Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Time Is It? NUUN!

File this little gem under "things that make me a better athlete".

My amazing Ironman girlfriend Angie introduced me to NUUN back in December and I am nothing short of hooked. Like, heroin hooked. So hooked that I found myself counting out my remaining NUUN this morning before work... "Do I have enough to get me to Portland on the 15th?" 37 NUUN was the final tally X 15 days until Portland = Whew! I WILL make it!

My personal NUUN wasteland...

(Side Bar: Let's ask Angie - Does it annoy you when "Ironman" is included within 2 words of your name when I write about you? Because I think your accomplishments are stellar and due the respect of the Ironman reference. Please advise)

Back to NUUN.

The topic of hydration and endurance running has become a bottomless well of reading for me. We all know that we need to drink water - simple, right? I don't drink sodas (unless mixed with fine Bajan rum on the weekends) and I am careful to match my coffees with equal amounts of water to make up for the caffeine dehydration. I thought I had it all under control. Then I learned about Hyponatremia or "water intoxication". This is something for endurance athletes to actually worry about. When you drink only water and lots of it, it flushes the electrolytes (sodium, potassium, etc.) from your system and you can, for all intents, drown yourself on a cellular level. Even if it doesn't get to the level of Hyponatremia, flushing your electrolytes during a long run can really effect your performance. Bonkity Bonk Bonk!

NUUN tablets come in great flavors and the list is growing by the month (Tangerine Ginger and Tri-Berry are my favs). Just drop them into any ol' water. They contain only 8 calories per tablet and are only slightly sweet - more tart. Brendan Brazier of Thrive infamy contends that conventional sports drinks are absolutely ridiculous for many reasons but the one that hooked me was that when you are exercising, your pallet changes and sweet becomes even sweeter and does not refresh on any level. I found this to be true during my half marathons that were sponsored by Powerade and the like... it tastes absolutely horrible. The body really responds to something a bit bitter or tart - hello NUUN!

When I began to run longer distances I was so eager to "get it over with" that I couldn't be bothered to drop water along the route, carry water with me OR do the dreaded leave water in the car and run loops. I know me. When I see my car during a run I am most definitely getting in it and driving home to a green shake, a cool shower and a nap with my mutt. Since NUUN entered my water - and my life - I take the time to place water on the route in strategic locations (read: when I am most likely dying) and I can actually feel myself revitalize with the water. Sounds crazy and I'm not even a NUUN spokesperson.. yet!

For the full scoop, check out NUUN at It's a fun company and growing FAST. There is a market out here for people who are sometimes bored with water alone, don't have a desire for 12 tablespoons of sugar, aspartame or splenda in their electrolyte replacement drink, and those of us who just enjoy the yummy bubbles!

Eat Kind, Lauren

Recipe - Cumin & Spinach Rice

Here's a quick recipe that has earned a coveted spot on my side of the refrigerator -

Cumin & Spinach Rice
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
1 small diced onion
1/2 package of frozen spinach (I would use real but our spinach is often bitter)
1 cup of vegetable stock
1 cup of water
1 cup of basmati rice

Let me start by saying that coconut oil is the bomb. It's the best oil for higher heat cooking with virtually none of the fat going "trans" on you. (Note: Olive Oil should not be used for high heat cooking - toxic city - listen up Rachel Ray!). Coconut oil turns solid at temps below 75 degrees but don't let that weird you out! Just scoop it out and fire it up! While coconut oil smells very coconutty, it produces little to no flavor in your food. If you don't have access to coconut oil, my vote is for Canola. Yes, Monsanto is involved but sometimes I have to choose between my heart health and evil genetically modifying corporations. Like I said, Canola is a second choice. I always wondered what the heck a "Canola" was... it turns out that Canola oil is produced by pressing rapeseed. Rapeseed is a member of the turnip, brussel sprout, cabbage family and the "invention" of this oil is credited to our neighbors up North - O'Canada! The name "Canola" is derived from "Canadian Oil - Low Acid". Something new everyday, eh?

Heat the coconut oil on medium heat in your rice pan and add the cumin seeds and stir around the pan until they pop and become fragrant. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent. (Note: If you'd like to add soaked or well-rinsed black beans or 75% cooked lentils at this juncture - go for it!)

Next, add the vegetable stock, basmati rice, spinach and water. Cover with a tight lid and move to low heat. I always turn off the heat when the rice is just a bit watery and let it finish quietly on stove. In my crazy brain, this somehow makes my rice more peaceful.

Did you know that spinach is made up of 45% protein? Crazy. Spinach also contains calcium but in a less bio-available form than it's cousin Kale. Still, every little bit helps! So simple, so tasty. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Home on the Free Range - Eggs

I published the post below back in March of 2011 and I felt inspired to add the latest and greatest news on eggs.  The science, public opinion and policy are ever-changing so I hope you enjoy this new and improved look at eggs!

Free Range, Organic, Grass-Fed, Cage-Free - the backlash against factory farming has produced all sorts of terms and variations on feeding, raising and slaughtering 10 billion animals annually for consumption in the United States. 10 billion animals = BIG business.

Before I went veg, I chose these alternatives whenever possible with the hopes that my fryer somehow lead a brief but happy life or that the hen that laid my eggs got out of the cage each day and hung out with her girlfriends and pecked around the yard. I know...wishful.

After listening to a great podcast from Food For Thought (highly recommend!) entitled The Language of Meat, I thought I'd get out and research these terms for myself. To keep this information in bite-sized pieces (pun intended), today I'm turning the focus toward Organic Egg production. I no longer eat eggs but many people I love do! I found something wonderful that I'd like to share. Read on...

First - it's important to know that the USDA guidelines for the term "Free-Range" only applies to chickens raised for meat production. I will cover the guidelines (or lack thereof) on "Free-Range" fryers in a future post. Warning - it will make you mad. With regard to egg laying hens, cows, pigs, sheep, goats and rabbits, the USDA "relies upon the testimony of the farmers" who label their eggs or other animal products as Free-Range. The term is hot right now so keep your eyes peeled - if you see it on eggs or any other meat besides chicken, it means absolutely nothing.

However, Organic Eggs are another thing all together. I stumbled upon an amazing organization called The Cornucopia Institute that did a two-year study on Organic Egg production. They produced a short video (below) that I encourage you to watch. It is not harsh, there are no bad pictures - this is not the stuff of nightmares - I promise! Just a great video packed with information to make you a more conscientious consumer. The end result of their work is a downloadable "scorecard" that will help you make humane and healthy choices when buying eggs in the supermarket. I think the whole website is fantastic!

The U.S. could definitely take a few pointers from the UK and European Union on egg labeling. In the EU, all "free range" egg-laying hens are guaranteed continuous access to the outside with adequate shelter, water and vegetation on the ground. All eggshells across the EU are stamped with a number to alert the consumer to how the egg was produced (genius!) Organic = 0, Free Range = 1, Barn =2 and Cage = 3. Is that so hard? A large number of farmers in the UK are revolutionizing Free-Range by allowing chickens to be outside continuously from just four weeks of age in plenty of space. Sixteen weeks is the norm. Kudos to the farmers that are taking these steps toward humane treatment of these animals.

One last word on eggs in general. I often hear friends say they eat eggs because it doesn't hurt the animal but whether it's a factory farm, free-range farm, pasture farm or even an organic farm, all of the male chicks are killed through a process called "culling" approximately 72 hours after birth. The chicks are either gassed, electrocuted in large groups, or fed into a live grinding machine called a Macerator.

Chickens that are raised for meat are different breeds than their egg-laying cousins. Rarely do the chicken meat and chicken egg industry cross paths. I didn't know about the culling before I became a vegetarian and it made a difference to me so I thought I'd share the information.

And in the NEW NEWS department, a company called Hampton Creek Foods is on the brink of unleashing a truly vegan EGG!  I can hardly believe it myself.  Please take a moment to watch this video and see how it's done!  Even in the hard moments (like looking at many pictures of chicks being culled to select one for this article) I have HOPE!  A vegan egg would go a long way to ending a whole lot of bad juju in this world. (This company is backed by Bill Gates, FYI!)

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Hopefully, this information will help your voice be heard through your spending dollar. When we know better, we do better and shop smarter.
Eat Kind. Lauren