We have talked about adaptogens on the blog, and the benefits they can have on regulating our hormones, nervous systems, and adrenal functions – amongst other things. (If you aren’t sure what an adaptogen is, check out this post. ) Maca is one such adaptogen that has been touted as a superfood. I wanted to get to the bottom of this buzzword “superfood” and see if Maca really has standing power in the world of verified and beneficial adaptogens.
I have seen several people in the paleo community rave about Maca, but what is it really? How is it used? Does it taste earthy like a lot of adaptogens? Well loves, I did the lifting for you and have unearthed the truth regarding Maca.
What is it?
Maca Root is found in the Andes region of Peru; a common staple in Peruvian cooking. The Maca Root is amongst the same family of foods as kale, broccoli, and cabbage. Maca was used as currency and in trade for the Peruvians, and it is even believed the Incans may have used the root as a delicacy within the royal families.
A very interesting point to consider, Maca Root is used often when there is a disruption in the endocrine system or in the sex hormone systems of the body, or to increase overall sexual health and libido. It is important to note that Maca is not creating a libido for you (curious how to improve your overall libido? Check out this post). Maca is essentially allowing your body to move through stressful periods or less stressful periods as a way to ease the nervous system. It is actually working towards eliminating the stress that may be causing the libido system to be hindered.
What is it used for?
- Reducing Menopause Side Effects – Maca has been studied in trials regarding menopausal systems, with positive results. Overall, the women that were tested saw significant decrease in night flushes, nervousness, mood swings, fatigue, stress and depression, to name a few. These women also experienced higher energy and mood levels overall. It should be noted this study was conducted on a small handful of women.
- Overall Anti-Inflammatory Effects – Phytonutrients are found in Maca Root. Phytonutrients contain large quantities of anti-inflammatory properties and are thought to boost the immune system. Maca root also contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals including the following:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Fertility – There is a lot of speculation revolving around Maca’s true potential to support fertility and libido health. Mainly, most of these studies have been conducted on men, so the effects it may have on women are still unsure.
- Improving Learning and Memory – Those that supplement with Maca Root Powder have seen improved energy levels which may be associated with cognitive benefits (key word here is may). Increased energy levels are correlated to improved mood and also improved learning and memory skills. This is kind of a give-in, when you feel like you have the energy to conquer a task it can be a confidence and mood booster, especially if you struggle with fatigue.
- Improving Mood- Maca supports the HPA axis helping the body support its own production of hormones. This can help create a support system for your cardiovascular, respiratory, lymphatic and nervous systems. Instead of hitting a hard collapse or flight mode, your body is supported and the impact is less intense on the body, resulting in less inflammation and overall stress. There have been clinical studies showing a reduction in depression levels for those that take Maca, along with a reduction in blood pressure levels.
How do people use it?
Maca definitely has a very distinct taste. I have heard it be referred to as a malt-y taste, and the smell is definitely reminiscent of that. I have friends that add it to their morning coffee swearing it turns it into a milk-shake like taste. With most adaptogens, it depends on your biochemistry on whether or not you will be a fan of this creamy earthy adaptogen. If the taste is overwhelming, mix it with something that has a stronger taste base, like a peanut or almond butter smoothie. I have seen recipes containing Maca that vary from bars to smoothies to cookies or other treats.
Maca root has not been associated with an any ill advised side effects. Its apparent effect on the endocrine system though should be considered with caution, especially if you are in treatment for any types of cancer or hormone therapy. Definitely consult with your doctor before starting any adaptogens to make sure they are right for you.
I do not typically use adaptogens as I have had negative side effects and reactions to each adaptogen I do try. I hope to get to a point in the future where I am able to try out some of the milder adaptogens, but in the mean time I stay clear. Please let me know if you are trying these and what effects and reactions you have!
Favorite Brands & Recipes
I have three fantastic recipes that are easy and delicious below. Most of the recipes that Maca Root is found in are typically on the sweeter side as the malty notes in it play off of sweeteners very well. If you are looking for a particular Maca Root Powder to use, this one is a well-rated great option (will insert aff link).
So the long story short, Maca has a lot of mixed results. Some people swear by it, some people point to flawed studies on small demographics. I think the history and prevalence of Maca points to a lot of good theories, I am just not sure the science is fully there to support every claim at this point. I am curious though, have you tried Maca? If so, have you had any noticeable effects?
The gut microbiome is far from a foreign topic these days. Every credible (and non-credible) health based website advertises articles on how to “heal the gut”,”improve gut health”, or “reverse gut damage”. The less credible articles offer details on “quick fixes” to repair the gut, but we know that gut health takes a combination of measures and constant management to be a happy gut. Some of these measures include stress management, proper sleeping patterns, and elimination of gluten and other anti-nutrients.
I share a few more helpful ways to maintain gut health, here.
One key method to helping and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is eating fermented foods. Did you know some pickled foods are produced allowing probiotics to cultivate in a similar way as fermenting? I love kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha as much as the next person, but sometimes the powerful vinegar taste of these fermented foods can leave my palate overly saturated. Or, I can get tired of eating the same probiotic foods every day. While supplementing can solve this problem (check out my fave probiotic here) I really prefer to ingest as much as my nutrients through the food I eat versus supplementing.
So How About These Pickled Foods
Did you know there is a huge variety of pickled foods available for our consumption? People seriously pickle everything, and have been for centuries. Some pickled foods sound pretty disturbing to me, but most of them that I have tried have been delicious. Some examples include:
- Pigs Feet
- and Watermelon, to name a few.
It is so important though that we recognize the difference between the pickling process that kills the good bacteria and the pickling process that preserves it.
Pickled vs. Fermented
Fermentation produces a sour flavor in foods and beverages. This is a result of the natural reaction from combining bacteria and natural sugars with the base food or liquid. Pickling is when an acid, like apple cider vinegar, creates the sour taste instead of naturally produced bacteria. Vinegar is combined with heat and sugar to produce this taste, but this process kills off the natural probiotics and bacteria. To get the most optimal nutrients out of your pickled foods, make sure vinegar is not an ingredient used in production.
Important Note Regarding Pickled Foods:
Like sauerkraut, pickled foods can be found in the non-perishable section of your grocery store. If these items aren’t in the refrigerated section, they ARE NOT full of probiotics. Acid has been used to pasteurize and kill the good bacteria off for a longer shelf life. Make sure you are buying pickled foods that are found in the refrigerated section. Or, make your own, as the pickled veggies and proteins found in the refrigerated section can be expensive.
My Fave Pickled Foods
- Pickled Eggs – I know this sounds gross, but you’ve trusted me on things like liver and other offals before, so trust me on this one. Pickled eggs are delicious. Depending on where you are purchasing them from, or if you’re making your own, the recipe can vary from garlic pickled eggs to pickled beets and eggs, each having a particular flavor. There is a reason pickled eggs have been a well known snack amongst bargoers and European farmers for years. They are a quick protein rich, probiotic full snack that is easy to make and keep on hand.
- Pickled Herring – I recently have gotten into this vinegary, protein rich snack via inspiration from Diane Sanfilippo. There was something off-putting about eating pickled fish raw, but pickled herring is savory and salty, and rich in nutrients. Pickled herring goes great by itself on a cracker, or with a non-dairy cheese spread like kite hill. Get it here.
- Pickled Onions – If you have ever had a legitimate mediterranean salad or dish, you are probably familiar with pickled onions. They are usually bright pink and have a strong vinegar taste. Pickled onions pair well with romaine or arugula and olives on a salad, and this is an easy way to create a delicious amount of flavor with only a few ingredients. These can also be made at home in a quick pickling way- check out this efficient and delicious quick pickling recipe on Cassy Joy’s website, here.
- Pickled Vegetables – The variety is unlimited when it comes to pickled veggies. Things like the most known pickled food, cucumbers, and olives, jalapenos, pearl onions, carrots and broccoli can all be pickled the same way as the other foods above to maintain their probiotic content and a strong pickled taste. You can even batch pickle things like eggs, beets and carrots in the same container to give you a variety of veggies to eat.
Personally, I want to try the pickled watermelon but haven’t been able to find it locally. I want to hear from you if you have tried this though! Seriously- Please drop a line and let me know if it tastes as weird as it sounds. Is it salty? Sweet? Just pickle-y?!
Anyways, pickling is an easy way to switch up your method of getting probiotics in your diet. If you get sick of kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, or kombucha, or are just looking to try something new, give the world of pickled foods a shot.
I am going to go snack on some pickled herring in the meantime. Catch ya later, loves!
I just bought a few sweaters on sale, which means spring is basically here, right? FINALLY! That, coupled with Daylight Savings Time allowing the sunshine to stick around later in the evening, is really contributing to my fantastic mood these days. I feel a little indifferent about Daylight Savings Day in general; studies show it can contribute to an off kilter circadian rhythm for a short period of time which can have unfortunate side effects. But, it is absolutely refreshing to have the sun still shining at 7:00 PM.
As we know, the rotation of crops allows a change of produce every season, varying by climates. Spring brings a new harvest, showcasing some of my favorite fruits and veggies. I am super stoked because it is APPLE SEASON! And even though I don’t eat as many apples as I used to (apple variety in the UK is limited year round) I still get nostalgic about seeing the baskets of apples at my local market.
Which brings me to another fantastic part about this time of year – the farmers markets. I love meeting the kindred spirits that have contributed to growing, picking, and preparing the foods I enjoy. This interaction really puts a face to the farm that I am sourcing my food from, and I allows me the option to track the source of my food.
Spring crops include spinach, collard greens, swiss chard, apricots and more. I have my faves though, and to give you a hint, apples are not included on this list. We must switch up our diets every now and then, and I realize some of my favorites don’t get as much airplay love from me as apples, so I am walking through each one, below!
Some of my fave spring fruits and veggies include:
Broccoli is literally one of my favorite foods in general. This delicious food had a special place in my heart way before I was paleo, and beginning when I was a younger child. I am not sure how I got so lucky to have such a nutrient rich food like broccoli in my lineup, but I am thankful. Broccoli is rich in many nutrients like Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Manganese, Phosphorus, Choline, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron Calcium and Niacin to name a few. In order to capture the benefits and nutrients found in broccoli, try steaming it. This is a great way to enjoy broccoli especially if you find raw cruciferous vegetables tough on your digestive system.
These days it is kind of unheard of to not like this amazing fat rich superfood. I love mashing avocado with canned salmon and adding a little salt for a savory, sustainable meal. I usually eat it by the fork but I am sure it would be great with some crackers, like these gluten free crackers from Simple Mills, if that’s your thing. Avocado contains a great amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which is what they are most known for. But, avocados also contain Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K and B-6, Riboflavin, Magnesium, and Folate.
There are an absurd amount of varieties of mushrooms available. I love Laetiporus mushrooms; they are often called the “chicken of the woods” because of their chickeny – hearty flavor. Porcini mushrooms are insanely delicious too. You can grind these up and make a powder blend out of them that goes great on steamed veggies (like broccoli!). Mushrooms are thought to benefit our immune systems, and contain a decent amount of Vitamin B, Copper and Selenium. In order to capture the nutrients found in mushrooms you must cook them.
Have you tried frozen pineapple yet? It is AMAZING and a fast and easy way to do dessert. I have to be careful eating pineapple though because the acidity gives me canker sores. I did hear recently that if you soak pineapple in salt water it helps destroy the bio-glycosides and bromelain found in pineapple, which are plant enzymes that cause the prickly burning sensation. Pineapples are full of Vitamin C and Manganese, and fiber.
I could eat cabbage by the head. This versatile veggie has been a staple of various cuisines for centuries, and with the amount of species available along with its unique taste, it’s easy to see why. If you chop up cabbage and throw a little avocado or coconut oil on it with a splash of apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper and pop it in the oven at 350 degrees, you get this delicious side veggie dish that is hearty and nutrient rich. Cabbage is delicious raw too, cut up into little strips and drizzled with a mayo or avocado based dressing, like this one. Cabbage contains Vitamin K, Vitamin C and B6, Manganese, Fiber, and Folate. Check out this recipe from Danielle Walker for corned beef and cabbage with parsnip turnip puree. Turnips and parsnips are both spring veggies too!
So that is it for my spring season favorite staples. You can find a full list of seasonal produce here. This is just the start of the seasonal crop rotations! Summer brings a longer list of produce available to us, including cucumbers, watermelon, mangos, bell pepper and more. I usually like to freeze some of my spring produce if I have access to a freezer, just so I can stretch the availability of my favorite foods like broccoli.
This is definitely the season where I start craving salads (for some reason), I am no longer looking for the hearty meals of winter. All of these foods can be chopped up and used as salad fixings, a common theme amongst much of the spring seasonal produce list.
So whether its salads, smoothies, or steamed, I hope you get to wander to your local farmers market and pick up some of these seasonal, nutrient rich gems!
Collagen peptides have been a buzz worthy topic amongst the paleo community for years now, and I personally think they’re great. I can’t use them currently because they’ve got a lot of calcium in them and I’m working on a magnesium deficiency, but I’m working really hard to get those magnesium levels up, in part because I want to be able to take collagen peptides.
But what exactly is a collagen peptide, and how can it benefit you?
Most well-known for the role it plays in our skin, collagen also makes up the majority of the muscoskeletal system, including joints, bones and ligaments. Collagen benefits the skin, nails and hair. Yet perhaps more importantly, collagen peptides can also really help improve systems inside the body, especially the gut.
Collagen peptides are short chain amino acids. They come from protein. But, they are unique because they contain four specific amino acids: hydroxyproline, arginine, glycine, and proline. If your body lacks any of the four amino acids composing collagen peptides (which is easy to do if you don’t regularly eat skin or bone broth or gnaw on bones), it may be difficult for your body to produce collagen. This is why I value the supplements.
The difference between collagen and gelatin
Gelatin and collagen peptides often get confused. I myself accidently purchase gelatin originally instead of collagen peptides. One of the main differences between the two is the ability to dissolve into cold and hot substances. Gelatin is only able to dissolve into hot liquids and will congeal. it’s good for things like making jello. Collagen peptides on the other hand stay liquid at room temperature. In my opinion, although technically flavorless, gelatin has a more noticeable taste and smell than collagen peptides. Whichever you choose to use, don’t worry; they have the same amino acids. Check out my favorite gelatin supplement here!
Why I started using collagen peptides
Collagen is known to help rheumatoid arthritis, osteosis, and in general, strengthen bones, joints and ligaments. Because collagen is the primary component making up our bones and cartilage, it is believed that consumption of the peptides will lead to easier reproduction of collagen in the body and replenishing supplies which as a result, promotes elasticity in the joints.
I have really bad knees. I’m not sure if I ever told any of you that!
AND My gut health really matters to me, so I am really eager to get back to taking peptides.
Finally: Of course, we all know I’m super vain. Perhaps most (and worst!) of all, I really value the collagen supplements for their ability to help my skin be as smooth and elastic as possible.
– Collagen is high in glycine and proline that are essential in creating new collagen in the body . Collagen peptides stimulate production of collagen in the body, allowing an increase of collagen production. Because it is the primary component in our bones and cartilage, it is often used by athletes to prevent injuries, and heal existing injuries in bones, tendons and ligaments.
What else can collagen be used for athletically?
Collagen is also used as a supplementation pre- and post-workout because of its ability to stimulate collagen production internally. Its content of Gylcine and Arginine may also help the synthesis of Creatine in the body. Creatine is widely known as the athlete’s supplement because it has demonstrated the ability to improve exercise and strength performance. Collagen also can contain up to 18 grams of protein in a twenty-gram serving.
Improved Skin, Nails and Hair
Collagen peptides improve the epidermis moisture content which can result in several additional positive symptoms (woooo!) including:
▪ Promote younger looking skin
▪ Improve skin moisture level
▪ Prevent the formation of deep wrinkles
▪ Improve skin suppleness.
▪ Replenish moisture levels in hair
▪ Support nail growth
As I had mentioned, because of its elasticity collagen is essential in connectivity tissue growth. Those with leaky guts, or penetrative holes in the gut, may benefit from supplementing. Glycine is thought to reduce GI inflammation, aid digestion, and reduce symptoms of leaky gut. Research has shown that people with autoimmune disorders like Inflammatory Bowel Disease had shown depleted levels of collagen in their system, leading researchers to believe the lack of collagen contributed to inflammation levels.
Where can you source high quality collagen?
Vital Proteins sources from grass fed, pasture raised bovine hides in Brazil, which still supports grass systems. Being pasture raised and grass fed, there is no risk of having RBGH in their products. This, paired with a Brazilian law prohibiting hormones in bovine feed, result in a pure sustainable version of collagen. Vital Proteins also ensures the cows are raised in a happy environment. You can find their collagen peptides here.
Great Lakes Collagen and Gelatin also source their products from grass fed and pasture raised Argentinian and Brazilian cows. They have guaranteed that their laboratories remain free of insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, steroids, antibiotics, or hormones. You can find this brand, here.
I have noticed increased elasticity in my skin, as well as relief in my joints after consistent use. It took about a week of use to notice these benefits; however the other benefits may take consistent long term use to produce results. Collagen is a supplement that has a wide spectrum of positive benefits, and sourcing from a sustainable and non-toxic companies like Vital Proteins and Great Lakes can improve skin quality, hair and nail strength, and gut health to name a few.
What are your thoughts? Have you tried collagen peptides?
I feel like I’ve been bombarded lately with questions about fad diets. They’ve always been around, but they just don’t seem to go away.
It just seems shiny and new to try a “new” diet instead of sticking to the fundamental principles of a healthy one.
I’ve been noticing this more and more, with the incredible popularity of “keto” which is pretty much paleo circa 2012, and with new books sent to me for my feedback like The Sirtfood Diet (Find it here).
I was able to read and review The Sirtfood Diet, a plan that claims to help you lose 7 pounds in 7 days, all with the power of what they call “Sirtfoods” which are essentially antioxidants, polyphenols, and other health supportive compounds.
What are the kinds of foods the Sirtfood diet wants you to eat? Things like buckwheat, soy, strawberries, turmeric, red onions, kale, dates, garlic, and olive oil, among others. Besides buckwheat (for some) and soy, I had a hard time figuring out how these foods were so lacking in typical healthy diets like the authors claim.
Most people who promote a paleo diet include ample amounts of these, and sometimes the dark chocolate and red wine pictured on the cover, as well-rounded parts of the diet.
Reservetrol, a healthful component the diet authors claim is often missing is available in fabulous multi-vitamin supplements like this one and in many foods like blueberries and cranberries, besides red wine.
Polyphenols are also common across the range of plant based foods and are even available as powders to mix with smoothies (like this one). Most paleo authors value and promote the inclusion of lots of plant based foods in the diet.
Here’s the truth as I see it. The reason you might lose 7 pounds in 7 days is because the first three days consist of 1000 calories of mostly green juice. This is a common trend among fad diet plans- starve you during the first week while you’re motivated (while also telling you that you aren’t starving but are instead “detoxing” which is why you feel like you’re starving) and then working calories up to more maintainable levels so you continue to lose weight but think you are eating much more.
You’re losing water that first week. A little fat is lost too, but its almost scientifically impossible to lose 7 pounds of pure body fat in one week for the average person. It requires a caloric deficit that not even 1000 calories a day can meet.
I have no issues with a diet that supports the inclusion of healthy ancient foods. My mind has changed over the years with regard to gluten-free grains and other dietary components, so long as they are healthy FOR YOU.
The key to lifelong weight loss is learning how to heed your internal cues. Learning your body, understanding its needs, and feeding it nutrient dense food. There doesn’t need to be a special superfood protocol. There just needs to be balance.
I’m never going to say its ok to eat mostly bacon and butter. They’re nice as inclusions, but they don’t have the nutrient density that vegetables do.
I’m never going to be cool with women fasting. Thankfully the Sirtfood diet and I agree on that one (though I still think 1000 calories a day for a woman is pushing it, even for 3 days). If the choice is between you eating or not eating, I’m always going to say, eat.
But eat what makes your body feel good. I know what that looks like for most people- vegetables, fruit, meat, fat. Eat those things, in balance with the other things. with a focus on quality. That’s all you really need. And that’s what Weight Loss Unlocked is all about.
If weight loss has become a struggle following that paradigm, then you should look into seeing a professional. A good functional nutritionist in your area can help you get to the bottom of what is going on and provide a structured plan that will help you reach your goals, along with the accountability and monitoring to help you truly maintain that weight loss.
Please, oh please, don’t just go looking for another crash diet. In the end, you’ll lose much more than some money and a few pounds.
Vegetables are, quite literally, life.
Without enough of the vital nutrients and vitamins in these incredibly important plants, survival for humans in the modern world is very hard. Thriving is even harder.
Yet the vast majority of the those in the developed world, and especially the United States, continue to eat less than the recommended daily amount.
Not only that, but over the centuries, the varieties of fruits and vegetables we eat in the United States have become sanitized, reduced, and sometimes genetically modified.
We grow far fewer varieties of vegetables and fruits than ever before in our history, and the fruits and veggies we have access to are often limited compared to other countries.
Additionally, the vegetables and fruits we eat are limited by our taste buds.
Americans tend to have a set variety of vegetables they like to eat and many don’t like or know how to try new things. But this limits us so much!
Smoothies are great and juicing has its benefits. But what if there was a way to get highly concentrated vegetables in everything you eat- from salads to smoothies to baked goods?
What if we could eat our recommended 5 servings of veggies and fruit a day AND add additional veggies without having to actually force another whole vegetable down our throats?
And what if we could supplement our diets to have an incredible variety not possible in typical American diets, even healthy ones?
Enter Dr. Cowan’s Vegetable Powders.
These isn’t your typical green powder supplement.
Dr. Cowan carefully formulates several distinct, organic powders to help provide those concerned with eating a healthy diet highly nutritious, interesting, and delicious flavors.
The powders are formulated not just for maximum nutrients but for taste and can be added to cooked foods and baked goods as well.
I had the chance this week to sample several of the powders. I was lucky enough to sample the Leek, winter vegetable, Burdock roots, and savory threefold blend.
In addition to having AMAZING flavor leeks are a rich source of many of the B vitamins, have more polyphenols (chemicals that are thought to prevent human disease) than most other commonly eaten garden vegetables, and are loaded with vitamin K.
Burdock root has many health properties like prevention of acne, reduction of allergies, and can even help with eczema! The savory threefold blend was really cool! Most people use only the roots of a certain vegetable or only the leaves.
The threefold powder uses the whole plant because its recognized that the different parts of the plant have different health properties, and this way we get them all!
All of the powders were delicious and unique and actually added flavor to my food.
I added them to my breakfast smoothies and even once put them in some gluten free brownies. Whaaaat.
Dr. Cowan was so nice to share with me, I’m excited that we’re able to share these with you too!
Just use this link and place an order and receive 20% off your first purchase with the code PALEOFORWOMEN.
20% is a HUGE discount off these organic, nutritional powerhouses.
So if you want to get more nutrition in a smaller package, check out everything they’ve got to offer and don’t forget to use your code ‘PALEOFORWOMEN’ for 20% off.
Find Dr. Cowan’s vegetable powders here!