Eat your vegetables!

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By now you may have realized that I love the National Calendar that highlights all kinds of fun and interesting National Days during our calendar year. Well, today is National Eat Your Vegetables Day. I love that!!!

I can think of 10 reasons that it is important to eat more vegetables (and fruits):

1. Veggies and fruits are delicious – naturally sweet and healthy!

2. You can grow them yourself – great from the farmer’s market or grow them yourself

3. Natural Snack without additives and preservatives

4. So much to choose from – eat the rainbow and mix up the veggies (and fruits) you eat that you will never get bored from eating the same thing

5. Veggies help reduce the risk of colds and disease

6. Loaded with vitamins, minerals and nutrients

7. Great for weight management – low in calories so load up on veggies before carbs and fats

8. Keeps your gut healthy – veggies and fruits are full of fiber which is good to help keep your gut healthy and your system regular

9. Convenient – great for snacking on the road and they are great fresh and raw, cooked, canned, frozen or juiced

10. They make your plate look good! Veggies and fruits add beautiful color, flavor and aroma to your plate and they make a meal more appealing

My garden is full of Japanese eggplant, poblano pepper, green pepper and herbs right now. Corn is good this month, lettuce is ready to be picked so there are many delicious veggies in season right now, ready for your next meal.

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Tonight, I made vegetable paella for my husband. This one is not a scratch recipe I must admit. It is a gluten free dried mix that I found and I needed something quick and easy today. I did add in freshly sautéed sweet onion and a ripe tomato to the mix to give it some extra freshness. My family is coming into town this week and I’ve been cleaning and getting groceries done today so I am exhausted. This is an easy and delicious meal that is all vegetarian. I hope you eat your vegetables today! ENJOY!

Encouragement!

Upsy Daisy Day Image

Did you ever hear the phrase “upsy daisy” from your mom when you were little and may have fallen and she was picking you back up or encouraging you to get back up? I always loved that phrase. Today is National Upsy Daisy Day and I thought that was a fun thing to highlight today.

National Upsy Daisy Day was created to encourage people to face the day with a positive attitude, gratefulness and glee! It is a reminder to take time and be happy for the day and if you start with a positive outlook, everything will seem better for the day. Much like the way your mom may have encouraged you to get back up and feel better, take time today to do an “ups daisy” in your own world and make the day a positive one.

It also happens to be National Name Your Poison Day! Now you may have heard the phrase “what’s your poison” later in life as it is often something a bartender may say to a patron to find out what the patron would like to drink. Today was created to celebrate that phrase and to help you focus on making a choice or a decision. I think the two national days tie in nicely together. Today, make the choice to be positive, grateful and happy!

What things are you happy about and grateful for today?

Gardens help humans grow….and plants too!

Gardening was not ever really something I had to good fortune to do while I was living in Chicago. I lived in condos and high-rises most of my adult life and had very little space to be able to have houseplants much less and outdoor garden.

Now that I am living in Houston, my husband and I have a home in the burbs with a good sized yard and I actually have a garden now. I inherited my garden from the previous owner so it is not the “format” I would normally have chosen and we will be changing things up for next growing season. For now, I have a fun little area where I am growing veggies and herbs and have some lovely flowers growing this year as well.

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Of course, having your own garden and growing your own fruits and veggies will improve your diet by giving you fresh, organically grown foods but it is also healthy for you in some other ways you may not have thought about!

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1) It can help to reduce fat by reducing cortisol – studies have shown that gardening can help to reduce cortisol levels in the body and cortisol, when elevated, can lead to obesity, heart disease, and problems with immune function.

2) Can increase strength and dexterity – even simple exercise like using a rake, hoe, edger and help to build muscle strength and things like digging and planting and help to build dexterity in your hands.

3) Helps to increase Vitamin D and heart health – it is important to get enough Vitamin D and we can get that through sunlight. Be sure to remember not to overdo it as just 10 minutes of midday gardening will give you enough exposure to Vitamin D to help reduce the risks of heart disease. If you plan to be out longer than 10 minutes but sure to use sunscreen so that you will not risk damage to your skin.

4) Gardening can help to reduce the risks of dementia – this one blew my mind! Research has found that it may help to reduce the incidence of dementia by 36%. It is thought that gardening includes critical functions like learning, problem solving, sensory awareness, strength and dexterity – all factors that can help to keep the brain healthy.

5) Helps to curb depression and lift mood – the process of nurturing plants from seedlings to full grown, thriving plants, has a tremendous impact on mood. Additionally the actual physical exertion your can expend in the garden is a natural mood enhancer much like that you would get as a “runner’s high”. Having the opportunity to look at a beautiful, lush garden is nourishing to all senses and just makes you feel good.

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So, today happens to be National Gardening Exercise Day so I encourage you to get out in your garden and do some exercises. I like to do arm curls and deadlifts with my watering can, it weighs about 10 pounds so it is good way to build arm strength. My garden area is very peaceful and I also have good walkways space and it is perfect to do lunges in the morning. However you plan to get your exercise done, try doing some of it in your garden today!

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National Olive Day, OPA!

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Good morning!

My husband and I just returned from an amazing vacation in Santorini, Greece, last week and I am excited that today is National Olive Day because I have an excuse to eat more olives! Good thing because we brought back about 6 packs of these amazing olives.

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While we were in Greece, I became even more obsessed with olives than I was before we made the trip. I love black olives in particular and must have eaten my body weight in olives on vacation. Just kidding, but ate them at every meal!

Not only are there olive groves all over Santorini but the olives just taste so much better there than they do here in the US. Not to dis the olives we grow in California, but they just taste better in Greece.

Olives are delicious and they are also incredibly good for you! Olive oil contains high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids which help to maintain a balance in your cholesterol level. In turn, having a healthy cholesterol balance will protect your heart and arteries from dangerous levels of plaque build up. Monounsaturated fats can also be beneficial for non-insulin dependent diabetics.

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They are full of polyphenols which are strong a strong antioxidant and will help to fight free radicals in our body. Free radicals can build up and been linked to many forms of cancer and oxidative stress. Studies have shown that natural antioxidants, like those in olives and olive oil, are particularly helpful in protecting against cooling and breast cancers. Olives are also full of Vitamins A, E, D and K.

Thank goodness that olives are so good for you as I now have a great excuse to continue eating them now that we are back home. I found that they are delicious on their own and also mixed with other healthy fruits and veggies. I happen to like them served with fresh veggies like cucumber and apple slices along with some crumbled feta cheese. One dish that I have had before is a black olive and fig tapenade. This is more of a Spanish tapas dish but a great way to incorporate my Greek black olives for an easy appetizer at summer picnics.

Black Olive and Fig Tapenade (by Outta Here on July 10, 2012 – Food.com)

1/2 cup pitted black olives
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 cup dried fig, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

Put all ingredients in blender or food processor and pulse until blended to the desired consistency. Serve at room temperature on crackers or bread. I happened to find some amazing gluten free biscuits at a local market in Santorini so that is what I use. Enjoy!