Wise Cracker Snack smarter with these scrumptious almond flour crackers

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Finding a cracker that’s both healthier and delicious isn’t as easy as it’s, well, cracked up to be. Conventionally produced crackers usually taste great but are often loaded with unhealthy ingredients like hydrogenated oils, unpronounceable flavor enhancers and excess sodium. Better-for-you health-store versions (especially the gluten-free kind) sometimes taste as good as pressed sawdust.

So we’re absolutely thrilled that Simple Mills, a company devoted to healthy updates of conventional prepared foods, has taken a crack at baking a healthier cracker—and they’ve hit a homerun. Their new line of gluten-free, almond flour crackers is exclusively made with nutrient-dense, whole-food ingredients and is so yummy that you’ll want to inhale a whole box in one sitting, but of course, we don’t recommend that.

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Simple Mills’ founder Katlin Smith started her company in her North Carolina living room.

The crackers come in four flavors—sea salt, rosemary, farmhouse cheddar, and sundried tomato and basil—but they all share a base of Simple Mills’ nut-and-seed flour blend (almonds, sunflower seeds and flax), cassava (a mineral-rich root vegetable), tapioca (a starch derived from cassava), organic sunflower oil, organic onion, organic garlic and sea salt. The small, nutty squares are about the same size as Cheez Its and pack a similarly satisfying crunch.

In fact, the cheddar flavor—made with organic cheddar cheese—is a dead ringer for Cheez Its but with more real cheese taste and half the sodium. The sea salt flavor is comparable in taste to Wheat Thins, neutral enough to host any topping. The rosemary and sundried tomato-and-basil varieties are flecked with real herbs that dominate their flavor profiles, making them great canvases for cheese, hummus or veggie dips.

The crackers are free of grains, soy, sugars, artificial flavors, preservatives and GMOs, so the only unwanted stuff you have to worry about is the crumbs you’ll be making!

Eat Your Asparagus! Looks, taste and great nutrition—this spring vegetable has it all

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Of course asparagus is delicious and versatile—its culinary range would be enough to make us love this harbinger of spring. But this elegant veg’s array of nutritional benefits makes it stand out among the all-star lineup of spring produce.

What’s so great about asparagus? For one thing, these stalks are prebiotic. Probiotics—the good gut bacteria that aid digestion, boost immunity, strengthen teeth and fight disease—have been getting all the love in the press lately. But prebiotics, non-digestible elements found in asparagus and certain other foods, promote the growth of probiotics. So they’re like the essential sidekick to the superhero. Better prebiotics = more probiotics = healthier you.

Toss some asparagus spears on the grill for a quick side.

If that isn’t enough to get you to grab a bunch of asparagus at the farmer’s market, how about this: It is rich in potassium (important for heart function), vitamin K (essential for blood clotting) and folic acid (supports new cell growth), says New York City-based dietician Stephanie Middleberg.

“Asparagus is also a natural diuretic—helping to facilitate the removal of water and waste to decrease discomfort and bloat—due to both its high potassium levels and because of its amino acid, asparagine,” says Middleberg.

Just to make sure you’re as excited about asparagus as we are, here five quick, easy and delicious ways to get it on your table:

  1. Broiled: Toss the spears on a foil-lined tray and broil; you’ll have a dish of toasty deliciousness in six minutes flat.
  2. Grilled: Toss your spears on the grates toward the end as you’re grilling your chicken, fish, burgers or anything else (they only take 6 to 10 minutes). With so much smoky flavor from the grill, all you need to season your spears is a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  3. Steamed: Place the asparagus in your steamer basket over boiling water and just let it be for a few minutes. You can do this right before serving to have it hot, or do it in advance and refrigerate to serve cold. Either way, toss the spears with a bit of your favorite vinaigrette just before serving.
  4. Raw: You read that right. You don’t even have to cook asparagus to enjoy it in this beautiful salad. Simply peel it into ribbons, toss it with olive oil and a few other ingredients and you’re good to go.
  5. Stir-Fried: Enjoy this vegetarian dish with some rice for Meatless Monday, or add your protein of choice. Garlic, ginger, soy sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds give this dish easy Asian flair.

Pure Bar Shanti bars are the best of portable plant-based nutrition

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When Lauren Feingold and her business partner, Ashanty Williams, make a protein bar, they don’t mess around.

Their Shanti Bars ($3) are organic, raw, paleo, vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and (in our humble opinion) extremely delicious.

When we asked Feingold how they decided to try to pack all of that goodness into one small package, she answered bluntly, “Because those are the standards your body deserves.”

The women behind Shanti Bars, Lauren Feingold and Ashanty Williams.

We can’t argue with that.

Even with grocery stores packed with every imaginable type of energy bar, the duo could not locate a truly healthy bar that met their specifications (no preservatives, no refined sugars and no agave).

Shanti Bars taste like the energizing raw seeds, berries, stone fruits and nuts they are made from, not some unidentifiable glop. The raw bars solve our 4 p.m. snack conundrum and provide lasting protein-fueled energy that’s easy on the digestion, while also resolving how to fit more superfoods into our diet.

We love that we can get a hit of healthy fat and energy in the coconut bar (made with almonds, dates and maca) while also fitting in some earthy and spicy cardamom, hemp seeds and dried mango in the anti-inflammatory turmeric bar. The newest flavor, açaí, is lush and nutty with cashews, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, spirulina and Celtic sea salt—it’s like being able to take an açaí bowl along for a ride. The stylish packaging is as fly as the ingredients that it contains.

These bars are just the kind of thing we’d love to whip up for ourselves, if only we could find the time (ha).

Detox Without Starving Tips from two new books help you cleanse toxins with real foods

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Juice fasts. Master Cleanses. Tea-toxes. Every year, a new and more extreme way to detox the dietary junk from your body becomes trendy. But are these liquid plans healthy? Opinions diverge, yet one thing is certain: most require you to deprive your body of essential macronutrients for days.

For those wanting to support their bodies’ natural detoxification processes—or simply hit the “reset” button on their diets—without feeling hungry, two new books offer a novel way to detox: with real food! The 5 Day Real Food Detox by Nikki Sharp and Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body by Amie Valpone both recommend disciplined yet satisfying regimens of eating organic, plant-based foods to safely detox in the short term and to establish a foundation of wellness for the long term.

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Millet burgers from Eating Clean. (Photo: Lauren Volo)

Sharp is a model-turned-health coach who used to yo-yo between bingeing on processed foods and nearly starving herself, which led to a range of health issues from insomnia to acne and depression. Her dietician-approved detox plan involves eating three meals and two snacks per day (tasty recipes included!) that incorporate vegetables, fruits and plant-based proteins whose nutrients directly nourish the body’s cleansing organs, like the liver and kidneys.

Valpone is a former marketing professional who battled gut infections, inflammation and other health woes, which inspired her to become a healthy cook and blogger. Her 21-day elimination diet offers a way to identify trigger foods that may be wreaking havoc on your digestion, immunity and more. Her delicious vegetarian recipes are free of common dietary irritants including refined sugars, gluten and soy.

While the books take different approaches, they cover a lot of common ground. Here are five nuggets of shared wisdom that will help you happily eat your way to detoxification:

  1. “Pre-tox” and cut the junk: Before beginning your cleanse, give your fridge and cupboard a makeover (what Nikki Sharp calls “pre-toxing”). Eliminate foods with harmful chemicals, additives, preservatives, excess sugar (or artificial sweeteners), dairy, alcohol and caffeine (except for green tea).
  2. Go organic: Give your body a break from pesticides, artificial hormones and other toxins present in conventionally farmed foods by restocking with mostly (and exclusively, if you can) organic ingredients.
  3. Eat primarily plants: Fruits and vegetables are nature’s detoxifiers—their phytonutrients combat free radicals and optimize the body’s detox system. For your daily dose of protein, turn to plant-based sources like nuts, seeds, beans and quinoa.
  4. Substitute smartly: Continue with your daily pleasures by substituting cleaner options. Temporarily, instead of coffee, begin the day with dandelion tea or warm water with fresh lemon juice. Swap that candy bar for raw almonds with fresh berries.
  5. Enjoy yourself!: Get creative within limitations by creating colorful, enticing dishes that truly satisfy. Even when not on a cleanse, we’d love to eat Sharp’s sensational stir-fry with cauliflower mash and Valpone’s lemon basil millet burgers with mango salsa.

Gut Check This book will help you make friends with your stomach again

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Did you ever wonder where the saying “gut instinct” comes from?

Robyn Youkilis’s new book, Go with Your Gut: The Insider’s Guide to Banishing the Bloat with 75 Digestion-Friendly Recipes ($23) will give you a dose of fascinating stomach-health knowledge, and show you how your gut is linked to energy, stress levels, mental focus, sleep quality, chronic inflammation and lowered immunity.

The Perfect Detox Salad, with avocado, sunflower seeds and fresh mint (recipe below).

“I believe there is a connection between a powerfully functioning gut and a powerfully functioning ‘gut instinct’,” says Robyn. “When the belly is at its healthiest, we can hear those gut messages loud and clear. How we digest our food is how we digest our lives.”

Youkilis, a certified wellness expert who trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, counsels that we should listen to and focus on what our stomach symptoms—weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, bloating, indigestion and constipation—are telling us. Her book is bright and spunky with advice that goes down as easy as its gut-friendly recipes.

The book convinced us to buy more raw fermented sauerkraut (which offers the benefits of eight bottles of probiotics, says Youkilis) and to remember to slow down and thoroughly chew what we eat, so the digestive enzymes in our saliva can do its work.

Out of all the no-nonsense recipes like apple chia “cereal” or Kabocha squash and kale tacos, we particularly love the Perfect Detox Salad, a light, fresh and bright combo of quinoa (easy to digest, naturally gluten-free, alkalizing and high in protein) with daikon radish and carrots, all freshened up with plenty of lemon juice and mint.

Perfect Detox Salad

Makes 2 to 4 servings
1 cup uncooked quinoa (or 2 cups salad greens)
1 daikon radish, grated
2 carrots, grated
1/2 to 1 cup mix of microgreens and/or sprouts of any kind
1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn
1 avocado, diced
Handful of raw sunflower seeds
Juice of 1 lemon, preferably Meyer
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Cook the quinoa (see recipe below). Drain and use it warm or refrigerate it until cold depending on your preference.

2. To make the salad, combine all the ingredients thoroughly and serve immediately!

Quinoa

To soak your grains before cooking, simply leave them covered in water 20 minutes or up to 8 hours before cooking. Rinse thoroughly and follow the recipe below.

Makes 4 to 6 servings depending on usage
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1½ cups water (for quinoa)
2 teaspoons sea salt, more to taste
Optional Add-Ins:
1 to 2 bay leaves
2 to 4 inches of kombu, cut into squares

1. Rinse the grain in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear. Drain and transfer it to a medium pot.

2. Add water and sea salt and bring it to a boil, add any add-ins if using, and simmer until the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Set the pot aside off the heat for 5 minutes; uncover and fluff with a fork.

4. Serve immediately or let it cool and refrigerate, covered.

Nuts About You A quick and simple step for healthier nuts and seeds

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We recently suggested you try soaking and sprouting grains, like quinoa, oats and brown rice, before cooking to make them easier to digest and unlock more nutritional benefits.

Now how about trying the same treatment for nuts and seeds? We all know nuts and seeds are great for us and we should be eating more of them. Adding an easy soaking and crisping process makes every nut and seed under the sun more pleasing to your gut, more nutritious and even more delicious.

Mark Hyman’s new book discusses sources of healthy fat, including nuts.

“Raw nuts and seeds contain phytates, which bind to important minerals, like iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium, and leach these minerals from the body,” explains Dr. Mark Hyman, author of the new book Eat Fat, Get Thin: Why the Fat We Eat Is the Key to Sustained Weight Loss and Vibrant Health ($28). “Soaking and rinsing raw nuts and seeds effectively reduces the phytates and enzyme inhibitors.”

The process is as easy as soaking the nuts in salted water and letting them dry out in an oven set to low heat. Once dried, the nuts and seeds will be extra crispy. Try tossing them with cinnamon, paprika and cumin; or mix in some roasted coconut flakes and enjoy them on salads, over oatmeal or straight out of hand.

Crispy Nuts and Seeds

Active time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 to 32 hours

4 cups raw, organic nuts or seeds of your choice (avoid roasted or pre-salted varieties and soak one kind at a time)
1 tablespoon sea salt
Filtered water (enough to cover nuts)

1. Soak nuts or seeds fully submerged in salted water for a minimum of 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

2. Once they are finished soaking, rinse the nuts or seeds thoroughly in a colander. Preheat your oven to its lowest setting (around 120 degrees F). Place the nuts or seeds in a single layer on a baking tray and place them in the oven. Let dehydrate for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours until nuts or seeds are dry and crispy. It’s important to let them dry fully so they don’t mold.

3. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place for up to 1 month.

Gimme a Pea! Little peas pack a protein punch

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Combine two big wellness trends—upping your protein intake and eating more plant-based foods—and it’s no wonder the hot protein source du jour is peas.

Though they get lumped in with vegetables (an occupational hazard of being green), peas are actually legumes, so they’re in the same family as black beans, chickpeas and lentils. And in fact, the peas used purely as a protein source are usually field peas, not garden-variety sweet green peas; that is, they’re grown to be dried (you know them as the same ones that are sold as split peas). Along with packing plenty of protein, those field peas are a good source of fiber, iron, manganese, potassium and folate.

Peas, chia seeds and quinoa give Health Warrior bars plenty of protein.

Here are a few easy ways to hop on the pea protein trend:

  1. Ripple: This new product aims to shake up the nondairy milk sector with a beverage made from yellow peas. Why pea milk? According to company cofounder Adam Lowry (who also cofounded green cleaning product company Method), Ripple has less sugar and more vitamins A and D, iron and calcium than dairy, eight times more protein than almond milk, and it offers some omega-3s. We taste-tested the milk and found it very mild, somewhat akin to soy milk, but far more neutral. Ripple will be sold in “original” flavor (lightly sweetened), original unsweetened, vanilla and chocolate.
  2. Health Warrior Chia Protein Bars: These tasty, not-too-sweet snacks provide 10 grams of plant-based protein per two-ounce bar (from peas, chia and quinoa). Unlike many bars on the market, these have few ingredients, all recognizable. With appealing flavors like Honey Almond, Lemon Goldenberry and Dark Chocolate Coconut Sea Salt, you’ll look forward to grabbing one of these post workout.
  3. Go Macro Bars: The protein in these substantial bars comes from a mix of pea protein and sprouted brown rice protein, so you get that classic rice-and-beans mix in a convenient easy package. Flavors like Morning Harvest, Sweet Rejuvenation and Prolonged Power pack in wholesome ingredients like nut and seed butters, carob, coconut and dried fruit, making these sturdy vegan and macrobiotic bars a great option for traveling or stashing in your bag for snack “emergencies.”
  4. Kashi GoLean Clusters cereal, Vanilla Pepita: If you’ve been avoiding cereal for the lack of tasty, protein rich and relatively low-sugar options, grab a spoon. This cereal offers 9 grams of protein per cup (from peas), with six grams of filling fiber as well. It’s also full of whole grains like sorghum, oats and millet, with pepitas for added crunch and vanilla for sweetness.
  5. Gluten-Free Green Pea Flour: Use this handy product to make the quickest pea soup ever (just add a water-broth combo and bring to a boil). It’s also great for upping the protein in breads, crackers, muffins and pancakes, as a gluten-free flour to dredge fish or chicken before pan-frying, or to thicken dips.

Open Sesame Sub tahini for nut butter for a tasty health boost

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Let us just start by saying that we love peanut butter. We wouldn’t dream of disparaging the classic spread we’ve all loved since childhood.

Yes, peanut butter is delicious and versatile and comforting and full of good nutrition, but it isn’t the only jar worth opening, especially with the proliferation of other nut butters in recent years. You may already have almond or cashew butter on hand, and now we want you to take a fresh look at another spread, one that might already be languishing in your pantry: tahini.

If you have a jar of the sesame paste and you only use it to make hummus, you’re in for a treat. Not only can tahini do everything peanut butter and other nut butters can (fill sandwiches, wake up apple slices, top yogurt or oatmeal), it’s a delicious and easy way to round out your diet.

Follow the lead of NYC’s Seed + Mill and use tahini with herbs in a fresh dip. (Photo: Scott Matthews)

While both peanut butter and tahini are good for you, they have different nutritional strengths. So swapping one for the other every now and then is an easy way to get a wider array of essentials. For example, peanut butter is richer in manganese (important for fat and carb metabolism), while tahini packs in more iron (essential for getting oxygen through the body). Peanut butter has vitamin E (a cancer fighter and brain booster), tahini has vitamin B1 (a.k.a. thiamine), which helps the body convert food to energy.

As with other nut and seed butters, when shopping for tahini look for brands with as few ingredients as possible, very little or no added sugar and no hydrogenated oils.

If you want to give a tahini swap a try, here are some ways to get started:

Now, if you’re the type to simply dig a spoon into the jar and lick it off (um, not that we would ever do that…), good news: As tahini becomes more popular, companies are offering ever more delicious flavored varieties. Here are some great products:

  • Soom tahini: This company’s classic tahini has excellent flavor and works beautifully in recipes and on its own. But their chocolate spread, made with powdered sugar and cocoa, is beyond rich and luscious; and it only has seven grams of sugar in a two tablespoon serving (a certain chocolate-hazelnut spread that shall remain nameless has three times as much).
  • Ilka Foods: The Honey Sesame Butter and Maple Sesame Butter Ilka Foods makes are perfectly delicious, but the Chai flavor is downright addictive. With honey, black tea, chai spices and a touch of black pepper, it is heaven on a spoon.
  • Seed+Mill: If you live in or plan to visit New York City, stop by Seed+Mill’s stand in Chelsea Market to sample their freshly made tahini and products made with it (including amazing halva and goat’s milk-tahini soft serve ice cream). Luckily, they ship, so you can have jars sent to you if NYC isn’t in your travel plan anytime soon. We love their herby green tahini (made with dried parsley and garlic), which makes fantastic sauces and dips.

Green Dream Brighten food and boost health with liquid chlorophyll

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We all know that eating lots of leafy green vegetables is one of the best things you can do for your health. But what if you could cut to the chase and eat (or drink) the “green” benefits without sitting down to a giant bowl of kale?

Consuming liquid chlorophyll offers the chance to do precisely that. Chlorophyll is the emerald pigment that gives plants their green color and allows them to soak up energy from the sun. Extracted from plant sources such as alfalfa or mulberry leaves (depending on the brand), liquid chlorophyll is a dietary form of the pigment with a mildly grassy taste that’s becoming a trendy addition to food and drinks for its visual and nutritional appeal.

Chlorophyll is added to the spring quinoa salad at NYC’s Mulberry & Vine.

Just like leafy greens, liquid chlorophyll is chock-full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A number of studies have demonstrated chlorophyll’s anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Emerging research shows its promise in treating certain types of cancer.

Liquid chlorophyll has traditionally been consumed as a dietary supplement, but lately chefs around the country have been getting creative with it. At Croft Alley in Los Angeles, liquid chlorophyll is swirled into yogurt to create stunning jade streaks. At Mulberry & Vine in New York City, the seasonal menu includes a spring pea quinoa salad tossed with mint chlorophyll vinaigrette. Pressed Juicery and other juice spots are selling chlorophyll-infused water.

You can get crafty with liquid chlorophyll in your own kitchen—drizzle it over fish, grain bowls or soups for a nutritious pop of color. Typically, liquid chlorophyll’s grassy taste is so mild that it can be added to just about anything without overpowering the dish. Many brands are flavored with mint, but for versatility we like unflavored varieties like DeSouza’s Liquid Chlorophyll, sourced from alfalfa grown without pesticides.

Going green just got a lot more fun.

Warm Welcome Greet the greens of spring with these easy warm salad ideas

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Now that spring is in full bloom, the season’s bounty of fresh, leafy greens is ripe for your salad bowl. But what if the weather’s not quite warm enough to enjoy cool, crunchy raw salads, yet not cold enough to make you crave hot-‘n’-hearty braised greens?

We’ve got the perfect solution: make a warm salad.

Warm salads offer the ideal mix of temperature and texture and coax the best flavors out of spring’s nutritious greens, whether you use tender spinach and arugula or more hardy endive, radicchio and baby kale. It’s worth making your leafy greens as enticing as possible since eating plenty of them is a foundational part of radiant health. They’re rich in essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, and eating greens (especially dark green ones like spinach and kale) is associated with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and inflammation.

A warm dressing softens tender greens like arugula and spinach.

The best approach for assembling a warm salad depends on which greens you select. Here are a few tasty ways to give your spring salad a warm embrace:

  1. Grill or roast your greens: Members of the chicory family, including endive (yellow-tipped white leaves) and radicchio (reddish-purple leaves), bear leaves that have enough fortitude to stand up to some serious heat. Toss the separated leaves with olive oil and roast in a 400° F oven for 20 minutes or place on a hot grill for about 8 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking either way. These bitter greens pair well with fresh crumbled goat cheese, a cool, citrusy vinaigrette and toasted nuts.
  2. Toss your greens with hot dressing: Delicate greens like spinach and arugula don’t need much heat to make their leaves soft. To get them warm and wilted (rather than fully cooked), try making a hot vinaigrette that’s then tossed with the greens. Heat some olive oil in a pan along with chopped shallots or garlic, just until fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, grainy mustard and sea salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad greens with the warm dressing and then add any desired toppings such as shaved spring veggies like fennel and artichokes and a warm protein of your choice, like grilled chicken or shrimp.
  3. Quickly sauté your greens: Yes, you can give your salad greens a flash in a hot pan without making them a soggy mess…if you do it for just a minute or two! Good candidates for skillet-kissed greens include leaves that are somewhere in between tough and tender, like escarole, watercress, swiss chard, kale and mustard greens. Sauté the greens briefly in olive oil, minced garlic and sea salt to taste until just wilted. Combine with seasonal toppings of your choice, like green beans or fava beans, roasted carrots and/or grilled asparagus and a light lemony dressing.

Sweet Cheat Enjoy natural sweetness (and health benefits) with yacon

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If you like your sweeteners natural—and you should!—there’s a new option popping up at smoothie shops and health food stores. It’s called yacon (pronounced yah-CONE), and its bonus health benefits may surprise you.

An ancient staple in South America’s Andes Mountains, yacon is a sweet potato-like root vegetable that tastes like an apple. It’s primarily composed of fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a tongue-twisting term for a natural sugar that tastes sweet but is indigestible. That means yacon, often enjoyed in syrup form, can add sweetness without piling on calories or spiking blood sugar.

Snack on dried yacon slices for a quick energy boost.

Yacon is also an excellent source of prebiotics that nourish the good bacteria your body needs for healthy digestion, and its fiber content may keep you feeling fuller longer, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Research is emerging on yacon’s potential to help reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol and support liver health.

Want a taste? For sweetening smoothies and other beverages, we like Sunfood’s organic yacon syrup ($20), an amber-colored liquid similar in texture to maple syrup with a caramelized sweet potato taste. We’re also keen on Navitas Naturals’ organic, dehydrated yacon slices ($6)—they taste like dried apples and can be snacked on or added to trail mix, granola or salads.

Are we rooting for this root? You bet!

Frond of You Fennel is the Swiss Army Knife of vegetables

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While fennel may look like it was dropped into the grocery aisle by a spaceship, it’s incredibly versatile once you know how to use all of its parts, from its frilly fronds to the bulbous roots.

With its high water content, fresh fennel is hydrating and full of vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber. It’s also a digestion savior (which is why fennel seeds are traditionally served in Indian restaurants after meals).

Fennel tea soothes indigestion.

Here’s how we’re using this in-season vegetable every which way:

Fresh: Three minutes is the only thing between you and a salad that’s just the thing when you’re craving something both savory and crunchy (think potato chips). Slice a fennel bulb crosswise into thin rings (no peeling needed). Toss the slices with olive oil, a generous squeeze of lemon juice and plenty of salt and pepper. In addition to using the bulb, you can use fennel fronds as an attractive and flavorful garnish.

Dried: Reach for caffeine-free fennel tea the next time stomach issues like gas or bloating get you down. Fennel soothes and supports digestion and can ease uncomfortable feelings of fullness or heartburn if you accidentally overdid it at dinner. Stock a special blend, or let one tablespoon of fennel seeds steep in a mug of boiling water for 10 minutes, then strain and serve. Added bonus: Munching on fennel seeds outright has a breath-freshening effect, which is why it’s popping up in more products like gum.

Frozen: Wash, chop and freeze a fennel bulb to add to morning smoothies. While fennel may seem like an odd choice for breakfast, it adds the icy creaminess of a banana and lends the sweetness that fruit would, without an overwhelming amount of sugar. Plus, it packs more green into your smoothie.

Grab The Grass-Fed One simple swap brings a big health boost—here are 7 ways to try it now

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You’re probably already using organic milk in your coffee and yogurt with your breakfast and plating up organic meats for dinner. Now you can easily upgrade those efforts even further by reaching for 100% grass-fed dairy products, meats and more.

What makes grass so good? “Grass-fed meat and dairy have more omega-3 fats and more of a health-promoting fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventional,” says Dr. Drew Ramsey, psychiatrist, author of The Happiness Diet and the upcoming book Eat Complete, and an expert on food’s connection to brain function. “It’s a relatively small amount of these fats, much less than in seafood like fatty fish—but those small amounts consumed regularly make a real difference” in the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats in the diet. When we consume too much omega 6 vs. omega 3 (very common in Western diets), we’re more vulnerable to inflammation, heart disease and cancer, and brain function can suffer as well, research shows.

Milk from grass-fed cows makes for the healthiest dairy products.

If you’re thinking, Doesn’t organic dairy and meat come from grass-fed cows anyway? The answer is, sort of. Organic means the cows have had some access to pasture, but their food likely was supplemented with organic grains. That’s certainly better than conventionally raised cows, but 100% grass-fed nets you the most nutrients, including antioxidants like vitamin E. Grass-fed beef is usually lower in fat overall, as well.

Lucky for us, lots of companies are meeting the growing demand for grass-fed products. Here are a few new ones we love:

Stonyfield Organic Grass-Fed Yogurt: This rich, creamy, tangy yogurt is delicious topped with fruit or added to a smoothie for breakfast. Swap it in for sour cream in dips or dressings, too.

Organic Valley Grassmilk Raw Cheddar: This cheese, available in mild or sharp, is complex and luscious. Shred it and toss some on a salad, or enjoy a few slices as a snack with whole-grain crackers or an apple.

Annie’s Organic Grass-Fed Mac and Cheese: It’s “for the kids,” we know. Whether “they” prefer classic mac and cheese or go for shells and white cheddar, you can get that same flavor with cheese made with milk from grass-fed cows.

The New Primal Grass-Fed Beef Jerky: There’s no shortage of jerkies on the market these Paleo/primal days, but this brand stands out because, along with being grass-fed, it’s free of added nitrates, low in sugar (sweetened with honey and pineapple juice) and relatively light on the sodium—yet still full of great flavor.

Epic Grass-Fed Bone Broth: Trend alert: Bone broth and grass-fed come together in one bottle, with jalapeños adding a spicy kick to this rich, flavorful brew. It adds a layer of flavor to recipes, and is delicious enough to drink straight–nothing like those old cans of broth our parents used to use.

Epic Grass-Fed Beef Tallow: Now that old-fashioned animal oils, once banned from healthy kitchens, are back in vogue, you can add amazing flavor to stir-fries, roasted vegetables, eggs and more with this product. Along with its rich flavor, it has a relatively high smoke point of 400ºF, so it’s good for many applications.

Kerrygold Butter and Siggi’s Yogurt: Honorable mention goes to these tried-and-true supermarket brands, which have been quietly using grass-fed milk for ages.

Just Add Barley Eat this versatile grain for a fiber boost that benefits heart and gut

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We’re going to bet that your diet could use a little (or a lot) more fiber, a nutrient that’s key for heart health, blood sugar balance and proper digestion. Most Americans consume only half of the fiber recommended by government guidelines, and consider this: Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate 10 times more fiber than the average American each day.

That’s a tough act to follow, but here’s an easy and delicious way to up your fiber intake: add barley to your meals.

Barley may not yet have the trendy cachet of exotic grains like fonio, but this old-fashioned grain (your grandmother probably cooked with it) deserves a second look, both for its chewy, nutty taste and abundant health benefits.

Chewy barley adds a great texture (and plenty of fiber) to salads and more.

Not only does whole-grain barley (as opposed to pearl barley) have the highest fiber content among all whole grains, but it also contains particularly high levels of a special type of fiber called beta-glucan. Research shows that barley’s beta-glucan can help lower cholesterol, boost immune system function and reduce blood sugar. Barley’s fiber also helps keep you feeling full longer, so you won’t have as many junk-food cravings.

To incorporate more barley into your meals, try making a pot of it and adding the grain to dishes throughout the week (see our basic recipe below). Use it as the base of a grain bowl or add it to soups and salads (like this one with broiled tomatoes and feta). Or, switch out your oatmeal with barley in breakfast dishes (like this blackberry barley breakfast bake). It’s also an easy swap for rice in pilaf and risotto recipes.

When purchasing barley, choose hulled barley—with the fiber-rich bran intact—instead of pearl barley, which has both hull and bran removed (although even pearl barley has a good amount of fiber since, unlike other grains, barley contains fiber throughout the entire kernel).

You’ll hit fiber pay dirt—minus the hunting and gathering.

Hulled Barley Recipe

Serves 6
3 cups water (or stock)
1 cup hulled barley
Sea salt (if desired)

Bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt (optional). Add 1 cup hulled barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 50-55 minutes (if substituting pearl barley, cook 45 minutes). Remove from heat, allow to sit for 10 minutes and then drain off any unabsorbed liquid.

Plum Happy Why you need umeboshi in your kitchen

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The next time you let a cocktail—or glass(es) of wine or beer—get the best of you, reach for some umeboshi the next morning before you reach for an aspirin.

If you’re asking “ume what?” right now, know that you aren’t alone.

While these fermented and salted plums are a staple in Japan, this quirky ingredient is just starting to make a splash in the American wellness scene. It’s likely you’ve already tried umeboshi in a sushi roll without even knowing it.

We loved the big, flavorful umeboshi from Boulder-based Ozuké.

Sweet, sour and salty all at once, umeboshi plums are highly alkalinizing, meaning that they can help with digestion and balance out some of the damage that acidic foods (sugar, refined flour, alcohol, etc.) do. They’re also good sources of iron and thiamin as well as electrolytes like sodium and potassium.

We’re wild about the umeboshi from Boulder, Colorado-based Ozuké, a company dedicated to the art of small-batch fermentation. Owner Willow King recommends using them for wicked headaches, as a post-food poisoning snack or to battle a bout of nausea or motion sickness.

Since stocking our kitchen with umeboshi in various forms, we’ve been sprinkling tangy plum vinegar over salads. A morning mug of warm water mixed with invigorating umeboshi concentrate is a great swap for the tried-and-true lemon variation.

But our favorite application for umeboshi is a 30-second superfood “taco”: Grab a sheet of nori, fill it with a swipe of umeboshi paste or a pitted whole umeboshi, add some avocado slices and greens (like pea or sunflower sprouts). Fold the thing like a taco and munch your way to satisfaction (and a higher level of alkalinity).

(Pine)apple of Our Eye Our favorite tropical treat is also a digestive powerhouse

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Pineapples conjure images of frosty vacation drinks served poolside, but it turns out you should also be serving the fruit couch-side on a regular night at home.

Pineapple is an excellent source of bromelain, an enzyme that aids in digestion and can help prevent indigestion and bloating. Think of pineapple as a digestive enzyme (no pill popping necessary) and a delicious dessert in one.

Don’t toss the pineapple core; add it to your smoothie.

The next time you are facing a big supper, try to beat that heavy stomach feeling by eating a couple slices of pineapple afterwards so your body can absorb the benefits throughout the night. As a bonus, pineapple is a good source of vitamin C and the mineral manganese (the trace mineral is important for healthy bones and may help fight PMS, among other benefits).

Pineapple is at its most powerful when consumed raw. Instead of buying expensive pre-cut pineapple, we like to buy the whole fruit—preferably fair trade and organic—and cut it up ourselves for a treat that tastes better and is cheaper. To find a perfectly ripe pineapple at the market choose one with a fragrant sweet scent emanating from the base, a bright green crown of leaves that can be pulled from the stem with only slight resistance and golden-brown skin that yields to light pressure.

Brush up on how to cut pineapple into perfect rings and wedges here and see our top five ways to incorporate pineapple into your diet below:

    1. The strength of the bromelain is at its most potent in the core of the pineapple, so don’t chuck it out. Instead, dice the tough inner core and blitz it with frozen bananas in a food processor for a creamy, soft-serve-like treat.
    2. Blend pineapple chunks with lots of ginger and ice make for a satisfyingly icy smoothie.
    3. Melt dark chocolate over low heat and drizzle ribbons over chilled pineapple spears for a fast and impressive dessert that brings the tropics home.
    4. Chop pineapple into rough chunks and toss them with cilantro, red onion, olive oil and apple cider vinegar for a quick salsa that’s as good with chips as it is with roasted chicken or grilled fish.
    5. Pre-cut pineapple into chunks and store in the fridge for an easy addition to your morning yogurt or oatmeal.

Heal Thyself The Anti-Inflammation Cookbook delivers healing (and delicious) recipes

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Inflammation—we’ve been hearing this word zipping around like wildfire and we know we need to do everything we can to combat it. Who wouldn’t want to fight something that’s been associated with a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes (to name a few)? But when it comes to practical guidance about fighting inflammation, resources have been sorely lacking—until now.

In The Anti-Inflammation Cookbook: The Delicious Way to Reduce Inflammation and Stay Healthy ($27.95), Amanda Haas, the culinary director for Williams-Sonoma, and Dr. Bradly Jacobs, an integrative medicine physician, have the can-do advice for fighting inflammation and the delicious recipes to go along with it.

Learn how a plant-rich diet can promote good health.

After suffering through a barrage of illnesses (chronic heartburn, endless stomach pain, bouts of sudden nausea) and visiting a laundry list of health care providers with no effective treatments, Haas finally turned to food for answers “I realized that if I could create recipes that stave of inflammation, I would literally cook my way out of pain and into a healthier, happier life,” she says.

In the book, Haas and Jacobs examine sources of stress for the body, including exposure to pesticides and herbicides; a diet high in added sugar and calories; alcohol; and trigger foods (for some people) like gluten and dairy. They encourage restoring the digestive track with healthy bacteria like those found in kefir and yogurt and feeding your body with plenty of leafy greens, legumes, seeds, oily fish and grass-fed protein.

Everything in this book is gluten-free and many recipes are vegetarian and vegan, or can easily be made so. Although you might imagine the book would prescribe a rigid regimen, we found the recipes doable and with an eye towards time and budget). The recipes ping from cinnamon cashew milk to a slow cooker chicken chile verde, all with a mind to be cleansing, restorative and energizing.

We particularly love the recipe for breakfast bibimbap with a base of brown rice or quinoa (a perfect way to use up last night’s leftover cooked grains and vegetables). It sounds complex, but think of it as a flavorful ground zero for any greens or vegetables that you can’t quite figure out how to use in your fridge. And though “breakfast” is in the recipe title, this dish would be equally delicious for lunch or dinner.

Breakfast Bibimbap
with Poached Eggs
Most mornings at work, you’ll find me up in our test kitchen making breakfast before anyone else arrives. While I unload the dishwasher, I bring a pan of water to a boil for poaching my eggs, then rummage through the refrigerator for something green to throw in another pan, along with leftover quinoa or brown rice. After just a few minutes of sizzle, the perfect breakfast is ready! I realized that I’ve been riffing on bibimbap, the classic Korean dish that means “mixed rice.” You can use whatever veggies you have on hand to make this breakfast: spinach, kale, mung bean sprouts, mushrooms . . . the combinations are endless.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

4 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-in [6-mm] matchsticks
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4-in [6-mm] matchsticks
3 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
2 cups [180 g] sliced mushrooms, such as shiitake and cremini
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 cups [300 g] cooked brown rice or quinoa
1 Tbsp chopped basil
1 Tbsp chopped mint
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
4 poached eggs
Hot sauce, such as Sriracha, for serving (optional)

1. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 tsp of the sesame oil. Add the carrot, zucchini, and green onions, along with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have just browned and are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan.

2. Place the pan back over medium-high heat, add another 1 tsp sesame oil and allow the pan to get very hot. Add the mushrooms in one layer. Allow them to sit and get a nice crust before stirring, about 3 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are well browned, about 2 minutes more.

3. Remove the mushrooms from the pan.

4. Place the pan back over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tsp sesame oil. Allow the pan to get very hot, then add the brown rice and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Let it crisp before breaking it up and stirring, about 2 minutes. Stir, then spread the rice over the bottom of the pan again and allow to crisp for 2 minutes more.

5. Divide the rice between four bowls and top each serving with vegetables, fresh herbs, sesame seeds, and a poached egg. Add as much hot sauce as desired. Serve immediately!

Hidden Jewel Unlock the avocado seed's nutritional wonders

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When you slice into an avocado, you inevitably bump up against its pit. Prying out the spherical seed and tossing it in the trash is probably the most thought you give to it, as your focus quickly shifts to enjoying the cool creaminess of the avocado flesh you’ve liberated.

But what if we told you that the pit is not only edible but also the most nutritious part of the fruit? Yep, that’s right: it’s time to stop throwing away the seed and instead start incorporating it into your smoothie.

Add avocado flesh and the pit to a smoothie for a nutrition boost.

For centuries in South America, the avocado pit has been used as a folk remedy for illness, and modern science has begun to find evidence of its health benefits. One study discovered that greater than 70% of the avocado’s antioxidant content can be found in the seed. Other research suggests that consuming avocado seeds may lower cholesterol and mitigate hypertension, inflammation and diabetes. The seeds also possess antimicrobial properties.

So, how do you get at them? The seed is no harder to slice through than, say, the rind of an acorn squash. Give the seed a good whack with a sharp knife (tap the knife with a mallet if you need extra power), and it should split in half. Then, it’s easy to cut the seed into smaller pieces.

On its own, the seed has a bitter taste, but any fruit or natural sweetener you put in your smoothie should easily cancel it out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how it thickens the drink.

Far from being trash, that seed is a treasure.

Fire Things Up Try this spicy brew to fight a cold

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Bone broth, fermented foods, oil pulling—old-fashioned folk remedies are having a moment.

Our latest favorite is fire cider, a home-brewed mix of health-boosting ingredients—which contains some combination of vinegar, horseradish, garlic, ginger, onions, hot peppers, oranges and honey—that proponents say can help do everything from strengthen immunity and support digestion to cure hangovers and boost energy.

Chilies and garlic give fire cider a kick.

Like many remedies, fire cider’s precise origin is uncertain, though some in the natural-foods community credit herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. Recipes abound online for the spicy-sweet, pungent brew, some of which contain various herbs, spices like turmeric and cayenne, and other homeopathic ingredients, such as echinacea.

No matter which style of fire cider you make or buy, the method is the same: Combine all the ingredients in a large jar, cover with raw cider vinegar, seal and store in a dark pantry, shaking it daily. The tonic is best after four to eight weeks, though it’s usable after a day or two. Then strain it into a clean jar, seal and keep out of sunlight at cool room temperature.

Once it’s ready, you can:

  • Knock back a tablespoon daily to boost immunity.
  • Place a tablespoon or two in a cup, cover with hot water and sip like tea when you feel a cold coming on.
  • Have a spoonful or two after a big meal to aid digestion.
  • Take the morning after overindulging in alcohol to soothe a hangover.
  • Mix into salad dressing, sauces or drinks for a spicy-sweet healthy kick.

Be sure to ask your grandma if she grew up sipping a tonic like this—she might have the perfect recipe.

Better Together Here's why you should eat chocolate and apples as a duo

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Who doesn’t love a great mashup, especially one with chocolate? It’s no longer a secret that chocolate has many health benefits. And here’s more good news: When you pair chocolate with another food that’s bursting with nutrition—apples—you get even more health benefits, particularly for the heart.

The cocoa found in dark chocolate is full of catechins, a type of antioxidant that helps prevent the hardening of arteries and can help weight loss. Meanwhile apples, and particularly the skin, contain quercetin, a powerful anti-inflammatory. Together, this sweet pair can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular issues, including plaque build-up in your arteries that leads to heart attacks.

An apple a day just got a lot tastier.

Just be sure to buy organic apples and dark chocolate without too much sugar. One brand we like is Lulu’s Chocolate, a fair trade, vegan, soy- and gluten-free brand made with lower-glycemic coconut sugar, but there are plenty of good ones out there. Have a few squares alongside your apple slices for a treat that’s satisfying and good for your ticker—or combine the dynamic duo in the smoothie below.

Chocolate Almond Butter Smoothie

2 tablespoons almond butter
2 whole organic apples (any variety), cored and chopped
2 cups coconut water
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
a pinch of sea salt

Add ingredients to a blender and mix on high until smooth, about a minute or so.

Let’s Go Bowling Be your own sushi chef with a recipe from the new Bowl

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There is something both exhilarating and liberating about putting everything you need for a well-rounded meal into a single serving vessel. No wonder eating breakfast, lunch and dinner from a bowl is one of the hottest food trends of 2016.

Lukas Volger’s new book, Bowl: Vegetarian Recipes for Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap, Dumplings, and Other One-Dish Meals ($25), is the perfect way to get inspired.

Volger’s bowls are light, clean and seasonally focused. His black rice burrito bowl is equally suited for balancing on the edge of the couch during a Netflix binge as it is for gracing the table at a dinner party.

Lukas Volger’s new book is full of healthy recipes with plenty of veggies.

The book is packed with simple techniques to help you take your bowl game to the next level, like roasting shiitake mushrooms to add a savory, juicy component or sprouting lentils for a base that is also a nutrient powerhouse.

We especially love Volger’s idea for a deconstructed vegetarian sushi bowl (recipe below) filled with contrasting flavors and textures. A dream team of sweet potatoes, creamy avocado, crisp cucumber and bitter daikon radish are all arranged on top of a pile of sticky sushi rice.

Not only does serving sushi this way simplify it immensely, but unlike at a sushi bar, it gives you complete control over what you get.

We’re loving this trend already.

Sushi Bowl with Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Daikon and Avocado

Serves 4
1 medium sweet potato, peeled if desired (10 to 12 ounces)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon neutral-tasting oil
One 4-inch length daikon radish
1 small cucumber
1 avocado
Four 2-inch squares toasted nori
1 tablespoon rice or brown rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
5 cups freshly cooked short-grain white or brown rice
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the bias, for garnish
Wasabi paste, for serving
Pickled ginger, for serving

1. Slice the sweet potato into rounds about 3/4 inch thick. Fill a saucepan fitted with a steamer unit with about 1/2 inch of water and bring to a simmer. Add the sweet potato to the steamer basket, cover, and cook until just tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl to cool until safe to handle.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey and soy sauce. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and, when it shimmers, arrange the potato in a single layer in the pan. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until it just begins to color and get crisp. Flip and repeat on the other side. Pour in the honey-soy mixture and cook until the sauce thickens and the potato is glazed, turning it frequently to ensure that it’s well coated, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

3. Peel the daikon and cut it into matchsticks about 1/4 inch thick and 2 inches long. Do the same with the cucumber. Peel the avocado and slice it into thin slabs.

4. Just before serving, wave the nori squares over the flame of a gas burner a few times until the corners curl and they turn crisp, or roast under a broiler, flipping periodically. Slice into thin strips with a chef’s knife, or crumble with your fingers.

5. Stir the rice vinegar, salt, and sugar together until the solids dissolve. Drizzle over the hot cooked rice, add the sesame seeds, and stir gently to combine. Taste and add a few more sprinkles of vinegar if desired.

6. Divide the rice among four bowls. Arrange the glazed potato slices, daikon, cucumber, and avocado on top of the rice in each bowl. Sprinkle the nori over the top of each serving and garnish with the scallions. Serve with individual dishes for the additional soy sauce, the wasabi, and pickled ginger at the table.

Be My Honey Supercharge your honey with this simple trick

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Here’s some good advice that bears repeating: Eat more spices.

Cinnamon is full of antioxidants and can help kick-start your circulatory system while also regulating your blood sugar. Turmeric keeps away inflammation and improves digestion, while ginger can soothe sore muscles.

The advice to get more spices into your diet sounds simple in theory, but it’s harder in practice. Just how much cinnamon can you sprinkle over your sweet potatoes or turmeric over your roasted veggies at any one time? Not to mention the fact that stirring a spoonful of a dried spice into a cup of hot tea results in a gloppy mix.

Cinnamon is one of many spices that blends nicely with honey.

We have a simple fix: Supercharge your honey with a rainbow of mighty spices.

Try swirling cinnamon (or ground ginger or turmeric) into a small jar of local, raw honey and keeping the mixture on hand. Store the jar on the counter and it will be easy to reach for when you stumble into the kitchen for a morning cup of hot lemon water, tea or coffee. Your daily cinnamon dosage is as easy as scoop and stir.

The fun doesn’t stop with your mug: Try this revved-up honey dribbled over oatmeal, drizzled into a bowl of yogurt or spread onto a piece of sprouted toast.

Golden Honey

Active time: 3 minutes
Total time: 3 minutes

1/2 cup raw honey
1 tablespoon dried cinnamon, turmeric or ginger

1. Work the spice into the honey with a spoon until it forms a thick paste.

2. For each cup of hot water, tea or coffee, place a small amount of the paste in the bottom of a mug. Pour hot liquid into the mug, and stir to dissolve the paste.

Some Like it Hot Get cozy with a warm smoothie

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We love smoothies. But what makes for a refreshing wake-up in July can be decidedly less appealing in March.

So lately, we’ve been embracing warm smoothies—it’s a trend worth jumping on even if it’s as unseasonably warm in your neck of the woods as it is in ours.

Making a warm smoothie is no harder than making a traditional one—just add the quick step of warming your preferred milk or milk substitute before blending. And while you can use any fruit to make a warm smoothie, we like creamy or filling ingredients that suit the season—some of our favorites include organic canned pumpkin, oats, apples and dates.

Seasonal fruits, such as pears, are great in warm smoothies.

Try our recipe below for a warmed coconut milk smoothie shot through with anti-inflammatory turmeric and blended with pear, banana and kale. Or try store-bought or homemade almond milk dusted with cinnamon and cardamom and blended with cooked sweet potato, a spoonful of almond butter and fresh ginger.

Serve your warm smoothie in your favorite mug or in a double-walled glass.

Cheers to warm smoothies and warm mornings!

Coconut Pear Smoothie

Makes: 1 Serving
Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
1 cup coconut milk, heated on stovetop over medium heat until it just simmers
1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced
½ ripe banana
2 leaves fresh kale, stems removed, or 1/4 cup frozen
1-inch chunk fresh turmeric, grated or finely minced or 1 teaspoon dried turmeric

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

Sea Star Get shiny (hair) and tough (immunity) with this sustainable superstar

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Want a sustainable vegetable full of minerals that you can add to almost any dish to give it more flavor? Look no further than the bottom of the ocean.

Once relegated to Japanese soups or wrapped around your favorite fish, sea vegetables are making a big splash beyond sushi.

Generally, you’ve got three varieties to choose from: brown, green and red. One of our favorites is a brown kind called kombu, an edible kelp, which is sometimes referred to as the “king of seaweed.”

Adding kombu to a pot of beans may make the legumes easier to digest.

Kombu is an amazing source of iodine, which contributes to your metabolic rate and energy levels, along with giving you shiny hair and a stronger immune system. Bonus: It also contains enzymes that help your body digest beans and absorb more of their nutrients.

Best of all: seaweed is a flavor powerhouse. It will add that delicious umami flavor to almost any dish, sans the MSG.

Seaweed is also guilt-free from a sustainability perspective. It doesn’t need fresh water or fertilizer, so it’s truly one of the most sustainable crops on the planet.

To use kombu in your kitchen, you can buy it dried and add a small strip (about an inch or two wide) to dried beans when you cook them. Dress up any vegetable stock or bone broth using this same trick. Or toss some soaked kombu into a prepared soup for a nutrient boost.

You can use dried seaweed as a seasoning, like this shaker from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables or this one from Bragg. Or to really mix it up, try it in your morning smoothie.

Remarkable Root How to make burdock taste good

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With all the colorful veggies out there, you may have missed burdock. This brown root is the quintessential example of an ugly vegetable that shouldn’t be judged on appearance alone.

It might look like a dirty carrot, but with the right recipe and preparation know-how, burdock offers a sweet, earthy flavor similar to mushrooms or beets.

This root vegetable has a stellar nutrition profile and is full of antioxidants and minerals that can help your immune system stay strong through the seasons. Burdock is as a powerful cleanser to the body, offering a natural blood purifier (if you take blood thinners, check with your doctor before eating burdock). It is also traditionally known to help clear up stubborn skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and acne. Want some digestive support? Burdock offers that as well, as it’s a great source of inulin, a natural dietary fiber and prebiotic.

Burdock shows up in Japanese pickles, soups and sautés (see our burdock and carrot sauté recipe below).

In Japan, cooks regularly toss gobo (the Japanese word for burdock root) into soups and stews. Sushi restaurants pickle it and pack it into sushi. Europeans used the root as a bittering agent in beer for years before hops became the go-to ingredient, and today you can drink burdock and dandelion soda, a tasty and nutrient-packed combo.

Burdock can be intimidating to the modern cook. The trick to making it taste good is removing its gritty skin with a vegetable brush or a peeler. You can also give it a good soak for 15 minutes and peel the skin by hand.

Here’s our take on gobo, a Japanese side dish featuring sautéed burdock and carrots.

Gobo Sauté

Serves 2
1 burdock root, peeled and sliced into thin half moons
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin half moons
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon honey

Heat the sesame oil in a pan over medium heat and add burdock root. Cook, stirring, until the burdock is tender, about five minutes. Add the carrots and sauté for another three minutes until they begin to soften. Add tamari and honey and cook, tossing frequently, until the liquid has reduced to a glaze. Transfer to a bowl and serve.