I Just Finished the Whole30 Challenge - Here are my 10 Takeaways

I am a believer in avoiding fad diets. Instead, I believe in finding the eating style that works for you longer-term. One that helps you reach and maintain your health goals.

But on top of that, when you feel you need a short-term boost to your health (and waistline), food-based detoxes are optimal.

In the toxic world we live in, we can all benefit from a light cleanse here and there. While they may not be necessary if you already eat a very clean diet, I find that the benefits outweigh any negatives, for almost everyone.

And, if you do have a particular health concern, doing a longer-term detox – like a 30 day elimination diet – can be EXTREMELY beneficial. And that’s what led me to trying the Whole30.

READ MORE to learn more about the Whole30, my takeaways, recommendations, and lessons learned!

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COLLAGEN: Why You Need It & How to Get It

Have your heard about COLLAGEN? Maybe when you hear the word "collagen" you think about cosmetic procedures such as "collagen injections" or collagen boosting creams and such. But it's CRUCIAL to understand that collagen is so much more than that - it's everywhere in your body and it's essential to your health, for both your inner and outer beauty. And this applies to men, too!

Collagen is a super important protein in your body; it makes up about 75% of our skin composition, and 30% of our bodies overall. Unfortunately, we are losing our collagen every day - not only as we age, but also due to hormonal changes, processed foods, sugar and alcohol, hydrogenated oils, radiation, excess sun, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, stress, and more! And most of us are not getting enough collagen in our modern diets. Therefore, boosting your intake of collagen is ESSENTIAL, as is minimizing those factors that decrease our collagen!

Read more to learn BENEFITS of Collagen and HOW to increase your collagen.

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A Quick, Delicious, Gut-Friendly Meal: Easy Vegetable Chickpea Curry

Do you come home tired from work without energy to cook (nor digest) a big meal? Do you crave a light, simple meal, yet comforting and soothing?

Maybe you’re still a bit stressed form work and your belly feels a bit bloated, so you know that you need something easy to digest.

This happens to me constantly. And while a sandwich or bowl of cereal is what I would do in the past, I now know that all that gluten and sugar at night is the WORST thing for my belly. So about a year ago, on one of these tired work days, I came home to go though my pantry and fridge to see what easy and belly-friendly meal I could make, and that’s when I first came up with my Easy Vegetable Chickpea Curry. And now, its become one of my go-to meals for these days.

On top of being simple and delicious, it’s awesome for your digestion. This dish is filled with all the different types of fiber to help you poop beautifully (yep I said it!) and the curry spices help you digest the food – which is especially important at dinner time.

And most importantly, this dish can be done in just half an hour (or even less). 

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A Simple Ritual to Improve Your Health

As you’ve probably heard me say time and again, the health of your digestive tract has a lot of influence over your entire health.

Your gut is linked with your nervous system, your brain, your immune system, your hormones, and it’s extremely linked to your weight. The trillions of bacteria in your gut play a large role in: weight management and avoiding obesity; preventing diseases like diabetes, arthritis, MS, even cancer; balancing neurotransmitters (affecting our mood, stress, depression, etc.); boosting immunity (to avoid getting colds/flu/infections); supporting digestive health (pooping regularly and properly, avoiding tummy aches, bloating, gas), and more!

So clearly, it’s extremely important to keep your gut and belly healthy in order to both lose weight and stay healthy. One important way to do this is taking probiotics. BUT it’s a lot more than that.

Improving your DAILY HABITS and RITUALS to improve digestion is absolutely key. That includes paying closer to not only what you eat, but also HOW you eat.

Too often, we’re eating when we’re feeling rushed, stressed about work, our to-do list, etc., and this impairs digestion and usually leads to a bloated belly and/or gasses. And if we eat this way too often, we can end up with nutrient deficiencies, digestive symptoms, and gut issues (such as gut dysbiosis or leaky gut). And as I mentioned earlier, these gut issues can then affect the rest of your health.

So today I want to share a lovely ritual to apply at EACH MEAL before eating, that will help you get your body out of its sympathetic state (“fight or flight”) and into a parasympathetic state (“rest and digest”), in order to help your digestive system function optimally. When your body is relaxed and focused on eating (vs on other things), your body will better absorb nutrients (to boost your health) and avoid digestive problems.

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Is Your Gut Keeping You from Balanced Hormones and Weight Loss?

I work with a lot of people that are seemingly healthy, but struggle to lose those last few pounds. Often, they get tired most afternoons (and rely on coffee), have occasional skin issues, and some digestive issues. That’s when I usually detect that its related to their hormones. The problem then becomes that most doctors just have people treat these hormonal imbalances by taking more hormones, instead of figuring out WHY their hormones are off in the first place. (For ex., you have acne so you get prescribe the pill). But almost always, when there is any hormonal imbalance, there is an issue with the gut.

The first step to achieving optimal health and healing from the inside out is improving your gut health.

An unhealthy gut affects your body’s ability to produce the right quantity of hormones - including cortisol, thyroid hormone and sex hormones. A healthy gut is needed to fully absorb and metabolize nutrients from the foods you eat, which are necessary for the proper production of hormones (and for stress reduction!).

And if you're stressed and your hormones are off (for example, you're producing too much cortisol and/or not enough thyroid), this leads to symptoms such as: weight gain, anxiety, fatigue, as well as imbalances in your sex hormones, menstrual health and infertility.

So what can you do to improve your gut health and achieve hormonal balance, get more energy, better skin, stronger immunity, and weight loss?

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PROBIOTICS - WHAT THEY ARE AND WHY YOU NEED THEM

As a Health Coach, I often bring up the topic of PROBIOTICS with my clients, as I find that a large majority of people, especially those with signs of inflammation or digestive issues, could benefit massively from including more probiotics in their diet.

But I’ve come to realize that the knowledge about these good bugs is still not wide-spread; most people just associate them with yogurt. So I wanted to shed some light, as this topic is one that I personally feel very strongly about and have spent lots of time researching, for both myself and clients.

FIRST, WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?

The word itself is a compound of two Greek words, ‘pro’ meaning “of’ and “biotic” meaning “life”, so essentially, the very definition of probiotics affirms life and health! But in very basic terms, probiotics are strains of “good bacteria” that support our native beneficial bacteria and help control the “bad bacteria” from getting out of control. You can get them from fermented foods or take them as a supplement.

Some examples of probiotic-rich foods include:

  • Yogurt (best to buy plain/unflavored and organic!)
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Kombucha tea

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

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4 Food-Pairing Rules To Radically Improve Digestion

Making sure to eat in a way that supports your gut and optimal digestion is key for both long-term health and sustainable weight loss. A few of the things that help to keep a healthy gut include eating lots of prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods; cutting out refined starches, excess sugar, and processed foods; as well as proper food combining.

Food combining emphasizes the importance of eating certain foods simultaneously for efficient, optimal digestion and avoiding certain foods that, when paired together, are difficult for our bodies to properly process.

Improper food combinations can leave undigested food in the digestive track, creating symptoms such as bloating, gas, fatigue, and ultimately leading to a buildup of toxicity.

Paying attention to food combining is extremely helpful for staying healthy, feeling vibrant, and losing weight.

Here's my simplified list of the food combining "rules”:

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A Healthier New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR. I hope you were able to read through my last few emails of 2015 and take some of my advice for having a healthy, balanced holiday.

I personally took advantage of my long vacation to relax, spend time with family, eat delicious, local, healthy food, enjoy good wines, and of course, I always made time for some long walks, quick jogs, and/or yoga in the morning.

Even though I really nourished myself, I still feel the accumulation of a bit too much sugar (yes I allowed myself to indulge in delicious Freddo ice cream) and a bit too much wine and champagne (during my vacation, there was no notion of weekends vs. weekdays, every day was like a Saturday!). And I know this is the case for many of you. Which is totally OK on occasion, especially if you enjoyed it in a guilt-free way as I did.

But now the new year has started and the vacation is coming to an end (or has ended for most of you). So it’s time to get back on track and give our bodies a break from the toxic sugar (and alcohol) that we enjoyed over the holidays. Because even small amounts of sugar can quickly become addictive, and start messing with our hormones and our body’s metabolism and digestion. The best thing to do is to keep sugar (especially the processed kind) to a minimum in our day-to-day, and once a season, do a good 7-14 day detox where we have NO processed sugar (nor processed anything that turns into sugar or contains sugar). Same applies to other substances that can cause inflammation and irritation in our bodies, such as caffeine, gluten, dairy, processed meats, and GMO-foods such as soy and corn. It is HUGELY beneficial to give our bodies a short break from these foods a few times a year (or minimum once a year) to allow your body to “reset” and focus on getting rid of accumulated toxins.

Which is why I have created a seasonal 10-day detox, which I change up a bit depending on the season. Starting Tuesday January 19th (day after Martin Luther King holiday), I will be doing a small group coaching for a Winter Detox. I will give you all the tools you need in order to make this detox easy and successful, so you can feel all the amazing benefits from a proper detoxification without much effort. You will even enjoy it! I will provide you with a detailed guide for your detox, including suggestions for a 3 day “pre-cleanse” to do over the weekend prior to starting the detox, as well as suggestions for coming off of the detox. So it’s a 10-day detox but I’ll give you over 2 weeks of support. The best thing is that its completely doable for anyone. More details can be found on my website, and if you have any questions, shoot me a message to ms@balancewithmariana.com.

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Having Friends Over? My Easy, Healthy “Go-To” Dish for Entertaining

I don’t know about you, but I love entertaining and wish I could do it more often. Why don't I? Because it’s time consuming and so much work! I host dinner parties sometimes with the help of someone (say for ex., my wonderful boyfriend who cooks up an awesome churrasco) which makes it so much fun, but it’s once in a blue moon. 

But having friends over should be easy and fun. Plus, if I'm hosting, I know that I can keep it on the healthy side - a huge plus. So what becomes my solution? I invite people over for some wine and a few appetizers. And while it’s much easier to just buy some pre-made hummus and pita chips, it's more special (and healthy!) to make a dish or two of my own.  

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A Superfood That Will Change Your Life

Do you have any digestive issues?  Cholesterol concerns?  Heart concerns?  Are you catching a cold?  Want to build more muscle?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should be eating chia seeds!  Chia seeds are packed with Omega-3’s, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, antioxidants - that help you lower cholesterol, reduce your risks of heart disease, build muscle, and improve your bowel movements.

They’re also packed with phytonutrients that boost the immune system, support bone-building health, and improve hair, skin and nails.

Lastly, because of the high protein and fiber content in each small serving, chia seeds will suppress your appetite by making you feel full, therefore a great tool for weight-loss!

And in my opinion, the KEY to making the introduction of chia seeds into your diet a GREAT one, is learning how to make Chia Pudding.  Chia seeds will act like sponges, absorbing about 12 times their volume when exposed to water/liquids, which is why they easily create this pudding-like texture.  And with these recipes that I will share with you, you’ll quickly see how simple yet delicious chia pudding can be.  Enjoy for breakfast, or a smaller portion is great for dessert or a snack. 

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A Protein and Fiber Rich Breakfast to Give You Energy All Morning

Most of you know that my favorite breakfast is a green smoothie, but its important to switch it up a bit.  What's important to keep in mind is that you need a good dose of protein, healthy fats and fiber in each meal, especially in the morning.  This helps keep you full, it keeps your blood sugar stable, and of course, it supports proper digestion.

While I have found that a "super-food" protein smoothie is my go-to solution, I often crave something warm and more hearty.  On those days, I usually go for a warm bowl of oatmeal.  However, as I started paying closer attention to my body and how it feels after different meals, I came to realize that my beloved oatmeal usually didn't keep me full long enough, and I was often feeling tired two hours after my breakfast.  Why?  Because while plain oatmeal has some fiber and protein, it's just not enough on it's own, and if you add sugar or honey (as I did) without adding more fiber or healthy fats, it can cause a spike in your blood sugar.  So I started playing around with my oatmeal to make it a better, more wholesome (and more delicious!) breakfast. 

Here is one example that I came up with recently, and absolutely love! It's a gluten-free, protein- and fiber-rich, multi-seed, and delicious oatmeal recipe:  Quinoa, Millet & Chia Oatmeal.

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Easy Weeknight Quinoa & Tempeh Salad

One of the key things I try to teach my clients is that healthy cooking doesn't have to be complicated.  It doesn't have to be a chore.  And you don't need to be a chef.  But like everything, it gets easier with practice.

So I'm going to start sharing with you some healthy and easy recipes. Here is an easy weeknight salad dish that I love:

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A Cleansing Red Smoothie for Valentines

While I don’t particularly like the excessive marketing around Valentines Day, it is nice to share the spirit of LOVE, and to get in the mood with a nice red dress or lipstick.  Another idea is starting your Valentines Day with a nice healthy red smoothie.  I've recently tried adding beets to my smoothies, and it tastes amazing, giving the smoothie a nice added sweetness.  And apart from giving off a nice red color and sweet flavor, beets are surprisingly nutritious!

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A Wholesome Recipe For Anyone - Lentil Vegetable Soup

One of the biggest challenges to healthy eating is finding THE TIME to cook, especially for all of us working long days.  So one thing I preach is the principle of “cook once, eat twice.”

One of the easiest, healthy dinner recipes that is great for leftovers is a lentil and vegetable soup. Its nutritious, filling, and something that can be served for the whole family. Find some time in your Sunday to cook the soup (and you can multitask while it cooks!), and then you can have it once or twice more during the week, depending on how many you’re cooking for.

Lentils are filled with protein and fiber,  which fill you up quickly, and have the added benefit of lowering cholesterol and balancing sugar levels. Lentils are also good sources of folate and magnesium, contributing to heart health. And lastly, as a relatively low calorie food, they are great for weight loss, especially when combined with vegetables!

So I’ll share with you a recipe that I make very often and highly suggest you try:

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Chocolate in the Morning?! A Delicious, Healthy Recipe to Start Your Day

A filling nutritious breakfast is key to starting off your day right. And it's the best time of the day to squeeze in a good serving of greens, and most of the minerals and vitamins we need for the day. 

So I love making smoothies with clean, nutrient-rich ingredients, that give me a good amount of morning energy (I no longer need coffee!), but that also taste amazing. Also, smoothies are so quick and easy to prepare- I throw the ingredients into my nutri-bullet, blend, and it's ready to go!

Here is an example of one of my favorites, which has raw cacao to satisfy my chocolate craving, without spiking my blood sugar as most other processed breakfasts would.

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My Top 10 Health Tips

We've begun 2015, and we've all thought about our resolutions for the new year.  Everyone has at least one goal in mind related to getting healthier, fitter, or reaching a target weight.  But it's this time of the year when I see many people determined to try the latest diet, instead of focusing on longer term lifestyle changes.

Too many people are focused on calories in- calories out, and missing out on the true toxic, weight-gain triggers.  Here are some tips that many people don't realize are KEY to losing those extra pounds, and more importantly, to getting your health on the right track in order to keep those pounds off for good...

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