SOL: Bartending & The Rise of “Sober Curious”

I was 13 years old the first time I drank alcohol. The entirety of the event is a blur but I remember vomiting in camaraderie behind the bushes with my friend and gargling mouthwash before my mom came to pick me up from the party. I didn’t altogether enjoy the experience, so it was several years before I picked up another bottle.

By the time I was 17 I started drinking again in earnest and it immediately became evident that I had a pattern of problem drinking. I was often blacking out before we left the pre-drink yet carrying on throughout the night only to have a friend inform me of my antics the next day. Over the next decade I dreaded the mornings where I woke up after a night out and couldn’t remember how I got to bed. At times there would be serious repercussions and I knew I had to reign myself in: nearly drowning in Cuba after double-fisting too many G&T’s, a blacked out break-up I could never recover from, waking up with a cut-up eye and lost wallet or landing myself in the emerg after a night out for Halloween. In the North American narrative of drinking culture, these are all seen as part of the trade-off of drinking “too much” but in hindsight, I had a lot of the red flags of alcoholism. No one, aside from my parents, ever voiced concern about my drinking habits.

Statistically speaking, more than four drinks in the span of two hours is considered binge drinking – I called that a Friday night pre-drink. I am sure there exists, somewhere in the infamy of video, a drunken 20 year-old me loudly screeching this into a friend’s camera as he was making a video essay on student drinking. It seems he was more self-aware than I was at that point.

I wasn’t completely unaware of the issues my drinking presented. More than once I said the phrase we all revert to in the throes of regret or just a terrific hangover: “I don’t ever want to drink again.”

Needless to say, I got right back on that horse throughout high school, uni, and my subsequent trips to Europe. It was only once I started bartending that I started to see alcohol through a different lens.

It wasn’t my intention, but life is strange, so as of now I manage and run a successful bar in the Mediterranean. When I first started, part of my training was a taste-test of each and every bottle we stock so that I could better understand what I was serving and the nuances in each alcohol. I used to down Smirnoff Watermelon like it was a joke, yet here I am explaining to people the subtleties in botanicals and what makes a gin “herbal” versus “aromatic.” The irony is not lost on me.

It was commonplace for staff to split a few drinks during a shift, or do a chupito when the crowd started to pick up to allow us to keep momentum and not get stressed. It felt like it was simply a part of bartending culture to imbibe in what you serve. Would you buy weed from someone who doesn’t smoke? Same concept, or, as Kanye infamously said: “Never trust a bartender that don’t drink.”

After a few months of watching people get utterly destroyed on the other side of the bar, I started to feel uncomfortable about drinking. Just a twinge, but enough to make me start questioning and reflecting on my own drinking past. I witnessed a close friend in complete blackout and I watched in pain as parts of their personality completely shut-down. I knew I had been in their position more times than I could count and I resolved to try and avoid the slippery slope drinking presented. The problem I found was that once I hit a certain point of drunk I could no longer stop myself from drinking and I would spiral down the rabbit hole of intoxication. Shortly after my partner and I took over control of the bar, we nixed the two drinks per night at work and stopped going out for drinks on our days off “just because”: I noticed within a couple of weeks that my mood had started to improve, along with my skin, weight, digestion and sleeping patterns.

Almost a year down the road of imbibing rarely and in smaller quantities, I see a massive change in my entire being after consuming alcohol in any form. After one or two drinks, I wake up the next day feeling run-down. Not necessarily hungover, but I can tell that I do not have the full potential of my capabilities. I find alcohol’s effect on the mind and body unsettling, even more so because it has become such a socially acceptable poison.

There is a huge rise now in what British journalist Ruby Warrington has dubbed as “sober curious.” In the era of meditation, self-awareness and the general push towards aging healthier, more millennials are now viewing alcohol as harmful as cigarettes; according to a report by Bon Appetît, the market for low/non-alcoholic beverages is expected to expand 32% by 2022. The boost in sales demand for non-alcoholic drinks cannot be attributed solely to recovering alcoholics; I believe the shift is driven by those who want to be able to socialize, but feel their mental clarity stay at 100% rather than wither over the course of the night.

Overall, abstaining from alcohol while surrounded by alcohol has proven to be an easier task than expected. Every now and again, the urge to drink will crop up out of nowhere, but it is almost always easily identifiable as a trigger from another cause, whether it be stress, anxiety or boredom. It has become easier to turn to drinking water or a tonic water with lime, which I have found delivers the same initial jolt of satisfaction from alcohol. Being a sober bartender is never discussed with clients as it is easy to simply excuse yourself from proffered drinks by simply saying, “I don’t drink at work.” It doesn’t help the atmosphere to have a teetotaler waxing poetic about all the damage drinking causes. Instead, I simply do my job and help people choose their drinks and enjoy their experience. Cutting out alcohol doesn’t have to be as socially devastating as you expect and more often than not, people will respect your decision to cut back or stop altogether.

Are you interested in the sober curious movement? Please leave any thoughts below!

Please note: if you feel that you need help to manage your drinking, Alcoholics Anonymous has locations around the world and are always available to lend help.

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BODY: Miracles

Consider this:

We have 37.2 trillion cells in our bodies (compare that to the 400 billion stars in the galaxy!). The cells that make up your body are dying and being replaced all the time. By the time you’ve read this sentence, roughly 25 million cells will have died, but you’ll make 300 billion more as your day unfolds. Your brain is 2 percent of your body’s weight but uses 20 percent of its oxygen intake. Your brain generates 12 to 25 watts of electricity. Your brain is 73 percent water, and just 2 percent dehydration affects attention, memory, and other cognitive skills. (Hydrate!!) The average brain has about 50,000 thoughts per day…and 70 percent are believed to be negative. The brain’s storage capacity is virtually unlimited. And that’s just the beginning.

Ninety-five percent of your decision-making takes place in your subconscious mind, and the brain in your head isn’t your only brain. There’s a second brain in your intestines that contains 100,000 neurons. Gut bacteria are responsible for producing over 30 neurotransmitters, including the “happy” molecule serotonin.

Take a moment in reverence of the miracle of life that you are.

We have nothing to do with making this miracle happen; it’s working in spite of us, our inexhaustible life force. Yet we take all this for granted. We worry that our breasts are too small, our butts too big, or our noses too long. If you ever feel insecure, insignificant, or inadequate, remember that there are more cells in your body than stars in the galaxy.

Wake Up to the Joy of You (as seen here) // Agapi Stassinopoulos

BODY: Ameliorate

It is inevitable that every time a New Year rolls around we get sucked into the marketing vortex of “New Year, New Me” and all the health supplements, workout clothes and gym memberships that are sold as the complete package of health.

I guess, “New Year, Same Lazy Piece of Shit” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Saying that, while it is noble to implement health goals at the start of each year, more often than not we set ourselves up for disaster. More than half of people who set New Year’s goals backslide within the first month, sometimes giving up on themselves altogether. While roadblocks occur in the pursuit of any dream, I think it is crucial to stay focused on the bigger picture.

Personally, I think setting highly specific goals, while initially effective, can become the bane of your existence, especially for weight loss. Focusing steadfastly on a “goal weight” will make you more likely to cut calories (or entire food groups) and resort to over-exercising and under-eating. Less emphasis should be placed on the number and more on the quality of your health and the way your body feels. Aches, pains, inflammation and rashes are all signs that your body is off-balance and through a healthy diet and exercise you can often alleviate or even eliminate these symptoms.

As I get older and more in tune with my body, I start to realize how sensitive my system is and the importance of good nutrition. While in my early party days I was able to indulge in all manner of vices (i.e. booze, party candy, and post-party Cora’s trips) without feeling too much damage the next day. Now… A few drinks and the next morning I can feel my body running at a sluggish pace. As such, I’m looking to significantly cut down, and by all means eliminate, my alcoholic intake over the next few years. As my Brit preaches ad nauseam, “Every extra drink robs you of happiness the next day.” I’ll cheers to that.

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Happy New Years Eve = Not So Happy Morning

Looking forward to the rest of 2016, I’m taking note of how I feel more self-aware of my body than in previous years. As such, my goals for this year are to give my body the nutrients and self-care it needs, while also setting and reaching the new goals I want to put into place. One huge drawback to working in Canada during the winter is that I find it is typically too cold to run outside, however I’ve substituted my long running route in Spain for a membership to IAM Yoga and Wynn Fitness, both of which are located quite close to my office. Having a pre- or post-office workout gives a bit of a jump start to each day.

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Exercise Gives You Endorphins = Endorphins Make You Happy

I’ve swapped my carb-heavy Spanish breakfast of olive-oil on thick whole wheat bread for a super-charged “Green Smoothie” (complete with spinach, flax, mango, banana, dates and a splash of chlorophyll) to start my day. My lunch is now more than half pure vegetables, as is my dinner. As a perpetual vegetarian and sometimes vegan, I have the tendency to lean towards carbo-loading every meal. By planning my meals at least a day in advance (and including some fresh fruit for snacks) I eliminate the risk of becoming hangry or splurging on something sweet.

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Lean, Mean… Green?

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Cold Pressery in Mississauga, ON. Easily One Of The Best Places For Vegan Food!

In the next few months I will have to adjust yet again to living in a new country (!!!!) and being 100% accountable for my budget and lifestyle choices. I think getting accustomed to a regime where I incorporate healthy eating, consistent workouts and a full-time job will make the transition a bit easier. I hope to run my first half-marathon by the end of the year, and what better place to accomplish that feat than Europe?

Good luck & good workout.

AS

 

BODY: The Benefits of Oil of Oregano

doc1As I focus more on my health, I’ve come to notice that my body is incredibly sensitive to seasonal changes and environmental factors. I prefer using on herbal and naturopathic remedies than downing over-the-counter chemicals, so I’m always hunting for different supplements. I swear by liquid chlorophyll for maintaining overall health, however around cold season and for allergies I turn to Echinacea tea and drops of Oil of Oregano.

Usage: Bottles of oil of oregano (much like Vitamin D drops) are not cheap, but they will last for quite a while. Bottles can be purchased HERE for a reasonable price. The recommended dosage is 3-4 drops mixed with a bit of water or juice per day. The concentration of the oil is quite potent, so make sure it is diluted to avoid any damage to your esophagus or stomach lining. That being said, I do know several people who swear by putting a drop directly under their tongue every day.

Nutrients: Oil of oregano is rich in antioxidants which will help maintain good health by preventing damage caused by free radicals, such as cancer, heart disease and other infections. It has also been shown to combat organism infections such as E.coli and salmonella. Oregano oil contains multiple nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin C & E, iron, calcium and niacin, and due to its nutritious make-up and high antioxidants, a few drops can also help the aging progress by keeping free radicals at bay.

Digestion: Oregano oil can also supplement certain nutrients and has digestive benefits as well. A healthy body begins in the gut, and oregano has been shown to help stimulate the flow of bile within the organs. Liquid chlorophyll is also amazing for gently detoxifying the digestive system on a daily basis.

Allergies: Seasonal allergies and other sensitivities can be combated with a few drops of oil providing long-term relief without any harsh side-effects.

Weight: An active ingredient in oil of oregano is carvacrol, which has been shown to have numerous health benefits such as expediting cancer cell death, helping to heal Candida infections, promoting normal lipid levels, balancing blood sugar, and fighting systemic swelling. As a weight management tool it may also help lower cholesterol and triglycerides.

Cold Symptoms: Contrary to popular belief oil of oregano does not help to cure colds, but it does boost your immunity. Much like Echinacea and zinc, taking a few drops of oil of oregano before and during cold season will help keep sickness at bay and shorten the amount of time you are under the weather.

If you’re looking for a new supplement to help promote overall health, I recommend adding Oil of Oregano to your diet.

BODY: Review of BeHot Yoga Toronto

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Location: 43 Colborne St, Toronto, ON
Website: http://www.behotyogatoronto.com

One of the perks about living in the GTA is that there’s no shortage of yoga enthusiasts. Much like the ever-present Starbucks, throw a rock (or a yoga mat) in downtown Toronto and it’s more than likely you will hit a studio.

I started doing yoga in my early teens and after a bit of research into different practices I decided to branch into Bikram Yoga. Non-heated yoga has never held much appeal to me and there’s a masochistic pleasure derived from watching rivulets of sweat pour down your body. To each their own, though – any yoga style is an excellent way to ensure athletic longevity as you age.

Bikram Yoga, created by mega-douche Bikram Choudhury, is a practice that incorporates a series of 26 postures and two breathing sequences for a total of 90 minutes in a climate-controlled environment of 105 degrees. It’s sweltering and often painful, but it does yield results.

Bikram Yoga, not to be confused with “hot yoga” is essentially trade-marked and therefore incredibly costly to practice. As it is I was lucky enough to find BeHot Bikram in downtown Toronto with an offer to new students for $49 for 30 days of unlimited yoga. Considering a drop-in class costs $25 all you have to do is go to TWO classes in one month to get your money’s worth.

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This studio is right in the downtown core and is approximately a five minute walk from King Subway Station. The studio has been running for 10 years and the owner Paul McQuillan has not only literally written the book on yoga (seriously, check it out HERE) but he has also created a welcoming atmosphere for yogis of any skill level to practice in. During my month of classes I was instructed by several different teachers and by McQuillan himself; all of whom were knowledgeable, encouraging, and some were even able to make me laugh while I was contorted and praying for the sweet release of death.

While the benefits of Bikram are a source of heated debate, I did notice that I shed a bit of weight (which may be contributed to expelling a gallon of sweat at each class), my flexibility and posture improved, and my mood was better. The list of potential benefits will vary from each practitioner but the detoxifying benefits are a guarantee.

For first-timers, be forewarned that the heat will get intense. Drink a litre of water in the hours leading up to your class, hydrate during the practice and make sure you have water afterwards! Avoid eating a heavy meal beforehand and dress prepared to sweat. Lots of the die-hard yogi’s will be rocking speedos and not much else so don’t feel embarrassed about shedding layers – you’ll sweat through everything anyway.

BeHot rents out mats and towels, and sells water for a nominal fee; they also offer small lockers to store your valuables during class. The changing room gets busy quickly so getting there early is in your best interest. The doors to the studio are unlocked half an hour before each class starts.

I encourage anyone in Toronto who is looking for a change in their fitness routine to take advantage of this offer!

“Yoga is not a religion. It is a science – science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul.”
// Amit Ray

BODY: Overnight Oats

If you’re like me, your wake-up routine on a Monday morning involves crawling out of bed and onto the floor with the enthusiasm and charisma of a wet mop. As it is, I have never and likely will never be a morning person but I can make my life a little easier and save time in the process!

I am a firm believer in brown-bagging meals whenever possible, not only because it saves money but also because making your own food always trumps take-out. My current fave for a ready-to-grab meal is overnight oats – they’re fast, easy, nutritious and delicious.

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I use a mason jar as my container, but any Tupperware will work just fine. I use equal parts oats (Quaker’s Quick Oats will do the trick) Oikos 0% Greek yogurt and Silk unsweetened almond milk. I also mix in one or two tablespoons of chia seeds and flax seeds and add a drizzle of maple syrup before I leave it to “soak” overnight. Right before eating it I add a sliced banana and a scoop of my homemade pumpkin granola for some texture! You’ll find the oats will absorb the liquid from the almond milk and the protein from the yogurt will keep you full through the afternoon.

The toppings you can add to these oats are positively endless and it’s at your discretion to season with fruit, nuts and sweeteners as you please!

My homemade pumpkin granola!

Fall Inspired Pumpkin & Pecan Granola!

My granola was inspired by a recipe on Minimalist Baker, which you can read HERE.

Keeping a healthy diet on a busy schedule isn’t hard as long as you are able to prep your meals.

BODY: The Truth Behind the Gluten-Free Movement

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I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since someone came up to me about a year ago at the grocery store where I was working and asked me, “What aisle is your gluten-free popcorn in?”

It’s time to shed a bit of light on the “gluten-free” diet fad. Before the last few years, the only people who were following a strict gluten-free diet fell into two categories; those suffering from Celiac disease, and those with a wheat allergy.

Celiac disease is a digestive ailment which causes the small intestine to halt the absorption of nutrients from food when gluten is ingested; as a result people who suffer from this infliction cannot properly digest the gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Not only is gluten found in foods but it is often added to medicine, vitamins, supplements and beauty products. Approximately 1 in 133 people suffers from celiac disease – not exactly enough to justify the 450 million dollar gluten-free market that exists in North America today.

When a person who suffers celiac disease ingests gluten, the intestine essentially shuts down and refuses to absorb nutrients from food. As a result, malnourishment, anemia and osteoporosis are often possible with sufferers of this disease. There are also those who suffer from wheat allergy, which causes an anti-body response and sparks rashes, hives and sometimes anaphylaxis.

The current trend is sparking a sub-group of people who avoid gluten and can be categorized as people suffering from “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.” Unfortunately I feel the rise in declaring yourself gluten-free has been sparked from a lot of hype from celebrities and not a lot of fact – enter my Popcorn Princess anecdote.

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While I will not discredit those who are sensitive to gluten, most nutritionists will agree that even those who find themselves uncomfortable after eating certain wheat products can typically ingest one serving of gluten per day and feel fine. Most foods do not contain gluten: any food made from a grain (i.e. all forms of corn and rice), most dairy products as well as beans and legumes.

The only places you will find gluten lurking is in wheat products; cakes, cereals, pasta, couscous, bread, barley, malt, rye and beer. Any processed food may contain a wheat by-product or have come in contact with one while being manufactured. The simplest way to avoid any digestion upsets is to follow an unprocessed vegetarian diet… Although I may be biased.

Is gluten actually crap? In moderation, no. While many find themselves losing weight when adopting a gluten free diet it is most likely because they have cut out a heavy-carb food group (bread and pasta, for example) and have failed to substitute it with a healthy, gluten-free alternative. In this case, you may be losing weight, but you are ultimately depriving your body of the carbohydrates it needs to function. By the same token, any postive changes you see in regards to your health after cutting out gluten-laden products may be due to eliminating crappy foods that just so happen to contain gluten, i.e. anything heavily processed and laden with chemicals, fat, excess carbohydrates and not much else.

Over-eating anything will cause symptoms – instead of cutting out your baguette sandwich immediately, instead try reducing your gluten intake and see how you feel. If nothing else, do your research. Paying extra for gluten-free foods that are naturally gluten-free is ridiculous! Above all, my favourite health mantra is this – everything in moderation.

Namaste,

AS

 

For more information please visit:

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/

http://healthydebate.ca/2014/07/topic/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity

BODY: Chlorophyll

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It’s time to talk about my nutrition supplement du jour.

Since completing my über hippie soul-searching Euro-trip I’ve begun to focus on an all-natural lifestyle approach. As a result, I have started supplementing my diet with liquid chlorophyll.

Before I discovered the numerous health benefits it bestows upon humans, my only knowledge of chlorophyll was my rudimentary Grade 12 Bio class – chlorophyll is food for plants. As it turns out, we can reap numerous health benefits from ingesting chlorophyll on a daily basis!

The construction of chlorophyll is almost identical to the molecule hemoglobin, which our bodies need to build and transport red blood cells; as a result it helps transport oxygen throughout the body. The only difference between hemoglobin and chlorophyll boils down to the centre atom; within hemoglobin the centre atom is iron while in liquid chlorophyll the center atom is magnesium. Magnesium is excellent for the body as it helps deliver oxygen to cells, tissues, bones, nerves and muscles. Not only that – nearly the entire body (cardiovascular system, digestive system, nervous system, brain, muscles, kidneys, liver, hormone-secreting glands) requires magnesium for metabolic function!

Due to its structure chlorophyll is an excellent antioxidant aid. With high levels of Vitamin A, C and E chlorophyll has been shown to lower inflammation within the body while removing excess toxins and waste. Its ability to bind to heavy metals such as mercury gives it a strong healing power.

Digestive problems? Adding a tablespoon of chlorophyll to water, juice or a smoothie two times per day can help promote a healthy digestive tract. As a result, it also helps combat bad breath stemming from an unhealthy bloodstream or colon.

Personally I prefer liquid chlorophyll because I am guaranteed 150mg per serving and it’s easy to add to smoothies on a busy day. However, there are loads of foods you can add to your daily diet to start improving your health such as: asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage, celery, collard greens, green beans, green peas, kale, leeks, green olives, parsley, romaine lettuce, sea vegetables, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip greens.*

Since incorporating more greens into my diet I’ve noticed my energy levels improving in the morning – an impressive feat considering I have substituted a green smoothie instead of coffee!

If you aren’t ready to commit to liquid chlorophyll (it costs $26 for 1L of liquid, which lasts about a month) then start adding fresh or steamed greens to your meals!

When in doubt, GO GREEN.

Namaste,

AS

 

 

*Read more at http://naturalrevolution.org/untapping-the-secrets-of-chlorophyll/#Mi70ACi8W8GuDpKc.99

 

BODY: Workout Review

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I mentioned in an earlier post that since I’ve been at my second placement I’ve been doing a lot of running. I initially started up with an easy 5KM per day, but I’ve slowly increased to a 8KM to 10KM loop. I like running; I’ve always enjoyed it and the numerous health benefits it bestows upon me.

That said, cardio is not enough.

I like workout videos because they’re easy to pop in at home without having to trek to an expensive gym or aerobics studio. I’ve been purchasing workout videos for years (because I prefer having the physical DVD, most are easily downloadable these days) and some are worth the money while others are downright cheesy or impossible to follow.

I brought along a few workout videos with me on this trip, one of which being Jillian Michaels “Banish Fat Boost Metabolism.” I noticed that after a few weeks of solely running, I wasn’t getting the muscle mass or toned look that I wanted. I popped this DVD in on a whim – and instantly regretted it.

The first time I did this workout my chalet was approximately 30 degrees. Jillian’s circuit training absolutely murdered me; I was dripping with sweat and swearing like a sailor by the second circuit. This woman means business.

The workout is 45 minutes long, plus a warm-up and cool-down and consists of seven circuits. Every muscle on your body will be targeted throughout the workout and there are variations for every move depending on your physical ability. The first few days after starting this workout I noticed my legs were tighter, my abs more defined, and my upper body ached as muscles were being formed. I felt amazing!

I’ve also noticed that since supplementing my fitness regime with strength exercises, my cardio has improved drastically. My legs and hips are stronger during my running route and I am able to run longer, faster and better.

I highly recommend trying this workout!

Namaste,
AS

BODY: Grilled Avocado

BODY: Grilled Avocado

Have I mentioned my slight (read: all-consuming, literally) obsession with avocados?

I love them. I eat them daily, use them for face masks and hair masks, and would happily run away to live on an avocado farm for the rest of my life.

Aside from adding avocado to sandwiches and salads, last summer I discovered the mouth-watering appeal of the grilled avocado.

Easiest meal ever: half the avocado, remove the pit, place both halves in tin foil. Drizzle some coconut oil and add any seasoning you like. I add the Clubhouse Cajun mix, even though it’s full of sodium because it tastes So.Damn.Good.

Toss it in the oven (350 degrees) or on the BBQ for 10-15 until the top has browned and it’s sizzling.

I eat it out of the skin using multigrain crackers like Wheat Thins, but you can serve in with tortilla chips, pita, or whatever you like!

Some health benefits of avocado include:

Healthy Fats: While you might be tempted to shy away from avocados because they are high in fat, (three quarters of the calorie count), have no fear! Avocados contain monounsaturated fat which has been proven to reduce bad cholesterol and lower your risk of stroke & heart disease.

Vitamins & Minerals: Avocados contain Potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and B Vitamins to keep your inner and outer appearance healthy & glowing!

Dietary Fiber: Avocados contain approximately 11 grams of fiber, which is half of your daily quota.

Waist Not, Want Not: People who eat avocado on a regular basis have been shown to have a lower body weight, BMI and waist circumference than those who don’t.

Clean Body, Clean Mind: Avocados contain glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in the body. It also boosts the immune system, prevents dementia, slows the aging process (!!!) and encourages a healthy nervous system.

F*ck Cancer: Avocados are rich in phytochemicals which have been reported to prevent certain cancers. The chemopreventative characteristics of avocados show that they offer a dietary advantage in the prevention of cancer.

Try it now!
Namaste,
AS