Progesterone

A couple of weeks ago, a reader asked if I knew of any natural ways to raise progesterone levels in women. The reader had a baby about a year ago and thought her progesterone levels should have been higher by now, but she’s had a history of low levels in the past, which has caused a host of problems.

I did know a little about progesterone, but, oddly enough, because mine tends to run high and aggravates my heart arrhythmia. But, most of my knowledge was centered on the balance of progesterone and estrogen: when one goes up, the other goes down. So, I did a little research, and this is what I found.

As mentioned, estrogen and progesterone run opposite each other, so avoiding foods that increase estrogen will help keep your progesterone stable, or, theoretically, raise it if your estrogen is low enough. Don’t automatically think SOY, however. (Oh, poor soy!) There are a lot of foods with much higher levels of phytoestrogens – like flax! (Think of phytoestrogens as faux estrogen.) Flax is crazy high in phytoestrogens. Sesame is also pretty high in phytoestrogens, as are many other foods. If you have a family history of breast cancer, I definitely wouldn’t give up whole soy; I’d actually start start adding it to your diet if you haven’t  already. Regardless, I’d be cautious of added soy, which is essentially in all processed foods. Whole soy is a completely different ballgame. But, I’d strongly reconsider using flax, and I’d limit intake of sesame (hummus, multigrain breads, etc.) Chia and hemp are great for Omega 3′s and 9′s, if you’re worried about being deficient. (Keep in mind, however, supplementation of EFA’s is not necessary on a whole-foods, plant-based diet.)

Keeping cortisol low will also help keep progesterone balanced. Reducing cortisol levels can be achieved by reducing/eliminating stress (ha ha) and being cautious of super high intensity workouts for extended periods of time (over 45 minutes seems to be the prevailing opinion). Short spurts of intense exercise like those in HIIT workouts are good for cardio. Yoga is great for reducing stress and doesn’t tend to increase cortisol levels. Over time, your supposedly body gets used to the intensity of your workouts, and you can increase their duration.

Since progesterone and cortisol go hand in hand, having higher levels of cortisol is often an indicator of inflammation in the body. Fruits and vegetables, in general, are anti-inflammatory, so eat up! Blood sugars could also be running high with increased cortisol; allergies can flair up, and the list goes on. Balancing progesterone can help regulate blood pressure, too. (If you have trouble with PCOS and/or adrenal fatigue, your progesterone/cortisol/estrogen balances are likely out of sync.)

Luckily, there are foods and other natural ways of naturally increase progesterone/working on that progesterone/estrogen balance (and ultimately decreasing cortisol levels).

Vitamins: B6, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium can all contribute to increasing progesterone. While I don’t normally suggest supplements for any reason other than B12 for those on a completely plant-based diet, in this case, I suggest a B Complex vitamin supplement might be a decent idea. In general, I think supplements are a waste of money and can be dangerous. However, since all B vitamins are water soluble, you’ll pee off the excess. I would definitely go for the best brand of supplement you can afford. Money equals quality when it comes to supplements, unfortunately. Try to find a supplement that has Folate instead of Folic Acid. Folate is natural; folic acid is artificial and has been linked to a host of issues. There are natural, non-food ways to increase magnesium, too. Soaking in Epson salts can produce a slight increase. (Bonus: it’s great for sore muscles!) Magnesium oil can also give your levels a little boost, and it, too, is great for sore muscles.

Foods: Foods that increase B6, Vitamin C, zinc and magnesium include: whole grains, walnuts, beans, bananas, spinach, citrus fruits, watermelon, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, okra, raw nuts (almonds get a gold star) and cacao. (Woohoo for the chocolate!) There are some animals products that may also increase B6, zinc and magnesium, but they all come with hormones (artificial and naturally occurring) – and animal cruelty, which is not supported here. Eat those plants!

Things to avoid/do more: Try to avoid STRESS as much as possible. Sleep more. Move your body gently every day. Be social. Do things you enjoy. Drink more water. Drink more fresh juices and smoothies. Avoid dairy and other hormone laden items. Stay away from lavender and tea tree oil. I know I use of these oils often, but that’s not a great idea for those with low progesterone levels. Check lotions and other health and beauty products for lavender and tea tree oil; they’re seemingly everywhere!

As a side note, I would be leery of progesterone creams. For the most part, they’re bad news – even the “natural” ones. One of the biggest side effects of those creams is increased blood pressure, which can already be high from the progesterone/estrogen/cortisol imbalance.

Finally, remember it can take a long, long time for hormone levels to go back to “normal” after being pregnant and/or giving birth. Supposedly, natural births helps that process along quicker, as does breast feeding, but each body is different, and it make take more time for some than others. And, as a bright note on the horizon, estrogen levels naturally decrease with age, so progesterone has a tendency to naturally increase – especially around the onset of menopause. Personally, I’m seeing this shift (at nearly 40), and it’s not exactly a pleasant experience so far. However, for those with naturally low progesterone, this time of life may be a blessing. Something to look forward to!

Of course, as with any medical concern, please consult a medical practitioner. If you’re not happy with the results you’re receiving from allopathic medicine, consider a naturopathic physician and/or chiropractor who specializes in natural healing. Acupuncture, massage and aroma therapy, herbs and essentials oils are great supplements to professional medical treatments.

 

Collagen

A few days ago, someone from a local Facebook group I belong to asked if I had any information on collagen and collagen formation in the body. Oddly enough, I’d just watched a new story on the subject, so my interest was already peaked. I did a little research, and this is what I found.

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Collagen Type I is found primarily in skin. Collagen Type II is found in joint cartilage.

  • Collagen works with keratin to provide skin with strength, smoothness, elasticity and resilience. As we age, our bodies stop producing as much collagen.
  • Skin is made of three layers: epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. Collagen is produced in the middle layer, the dermis. Topical attempts to increase collagen must get through the epidermis to the dermis to be effective. The epidermis is porous, so this is not unheard of. However, some topical treatments can actually harm the skin and make it appear older. It’s even harder to increase collagen production in hair and nails through topical applications. That’s why internal attempts to increase collagen production are preferred.

There are many plant foods that can increase collagen production in the body.

Soy – contains genistein that not only helps increase production of collagen but also helps block enzymes that break down and age skin.

Dark Green Vegetables – contain lutein, an antioxidant that helps increase natural collagen production, and Vitamin C. You need about 10 mg daily of lutein to help increase collagen production (4oz spinach/2oz kale).

Beans – contain hyaluronic acid, a powerful anti-aging enzyme. Just two tablespoons of beans a day can provide the hyaluronic acid you need to reap its benefits.

Red Fruits & Veggies – contain lycopenes, which are powerful antioxidents that can increase collagen production. Cooking helps concentrate the lycopenes in these foods. As a side benefit, these same antioxidents help prevent sun damage, but you need about 6 servings (1c raw/.5 c cooked) daily to see a true sunscreen benefit.

Fruits & Vegetables High in Vitamin C – are natural sources of college production.

Prunes – contain antioxidents that prevent free radicals from breaking down and aging skin. Blueberries contain similar anti-aging antioxidents. You’ll need to consume 5-6 prunes or about ½ pint of blueberries to see maximum benefits. Side benefit – prunes are great for your bones! They help your body’s uptake of calcium, and the extra calories from adding prunes to the diet seem to be negligible – probably from their high fiber content.

Omega 3 and 9 Fatty Acids – help create an ideal environment for collagen production. Skin cells are surrounded by a fatty layer made from fatty acids and other fats. Theoretically, the higher your Omega 3 and 9 fatty acid intake, the stronger that fatty layer will be, which will plump your skin and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. (Hydration creates a similar affect, so drink your water!)

Fruits & Vegetables High in Vitamin A – also naturally help keep collagen levels high.

Cacao – can increase blood flow to the skin, which helps nutrients get where they need to go.

Avocado & Avocado Oil – is packed with plant sterols that can help reduce the appearance of age spots and blemishes when applied topically. It has also been shown to stimulate collagen production when applied topically.

Lysine, Manganese, and Copper - can help increase collagen and elastin production. However, lysine is found predominantly in animal products (red meats and cheeses), and excess copper can collect in brain tissue, which can ultimately lead to dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. (See Dr. Barnard for more information on heavy metal buildup and memory issues.)

Collagen creams are seemingly not very effective. Collagen supplements can be. But…even though a collagen supplement says it’s vegetarian or vegan, you really have to look at the ingredients. If it says “marine sources,” it might include plankton and/or shellfish shells. Otherwise, vegan/vegetarian sources should be made of seaweed or a mix of vitamins. (Be careful of large amounts of fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A. Diets already heavy in fresh fruits and vegetables are also full of natural sources of Vitamin A.)

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

♥HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!♥

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I hope your day was filled with love from all of your babies –

furry or otherwise ♥

And the winner is…

The winner of the Veggie V’s Eats & Treats eBook is…Candy Hoffman. Congratulations, Candy!

I’ll be back later in the week with a yummy, new recipe!

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Welcome Back Gift…For You!

Two posts in one week. I’m back, baby!

And to celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of my newly updated ebook, Veggie V’s Eats & Treats Volume I!

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To enter…

Leave a comment below sharing your favorite spring time activity.

Sign up to receive Veggie V blog posts in your inbox (or follow on WordPress), and let me know you did (or do!).

Like Veggie V on Facebook, and leave a comment telling me you did (or do!).

Follow Veggie V on Twitter, and leave a comment telling me you did (or do!).

Follow Veggie V on Instagram, and leave a comment telling me you did (or do!).

Follow Veggie V on Pinterest, and leave a comment telling me you did (or do!).

Contest open through Saturday, May 10. Winner announced on Sunday, May 11.

Please make sure your email address is available (don’t post anonymously), so I can email your prize.

Thanks for your support, and GOOD LUCK!

 

Hello Again!

Hello again!

Sorry for the disappearing act!  I didn’t plan to take a 3 month hiatus. Sometimes life gets in the way *sigh* I have been continuously sharing my vegan adventures on Facebook and Instagram, though, so follow me on either/both to get your daily Veggie V fix! (Most of what I share on Instagram also gets shared on Twitter, if that’s more yo thang.)

But, I have some exciting things to share with you! I have recipes, blood test results (eating plant-based does a  body good!), an update on the current state of my diet and exercise routine, certificates I’m currently working towards – and all kinds of other awesome stuff! Let’s start with the certificates :)

A couple of months ago I went ahead and signed up for the Holistic Nutrition Consultant Certification offered through the American Fitness Professional and Associates! Yea! I’m working my way through the material, and I’m loving every minute of it! I’ve already learned some interesting information that I want to follow up on before I share. I love learning new things!

The cost of the certification is reasonable (especially compared to comparable certifications that take much, much longer to complete and cost nearly 10 times more) , and the timeline is pretty good. AFPA gives you up to six months to complete the work and take your final exam, but you can work through material much quicker. One of the books used in the program is Whole by T Collin Campbell, which I (and a lot of other people) had already read, so that part of the first assignment went quickly. There are a copious amount of videos to watch from Dr. Greger, but, again, I’d already watched quite a few of them on YouTube, so I was that much ahead there too. I’m currently working on finishing up the first assignment, or the learning phase, before moving onto the actual coaching part of the certification.  But the excitement doesn’t stop there!

I took on my first mentoring client last month. Woohoo!! I didn’t ask if I could share their name, so for now, we’ll just call them Client #1 ;-) Client #1 is newly plant-based and is looking for guidance through the sea of information out there about eating healthy plant foods and hopefully losing some weight in the process. I’m excited to share my experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained on my own and through my formal training. (Remember the Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition I completed last summer? No? That’s probably because I never got around to reviewing it. Ha! That’s coming in a future post!) This week, Client #1 is coming over for a cooking lesson. What’s the on menu? Nori rolls! I’ve gotten pretty good at making avocado and other veggie rolls, and now I get to share :) Win win!

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Speaking of nori rolls, I’ve got a new, favorite kitchen gadget…a rice cooker! I bought the Armoa Digital Rice Cooker and Food Steamer (8 cup) from Amazon for about $30, and it works great! I was a skeptic, but it cooks the rice perfectly every. single. time. Amazing. If you’re considering a rice cooker, I highly recommend it. I’ve always had trouble with the rice sticking to the pan or being undercooked, but no more!

Thanks for waiting for me to return to blogging! I really appreciate all of your support! And to show it, I have a little give-a-way to do this week. Stay tuned!

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Recipe Review: Cauli-power Fettuccine “Alfredo”

As I breifly mentioned in my last post, I’ve made some changes to my diet, which include lowering my daily fat intake. So, when I saw Angela’s recipe for alfredo sauce made with cauliflower come through my in-box, I was all about it!

As luck would have it, Whole Foods had organic cauliflower on sale, so I picked up a couple of heads and Cauli-power Fettuccine Alfredo was moved to the top of the dinner menu.

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I’ve been using corn pasta, or a combo of corn and some other gluten-free grains, and I’ve been pretty happy with the outcome. The taste is good; the texture is good, and I don’t feel all vibratey after eating a big ol’ bowl of pasta like I do when I eat regular semolina pasta. So, for this recipe, I used the pasta I had in the pantry, which was a bag of rigatoncini. I figured that shape and style would work fine with this sauce because of the lines – and I was right. Woot!

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I was a little worried the sauce would come out watery because of my previous attempts at using cauliflower in sauces and soups. (Hello. How do people think mashed cauliflower tastes anything like my beloved mashed potatoes?!) But, surprise surprise, the sauce was super thick and creamy and delicious!

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I ended up adding a little extra nutritional yeast (because I always do), and I waited to add any salt until the individual servings. (I’m making a conscious effort to reduce my sodium intake.) I also skipped the sauteed onions (If you keep them in, please try sauteing them with water, not oil.) and just added granulated garlic and onion powder to the mix. And, I had plain soy milk open already, so I used that for the non-dairy milk. I think using a thicker non-dairy milk like soy or hemp is probably a good idea, although Angela used almond milk.

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I also added some broccoli to my dish. I just tossed in w/ the pasta as it cooked, and eight minutes later, they were both done. Yummy add for no extra work! (Well, except for the little bit of chopping required to get the broccoli florettes off their stems.)

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Other than those few tweaks, I followed the recipe exactly. I even  followed the suggested order of boiling the cauliflower first then making the sauce and letting it sit while I boiled the pasta and broccoli. After I drained the pasta/broccoli mix, I added it back to the hot pan on the still warm burner and poured in the sauce, stirred, and ate!

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I will definitely make this recipe again! One thing I will keep in mind, though, is the sauce really soaks into the pasta as it sits, so the next day, the pasta is a bit mushy, and the sauce is even more bland. I ground on a bit more salt and plowed through my next-day plate, but I kept wishing I’d added some fresh tomatoes or onions or something to brighten it up. (My husband thought adding a little bit of non-dairy milk might help revive things a bit, but I’d already eaten all of the left-overs before he suggested it. Ha!)

 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – Overt Fat Free

I need to write a post about the current state of my diet, but long story short, I’ve gotten a handle on my moving + holiday eating frenzy and feel like I’m in a good place right now. Basically, I’m eating within a ration of 80% carbohydrates and 10% each fat and protein. And while my diet is high raw, it is not all raw, so it’s not the 80-10-10 of The 80-10-10 Diet – just the ratio.

Back to why we’re here today…I made cookies!

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Yup. Delicious, nutritious, overt-fat-free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies made with only four ingredients (five if you count the optional cinnamon) and sweetened only with fruit. 80-10-10 for the win!

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Overt Fat Free)

2 c old fashioned oats

1/2 c super thick date paste

1 medium banana, mashed (about 1/4 c)

1/4-1/2 c raisins (soaked if dry)

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

First, make date paste by blending soaked dates. Try not to use any of the date soaking water, so the paste is extra thick and sticky. Then, mash the banana using a fork (or pulse it in a mini-chopper). Don’t blend it because the liquid banana will add liquid to the dough.

Add oats and cinnamon to a bowl. Stir to combine. (Optional: Add a dash of salt.) Add mashed banana and date paste. Stir to combine. Add raisins. Stir to incorporate. [If  dough is too dry, add more date paste.]

Scoop dough onto a parchment or Paraflexx lined dehydrator tray. [I used an ice cream scooper.] Use the back of a spoon to flatter the cookies into desired thickness. Shape edges for prettier cookies (and so no little bits dry and fall off).

Dehydrate at 145F for about 30 minutes to quick set the cookies. Reduce heat and continue to dry at 110F for about 60 minutes. Flip cookies and continue to dry for 60-90 more minutes.

Makes 10 cookies at about 160 calories and 1.5 grams of fat each.

NOTES:

EFA’s: If your diet is a little low on EFA’s (essential fatty acids 3-6-9), try adding a flax “egg” (1 TBSP flax meal + 1-2 TBSP water). You might need to cut back on the date paste if you.

Baking: If you don’t have a dehydrator or don’t feel like using one, you can try baking the cookies. Try a low oven of around 200F and check on the cookies every 5 minutes. I’m guessing it will take somewhere between 5-10 minutes to dry out the cookies. (Be careful; without fat, these cookies will go from not-quite-done to burnt in the blink of an eye.)

Storage: Completely cool the cookies and store in an air tight container. You can probably store these outside of the frig, but I like to keep all of my goodies in the frig. [Remember, glass will help keep baked goods crispy, and plastic will help keep them soft. So, store according to texture preference.]

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And the Winner is…

And the winner of the Happy Herbivore Light & Lean give-a-way is…Nancy!

Congratulations, Nancy!

And a big ol’ thank you to everyone who entered the give-a-way! I hope to share many more with your in the coming months.

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End of Year Review + Happy Herbivore Light & Lean Give-a-Way!!

Well, here we are; there are only 5 days left in 2013. I can’t believe another year has flow on by!

For me, 2013 marked the third anniversary of my vegan adventure (and my third wedding wedding anniversary). It also brought this little guy into our lives.

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I can barely remember what life was like without my fur-baby. He sure made moving to another state in the late fall a lot better! (Going back to work after being home with him for 5 months was heartbreaking. I don’t know how people leave their human babies; the sad look in those eyes. Oy!)

2013 was a bit of light blogging year for me, mostly due to lack of content. My diet has a changed a bit – gotten a bit simpler – which has meant less recipe creations to share with you. I have some ideas on ways to continue to share food adventures with you, though, so that, along with a new blog (so excited!!) should make for some interesting blog posts in the coming months :)

To bring this year to a fitting close, I’m sharing a give-a-way with you. Woohoo!!

A few weeks ago, I shared a review of Happy Herbivore’s newest cookbookHappy Herbivore Light & Lean. Since then, I’ve had a chance to review the entire book – and you’re in for quite a treat!

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The publishers of HHLL have graciously offered to send one lucky Veggie V reader (in the US or Canada) a copy of HHLL.

What better way to send out the year than support for your vegan adventure??

To enter the contest, simply leave a comment below sharing the highlight of your vegan  year.

For an extra entry, sign up to receive my blog posts in your inbox (either directly or through a feed service) – and let me know you did (or do!).

Good luck!!

Winner will be chosen at random. Contest open through January 1, 2014. Winner announced on January 2, 2013.

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Merry Christmas + Happy New Year!

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I hope you’re having a very merry time with friends and family and are taking advantage of some much needed downtime.

I’ve got some exciting things in the works for Veggie V for 2014, including a brand new website!

Until then, I’ve got some recipes to share with your in the coming weeks – and a few product and book reviews, too!

But first, I’ve got an exciting give-a-way coming your way in just a few days!! Consider it a late Christmas gift from me to you :-D Details available on Friday.

While you’re waiting, check out my Veggie V Christmas dinner…

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Mashed potatoes (boiled golden potatoes whipped with veggie broth), mushroom gravy, stuffing (commercial brand), sauteed greens (kale and spinach sauteed with onion), and pressed, extra firm, sprouted tofu marinated in low-sodium tamari. Sooooo goooood!

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Dessert was my favorite kombucha – GT’s Multigreen! Yum! (I made cinnamon apple pear sauce in the Vitamix that was going to sprinkle with goji berries and shredded coconut for dessert, but I think it’s not going to get eaten until breakfast *wink*)

And, there was only one casualty!

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I’m always afraid I’m going to peel my fingers when I’m peeling potatoes or carrots – and it finally happened! No worries, though. I was able to get the bandage on by myself and continue with my dinner makin’.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!