Looking to enjoy refreshing summertime drinks but hate the added alcohol calories? Take a break from the added sugar and try one of these refreshing mocktail recipes. Treat your body to a summer break and give the following recipes a try!
Pour the salt and cayenne in a shallow dish that will fit the cup rim. Rub the lime slice around the rim of your cup and dip the cup into the salt mix. Fill the cup with ice and sparkling water. Garnish with a lime slice on the rim.
Blackberry Mojito (serves 1)
8-12 oz. sparkling water
3-4 organic blackberries
2 organic lime slices (save one for garnish)
4-5 mint leaves
Half a glass of ice
In a glass of your choice, or in a cocktail mixer, muddle the blackberries, mint and 1 of the lime lime slices together. Fill the glass halfway with ice and add sparkling water. Garnish with lime slice or mint.
Moscow Mule (serves 1)
8-12 oz. sparkling water
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. grated ginger
1 cup ice
Combine lime, lemon juice and ginger in your mug (copper is best). Add ice and sparkling water.
Cucumber Cooler (serves 4-6)
1 organic cucumber, skinned and thinly sliced
6 cups filtered water
2 lemons, sliced
Ice (per serving)
In a large pitcher, add cucumber slices, water, and lemon (you can also add mint or basil for extra flavors). Leave the pitcher in the refrigerator overnight (try to get at least 4 hours) to marinate. Add ice to cups and pour cucumber cooler in cups to serve. Garnish with sliced cucumber.
Have you ever heard the saying, “a healthy mind lives in a healthy body?” The way Chef V founder Veronica “V” Wheat sees it, a healthy mind exists because of a healthy gut. But it’s not just mental health that’s linked to gut health. The immune system, cardiovascular health, skin appearance, and, of course, how you look in a swimsuit is all controlled by the health of your gut. So V is here to offer 5 easy tips to boost gut health.
Healthy Gut Makeover Tip #1: Take It Easy On The Kombucha
When it comes to improving gut health, some people think all it takes is drinking some kombucha.
But as I mentioned here, many brands of kombucha are just glorified sugar water. The major selling point of kombucha is that it’s loaded with probiotics. Probiotics just so you know are clinically-proven strains of bacteria that may offer health benefits. (Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria are two of the most common species of probiotics).
Forget the fact that the probiotic content in kombucha is hardly ever verified. So it’s hard to tell if you’re getting any of the friendly-bacteria boosting benefits of kombucha to begin with. Not to mention if you struggle with yeast infections, drinking kombucha is the last thing you want to do. That’s because chugging a whole bottle of it, as refreshingly bubbly as it may be, may cause harmful bacteria and yeast to grow in your gut.
So my first healthy gut makeover tip is don’t be fooled thinking that kombucha is a magical elixir. Instead, eat and drink other things that are fermented with beneficial bacteria that aren’t loaded with sugar like coconut yogurt, sauerkraut/kimchi, beet kvass, tempeh and miso.
Popping probiotic pills might help improve gut health, then again it may not. Many brands of probiotics are low quality. So don’t buy the cheapest probiotic supplement you can find because you’ll just be throwing your money away.
The reason why is that in order to colonize in your large intestine (also called the colon), the friendly microorganisms have to travel through some dangerous territory: the stomach.
You can think of your stomach as a swimming pool filled with acid. Containing the lowest pH level in the digestive system, the stomach and its highly acidic juices help break the big bites of food you swallow into partially-digested morsels called chyme.
Chyme then passes into the small intestine where enzymes further break it down into amino acids and nutrients.
So the cards are stacked against probiotics surviving this harsh acidic environment. Only high-quality probiotics that are formulated to break down once they reach the relative safety of the intestines are worth paying for. But even if you splurge on a pricey probiotic, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have the best gut makeover…
#3: No Added Sugar Diet
Taking a probiotic supplement and eating and drinking things with added sugars is like not flossing and expecting your dentist to tell you that your gums look great.
(By the way, you should be flossing every day because if you don’t, the unhealthy bacteria will take over in your mouth and possibly other organs—including your gut!)
Sure, taking a really good probiotic is better than not taking one and consuming lots of sugar. The problem is, you might think you’re not consuming that much added sugars because you don’t eat candy, drink soda or other typical junk foods. But food manufacturers are sneaky. They put added sugars into all kinds of things, from salad dressing to coffee creamer to salsa, pasta sauce, bread … you name it.
So start paying attention to food labels on every single item you purchase from a supermarket. This is especially true of anything that comes in a package or can.
Consuming sugar from natural sources like vegetables and fruit is fine. But added sugars are to your bad gut bacteria what gasoline is to a car. Excess sugar fuels the pathogenic, disease-causing invisible critters in your gut.
I’m a purist when it comes to this rule. If I even see that a product contains just one gram of added sugar, I won’t buy it.
#4: Take It Easy
Constantly being on the go is the American way. But that lifestyle is terrible for gut health. And remember, if it’s terrible for gut health, it’s bad for your overall health and wellness. There are a ton of research studies (like this one) that show a connection between excess bad stress and poor gut health. In order to have great gut health, your brain and gut need to have great communication, just like in a healthy marriage.
The problem with chronic stress is that it totally disrupts gut and central nervous system communication. And when that happens, your happy hormones and chemicals like serotonin won’t get activated.
Even if you have a super slammed schedule like yours truly, you must take the time to decompress from stress.
I like to take mini-meditation breaks. You can meditate even while you’re stuck in traffic. Instead of being annoyed that you didn’t make the light, take advantage of the situation by taking some slow deep breaths. Notice the plants and scenery around you. Don’t stare at the red light with nervous energy.
Do a 5-minute yoga routine a few times a day, take a walk during lunch. Knit, garden, do whatever it takes to chill out—in a healthy way.
#5: Sleep Like A Baby
Like the link between gut and brain communication, there’s been a lot of research lately on the association between sleep quality and gut health.
It’s easy to say get enough sleep but if you’re stuck in a vicious cycle of insomnia and poor sleep quality, what can be done?
I recommend meditating or doing deep, steady breathing at 9:00 at night for about 20 minutes. Then, take a warm bath with soothing, relaxing essential oils and bubble bath. You can also try drinking some chamomile tea and then get in bed with all electronics out of the room and your phone in airplane mode several feet away from you. If you’re still having trouble getting enough deep sleep after trying these tips, you may want to try a full-spectrum CBD oil or consult with a natural health professional.
Personally, I don’t think getting 8 hours of sleep is necessary. Not if you’re eating clean and drinking organic greens, managing your stress, getting plenty of movement activity during the day and having an attitude of gratitude.
I hope that these tips help you achieve a healthy gut makeover!
Food trends usually quickly come and go. I remember about a decade ago, exotic superfruits like acai, goji berries and mangosteen were all the rage for a couple years. Then it seemed like overnight, coconut oil was king. Fast forward even more recently and fermented drinks like kombucha flooded farmers markets and supermarket chains. Even alcoholic kombucha surged in popularity.
But I think the biggest health trends of 2021 will be less fly-by-night and won’t be dictated by more youthful market drivers like kombucha (“booch”) and fast food vegan burgers. Instead, next year’s trends in nutrition and wellness will be more permanent and predicated on people’s motivation to stay healthy during the pandemic.
So scoot your boot, booch, and make room for things that are going to exert a more positive impact on immunity and overall wellness.
#1: Low-Glycemic Diets
Back in the summer, even though the pandemic was only a few months old, it seemed like things were a lot less critical compared to now.
That’s because in the summer, people spend more time outdoors and aren’t challenged by viral infections nearly as much as in the winter.
But during the summer, I cautioned that it’s critical to pay attention to blood sugar levels and eat a low-glycemic diet so that your immune system stays strong in the transition to fall, which is when people get hit the hardest by viruses.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing a dramatic manifestation of that with Covid infections spiking.
Research shows that the virus that causes Covid-19 makes copies of itself by feasting on sugar. That’s not surprising as many viruses use sugar to reproduce. Data also shows that people with type 2 diabetes who have high blood sugar levels (in other words, those who have diabetes and aren’t controlling their blood sugar) are more at risk of developing severe Covid symptoms and dying from it.
Despite the promise of a Covid vaccine, many natural health-minded people realize that a vaccine alone does not provide an injection of wellness. I predict that more people will commit to eliminating added sugars from their diet.
I don’t know if the prediction will come true. I hope it does, obviously. Maybe I should retitle this post, Chef V’s Top Hopes For 2021. Nah, let’s stick with the prediction. I’m optimistic more people are going to experience a wake-up call and start taking charge of their health!
#2: Symbiotics For Gut Health
You don’t have to be a psychic to predict that probiotics will remain a major nutrition and wellness trend. But not everybody is as well informed about natural health as you are. Think about the millions of people who still are unaware of the link between gut health and immunity, mood stability, sleep quality, and a long list of other wellness factors.
I wrote about the importance of having good gut health a few years ago. But my thinking and knowledge about gut health has evolved since then. I no longer think that the secret to obtaining gut health is as simple as popping a probiotic pill. Not that I really ever thought that; I know that you can’t eat junk food and think that taking a probiotic pill will miraculously wipe out the harmful effects of a nutrient-poor diet.
But what I didn’t realize back when I wrote the post is that there are certain foods that are the cream of the crop for feeding the good bacteria in your gut. These foods contain prebiotic fiber, and I revealed them here.
I predict that in 2021 and for the next several years, symbiotic supplements are going to become a household name. Symbiotic supplements contain both prebiotic fiber and probiotics.
The reason you can’t achieve good gut health if you eat lots of processed food, even if you take a probiotic supplement is that without prebiotic fiber, your good bacteria has nothing to feed on; your gut’s friendly microorganisms won’t be able to flourish.
As more people delve into the inner workings of gut health, knowing that achieving it is essential for a healthy immune system, I expect symbiotics to be a booming business.
By the way, green leafy veggies like the 7 different kinds in my Organic Green Drink (delivered to your home for your convenience) are excellent sources of prebiotic fiber!
As a certified nutritional therapist, I’ve been aware of the therapeutic benefits of edible mushroom for years. Many people, however, equate mushrooms with a squishy, tasteless pizza topping or afterthought in a stir-fry dish. But mushrooms are already a big trend, and I expect fabulous fungi to get placed even higher on the superfood A-list.
The pandemic has more people seeking out foods that have anti-viral, immune-boosting capabilities. And mushrooms are all that and more. Some nutrition brands are making a killing peddling mushroom powder. I prefer to eat whole mushrooms but some people may prefer taking a mushroom powder supplement; eating fleshy, earthy-tasting mushrooms can be an acquired taste.
Obviously, eating mushrooms or taking mushroom powder is no guarantee for Covid prevention. But mushrooms truly are an immune-boosting superstar. If you’re not including them in your diet, start doing it now.
#4: Vitamin D
One year after the pandemic started making headlines, most people are aware of the connection between vitamin D and the severity of Covid symptoms. People whose lives have been tragically cut short by Covid are more likely to be vitamin D deficient. The alarming thing is that 9 out of 10 people may at the very least have suboptimal levels of vitamin D.
I talked about the connection between Vitamin D and the immune system earlier this year. (Read about it here.) The big takeaway from the article, in regards to Covid is that having enough vitamin D is an easy and effective way to reduce your risk of developing a respiratory infection.
Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure if you need to take a supplement is to get a vitamin D blood test. You can either get it from your doctor or order one online.
Vitamin D research organizations recommend taking more D than what the federal government recommends, which is 400 – 800 IUs per day. Instead, aim for 4000 to 5000 IUs, especially in winter when it’s next to impossible to synthesize enough active vitamin D from the sun.
The importance of vitamin D has been well documented for years. But because of the pandemic, it’s going to be at the forefront of many people’s minds for months if not years to come.
#5: Adapting to Stress
Right before Thanksgiving, I recommended doing these 5 things everyday to stay healthy during the holidays. One of them was supplementing with adaptogenic herbs. And I’m here to remind you to take adaptogens every single day.
In addition to balancing the immune system, and regulating blood sugar levels, adaptogens help the body get back in balance by neutralizing the harmful effects of stress. Adaptogenic herbs are the very best therapeutic plants Mother Nature has to offer.
They may not magically eliminate the stressors from your life, but they help your body and mind and even your spirit cope with stress. Adaptogens can improve stamina, libido, concentration, and sleep quality, all while helping you feel more relaxed and calm.
The toll that the pandemic is taking on people’s mental health is staggering. I realize that those who have lost jobs might not be able to afford to supplement with adaptogenic herbs, probiotics, vitamin D, not to mention vitamin C and zinc, all of which contribute to a healthy immune system.
But at the very least, eating a diet consisting of real food with no added sugars, and maintaining a daily meditation or deep breathing practice can help keep you healthy. Hopefully, these healthy habits will not only be trending in 2021, but will endure for the long haul.
I recently hopped on the kombucha bandwagon and here’s what happened….
Now before I put the wagon before the horse, just in case you’re not exactly sure what kombucha is, here’s a crash course….
What is Kombucha?
It’s fermented tea. That might not sound that appetizing, and the truth is that many kombuchas taste awful. And as I’ve come to find out, I wish all the ones I tried tasted awful because I would have spit them all out, and not experienced any negative side effects (more on this in a little bit.)
The ones that do please the palate have a slightly bubbly mouthfeel and taste tarty. When it’s hot out and you don’t feel like drinking room-temperature water or hot tea, a glass of cold bubbly booch really hits the spot.
And I thought by drinking a lot of it, I was being healthy. That’s because kombucha is supposedly loaded with probiotics. Because of the rise in consciousness with gut health, fermented foods and drinks have become mega popular. That’s why if you go to your local farmer’s market, you’ll see weird fermented drinks that weren’t around 5-10 years ago like beet kvass and, of course, kombucha.
How is it Made?
Traditionally, kombucha is made with either black or green tea. Lately, I’ve seen recipes featuring other tea varieties such as rooibos. I’ve also tried so-called high-alcohol kombucha, which is fermented for longer. All kombucha, because of the fermentation process, contains a little alcohol.
So if you’re in recovery or trying to detox from alcohol, you might want to think twice about drinking a lot of it. People think it’s healthier to get buzzed on high-alcohol kombucha because it contains probiotics.
But one truth about kombucha, at least the kind that can really get you buzzed is that there’s probably very little probiotics left—the alcohol kills it. And high-alcohol booch isn’t safer than drinking beer or wine. On the contrary, BoochCraft and other brands of alcoholic kombucha contain more alcohol per volume than beer and wine.
The process of making regular kombucha is like a science experiment. First, you brew a high-sugar sweet tea.
The high sugar should have been a red flag for me; I was oblivious to the potential dangers because of the hyped-up health claims.
After the sweet tea is brewed, a milky, cloudy, stringy yeast and bacteria starter culture called SCOBY is added. SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Yum! The brew is refrigerated for 7-10 days.
No doubt the way kombucha was traditionally made, beginning over 2000 years ago in China, offered health benefits. But today’s booches surely aren't the same as what was made during the Qin dynasty.
One word of caution if you’re going to try to make kombucha on your own: if it’s not prepared properly, it can contain nasty bacteria or mold.
Chef V’s Kombucha Experiment Gone Wrong
I don’t think I drank any bad batches of booch. But the mistake I made was drinking it every day. I admit: I became addicted to it. And my addiction eventually caused problems. Mostly, I experienced bloating or an upset stomach. Feeling like I was tricked by kombucha, I did some digging and found out that I wasn’t the only one having problems…
Can Kombucha Cause Yeast Infections?
As I read more and more about the dark side of kombucha, I learned that it can cause adult acne. And if you’re concerned about getting a bacterial yeast infection, after reading this next thing, you just might hop off the booch bandwagon forever….
According to this food microbiology journal, after the 7th day of fermentation, candida is the most abundant yeast in kombucha.
Now, don’t freak out entirely about candida. Everyone has a little bit of the yeast in their mouth and intestines (gross, right?). But if you already have an overgrowth of yeast because of a poor diet (too much sugar and starchy carbs), kombucha is the last thing you should be drinking; just stick with lots of water and low-sugar Green Drink!
If you’re struggling with energy; get recurrent UTIs or sinus infections; or have poor digestion and skin problems, these are tell-tale signs of candida overgrowth. If this is the case, go on a candida cleanse and just say no to kombucha! (First steps in a candida cleanse: probiotic supplements, low-carb diet, drink lots of water and Green Drink.)
The Truth About Kombucha: Is It Good For the Gut?
The main selling point about kombucha is that because it’s fermented, it contains beneficial microbes that may help colonize the gut. Gut health is so important and I’m glad that the topic of gut health has gone mainstream. Gut health not only affects our digestion, it’s directly linked to our cognitive function, immune system, and mood.
But the truth about kombucha is we don’t know for sure if it’s even good for the gut. As this study from just last year, published in Nutrients points out, “[T]here are no studies of the effects of kombucha on gastrointestinal health and microbiota in humans.”
Another study, also from last year, reviewed 310 articles about kombucha. The researchers were unable to find even one random clinical trial (the gold-standard of research studies) that proves it can help gastrointestinal disorders, “including any of the functional bowel disorders.”
I realize that random clinical trials are super expensive to run. For the most part, only pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in running a clinical trial with lots of people. Your average kombucha new kid on the block isn’t going to have the millions to fund an RCT. But I think it’s pretty telling that in over 300 studies on kombucha, the researchers weren’t even able to find one study with, say, 10 people, that offers some proof about kombucha’s supposed health benefits on the digestive system.
But hey, if you love it and you think it works for you, then by all means continue to drink it. Personally, I think it’s overrated, especially the big brands sold in supermarkets.
Is Kombucha Healthy? Conclusion
If you want to support your gut health, first of all, you need to limit your sugar intake and consume lots of veggies that contain indigestible prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fiber feeds the good bacteria in your colon. (Score another point for Green Drink: the 7 leafy greens have the fiber your gut needs.)
And if you want to colonize your gut with even more beneficial microscopic bugs, eat other fermented foods that don’t have added sugar. Think: plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi (cabbage), and fermented soybean dishes like natto, miso soup, and tempeh.
Is kombucha healthier than cola? Sure. But is it healthier than Organic Green Drink? No way. Is high-alcohol kombucha better for your health than a glass of wine because of the probiotics? I think not. Dry wines contain only 1 gram of residual sugar. Plus you get the anti-aging benefits of the chemical, resveratrol, which is abundant in grape skins.
(Want a boozy drink without the alcohol? Try my low-sugar, high-nutrient-density mocktails.)
I’ve seen some brands of kombucha contain as much sugar as a glass of orange juice (over 20 grams per 8-ounce serving). Drinking that much sugar everyday is just asking for a yeast infection. Even lower-sugar varieties of kombucha, I’ve realized, have too much sugar for my system. (You can water down the booch by making a spritzer.)