Good health often leads to happiness. I firmly believe that our bodies WANT to be healthy. They are finely tuned machines that WANT to run at their most efficient levels. However, we let them down all the time. We don’t exercise, we eat processed foods, we drink too much alcohol and not enough water, we smoke, etc. I think that most people don’t realize that their “normal” is actually unhealthy, and finding a new normal will make them aware of how much more energy they can have, how their insides can feel good, how sex doesn’t have to be work and how their machine was never running well before, but now they are super-charged!
There are many millions of pages written about health. I wrote a blog about vegetarianism. There is no silver bullet, but this post is about five pretty simple things you can do as your morning breakfast routine to help you be healthier and happier. Breakfast is the ‘most important meal of the day,’ they say, and I argue that if you jump start your engine this way, you will run better all day long! Because there is a lot written on each of these, I am going to direct you to other sites to read the ‘proof’ and share my personal experiences with you, so that this isn’t 5,000 words long!
My morning routine.
- Warm lemon water. When you wake up, you have been fasting since before you went to sleep. Your belly is empty, but your intestines are probably full. A great way to start your day is to drink a glass of warm water with the juice of 1/2 or 1 lemon or lime. If you wish, sweeten with either local honey or maple syrup, which though sugars, are great for you. A good addition is also freshly grated ginger. If you live in a cold climate, feel a bug coming on or are sick or injured, adding freshly grated or ground tumeric will boost your immunity and reduce inflammation even more. (Tumeric every day, long-term may not be healthy, so use it like medicine when you need it. Also, Tumeric must be taken with a fat, so add a 1/2 teaspoon of pure butter or coconut oil to aid in its absorption) This is a fantastic way to ‘break your fast’ and flush out your system.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. This is a relatively new addition to my routine. I have been adding a teaspoon to my lemon tonic mixture regularly for about a year. While I can’t say that I have noticed a drastic change in my health, it certainly isn’t hurting and the benefits are widely touted! (I started the ACV for a particular health concern, and I think it had an positive effect.)
My experience: I am a terrible at drinking enough water, so this ensures that I hydrate. Before I drink or eat anything else, I drink a full 8 oz of water with 1/2 lemon with one of the two sweeteners. When I was living in London, in the cold and damp, working in an open-plan office, and living in a shared house with four others, it was impossible not to get sick–until I started drinking this every morning, and my immunity dramatically increased. The detoxifying effect is immediately noticed. Withing 30 minutes of drinking this, I am gently relieved of what my intestines were holding and my system starts the day clean. I have no bloating and am ready for a healthy breakfast! Now, three years later, I see fewer wrinkles in photos than I did then, which I attribute, in part, to the hydration and the lemon juice.
Another personal experience: I have an elderly family member who has been drinking this morning tonic for about a year. He was always suffering from either constipation for which he took laxative or diarrhea for which he took pepto. Since drinking this daily, he suffers neither. He also fainted a couple of times, and the diagnosis was simple dehydration. He has not fainted since doing this.
And one more personal story: A family friend was taking cholesterol medicine. Because he also drank moderately, he failed a liver function test. He continued to have his evening drink, and take is medicine, but he started drinking 1T of apple cider vinegar in water a day. One month later, his liver was functioning normally again.
- Wheat grass, spirulina and/or chlorella. These three are all considered super foods because they are so packed with nutrients. Wheat grass has a pretty mild taste, and is almost sweet. Spirulina and chlorella taste like pond scum in my opinion. However, I was blown away by their immediate benefits! You only need a small amount. I found them in bulk at a health food store where I am “from” called Heritage. I was able to get them organic, which is particularly important for these super foods. I put about 1/2 teaspoon of wheat grass, plus 1/4 teaspoon of the others in a half glass of natural juice or water, stir and choke down. If the other two scare you, just wheat grass is still fine.
My Experience. My skin noticeably improved immediately in terms of tone and evenness of color. I had a friend in London who swore if she missed one day of wheat grass, she could see it in her skin. I think paired with the lemon water, my immunity became super strong. London winter and flu season hit a few months after I started this routine. My whole house and whole team at work got sick, but I didn’t get a sniffle for the first winter in years. These also have a laxative effect, but as your body gets used to it, that is less noticeable. I do feel, again paired with the above, that my insides stay squeaky clean, but without gas or bloating. In fact, quite the contrary, I think along with my exercise, these really help keep my tummy flat.
- Raw oats and flax/chia/hemp seeds. A number of years ago, I found a recipe in a raw foods cookbook that I have modified and will share with you here. Before you go to sleep, combine 1/2 cup organic whole rolled oats with about 1/2 cup organic, cloudy, unsweetened apple juice (diluted with water if you want to reduce sugar), 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 tablespoon of ground flax seeds and/or chia seeds and/or ground hemp seeds. Optional: a few chopped, raw walnut, pecans or almonds will add unsaturated fat, protein and omega-3 and a few raisins or other dried fruit will add fiber and sweetness. (All measurements are estimates and can be adjusted for taste or consistency.) Stir to combine. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, after you have had your lemon water and juice with super greens and vinegar, your breakfast is ready to go! It is naturally sweet and soft, but not guey like the cooked version and without the added fats and sugars of most granolas. If it is too dry/stiff, just add a bit more juice or water in the morning. It is high in fiber and between the fiber, good fats, natural sugar and protein, it will keep you going for a few hours.
My experience. I am always hungry, and tend to eat small meals every few hours. This will keep me sated, but able to exercise fairly soon after because it doesn’t make me feel too full. By mid-morning, I am hungry for a snack of fruit and then I eat lunch. I love that this recipe is totally vegan. The fiber content is excellent to keep everything moving and it is even good for those who can’t have gluten. Flax, chia and hemp are great foods for vegans because of their protein, and are high in omega-3’s. There are no refined sugars. Plus, it is ready to go, so for those busy mornings, there is no prep! I used to take it in to the office, when I worked in one, and eat it there to save time on my morning routine. If you are bored by the same food everyday, by all means, mix it up, but try to get the flax/hemp/chia in their somehow…sprinkle on cereal, put in pancake batter, add to a smoothie, etc.
- Raw Cacao. Okay, I am going to be controversial here, and also totally honest: I. drink. coffee. *gasp* There are so many articles debating its health benefits. As a yogi, I am not ‘supposed’ to have caffeine. I quit it for a year once, and you know what? I was not a happy human! I have decided that I love coffee, and it is not that bad for me (I drink one large cup a day) and is arguably good for me, but I am not trying to sell you either way on coffee. Drink it or don’t, and kindly refrain from judging me. It is what I put in the coffee that I want to talk about. I add about 1/2 teaspoon of raw cacao to my black coffee along with 1 teaspoon of raw sugar *yes, gasp again.*
My experience. While I cannot say that the short-term benefits have been remarkable, my mother claims cacao regulates her blood pressure enough to go off the blood pressure medicine. The claimed benefits of cacao are many. It is touted as the number one source of anti-oxidants you can eat and is an anti-inflammatory. Because both coffee and cacao are stimulants, they are good for circulation, which is good to keep your skin healthy among other things, including boosting your mood, helping you focus and giving you a jolt of energy. For this reason, they should be consumed in moderation, and if you don’t drink coffee, you can mix the cacao in your oats, with water or with any ‘milk’ beverage. While it is used to make chocolate, cacao is NOT chocolate or cocoa. you must eat raw cacao to get these benefits (although organic, unprocessed cocoa without additives is the next best thing). While some studies argue dark chocolate has many of the same benefits, it also comes with sugar and dairy and has been processed, so this is the best way to get those benefits without anything added. I am hoping that by continuing this I will keep my body free of pain and disease for many years.
Because all of these items can have a gentle laxative effect, I would recommend introducing them slowly. For example, start with the lemon tonic followed by flax/chia/hemp for about a week. Then the next week add the wheat grass and other supergreens to your juice. Finally, in the third week, start introducing the cacao. If you already eat one or more of these, just add the others in, and after a couple days, your body should adjust. As with anything, look for any other unpleasant side effects, which is more easily done if you introduce them one at a time. If you are on medication or have medical conditions, check with a doctor.
I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, but aside from the very few links that I have posted here, I have read a lot about all of these foods, and have been eating them myself for years, and can personally say that my skin, immunity and energy have increased as a result of this routine. I never was using them for weight loss, but all of them will help promote a healthy weight.
Also, because I worry about the acid wearing the enamel on my teeth and coffee staining them, I drink the lemon water and coffee through a straw.
So five simple things to first thing in the morning to help you stay happy, healthy and youthful:
- Lemon and vinegar water
- Apple cider vinegar in above tonic or in water
- Wheat grass, spirulina and/or chlorella
- Flax, chia and/or hemp seeds
- Raw cacao
Try to eat these five days a week for three months, and you should notice a difference in your energy, your skin, your digestive health and your immunity. If you are already healthy, they effects may be less obvious, but you may be more in tune to subtle changes. If you are not very healthy, you will be amazed at your new ‘normal!’ Your immunity should be strong. Of course, it helps to exercise and make this as part of a holistic approach and lifestyle of healthy choices, but baby steps are important, and I think these five things are a realistic addition to anyone’s life.
Good morning, you happy human, you!!!