I know I’ve had the blog abandoned for a while, but I’m sure you can relate to the fact that there seems not to be enough time for anything, ever, and with more social media outlets being born every minute, it’s hard to keep up. If you haven’t done so, please follow me on Instagram (@alezohn) if you are interested in more active, shorter posts on all topics related to The Star of Health: food, eating, movement, sleep, relationships, pleasure & relaxation, creativity and spirituality.
And now let’s get into New Year’s syndrome mode, in which we see opportunities for new beginnings and also when we can feel disappointed, frustrated and overwhelmed, often due to comparison with others or with an ideal self we imagine based on impossible culture expectations. Please breathe deeply and try to let go of all these preconceived ideas and images of weight, success, happiness, beauty; and focus on where you are right now. Accept your reality and be willing to live life the best way you can at present time, which often times might not be the way you dreamed of, but allow it to surprise you with wonders you never even imagined! That’s my personal resolution…
For a long time I wrote about the food/wellness trends at this time of the year (specifically in honor of my friend Sarah, who I knows likes reading them, so if I have a reader, I will write!). I had lots of fun, but somehow this year, it’s not getting me that excited. Not because nothing has happened, but due to the opposite. The wellness world has turned into a huge industry that everyone is milking, which is great in some ways, as more and more alternatives are now at our reach, more research, technology, design, and thought, are being applied to being healthy, but it causes a lot of confusion: at this point no one knows where to look: do I eat keto, paleo, vegan, plant based, pescatarian…? What’s the best way of moving my body if now strength training and weight lifting have proven superior over cardio? Do I stop cardio? Do I wear couture athleisure to yoga or can I just show up in comfy clothes without being judged? Do I need adaptogens? If so, which? (NOTE: I’m not going to talk about adaptogens in this post, as I’ve dedicated a whole one to these amazing herbs, but they are definitely a wonderful addition to our lifestyle) Because there are hundreds. Is SLT better than rowing? And the questions go on and on….
The truth is: there’s no “right” way to eat/move/sleep/supplement/be happy for everyone. We are still leaving the individual, his/her intuition, and awareness out of the conversation. It might be because it’s not really profitable or because we don’t really want to look inwards. We just want an “expert” to tell us what to do, what to feel and what pill to swallow without any participation from our part. Obviously, we need the experts’ guidance and technology can be very helpful too, but it is necessary that we become brave enough to rescue the mindbodysoul human that we all carry inside and around. We can’t make others or any capsule fully responsible for our wellbeing, we need to be in it too! In the meantime, I leave you with the trends, but please don’t forget you—not the marketing genius hired by the “new” wellness industry— are the most powerful participant in your health.
Practical applications of the microbiome
For a few years, scientists, doctors, mental health specialists and other experts have realized that the microbiome—The trillions of microorganisms that inhabit our intestinal tract—has a very important influence in our digestive, immune, mental and overall health. Day Two, a test developed by researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science allows to analyze one’s individual interaction between lifestyle and personal microbiome to predict one’s body’s blood sugar reaction to specific foods (that are different for each person); which might be very impactful in taking care of health problems such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
2. The Age of Mushrooms
From delicious exotic mushrooms lending their umami (deliciousness taste), and nutritional properties to the culinary world, to medicinal mushrooms capable of helping our cognition, immunity, strength, sleep, relaxation and even becoming a new favorite beauty-enhancing ingredient in skincare; to a door of magnificent potential as psychedelics, our relationship with mushrooms is just starting…
Don’t miss Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind.
3. Veganism taking over the world (and the food industry)
"The “so-called alternative proteins are the fastest growing segment of the food industry,” reports Bloomberg Businessweek (the pic below is from their Dec 24, 2018 issue). I’m all for plant-forward diets, you can always hear/read me saying how fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs are magical, but I’ll be honest: the whole pipeline of lab-grown beef burgers, chicken and seafood coming to us as you read this, plus pork meat made of wheat gluten, tuna made of highly processed chickpeas, soy, lentils, beans and algae-flavored oil and many other plant-based alternatives, concern me a bit. Yes, it’s wonderful for animal welfare, but all these plant ingredients need to be made into something they are not, they need to be “enriched” and transformed with substances and equipment to make them super palatable and physically appealing, and as for resent history, that’s what’s lead us to nutrient-deprived hyper processed foods. So I won’t be the first one to jump of joy when all these foods hit the market, unless the companies are completely open and their ingredients are wholesome and minimally processed.
4. Fancy and/or artisanal non dairy cheese
This one I’m looking forward to: vegan cheese made of nuts and seeds, aged as dairy cheese and infused with interesting flavors. Many brands of non-dairy cheese in the current market are made with ingredients that don’t nourish our cells at all (such as tons of not so great fats, highly process flavoring agents and starches), but new brands and even artisanal producers are popping up everywhere and taking it very seriously, making sophisticated cultured cheese out of nuts and seeds. Here are some brand suggestions from a PETA online publication. According to Market Research Future [MRF], the non-dairy cheese market will be worth $3.5 billion in less than 5 years. I think we will see a very interesting offering of options: Miyoko’s Kitchen has announced that it will have a kosher certification in 2019, and I’m looking forward to it, and Treeline Treenut cheese has some very delicious spreadable cheese, and I hope soon, Maybe I’ll get making my own from this book…
5. CBD in your soup, your latte, your matcha, your body lotion, your e-cigaretts, your water, your EVERYWHERE!
This isn’t really a trend, but a reality. Everyone is adding drops, popping capsules or rubbing ointments. CBD, Cannabidiol is a NON-PSYCHOACTIVE compound derived from the cannabis plant (from marijuana, where it comes together with THC, the psychoactive compound that makes you high; OR from hemp, which comes with no THC). It’s been shown to help counteract anxiety, pain, inflammation, epileptic seizures and insomnia, therefore in this day and age, everyone is using it. The problem is, that production and regulation are still all over the place, so just asking your coffee barista to spike your latte with CBD might not be the best way to control the quality of what your are consuming just yet.
A great area of research for this decade (in my opinion it will be what the microbiome was in the 2010s) is the Endocannabinoid System, which is implicated in many physiological functions in the central and peripheral nervous systems and other organs, and is the part of our body that reacts to CBD. It’s been found that the Endocannabinoid System helps regulate mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, therefore the potential is enormous. I’m very excited for what’s coming! For more info, read here.
6. Body diversity
Last year I applauded fashion designer Christian Siriano for including women of all sizes, colors, heights, ethnicities and beauties in his catwalks and clothes. Rhiana, Goop and other designers are following. Accepting that beauty is not an intolerant standard but a huge range that is a reflection of our soul and that all souls are gorgeous and worthy of empowerment, embellishment, ornamentation and celebration that can come in multiple sizes and attributes is a huge step forward. We haven’t arrived to the final destination yet, but we’re on our way. Doctors, dietitians, coaches, other designers, and influencers are slowly beginning to understand that a slender body is not necessarily nor exclusively a healthy one. A person considered overweight who nourishes him/herself with great food, attitude, relationships, movement and overall lifestyle might be healthier than a person who purposefully uses food or lack of it as punishment and doesn’t know how to love him/herself. It’s way beyond the weight.
7. Rise (and fall?) of oatmilk?
In 2018 everyone is drinking oat milk. But it’s been also found that many oat producers spray their crops with potentially hazardous Roundup. If you love oat milk, I just suggest you only use organic one, as organic oats are not sprayed.
8. Compression socks
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been seeing these everywhere, and I used some during an overseas flight with great results. They are coming up with cute designs and may make the best pairing to standing desks.
9. Celery Juice
You might gag at the thought of 2 cups of straight celery juice first thing in the morning, but Medical Medium has turned into a movement with more than a million devotees, me among them. After a few days of “sacrifice” it starts growing in you and once you start enjoying the digestive, skin and other benefits, you look forward to drinking it the next day. Tip: pale celery makes tastier juice than dark green.
10. Sleep as a priority
Sleep is the most important thing we do for our health. Our mood, relationships, balance, endurance, all depend on good sleep. Tons of apps, devises, potions, napping hotels/buses/nukes, and meds are constantly launched to help us in that area, but the more we are plugged in, highly caffeinated and feeling proud of working ourselves too hard, the less we will be sleeping….My New Years resolution (and I really hope I can follow it through) is to go to bed at 11PM every night, and not later than that.
This fermented soy (barley or chickpea) paste is rich in live microorganisms, adds tons of umami flavor and can be good for digestion and immunity for some people. It’s hardly a novelty, but I love how it’s being used now in sweet treats, adding a flavorful, interesting and salty touch. Paired with nut and seed butters, it makes delicious cookies, and I look forward to playing around with it in cakes too. My friend and author of the beautiful I Heart Kosher cookbook, Kim Kushner has a delicious peanut butter-miso and chocolate chip cookie version, and I recently adapted to my gluten free, dairy free needs this recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine. I hope you like it:
7 Tbsp. avocado oil
1 cup (200 g) coconut sugar
1 tablespoon ground chia seed + 3 tablespoons water (1 “chia egg”)
⅓ cup (80 g) unsalted/unsweetened almond butter
¼ cup chickpea miso
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups (150 g) gluten free oat flour
½ tsp. baking soda
Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350° and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
In medium bowl, whisk together oil, coconut sugar, chia egg, almond butter, miso and vanilla, until mixed.
Add in dry ingredients and whisk until well combined.
Using a mini scoop (about 2 teaspoon capacity, or so), scoop balls of dough leaving 2” in between each. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until edges are golden.
Cool for 2 minutes and eat, or cool completely and place in an airtight container for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.