A little bit of spice

Spices have been with us for many, many years (if not decades) and are used in a variety of dishes to add flavour and/or colour. Spices are known for their aroma and health benefits. So, in today’s blog post, I am going to look at a few of these spices.

Allspice: an interesting name for an interesting spice. It looks like pepper but it tastes like a mixture of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Although it is called allspice, it is just a single spice and not a compound of spices. It is used in both sweet and savoury dishes, as it adds a lovely warmth to the dish. My granny used allspice in biscuits and until today, it still remains one of my favourite recipes! Allspice is not only used in baking and cooking, but also in herbal medicine and cosmetics (more on this a bit later).

Allspice is native to Central and South America, as well as the West Indies. It flourishes in Jamaica and, thanks to Columbus, the reddish-brown berries made its way to Europe. The Allspice-tree is an evergreen tree that bears fruit after 6 years or so. Its berries are picked when they are still green but mature, then dried for about 10 days in the sun, until a reddish-brown colour appears. In cooking it can be used in dried fruit cakes, fruit crumble toppings and biscuits. It can also be added to pickled vegetables, chutneys and relishes. Allspice can also be added to red meat marinades and casseroles. Overseas it is added to Scandinavian pickled herring, in Jamaica and the West Indies it is used in stews, soups and curries, and in India allspice is added to curries and pilau rice.

For health purposes, allspice is used in ointment for its anaesthetic properties; the oil from the crushed berries is used in medicines to alleviate indigestion and upset stomachs. It is also known to help with headaches and toothaches. When a plaster / paste is made from the crushed berries it is used to relieve rheumatism- and neuralgia pain. In aromatherapy allspice is used to treat many ailments, for example arthritis, chills, coughs, cramps, depression, fatigue, stiffness and stress.
In cosmetics allspice essential oil is a common ingredient in spice-based perfumes and soaps for men; and also added to potpourri, together with cinnamon, for an extra spiciness-hint.

Ginger: who doesn’t love ginger? Whether it is in a drink or in biscuits, ginger has been around for years! It originated in Southeast Asia and was introduced to Europe before the Roman times. It is easy to transport because its roots stay fresh for a considerable time, thus it could be shipped by the Spanish, Portuguese and Arabs between various tropical countries, and Europe, from the 13th to the 18th century. In medieval times it was used as a flavouring and for medicinal purposes; it was commonly used to treat the plague! In today’s modern world ginger is cultivated all over the world and used in food and as medicine.

There are a number of variations of ginger, for example ‘green’ ginger (rhizome), is best used in curries and savoury dishes. Dried ginger is used in pickling, in a powered form it is used in cakes and biscuits, and as ‘stem’ ginger, it can be preserved in syrup to add to sweet dishes. A lovely sweet (candy) is crystallized ginger; either eaten on its own or used in biscuits and sweets. There are also ginger tea, ginger oil, ginger wine and Japanese pickled ginger on the market today, catering for a wide variety of taste-buds. Lastly, if you prefer to use fresh ginger and would like it to stay fresh for longer, then simply peel any left-over pieces, put it into a jar and add dry sherry. Keep it in the fridge and there you go! Your ginger’s life is prolonged with another 2 – 3 weeks. Bonus is, the ginger-flavoured sherry is a lovely addition to stir-fries and to marinade chicken and pork.

For medicinal / health purposes, ginger has been used extensively by the Chinese to help dysentery, toothache, rheumatism, malaria, nausea and to soothe a cold. It can also be used as a laxative (so be careful not to drink too much ginger tea)! As an essential oil ginger is used in aromatherapy to treat poor circulation, muscular pains arthritis and rheumatism.

In cosmetics ginger is used in the more exotic, spicy fragrances; typically of the East and Asia.

Mace and Nutmeg: these 2 spices come from the same fruit tree, that is native to the Spice (Moluccas) Islands, in Southeast Asia. The fruit reminds one of an apricot, but when it is ripe, it splits to reveal a walnut-sized seed. The orange, lacy strips covering the seed are the mace. Inside its shell is the seed – the nutmeg.

The Arabs and Indians used it for digestive, liver and skin problems, as well as believed that it had aphrodisiac qualities as well. Nutmeg only became popular from the 16th century, when the Portuguese traded with it and started using it in the kitchen. Then the Dutch started trading with it and using it, and today it is used in many Dutch recipes.

Both spices have got the same smell, but mace is much stronger and slightly bitter than nutmeg; use it, in moderation, in savoury dishes. Nutmeg, on the other hand, is used in sweet dishes, biscuits and milky puddings (deserts). Here are a few more ideas where you can add either mace or nutmeg:
Mace – add it to a white sauce, to flavour fish, terrines and pâté; use in soups and casseroles; flavouring cheese and egg dishes; add them to your home-made pickles / chutneys to keep the liquid from clouding.
Nutmeg – add it to milk-based sauces, custard and puddings; add flavour to spinach, cauliflower, potato and white cabbage; add to cakes, tea breads, muffins and biscuits.

In next week’s blog I will share a few easy-to-follow recipes, where you can use some / all of the above spices. Until then!

Getting our skin ready for the changing of the seasons

Whether you are enjoying the sunshine, or staying indoors due to cold weather, prepping your body is a good idea.  In summer you need to stay hydrated, put on sunblock, and also keep your body moisturized.  In winter it is almost the same, expect that there are a few changes that needs to be made.  In this week’s blog post, I am going to touch on all of the beforementioned tips.

Staying hydrated

It is extremely important to make sure that you drink enough water.  Whether it is summer- or wintertime, water keeps your body, cells and organs moisturized from the inside.  Being thirsty is the first signal that your body is in need of water – so make sure not to ignore it but to grab a glass or water!  An easy-to-take test to check whether or not you are in need of water, is to pull your hand’s skin.  If it stays in an upright position for a few seconds, it means you are dehydrating.  The verdict is still out how many glasses of water you need:  many say 6 – 8 glasses of water; another study says a healthy male needs 3.7 litres and a healthy female 2.7 litres of water.  If you don’t like the taste of water, add some lemon- or strawberry slices and/or mint.   Eating water-dense foods are another easy way to up your water-intake, for example cucumber, watermelon and spinach.

Using different bath soaps or shower gels for different seasons

During the summertime using a soap or shower gel is wonderful.  There are many brands to choose from with added cucumber, aloe, lavender, and many more.  In wintertime our bodies need a bit more TLC; so opting for a soap rich in moisturizer or a shower cream, can be a blessing. 

Exfoliating all-year round

Exfoliation is a wonderful way to get rid of the dead cells and dead skin, as well as buffs and decongests the skin.  Whether you opt for an exfoliating body scrub or use a loofah, exfoliating should be done at least once a week.  Exfoliating regularly will give your skin a wonderful glow and, as an added bonus, will help in breaking down cellulite and wrinkles by pushing younger, plumper cells to the surface.  Do note that, when you exfoliate, that you are careful in the areas around the eyes and where the skin is not very thick. 

Beware not to do overdo it either, as this will strip the body of its natural oils, which protects the body’s outer layers.  Dry brushing is another way to exfoliate the skin.  By using circular movements in the direction of the heart – starting on your right side, up towards the heart – then down on the left side, is another great way to get rid of dry skin and dead cells.  According to the experts, dry brushing will aid in lessening and/or eliminating cellulite!

Moisturizing

Lotions are light-weight and easily absorbed; fantastic to use during the warm seasons.  Creams, on the other hand, is thicker, therefore lovely to use during the cold seasons.  It is always a good idea to moisturize after a bath, shower or after exfoliating (unless you did dry brushing, then you first have to jump into the bath or shower).  The experts suggest that we put our moisturizer on when our skin is still damp.  However, using hand cream after you washed your hands, or when your hands (or legs) feel dry, can be just as good.

Whether you are enjoying the warmer, sunnier days outdoors, or getting ready for cold, winter days spent mostly indoors, do remember that aircon, just like central heating, can make you thirsty and dry out your skin.  Placing a small bowel of water close to the radiator or around the room (s) where there is aircon, will help to keep the air moist. 

So, to all my readers; enjoy the weather; regardless whether it is sunny or not.  Do remember to listen to your body; make sure to drink enough water, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and take care of your skin. Seasons change all the time. Even though it might be too cold or too hot to your liking, know that every season brings with it a different, new beauty and charm!

Delaying signs of aging; the natural way

Nothing can stop time, nor can anyone stop you from getting older.  However, it is not the ageing that you should focus on, but the way in which you age.  Diet, exercise, getting enough sleep and getting rid of stress, all have an important role to play.  In this week’s blog post, I want to explore what are some of the natural ways that will help you to delay the signs.

Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, not only combats dullness, but also wrinkles.  In the Dermato-Endocrinology Journal, researchers discovered that fruits and veggies are the best, easiest way to achieve a healthy, glowing complexion.  How come?  Fruits and vegetables are high in essential nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants, which help to combat free-radical damage, often caused by the environment (for example pollution).  Smoking, exposure to chemicals and too much sun, can also play havoc on your skin and overall health.  The study also found that essential fatty acids, works wonders to reduce skin damage and inflammation due to regular sun exposure.  Essential fatty acids can be found in oily fish, flaxseeds, leafy greens, sesame seeds and avocado.  It is also found in vitamin C, vitamin E and evening primrose oil.

A smoothie, packed with different fruits, a bit of honey and yoghurt, is an easy meal and will also give you the energy boost you need to start the day.  There are many different recipes on the internet.  Some recipes add flaxseed, almond milk or other milk instead of yoghurt and/or whey (protein) powder.  Veggie-juices are another easy-to-make meal, either to have for breakfast or lunch.  Adding anything from beetroot, to celery, spinach broccoli, carrot, ginger and an apple or banana, can be whipped up.  Watermelon, red peppers, Bok Choy, strawberries, blueberries, cauliflower and zucchini, are great to add as they contain over 90% water!  And drinking enough water, as we know, is vital!

The key to stay younger looking and healthy, is to stay clear of food that causes inflammation.  Inflammation not only speeds-up the ageing process, but it also puts unnecessary stress on our vital organs.  High inflammatory foods include:  processed meat, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, take-out meals like hamburgers and chips, sugary soft drinks (even those that says it is “sugar free”), caffeinated drinks and sweets, and too much salt.  Today, unfortunately, many foods produced lack the necessary vitamins and minerals, due to farming methods, GMO’s, added pesticides, antibiotics, and so forth.  I believe in eating more natural, organic produce and try to stay clear of GMO food and food containing hormones, etc.  Another important factor is the soil.  The more nutrient-rich the soil is, the better. 

Supplements are good to use, but it should never be used to replace your food.   When it comes to living a balanced lifestyle, supplements are not there to replace food; it should be used to supplement your diet.  There are a huge variety of brands to choose from today.  It is best to always read the label.  Some brands don’t have added sugars, gluten, colouring, etc, in.  If you are sensitive to certain chemicals, make sure to read the label before you buy the supplement.  Solgar, Solal, NRF, Biogen and Vital are all well-known brands and personally I believe, can be trusted. 

When it comes to helping to keep ageing at bay, make sure to add collagen, curcumin and Coenzyme Q10 to your list.  Collagen is a natural protein that is beneficial to our skin, nails, bone and hair.  It also enhances skin elasticity and helps to regenerate skin cells = less wrinkles!

Curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, is not just an anti-inflammatory agent, but it has incredible anti-ageing benefits too!  Turmeric helps to prevent DNA damage and speed up DNA repair as well.

Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like antioxidant substance that is stored in the fat tissues of your body.  It gets depleted quickly, thus adding a supplement helps protect the skin from oxidative stress, as well as delaying visible signs of ageing on the skin.  Other vitamins and antioxidants that are beneficial for your skin are vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, polyphenols and flavonoids (found in fruit, vegetables and green tea extract).

Sleep and exercise go hand-in-hand.  Sleep also boost our immune system, it provides energy to the body and brain, sleep helps to regulate our hormones, it helps to eliminate toxins from the body, it calms the nervous system, and sleep also repair and regenerates the body’s cells. 

Exercise is important for both mental and physical health.  The human body was not made to sit / lie still all day, every day.  Without movement our internal organs stop working optimally, and the lymphatic system cannot work.  The lymph plays an extremely important role in getting rid of toxins and waste in the body.  If there is no movement, the lymphatic system cannot function.  Pilates, Yoga, Light resistance training and Rebounding are some of the best restorative exercises to do.  Not only are these different exercise forms a great way to strengthen your muscles and joints (instead of breaking it down), but it also boosts the intake of oxygen to your organs, muscles and cells. 

Not many people like the idea of getting older.  But instead of complaining about it, why not embrace it!  By looking after ourselves from an early age, by sticking to healthy eating patterns, not smoking, drinking moderately or not at all, and doing some form of exercise, will not only help us physically.  It will play a huge role in our emotional- and mental health as well.  Ageing can be something to look forward to.  When our mindset is one of positivity, of embracing things we cannot change or stop, then we can live a full, long, happy and healthy life!

A change is as good as a holiday

I am sure there was a time in your life when you couldn’t go on holiday, but still yearned for change.  With everything that has been happening this year, I think a change is what we all need – even if it is just something small that won’t break the bank!

So, what can we do to “lighten” the mood, feel better, bring some new energies into our lives and homes?  I can think of a few things:  a new haircut, a new hair colour, moving our furniture around to change the lay-out in one of our rooms, changing a picture on the wall or a cushion, and decluttering, of course. 

Changes can come in various “sizes.”  A huge change can be moving house, getting married, losing a loved one, and so forth.  These are changes that can make a lasting impact in our lives and, although it is something huge, you have to try your best to stay positive and optimistic.  For example, when you decide to move house or move overseas, the thought of “where to start” can be quite overwhelming, to say the least.  That is why it is important to make a list of the pros and cons and keep your eye on your end-goal. When it is time to decide what to take and what not to take, a list of each room and item, is another way to keep you focused and less stressed.

A small change can bring in new energies and make you feel alive again, so to speak.  When you are unable to go on holiday, for example, why not enjoy the area where you live by having a picnic outside in the garden or a park?  If it is too cold for a picnic outside, then just put a warm coat on and go for a walk.  Changing things in your home can also help to make the home feel new; the same goes for a new hairstyle and yes, a new pair of shoes!

When I listen to and/or read books about successful people, there is one theme that runs through and that is – no matter how many ups and downs, no matter how many times you fall, it is more important to get up and carry on.  Where many people see things as “obstacles” the successful people see it as opportunities for growth.  When you have an end-goal in sight and you put your mind to it, then anything is possible and achievable.  When you start to lose motivation, just stay focussed on the end results you want to achieve.  A dream, stays a dream, until we do something about it! 

As mentioned earlier; the bigger the change the more daunting the road looks.  However, a big change can also be exciting – new places, new faces, new beginnings.  A small change is easier to achieve, unless, for some reason, it is to be healthier!  For some people it is easy to make the change and start to exercise and eat better; for others it is not.  Therefore, I always say to my clients:  instead of wanting a huge change all at once, start small.  For example, instead of eating junk food / processed food every week, cut it down to once a month; instead of starting with a strict exercise routine, start small by joining a Pilates-class once a week, or go for a walk or a jog every week / weekend…. even if it is just for 10 minutes at first.

Whether it is moving your furniture, painting something in a different colour, getting a new hairstyle or biting the bullet and making a huge change, change is what is part of life.  Change helps us to grow and, as one person said, change is the most constant thing in life!  We have a choice:  either to embrace it, or resist it.  embracing change is not always easy, especially if it means starting over somewhere else, losing someone, letting go of the familiar and so forth. 

But change doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world; change comes into our lives when it is time for us to walk a different path, when it is time to grow spiritually and emotionally, and the best we can do, is to take deep breathes, calm down, take it one day at a time, and have faith that everything will work out as it should.  In the end, a change is as good as a holiday.  So, whatever you want to change / can change… go for it and enjoy the results!

Boosting your immune system

Our immune systems are the soldiers, as it were, of our bodies.  It is our own, inner doctor!  When our immune system is working at an optimum level, we will rarely, if ever, become ill.  Our bodies consist of hundreds of bacteria and viruses; all doing its job to help to maintain an internal balance in the body.  The job of the immune system is to fight of any foreign, harmful bacteria and viruses.

Another inner doctor that the body have, but many people don’t, anymore, is the tonsils and gallbladder.  The tonsils form part of the immune system’s defence against harmful viruses and bacteria.  When the tonsils are inflamed and/or swollen, it is a sign / message from the body that there is too much toxicity in the body.  Unfortunately, many parents and doctors alike, are quick to have the tonsils removed, instead of first diagnosing the real problem – and fixing it!  Don’t get me wrong; sometimes it has to be taken out, but speaking to many health practitioners, they all feel that one should first establish the why, then make some changes (often it is the diet), before taking it out.

The gallbladder works hand-in-hand with the liver.  Your liver is the organ that must digest acidic foods and drinks in the body.  Just like the gallbladder it produces bile that contains cholesterol and bile acids; needed to breakdown fat.  The gallbladder stores this bile / gall, which is needed to complete the process of digestion of fats in the body.  Gallstones form either because of chronic inflammation and/or cholesterol.  By changing one’s diet, you can, if the gallstones are not big, get rid of it.  There is also medication that can be described.  However, when the stones become too big, it can block the intestines and thus the gallbladder has to be removed.

So, you might wonder, what has all of the above got to do with your immune system?  Plenty!  Your body and internal organs, have been made to work in unison, in balance.  When one or more are “out of tune,” then the whole body suffers and your immune system becomes weak.  Believe it or not, but when one of the above-mentioned organs are not functioning the way it should, or is missing due to being removed, then an imbalance occurs, unless you change your diet.

Keeping your immune system strong by making sure to eat a balanced diet, with minimum intake of alcohol, sugar, processed / junk foods, red meat and fatty foods, will help you not only be healthier, but your organs will not be under so much strain.  If you do eat / drink “junk” food, keep it to a minimum – not more than once / twice a month; at most.

It is also good to add a good multi-vitamin supplement, as well as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and a combo of calcium and magnesium, to your diet.  Vitamin C, together with zinc, plays a huge role in building a strong immune system and should be taken daily (buffered if you have a sensitive stomach).  Vitamin D is important for everyone that doesn’t go out in the sun much, for the elderly and those living in cold climates.   The combination of calcium and magnesium is important to maintain and build bones, as well as keep muscle cramps at bay.  There are many brands on the market.  Biogen, Solal, Solgar, Vital and NRF, are all very good brands.  Just make sure to always ask your health practitioner or pharmacist if you are unsure which one is best.  

Lastly, and I am sure this is a question on your mind, what do you do if one or both of the above organs were removed?  For starters, I would still delve into the reason why the organ stopped functioning.  Was it an allergy that caused the tonsils to swell up?  Was it something I ate, not realizing I am intolerant / allergic?  Once this has been established, then it is easier to avoid the reason all together and make changes.  The same goes for the gallbladder.  More often than not, it is the fatty foods, the fried foods, the junk / processed foods and drinking alcohol, that cause the gallbladder and liver, to stop functioning at optimum levels.  It is one thing to eat pizza, for example, once a month, and quite another to eat it every other day.  The same goes for alcohol – one small glass / half a glass of wine, with a meal, is ok, but 2 huge glasses?  Another story all-together!

Just an important note here:  according to many health practitioners, people who had their gallbladders removed, should avoid fatty foods and alcohol…a bummer, I can hear you say!  But remember, now that the gallbladder has been removed, there is nothing to aid the liver in digesting the fats in your body…and this can spell trouble for your cholesterol levels, cardio-vascular system and overall health. Remember this:  it is not just what you eat and drink, that plays a role in your body’s health and maintaining a strong immune system.  It is the amount of what you eat and drink, that determines at what level your body’s “internal doctors” and immune system work. 

Getting ready for winter

Winter is coming in the Northern Hemisphere….and that means cold mornings and early sunsets.  However, it doesn’t have to be the season to dread. Winter, in its own right, has a different beauty that can brighten up a day (even when it is cold)! Here are a few tips to keep you going, even if you don’t feel like going to gym:

  1. Take the stairs wherever possible;
  2. Park your car further from the shopping mall-entrance and walk the extra steps;
  3. Carry your shopping bags to the car instead of using a trolley;
  4. Put on a warm jacket and take an early morning or afternoon walk / jog in and around your neighbourhood – you will soon be warm and not feel the cold;
  5. If you are not keen on being outside in the cold, go to a mall and walk inside. If there are ramps in the parking lot, make use of them too!  An hour’s brisk walking will burn 300 to 400 calories!
  6. Lastly; best to get everyone moving – from your dog to your kids. If not possible before work and school, then try to get out there before dark and enjoy the winter colours;
  7. Don’t want to miss your favourite television programme?  March on the spot, skip rope or bounce on a mini trampoline, while watching it.

As for keeping your skin hydrated from the inside and staying healthy throughout the winter months, it is important to take extra vitamin C, a good vitamin B-complex, Omega 3’s, drink at least 6 – 8 glasses of water (tea without sugar and milk also counts as fluid) and do open the windows to let fresh air in.  If the thought of drinking cold water is something you’d rather skip, for now, then swop it for a warm cup of tea or coffee. As long as you stay hydrated you will be just fine.

Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables and fruit; always aim to eat of all the food groups, to obtain a healthy, balanced body.  There is a saying that, it is not what you eat, but the amount you eat, that determines whether or not you stay healthy and in shape.  I am a believer in moderation when it comes to ready-made, processed foods and especially junk / fast foods.  Always aim to eat from all the different food groups and make sure the portion sizes are balanced.

Look out for face creams, body lotions, body washes and shower gels, with added olive oil, Argan oil, extra vitamin E and chamomile, will help to protect your skin from drying out.  However, as I have mentioned earlier, Omega-oils are important, as it feeds your skin from the inside and keeps it moisturized and nourished. For my readers in the Northern Hemisphere, that has central heating during winter, try the following to keep dry, flaky skin at bay:  Place a small bowl of water in the room to keep the air moist.  It will help to keep your skin and sinuses from drying out.

As the seasons change, the beauty in nature does too.  A tree without its leaves against a blue or grey sky, can be just as beautiful as one covered in leaves.  For many people winter is not their favourite; as it gets very cold and/or dark early.  Cheer yourself up by going out in nature, listening to relaxing music, enjoying a bath or a hot drink and staying in touch with family and friends.  Remember, time doesn’t stand still and neither seasons.  Seasons bring change and before you know it, spring will start again!  Stay warm and stay positive!!

Changing of the seasons

It is that time of the year when the seasons start to change again.  The Northern Hemisphere is slowly getting reading for winter; whilst the Southern Hemisphere is gearing up for summer.  When the seasons change, it is important to make sure that your immune system is topped-up.  Many people worldwide struggle with allergies this time of year, as do people often catch a cold.  This is due to the seasons changing.  Whether it is the colder weather, or the pollen and/or grass seeds, make sure to add some extra vitamin C, vitamin D, Zinc and B-vitamins to your diet.

Vitamin C, with added Zinc, plays an important role when it comes to building and maintaining a strong immune system.  If you have a sensitive gut, opt for a buffered vitamin C.  The B-vitamins, especially vitamin B6 and B12, play a crucial role in keeping your immune system strong, especially this time of year, but also when you are under stress.  The body is a wonderful model; when you need an extra boost, it uses the vitamins in your body to help.  However, when your body is depleted, your immune system drops and your chance of getting ill or suffering from allergies, can increase.

Your gut also plays a vital role in a healthy body.  When the pH-balance is not balanced, especially when it is too acidic, it can also compromise your immune system and cause illnesses, dis-eases and/or allergies.  A dis-ease is exactly what I have written:  the body is out of balance and, the only way for your body to tell you (as it were) that there is something amiss, is to become ill.

Other vitamins to add to your list of immune-boosters, are copper and selenium.  Copper, in combination with iron, helps to maintain a healthy white blood cell count (these blood cells are often destroyed by microorganisms).  Selenium stimulates the T-lymphocytes’ activity and production.  These are cells that helps the body fight bacterial and viral infections.  If you have low levels of selenium in your body, it can contribute in viral mutation, thus causing more people to get influenza.

Popping pills are not all bad, but one should never rely just on tablets to take the place of good nutrition.  Eating healthy, balanced meals and making sure to drink enough water, is important, as is staying active.  Clean, organic food is always a good choice, because more and more allergies and food sensitivities are linked to the pesticides and added hormones that are put into food; not to mention GMO.

Echinacea is very helpful in helping to fight respiratory tract-infections, as is ginger, garlic and honey.  Oily fish like salmon and sardines, are high in Omega 3-oils.  Did you know that sardines are also high in vitamin D?  This vitamin is crucial for defending your immune system and, if your vitamin D-levels are depleted / low, then your body’s T-cells remain dormant and attack and fight off bacteria or viruses.

Sweet potatoes, Elderberries, Cranberries and other fresh fruit, are also good for boosting your immune system.  The red / orange fruit and vegetables are high in vitamins and beta-carotene.  Berries are rich in anti-oxidants and many are packed with antiviral properties and vitamin C.

Red meat contains the vitamin B6 and zinc.  Eating red meat in moderation and without the fat, is better not only for your weight but also your cholesterol-levels, heart and arteries.  Vegetarians need to either take an iron-supplement or can add more chickpeas, lentils, chia seeds and soya to their diet, in order to take in the right amount of iron and zinc.

Last on the list are your spices.  Turmeric, ginger and garlic, all have anti-viral and antibacterial properties.  Turmeric and garlic have natural anti-inflammatory properties in and ginger is wonderful for a sore throat, an upset stomach, aids in fighting colds and flu and also have anti-inflammatory properties.

All in all, there is not definite yes or no when it comes to taking supplements.  Supplements are not there to take the place of a well-balanced diet.  Supplements, as the word says, is something we take to add to our diets.  Many of the food today, as mentioned earlier, is depleted (unless it is organic) and taking a supplement just adds that extra boost that you need.

This time of the year, when seasons change, people can become teary-eyed or excited.  So, there is no harm to make sure that your immune system is given an extra boost to help you with the change.  Many people don’t mind the seasonal changes and enjoy it, but there are those that struggle.  Boosting your immune system and making sure that it stays strong, is not only good for your health, but also your mood and energy-levels.

Keep moving; regardless

Many of us have now started working from home, as a result of the crazy time we are currently living in.  Does that mean we have to stop our exercise-routine?  Or our good habits?  Definitely not!  Sticking to our routines, where we have a time-slot for exercising, for example, doesn’t have to fall by the wayside.  Luckily, in many countries, gyms have re-opened.  However, if there are some of my readers who don’t want to go to gym yet, or decided it is cheaper to exercise outside of gym, then you have come to the right blog-post.  I am going to share some easy-to-do exercises that you can do in the comfort of your home; or outdoors, if the weather allows it.

Sitting on the edge of a chair, place your hands on your shoulders and breathe in.  As you exhale, pull your tummy in and bend forward (imagining that your elbows are pushing your tummy in).  Come up on your next inhale, then, as you exhale, bend over to one leg (elbow to leg; opposite arm / opposite leg).  You can lift your legs when you do the latter.  Do remember not to shrug your shoulders.

Using cans (if you don’t have hand weights), are another easy way to add some weight when you are doing tummy and/or arm-exercises.  A small ball and even a cushion, can also come in handy!  For example, you can use the cans to do your bicep- and triceps-curls and you can add it when you do tummy-exercises. 

A cushion can be used as above, but you can also place it in-between your legs when you do leg- and/or glute-exercises.  A cushion is a lovely apparatus, if I can call it that, to use, as it won’t hurt your knees and it is easy to manage.  Pilates balls and small balls (the soft ones) are also lovely to work with.

Then, of course, there is a “cheap” option and that is to walk or run.  Whether it is in the street or in the estate where you live, walking or running is fantastic to get the blood and oxygen flowing, as well as clearing the mind.  If you have a back and/or knee problems, rather walk.  Less strain on the joints and a lovely way to enjoy nature and get some fresh air!

It doesn’t matter what you do, but it is important to move, to get the blood and oxygen flowing, and the heart pumping.  We are not made to sit the whole day; not only is it bad for posture, but it also puts a lot of unnecessary strain and stress on the skeletal-system, not to mention on the heart and lungs (due to not enough oxygen flowing into the body).  Most people (not just those who smoke), don’t breathe properly and don’t use their whole lung capacity when breathing.  When you sit for long periods, you tend to slouch.  Your back starts to curve, your deltoid muscles (the muscles around your shoulder blade-area, which are supposed to keep you upright), starts to pull / develop forward, in a curved-position, and this then compresses the lungs and you struggle to breathe.

Many, many years ago, the Alexander-technique was developed to reteach people how to sit, stand and walk.  It is a wonderful technique to follow and easy-to-learn. Try the following:  When you stand or sit, take a deep breath in and roll your shoulders back.  Automatically, this will open up your chest area, your lungs and the shoulder blades will move into their “natural” position, due to the deltoid muscles pulling them gently back.  Become aware of your head.  Is your chin pulled in too far or is your chin poking forward?  Next, become aware of the bottom half of your body.  Is your tummy sticking out?  Are your buttocks pushed back and your pelvis tilted down?  If so, gently pull your tummy and buttocks in, feel your pelvis tilting up (in line with the hips) and think of your coccyx (tailbone) being tilted down.  Careful not to overdo this, as this can cause your upper back-area to curve.  Your hips must face forward (almost like a car’s headlights).  What you want, is your body weight to be balanced in-between your toes and heels.  When you look at yourself in a mirror, draw an imaginary line from the side of your head, over your ear, shoulder, and all the way down to your foot.  If you are able to draw a straight line, then you know you are standing correctly.  This, by the way, also implies when you are sitting.

Lastly, if you do have to sit for long hours, sit on a Pilates ball (you do get chairs with a ball in instead of the normal cushion).  This is an easy way to work on your core stabilizers as well as abdominal muscles.  You will also find that your back doesn’t get so tired.   Some people have a stand, that they put on their desks, when they work on their computers by standing.  However, make sure, if you are one of them, that you don’t put your weight on one leg / foot and again, don’t stand with your buttocks sticking out or your tummy pushed forward.

For those who enjoy exercising at home, pop over to my YouTube-channel https://youtube.com/channel/UCRmlb8ZrUkFXhZgeqSOr1QQ, where I do Pilates- and Yoga sequences twice per week; you will also find many videos of exercising in a chair. Some things are out of your control, but when it comes to your health and wellbeing, you are still in control.  So, dust off the weights, the Pilates ball, your sneakers (tekkies) and keep moving!

PS: Please like, share and subscribe to my YouTube channel! I do different levels of exercise-routines 🙂

Renew and re-energize with a bath, a shower and pampering afterwards

In one of my previous blog posts, I looked at what to eat and drink to give you a boost.  I am sure we all enjoy a warm bath or shower at the end of a long day, or a session at the gym.  Adding scented bath salts or oils to your bath, is magical and, luckily for those who love to shower, there are many different shower gels with added herbs or oils infused in.

When you bath or shower using herbs, your pores open and your whole skin can absorb the healing essences of the herbs.  Lavender, for example, is wonderful to use when you need to unwind, relax and sleep better.  Peppermint and mint help to re-energize the body and refreshes the senses.  Eucalyptus oil can help to relieve a cold, is anti-inflammatory and relieves pain.  Epson salts are wonderful for sore, stiff muscles.  The list is endless when it comes to which salts and shower gels there are on the market, today.  Here is an easy recipe that you can use, if you want to re-energize and give yourself a boost, when taking a bath or shower:

Mix 3 parts peppermint, 2 parts calendula, 1 part rosemary, 1 part bay leaf or eucalyptus and 1 part sage.  Put a handful or more into a muslin bag or facecloth and tie it to the tap.  Turn on the tap and let the water pour through the bag to let the mixture run into your bath.

Another lovely mix is mixing 2 parts peppermint, 2 parts rosemary and 6 – 8 drops of pine essential oil.  Put it in a muslin bag or facecloth and let the warm water run over it.  If the muslin bag or facecloth is not working, make a strong tea with all the ingredients and pour that into your bath (if you are taking a shower, rinse your body with it).

Some people don’t like the idea to use some or all of the ingredients in a bath or shower.  Luckily, there are many varieties of body lotions to choose from today!  Soothing, mood-elevating body lotions (body butters) with added lavender, rosemary or rose water, will help relieve stress.  Massaging lavender oil into the temples does wonders for relieving stress and/or headaches.  Inhaling peppermint or mint, as well as eucalyptus, does wonders for a cold, sinus or blocked nose. 

“If music be the food of love play on…”  Music can do wonders to uplift one’s mood, help you to relax and can even give you a boost of energy!  Classical and light music are wonderful to listen to when you are in traffic, when you need to relax and unwind, and when you struggle to “tune out” the chatter in your mind.  Baroque-music like Mozart, for example, is wonderful for brain-activity and studying for exams.  Some people like to listen to music where nature is prominent, for example ocean waves, dolphin- and whale sounds, birds chirping, and so on.  Whatever your taste, know that the music you listen to plays a much bigger role on you mentally, emotionally and psychologically, than you think, so be careful what you choose to listen to!

Lastly, making sure that you eat healthy, laugh and get out into nature, are just as important as taking a nice long, hot bath or shower to unwind or re-energize.  Taking time out for yourself is vital if you want to keep up with today’s fast pace.  Doctor Phil once said that, if you don’t take care of yourself first, then who will?

So go on, light a candle, turn off your phone and take the plunge! 

Out with the old, in with the new

Whether you are spring-cleaning, downsizing or want to go minimalistic, clearing out cupboards are good for the psyche!  When you give away, or throw away, the old, used things in your cupboards, you feel lighter and happier.  When you let go of things not used anymore, you create a new space for either something new, or just space.

The same goes for your relationships with other people.  I am not implying that you should get rid of people who, at times, work on your nerves 😉  But having a real, hard look at people is sometimes not such a bad idea.  In fact, it is normal that, as you grow older, you change.  Some people change with you; others don’t – and that is just fine!

Clearing out your cupboards, your home, office and friendship-circle can, at first, seems dauting and almost scary.  However, once you start to clear the clutter and cobwebs, you notice that you feel lighter; as if you have more energy and this, on a deeper level, helps you with the new changes, the new people, places, entering your life.

Keeping your cupboards clear of clutter is a good thing – trust me!  Getting to a point when you only keep what you want, what you need and what you use, is liberating!  You can always sell it and make extra money (no harm in that), or you can give it to charity, or simply throw it away.  Of course, selling it for extra cash is a bonus, but another liberating feeling (that is good for the psyche just as clearing out is), is giving it to a charity or person in need.

All in all, where I live, we are gearing up for spring and summer; thus, the start of my yearly spring-cleaning has begun!  Not a small job, but luckily, during the lockdown or whatever else you want to call it, it gave me time to rummage through my things and get rid of what I don’t use anymore. It doesn’t matter whether you are gearing up for summer, or winter. 

Going through your wardrobe, for example, before you pack away the clothes you will not use in the next couple of months, is a good thing.  It is a good time to decide what stays and what goes. Good luck to everyone who is starting to tackle clearing out cupboards!  Doing one room at a time, makes it so much easier, and before you know it, you are done!  Out with the old, in with the new!