Foraging… no… Superfood Hunting

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and the Rich Roll podcast is one that always has inspiring guests discussion interesting ideas at the intersection of health, performance, and spirituality. Given that my two most recent posts have been about foraging (here and here), I was really happy to see that Rich Roll interviewed superfood hunter Darin Olien.

I really can’t describe Darin’s expertise sufficiently well, except to say that he’s the “Indiana Jones of Superfoods” and goes around the world to find medicinal plants and bring them to market. It’s super-interesting stuff and you can get it all from the podcast:

Here are a few takeaways that I got out of it. If you have more to add, let me know!

1) Many wild plants (and mushrooms) contain incredible compounds for nutrition and medicine. As soon as you harvest the plant, however, these materials begin to degrade—this makes it so important to get fresh or quality ingredients, and be wary of things in packages.

2) Eating well is tough, but it’s absolutely essential. Start small rather than trying to change everything at once. Darin suggests starting out by drinking more water (good water, not sketchy “processed” water) and eating a giant pile of vegetables for one meal a day. Start there, and add more later. That sounds do-able, so I’ll try that.

3) Calling oneself a “superfood hunter” is a whole lot sexier than being a “forager” although I’m not entirely sure what the difference is. Perhaps if I’m on the fence and not feeling up to going out to look for wild plants, I can reframe it as superfood hunting, put on some khaki, and head out to the woods.

An Open Letter to My Pre-Workout Self

Dear Maria,

I know you don’t want to work out. I can imagine exactly how you feel right now: tired, burnt out, unmotivated, and/or slow. Also, probably hungry. Just about anything seems better than changing clothes and getting down to it. Suddenly, work just got a lot more interesting didn’t it? Or did you suddenly realize an errand that needs running? Or has it just been a really really long day and you feel like you just need to go home and relax?

Yup, I’ve been there. I totally get it.

But here are three reasons why I think you should do that work out even though I know how much you don’t want to. Continue reading “An Open Letter to My Pre-Workout Self”

Nature Scenes and Hospital Recovery

We found ourselves in the hospital earlier this week for Sexy’s broken ankle. It was not a lot of fun—not fun at all—but it did give me the opportunity to see the results of some nature-based research in action.

In the hospital room we used before and after the surgery, the wall that separated us from the hallway was actually a large glass door. And, in front of that to provide privacy, was a large curtain that covered the entire thing. The curtain was pale green and made of a slightly satiny fabric. I never would have noticed it, except that I immediately noticed that it had a large nature scene printed on it, covering an area at least 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide right in front of the hospital bed.

I feel like I spent hours staring at this curtain; yet, I never would have turned on the TV!
I feel like I spent hours staring at this curtain; even after all that time, it was still preferable to TV.

I thought this was clever on the part of the hospital, as views of nature—even in the form of photographs—have been shown to reduce patient stress and facilitate healing. Dr. Roger Ulrich was one of the first researchers to study this effect, and his studies in the late 1970s and early 1980s showed that photographs of nature reduced stress compared to those of urban environments. A foundational study in 1984 found that hospital patients with windows that looked out to natural settings had better recoveries than those without windows. Continue reading “Nature Scenes and Hospital Recovery”

How Natural Light Helps You Sleep Better

As I dig deeper into the subject of how nature benefits human performance and well being, I am constantly amazed at how much evidence is available. I feel like I’ll never be able to learn even a fraction of what we know—and that doesn’t even account for all the things we do not yet know.

Natural sunshine.

This post is by request: one of my best friends said that she wanted to know how getting outdoors influences sleep. For example, do people sleep better at night if they take a walk outside during the day rather than walk on a treadmill indoors?

This question never occurred to me, as sleeping is one of my greatest skills. I go to bed early so that I can get 8-9 hours of sleep every night. And I nap on weekends, a luxury of not having kids that my dear friend does not have.

So a research topic was born: Do we sleep better if we spend time outside?

Yes, we do. Continue reading “How Natural Light Helps You Sleep Better”

Stressed out? Nature can fix that!

When somebody asks you, “How are you doing?” which of these answers are you most likely to give?
a) fine
b) good
c) busy

d) crazy busy! 

If your answer included some form of busy, you are not alone. Here in the US, we pride ourselves on our productivity. It’s good to be busy. We’ve developed a culture— if not even perhaps a cult—centered on the premise that being busy is a sign of importance, status, and success. In today’s world, it’s all to easy to strive to be busy, to over-commit, and to overextend ourselves thinking that it’s just what needs to get done. Continue reading “Stressed out? Nature can fix that!”

9 Air-Cleaning Houseplants That Are Almost Impossible to Kill

What might your office or apartment have in common with a NASA spaceship? Unfortunately the answer may be poor air quality.

Indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health: Stagnant indoor environments allow pollutants to build up and stick around in greater amounts than we humans should be breathing in. Living and working in places rife with air contaminants and lacking decent ventilation can cause “sick building syndrome,” which can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and eye, ear, and nose irritation. Lucky for us, NASA scientists have been working to understand this problem and find solutions. Their space-age solution was an easy one that anyone can use: Use houseplants to clean the air. Read entire article at Greatist.com > >

Blow Up Your TV

Exciting news: I’ve recently started out a side gig writing at Greatist.com, which is a super-fun health and fitness website. It’s an awesome website, full of awesome writers (te he!), and I hope you’ll check it out. Just open the site in new tab, read this post (Don’t worry, it’s pretty short!), and then go there and see what’s happening.

One of the big reasons that I love Greatist is that they have a strong policy of using scientific information for all their articles, even though the articles read like they are written by your best buds. This means that when I’m writing my articles, I get to—nerd alert!—read scientific papers on health and exercise and whatever else I happen to find on PubMed.

I recently stumbled on to a factoid that Continue reading “Blow Up Your TV”

4 Reasons to Exercise Outside

Now that it’s summer, it’s almost impossible for me to get myself to go into the gym. Of course the gym has it’s place (to lift heavy things! to avoid scorching hot weather!), but I think it’s way better to be outside than in. Here are five reasons to exercise outdoors and how to make it easier to get out. Continue reading “4 Reasons to Exercise Outside”