Mild green smoothie has only 5 ingredients

Usually when I make green drinks, I add a lot of ingredients. Besides a base of coconut water, I add several green veggies like celery, cucumber, kale and/or chard and/or spinach and/or parsley, garlic and/or ginger for bite and medicine, lemon or grapefruit juice, and a bunch of extras, like hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, maca, turmeric, spirulina.

Today I decided to simplify. I poured about 10 oz. of coconut water into the blender and added a thumb-size chopped chunk of peeled ginger, the juice of 1 small lemon, a small avocado, and 1 bunch of spinach. Five ingredients, blended after each addition.

It tastes mildly sweet, with just a bare hint of bite from the lemon and ginger. I think this is a green drink that everyone might like. No strong taste, and the texture is very smooth, thanks to the avocado. It’s thick enough to make the straw stand up.

No need to add fruit to make it palatable. I notice that juice bars often add bananas or apple juice to their drinks. I imagine this is in order to please the sweetness-skewed tastebuds of people accustomed to the Standard American Diet.

I don’t have anything against fruit. It’s got a lot of great nutritional benefits. But sugar is sugar, no matter the source. I’m cutting way down on it, especially the really sweet fruits, and I feel better, more stable, for it.

I have had cravings, though. I think sugar has an addictive quality.

Just part of my food evolution….

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Self-care for massage therapists, part 1

I’ve been doing 16-20 hours of massage per week lately, mostly Swedish but also a little deep tissue work. (I’m still getting up to speed on ashiatsu.)

The up side? I burn a lot of calories so I can really dig in at the table (one of life’s sweet pleasures), and I sleep well, being physically fatigued, another sweet by-product. And of course I’m the richer for it, in money, skill, connections, and making a difference.

The down side is that such physical work can take a toll on my body. I understand why a lot of massage therapists get burned out and leave the profession. From my fingers to my spine, I have felt achiness, inflammation, swelling, tenderness, stiffness.

Luckily, I belong to a group on LinkedIn, the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP). I joined to keep up with discussions about the profession. One person not long ago asked the following question:

What do you do for your hands when they ache after giving a series of massages? I am using proper body mechanics. My hands ache. I appreciate your feedback.

There were 55 responses that I’m going to summarize, because I feel so grateful to have this resource. Thanks to all the MTs who responded.

Please note that many of these are new to me; I am just summarizing what people posted. Later I will post what’s worked for me (that I’ve tried so far) along with a few of my own discoveries.

Recovery time

  • scheduling days off to recover
  • taking a 30 minute break after 3 hours (or however long works for you)
  • taking adequate time between clients to recover
  • not scheduling deep tissue sessions back to back

Body mechanics, stretching, strengthening, and recovery

  • paying attention to how you use your hands on your days off
  • doing hand stretching and strengthening exercises
  • resting in semi-supine position to open the brachial plexus (on your back, knees up, feet flat, book under head for 15-20 minutes)
  • paying even more attention to body mechanics as you work
  • getting a colleague to observe you work and give feedback
  • stretching after each client
  • lifting weights to strengthen arms and hands
  • punching a punching bag (with training)

Therapeutic devices

Heat and cold

  • dipping hands into hot wax/paraffin bath
  • applying hot and cold hydrotherapy
  • dipping hands into ice water

Self-massage

  • getting regular massage yourself
  • stripping your own forearm muscles
  • getting Reflexology on your hands or doing it yourself
  • learning Trager self-care movements for the hands
  • getting myofascial release work done on your arms
  • this page describes how to release wrist trigger points
  • this page describes how to release tennis elbow
  • cupping with suction cups

Delivering massage

  • working within your limitations (i.e., telling clients you don’t do full body deep tissue work)
  • reading the book Save Your Hands!
  • switching to Trager
  • learning Reiki so the energy goes only one way
  • learning Bamboossage, Ashiatsu Oriental bar therapy, or floor Ashiatsu to deliver deep tissue work
  • use alternating areas of the hand/forearm/elbow in moderation
  • having a box of tools available (balls, bamboo sticks, knobbers) to use on clients’  tough spots
  • using Art Riggs’ techniques for deep tissue work
  • using your forearms instead of hands whenever possible
  • using cupping
  • applying hot towels to client
  • holding thumbs tight against hand and using body to push for static pressure point work
  • using the edge of your hand or base of palm area instead of thumbs for sweeping or kneading motions

Oils, herbs, creams, gels, minerals

  • applying essential oil of rosemary for warming or peppermint for cooling (add to jojoba oil)
  • applying oils that are anti-inflammatory: helichrysum, frankincense, German chamomile, Cape chamomile, katrafay, and ginger
  • applying oils that are analgesic: lemongrass, clove, litsea cubeba, peppermint, wintergreen, and eucalyptus citriodora
  • combining anti-inflammatory and analgesic oils; applying them to neck, shoulders, forearms, hands, and feet to relieve hands
  • applying St. John’s wort oil, white willow tincture, fresh turmeric tincture, comfrey fomentation, raw apple cider vinegar fomentation
  • using arnica cream
  • applying Biofreeze
  • applying magnesium oil or gel
  • soaking in an Epsom salt bath
  • soaking your hand in lukewarm or cold water with a minimum amount of salt

Diet, teas, supplements

  • staying hydrated
  • changing your diet to lower inflammation (no details given)
  • drinking coconut water
  • drinking a blueberry smoothie
  • eating cucumbers with sea salt
  • avoiding eating sugars, nightshades, baked products with flour and corn
  • avoiding caffeine
  • taking turmeric internally
  • drinking comfrey tea
  • taking supplements for joint health (no details provided)
  • taking MSM with glucosamine

Pineapple coconut mango smoothie

I happened to have a ripe pineapple on hand this morning. I love pineapples, especially this time of year. The crazy spiky topknot, the lizard-like skin, the pale yellow color of the flesh, the delicious sweetness of the juice — and pineapple juice is beneficial for Type Os, my blood type.

Combine a pineapple, a blender, imagination, and a few other ingredients, and it’s creation time!

I cut the top, bottom, and sides off the pineapple, sliced it, removed the core, and put about half in the blender, saving the rest for another day.

I covered the chunks with Zico Natural Pure Premium Coconut Water and ran the blender. What a beautiful color! Note: If you like more intense pineapple flavor, use less coconut water — or add pineapple juice!

I had some Brazil Gourmet Premium Mango Nectar in the fridge. It informed me it would like to join the pineapple and coconut water in the blender, so I added about 3/4ths of a cup and started a tropical party!

Then I added a teaspoon of The Ginger People Naturally Pressed Organic Ginger Juice. It wasn’t enough. Need about a tablespoon to taste it. This stuff is good to have on hand when you don’t have fresh ginger or are too lazy to peel it. Click here to read about ginger’s health benefits.

Next I added a couple of tablespoons of Artisana 100% Organic Raw Coconut Butter. Wendy of  Open Heart Foods first told me about coconut butter. It’s made from the meat (i.e., fiber) of the coconut and contains about 60% coconut oil and no other ingredients. It congeals at room temperature or colder, so refrigeration is not recommended. You can stick the jar in a pan of hot water to soften it up. It’s also great as a spread, thus “butter”.

(By the way, Wendy makes raw chocolate treats and raw flax crackers, all delicious. She is starting to sell her handmade-with-love-and-raw-ingredients foods locally. Look for them at Juiceland or Daily Juice, or maybe both! I forget which.)

Of course, I added some flaxseed oil, and some but not all of the usual superfood smoothie suspects: chia seeds, hemp seeds, and maca powder.

This filled my blender nearly to the top and produced about 4 delicious servings.

For some reason, I held back on adding cacao. I feel a little skeptical about chocolate and pineapple together. Maybe next time.

I also want to experiment with adding greens like chard, spinach, or kale to a pineapple smoothie.

Raspberry chocolate super-smoothie bliss

I’ve made this smoothie twice now, and it’s definitely worth sharing. Raspberries and chocolate complement each other very, very well, and this smooth is loaded with nutrients from superfoods, keeping you hydrated and giving you energy.

I added measurements this time! Last time I just threw things together in the blender. Except for the first two packaged ingredients, these are not exact, just indicators. Use your own judgment.

  • 1 14-oz bottle Zico coconut water
  • 1 6-oz container of organic raspberries
  • 2 T dried goji berries
  • 1 T Cortas pomegranate molasses
  • 2 T Artisana organic coconut butter
  • 2 T organic raw cacao nibs
  • 1 T cacao powder
  • 1 T maca powder
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • 1 T ground flax seed meal
  • 1 T flax seed oil
  • peeled ginger root equal to about 1 T

I put everything in the blender and let it run on a high setting for a couple of minutes to pulverize the cacao nibs. It makes about 3 servings.

Coconut butter is a fairly new product on the shelves of health-oriented grocery stores. It uses both the coconut flesh and the oil, so you get fiber from the coconut, and not just the oil. You could even make it yourself. You can use it as a spread (like butter!). Apparently it makes a great match with maca powder.

That’s an area of food research where I’d love to see more work done — what food combinations boost each other. I’ve read that green tea and lemon work really well together too.

The chia seeds soak up liquid and expand, so the smoothie will gel after blending to a nice thick texture, very filling. Chia seeds are another recently “discovered” superfood from Mexico. They boost energy and keep you hydrated through the fluid they absorb. Long-distance runners often use them. They also provide calcium, boost brain functioning, contain anti-oxidants and omega-3s, lower bad cholesterol and raise the good, control high blood pressure, and do many other good things for the human biological machine.

Maca powder is made from a South American root with these properties:

Maca is a nutritionally dense super-food that contains high amounts of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and all of the essential amino acids. Maca root is rich in B-vitamins, which are the energy vitamins, and maca is a vegetarian source of B-12. To boot, maca has high levels of bioavailable calcium and magnesium and is great for remineralization.

Maca root helps balance our hormones and due to an over abundance of environmental estrogens, most people’s hormones are a bit out of whack. Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which are the “master glands” of the body. These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when in balance they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian and testicular glands.

Instead of providing hormones to the body, maca works as an adaptogen which means that it responds to different bodies’ needs individually. If you’re producing too much of a particular hormone, maca will regulate the production downward. However, if you’re producing too little, it’ll regulate the production upward.

You can google each of these ingredients to learn the health benefits, but this smoothie feels and tastes like an explosion of well-being from your tastebuds down to the cellular and energetic levels.

You could use frozen organic raspberries or any other kind of berry, but please do not use non-organic berries as their skins are thin, and pesticides are easily absorbed into the flesh. (That may not be scientific, but it makes sense to me.)

No particular reason for using both flax seed meal and flax seed oil except that I had both on hand!

Strawberry, pomegranate, and cacao breakfast smoothie

Inspired by Patrice’s mango-cacao drink that she gave me a taste of on Friday (very yummy), today I made myself a fruit smoothie for breakfast.

I usually make green smoothies without fruit, so this is a special treat. I’ve felt in need of some self-nurturing. A bout of self-acceptance arose in the last couple of days that was a bit hard on my ego. Yesterday I had a sore throat, which seems to happen when “I” feel “under attack”. Unusual for me, I took a nap to give my immune system more resources and let my unconscious mind/inner healer do some amazing work. Today I’m better but still feeling the need to pull inward.

I happened to have a container of organic strawberries. I picked out the darkest, softest ones (more than half), pulled the stems off, washed them well, and added them to a can of 100% coconut water in my blender.

Strawberries are one of those produce items that are good to always buy organic. Every year, they are near the top of the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen fruits and veggies.

(You can now download EWG’s Dirty Dozen app for your smart phone or iPad here. It’s free. No more wondering if it’s safe to buy nonorganic when you’re at the grocery or farmer’s market! I buy organic produce when it’s available. If organic is not available, I buy nonorganic if it’s on EWG’s Clean 15 list of produce. If not, I find something else that’s safe to eat.)

Also, more soapbox coming. Just because it’s sold at a farmer’s market doesn’t mean it’s organic. The majority of sellers that I’ve seen in the Austin area farmer’s markets are not organic-certified growers. Seek out organic growers and buy from them. You’ll encourage the rest to switch over.

Better yet, grow some of your own produce yourself. If you haven’t gardened before, it’s easy to start with herbs in pots. Next, try mixing in some greens like chard, kale, and collards into a nontoxic flower bed. Square foot gardening takes more effort to get started, but it’s really a fun way to garden and very low maintenance after your first planting.

Note: This applies to American readers. I presume that international readers have something like organic certification for growers. Not sure whether the EWG lists apply outside the U.S.???

Okay, soapbox off.

To the coconut water and strawberries, I added about 3 tablespoons of organic raw cacao nibs.

Then I put in a tablespoon or two of flax-seed meal, shelled hemp seeds, chia seeds, and maca powder.

Can’t forget a thumb-size chunk of peeled ginger. This is not an exact science here, more experimenting in the kitchen, which is much, much more fun once you learn basic principles than following a recipe exactly. But following recipes is how you learn.

Then I added about 3 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses. In Austin, you can get it at Fiesta and Phoenicia Bakery, stores that carry Middle Eastern brands. I use the Cortas brand, a product of Lebanon containing only natural pomegranate juice concentrate.

After adding all these ingredients, I ran my blender for a couple of minutes on the highest setting to really pulverize the cacao. When I can afford a VitaMix ($450-650 new), I’ll get one and wonder, I’m sure, how I ever managed to live without it. A VitaMix will pulverize the cacao quickly.

It was so delicious, it was hard not to drink it all in one sitting, but I managed to save some for tomorrow morning. Strawberries, cacao, and pomegranate make a great menage a trois!