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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Real Fruit-Flavored Vitamin Water!

My favorite beverage on a hot summer day? Real fruit-flavored vitamin water! They are easy to make, and I get the added bonus of knowing exactly what's in them. No added sugars, artificial sweeteners, harmful food dyes, or other chemical additives, plus I get to eat the fruit when I'm done! I make them the night before in a mason jar or glass pitcher. I like the mason jars because they are 1L with a tight-fitting lid, so I can just grab and go.

It's really important to me to stay hydrated throughout the day to feel my best. Our bodies are made up of 60-75% water and drinking too little can leave us feeling tired, cause headaches and other symptoms. It's also important to stay hydrated for proper digestion.

How do you know if you are getting enough water? On average women need at least 2.2L of water a day and men need around 3L. I personally need a minimum of 2.5L everyday to feel my best, more if I am active, working up a sweat, or spending the day in the sun. I also eat plenty of water-containing fresh fruit and veggies, so if I was eating a typical diet, I would probably need even more. Drinking enough water in a day can be difficult at first, but making fruit-flavored vitamin water makes it fun and tasty! Bonus tip:  Start out each day with 1L of water first thing in the morning, before breakfast - It's energizing and gives our body a nice hydrating flush.

What kind of water do I use for my real fruit-flavored vitamin waters?
I used to buy Prairie Spring water in the blue jugs, a filtered spring water that retains the minerals, before that I used a Brita, but now I have a Northern Water Cleaners filtration system hooked up to my entire house. It filters the water for my showers, baths, garden, turtle aquarium, the taps in my kitchen...everywhere! My three dogs and I enjoy chlorine-free, lead-free, flouride-free, pharmaceutical-free water everyday. I encourage you to research the water in your area and decide which option is right for you. 

So here's the fun part! My favorite fruit-flavored vitamin water recipes:

1) The Original: Lemon Cucumber Lime:
Mix in a pitcher: 10 cups of water + 1 cucumber, 1 lime and a lemon, thinly sliced. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

2) Cucumber Melon Mint
Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of watermelon cut into cubes + 2 mint leaves + 1/2 thinly sliced cucumber. Leave in refrigerator overnight before serving.

3) Funky Strawberry Lime
Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 6 strawberries and one thinly sliced lime + 12 finely chopped fresh mint leaves. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

4) Raspberry Lemon
Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of raspberries and three thinly sliced lemon. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

5) Citrus Boost
Mix in a pitcher: 10 cups of water +1/2 Grapefruit + 1/2 Freshly squeezed Grapefruit Juice, 1/2 Lemon thinly sliced, 1/2 Lime thinly sliced, 1/2 Valencia Orange thinly sliced. Juice grapefruit and add to a large 1 litre glass or mason jar, add remaining ingredients and stir. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

6) Cooling Pineapple Mint
Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of pineapple cut into cubes + 12 fresh mint leaves finely chopped. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

7) Sweet and Spicy: Apple Cinnamon
Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of apple cut into cubes + 2 cinnamon sticks + 2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

8) The Zinger : Lemon Ginger
Mix in a pitcher: 10 cups of water with 4-5 pieces of fresh ginger cut into cubes + 2 thinly sliced lemons. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

9) The Holiday: Cranberry Ginger
Mix in a pitcher: 10 cups of water with 4-5 pieces of fresh ginger cut into cubes + 2 thinly sliced oranges and a handful of fresh cranberries. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving. Great to serve your guests over the holidays. 

You can also make these recipes in individual mason jars and refrigerate overnight. Play around with your favorite fruits and come up with your own fabulous creations! 

***Thanks again to Heather and the lovely ladies on the Regina Global Morning News Show for having me on the set today to share my favorite vitamin water recipes. It's always such a fun treat to talk and share with you all!

Thanks for reading/watching!!

Lots of love and fresh squeezed hugs,
Naturally Ashley

Holistic Health Coach

*For more information on Northern Water Cleaners check out:

*Dietary reference intakes for water, potassium, sodium, chloride and sulfate.Institute of Medicine. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Where Has The Good Bacteria Gone? Yogurt and Probiotics

I don't watch TV often but I have noticed that I can't turn it on without seeing an advertisement for yogurt. They are also in a lot of women's and health magazines too. I think of the Activia song and the belly wiggling with the yellow arrow when I think of yogurt. I personally do not eat yogurt because I choose not to eat dairy. But for people that do, it can be quite confusing looking at the MASSIVE selection of yogurt in the grocery store. Which one do you pick? And which yogurt is the healthiest?

We know from the commercials that probiotics are good bacteria that help with digestion. (Insert Activia song and belly wiggle here.) We have 1000 trillion cells in our body and a healthy digestive system has 100 trillion good bacteria. So I asked myself, what is killing all the good bacteria that I have to add it back into my body? Why do i feel the push to eat yogurt and consume probiotics? Even some naturopath doctor's recommend eating yogurt and they usually advise us to cut out dairy products. It could be because we are killing many of our good bacteria due to one or more of the following: 

Common killers of good bacteria:

Antibiotics - when taken kill both the good and the bad bacteria in our bodies
Chlorine - the chlorine in our tap water kills harmful bacteria in the water supply, but when we drink that water it kills the good bacteria in our digestive system as well. 
Meat and Dairy- antibiotics are found in most non-organic meat and dairy products, and these end up in our bodies. Also, meat and dairy can be really difficult for our bodies to digest, sitting for long periods of time in our intestines allowing bad bacteria to grow. 
Alcohol, drugs, smoking - these can all contribute to good bacteria loss as well as negative thinking and stress! 
Junk Food like soda doesn't help either. 

If you eat a whole food, plant-based diet and avoid certain things like chlorinated tap water, junk food, and antibiotics, your good bacteria might be just fine. But if you are ingesting at least one of the above, you may want to look at taking probiotics in some form. Some options are:

Regular & Greek Yogurt

Dairy-free Coconut Milk and Almond Milk Yogurt

Fermented Foods: like miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and kim chi

Probiotic supplements from the health food store. 

There seems to be a big push for Greek yogurt at the moment. Each major brand is coming out with their own brand of greek yogurt to keep up with the competition. But is Greek yogurt really any better for you? The main difference between it and regular yogurt is that is goes through a more extensive straining process to remove some of the liquid whey, sugar and lactose. They say that by doing this it makes it easier to digest for those that are lactose intolerant... I say for those that are lactose intolerant - try coconut milk yogurt! It's dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free and vegan. Both contain helpful probiotics. 

Greek yogurt might have more protein than coconut milk yogurt but this coconut brand has 8 grams of fibre compared to Greek's 1 gram! Greek is lower in sodium and calcium. (But I wouldn't let this influence your decision, if you are eating yogurt for calcium I would suggest trying a kale salad instead.) Both yogurts are high in fat but the coconut milk yogurt has less sugar, and when comparing sugar the Greek one used vanilla flavored syrup as a sweetener as opposed to coconut milk's organic cane sugar. The cane sugar is going to be a better choice in this situation. 

And I think we can all agree that the sugar-free yogurts with artificial sweeteners are not going to be good for our health. Be careful though, even though a package says aspartame-free doesn't mean that they haven't snuck another artificial sweetener in there like sucralose or sorbitol. If you want to eat the regular yogurt and are worried about the sugar, buy plain organic yogurt (regular or coconut) and add fruit like strawberries or stevia as a sweetener. 

I just want to make sure to mention that you can make your own coconut milk yogurt or sauerkraut at home! Making your own fermented foods has been gaining popularity, and some argue it's the best source of probiotics that you can get. If you would like to learn how to make coconut milk yogurt, check out my friend Whitney's website Grounded Nutrition for the recipe -->

And finally -Why not just take a pill for probiotics?
You can. They have pills, powders and pastes ranging from 5 billion cultures to 50 billion. When purchasing one online or from your health food store, look for a 5-strain enteric cased probiotic. Enteric means that it has been encapsulated to resist stomach acid so that the live cultures survive through to the intestines where they can work their magic. Take as directed on the bottle. **Always consult your health-care provider about whether or not probiotics or any supplement is right for you.

Thanks to Rustie Dean and the Regina Global Morning News Show for having me on the set this morning to talk about yogurt and probiotics.

Please leave any comments or questions you have below!

Thanks for reading, 

Lots of love and fresh squeezed hugs, 
Naturally Ashley

Monday, 8 July 2013

5 Steps to Self Love and Sweet Vanilla Lavender Smoothie Recipe

“No matter how hard one searched one could not find anyone in the Universe more deserving of love than oneself.”

(A drawing I did in Kindergarden)

My friend Jillian and I had a really interesting conversation about self love the other night. We were pondering- at what point did we start not loving ourselves fully and how did this happen? I have noticed that I often judge myself, my actions, my thoughts, and my body image especially, whether I'm 140lbs or 100lbs, I don't think I've ever looked in the mirror and been pleased with the whole package. And this is silly because I KNOW that I am perfect and exactly where I need to be in this moment... so why do these thoughts still pop in my head? 

I don't know exactly how or when this started for me but looking back at this drawing from kindergarden I do know that at one point I honestly loved myself, so I must be able to get back there. I have been on a journey of self-discovery over the past year, obsessed with self-growth books and quotes, cleaning up my diet and relationships with others, meditation and breathwork, past-life analysis, even travelling solo to Sedona on a spiritual journey... anything positive and explorative where I can get to know myself better on all levels, mind, body, spirit. We have to know oneself to truly love oneself, all of our blessings and gifts as well as our flaws. It's a little harder than I thought it would be, it seems like such a simple love oneself. So why is it so difficult?...  

I have found that there are many factors, my limiting beliefs, past experiences, and the EGO to name a few. From time-to-time the Ego twerps in and tells me that I am being conceited, 'Who do you think you are?' 'Do you think your better than others?'  I have felt guilty, as I have pulled away from some of my friends and isolated myself at times. But I am striving to dedicate myself to to an honest self-evatluation with a goal of self-acceptance, recognizing both my blessings AND my flaws, acknowledging and working on both equally. Working on both, I reassure myself that I am not being conceited and that I should probably let go of what others may think of me anyways. The more I love myself and my decisions the less it matters what others think of them. 

I'm nowhere near complete and total self love, but I'm working on it. Everyday. This is what I have learned and been working on so far:

1.  Focus on your positive attributes. Release any judgements or negative thoughts you may have about your mind, body, or spirit, finding any way you can to fall in love with yourself. *Example: you can't look in the mirror and say I am the perfect weight if you don't believe it. The twerps in your head 'yeah right' and you believe you are lying to yourself. But you CAN choose to focus on things that you do love about yourself and believe to be true, like 'I have beautiful eyes.' And be grateful for your beautiful eyes that can see the beauty in this world. Focusing on these positives help lead you towards the goal of total self love. 

2.  Know that you are here for a reason. Each one of us was put on Earth for our own individual reason. No one else can do what you are meant to do, or be as amazing as you are. So rock it! If you don't know your purpose - follow your passions, what makes you happy, what makes you loose track of time - this will lead you to your purpose. You don't have to be able to articulate it or put it into a sentence,  just know that what you are doing makes you happy and you are on the right path.  

3. Accept and love others.  Someone who cannot accept and love themselves will find it challenging to accept and love others fully and sincerely. We are all One. We are not separate from anyone or anything else. The process of loving yourself includes knowing and feeling yourself as One with all 'others', and loving all 'others'.  Be aware of where you place judgements upon the people in your life as it is a reflection of something you may fear or need to work on within yourself. At the same time don't be too hard on yourself for these thoughts/feelings of judgement - simply take note of your thoughts and direct them inward to see where you may need work on your personal journey. 

4.  Self-forgiveness.  We all know that we should forgive others but what about ourselves? It can be one of the hardest tasks to truly forgive oneself and let go. But know that you are perfect and exactly where you need to be right now in this moment. All things have led you here to be your best self and if you are facing a challenge/crisis, know that within every challenge lies opportunity to grow and expand. Think about what you may consider to be past mistakes and find the good, the lesson within and that will help you let go, forgive and move on.  

5.  Ask yourself: What would someone that loves them self do? 

I got this from a video by Ask Teal and it has been an amazing tool. It has helped me in all sorts of situations- dealing with food, relationships and life in general. Asking what would someone that loves them self do is the easy part - following through with the answer from your inner guidance may take some practice, buy hey, you've got to start somewhere right?!

Check out Ask Teal's video on how to lose weight here:

Sweet Vanilla Lavender Smoothie

I was so excited to find lavender growing at the lake, so I brought a bunch home. The lavender pairs really well the vanilla in this heavenly smoothie. It was my first time using dried lavender in a recipe and I am very pleased with the aromatic taste. Lavender is good for relieving anxiety and stress, and can be beneficial to the respiratory tract in particular coughs, colds, and influenza. 

Sweet Vanilla Lavender Smoothie
3 bananas
1-2 frozen bananas
1/2 cup of filtered water
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
1 tsp dried lavender leaves

*Blend all ingredients together and enjoy sipping your sweet, relaxing smoothie. 

**Optional, you can also add frozen blueberries but I find they slightly overpower the taste of the lavender.

Thanks for reading lovelies!

Lots of love and fresh squeezed hugs,

Naturally Ashley