BODY: The Benefits of Maca

Achieving optimal health using natural remedies has become a go-to for many people. Given the current hyper-focus on keeping the body fit and clean, one superfood to consider adding to your diet is maca. In recent years the use of maca outside of traditional medicine has risen exponentially and can be found around the world in powder form for baking or as a supplement.

The maca plant, Lepidium meyenii, is sometimes referred to as “Peruvian ginseng” and is cultivated in the Peruvian Andes, though it grows wild in Peru, Paraguay and Argentina. Traditionally, maca has been used since the days of the Incans to enhance fertility and sex drive, though it can also help energy and stamina. It is classified as a cruciferous vegetable and the main edible part of the plant is the root, which can range in colour from yellow, purple or black. (1)

Despite the earthy taste, which may be bothersome to some, maca is versatile and can be added to smoothies, baked goods and energy bars. The ideal dosage has yet to be determined, however in most studies the dose ranges from 1.5-5 grams per day. It is widely available in stores and online in powder form, 500-mg capsules or as a liquid extract.

DSC08995-01

Maca Smoothie (5g) with soy milk, strawberry & banana. Topped with apple & mixed berries.

While much of the research is still in early stages, here are some of the preliminary benefits found in the maca root:

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals: Good source of Vitamin C, Copper, Iron, Potassium, Manganese and Vitamin B6. It is also an adaptogenic superfood which not only helps support the body’s ability to deal with stress but it also contains all eight essential amino acids and plenty of phytonutrients.

May Increase Libido & Improve Function of Hormones: Maca has been heavily marketed for its ability to enhance sexual desire, with most studies showing improvement after six weeks of use. Some evidence has shown that maca can increase men’s fertility and improve semen quality (though the test subjects ingested maca regularly for four months). As well, maca may help relieve menopausal symptoms in women by alleviating hot flashes and improving sleep.

Mood Boosting: Maca has been shown to boost mood as it contains flavonoids which can help reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression. It has also been traditionally used by Peruvians to improve cognitive performance.

Maca is generally considered safe, however, if you have a history of thyroid problems, you may want to be careful with maca as it contains goitrogens which may interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. (2)

Start out slowly by adding a teaspoon (approx. 5 grams) or less to your coffee, baked goods, or smoothies a few days a week and see if you notice any changes to your health. Maca is a powerful superfood with key nutrients that can help support your body and keep you feeling strong.

maca balls

Maca Energy Balls with dates, walnuts, almond flour & coconut!

Sources:
1. Gaia Herbs. “Why We Love Maca: Top Benefits of This Amazing Adaptogenic Herb.” Gaia Herbs, 26 July 2018, http://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/seeds-of-knowledge/why-we-love-maca-top-benefits-of-this-amazing-adaptogenic-herb.
2. Palsdottir, Hrefna M. “9 Benefits of Maca Root (and Potential Side Effects).” Healthline, 30 Oct. 2016, http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-maca-root.

MIND: Voyageur

I’m going to do nothing but sit in the sun, eat hugely, and watch landscapes. That’s the way I travel. Looking, looking, looking and making up phrases to match clouds. It is the passion of my life.

// Virginia Woolf

SOL: Coyote Ugly, Joie de Vivre & Having It All

The past six weeks have been a chaotic whirlwind but all of it has been worthwhile, if absolutely physically draining.

Coyote Ugly

Working hard or...

Working hard or…

I am glad that I have friends who have no qualms about calling me on my shit. “You need a social life outside of hanging out with a five year old boy,” one of my close confidantes told me, “You’ve referenced Spiderman twice in this conversation.” Fair point, considering after five weeks of living in Spain I was resembling a hermit more than someone on vacation. Spurred on by weeks of inactivity, I dove headfirst into creating a social life and signed up for no less than three language exchange boards and replied to handfuls of job postings on the Spanish equivalent of Craigslist. The job board was a mistake and I ended up going to a shady area of Barcelona to be interviewed for a questionably legal job of pawning bar-crawl tickets to boozed-up tourists. Needless to say, I was offered the job but I went with my gut and declined. After considering working for a French cosmetic company (and therefore having to file taxes) I ended up being referred by my hosts to a job in the neighbouring town of Calella at an English-style pub. After drafting up a cover letter and preparing to email my resume I realized that I had already applied for the job in January while I was tucked behind my desk in Canada. As luck would have it, this time I got an interview and the job, which is how I have found myself working at a bar in Spain. I am all for life’s little ironies as long as they are happy ones.

At my first shift I decided to jump into it whole-heartedly which resulted in working nine hours, doing shooters with customers and going out with coworkers afterwards until 5AM. I channeled my inner Coyote Ugly (it’s been my dream for a decade) and I did more “chupitos” than any one person should and ended up being a hot mess; it was standard night that included eating overnight oats in a bar bathroom, twerking to Spanish music and flirting with anything that moved. It remains to be seen whether I will actually keep the job over the summer, but as of now it has been a sweet reprieve and has allowed me to meet tons of people. Not only that, but being a bartender in a tourist town means you drink at every other bar for free, and frankly I am not going to decline such a privilege.

Do not give the Canadian alcohol...

Do not give the Canadian alcohol…

My friend came to visit the last week of May and while we made our rounds of the discos in Calella we were running into people I knew everywhere; at which point she noted that not only are the people incredibly welcoming here, but the men are of a much higher calibre than in North America, or as she put it later while we were walking in Barcelona, “Let’s just go back to Calella… Even the garbage men are beautiful there.”

On that note, Spanish people party harder than anyone I have ever seen and going to the disco requires a gut of steel. Viva Espana…

As for the language exchange boards, I had such an influx of people willing to help me learn Spanish (and probably other skills) that I deleted two accounts and focused on one exchange site. I have been able to meet several people my age and my Spanish has improved immensely. It makes a huge difference being able to understand the conversations around you and I have swan-dived into Spanish culture in order to learn all that I can in the shortest amount of time. I have fallen so absolutely in love with Spain that I will forever be tied to Barcelona.

Joie De Vivre

Pond-side view of the cathedral.

Pond-side view of the cathedral.

My view on the way to work :)

My view on the way to work 🙂

Little Visit to The National Museum of Art in Catalonia

Little Visit to The National Museum of Art in Catalonia

Located right next to Sagrada & the best pizza I've had since living in Napoli!

Located right next to Sagrada & the best pizza I’ve had since living in Napoli!

Life as of late has been a happy balance of au-pairing, working, hanging out with new friends and basking in the sun. While my friend from Canada was here for the last week of May it ended up feeling like a vacation for me as well. We spent our morning visiting tourist traps and indulging in local cuisine and our nights were spent soaking in Sangria and oogling the beautiful Spanish men. It was great to have her here and I have not laughed so much in ages. I am more aware than ever of how lucky I am to be here and have this opportunity. A few highlights from the last few weeks include: trying paddle-boarding for the first time and absolutely loving it; drinking too much sangria at a hole-in-the-wall bar in the depths of Barcelona, stumbling back giggling through the streets and eating the best damn cupcake of my life; spending my best friend’s birthday lounging in a spa; experiencing the full charm of Spanish men (truly potent); realizing I have learned Spanish well enough to argue in it; witnessing the celebratory aftermath of FC Barcelona winning a championship game, complete with running up La Ramblas from riot police and avoiding pellet bullets (I’m okay with not repeating that experience); spending a leisurely afternoon in the Gothic district wandering in and out of shops and refueling at patios.

It was advertised as "Barcelona's Best Mojito" so we had to do a taste test...

It was advertised as “Barcelona’s Best Mojito” so we had to do a taste test…

When Spain celebrates a "football" win they go all out!

When Spain celebrates a “football” win they go all out!

It has been a hectic few weeks but I am so overwhelming happy with this experience that I look forward to the next months in this amazing country. I have adopted ownership of this country and have a local’s disdain for the hordes of tourists descending upon the beaches. As my Spanish friend has told me, “You aren’t a tourist because you live here, and look- (as he points to my arms), you aren’t a lobster like the tourists here, you’re brown like a local.” I will take the small victories as they come.

Having It All (Maybe)

I am well aware that I am lucky in life. While I may not have gleaned fame or wealth, I do not truly struggle for anything and I am aware of how blessed I am for this luxury. After graduating from my university program, I tumbled right into a full-time job in my field which is relatively unheard of in Toronto. I held that job for almost two years after graduating but ultimately resigned in order to start my first half-year trek around the globe. I was lucky enough to be offered the same position when I returned last September, but I knew when I left this time I would not be so fortunate as to waltz back. I understood the loss of the job security but accepted it as a side-effect of seeing the world.

That said, I have since been given the opportunity to go back to the same job this winter, along with a candy-coated offer I simply cannot refuse. My boss had warned me I couldn’t keep leaving for six months at a time (which is fair), so we have reached a “wanderlust contract” of sorts. For every nine months I work, I will be given three consecutive months off to travel the world. I am a traveler at heart, but a deep part of me yearns for stability, routine and a home-base. I feel a bit like a sell-out accepting a job again, but I think it is a sound decision that allows me to balance a career with my passion for travel. Once again, I find myself insanely lucky with the people in my life who support me in my endeavours! Now that I know there is an end date for my time here, I am only spurred on to embrace every experience I can.

Looking forward to the summer months, I plan on working as I please and taking small sojourns to new cities during the week – on my radar are Athens, Marrakesh, Porto and London.

I have never been happier with the life I live or the people in it.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Bodies

1. Even the models from magazines admit they don’t look like that in real life.

2. The media will point out your flaws so that you buy more products to help you assimilate to their idea of beauty. I want you to step away from technology for a day and then look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m beautiful.

3. Your ass might have a few dimples. Your upper arms might jiggle when you wave. Your thighs might even, heaven forbid, touch when you stand with your feet together. These factors do not determine the quality of your life or the beauty of your soul.

4. When you’re an old, frail, saggy woman I bet you’ll be wishing you ate that cupcake or had that second glass of wine when you were out with friends. Indulge in moderation and you will not gain a pound.

5. Even if you do gain a pound – who cares? All it means is that there’s more of you to love and I love you more than anyone in the world.

6. Be in love with yourself (every inch of it) and your life (every second of it).

7. Please please please maintain a healthy relationship with food. Praying to a porcelain god will only leave you full of regret and empty of feeling and people tend to glamorize starvation. You know who I admire? Someone who glows with health and feasts with relish. Don’t compromise the simplest joys of life.

8. If you have food available throughout the day, EAT IT. The majority of the world struggles to find clean water and food to eat so I hope you understand how blessed and privileged you are.

9. Do not ever compare your body to someone else’s. Stress less about your neighbour and appreciate yourself. You have been made differently. Women come in all shapes and sizes and all of them are beautiful. Strive to be the best version of yourself, but keep your goals realistic and healthy.

10. You. Are. Beautiful.

11. Embrace your imperfections; bear-hug them until they suffocate because if you don’t face them now someone else will try to wield their power over you. I want you to be able to look anyone who dares comment on your body in the eye and tell them to fuck off.

12. If anyone ever tries to bully you, call me. I’ll take care of you as long as you need me to.

13. I have spent 16 years loathing my body, and I am only now acknowledging its value. I aspire to a better fate for you sweetheart.

14. Take care of yourself. We take our health for granted under the misguided notion that it will always be there. You have hands, arms, legs, feet and a heart that want nothing more than to support you. Support them too. I’ll be here to fill in the cracks.

15. Exercise for your endorphins. Stay active and fit. Sweat once a day because you can. Learn to love the feeling of being strong and capable.

16. It is more socially acceptable to hate your body than it is to love it. Let that sink in.

17. Remember that I love you, always and forever, no matter what you look like.

3AM Thoughts // AKA “Things I Will Teach My Sister About Body Confidence.”

SOL: Travel Updates

I have officially started my placement with my new travel hosts in the Midi-Pyrenees. I started off loads better than I did at my first place and the British/Dutch couple hosting me have quickly assumed the role of my “surrogate parents.” Here’s a quick rundown of what has happened in the past week and a half:

Curry Night Debauchery and Clutching the Stick

My last night at my first host ended as it started – on a Monday night (Curry Night) celebration that was one for the books. Curry Nights are always filled with drunken escapades and this one was no exception. We started pre-drinking G&T’s before the table was set at 7PM, so by the time we were served our Daal we were already half in the bag and enjoying ourselves immensely. I was seated next to my favourite Frenchman (as per usual) and by the second course I had convinced him to take swigs of the mixed drink in my Thermos and shun the Bio Bordeaux that we had been served.

There was a new Swedish WWOOFer who got into town at 8:30 and called to say she was ready to be picked up – unfortunately our host had drunk too much wine and was in no position to drive. “Have no fear!” I shouted as I planted myself behind the wheel of the car before I realized I have no idea how to drive stick. Luckily her son took it upon himself to teach me, which left him yelling in panicked, heavily accented English, “Bloody hell, press the clutch ALL the way down!” and me shouting back, “Shut up I’m CLUTCHING!” After stalling several times and a suspicious cranking sound that made it seem like the transmission had given up and committed suicide halfway through our journey, we made it to the village and successfully nabbed the Swede. I think we terrified her on the drive back, but we managed to arrive back at the party unscathed.

Considering my family will read this, I’ll leave the naughtier bits of the night out, but suffice to say I woke up the next morning to catch my train still heavily intoxicated. It was worth it.

Peanut Butter and Chalets

I had a good feeling about my new hosts after our several months of email interaction, but nothing endeared me to them faster than peanut butter.

During our drive from the train station to the campsite, my new host and I were discussing the finer points of French cuisine and I began my well-rehearsed rant about the cost and availability of peanut butter.

Within minutes of arriving at the campsite he placed the Holy Grail in my hands – a 1KG jar of peanut butter that I could have all to myself. Have I died and gone to heaven?

Not only did he bestow chunky PB upon me, but he and his wife have given me my own private accommodation in the form of a chalet on the campsite – basically a small apartment with two bedrooms, a dining room, a bathroom and a kitchen. I also have a weekly stipend to cover my food and a porch that overlooks the Lot River. Life is GOOD. 

One-Horse Towns and Poker

The village where the campsite is located is something of a “one-horse town” – there is a post office and a bar and that’s about it. My host explained that when he isn’t running the campsite his social life consists of a poker league of about 30 people who play on Fridays. Damned if I wasn’t registered as a player in the league within 24 hours of landing in town. I signed in under the alias “Triumph” (AKA my dream bike-brand) and donned my motorcycle tee as my signature outfit. Sue me – I like to play the part.

Friday night rolled around and I marched into the bar for the tournament like I knew what I was doing and sat down to play some Texas Hold’em (in French) with absolute strangers. Mega-nerd that I am, I downloaded “Hold’em for Dummies” to my Kindle the previous night and spent an hour reading up on winning techniques. My party trick of a slick shuffle won me some street cred – so did a ballsy bet and a Royal Flush that cleaned out the old guy next to me. I ended up finishing 7th out of 30 players and caused two men to go ballistic when I beat them. Not exactly a “Triumph,” but hopefully not beginner’s luck either.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Falafel & Wine

SOL: Falafel & Wine

Blew through my budget shockingly quickly while in Barcelona… I should have brought more cash with me! As it is my dinner funds were slightly strapped – thankfully we managed to find $3 falafel and $4 bottles of rose. Priorities!

Breakfast is included at Urbany Barcelona and then I have enough cash set aside for lunch on the street and some fresh fruit for the train back to Perpignan.

We walked around for five hours today exploring the city and getting a taste of Barcelona life. Tomorrow we’ll loop around the port and visit the Gothic district before getting on the 4pm train back to our host’s house.

It’s been a whirlwind trip so far, but it’s exciting and it reminds me why I love traveling.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: 23

SOL: 23

How is it even possible that today is my 23rd birthday? I feel in equal parts as young as I ever have and as old as I ever will.

Last year I told myself I wanted to spend my twenty-third in Paris. I think I’ve one-upped myself as I have spent the first four hours of my birthday dipping my toes in the sea and walking through a french market eating a croissant and refueling as needed with cafe noisettes.

I am absolutely blissfully happy.

Namaste,
AS

SOL: Running in the Mountains and Sunday Roast

SOL: Running in the Mountains and Sunday Roast

Sunday was spent in a state of semi-relaxation. We managed to finish all the morning tasks fairly early on and then did some gardening until lunch.

Afterwards we drove to a local street market which is essentially a city-wide thrift store. Overall it was a bunch of random junk, but there were some cool old trunks and vintage furniture that would have been nice to buy. Alas, I only walked away with two new scarves.

Afterwards I sat by the pool and finished reading The Alchemist and then decided to go for a run. It’s so beautiful running here and I’m continuously stopping to look at the mountains and the view. Naturally I got lost and I’m fairly certain my legs will be dead tomorrow.

Sunday dinner is consistently modeled after a “Vegan Roast” and we ate garlic-roasted potatoes, pea soup, cauliflower, oat loaf, homemade bread and cake. Namua’s cooking is going to kill me; not to mention the pitcher of wine that we manage to go through every evening.

French living is truly in a league of its own.

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