All About Herbs!

All About Herbs!

Last week we talked about a lot of unusual produce you might find at the Farmers’ Market or grocery store (read here if you missed it!), but herbs are another great item to source from your local market or store. When it comes time to discuss vitamin and mineral content of foods or antioxidant rich sources herbs are often forgotten, but they can be a great source of all three!

Some herbs are perennial, some biennial or annual, but for the most part they tend to offer their best harvest in the summer and early fall. Even with herbs that will survive a snowy winter, it’s important to harvest before the frosts start to settle in. You can extend the life of your herbs by freezing them on the stem or chopping and placing in a bag – or even freezing in ice cube trays with water! Usually it is suggested to make use of them within 2 months, but to extend their freezer life a little try freezing them in olive oil! This ensures preservation of their flavor up to 3 or 4 months and makes them very convenient to use in soups or while sauteing vegetables.

MINT

Mints are incredibly hardy perennial herbs which make them very easy to grow. They spread so willingly, in fact, that many people choose to plant them in a large pot, and then plant that pot in the ground so they don’t take over an area!

Mints have one of the highest antioxidant capacity of any food! Try adding fresh mint to salsas and salads or toss it in your water for a refreshing flavor! You can also steep the leaves for 5 – 6 minutes in hot water for fresh mint tea.

Click here for a fresh Summer Roll recipe containing fresh mint!

OREGANO

Oregano is another perennial that is easy to grow (and split to share with a friend!). It’s known not only for its common use in Italian foods and on pizza, but also for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties! Oil of Oregano is a fantastic natural immune booster when antibiotics are not available or necessary.

Try this different take on classic pesto using oregano and spinach!

BASIL

An annual herb, basil is best harvested by pinching off a few leaves from a few different stems to encourage the plant to fill out vs getting tall and spindly. Traditional basil uses include pesto, marinades, bruschetta, and soups. Basil is another great addition to fresh spring rolls or tossed into a fresh greens salad. Try steeping 3 basil leaves in 1 cup of boiling water to create a tea to relieve an upset stomach or digestion!

Here’s another Summer Roll (*not fried spring roll) recipe to try – so fresh you can even cut out the dipping sauce if you’re concerned about the extra calories!

CILANTRO

This annual herb is often confused as a perennial because it reseeds so easily. Cilantro, in addition to being abundant with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, is also known to combat heavy metal toxicity in the body and aid in digestion. Unfortunately however, about 15% of the population has a gene that causes them to detect aldehyde chemicals which are found in both cilantro and soap. If you find that you fall into this group and you dislike cilantro, swap out parsley in any of your favorite recipes that include cilantro. Those in Wisconsin will even find, with the heavy frosts, cilantro can sprout up on it’s own from the prior season. When growing, the green leaves can be harvested as cilantro. Let it flower and go to seed and you have grown spicy coriander seeds! Cilantro is used in many Mexican or Asian dishes such as guacamole, salsa, and cilantro lime rice.

DILL

Like Cilantro, dill reseeds easily, but is a biennial since a plant will only live two years. Toss seeds just about anywhere, and you’ll have fresh dill available readily for years to come. Dill tastes great in fresh in salads, greens, and as flavoring for roasted or grilled vegetables!

Click here for grilled carrots with lemon and dill!

There are many, many herbs out there worth mentioning, but some easy perennials that have a wide variety of uses are Rosemary, Thyme and Sage! Plant all kinds of herbs and try using something brand new to you – your tastebuds will thank you!

Ad-veggie-venture! (Conquering Mysterious Produce)

Gardens are overflowing and the Farmer’s Markets are full of produce, ready to fill your vitamin and mineral needs! I’m sure we all snagged up the strawberries over the last couple of weeks. Maybe you got some early lettuce or beans…but what about all those mystery fruits and veggies?? We all see unknown produce and simply pass on by without giving it a second thought. The next time you see something unfamiliar, buy it! Make it a mission to learn 1 or 2 ways to use it. You will probably like it, AND you’ll have something new to incorporate into your regular meal/snack rotations to keep it from getting boring. As an added bonus, you will introduce your body to vitamins and minerals that you may not currently be getting! Let’s get started:

Yu Choy (yow – choy)

Go past any Asian stand at a farmer’s market and you’ll likely find Yu Choy. This Chinese green is most identifiable by their yellow flowers, which are edible! Yu Choy (or rapeseed) are primarily grown to produce canola oil, but also have a sweet taste that make it perfect to sautée, stir-fry or add to soups. Yu Choy’s flavor is a sort of cross between spinach and mustard greens. Grab a pound of Yu Choy, stir fry in some oil and garlic and then steam in ¼ cup of chicken broth for about 3-3.5 minutes until the stems are softened. Say Nǐ hǎo to something new!

Kohlrabi (cole – RAW – be)

In German “Kohl” means cabbage and “Rabi” means turnip; this green or purple bulb like vegetable is commonly eaten in German speaking areas and in Vietnam. However, it is slowly becoming more mainstream here in the U.S. The bulb can have the green skin cut off (knife or vegetable peeler) and the inside, sliced or cut into sticks and served alone or with a dip like hummus. It has a nice, crisp taste with a slight cabbage flavor. Some may be surprised to learn that the greens on the top of kohlrabi can be used like kale or collard greens. Look for smaller size bulbs to ensure they are not “woody” as often found in the larger grown vegetable. Use kohlrabi in other ways too, such as pureed in soups, roasted, or steamed. Any time you get a veggie where you can eat the root and the greens you’ve got a bargain!

Golden Beets

You might have noticed we’ve included a few root vegetables in this post, in large part because unless it is a carrot or potato most people tend to steer clear of this category. What a shame! Because the roots are generally the major source of absorption for vitamins and nutrients from the soil, these veggies (beets, rutabagas, ginger, etc) pack a big nutritional punch! Geosmin, a compound produced by microbes in the soil, is what gives beets their earthy taste and seem to polarize so many into beet lovers or beet haters, but even beet haters may be pleasantly surprised by the flavor of golden beets! These golden beauties have been described to taste like sweet corn when cooked, and are well-known for their high fiber, potassium, iron, and folic acid. One bonus is they don’t “bleed red” and stain your clothes or teeth. Beets also have the highest sugar content of any vegetable, which is why they can be found in some desserts (like beet brownies!). Beets can be enjoyed roasted, poached, or boiled.

Jicama (HE – ka – ma)

Although you won’t find jicama grown locally as it needs 9 months frost free, you can generally find it in most supermarkets. It’s traditionally grown in Mexico and South America. Also known as a Mexican turnip, Jicama is in the legume family and the brown, bulbous root vegetable we are used to seeing is just that – a tuberous root at the bottom of a large vining plant. Jicama is most commonly enjoyed raw and tastes like a savory apple, a crunchy, juicy, and slightly sweet snack. Just cut the skin off (it’s too thick for a vegetable peeler) and cut into sticks or slices. Other ways to enjoy jicama are stir-fry (like water chestnuts), julienned into spring rolls, and even diced into salsa or a coleslaw!

Fennel (FEN – null)

Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet – closely related to parsley, carrots, and dill. It is fully edible, from its bulb to the leaves, and has high concentrations of phytonutrients which make it an antioxidant powerhouse. Fennel has been repeatedly studied for its ability to reduce inflammation and fight cancer. Many associate the taste to black licorice, however if black licorice isn’t your thing, when the bulb is chopped and sautéed (many like it sautéed with onion) or braised, that licorice-type taste almost fully dissolves into a complementary side dish primarily for fish or other seafood. The stalks can be used in soup and the leaves can be used as an herb. Search pinterest or google some recipes and give it a shot!

Venture into the Farmers’ Market or grocery store with a little extra confidence this week, and proudly request some new produce with the correct pronunciation and a sense of accomplishment! When it comes to diet, one particular principles with regards to exercise is extremely applicable: if you are bored, you won’t stick with it very long. Explore new fruits and veggies to boost your vitamins and minerals, make your meals more enjoyable, and wow your friends and family!

Until next time…Happy Harvesting!

Slooooowww Down

We’re a rushed, distracted, and “too-busy” society. Most people in North America eat fast. Really fast. We rarely take the time to savor our food… or sometimes even to chew it properly.

^^It’s gross isn’t it??^^

You almost can’t look away…don’t be like Homer!

Each time we consume food we are using all five of our senses. We taste and smell the food, hear the crunch, feel the texture, and see the food. Try sitting down to eat in a calm environment with minimal distractions to truly enjoy all the five senses, and get more satisfaction out of eating! Taking time to prepare your food and make it look presentable will help you to enjoy it. Add fruits, veggies, and spices to add a colorful “pop” to your meals!

Did you know it takes a full 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your mind (and mouth for that matter) that you are satisfied? Try spending at least 20-30 minutes eating each meal, and see what a difference it can make! Slowing down is an effective – and maybe the easiest – way to reduce caloric intake at a meal.

Eating slowly offers many benefits:
• Better digestion
• Better hydration
• Easier weight loss or maintenance
• Greater satisfaction with our meals

Digestion is a process made up of many equally important steps that prepare the body to break down everything you put into it to use for energy. Smelling, tasting, chewing, moving the food around, chewing some more, swallowing, chemical and mechanical break down in the gut… When we eat and chew slowly, we allow our brain and body to properly digest the food. Food that is not properly chewed, or eaten too fast can lead to GI problems as well as indigestion. To practice chewing slower, choose high-fiber foods that take more time to chew such as fresh fruits and vegetables. The act of chewing even helps your brain to feel more full – this is why shakes and smoothies can leave you hungry even when they have the same calories as a meal!

Now, we all know that awful feeling of eating way too much and feeling like a balloon. Eating slowly helps us avoid this “inflated” feeling, and gives the brain time to process satisfaction. One research study out of the University of Rhode Island done on women who ate lunch quickly vs women who ate lunch slowly showed those who ate quickly consumed 646 calories in 9 minutes while the women who ate slowly consumed 579 in 29 minutes! That’s 67 calories less in 20 additional minutes – you can see how weight gain can happen if this is happening for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! For weight-loss or more consistent maintenance, try aiming to stop eating when you are only 80% full. Don’t continue eating until about 20 minutes have passed. Then if you are still hungry eat a little more, but if you are not – then don’t.

Here’s a simple strategy to slow down: Count how many bites you take in a minute. The next time you eat, try cutting that number in half. At a minimum, you will be more conscious of your speed.

Check out these other shocking study findings about just how much MORE food we consume when we eat quickly!

The Inside Scoop (Part II)

Welcome back to day-to-day life for those of you who’ve been traveling or “Up North” as they say here in Wisconsin! We hope you all had a great 4th of July, and we know many of you haven’t made as many workouts as is routine this week so you will definitely want to read on to see what you missed during this week’s educational series!

Every day our workouts are a little bit different here at Ellipse Fitness, and we wanted to be sure that all of our members have some understanding of what we are aiming for with our workout programming. Here is our day-by-day look for this week:

(Monday)
Metabolic Conditioning in the broadest sense is a work:rest ratio implemented to elicit a specific response from the body. Different work to rest ratios call upon different energy systems of the body and help us work towards different goals (i.e sports performance, reducing body fat, increasing endurance). The key to getting the most out of “Met Con” is to push as hard as you can through the work period – “GO, GO, GO!” This increases your EPOC (excess post oxygen consumption) after your workout so you can continue to burn fat hours after your session is over!

(Tuesday)
Energy Systems: Ready? It’s about to get a little nerdy up in here…
Tuesday boxing combines cardio and strength. By combining both formats we can recruit all three energy systems (phosphagen, glycolytic and aerobic), boost metabolism, help prevent injury, and break the monotony of standard training protocol while still achieving significant results. The phosphagen system provides energy for all-out type exercises you can only do for 10 seconds or less, the glycolytic system is our intermediary system so to speak – for exercises lasting 30 seconds up to a few minutes minutes, and the aerobic system is utilized for those movements you can sustain longer.

(Wednesday)
HYPERTROPHY!! So much of what we design our workouts around revolves around muscle hypertrophy. In the simplest terms, this means “building muscle”. Hypertrophy includes both the ability to store more glycogen (stored glucose that is mobilized during the above-mentioned glycolytic cycle) and increase of myofibril size (the actual size and strength of the muscle fiber). We want to build more muscle for many reasons, not the least of which are an elevated metabolism and a less injury-prone body!

(Thursday)
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to offer greater benefits to your heart than moderate, steady-state workouts, and it is extremely effective for achieving fat loss, increasing endurance, decreasing blood glucose levels and promoting EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption). EPOC means your metabolism is elevated and you are burning calories/fat for hours following your workout. But there is a catch! During the peak times of the workout you have to push yourself to the limit to truly reap all the benefits of HIIT!

(Friday & Saturday)
Periodization may very well get its very own blog post dedicated to it in the future, because this here is a major piece of what separates a decent exercise routine from an exceptional one. We look at periodization on a day-to-day level, but also on a much broader scale with the understanding that many of our members are here for life! And while it is important to exercise throughout your life, if you just do the same movements the same way over and over and over and over and over…you get the idea…it will eventually lead to imbalance, chronic pain, boredom and most likely injury.

Periodization is a plan. Planned progressions to prevent plateaus. Planned management of fatigue to achieve continual muscular adaptations. Planned program design to avoid repetitive stress which can result in over-training and can set you back months or more.

Results at Ellipse Fitness come from our careful planning and management of your training program. To get the best results from your Ellipse program, arrive early to foam roll and warm up properly, understand the goal of the day’s workout, work to your full potential during the session, and then recover properly after you leave by eating well, getting enough sleep, and balancing stress. The program can’t work quite as well as it is designed if you don’t also do your part – and THAT is why we are stronger together, healthier together, and better together!

Deck of Cards Workout

Don’t let travel get in the way of your fitness goals!  Take this travel workout with you on business trips or getaways.  We suggest creating a personal policy of working out every 48 hours at a minimum.  Want to do more?  Build up slowly over time, but stay active on your recovery days. Be sure your and healthy enough for physical exercise and to check with your doctor as needed.

 

Deck of Cards Workout – Bodyweight

 

Equipment:  deck of cards, mini band (optional)

Warm-up:  foam rolling + dynamic warm-up (~ 10 minutes)

 

Perform each exercise or movement pattern below according to the number and suit indicated on the playing card (i.e. 4 of hearts= 4 Jumping jacks, 8 of diamonds=8 plank jacks).

 

Jacks=11, Queens=12, Kings=13, Aces=14, Jokers=15.

 

Hearts=Jumping Jack/Squats or Jack Squats!

Diamonds=Plank Jacks

Spades=Upper Cuts

Clubs=Bicycles

Jokers=Burpees

Aces=Hip Lifts

 

*use a mini band for all moves to intensify.  Ask your coach for more details