Urban Remedy’s Keto Plan

Urban Remedy’s Keto Plan

I just completed Urban Remedy’s Keto Plan and I can’t say enough about it. First, let me start by saying that I have an autoimmune disease and so in an attempt to feel better I thought I would give it a try. I am extremely particular about what I put into my body but Urban Remedy’s all organic, fresh ingredients gave me the reassurance that I needed. I truly feel amazing which isn’t something I say often. The food is so clean and delicious. I was so surprised that I could eat as much as I did and I felt completely satiated while on the plan. I loved the salads and the Veggie pho soup and the matcha energy bar was so decadent I felt like I was cheating! It literally melts in your mouth. The addition of lean proteins really helped with my energy levels and the MCT was a critical part of helping me stay satisfied longer. I would recommend Urban Remedy’s Keto plan to anyone looking for a reboot.

What is a ketogenic diet?

“A ketogenic diet focuses on minimal plant-based carbs, moderate amounts of clean protein, and high healthy fat consumption – the three keys to achieving nutritional ketosis. In ketosis, you’re essentially converting yourself from a “sugar burner” to a “fat burner.” With 40g or less net carbs per day, you’ll feel satisfied instead of hungry. The lower sugar helps reduce inflammation and fight chronic disease while keeping your insulin levels in tact.”

Day 1

I was feeling so inspired and excited to see if this plan could help me reset my micro biome (the good bugs in my gut). I am extremely sensitive to any additives and many foods trigger my autoimmune system to go bonkers. I felt so good all day and I wasn’t missing bad carbs (anything with grain in particular)at all. The hardest part for me was my own head because let’s face it, if someone tells me that I can’t have sweets, then what do I want? You guessed it, sweets! So day one took a little self discipline and focus on the end goal.

Day 2

I woke up early and felt great ! I noticed that my stomach felt flatter and the bloated feeling I seem to have often was non-existent. I made myself a little warm water with half a squeezed lemon and sipped and smiled at my success. I made it through day one and I didn’t cave! Today was exciting. I felt like I was in the keto rhythm. Much like day one, I felt very satisfied. I did get hungry and then remembered I had snacks both nuts and the Urban crackers which I loved. I also made tea a few times a day. The MCT oil is a very important part of the plan. I added a little oil to either my tea, a salad or the soup three times a day. I felt so good by the time I went to sleep and yep, high five I made it through day two!

Day 3

I realized when I woke up that I had zero cravings for sugar on Day two which was shocking ! Day three was easy ! I just followed the plan as usual but noticed that I had a lot more energy and while I wondered about things like “mental clarity” and if that’s really attainable through a food plan(I’m a bit of a skeptic sometimes)I had to admit that I felt really clear. As day three came to a close I decided that I really do need to eat this way regularly. Urban Remedy’s keto plan was for me, very successful. When you have an autoimmune disease you can’t ever really take feeling good for granted. I am convinced that if I say on the Keto plan I may not think about how I am feeling all the time and will just enjoy “being” .

QUEEN OF THE FOREST

The seasonal return of Chestnuts

Exploring the fascinating history and health benefits of chestnuts.

Grilled chestnuts

It’s that time of year again and a nostalgic one at that. The smell of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” brings forth such feelings of warmth, traditions and the upcoming holiday season. This sweet and earthy nut is now roasting at the Marin farmers market on Sundays! Let’s take a look at one of the earliest foods ever consumed in America: its unique history, surprising health benefits, its many uses and where to find them.

History

The European or Spanish chestnut (Castanea sativa) is a winter crop native to the woodlands of Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. They made their way to greater Europe by way of the Greeks and the Romans. Chestnuts were a staple food in much of southern Europe and south Asia for millennia. The vast majority of chestnut trees in America today come from Italy, China and Korea but the United States does have their own variety known as Castanea dentate, which was widely consumed before immigrants brought their own.

In the blight of 1904 a fungus eradicated nearly four billion American chestnut trees that had populated most of the Eastern United States and is referred to as the greatest ecological disaster to strike the world’s forest in all of history. The American chestnut was truly a heritage tree that provided the single most important food source for wildlife at that time. Rural communities relied on chestnuts as a cash crop to feed their cattle not just themselves. Luckily, a few groves in California and the Pacific North West escaped the affliction and are still growing today the sweet chestnuts of our past.

Five Health Benefits of Chestnuts

Chestnuts have a sweet and earthy taste, which resembles that of sweet potato. They are low in fat and high in dietary fiber and contain vitamins B1, B2, B6, C and K. Furthermore, they are rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous, and they provide nutrients like folate. Just one nut contains a full day’s worth of selenium, a powerful mineral known to increase immunity by virtue of its antioxidant activity.

Here are five notable health benefits of chestnuts:

Increase bone density

Italian chestnut cake, castagnaccio. Tuscan traditional chestnut flour bread.

Copper and magnesium are two important minerals that work synergistically to strengthen bone structure, both of which can be found in chestnuts. Copper helps the body absorb iron, another crucial mineral contributing to bone growth and development, which is also present in chestnuts. Magnesium helps increase bone mineral density so when these two minerals are combined, they can help prevent or slow the onset of many bone disorders, such as osteoporosis.

As a side note, owing to their mineral composition, chestnuts can be very effective in reducing the risk of anemia, a condition that is related to iron deficiency, because of the presence of iron and copper

Regulate blood pressure

Another essential mineral found in chestnuts is potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure. It functions as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow while decreasing the tension on constricted blood vessels and arteries. Potassium also controls water movement within the body. The reduction in blood pressure can lessen your risk of heart attacks and strokes and can boost overall cardiovascular health.

Diabetes prevention

Chestnuts are high in dietary fiber and are considered a low glycemic food, which means they can prevent blood sugar’s fast spikes and drops, which can be detrimental for diabetic patients. Clinical research has shown that chestnuts (alongside other nuts) helped reduce and stabilize fasting blood sugar levels (and other important biomarkers) in Type 2 diabetic patients. Therefore, chestnuts can play a significant roll in the prevention, regulation and management of diabetes.

Digestive relief

Chestnuts are one of the richest in dietary fiber content amongst all nuts: 4 grams in 3-oz serving. Predominantly they contain insoluble fibers, which accelerate the movement of food through the intestines, thus making chestnuts a powerful tool to help regulate bowel movement while reducing inflammation thereby reducing the risk of constipation and discomfort.

Promote healthy brain function

Chestnut and raisins tiramisu – prepared like standard tiramisu with the addition of pureed boiled chestnuts and raisins to the cream

It is well-established that several vitamins, and in particular those of the B family (such as folate, riboflavin, thiamine, etc.) are important elements contributing to neuronal health and therefore to brain development, cognition and executive function.  Hence, chestnuts due to their high B vitamin content are beneficial to the maintenance of brain health. In addition, the high potassium levels found in chestnuts may facilitate increased blood flow to the brain, thus promoting general good brain health.

How are Chestnuts used?

Considering Chestnuts have twice as much starch as potatoes, they were often substituted for such in Southern Europe, Asia and Africa for centuries. Chestnuts are a perfect thickening agent for soups, sauces and puree. They can be roasted, boiled or milled. It’s no surprise that the chestnut tree has been called “The Bread Tree” because once milled, the flour may be used for baking bread, pastries and cakes. And, for those of you that are gluten intolerant, you’re in luck because chestnut flour is gluten free.

Where to find fresh chestnuts and chestnut flour

Luckily, we can pick up some fresh or roasted American sweet chestnuts right here in our back yard. Timothy Boughton of Amber Oaks Berry Farm will be selling and roasting them on Sundays at the Marin Farmers market. If you would like to pick your own, head up to their farm in Auburn, CA by appointment only and bring the kids! Also, they do ship as well so you may order from them directly.

Chestnut flour is a traditional part of Italian and Corsican cuisine and can often be purchased in specialty grocery stores.  Because chestnut flour is quite perishable often times grocers do not have it on hand but some will take special orders. The easiest way to get chestnut flour is to order it on line; I recommend ordering Italian chestnut flour, which is known for its excellent quality.

Fun Facts

fresh chestnuts in sack bag

· Historians say that the Greek army may have survived their retreat from Asia Minor in 401-399 B.C. thanks to their chestnut provisions.

· It is said that the Japanese grew chestnuts before they cultivated rice.

· It is believed that the Romans planted chestnut trees across Europe during their various campaigns and that soldiers were given chestnut porridge before going into battle.

· In Corsica, sweet chestnuts were once used as a currency. Today they are used to make polenta and beer and are a part of many traditional wedding dishes.

· Chestnuts were once considered food for the poor – today in France and northern Italy “marrons glacé” (chestnuts candied in sugar syrup and glazed) are considered a delicacy.

If you’re interested in picking your own chestnuts this season visit:

Amber Oaks Berry Farm
2770 Shanley Rd.
Auburn, CA 95603
530.885.3420

amberoaksberryfarm.com

Autumn’s Crown Jewel Returns Once Again

Delving into the Unique Health Benefits of Pomegranate

Each autumn we are graced with the return of the pomegranate, the most royal of the fruits.

The small ruby red seeds, or arils, are packed with antioxidants that fight anything from cancer to helping lower blood pressure. This exotic fruit, that sports its own distinguished crown, historically symbolizes abundance, prosperity and even good luck. Grab some of these exotic fresh fruits at the farmers’ market where they are proudly displayed until January or pick some up at your local grocery store.

History

The pomegranate fruit growing on a tree on a background of green tree branches.

Pomegranates, which originated in Persia (modern day Iran), the Mediterranean and North India, have been cultivated since ancient times. It’s believed that in the late 16th century they were introduced in the Spanish Americas and then brought to California by Spanish settlers in 1769. Some say pomegranates got their name from the ancient Romans and were originally referred to as malum granatum, but others propose that the name came from the French word pomme garnete, which means “seeded apple.”

In America, pomegranate was originally associated with the grenadine syrup found in our Shirley Temples or cocktails, but from the Himalayas to Asia, Africa and Europe, it has been a primary ingredient in many dishes. Pomegranate has and is used as a dry spice in traditional dishes and as an acidic agent for curry and chutney preparations.

Health benefits

Mojito cocktail with pomegranate, mint, lemon juice and ice in glass

The pomegranate has been recognized as “nature’s power fruit.” Dating back to Biblical times, the tree itself was known to possess remarkable medicinal properties. Packed with antioxidants like flavonoids, tannins and anthocyanins, it’s numbers are off the charts — anti-oxidant capacity tests indicate that its antioxidant activity is three times higher than red wine and green tea. Not only that, it also it contains noteworthy amounts of Vitamin C and potassium.

The pomegranate’s medicinal contributions may also be correlated with its significant anti-inflammatory effects, which suggest a wide range of clinical applications for the treatment and prevention of cancer and other diseases associated with chronic inflammation.

The anatomical compartments of the pomegranate tree and fruit have interesting pharmacologic capabilities. Juice and peels, for example, possess potent antioxidant properties, while juice, peel and oil all have mild effects on estrogen levels and therefore can aid in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Pomegranate juice, peel and oil have also been shown to possess anti-cancer activities according to studies.

Here are some of its most significant health benefits:

Potent Anti-Cancer Activity: Prostate, Breast, Lung & Colon Cancer

The unique biochemical, rich in antioxidant, composition of the pomegranate fruit has exceptional healing qualities. Research has shown that pomegranate extracts selectively inhibit the growth of breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer cells in culture. In animal studies, oral consumption of pomegranate extract inhibited growth of lung, skin, colon and prostate tumors. Additionally, an initial Phase II clinical trial of pomegranate juice in patients with prostate cancer reported significant anti-cancer activity. Similar studies have indicated potential to prevent formation of breast cancer cells.

Significant cardiovascular benefits

The pomegranate and its juice have shown beneficial medical activity in cardiovascular function. Specifically:

Pomegranate juice prevents the build up of plaque on the arterial walls and may actually help reduce previous buildup. According to Dr. Edward Group of The Global Living Center, the anti-oxidants in pomegranates act much like aspirin in their ability to deter the blood platelets from sticking together and forming blood clots.
Not only do pomegranates have the ability to lower the levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) but they can also raise the levels of HDL (good cholesterol) thus having a dual therapeutic benefit.
According to Health Diaries, studies have shown that drinking 1.7oz of pomegranate juice per day can help to lower systolic blood pressure up to approximately five percent.

Skin Rejuvenation Advantages

Pomegranate seed oil has been shown to stimulate a mild thickening of the epidermis, the outer most layers of skin. The peel extract (and to a lesser extent, both the fermented juice and seed cake extracts) have shown to stimulate pro-collagen synthesis, which facilitates skin repair by promoting regeneration of dermis3.

Type 2 Diabetes Activity

Over the last decade, various studies have linked pomegranate with type 2 diabetes prevention and treatment. Early research studies provide evidence for the anti-diabetic activity of pomegranate fruit in Type 2 diabetes, which is thought to occur by reducing oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation.

De-Seeding a Pomegranate

Please note that pomegranates may stain your hands, clothes and even countertops, so take care when deseeding a pomegranate. Here are some tips for an easy way to de-seed a pomegranate:

Score the pomegranate horizontally around the middle. Just cut the leathery skin but try not to cut into the fruit.
Now score four vertical lines around the pomegranate.
Tear or cut the pomegranate in half and then along the horizontal lines, break it into quarters.
Turn the pomegranate seed-side down and gently tap the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon over a large bowl.
Another method would be to submerge your pieces into a bowl of water. While this may prevent the juices from spraying and minimize the potential for stains, you lose the juice that would otherwise be retained in the method above.

Selecting Pomegranates

The first rule of thumb when choosing a pomegranate is to go for the heavy ones. The heavier they feel, the juicier they tend to be. The best ones will have a glossy, smooth and unbroken surface. Look for pomegranates with a deep colored rind that doesn’t have any soft spots. When the skin starts to break open they are in the peak of their ripeness. Interestingly enough, an unripe pomegranate is round like an apple but when the shape changes and becomes squarer, that indicates that the fruit is ripe. You may also do a scratch test: if you can scratch the pomegranate with your nail and leave a mark, it is most likely ripe.

Storing Pomegranates

Pomegranates may be stored at room temperate for a week, in the refrigerator for a month or in the freezer for up to a year. If you deseed your pomegranate you may put the seeds in an airtight container or plastic bag and leave in the fridge for about five days. If you choose to freeze your pomegranate seeds the best method is to freeze the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer for a couple of hours before placing them in an airtight container. This method will prevent the seeds from sticking together which makes future use much easier.

Fun Facts

Ancient Egyptians buried their dead with pomegranates, which were thought to bring about eternal life.
Greeks to this day, break open pomegranates at weddings and on New Year’s Eve.
The Chinese eat candied pomegranates as a symbol of good luck.
Some scholars believe that Eve may have indulged on a pomegranate in the Garden of Eden as opposed to an apple.
And last but not the least; start counting… It is argued that there are exactly 613 seeds in every pomegranate.

WINTER SQUASH – AN AMAZING SUPERFOOD

Exploring the health benefits of one of America’s oldest-known crops

The fall season often connotes visions of Halloween, the changing colors of the leaves and our clocks, but it also brings forth warm feelings of comfort found in traditional fall foods like winter squash. The season is upon us so head to the farmer’s market and find your favorite squash for the next few months.

History

Did you know that “squash,” which apparently comes from the Narragansett Native American word “askutasquash,” is a “superfood” chock-full of health benefits? It’s no surprise that our country’s original natives counted on this ancient American fruit to sustain them through the long and cold winter months.

Squashes are one of America’s oldest known crops. Some believe that they may be over 10,000 years old. According to The Library of Congress, the flesh and seed interior became part of the pre-Colombian Indian diet throughout the Americas. The original gourds most likely functioned as containers because of their hard shells.

Harvest

Winter squash is an annual fruit that grows on a vine. There are several different species of winter squash, which is different from summer squash in that it is harvested late summer through fall and picked when the fruit is mature. Their thick, hard rind allows them to be stored in a cool, dark place for many months.

The most popular winter squash varieties are Acorn, Autumn, Banana, Butternut, Spaghetti, Turban and last but not the least, the fairytale Pumpkin squash. They are grown all over the United States but in particular California, New York and Michigan.

Top Six Health Benefits

While we all envision a bowl of creamy butternut squash soup let’s peel back the skin and see what nutrients lay within these quintessential fall and winter-time favorites.

  1. Feel full longer

Squash is low in calories and high in fiber, which helps the digestive tract not only feel full for longer, but also helps to rid itself of cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.

  1. Vision Enhancement

Squash contains very high levels of Vitamin A and beta-carotene, both of which help vision, especially in low lighting. According to the National Institute of Health one cup of cubed pumpkin contains almost twice the recommended daily serving of Vitamin A. Butternut squash contains the highest level among the winter varietals.

  1. Blood Pressure Reduction

We have been told to decrease our sodium intake to reduce high blood pressure, but why not try some butternut squash, which contains a considerable amount of potassium (a mineral which can contribute to the reduction of high blood pressure). According to Medical News Today, one cup of cubed butternut squash contains 582 milligrams of potassium, which is more than the average sized banana.

And of course, let’s not forget the beneficial effects of potassium ions in muscle health and recovery from muscle stress.

  1. Sleep Enhancement

Your Thanksgiving turkey is not the only food that contains the sleep-inducing amino acid, tryptophan (or Trp). Squash also contains significant levels of Trp, which helps promote serotonin production and thus contributes to the feeling of increased relaxation. Squash is also rich in magnesium and according to Lauren Weiler (Assistant Editor of The Cheat Sheet – cheatsheet.com); squash can help regulate cortisol and melatonin, which further help improve quality of sleep.

Of course, one needs to mention that by virtue of its effects on the cortisol (a hormone that regulates stress – also known as the “stress hormone”) squash may reduce stress levels and help relaxation and improve mood.

  1. Cardiovascular Health Improvement

Squash, and in particular Spaghetti Squash, boasts high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, strong anti-inflammatory agents that promote cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure. Acorn squash contains high levels of cucurbitacin, which is also a natural anti-inflammatory. Additionally, squash contains vitamin B, beta-carotene and folate, all of which contribute to good heart health.

Of course, given their high omega-3 content, squash can have a number of beneficial effects related to these critical fatty acids such as lowering triglyceride levels, improve brain function, aid neonatal development, while generally provide strong anti-inflammatory support.

  1. Skin and Hair Enrichment

During the fall and winter months our skin tends to feel dryer. Sometimes the skin feels itchy, eczema is known to flair and dry scalp is usually in the mix too. Squash’s beta-carotene and omega 3 fatty acids can both benefit the skin and hair.

Squash Fun Facts

  • Apparently the first pumpkin pie was a hollowed out gourd filled with sugar, spices, apples and milk and was baked with the stem on top.
  • Pumpkin Seeds are packed with high levels of dietary fiber and zinc, which makes for a healthy roasted snack.
  • Americans consume approximately fifty million pumpkin pies on Thanksgiving

Are Korean Spas the Next Global Trend?

You don’t have to fly to Seoul, South Korea to find out why the “Jimjilbangs” or Korean bathhouses might just be the next big thing. Luckily for us there are several such spas right here in the Bay Area. Let’s explore what happens in theses bathhouses and why they can be a healthy and therapeutic addition to one’s wellness and beauty rituals.

The origins of the “Jimjilbang” traditions may be linked to the natural hot springs that have been in use for over a thousand years in South Korea. They became popular at the time of Japanese rule and have since become part of a weekly ritual in Korean culture. The primary goal is to cleanse and detoxify the body through hot and cold hydrotherapy, various therapeutic saunas, massage and the infamous and intense full body scrub called “Seshin.”

It is not uncommon for family members of all generations, both men and women to congregate at the “Jimjilbang” for an entire day of services, socializing and relaxation and many partake weekly as is tradition. Some bathhouses host a variety of other amenities including restaurants, nail salons and even a golf course. It is not at all uncommon to spend the night at the Jimjilbang should one be so inclined. Men and women have separate bathing facilities and are most often treated by a member of their own sex.

Luckily, the American adaptations of a Korean bathhouse still boast many of the same treatments and health benefits but are mostly run like the day spas we are accustomed to.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Upon arrival you will be given a robe and sandals and most likely escorted to your locker in the changing rooms. Keep your robe and towel handy if you are not comfortable being naked as these bathhouse are clothing free.

You will be encouraged to partake in the bathing ritual, which is at a minimum, a thirty-minute process. The idea is to moisten and soften the skin to the point of “pruning.” This will help your skin release the outermost layers during “Seshin” or the full body scrub. Start by sitting on a traditional bathing stool. Pump a little soap into your bowl and then cleanse your entire body thoroughly. Once you have rinsed you may enter either a steam room or a Jacuzzi to start the ritual. Alternate between hot and cold hydrotherapy options. I have been told anywhere from five to ten minutes of a warm treatment followed by a three minute cold plunge should suffice. Repeat these steps for at least thirty minutes then wrap up in your robe and towel and relax until you are called for your treatment.

THE “SESHIN” RITUAL

This is one intense full body scrub. The practitioner who will no doubt be wearing a black bikini ushers you onto a plastic wrapped, padded table to begin the process of exfoliating your skin. They use hand mitts, which are made of an Italian nylon and feel like a loofa or quite honestly the equivalent of sand paper. You will be scrubbed thoroughly from head to toe for approximately twenty to thirty minutes. They will not miss a spot but just go with it!

This has been called,” the scrub of a lifetime” by many. Once your scrub is complete you will be rinsed with warm water and milk to soften and hydrate the skin. You may end your treatment there in which case oil will most likely be applied to your body to maintain moisture.

Adding a massage is highly recommended and to many considered a non-negotiable next step. The oil massage is usually light to medium in pressure and preformed with a rapid but fluid movement that feels relaxing and invigorating all at the same time. This is followed by a facemask, scalp massage and shampoo.

Once you have completed your “seshin” and massage you are free to lounge around in the relaxation room, sip some tea and rest or you may partake in any of the therapeutic saunas. I usually rotate between them depending of what they offer and what I feel my body needs at the time. The health benefits of each room are usually displayed on a sign outside the door but can range from detoxification of the body to deep muscle relaxation. According to a study in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, a peer reviewed journal, saunas help to rid the body of heavy metals and chemical xenobiotics. Far-infrared rooms in particular penetrate deep into the body releasing toxins that are stored in the fat tissue which can help to normalize blood pressure, relieve chronic pain and promote weight loss.

Other possible health benefits of Korean bath rituals:

Traditional Japanese shoes placed on a wooden scaffold

Scrubs – Cleanses and deeply exfoliates skin
Improves blood and oxygen circulation
Stimulates the lymph system
Releases toxin build up in the body
Promotes reduction of cortisol levels
Generates relaxation
Detoxifies the body
Boosts energy and endorphin production
Reduces inflammation
Strengthens immune system

Once completed, the Korean bathhouse ritual will leave your skin soft and smooth and you will feel remarkably relaxed and simultaneously invigorated! I certainly hope this trend is here to stay. See below for a list of where to go in San Francisco to get your Korean Spa experience.

IMPERIAL SPA AND SAUNA:

Hours 8:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Range $60-$140
415.771.1114
1875 Geary Blvd.

PEARL HEALTH SPA AND SAUNA (WOMEN ONLY FACILITY)

Hours 8:00 a.m–9:30 p.m.
Range $60-$150
415.580.7142
1654 Post St.

KABUKI SPRINGS & SPA

Hours 10:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Range $75-$190
415.922.6005
1750 Geary Blvd.

Skin Care Tips For Every Age

There’s a moment when you stand in front of the mirror and notice a change in your skin. It might be the first time you start to see a shift but it definitely won’t be the last. Just like the transitions in our lives, our skin also evolves right along with us. Here is an easy guide to skin care at any age and things to consider in an effort to maintain optimal skin health.

TWENTIES

In our twenties, one may start to see changes. Small bumps may appear and one may notice that their skin is becoming oilier and acne-prone. This is often the time when people begin an actual skin care routine, perhaps for the first time. Starting with the basics, be sure to cleanse your skin twice-a-day. I recommend a double cleanse in the evenings. The first cleanse doesn’t necessarily clean deep enough. It may remove the road dirt and some make up and sunscreen but to get your skin really clean, consider a second cleanse. Try a gel or foaming cleanser and if you have acne, I recommend a cleanser with salicylic acid. This will help decrease excess oil and minimize bacteria. Consider beginning a regimen of retinoids to keep the pores clear and sebum production minimal. Exfoliating is important but don’t overdo it. Limit the intake of sugars, salt and dairy as they may contribute to systemic inflammation that in turn makes acne more inflamed. Be sure to look for non-comedogenic products, oil-free moisturizers and sunscreens and don’t forget that ice can help tremendously in reducing acne inflammation. Lastly, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure“, so wear that sunscreen rain or shine.

THIRTIES

Our skin starts to make another shift in our thirties. Age is one factor but our hormones are starting to change and with that you may notice the onset of adult acne, changes in pigment, fine lines and perhaps uneven skin tone. Now is the time to consider, if you haven’t already, including a retinoid in your routine. Retinoids help with desquamation, which is the skin’s natural ability to shed. We need to continue to shed our dead skin, which will keep it less congested and more vibrant. This is a great time to add an eye cream to your routine as well. The skin under the eye area is thinner and has different needs thus I recommend a product developed specifically for that area. I would also advise using a cleanser that contains glycolic acid, which is known to help refine texture and skin tone. It is important to start an anti-aging strategy.

FOURTIES

It’s not uncommon to notice that in our forties, our fine lines are becoming a little deeper and we may have developed age spots. This discoloration may be brown, white and even red. One may experience the onset of rosesea, and while it can be hereditary, in many cases it is due to sensitized skin affected by our life style. Stress, hormones, spicy food, heat, sun and even products can all contribute to this condition. This is the ideal time to be using an over the counter retinol or a Retin A cream, like tretinoin, which can be procured at a medical spa or a dermatologist’s office. I also recommend using a cleanser with alpha and or beta hydroxy acids, which will help with tone and texture. Start looking for skincare lines that use buzzwords like “anti-aging”. Look for ingredients like ceramides and peptides. The first ones are long-chain lipids that help the outer skin membrane retain water, thus providing restoring and replenishing skin benefits. Peptides are biomolecules that help minimize wrinkles by inducing collagen production, which deteriorates with age. I also recommend topical vitamin C, a powerful anti-oxidant that plays a major role in skin health: it increases collagen production and has shown to help prevent and treat ultraviolet (UV)-induced photodamage.

FIFTIES AND BEYOND

As we age our skin gets thinner, produces less oil and is more dehydrated. Not to mention the age spots seem to be more noticeable, if we haven’t been diligent over the years. Due to the loss of estrogen production, signs of laxity and volume loss become obvious, as a consequence of the loss of elastin and collagen. In order to increase both elastin and collagen production, I advise a regimen that includes a retinoid, such as tretinoin or retinol. This will in fact, increase cell turn over by alerting our cells to develop new skin in which case we produce more collagen and elastin. They rejuvenate the look of dull and lackluster skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and deep wrinkles. I would continue to use cleansers and products with glycolic, alpha and hydroxy acids, for tone, texture and exfoliation.

Dehydrated skin means lack of water and dry skin means lack of oil so keep that in mind when picking out products like hydrators and moisturizers. Now is the time to use “anti-aging”-related skin care.

If I were to impart words of wisdom, I would say that our lifestyle choices ultimately appear on our faces, so eat a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet, drink plenty of water, minimize smoking and the consumption of alcohol. And don’t forget to wear your sunscreen each and every day.

 

 

Health Benefits of Cherries

Binging on Cherries this season ? Go for it !

These tiny, tasty summer treats are packed with antioxidants and Vitamins A, B, C and D. They contain potassium, flavonoids and fiber all of which have amazing health benefits. Not only will they help defend us from aging skin, they fight against cancer, gout and arthritis. Cherries can help to lower your blood pressure, fight constipation, contribute to weight loss and promote sleep. So, make a cocktail with some sour cherry juice by my favorite cook book author and “mixologist”, Donata Maggipinto (see below) and celebrate this mighty little fruit!

8 Healthy reasons to keep eating Cherries

  1. Anti-aging  ; Free radical fighting cherries packed with Vitamin C and flavonoids neutralize oxidative damage to the body. Free radicals and hence, oxidative stress can cause a plethora of aging ailments . They weaken the heart, the nervous system and degenerate everything from vision to libido.
  2. Skin ; Cherries contain Vitamins A and C which are known as powerful antioxidants . These vitamins combined with nutrients like manganese and potassium are essential for optimal skin health. Additionally, the natural Alkaline content in a cherry helps to maintain healthy PH levels.
  3. Cancer; Cyanidin, a flavonoid found in the deep red pigment of cherries inhibits cancerous cell growth.  Anthocyanins, carotenoids and Vitamin C may all play a role in cancer prevention. So, start eating those sweet cherries.
  4. Gout and Arthritis: Cherries have the ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body and thus can minimizes the damaging effects of high C-reactive proteins and Uric acid. Tart cherries also contribute to muscle recovery and pain relief associated with arthritis.
  5. Blood pressure ; Cherries help to keep a healthy Potassium to sodium balance. This can help to reduce hypertension. One cup of cherries has as much potassium as a banana.
  6. Constipation and Digestion; Cherries are loaded with constipation reducing fiber and the flavonoids help stimulate digestive acids contributing to regularity. The abundance of vitamins contained in this tiny fruits contributes to nutrient absorption.
  7. Weight Loss ; Tart or sour cherries can help reduce belly fat ! Cherries contain B vitamins like B6, riboflavin and thiamin. Theses vitamins increase metabolism and help to convert nutrients to energy. One cup of cherries is less than 100 calories and contain about 3 grams of fiber.
  8. Sleep enhancement : Tart cherries contain phytochemicals like natural melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland and plays a critical role in cellular regeneration and sleep. So, try a couple of tablespoons of tart cherry juice before bed and catch some Z’s.

Where Did The Cherry Come From, Anyway ?

Originally, cherries were a favorite amongst the Romans, the Greeks and the Chinese. Sweet cherries may have originated in Western Asia and they are thought to have been carried to Europe by birds. They made there way to American with our founding father’s and have become one of the early signs of summer in America ever since. They are grown primarily in the North West and Michigan due to climate.  It’s a very short growing season and only lasts from May to July so take advantage of the season before they are gone.

The sweet vs. tart cherry ?

There are two basic varieties of cherries; Sweet and Tart. Both of which have amazing health benefits.

Sweet Cherries : The most common type is the Bing but Rainier and Lambert’s are also is easy to find. Sweet cherries are most often consumed fresh.

Tart Cherries: Also known as Montmorency cherries are predominantly grown in the U.S. These sour cherries are usually a bright red color whether fresh or dried. Tart cherries are a favorite for baking and juicing as well.

Don’t forget the Maraschino Cherry !

Let’s face it, as kids, that bright red maraschino cherry was the treasure at the bottom of our Shirley Temples, right ?! Did you know that it originated in Yugoslavia and Northern Italy and that traveling merchants would soak the “Marasca” cherries in liqueur ?  Maraschino cherries hit the American market in the 1890’s. and were initially imported from Europe. Eventually, the European version was replaced here in America with a version of it’s own minus the alcohol but with the addition of a little more sugar and coloring.

How do I keep my cherries fresh ?

Cherries can spoil extremely quickly so place them in a plastic bag as soon as possible and put in the refrigerator. Wash before eating and don’t forget to freeze some for a later date. .

Cherry Aperol Spritz

This take on the classic Italian cocktail serves up big flavor without a lot of alcohol. Aperol, an aromatic bitter orange aperitivo reminiscent of Campari but sweeter, never fails to conjure up images of the Amalfi coast. I slicked the spritz with Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. The liqueur is NOT made from the cloying neon-red cherries that gild ice cream sundaes and sweet cocktails but from sour Marasca cherries found almost exclusively in Italy. The distillation of sour fruit and crushed cherry pits imbues the liqueur with soft almond notes and a complexity of flavor that elevates any cocktail.

The Cherry Aperol Spritz is an easy drink to make. Keep the ingredients in your liquor cabinet so you can pour sips of la dolce vita for your friends.

Makes 1 cocktail

  • 3 ounces Prosecco
  • 2 ounces Aperol
  • 1 ounce Luxardo cherry liqueur
  • 1 splash club soda

Fill a glass with ice. Pour in the Prosecco, Aperol, and cherry liqueur and add a splash of soda. Garnish with orange peel and a cherry. Recipe courtesy of Donata Maggipinto.

Cookbook author, cocktail enthusiast, and founder of the popular blog Ciao Donata, Donata Maggipinto is committed to living la dolce vita everyday.

Resources:

Dr. Mercola Aug 2, 2014
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/08/02/health-benefits-cherries.aspx
Tanya Zuckerbrot July 09, 2013
http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/07/09/5-health-benefits-cherries.html
Organic Facts
https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-cherry.html
The extraordinary history of Cherries
http://www.foodreference.com/html/artcherrieshistory.html
Natural new Jan 1, 2009
http://www.naturalnews.com/025210_melatonin_cherries_sleep.html#

Ali quistgard at pearl day spa

Pearl Day Spa and Sauna

Soaking Room


About:

As an Aesthetician, I am rather obsessed with exfoliating and like the Koreans and much of Asia, I subscribe to the theory that full body exfoliation is a must and so frequenting the Korean Spas is part of my beauty ritual. San Francisco’s latest is located in the heart of Japan town and fulfills my every “ K beauty ”

craving. They have been open for a short while but have recently finished a build-out of the second floor which hosts private scrub rooms for the more modest types and an area for relaxation and private parties. This is a women’s only facility and is smaller and more intimate than some of the others. I always leave with baby soft skin and feeling relaxed and invigorated all at the same time. Plan to arrive thirty minutes in advance and for optimal results soak or steam for at least twenty minutes prior to treatment.

Powder Room

Highlights:

This Korean inspired day spa has everything you can imagine.

They feature a state of the art steam room, cold plunge, Himalayan salt sauna, clay ball sauna and even a dry sauna. They have a hot-jetted tub, showers, a resting room and a clean and contemporary locker and powder room as well. This spa is squeaky clean!

Services:

Clay Ball Sauna

There are a variety of scrub treatments al la carte or with a massage. They feature Acupressure, Shiatsu and Swedish massage and you can choose from essential oils, milk and honey or seaweed!

Prices : Treatments range from $60-$150
Location :

Pearl Day Spa and Sauna
1654 Post Street
San Francisco, C.A. 94115
Telephone # 415-580-7142

learning to meditate

Learning to Meditate

I live in Marin County, in Northern California. That means something because like every place I know of, we too are known for our clichés. Here, fashion is a studied casual and women’s daywear is more often then not sophisticated exercise or yoga wear. We shop at farmers markets, eat organic whenever possible, we are all trying gluten-free foods and tend to drink almond milk lattes. We meditate, go to yoga and hike Mt. Tamalpais. When you live in this dynamic of a place you can’t help but get curious and then get busy exploring this lifestyle.

Today, I’m writing about meditation. One cannot list all of the undisputed benefits of meditation but how in the world does one meditate? I decided to set off on an adventure and learn how… and it didn’t go well at all! There’s an amazing meditation center in Marin (of course!) so I started there, at Spirit Rock. I arrived for a Monday night meditation (which seems to be the thing to do) dressed in my loose 1970s flared yoga pants and a cool T-shirt with a Lotus flower on the front. I felt like an undercover imposter but my outfit of choice fit right in. I followed suit and removed my shoes, made a cup of tea and gave a donation and then found my way into the main room. I’m the type that arrives everywhere early so I’m sure to get a good spot but where that was in this case escaped me. Maybe in a corner in the back of the room so I could ditch if necessary!

Fast-forward to a silent room and the Jack Kornfield is speaking in a quiet tone and giving a beautiful and reflective talk that would no doubt make me a better person if I could live every word of it.

When the meditation portion began, I assumed the famous yoga position. The first thing I noticed was that while I was supposed to be focusing on my breath, all I could focus on were my aching sits bones, my back and the fact that my knees hurt. I breathed into it and really tried to find my groove. Yeah, right! While this is the quietest place on earth, every little breath, cough and movement comes alive. It’s a symphony of distractions, or at least it was for me.

Honestly, at this point I’m trying so hard to focus, to breathe, to clear my crazy overly excited brain and to let go of all thoughts. But then, I opened my eyes (OK, I squinted so I wouldn’t get busted) and started to peek at people fascinated at their ability to just be. Apparently I suck at meditation. I closed my eyes, tried again and then spent the next 30 minutes on a business plan. I’m pretty sure I bombed Meditation 101 but I didn’t leave early and bought a few books that I have reread many times to date.

The reason I share this story is because I didn’t give up, and meditation is what keeps me grounded and in my body and heart, as opposed to my head. It’s where I find gratitude and awareness. It’s where I find my true self, explore my creativity, decompress, and see the beauty of the world around me. I ultimately feel my connection to this universe, my purpose and to myself.

I started this website and blog to help women feel and look their best and I can say unequivocally that learning to meditate had changed me and my life for the better and so I want everyone to know that you too can meditate. 

There’s a part two to this story; it’s how I overcame and then grew my passion and created a practice. First of all, find your own path. There are so many ways to learn how to meditate so look about. Do what resonates with you, whether it’s a book or a workshop, a retreat or any other offering. Now, that being said, here’s what I did.

Like I said, I have one of those busy, think-too-much kind of brains, so I needed something to fully immerse myself in. No work, no children, no men, no friends, no family, and no phone (OK, maybe a couple of peeks) and most definitely out of my zip code!

I enrolled myself in a program called Perfect Health at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, CA. I’m telling you, this place changed everything. Meditation can be nothing but a pleasure—who knew? There is so much to say about this incredible program, and perhaps I will write a total review at one point, but for now I want to give you the CliffsNote version on meditation.

Meditation 101

Did you know that you don’t have to get mad and guilt trip yourself if you have a busy mind? Best news of the day! What I learned at the Chopra Center was this: All you have to do is be kind to yourself. Be loving and forgiving because you are a new student and mastery takes forever. When you are focused on your breath and a thought pops into your mind (for instance, ‘What are you going to make for dinner?), just thank that thought for passing through, let it go by and get back to “you” time. And, as for the pain in the back the booty or the knees, guess what, you’re not alone. You can pile pillows or blankets, bolsters and mats. You can sit on the floor or in a chair. Sometimes I meditate lying on my couch or sitting propped up on my bed. Be comfortable. There’s no judgment here!

I have found guided meditation to be my holy grail. I love it! Guided meditation, whether by a person in real time or an online meditation you found on YouTube, shuts down my self-induced information gathering brain center and allows me to let go completely and fly. A guide will talk you through the meditation, and with each meditation I’m on a different adventure and in a different location. I have been floating down a river on a warm summer afternoon on a raft; my body was hot but my hands were dangling in the cool, refreshing water and I heard the birds singing and feel the breeze. I’ve been up a very tall staircase and found my self in an old English library. I’ve been behind a waterfall on a ledge. I’m frequently by a river in a sacred space I created for myself. Ok, I’m going to say it… meditation can be so fun.

I think Maslow got something wrong when he wrote about the hierarchy of needs. He forgot to add meditation!

A Glowing Korean Mindset page header

A Glowing Korean Mindset

I am enamored with Koreans—every single man woman and child has incorporated skincare into their daily routines. Sounds like heaven on earth if you ask me! It is quite simply their way of life where quality family time is often spent at a Korean Day Spa. All generations of families go to the spas to soak and steam and get scrubbed and massaged. Don’t be surprised to see someone that’s eight or eighty! They dine, relax, and read—you name it—and it’s a grand experience. You can even stay the night!

As an aesthetician,  it almost makes me do my happy dance when people are committed to their skin care routines. If my fellow Americans would only have the same mindset we would all have glowing, luminous skin.

What’s the mindset? Prevention and commitment. In Seoul, there is a place to buy skin care on nearly every street corner and they’re not filled with people of all ages: girls, boys, women and men.

The skin care industry is extremely competitive and Korean’s put out very progressive lines containing results-oriented ingredients (snail mucus! Oh, yay!). Because the market is fiercely competitive and brand loyalty is not paramount, companies strive to stay current with their gorgeous and kitschy packaging and they are constantly changing products (think limited edition).

Here in America, I get a disproportionate number of clients that walk in to my clinic for the first time in a panic, realizing that they are showing signs of aging, have an unwanted condition like hyperpigmentation (brown spots) and they want me to magically make it all disappear. We want instant and lasting results.

Well, like many of my clients, I too am from the “baby oil and Iodine” generation. For those of you who don’t know what that means, let me share. In the summers, especially here in California, my friends and I had one goal: to out-tan everyone else. That means that we would lay out without sunscreen for the entire day, day in and day out for months, working on our deep tans. Not only did we not wear sunscreen , we spread baby oil mixed with Iodine. Apparently, that was the golden ticket to tanning. The Korean’s must think were all insane! Luckily, I started wearing sun screen on regular basis when I turned thirty.