Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is a common southern American dish. It is traditionally cooked over a fire, but more commonly in a slow cooker these days.  Try this recipe on a bun with some coleslaw, or on its own with some side dishes.  It is a great dish to make for a large group or ahead of time if you have a busy week ahead.

Serves: 12

Prep: 10 mins

Cook: 8 hrs

What You Need:

•14 oz. (400g) can diced tomatoes 

•1 tbsp. chili powder 

•1 tsp. cumin 

•1 tsp. salt 

•1 tsp. chipotle chili paste 

•1 tsp. garlic powder 

•½ tsp. onion powder 

•⅓ cup (80ml) apple cider vinegar 

•⅓ cup (113g) honey 

•2.6 lb. (1.2kg) pork shoulder 

What You Need To Do:

Place all ingredients except the pork into the base of your slow cooker and stir until well combined. Add in the pork shoulder and turn a few times to coat the pork thoroughly in the sauce. Cook on the low setting of your slow cooker for 8 hours. 

Once cooked, place pork shoulder in a bowl. Remove and discard the fat using tongs, then shred the meat using two forks. 

Add cooking juices to the shredded pork, according to preference. Or simply return the pork to the slow cooker and mix well.  

Once cooled the pork can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. 

Nutrition per serving:

166 kcal         

4g Fats

9g Carbs         

23g Protein

0g Fiber

Are you living with an Irritable Bowel?

Have you been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS? Have you been told you have to live with your symptoms? IBS is what is called a diagnosis of exclusion.  This means that people are given this diagnosis when other reasons for their symptoms can’t be found. There are no tests specifically for IBS. They are basically saying ‘we don’t know why your digestion is so bad, so we’ll call it IBS’. 

Common symptoms are constipation or diarrhoea, urgency to have a bowel movement, a small volume of stool or pain in the abdomen all while appearing otherwise healthy.  

Once you have been given this diagnosis, problems such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, parasitic, fungal and viral infections or cancer should have been ruled out. At this point you may have been told that you just need to live with your symptoms, which can be disheartening.

But poor digestion is not something that you should live with. If you are not digesting your food properly, you are not getting the nutrients you need. The toxins that your body is trying to expel are sitting there for longer than they should.  This can lead to any number of problems including cancer, arthritis, fatigue, migraines, and depression.  Many symptoms will get better by improving your digestion, so it is very important to make sure that your gut is working properly. 

There are in fact many causes of IBS.  There can be a hormonal connection, a lack or imbalance of bacteria in the gut or overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine called SIBO.  IBS can also be caused by a high stress lifestyle, a generally poor diet, or a sedentary lifestyle. The most common reason I find is an imbalance of bacteria going along with food intolerances.

In addition to the IBS symptoms, food intolerances can also present themselves as headaches, fatigue, depression, arthritis, chronic respiratory problems, weight problems, anxiety, insomnia, and migraines. 

Food intolerances develop when there is inflammation in the lining of the gut allowing small particles of food to cross where they are not meant to.  The body does not like them there, and so reacts to them.  Reactions can be delayed and can last for days to weeks, so they are difficult to diagnose.  The best way to diagnose and treat food intolerances is to do an elimination diet.  This usually gives a very clear picture of what foods an individual is intolerant to and which ones they can eat.  Common foods are wheat, dairy, soy, tomatoes, bananas, and sugar, but everyone is different and so the foods will be different for everyone.

There are several supplements that can help with IBS depending on a person’s specific symptoms, but a probiotic is almost always recommended.  Talk to your naturopath to make sure you get a good quality one as some of the ones in the stores do not have a very high bacteria count and so are a waste of money.

If you think you might have IBS, talk to your doctor to rule out any other nastier problems.  If you know you have IBS, all is not lost.  There are several treatments options to try. No one should live with poor digestion.

Protein Porridge/Oatmeal

There is nothing better than hot oatmeal on a cool morning. Honestly, I eat it all year round no matter the temperature. It is delicious and filling and a great way to get protein in the morning.  Mix up the recipe with different fruits and nuts.  Apples and berries are great additions to this recipes.  You can swap the walnuts for pecans which offer a sweeter taste.  Or add in some pumpkin or sunflower seeds.  Although banana and apple will usually make this dish sweet enough, you can add some honey or maple syrup to make it a bit more indulgent.  Enjoy!

Serves: 1 
Prep: 5 mins 
Cook: 5 mins

What You Need:

1/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cups almond, pea or dairy milk
1/2 banana sliced
3 Tbsp walnuts (or other nuts and seeds to taste)

Options:
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)
1/3 cup berries
1/2 apple cut into small pieces
1 tsp cinnamon

What You Need To Do:

In a small pot add in the milk, oats and nut and seeds. Cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid sticking. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the protein powder until well combined.

Top with the sliced banana or berries. Add any desired sweetener. Serve immediately.

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease

GERD, GORD, reflux, regurgitation, or heartburn.  It doesn’t matter what you call it, if you suffer from it, you know how painful it can be.  Some people can get reflux due to a hiatal hernia or from high stomach acid (hydrochloric acid or HCL), but I find the most common reason to be from low stomach acid.  At the top of the stomach is a sphincter, the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES), which closes in reaction to stomach acid.  When there isn’t enough acid, this sphincter doesn’t receive the signal to close resulting in what acid there is, leaking up the oesophagus.  This can result in painful reflux most often at night, but also after eating certain foods.

HCL is needed to digest protein, so a common feeling of low HCL is feeling like your food is just sitting there after you eat. HCL helps to kill pathogens, inhibit overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, encourage the flow of bile and pancreatic enzymes and facilitate the absorption of several vitamins and minerals including folate, B12, vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.  Low HCL can result in many problems down the road if left untreated. Stomach acid can decrease with age and with several medications.

An easy test for low stomach acid (and the beginning of treatment) is to take a supplement that contains hydrochloric acid.  If you take one capsule and feel nothing, you are likely deficient.  Treatment consists of an increasing number of capsules until your body learns to create HCL on its own again.

For reflux that is caused by high stomach acid, there are many options as well.  Melatonin has been found to be a very effective treatment for reflux and can help you sleep better at the same time.  Studies find that if you take it for 8 weeks you can achieve remission of symptoms. Food intolerances can cause reflux also, so doing an elimination diet or a food intolerance test is usually warranted. 

If you think you might have a hiatal hernia, this technique may help – drink a large glass of water upon rising in the morning. While standing, rise up on your toes and drop back onto your heels – the weight of the water may help to replace the herniated organ. 

For natural symptom relief, you can try liquorice (the real stuff, not just candy), slippery elm powder or baking soda in a bit of water.  If you have high blood pressure, use DGL (deglycyrrhizinated liquorice) instead.

Other triggers for reflux include caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, cigarette smoking and stress. Reducing these can help with symptoms as well.

With prolonged reflux, damage can be done to the oesophagus which can eventually result in cancerous cells forming there.  Some treatments to reduce this risk are folic acid, mushrooms, zinc and probiotics.  Fish oils and turmeric are also useful for decreasing pain and inflammation.

Medications can decrease HCL, but these come with side effects such as decreasing the absorption of the vitamins and minerals mentioned above and reducing the breakdown of protein.

These are just some of the options for treating reflux. Contact a naturopath before starting on any supplements for reflux to make sure they are right for you and that you have the correct dose and timing.

Cinnamon Granola Recipe

Granola is a super delicious breakfast option and great to have with yogurt and berries or even just on its own as a snack.  This is a very simple recipe, but you can certainly mix it up with some seeds such as pumpkin, chia or sunflower.  And more nut options include pecans, almonds and hazelnuts.  Experiment and find out what mix you prefer. Once you find your perfect recipe, make a really big batch and store it in glass jars in the pantry so that you have it ready for a quick breakfast in the morning.

You can add this granola to the strawberry smoothie bowl recipe.


Serves: 16 
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins

What you Need:

•2 cups (160g) rolled oats

•1 cup (115g) walnuts, chopped

•1 tbsp. cinnamon

•4 tbsp. almond butter

•½ cup maple syrup


*salt


What you Need to Do:

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Mix the oats, walnuts and cinnamon in a large bowl, adding a pinch of salt. 

Next, add the almond butter and maple syrup, mix until well combined and sticky.

Spread the mixture evenly over the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes on the middle shelf in the oven. Remove the tray, stir the mixture to break it up a little and place back in the oven to cook for a further 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

Remove the tray from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled down store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Pesto Pasta Salad

My family loves a good pesto pasta salad as a side to any main meal.  If you have ever been to my house for dinner, or I’ve brought food to yours, then you have probably had a pesto pasta salad.  Its easy to make and super delicious.  Experiment with what you add.  Other options include chopped tomatoes, broccoli, peas or a colour mix of peppers to add lots of colour.  Veggies can be cooked or raw for a different taste and texture. Add some chicken to make it a meal.  So many options, but always so delicious! 

Serves 4

Prep: 10 mins

Cook: 20 mins

What you need:

•11 oz. (320g) whole wheat pasta

•13 oz. (360g) roasted peppers, drained, sliced

•6 tbsp. basil pesto

•1 mozzarella ball, chopped (125g)

•4 oz. (120g) rocket

*salt and pepper to taste

What you need to do:

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packaging. Once cooked, drain and rinse under cold running water until cooled.

In a large bowl, toss the pasta and the remaining ingredients together until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Alternatively, place in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Healthy Chia Pudding

Super Easy Chia Pudding

Chis Pudding Ingredients

My daughter loves to eat this for breakfast but it can be used as a treat during the day as well.  Chia seeds are mostly known for their great omega-3 content, but they also contain protein, fibre, iron and calcium. This recipe is sweet but contains no sugar.  So enjoy!

½ cup chia seeds

¾ cup coconut cream

1 ¼ cups Lyke Milk (or other milk alternative such as almond, oat or macadamia)

Mix together all the ingredients and stir for about 30 seconds to make sure the chia seeds are mixed around.  If you don’t mix right away, then they clump together and don’t soak up the liquid. Leave in a sealed container overnight on the counter or in the fridge (definitely the fridge if you have used cow milk).

In the morning, it can be eaten as is or mixed with berries or muesli.  We like to make a chocolate version by adding:

1/3 cup cacao powder

1-2 ripe bananas mashed well

Store in the fridge for 3-4 days.

I make this recipe dairy free, but you could use cow’s milk if you wish.  

Let me know what you mix with your chia pudding in the comments!

Vitamin D!

It seems like everyday there is more research coming out about the importance of Vitamin D. With it’s influence on our immune system, now is an important time to make sure you have sufficient Vitamin D levels.

How do we make vitamin D?

Sunshine is how we make vitamin D. When you are exposed to UVB rays, our bodies make cholecalciferol (D3) from cholesterol in our skin.  It is then converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the liver.  This is what is measured in a vitamin D blood test.  From here it gets converted to its active form, calcitriol, either in the kidneys or by the immune system and then released into circulation for the body to use.

Sunscreen blocks UV light, so if you are conscientious about applying it, you may not be making enough vitamin D in your body.  In the winter months, even in Australia, the days are shorter and the sun is lower in the sky resulting in less UV rays getting to us.  So even in Australia many people are vitamin D deficient.

What happens if we don’t get enough vitamin D?

We need vitamin D to absorb calcium from our diet.  So if we don’t get enough the body takes calcium out of the bones to use for muscle and nerve functioning as well as blood clotting.  This can result in softening of the bones called rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.  

We have known that vitamin D was important for bone health for many years, but only recently have we realised that it affects other parts of the body as well.  We need it for a proper functioning immune system so that we can effectively fight off infections.  Vitamin D also decreases inflammation and low levels have a particular effect on the symptoms of asthma and arthritis.  Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

How do we get enough vitamin D?

Ideally we get it from the sun as this is the most effective way.  But we still want to be careful of getting burned. Depending on your location and the time of year, it is generally recommended to get outside before 10am or after 4pm for about 20mins with as much skin showing as possible.  Although winters in Australia are far from cold and snowy in most parts, we still don’t get much sunshine with shorter days and the sun being low in the sky.  My family doesn’t wear any sunscreen in the winter.

Some people may need to take a supplement.  If you have darker skin you won’t make vitamin D as efficiently.  Also menopausal women may need to supplement due to hormonal changes.  Anyone who diligently wears sunscreen or covers most of his or her skin with clothing should also consider a supplement.  The American paediatric association also recommends supplementing infants.  Breastfed infants are most likely deficient because their mothers are deficient and they are rarely left out in the sun.  

So try to get outside everyday if possible.  This is especially important with winter coming along as our days get shorter.  And if you think you may be deficient, talk to your naturopath about getting it tested.

Healthy (and Easy!) Protein Bars

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups quick or rolled oats (120g)

1 cup puffed rice

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sunflower butter (can use almond or peanut butter if not taking to school)

1/2 cup raw agave or honey

2/3 cup protein powder – have fun with different flavours (70g). I use plain pea protein

1/4 dark chocolate chips, sultanas or dried cranberries (optional)

Instructions

Stir all ingredients together until well-mixed.

Transfer the mixture to a 9×14 pan lined with parchment or wax paper. (For thicker bars, you can use an 8×8 pan.)

Place another sheet of parchment or wax over the top and continue to smush down and spread until it fills the bottom of the pan.

Freeze until hard, then cut into bars.

For optimum freshness, store leftover bars in the freezer for up to a month.

And then Enjoy!

Adapted from: https://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2014/08/11/protein-granola-bars/

Beat Those Viruses this Winter! (and all year long!)

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While it is almost summer for all of you in the northern hemisphere, it is coming into winter down under which means cold and flu season has come around again. Although for those of us with kids in daycare and school it seems that cold and flu season lasts all year-round! Here are some helpful hints for keeping the whole family healthy in winter and all year long.

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Sleep is the most important activity your body needs. When sleeping, your body restores, heals, and creates important hormones. Get to bed early and stay there for at least 7-8 hours each night.  Avoid caffeine to ensure you get a good quantity and quality of sleep.  Read my blog article about caffeine for more information on the effects it has on your body.

Psychological stress is associated with a greater risk of depression, heart disease and infectious diseases.[1]  Take time out – exercise, garden, meditate, whatever it is that helps you to relax.

What would one of my articles be if I didn’t mention exercise?  Exercise is important for everyone. To keep your immune system at its best you want at least a brisk 30-minute walk each day.  If you are an avid athlete you also need to take care, as very high intensity exercise can put a strain on your immune system.[2]bacteria on hands

Always wash your hands before eating.  There was a 75% reduction in flu-like symptoms when a test group wore masks and washed their hands.[3]  This is especially important for kids who are more apt to putting their hands in their mouths.  It can really be just that easy!

Our bodies are composed of 70% water. Proper hydration is important for the optimum functioning of all your body systems. Increase your water intake slowly getting up to 2L per day.  Check our my article about water for more information.

Hot-Cold showers are an excellent way of improving your immune system, increasing circula­tion and elevating energy levels. After finishing your regular shower routine, do 20 seconds of cold and 1 minute of hot. Alternate 2-3 times, ending with cold.  The increase in circulation will also help decrease sensitivity to the cold.

There are several supplements you can take to help boost your immune system. Daily zinc supplementation has been shown to shorten the duration and severity of the common cold, reduce the incidence of acute lower respiratory tract infections in preschool children by 45% and reduce the incidence of pneumonia by 41%.[4]

There are lots of herbs that can help boost your immune system. You can drink my Change of Season tea daily to stay healthy while the weather is changing.  You can also check out my Cough and Cold Soother tea for a delicious mix that can help fight off germs if you get sick.

Vitamin C is found in high concentrations in immune cells and is quickly consumed during an infection.  It is a natural antihistamine and has been found to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections.

More than 80% of the body’s immune system is in the digestive tract.[5]  A lack of good bacteria in the digestive tract can cause a reduction in the immune system allowing increased infections.  Take a good quality probiotic to prevent bad bacteria from taking hold.

Vitamin D has a direct effect on the immune system. Vitamin D stimulates the production of natural antibiotic proteins thus killing more bacteria.  Insufficient levels are related to a deficiency in our immune system to protect us against infections.

If you have any questions, you can join one of my Boost Your Immune System talks.  Or if you are inspired to make lifestyle changes, but you aren’t sure where to start, you can join one of my 5 week step-by-step group Get Healthy programs.

These are just a few suggestions.  For personalized advice, contact your local naturopath. Let’s stay healthy this winter!
References

1  Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ, Miller GE, Frank E, Rabin BS, Turner RB. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. PNAS, 2012 April 17; 109(16): 5995-5999.

2  Society for General Microbiology. Couch potato or elite athlete? A happy medium keeps colds at bay(Internet). ScienceDaily. 2012 January 5 (Retrieved 13 May 2012). Available from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105112158.htm

3  Aiello AE, Perez V, Coulborn RM, Davis BM, Uddin M, Monto AS. Face masks, Hand Hygiene, and Influenza among Young Adults: A Randomized Intervention Trial. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (1): e29744.

4  Hunter P. Health Benefits of Zinc. Bioceuticals Advanced Clinical Insights, 2004; 5.

5  Plummer N. Dysbiosis and Disease: Ground breaking new research into probiotics and their role in preventing treating disease (presentation notes). FIT-BioCeuticals, Ltd. Online. 2010.