good medicine everyday

Good Medicine Everyday: Cinnamon by emily penn

Cinnamon has been one of my favorite spices for years now. Something about it just does it for me and I never get sick of it. I add it to smoothies, coffee, yogurt bowls, chia pudding, etc. It’s got a natural sweetness that enhances the sweet quality of whatever I’m eating without adding any actual sugar + one of the major health benefits of cinnamon is that it helps with blood sugar regulation! Yes!

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Before we get into the health benefits I want to touch on one thing - there are different kinds of cinnamon. Ceylon is true cinnamon. It’s also much more expensive and harder to find. Then there are other varieties, usually Cassia, which is what’s mostly available in grocery stores. The Ceylon cinnamon tastes and smells so much different from the regular stuff! It tastes like Red Hots candy. I invested in some Ceylon cinnamon and use it for special occasions and for teas (it turns red!). My daily cinnamon is the organic bulk cinnamon from Natural Grocers. There is a compound in the Cassia variety called coumarin that is believed to be harmful in large doses. Honestly, I don’t stress about this at all, but it’s good to know and keep in mind.

OKAY! Now - why you’ll want to put cinnamon on everything you eat (almost) (1):

  • Cinnamon contains lots of potent antioxidants, which we are always in need of. It has even more than garlic or oregano!

  • These antioxidants have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, too.

  • Just half a teaspoon per day can have an impact on blood markers like LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. It might also increase HDL cholesterol. This also makes cinnamon great for heart health!

  • Cinnamon can reduce insulin resistance, which is the mechanism by which it can help lower blood sugar levels. It can also help lower the glucose that enters your bloodstream after a meal by slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates. I recommend cinnamon to all of my clients with Type 2 Diabetes.

  • Cinnamaldehyde is a compound in cinnamon that is antibacterial and antifungal, which may help prevent infection, tooth decay and it helps keep breath fresh.

Cinnamon is especially great this time of year because of its warming properties. It’s cozy, sweet and pairs so well with other seasonal foods like… apple cider, apples, pears, pumpkin, sweet potato, etc. Pair it with other warming spices like ginger, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, anise, or allspice.

Good Medicine Everyday: Leafy Greens (with TWO Green Smoothie Recipes) by emily penn

We all inherently know greens are good for us, right? It’s been drilled into our heads since we were kids, and as it turns out - for good reason. Today we’re talking specifically about dark leafy greens - kale, collard greens, arugula, spinach and chard. Romaine counts, too. Sorry - iceberg doesn’t and never will count because it’s mostly water and contains very few actual nutrients.

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Leafy greens are packed to the brim with nutrients! They’re also full of fiber, low in calories and high in phytonutrients (plant compounds that have a big impact on the health of your cells). Read on to learn more about the ridiculously amazing benefits of eating leafy greens daily (1):

  • Ever since this study came out earlier this year, I’ve been quoting it every chance I get: one, yes just ONE serving, of leafy greens per day SIGNIFICANTLY slows cognitive decline. This study showed that individuals who consumed green leafy vegetables had brains that appeared 11 years younger than their counterparts who consumed little to no green leafies. A cup of raw greens or 1/2 a cup of cooked greens daily is all it takes folks.

  • If you think bananas are the only place to get your potassium, I’ve got news for ya - leafy greens have it, too. A cup of cooked spinach contains 840 mg, plus all the other good stuff plus no impact on blood sugar. Potassium is essential for fluid regulation and getting adequate amounts will help keep you bloat-free.

  • Another surprise for you - leafy greens contain beta-carotene. Yep - that nutrient we usually associate with carrots and sweet potatoes? Greens have it too, making them great for supporting healthy skin.

  • Combat stress with leafy greens! They contain folate and magnesium - folate helps with mood regulation by participating in dopamine and serotonin production. Magnesium is one of my favorite nutrients to help with stress since it helps relax muscles and is depleted during times of stress.

  • Support your bones - dark leafies contain calcium and vitamin K, essential for strong bones.

  • Greens contain many anti-inflammatory properties thanks to their antioxidants and polyphenols. This also puts them in the cancer-fighting category.

  • The chlorophyll in greens supports the liver by helping to escort toxins out of the body. In our increasingly toxic world, this is so important.

Have I convinced you to eat your greens yet? It’s so simple, yet so many people go throughout their day without eating a single green thing. I personally make it a point to have greens at a minimum of one meal per day, though it’s usually more like two and if I make it to three I feel like a superhero. Here are some of my favorite ways to get your greens in:

  • Add frozen spinach to smoothies

  • Serve meals over a bed of raw greens - ex: burrito bowls served over greens, chicken + veggies over greens

  • Eating one big salad a day - I do this more in the summer, less in the winter

  • I often sauté onions, garlic and kale as a base for meals

  • Add greens to your eggs

  • Add greens to soups, stews and curries (they wilt into almost nothing!)

  • Use romaine leaves in place of tortillas and use collards as sandwich wraps (surprisingly delicious!)

And now, because I love you, I’m sharing not one, but my TWO favorite green smoothie recipes. One is a little sweeter and a great green smoothie for beginners and the other is less sweet and more deeply cleansing.

Basic Green Smoothie (Great for Beginners)

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1 frozen banana
Large handful frozen spinach (don’t be shy - you can’t taste it!)
1-2 tbsp almond butter (optional but yummy and makes the smoothie more filling)
1 cup non-dairy milk or water

  1. Add everything to a blender and blend on high for 30-60 seconds, until smooth and creamy.

Big Green Drank

1 apple or pear, chopped
1/2 lemon, peel removed
1/2 cucumber or zucchini (optional)
Large handful frozen spinach
1 knob ginger
2 tbsp hemp, chia or flax seeds
1/2 tsp spirulina (optional)
1-2 cups water (I usually just fill to the 32 oz line on my blender - hence BIG Green Drank)

  1. Add everything to a blender and blend on high for 30-60 seconds, until smooth and creamy.

Good Medicine Everyday: Turmeric (with Golden Milk Recipe!) by emily penn

Ahh turmeric, turmeric, turmeric. It’s been such a buzzy word that spilled over from the wellness world into the mainstream consciousness pretty quickly. Turmeric is perhaps the best example of what’s old is new again when it comes to health.

This spice has been revered for years in traditional medicine. It’s health properties are pretty impressive, so it’s a big bummer that Americans have been collectively missing out on them for decades.

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So let’s get into why people are so obsessed with this yellow spice (1, 2):

  • It has huge anti-inflammatory properties. This is what brought the humble spice back up. So many of us today are suffering from chronic inflammation.

  • Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric, which provides the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Okay listen up because this part is important: there have been studies done that show that curcumin is JUST AS EFFECTIVE AS SOME ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS. Without the side effects like damage to the gut. I personally take a curcumin supplement if I have a headache or pain. I would strongly recommend you replace your ibuprofen or Advil with a curcumin supplement. OTC painkillers almost all have a negative impact on gut health.

  • Turmeric actually helps SUPPORT gut health. Curcumin helps relax the muscles of intestines, pushing food through. It also helps alleviate gas and bloating. Curcumin encourages regeneration of the gut lining, which is helpful for a variety of digestive disorders, including leaky gut. And last but not least, curcumin supports healthy microbes in the gut and disrupts the growth of harmful organisms. Impressive, right?

  • Curcumin increases levels of something called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps your neurons form new connections - meaning better brain health for you. This has several amazing implications including protection from Alzheimers and depression, which are both marked by low levels of BDNF.

  • Curcumin fights cancer. Studies have shown that it can help kill off cancerous cells while also slowing the spread of cancer and growth of blood vessels in tumors. Curcumin can also be used preventatively.

  • Arthritis can be treated with curcumin supplementation. One study showed it to be more effective than a drug for rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Curcumin can fight depression. Did you know inflammation plays a huge role in depression? One study showed curcumin was just as effective as Prozac. Mic drop.

So turmeric has earned its reputation, yes? Curcumin is amazing, but not actually that bioavailable from just using the spice itself. There are two ways to make it more bioavailable: combine it with black pepper and/or with fat, both of which boost our absorption of curcumin. If you supplement with it, make sure there’s a black pepper extract included in the formula for maximum potency.

For more concentrated benefits you can take a supplement (ie, fighting chronic pain, depression, digestive issues). Or you can start incorporating it in everyday cooking using fresh or dried turmeric, which I would recommend even if you’re taking it in supplement form because getting nutrients from food is always preferable to supplements.

Curries are a great way to get in your turmeric since it’s one of the main components of curry powder. I also just sprinkle some turmeric in veggies while I’m sautéing them, eggs, even smoothies! Fresh turmeric is pretty widely available and you can grate that into soups, stews, dressings, smoothies, etc. Just add it whenever you think of it!

There’s also this amazing drink called Golden Milk - a traditional Ayurvedic tonic that makes it easy and delicious to reap the benefits of turmeric. Try it out!

Golden Milk

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makes 2 small or 4 large cups

ingredients
4 cups non-dairy milk (preferably something with a little fat)
1 - 2 tsp dried turmeric powder
1 - 2 tsp dried ginger powder
1 - 2 tsp cinnamon (optional, for flavor)
Pinch of black pepper
Honey to taste

instructions

  1. Add all ingredients except honey to a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the spices. Bring to a drinkable temperature.

  2. Transfer to a mug, add honey to taste and enjoy!

notes
* You can also use 1 can full fat coconut milk + 2 cups of water as your liquid for a really rich version.
* Instead of honey, you could add a date or two, transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.