Sure, maybe a little spontaneity is in order to spice things up a bit—but building your spice cabinet can add a little spunk to your immunity, kick up your body’s anti-inflammatory response, and perk up your metabolism, along with adding a lovely punch of flavor to any dish! If you're looking to add a little zest to your life—start with your plate. Dried herbs and spices are chock-full of healthy compounds that bring excitement to your palate and can be utilized for better health, too. Basically, if you have a well-stocked spice cabinet, you have a well-stocked arsenal for better health.
Spices may consist of the bark, root, stem, seed, or flower of a plant, which are typically dried, and carry strong flavors and aromas. They can be added to a dish throughout the cooking process to further develop their flavors into whatever you are cooking. Many spices are high in vitamin and mineral content, are great sources of antioxidants and phytonutrients, boast antimicrobial properties, help to reduce inflammation, regulate blood sugar, and even improve digestion. Using spices is a great way to supercharge your diet, add more complex flavors, and reduce the need for extra salt and sugar. Here are just a few of our favorite spices to have on hand along with some of their health benefits:
Chili Peppers: Fresh, dried, or powdered, chilies are guaranteed to add a little kick to any meal. With anti-inflammatory properties and immune-boosting properties as well, chili peppers offer the component capsaicin, which has been shown to reduce and inhibit “Chemical P,” the compound responsible for transmitting pain messages to the brain. This has been found helpful for joint pain, migraines, and neuropathy. The vibrant red color of chile peppers means it is rich in beta-carotene (precursor to Vitamin A), which also helps lower the risk of age-related diseases such as stroke, macular degeneration, and coronary artery disease. Along with Vitamin C, your immune system gains a boost to fight off illness.
*A little secret - I keep a small container of red chili flakes in my purse so I can add some spicy pizazz to whatever I eat, even if I’m on the go.*
Turmeric: A true “super spice” with a rich, earthy, and bitter profile, the golden-hued turmeric is commonly added to many meals such as curries, stews, and even smoothies! Its most active compound, curcumin, is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin can also increase the antioxidant capacity of the body, stimulating the activity of other antioxidants while fighting off free radicals. This can be highly beneficial for both brain and heart health. Curcumin only makes up about 3% of turmeric by weight and isn’t highly bioavailable, but you can increase its bioavailability by around 2000% by consuming it along with black pepper.
Black Pepper: More than likely, you have some black pepper on hand. Piperine, the component in black pepper that makes curcumin more bioavailable, enhances the bioavailability of other important nutrients as well. It can also aid in digestion by boosting the activity of digestive enzymes.
Ginger: As most of us know, ginger is a go-to for an upset stomach and nausea. Spicy, peppery, yet sweet, ginger goes great with soups, marinades, dressings, desserts, and teas. Ginger has a calming effect on the lining of the digestive system. It also boasts anti-microbial properties which can help ward off infections. Loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds, ginger offers powerful benefits to the body and brain by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
Cardamom: Often found in pumpkin spice mixes, cardamom is a sweet, pungent spice that can fight inflammation, ease an upset stomach, and is high in magnesium and zinc.
Some other healthy spices you may consider using are cumin, mustard powder, cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg, curry, and last but not least, garlic (just to name a few!). Think of what flavor combinations would elevate your dish—experimentation is key!
Spices don’t just contribute to the flavor of food, they contribute nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants as well. With properties that fight inflammation, free radical damage, and oxidative stress—you and your taste buds will be doing a proverbial happy dance!
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Spring is now in full swing (thank goodness!) and that means the Raja Wellness crew has some exciting adventures in our near future. We may not be able to take you with us, but we hope you will tag along in spirit! We’ll be deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina taking in the scenery, visiting with vendors, and attending some epic events centered around medicinal herbs, gardening, and crystals.
First up and fast approaching is the revered Asheville Herb Festival. This is the largest herb festival in the US and Canada—a yearly tradition we enjoy wholeheartedly. With a focus on Western North Carolinian growers, farmers, and herbalists, there are over 60 vendors to visit. Interestingly, this area of Appalachia has a climate that is nearly identical to that of southeast China, meaning that it is the perfect environment for many herbs and plants to thrive that are commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In fact, the Asheville Herb Festival is where we’ve met and grown relationships with some of our favorite vendors.
We’ll be navigating our way through a variety of culinary and medicinal herbs, tinctures, salves, handmade soaps, carnivorous plants, perennial flowers, trees, and bushes, and hopefully grabbing another glorious sample of ginseng wine before our day is complete. The herb festival is also jam-packed with gardening and herbal medicine workshops. Our staff is excited to bring back and stock our store with many curated favorites for clinic use, as well as for our own gardens and greenhouses. For more information about the Asheville Herb Festival, visit ashevilleherbfestival.org
In mid-May, Mary (our NC native), will be traveling to visit three gem shows. Combined, there will be nearly 200 vendors to peruse with crystals from all over the world, rare gems, cathedrals, fossils, unique jewelry, statement pieces, lapidary equipment, and more. Many of these vendors can also be found at the renowned Tucson Gem Show. During this trip, Mary will be mining for gems as well! Aside from a biodiverse region for growing a variety of plants and herbs, this region is also incredibly abundant and diverse in minerals and gemstones.
If you’re local to our area in Kentucky, we’d like to invite you to send any special requests to firstname.lastname@example.org, we’ll be happy to reach out with specifics and discuss your crystal needs, purchase, and pick-up options. Examples of previously requested items include amethyst cathedrals, ocean jasper, peridot, celestite, dumortierite, chalcopyrite, Ethiopian opal, and smoky quartz. With so much to choose from, Mary will be on the search for rare finds to add to the diversity of both our collection at Raja Goods (and her personal stash!)
With these events just around the corner, you can imagine our anticipation and excitement! We hope our patients and customers will enjoy the stories and items we have to share upon our return and hope that you will follow along during our travels! We plan to share pictures of the fun on our social media accounts so keep an eye out for updates!
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*Disclosure: All opinions reflected here are our own and we only recommend products we love and use ourselves. This post may contain affiliate links, that at no additional cost to you, may earn us a small commission.
Last night, I found myself thoroughly enjoying “building my box” of subscription groceries and realized how few people feel that way when grocery shopping. I consider myself a foodie; constantly conjuring recipes in my head and thinking of what I’d like to whip together for my next meal. However, trips to the grocery store are personally a little burdensome for me. It’s not just the large crowds that I prefer to avoid (it feels like the grocery store has become the # 1 attraction of any town since the pandemic hit), but also the limited supply, lack of variety for healthy snacks the whole family will like—you get the gist.
Although I began using Instacart religiously for grocery delivery before the shutdown of 2020, I found that there just tended to be too many items kicked out of my cart due to limited supply. Oftentimes, I’d end up with less than half of my order and had no real way to gauge that other than just crossing my fingers and hoping the items I selected would be in stock. I still order this way from time to time, but it’s frustrating knowing that whatever I need the most may not be included—sometimes sending my carefully planned weekly menu into chaos!
Enter Imperfect Foods. I came across their ad on Instagram and signed up for my first box in the spring of 2021. With Imperfect, you can select a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly box and skip anytime you choose. I chose the weekly option and waited reluctantly for the shopping window to open so that I could see what items they had to choose from. When it was time to shop, I was so pleasantly surprised! Right at my fingertips, I had options from organic to gluten-free, from vegan offerings to grass-fed beef and Chilean sea bass! I had an assortment of vegetables and fruits to choose from that I can rarely find at the store. They have healthier options for chips, candies, and cookies using organic ingredients and no additives. They also have juices without additional sugars, a variety of kombucha and seltzer flavors, cold brew coffee, dairy-free milk alternatives, and organic ginger beer. Everything is delivered to your door in a box—and refrigerated or frozen items are neatly packed in insulated silver liners with a gel freezer pack to keep them nice and cool. Exactly how “imperfect” can you expect your foods to be? Well, they may have cosmetic quirks (that you probably wouldn’t even notice in a store), irregular sizes, or be surplus items. Their structure reduces both food and packaging waste while keeping prices reasonable—it’s a win-win!
Now having been happily on the Imperfect Foods bandwagon for about a year, I added another subscription service last week, and am thrilled with it as well. My teenage daughter has been complaining about school lunches lately. She’s never really been one to eat school lunch in the first place—she’s almost always taken a lunchbox; but now that she works and gets home much later in the day, that extra little bit of sleep she may be able to squeeze in in the morning has become oh-so-important and lunch becomes an afterthought first thing in the morning. She expressed interest in taking a filling protein shake to school, but she gets tired of those pretty quickly and doesn’t want to deal with the extra bulk of carrying a lunch box around all day when her backpack already weighs a ton.
Yes, Imperfect Foods does have excellent lunch options, but for extra ease and convenience, I also checked out Revive Superfoods. Revive Superfoods offers prepared breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options. Superfood ingredients are flash-frozen at peak nutrition and are either ready to eat or ready to eat in a matter of minutes, eliminating prep time and headache. I chose the 12 item box to start, and have loaded up on superfood smoothies and super meals for both my daughter and myself. I opted to do this subscription once monthly for the time being but just may increase my frequency now that I’ve tried a couple of items and loved them. Both of our energy levels have been rather sustainable throughout the day. We stay fuller longer, and with options like the Morning Mocha smoothie, I’ve kept my latest commitment of going caffeine-free without feeling like I’m missing out on my cup of morning Joe.
There are quite a few other similar subscription services out there, I suggest you explore to find the best fit for you. For me, Imperfect Foods and Revive Superfoods have not disappointed and have created more excitement for me when it comes to planning meals and ordering groceries for the family. Dietary and nutritional needs are easily met, the whole family now has healthy snacks and meals with zero complaints, I get to avoid long lines and bare shelves, and my food budget goes further. All of my in-store grocery shopping grievances have been solved!
Our staff loves Imperfect Foods so much that I have 3 different referral links to share with you if you’d like to try it out as well (and save some cash while you’re at it!):
For our Egg Shakshuka recipe using Imperfect Foods items, click here.
If you’d like to try out Revive Superfoods, use this link https://revivesuperfoods.com/ref/306250/ for 50% off your first order.
I hope you’ll love these subscription services as much as we do. If you’ve been looking for an easy way to fill your fridge and pantry with healthier options for everyone in the household, check out these subscription services—you’ll be glad you did!
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Getting our kids to eat healthily doesn’t have to be a nightmarish challenge. You don’t have to be a chef to make delicious meals the family will enjoy; you don’t have to be a master negotiator either. Getting our families to eat more healthily often starts with what is most readily available in the home and our own habits and attitudes when it comes to food. Children often mimic us caregivers—so leading by example can be very effective (for all of us!).
Here are a few tips and reminders to help instill those healthy habits—easily!
These changes may need to be done gradually, and it may take some time for everyone to adjust. If the habits have been in place for a while, just remember to practice patience, understanding, and open dialogue, and the payoff will be huge—with better nutrition, overall health, improved energy, money, and time savings in the end. Eating healthy won’t seem like a “downer” or “punishment”; but a real treat that can be easily shared among the family—and can instill healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
The new year has arrived, and many of us have finalized our resolutions list and are ready to put our plans into action for a flourishing year ahead. More often than not, we aim to focus on our health—and make up for any detrimental behaviors we participated in prior. And let’s face it—while some of us have become rather health-conscious over the past couple years; some of us have picked up or over-indulged in some less than desirable habits recently, especially considering the stress we’ve all been under (crazy times!). Let’s rethink that alcoholic drink into something that nourishes the body and spirit!
It can seem difficult to cut back. There will always be a hard week, a reason to celebrate, a social function where drinks are flowing, an encounter with the in-laws (yikes!). You get the idea; things that prompt a drink are plentiful. But the health benefits of not only cutting back your alcohol intake, but replacing it with something that’s good for you are even more plentiful, and it doesn’t have to feel awkward or like you’re making a sacrifice.
Let’s start with Kombucha! Kombucha is a great replacement for an alcoholic beverage when you’re craving a tangy, refreshing beverage. It’s made from a base of green or black tea and sugar, and is fermented from a week, up to a month. The fermentation process does produce a TRACE amount of alcohol. Less than 0.5%. But that process also creates that zingy flavor that pleases a refined palate with a little “kick.”
Kombucha is high in polyphenols—which promote gut, brain, and heart health. It’s also rich in B vitamins and contains compounds that in some studies have been associated with improved GI and liver function. Be careful to choose kombucha with no added sugar, or if you’re up for trying something new, you may enjoy making your own kombucha at home.
If you enjoy the art and ritual of creating a cocktail, consider hand-crafting a delicious mocktail instead. Make one for yourself after a long day and enjoy as you begin to wind down, or offer mocktails the next time you host a dinner for friends at your home! It’s fun to play around with ingredients and cater to your own personal taste. If you love to cook, up your game by pairing a thoughtfully crafted mocktail with your best dinner recipe. Keeping it more simple, try serving some tacos and pair with this tasty and easy “margarita” recipe:
4 lime wedges
1 ½ oz fresh lime juice
1 ½ oz fresh lemon juice
3 oz simple syrup
1 ½ oz sparkling water
2 tbsp kosher salt (I highly recommend the Margarita Sea Salt blend at Raja Goods! It’s a course, smoked chipotle salt)
Place salt on a plate and set aside. Place a lime wedge over the rim of your margarita glass, swiping it around the glass until the rim is wet. Turn the glass upside down, setting the rim into the salt. Repeat with a second glass. Pour lime juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, and sparkling water in a cocktail shaker filled with ice . Put the top on the cocktail shaker and shake to combine and chill. Pour into glasses and garnish with a slice of lime. Enjoy!
Here at Raja Wellness and our new store, Raja Goods—we have a special love for mocktails. We offer blends made from high quality, adaptogenic herbs to be enjoyed along with their many health benefits. Be sure to ask about our mocktails at your next visit!
If you’re reluctant to miss out on your favorite spirits, you may want to check out www.ritualzeroproof.com. They offer replacements that taste just like the real thing! Add to a healthy mocktail and you won’t miss a bit of the flavor from your favorite drink.
Remember, big improvements come from small adjustments. Consider rethinking your drink as a resolution this year. Cheers!
The sunny and long days of summer are quickly giving way to the cooler, shorter days of fall. Sept 22nd was the high point of the transition to fall, which according to the Chinese seasons, will shift from the first frosts of late fall at the end of October into the early stages of winter on Nov 8, 2020.
This is a time for focusing on what is most important to us; the days get shorter, reminding us that time is not unlimited. It is also the season aligned with the lungs and large Intestine - both of which are integral to a healthy immune system in the East Asian Medical Model. We can support these organs by understanding their role in our body and incorporating foods and habits to support them. This is also a great time to review our focus in life and let go of habits and practices that don’t take us closer to our goals. As the trees shed their leaves, we can take stock of what no longer serves us and let those things go.
The energy of fall moves us to embrace more comforting and warm foods. Here on our website rajawellness.com, you will find a list of foods that help to support health in the fall. Soups and warm teas are great this time of year - as fall gets more dry, it’s important to stay hydrated. Using buffered saline to rinse nasal passages will help minimize allergies and colds naturally. As the days get shorter, ensuring you are getting enough Vitamin D is essential.
The primary element of fall is Wind, classically known as the “first of the 1000 evils” in traditional East Asian Medical texts. As Wind begins to emerge, protecting ourselves from the wind is important to staying healthy. That “old wives” tale about wearing a scarf to keep healthy is actually backed by science - exposing the back of the neck to a cold wind can measurably depress immune system function for up to 48 hours. Simply sitting under an AC vent can do this, so make sure to wear a scarf. Getting quality sleep is also an important part of staying healthy during the fall and winter. Going to bed before 11pm allows your body to rest during the critical time from 11pm to 5am, where the Wei Qi (essentially our immune system) is replenished and strengthened.
Breathing correctly is also key. The lungs are the organ most strongly connected with our Wei Qi and they benefit from appropriate breathwork and relaxation. The large intestine should not be overlooked either. In the East Asian Medical Model, this is the organ of elimination. It must be functioning well so we can not only “let go” of the physical waste from our body, but also any emotions, thoughts, and habits that keep us “bound up” instead of moving smoothly through life. Again, hydration and adequate fiber are key. In East Asian Medicine, we don’t advocate strong purges, but rather healthy habits for a smooth, even flow. Getting adequate rest, eating well, and scheduling some acupuncture sessions will help boost your immune system and help your body embrace fall with health and energy.
Healthy Fall Foods:
Garlic ~ Sweet Potato ~ Ginger ~ Onion ~ Cabbage ~ Pears ~ Walnuts ~ Black Pepper ~ Radish ~ Rice ~ Leeks ~ Miso ~ Cardamom ~ Cinnamon ~ Chili ~ Navy Beans ~ Soy Beans ~ Almonds ~ Broccoli ~ Celery ~ Mustard Greens ~ Apricot ~ Banana ~ Eggs ~ Sourdough Bread ~ Sauerkraut ~ Olives ~ Pickles ~ Vinegar ~ Yogurt ~ Lemons ~ Limes ~ Grapefruit ~ Apples ~ Plums ~ Grapes ~ Chicken ~ Pork