Category Archives: health

Upwards

IMG_1653Urdhva Danurasana. Also known as the friendly, charming upward facing bow or wheel pose. It’s the pose which I secretly dread but also secretly hope to attempt each class.

My biggest issues coming into this pose are the tightness across my chest, tightness of my hip flexors, and as a result, my lower back compression. It takes several attempts for me to lengthen my spine. There are some times when my body isn’t sufficiently open enough to do the pose properly, so I usually surrender back to bridge pose.

The tricks of the trade? Subtle things like pressing the inner edges of the hands to rotate the triceps inward, activating the serratus anterior (our trapezius is usually over-developed and compensates for it), and rolling the outer thighs slightly inwards to narrow the hips.

Other things to note: move the back ribs and shoulder blades in while bringing the chest and arms forwards.

Variations:

Once you’re up there, in addition to an expansion of the chest and potential crying  (one of my teachers told me she’d cry every time she did upwards bow because it would stimulate certain points of her nervous system), you get a totally awesome view of the world. Kind of like this:

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I was in Chicago the past week doing job interviews (more on that in a later post) and took a stroll downtown (longer than I expected, as my phone clock did not automatically change timezones, so I showed up way early to my interview. Thank God it was East Coast not West Coast time.) Honestly, I got pretty bored of downtown. It was like SF downtown or NYC or HK downtown – after a while they all kind of look the same. My architectural expertise isn’t finely tuned enough in order for me to appreciate the structures. Sorry Dad, I failed.

But I did see The Bean at Millenium Park. I know it’s pretty touristy, but I was thrilled to unexpectedly come across it. It’s such a creative creature with an amazingly simple concept.

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Fine points of mind.

So here’s my little note scribble for the day, hopefully you can take a little something from this:

urdhvadanurasana

Daily Nutritional Facts:

Vegan Quinoa Chili: I came across this fast-food joint downtown called “Protein Bar”. It was a bizzare, intriguing concept. The mindset of the bar was obviously health-centric. Granted, I have a couple things to say regarding the over-proteinizing we have going on in our culture. But I’ll keep my mouth shut. The store featured a lot of the typical health-nut stuff: quinoa, greek yoghurt, kombucha, kale, avocado… stuff you would expect from a vegetarian or even vegan cafe. But then chicken was thrown in. For some reason chicken passed the healthy/non-healthy test and came out gloating.

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Not sure why, but was pretty taken aback with the additional animal product. It was like they were almost going for the home run with the vegetarian philosophy (a la Clover) but stopped short. I tried the vegan chili with quinoa, avocado, and the fake cheese (I feel weird about fake cheese. I tried many brands before and the only one I was down with was this mozzarella made from almonds. Other than that it’s a no go. Give me my brie back. No I don’t want Brittany back, bitch.)


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Calling it a day. Yoga from 4-5 pm in Adams UCR if you want to come hang out!

Today’s Playlist includes: Local Natives, checkit.

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Filed under Clover, food, health, postures, yoga

Obesity Doesn’t Taste Like Much

Umami water.

Sounds like some sort of eel-based sushi distilled into a new type of water (or dare I say alcohol?) And yes, it exists.

This past Tuesday I had the fortune of listening to the White House pastry chef, Bill Yosses. I decided that if I ever made it to being First Wife of some president (hey I’m at Harvard, maybe it’ll happen) I am immediately going to have daily cooking lessons with all the White House chefs.

So besides playing with glass blowers and candy gel (both 100% applicable to my life), I got to try this legendary water. Everyone was given two cups. He asked us to taste the first one and we proceeded to swirl and swish the waves in our mouths. Then he asked us to do the same and contemplate the difference of the second. Nearly everyone liked the first. My friend Marissa commented that the second tasted bitter. She was partially right in that there was a difference in taste in the second, but in actual fact the key difference was umami.

The injection of umami taste molecules into the second water created subtle, fuzzy sensations on my tongue and I noticed my mouth beginning to salivate. It was an extremely cool experience but I’m pretty sure umami (unagi?) water isn’t going to go big anytime soon.

Maybe Michael Jordan’s secret water stuff might.

Umami is the taste response to salts of glutamic acid – like the infamous MSG. Processed meats and cheeses have these savory components as well. The binding of these amino acids to G-coupled protein receptors initiates a “cascade” signaling process in the tongue and sends signals to the brain. Think of one person telling another about your secret crush, and then how the secret spreads like wildfire – exponentially increasing to the point that your secret crush isn’t so much a secret anymore (#fifthgradeangst).

Although my focus for my imaginary and maybe way-way-way in the future documentary is smell, taste is equally as interesting to me because it is a physical sensation on the tongue that defines the larger makeup of flavor – almost like stretching vs. working vs. tweaking vs. pulling vs. lactic-aciding (I made that up, yup) a muscle. But with the tongue, it feels sour vs. sweet vs. bitter vs. salty vs. umami. Then there are the “mouthfeels” produced by other chemicals too – like fats and tannins of wine. Contrary to popular belief, the taste sensations are not localized to one particular area, so swishing whatever you’re eating around your tongue (without swallowing it!) has a huge effect.

Random doodling:

Click here for a brief intro to tastes and how they scientifically function.

A fascinating German study came out that found that obese kids have highly insensitive taste buds compared to their slimmer companions: “especially [with regards to ] salty, bitter and umami. They also struggled to detect the difference between salty and sour, and between salty and umami.”

The main question at hand is whether or not the lack of tasting ability makes a child more prone to becoming obese, or if the lack of ability stems from the child’s obesity and epigenetics. I believe it could actually be deeper than both suggestions – perhaps the emotional dependency on food that many obese children develop is coupled with tasting ability on a more subconscious level in the brain. I wonder if the “numbing” emotional effect food gives is metaphorized in the tongue itself.

On the note of emotional frequencies and influences on taste – one researcher thinks there potentially can be a “hormonal fingerprint” that will determine tasting ability in the present moment.

“For example, the hormone leptin is associated with hunger, fat storage and the ability to taste sweet things. Obese people may be less sensitive to its daily cycles. Also, if the level of insulin circulating in the blood stream remains consistently elevated for long periods of time, as it does in many obese people, it could weaken the cells’ receptors to the hormone, which in turn could mute taste sensitivity.”

One last suggestion is that obese kids “habituate” to tastes – almost like drug-addiction and threshold effects.

Regardless of what the true cause is – this study clearly points to the healthy mechanism of mindful eating as a means to cope with obesity. The meditation on taste forces the consumer to cultivate an awareness of their taste sensations, and like anything in life, this can be trained and improved. So rather than seeing this whole taste bud article as a limiting factor from birth, it’s actually an encouraging piece of information.

Random thoughts – what does tongue scraping have to do with all of this?

Daily Nutrition Facts

Made coffee-almond ice cream in Science of Cooking lab this week:

What I learned? Besides the great flavor combo, that salt lowers the freezing point of ice. Boom. Makin the ice cream.

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Jaw Lov[ag]es Hips

Oooof, bad title. It’s early. I also woke up at 4:30 AM dramatically smacking my face with my arms because I had just been dreaming about a massive scorpion-wasp flying right for my face.

Not a big bug fan, if you can tell.

Karma Longtin led a fantastic class at Karma Yoga Studio on Sunday, emphasizing the subtle connection between the jaw muscle (the masseter, more precisely) and the hip flexors. The masseter symphasizes with the hip flexors, as both areas carry massive amounts of emotional tension. In addition, the masseter is one of the strongest muscles in our body (in terms of scale-to-size), prodcuing 117-265 lbs of force (vs. 974.99 – an Eskimo descendent!!), while the hip flexor is the “seat of the soul”, being the muscle in charge of our walking and the first to react when we’re about to fall.

You can do jaw muscle exercises (which I’ll update on the yoga/physio page) and also manually massage out your own jaw. Here is a small doodle I did for great core activation exercises:

Meanwhile at Clover…

Going through blog posts (1870 of them!), which actually has been one of the most invaluable learning tools so far, as Ayr has been extremely transparent with the building of the company. The only thing made largely confidential are things relating to investors and workers.

Coming up with a logo: focus on the sound, color, texture, type, environmental influences it creates.

Another thing I love is their food development meetings. We got to taste test a lot of up and coming menu items, as well as analyze how the day’s Chickpea plate was (Pickled veggies + salad + chickpeas + hummus).

One thing I loved that we tried was the lovage soda. It tasted almost like celery juice, with a little more intensity. It sounds strange, but it was actually very refreshing.

My taste drawing:

Lovage: has a slight taste of anise and also reminiscent of caraway (thus pairs well with things from Sauvigon Blanc, fennel, mint, basil, tarragon, etc.) It is rich is thymol and carvacrol, an essential oil of thyme, ajowan, sage, basil, rosemary, and mint.

Here are some excerpts from an awesome book called Jekka’s Herbs Cookbook:

Daily Nutritional Facts

Tried Peace O’ Pie, the local vegan pizza company, for the first time with my partner in crime Kara! We ordered the The Fresh: pesto (but it came with tomato sauce instead. Dissapointment 😦 ), broccoli, onion, and roasted garlic; as well as The Buffalo Chicken: tongue zapping buffalo sauce (as they claim – didn’t really taste it much), onions, and spicy soy strips. Conclusion? Decently good. The vegan part wasn’t so much the issue, but the pizza dough was pretty dissappointing (I’m also a fan of crispy flatbread, so a little biased. But it was very bland) and the flavors were underwhelming, although the spicy soy strips were delicious!

Last night made Rosemary Shortbread Cookies with my friend Alice, as we were inspired to do so my Harvard graduate Joanne Chang’s book, Flour. Definitely not gluten or vegan friendly, but was such an interesting concept (and I’ve never made shortbread either!) that I was dying to try. I loved the savory kick to it and am planning to try it again…vegan?! Does shortbread even work vegan? To be continued… I also threw on some cinnamon for a few bites and found the rosemary + cinnamon surprisingly pleasant.

Also, spot the unicorn in the photo. Winner may get the unicorn I adopted (named Blue) on my night out.

Recipe coming soon.

Also last shout out to: Nutmeg & eggs. I’ve done paprika before, but nutmeg? Who knew a pinch would be such an interesting twist. Becomes more like dessert than savory breakfast!

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seasonal discourse

Interning at Clover:

Almost a “Devil’s Wears Prada” experience, but with a little less red lipstick and sass. Actually, it wasn’t bad at all. I got to start the day off by taking a yoga class with Ayr and An Li, and learned a few new things:

1. If your palms are hurting in yoga, press into the outer edges of the fingers and try to transfer your weight more to your feet by elevating hips more into the air (though tight hamstrings may be the culprit for the excessive weight as it would bring you from downdog to plank, so do hamstring stretches to help).

2. In baddha konasana (bound angle/butterfly stretch), imagine bringing sitsbones together.

3. In janu sirsasana (single leg seated stretch on floor), tuck extended leg’s hip back thus plugging the femur bone into the hip socket.

4. Walk your hands out in a diagonal during uttanasana (forward fold) for some gentle side stretching.

Then I got to run around to different food trucks to hand over items for job training (images that show how to make sandwiches) and delivered ipods for repair. So nothing too exciting (though I did get to see Boston…) It allowed me to read Edible Boston cover-to-cover, which I can’t complain about. Most interesting article I read was that the up and coming chic food-related job is not the foodies or the chefs but actually “ag-entrepreneurs”, who “understand the production side of the business but also know the distribution side and can aggregate product from a variety farms for a central delivery”. The writer, John Lee, says that CSAs and farmer markets aren’t passe, but won’t be the best opportunities to make money and have a serious impact on the quality of life for citizens. He also thinks that there will be a big shift from foodie obsession with upper market mechanisms and transition to a broader view of “do better by doing good”.

So. Many. Ipods.

Eat Like a Yogi, Summer Cooking Class: Later that day, Kara and I (my partner in crime for all things yoga/food/health related, who I am starting  a kids yoga series with – see above) made dinner at Siri Bani Kaur’s house (owner of Kundalini Boston) . For those who don’t remember, I tried Kundalini yoga once and had a very trippy, slightly disturbing experience. Kundalini yoga focuses a lot more on the esoteric, chakra regions, and is really fun but definitely not what many people would ascribe to as typical yoga. However, it is one of the oldest forms of Raj yoga.

The class was based on Summer foods (guess why), and she emphasized that a yogi diet is not a strict diet at all. In fact, it’s simply eating according to your own body’s needs and also with the seasons. It takes a lot of listening and patience to cultivate an idea of how your body operates, but it’s worth it in the end. I loved the emphasis on eating with the seasons, as that’s one essence of Clover I’ve come to appreciate and love. They don’t advertise this philosophy but the idea of eating with the seasons is integrated into its structure.

Ayr gave me this example. During a real estate meeting we ate at a bakery that served a plethora of dishes and beverages, including blueberry cake and pear juice. Ayr told me the business structure that the bakery had (sugar + butter) was foolproof. Everyone loves both. The only issues that come with it is that a lot of the stuff is out of season (blueberries and pear) and in order to cover up the lack of flavor, more sugar needs to be added. In contrast, Clover picks fruit that is in season (i.e. strawberries) and in their drinks such as agua fresca (soda water + dash of lemon juice + strained strawberry puree + sugar), about 1/6 of the sugar is used, since the strawberries are naturally ripe and sweet.

This principal of eating with the seasons is seen throughout many traditions, from Far Eastern traditional herbal medicine to Ayurvedic medicine. I won’t go into the details as it’s pretty logical (eat more raw foods and fruits during the summer that are cooling, avoid heating foods such as vinegar, tomatoes, alcohol, cooked foods).

In addition, eating locally and seasonally not only helps you avoid the nasty amounts of sugar/chemical preservatives/weird genetic modifications used with plants (and can disrupt your body balance), but also helps the food retain their nutrients. The marketing director of Harvest Coop did her masters thesis on the loss of vitamin C from shipping. For many produce, there was a 2 ½ weeks gap between picking and purchase. Kale showed a 65% loss in its dense nutrients although it appeared fresh.

Check out this website for great info on local, seasonal foods. For places near MA in early July:

BeetsBlueberriesCabbageCarrotsCauliflowerCucumbersKaleLettuceOnionsOysters, EasternPeasPotatoes,RadishesSnap PeasSpinachSquashStrawberries

So, back to the dinner. I wanted to share a one of my favorite things from the night…

Raw Cacao Cashew Berry Pie

Ingredients: 

Crust = 1 cup raw almonds (no shells), 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs, dash salt, 1/3 cup raw coconut shreds, 1/4 cup soaked cashews, 2 tbsp raw agave syrup

Filling = 2 cups soaked cashews, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup raw agave syrup, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil (mleted), 1/2 cup raw cacao powder, dash cinnamon (throw in more or experiment with nutmeg, Mexican chili, lavender, etc. as well)

1. Pulse all crust ingredients together in a high speed blender (dry first then add the soaked cashews and agave)

2. Spoon the mixture into a pie dish and spread evenly, but don’t worry it about it being perfect! It can be a bit wonky to look artisanal (oh my goodness, I said the A-word). Place into a fridge.

3. Blend the pie filling mixture and then pour on top of the crust and smooth out.

4. Slice up your berries and decorate the top! (feel free to use any other seasonal fruit) Drizzle with any spices or a bit of agave syrup.

5. Place in fridge for 2 hours, or you can quickly freeze by placing in freezer for 20-30 minutes.

Brilliance. Berry brilliant (oh ho ho ho)

Daily Nutrition Facts

Had Clover’s delicious, delicate whoopie pie which was made with fresh strawberries. I’m not a big fan of whoopie pies (only served on Friday), but this one was so fluffy and so light. I hate super-sugary things but the quality of the chocolate and strawberries and cream served their purposes well.

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