Posted on Leave a comment

The Caffeine Conundrum

What is caffeine?

To many, it is synonymous with energy, alertness, the jolt you need to get moving and grooving.

But what is it really?

It’s a crystalline compound (C₈H₁₀N₄O₂) that stimulates the central nervous system of the consumer. Caffeine is quickly absorbed into the blood stream and broken down by the liver. The resulting compounds primarily effect brain function, through bypassing the effects of the neurotransmitter responsible for relaxation – adenosine. This phenomenon increases the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine, boosting blood adrenaline levels.

 

Bottom line: Caffeine stimulates the brain and results in a heightened nervous state of alertness and focus.

Primary sources of caffeine are coffee, tea, and cacao. Approximately 80% of the world’s population (90% of North American adults) consume at least one caffeinated beverage every day. Coffee is the boost-beverage of choice for the vast majority of North American consumers. With approximately 100mg of caffeine per cup, it can provide the surge of energy needed to seize the day.

 

The effects of caffeine have been analyzed by many – with results indicating positive nutritional and functional benefits. Caffeine elevates cognitive alertness, which has been shown to increase memory retention for up to 24 hours. Consumption prior to a workout can decrease inflammation and increase muscle torque. It has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, leading to stable insulin sensitivity and a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The stimulating properties of caffeine can also fire up your metabolism, aiding in weight management. Antioxidants and polyphenols in coffee, tea, and cacao also provide nutritional benefits.

These results seem fabulous. Increased energy and a myriad of other benefits? We should all be chugging cup after cup of coffee. Right? Not necessarily. 

As with most things in life, the greatest benefits are realized through consumption in moderation. The recommended caffeine threshold for an adult is 300mg per day. The equivalent of two Tall brews from Starbucks. Sipping on a small cup of coffee at the start of your day could provide the benefits discussed above. However, the average American consumes over 3 cups throughout the day. So what happens when the scale tips toward the dark side of caffeine excess? 

The stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system caused by caffeine shifts the body into a fight-or-flight state of awareness. The smaller boost provided by a single cup of coffee can be beneficial in the morning when your hormones are primed for higher cortisol levels. However, continual stimulation can send the system into overdrive. Extended periods of heightened adrenaline cause physiological issues such as high blood pressure and heart rate as well as psychological downsides. Caffeine excess can increase the propensity to irritability, anxiety and panic. The problem does not lie with the chemical compound of caffeine itself, but rather continual consumption which repeatedly activates and overrides the nervous system without allowing for adequate recovery. The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis is the subsystem which regulates hormones and manages stress. Over time, the heightened cortisol levels disrupt the normal patterns of other hormones, bypassing the HPA axis and ultimately causing dysfunction. The result is adrenal fatigue. The HPA axis can no longer properly manage the effects of caffeine, so it shuts down – draining energy instead of boosting it. 

So what can be done? How can the benefits of caffeine be achieved without the risk of excess? For many, the answer lies in tea. The polyphenols and antioxidant properties found in coffee are also present – sometimes to an even greater extent – in various forms of tea. The world of tea also offers a vast range of choices. Different flavors. Different benefits. Different caffeine levels. At 40mg per 8oz cup, black tea contains the highest level of caffeine. With only 20mg per cup, white tea offers the least. Herbal infusions such as chamomile are caffeine free. Mindfully choosing and brewing a cup of tea can give your nervous system a gentle boost without causing detrimental fatigue.

Posted on Leave a comment

How to Make Almond Milk

Homemade almond milk.

It sounds so fancy. So bougie. And so complicated.

But guess what: It’s not.

Only a couple ingredients.

Less the five minutes of active work.Sounds pretty fabulous to me.

But still – Why make almond milk if you can just buy it from the store?
1. No artificial stabilizers.
2. Smaller batches for less waste.
3. More bang for your buck – get almond meal too.
4. Less expensive in the long run.
5. Sustainable option – no cartons get trashed.

Those are pretty solid reasons if ya ask me.

So let’s get to it.

The process starts with soaking raw almonds for at least 8 hours.

I typically do this overnight on Friday to make a fresh batch on Saturday mornings.

Use a jar at least double the volume of the almonds – they will swell as they absorb some water.

When the soak-time is up, drain and rinse the almonds.

Add them to your blender with fresh water, a pinch of salt, and maybe a splash of vanilla.

How much water?

About 4 to 5 cups per 1 cup of pre-soaked almonds.

You can always adjust this ratio for your batch size.

Example: If I soaked 1/2 cup of almonds, I would add 2 – 2 1/2 cups of water.

To make the milk, blend on high for 2 minutes, then strain through a nut milk bag.

A nut milk bag? Yep. I’s finer and more durable than a cheesecloth. I love mine from Ellie’s Best!

Squeeze all of the liquid out until you are left with this nut pulp.

But don’t throw it away.

Use it to make almond flour!

Spread onto a cookie sheet and dehydrate in a 200 degrees oven for about an hour. Then pulse in a blender to break up the chunks.

Now you have almond meal to use in recipes.

Happy nut milking!

Homemade Almond Milk

Cost-effective, delicious, and easier than you think!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 4-5 cups water
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla *optional

Instructions

  • Soak the almonds for 8 hours / overnight.
  • Drain and rinse the almonds.
  • Add to a blender with the fresh water, salt, and vanilla.
  • Blend on high for 2 minutes.
  • Pour through a nut milk bag over a large bowl. Squeeze all of the moisture out of the almond pulp.
  • Transfer the almond milk to a glass jar and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Notes

Save the pulp to make almond flour!
Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for about an hour. Then pulse in a food processor to break up the dried clumps.
Posted on Leave a comment

Thrive Market Goods

Thrive Market is my go-to for pretty much all non-perishable items. They have an incredible selection – all offered at discounted prices. All of my favorite brands are available, and their “Thrive Market” private label items are also very high quality.

Here’s a low down of what I love to order:

Thrive Market Brand:

  • coffee
  • fire roasted canned tomatoes
  • pasta sauce (basil or roasted garlic)
  • canned pumpkin
  • canned seafood
  • baking flours
  • maple syrup
  • coconut aminos
  • almond milk
  • coconut milk
  • rice cakes
  • prunes
  • apple cider vinegar
  • dijon mustard
  • pickles
  • spices
  • bone broth
  • peppermint essential oil
  • mouth wash
  • vegan protein powder
  • vitamins
  • grain-free granola
  • turkey jerky sticks

Other Favs:

  • Eat Seedible (best sweet tahini)
  • Plant Snacks (all of them)
  • Farmhouse Culture (kraut crisps)
  • Vegan Robs (cauliflower puffs)
  • Siete Chips (nacho & ranch)
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers (“everything” flavor)
  • Simple Mills (pizza dough mix / crackers)
  • Pacific Foods (hazelnut milk)
  • Good Karma (flax milk + protein)
  • Four Sigmatic (hot cacao mix)
  • Cocokind (chia facial oil)
  • Dr. Bronners
  • Lesser Evil (paleo puffs and popcorn)
  • Love Beets
  • Nut Thins
  • Purely Elizabeth (choc sea salt granola)
  • Banza pasta
  • Cybele’s Free to Eat Pasta
  • Unreal (quinoa pb cups & gems)
  • Artisana Organics
  • Yogi tea
  • New Primal (bbq sauce / cilantro lime sticks)
  • Chomps (turkey sticks)
  • Lundberg Farms rice cakes
  • Stasher bags
  • Beeswrap
  • Bob’s Red Mill
  • Mori-Nu silken tofu
  • Lily’s Chocolate
  • Hu Kitchen Chocolate
  • Alter Ego Chocolate
  • Pamela’s Products (grain-free pancake mix)
  • Cocokind Skincare
  • Ancient Nutrition (collagen)
  • Mike’s Curry
  • Califia Farms (barista blend)
Posted on Leave a comment

(some of) My Favorite Brands

Non-Food

  • Healthy Human (12oz / 16oz cruisers)
  • Stasher Bags (my fav reuable bags ever)
  • Beeswrap (reusable cling wrap)
  • Preserve (bamboo spork)
  • Cocokind (facial oil)
  • Frank and Whit (best face masks)
  • Athleta (go-to workout apparel)
  • Ellie’s Best (nut milk bag)
  • Honey & Bee (jade roller)
  • Dr. Bronners (non-toxic cleaning)
  • Ninja (favorite blender for 8 years now)

Beverages

  • Paromi Tea (Cinnamon Chai is my fav)
  • Teecino (herbal coffee)
  • Gaia Herbs
  • Kicking Horse Coffee
  • Thrive Market Coffee (decaf is Swiss method)
  • Four Sigmatic (hot cacao and turmeric latte mixes)
  • Spindrift (raspberry lime is the best)
  • Healthade (small batch kombucha)

Breakfast

  • Oat My Goodness granola
  • Soulfull Food (superfood cereal)
  • Purely Elizabeth granola (Chocolate Sea Salt is my fav)
  • Birch Benders (paleo pancake mix)

Snacky Snacks

  • Lundenberg Farms thin rice stackers
  • Thrive Market rice cakes
  • Farmhouse Culture kruat crisps (dill pickle flavor is the best)
  • Plant Snacks (beet goat cheese flavor is amazing)
  • Vegan Rob’s (turmeric chips and cauliflower puffs are addicting)
  • Beanfields (tortilla chips made from beans!)
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers (everything flavor)
  • Simple Mills (cheddar flavor = cheezeits)
  • Hippeas (BBQ for the win)
  • Siete Tortilla Chips (ranch yum)

Sweets

  • Emmy’s Organics
  • Unreal Snacks (crispy peanut butter cups are my fav)
  • Rigonia di Agousa (honey & jams)
  • Lily’s Sweets Chocolate
  • Pass the Honey (actual honeycomb!)

Nut / Seed Butters

  • Georgia Grinders (hazelnut butter? yes please.)
  • Soom Tahini
  • Eat Seedible (sweet tahini is unbelievable)
  • Crazy Richards (best creamy almond butter)
  • Artisana Organics (raw nut butters)
  • Soom Foods Tahini (the chocolate is heaven)
  • Purely Pecans pecan butter (now on Thrive Market)

Veggies

  •  Medlie: SUNFLOWER
  • Misfits Market: SUNFLOWER20

Meat / Seafood

  • Chomps (turkey sticks)
  • New Primal (cilantro lime stick is fire)
  • Safe Catch (canned seafood)
  • Hempe (chickpea / hemp tempeh)

Dairy / Non-Dairy Subs

  • Fage Greek Yogurt
  • Lavva non-dairy yogurt
  • Wunder Creamery quark (like yogurt)
  • Malk “milks”
  • Elmhurst “milks”
  • Califia Farms barista blend / creamers

Supplements

  • Ancient Nutrition (collagen)
  • Vital Proteins (collagen and creamers)
  • Further Food (collagen and turmeric mix
  • Wylde One (adaptogens)
  • Nuzest protein: SUNFLOWER
  • Terra Origin bone broth proteins
  • Vega Salted Caramel Protein

Pantry Staples

  • Thrive Market Pickles
  • Dignity Coconuts coconut oil
  • Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Banza pasta
  • Simple Mills pizza dough (and other mixes)
  • Cybele’s Free to Eat pastas

Baking Staples

  • Live Glean (sweet potato, beet, cauliflower flours): SUNFLOWER
  • Bob’s Red Mill (everything)
  • Everland Foods (shredded coconut)
  • Soom Foods Silan (date syrup)
  • Manitoba Harvest (hemp hearts)

Sauces / Dips

  • Zubiate’s Cocina (vegan Jalepeno queso oh my)
  • Sir Kensington’s (best ketchup  and honey mustard ever)
  • Yellow Bird Sauce (agave sriracha)
  • Siete vegan queso
  • Thrive Market Dijon and Whole Grain Mustards

Spices

  • Earth Table
  • Primal Palate