The MyYogaWorks 28 Day Spring Yoga Challenge starts today! In addition to amazing daily yoga and meditation classes from Alex Crow, I’ll be providing you with weekly nutrition guidance. Hopefully by day 28 you’ll feel stronger, happier, healthier and more energized than ever before!
Before we get started with this week, here’s a little bit about what to expect from this part of the program:
Every Monday, I’ll post something to work on for the week ahead. For the first three weeks we’ll focus on a concept called “crowding out.” The idea is to add as much healthy food into your diet as possible, leaving less room for the unhealthy stuff. Each week we’ll focus on different foods to eat more of, and I’ll provide you with simple recipes and suggestions that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine. It’s so much more fun to focus on what you can have rather than what you can’t, right?
By week four you’ll be eating plenty of healthy food, practicing yoga almost every day, and ready to do something a bit more challenging nutritionally: an elimination diet.
Elimination diets help you uncover food allergies, intolerances and/or sensitivities, which can cause a wide array of symptoms such as fatigue, digestive issues, headaches, congestion, weight gain, and skin problems. We’ll go over this in more detail in week four, but you’d be surprised by how many people suffer from these and don’t know it. For example, I had no idea that my acid reflux was triggered by dairy until I cut it out of my diet – then voila, goodbye antacids! It was then I realized that no matter how well you eat, hidden allergies, intolerances and sensitivities will still cause health problems and prevent you from feeling your best.
That said, an elimination diet can be difficult, which is why you’ll be leading up to it each week by incorporating plenty of healthy and delicious food to get you started.
Which brings us to week one of the challenge…
WEEK ONE: When You’re Green Inside, You’re Clean Inside.
Green veggies are the foods most missing from the modern diet, yet they’re one of the easiest and most important to incorporate. In general, they’re high in fiber, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamins A, C, E and K and other phytonutrients. The health benefits of eating greens include cancer and heart disease prevention, blood purification, reduced inflammation, immune system support, a healthier gut, and improvement of liver, gall bladder and kidney function. According to Food Energetics, they’ll even lift your spirit and promote a lighter more flexible energy!
And when it comes to crowding out, greens are key. How so? Well, one of the main causes of cravings is lack of nutrients in your diet. As you can see, greens are dense with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, so eating them will naturally help reduce cravings.
- Mix It Up. There are so many options at your fingertips. Try broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, kale, collards, watercrss, mustard greens, dandelion, arugula, frisee, endive, chicory, lettuce, mesclun, romaine, spinach, swiss chard and/or beet greens.
- Look for color. Funny enough, the most nutritious greens are actually red, purple or reddish brown. The next most nutritious greens are dark green in color.
- Loosen Up. Heads of lettuce with looser leaves have more phytonutrients than those that are tightly packed.
- Taste Test. Bitter, sour and spicy flavors are also a good indication of nutrition.
How to Eat Them
These very simple tips make eating greens quick and easy – even for the most culinarily challenged folks out there!
- Salad. Start with a base of greens and top with as many colorful veggies and fresh herbs as you like. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar or lemon, sea salt and pepper. Or try my recipe for a cleansing spring salad.
- Sautée. Choose greens that do well with heat (ex: kale, spinach, swiss chard, bok choy, mustard greens) and rip them up into pieces. Heat a small amount of water or extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Add greens and cook until just wilted (about a minute). Top with sea salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and vinegar or lemon.
- Steam. Add a couple of inches of water to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Set a colander over the water and add greens that do well with heat (ex: kale, spinach, swiss chard, bok choy, mustard greens). Top with sea salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and vinegar or lemon.
- Add Them To… Smoothies, sauces, pesto, soups, broths, grain dishes, etc.
- Chips. Make a batch of light and crispy kale chips!
- Fat. In order for your body to absorb some of the most important nutrients greens have to offer, you’ll need to eat them with some fat. Skip low/non-fat options and go for healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts or seeds instead.
Week One Challenge
- Eat greens at least once a day.
- Pick one type you’ve never tried before.
- Experiment with eating them at different times throughout the day – who knows, maybe you’ll find that you love to eat greens for breakfast!
- Be sure to drink plenty of water! The general recommendation is half your body weight in ounces.
Joanna Berman is a holistic health counselor, writer, recipe developer, 500-hour certified yoga teacher, and the Content & Communications Manager at YogaWorks and MyYogaWorks. She believes in finding balance, figuring out what makes you feel your best, and most importantly enjoying the process. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram at @peppermysalt for all things food and yoga, including in-post recipes! peppermysalt.com