Aside from being absolutely delicious, vanilla contains chemical compounds called vanilloids that help reduce inflammation in our bodies. Eating foods like vanilla can help remedy the damage of inflammation spawned by heavy training.

The basics:

10 minutes
Multiple servings
Vegan, gluten-free

The ingredients:

3.5 cups water

1 cup almonds (soaked for 8 hours)

3 dates, pitted

1.5 TSP pure vanilla extract

pinch of salt

Directions:

Place almonds in bowl and fill with enough water to cover, soaking for 8 hours, or overnight.

Discard the soak water from almonds and pour almonds into blender.

Soak pitted dates for 5 minutes in warm water to soften for blending.

Discard the soak water from dates and place dates in blender with almonds.

Add water, vanilla extract, and salt into blender and blend on high for 1 minute.

Pour blended contents through fine sieve or cheesecloth to remove pulp.

Pour yourself a delicious glass of homemade vanilla almond milk!


*Vanilla Almond Milk will keep for about a week if sealed and refrigerated.

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Sweet potatoes are not potatoes. And they aren’t yams either. The whole matter involves a series of bad translations starting back with Columbus’ expedition in 1492. But they sure are sweet! They’re always a savory and creamy carbohydrate to incorporate into your diet. In parts of the world the sweet potato is a staple food – and rightfully so, as they are a nutritionally dense vegetable.

Sweet potatoes are the tuberous roots of a plant called Ipomoea batatas. You can eat the leaves of the plant but they are nutritionally negligible compared to the roots. The sweet potato is only distantly related to potatoes. Potatoes are a nightshade and sweet potatoes aren’t. The sweet potato is actually more closely related to a morning glory.

The sweet potato originated in South America. Peruvian sweet potato remnants dating back to 8000 BC have been found. Around 700 AD the sweet potato made its way to Polynesia. These days, most sweet potatoes come from China. In the United States, North Carolina leads in sweet potato production and is the state vegetable. Of all the 1,000’s of species of sweet potatoes, only a few are grown in agriculture. Many kinds of sweet potatoes are actually poisonous.

So, is a sweet potato a yam?

Yes and no. Yes, if you are in North America and you want to get a sweet potato. No, if you are anywhere else in the world. Then a yam refers to Dioscorea, an African and Asian plant that has a root called a yam, which is completely different than a sweet potato.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other staple foods. Considering fiber content, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamin A and potassium, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value.

Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C. While most people know that vitamin C is important to help ward off cold and flu viruses, few people are aware that vitamin C plays an important role in bone and tooth formation, digestion, and blood cell formation.

Bake them!

When you bake sweet potatoes something happens on the micronutrient level that produces more vitamin C… 24% more in fact! Sweet potatoes have a boat load of vitamin C anyway, but why not get more?

Recipes!

 Baked Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato chips

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Always have lemons on hand. Lemon can be used in almost any kind of cooking – they are like ready-made vitamin C supplement that you can squeeze on or into most foods. Having a lemon water first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day.

Lemons are the fruit of an Asian evergreen tree that is thought to have originated in the Himalayan foothills of North-East India. You can make a bonsai lemon tree.

These trees are now abundant throughout the entire world. They were brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus. Spanish conquest spread them throughout the continents. Today, the main producers of lemons are India, China, and Mexico.

The lemon tree produces fruit and a flower. Lemon is a fragrant an distinct smell, often used in aromatherapy. A study by The Ohio State University found that lemon oil aroma does not influence the human immune system, but may enhance mood. 

Also, in a jam, lemon makes a great cleaning agent. It can be used as a wood cleaner and polish, where its solvent property is employed to dissolve old wax, fingerprints, and grime.

Lemon rinds can be very high in pesticides, so always try to buy organic. Plus, you don’t know where your lemons have been as they’ve made their way to your kitchen. Give them a good wash before you roll them around your cutting board, or throw into your fresh filtered ice water. Also, lemons left unrefrigerated for long periods of time are susceptible to mold. And before you throw away that lemon peel, read this.

Nutritional data

The average lemon contains approximately 3-4 tablespoons (50 mL) of juice. Citric acid constitutes up to 8% of this juice. Citric acid is a natural preservative, aids digestion, and helps dissolve kidney stones.

Lemons, believe it or not, are an alkiline food. Yes, they are tremendously acid outside of your body (full of citric acid – to be precise), but once ingested your body converts it into a base that will help your regulate your PH levels.

Recipes

Spartan Lemonade

Lemon Apple pasta salad

Lemon glazed donuts

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Almonds 101

OK, time to have your mind blown…

An almond is not a nut. It’s a drupe – like a coconut. A drupe is a fruit that has an outer fleshy part that surrounds a pit (or stone), with a seed inside this pit. Typical drupes (also known as stone fruits) include olives, peaches, plums, cherries pistachios, coffee, and dates. True nuts are hard-shelled pods that have a plant’s seed and fruit within a single hard casing. Examples of nuts are chestnuts, hazelnuts, and acorns.

However, these distinctions are botanical, not culinary. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, we’ll refer to almonds as ‘nuts’ , as this is the typical custom in English. (The word ‘nut’ is tricky to translate into other languages for this reason).

Regardless of botanical distinctions, almonds are nutritiously awesome.

Nutritional Data

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Almonds are loaded with monounsaturated fats, the healthy fats found in olive oil and avocados. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders suggested that an almond-enriched low calorie diet can help overweight individuals shed pounds more effectively than a low calorie diet high in complex carbohydrates.

Here are three more reasons to eat almonds:

Be more alkaline - Almonds are the only nut and one of the few proteins that are alkaline forming when you digest them. Many studies have shown the benefits of diets focused on alkaline forming foods.

Boost your brain - Almonds contain riboflavin and L-carnitine. These are nutrients that aid you in your brain activity.

Stabalize your blood sugar - Almonds lower the rise in blood sugar and insulin after meals.

 

How to Toast Almonds

 

Preheat oven to 350F.

Spread almonds in shallow pan.

Place pan in oven for 20-30 minutes

 

Make Your Own Almond Milk

Ingredients

1.5 cups almonds

4 cups water

Maple syrup (optional)

Honey (optional)

Vanilla (optional)

 

Gear

Blender

Cheese cloth

Big mason jar

Wood spoon

Strainer

 

Directions

Soak almonds for 4 hours. Overnight is best for them to blend easiest.

Blend with 1.5 cups water. Start with slow speed and work your way up. Stir occassionally with wood spoon. Go for 1-2 minutes.

Add any honey, maple syrup, or vanilla, if you are feeling like sweets. Add rest of water. Blend again.

Pour through the strainer.

Hold cheese cloth over top of big mason jar. Pour through cheese cloth.

Chill.

Enjoy.

 

Make Your Own Almond Butter

This is an endurance workout. You’ll deserve every dense calorie of goodness. Patience is rewarded.

Ingredients

3 cups almonds

Directions

Soak almonds for 4 hours. Overnight is best for them to blend easiest.

Put in food processor or blender.

Process for 20 minutes, using wooden spoon to stir often.

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picture credit: secretly healthy

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by Carrie Adams

We’re back with another installment of some of our biggest stories of 2012!  Not surprisingly, many of our top 10 blog posts dealt with, what else, training and nutrition!  Spartans commit to a healthy way of living and it was clear that our community was paying attention and getting it done.

Some of our biggest blog posts of the year were centered around how to get fit and how to eat right.  In addition to providing resources on our blog, at Spartan HQ, we are trying to make it even easier to get these tips delivered to you, so if you want our daily WOD delivered directly to your inbox for FREE, click HERE.

Here are our three biggest training posts of 2012!

Breaking down the Warm-Up: As our own Spartan Coach manager Jeff Godin, Ph.D. CSCS always says, “Always start your workout with a warm-up.” Although flexibility and unrestricted movement may be important for long term injury prevention, static stretching and flexibility exercises are not an important part of a warm-up. Stretching moves a joint through its full range of motion, however it does this passively and does very little to increase the temperature of muscle. The warm-up should be active and move the joints through their full range of motion. The warm-up progresses from low intensity towards high intensity. For some, the warm-up may actually have them gassed by the end. The benefits of a warm-up include; increased tissue temperature, tissue compliance, energy metabolism, movement efficiency and reduced tissue stiffness. The warm-up can also be used to reinforce fundamental movement mechanics related to speed and agility. The warm-up should emphasize proper foot placement to promote acceleration and prevent deceleration.  Read the rest of the post by clicking HERE.

Spartan Ab 300:  In this post, Dr. Jeff gives a great ab workout for the ages!  300 reps never felt so good!  Click HERE for the full workout and breakdown.

Buck Furpee Day:  The burpee is quintessentially Spartan in that there is nothing wasted in the activity.   It carries with it efficiency,  and, therefore, concentrated effectiveness.  When you train, focus on training – don’t over-complicate things.  When in doubt, do burpees.  How did Buck Furpee Day go down?  Click HERE and find out.

Spartan Race Nutrition:

It should come as no surprise that training, while a critical piece of the Spartan equation, it isn’t everything.  You need the right fuel to get that Spartan body and keep moving!   Whether your goals are to lose weight, get lean, or perform better, nutrition has to be a part of your plan.  And if you’re not sure where to start and you want some help from the Spartan team, we have good news!  Just like our daily WOD’s we offer FREE daily Food tips and recipes as well.  Simply click HERE to get signed up for yours!

Eat to Live: Spartan Performance Nutrition: Not sure what to eat the night before a race?  This popular blog post solves that problem with ease!  Our own Spartan Champion and Chick Rose-Marie Jarry provides her favorite recipe for a pre-race trio.

Click HERE for the full recipe.

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