both chia seeds and flax seeds are packed with heart healthy omaga 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. These fatty acids help work to control appetite and help you feel fuller and more satisfied longer. They are also packed with protein, and loaded with fiber, which also help to control hunger. These seeds can be consumed with basically anything, since they don't have much of a taste themselves. Try them sprinkled on salads, blended in smoothies, on top fresh fruit, in baked goods... the possibilities are endless! Just make sure you purchase milled flax seeds, or grind them up in a blender at home. Our bodies can't break them down and absorb their nutrients in whole form because of the outer coating on the shell.

2. Leafy Greens
It's probably no surprise that leafy greens made the list, considering they are some of the most nutrient dense foods per calorie. Greens like kale, spinach, and all kinds of lettuce are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water. They help to fill your stomach up without overloading your body with calories. For example, and entire head of romaine lettuce is only about 100 calories. Including a lot of raw, leafy greens in your diet will help you to feel more full and satisfied with less calories. Eating a large green salad topped with some healthy lean protein (like beans or soy), healthy fats (like chia and flax seeds), and a natural and healthy low calorie dressing (like a red wine vinegar or lemon juice) would be a great option.

3. Lentils
Lentils are a great source of protein, and are packed with fiber! There are different kind of lentils, such as green, red, and black. All vary slightly nutritionally, but are generally the same. Lentils are a member of the legume family and are very low in fat. Legumes are known for being heart healthy, and can be used in place of meat in most dishes. They are great to add into soups, stews, or any kind of main dish as a protein source. Just be careful, if your body isn't used to a lot of fiber you could be in for an interesting ride.

4. Avocados
Who doesn't love avocados? Like all of the other foods, they are loaded with fiber, and are a great source of potassium! Avocados are mostly fat, but they are packed full of natural healthy monounsaturated fats that keep your feeling full, curb appetite cravings and actually help your body to burn fat. Use avocado in place of unhealthy fats, such as atop a baked potato or spread on toast.

5. Green Tea
Green tea is a super food that is packed full of antioxidants that help to cleanse the body of toxins, protect the body's cells from free radicals, reduce the effects of aging, and reduce the risk of a wide variety of diseases. It's also a great weight loss aid, because it helps to speed up your metabolism and help your body burn fat. Green tea increases thermogenesis in the body when digested, which causes the body to release more heat and burn more calories. Green tea also contains a decent amount of caffeine, and can be consumed before a workout to help boost energy levels and help your body burn more fat during your workout. Adding some fresh lemon juice to your green tea is a great way to help cleanse and detoxify the body while also boosting your metabolism. Just be careful not to load your tea up with processed sugars!

6. Quinoa
Pronounced "keen-wah", this super foods is amazing at aiding in weight loss. Quinoa is technically a seed, but is used mostly as a grain in cooking. Quinoa is low in calories when compared to similar foods, and is packed full of dietary fiber. It also has a low glycemic index, meaning your body will burn it more slowly allowing you to feel fuller longer. You can use quinoa in place of rice or couscous in dishes, or use quinoa flour when baking in place of other flours. Quinoa has a natural earthy taste, but takes on whatever flavors you add to it.

7. Beans
Beans, like lentils, are a member of the legume family and are known for being heart healthy and low in fat. Beans are a great alternative to meat, and can be used to make similar dishes such as black bean burgers or mung bean meatloaf. Beans are packed full of many important nutrients, such as fiber, folate, iron, and magnesium. Black beans and garbanzo beans (or chick peas) are some of the most popular types of beans. Black beans work well in a wide variety of dishes; from soups and chill, to burritos and burgers... even desserts like black bean brownies! Garbanzo beans are great as a salad topping or ground into fresh hummus and served with vegetables.

8. Almonds
Like avocados, almonds are high in healthy monounsaturated fat. They are also a decent source of protein, and are known for their hunger suppressing effects. Snacking on a small handful of almonds (about 1/4 cup) mid-morning can help you from overeating later on in the day. Almonds are also a great source of calcium, magnesium, and iron, which are important in any diet. While almonds are certainly healthy, limit your serving size if you are aiming to lose weight. Almonds are very calorie dense, making them easy to overeat before you feel full.

9. Fresh Fruit
Many people tend to avoid fresh fruits when aiming to lose weight due to the high sugar content and the high glycemic index of fruit. However, adding fresh fruits to your diet is very important for weight loss. Firstly, fruits are packed full of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that your body needs. Secondly, they are a healthy alternative when you want something sweet. Humans naturally crave sugar, and while processed/refined sugars are unhealthy and promote weight gain, the natural sugars in fruit help to reduce sugar cravings in a natural and healthy way. Fruit is also relatively low in calories compared to volume, especially melons and berries. Lastly, fruits help to alkalize the body, meaning that they help to restore a natural PH balance. Having balanced hormones and PH levels in the body makes it easier to shed excess weight and rid your body of toxins.

10. Spirulina
Last, but certainly not least is spirulina. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is completely loaded with nutrients! It's has more protein per gram than any other food- even more than meat. It contains essential amino acids, omega 3, beta-carotene, and also helps to fight the aging process. It can be purchased in a powdered form which can be mixed into smoothies, or as a supplement to be taken daily. Spirulina works best when it is taken 30 minutes before a meal to help curb hunger and cravings. It can also be used to help with weight gain if taken after a meal, since it will supplement and improve your nutritional deficit by giving your body additional nutrients. Spirulina is an amazing super food, and will help your body maintain balance and optimal health.