Category Archives: Mind•Body•Soul

Earth Girl Wellness: Probiotics 101

The gut is the new brain…or so research is suggesting. The profound effects the health of your digestive tract has on your cognitive function is gaining momentum in the nutrition world. Regular elimination and the balance of microflora in your intestines has everyone grabbing for more fiber and probiotics. But what are probiotics? Are they really that important? Or are we falling prey to yet another dietary trap trying to grab money out of our pockets?
Your gut is filled with bacteria of all kinds. There is a delicate balance of more than 1000 types of bacteria living in your large intestines. This balance helps keep your intestines “moving along” and influences mood regulation and emotions. The millions of neurons (nerve endings) contained in our digestive tract are in constant communication with our brain. Keeping that communication open and smoothly transmitting requires a healthy gut. Probiotics and their far reaching effects on the colon aid in maintaining a healthy gut and the complex communication system of the gut-brain axis.
There are a wide range of sources that can provide your body with the appropriate balance of bacteria. Probiotics can be found in many foods, drinks, and supplements. Choosing a proper delivery method depends upon your preferences and lifestyle. Sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and several other fermented foods, such as sour pickles, are natural food sources that contain the healthy bacteria. Advantages to food sources include their close proximity to nature and lack of unnecessary colors and preservatives. However, not everyone has a desire to eat fermented (and sometimes spicy!) foods every day. Plus, yogurt often contains a large amount of sugar (a no-no on the Earth Girl list).
Kombucha is a fermented tea that provides an excellent source of probiotics. It comes in a variety of flavors and in easy-to-grab bottles. The taste can be too strong and off-putting for some individuals and the price can dent your wallet. Earth Girl suggests you shop around and try a variety of different manufactures to find one that appeals to you. Earth Girls’ favorite pick is the Synergy Trilogy. It is found at most super markets that sell organic foods.
A final source can be found in a supplement. Buyer beware when purchasing probiotics in a bottle. Several items to check for are the number of strains of bacteria (look for more than one strain), the volume of bacteria in the product (look for at least 1 billion per CFU), and when the product was made to ensure the bacteria is still alive (probiotics won’t work if the bacteria contained in them is dead). A few products that have been vetted and reviewed by Reviews.com include Islands Miracle-Ultra-30 Probiotics, MegaFood MegaFlora, Renew Life Ultimate Flora Extra Care 30 Billion, and Dr. Formulas Nexabiotic Advanced Multi-Probiotic.
In final analysis, Earth Girl Wellness recommends everyone consume a daily probiotic. It is a “no-brainer” when it comes to gut health and is simple to add to any healthy routine. Choose a delivery system that makes you happy! You will be healthier whether you enjoy a great Kimchi grilled cheese sandwich, an afternoon glass of kombucha, or throw back a few supplements with your morning glass of water. Your gut (and brain) will love you for it!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher

Local Hiking Trips

The Roanoke Valley and the surrounding area has so much to offer when it comes to spending time outdoors, there are plenty of ways to explore, but the most accessible are the hiking trails. There are so many different trails and scenery in this area, hiking through some is a great way to get to know the area and get daily exercise in a more enjoyable way.

A great place to go if you’re looking for a short scenic trip is Natural Bridge State Park. It’s great for people looking to get an easy start into hiking, families with children, or anyone looking for beautiful view. The hike itself has lot of stops, like the beautiful natural arch that is the Natural Bridge, an old mine, and a waterfall at the very end. It also has a lot to offer educationally like a Monacan Indian Village Exhibit set up along the path, not to mention that the bridge itself was once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Molly Armistead, experienced hiker and member of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, gives some of her recommendations of local hikes bellow:

Some other beginner hikes include many with a waterfall as the focal point. Cascade Falls, the hike itself is 3.5 miles round trip. The best and most memorable thing about this hike is the beautiful 69-foot waterfall at the end, and in the summer it’s a great swimming spot. The next hike she recommends for beginners is Crabtree Falls. This hike has a beautiful set of waterfalls. Crabtree even is said to have the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.

If you’re a beginner that’s less interested in waterfalls and wants a stunning overlook, Roanoke has trails for you too! Read Mountain Preserve is a moderate hike that leads to Buzzard Rocks- which gives you a view of the Roanoke Valley from a new perspective.

For a more advanced hike, get out and explore Apple Orchard Falls in Arcadia, VA! The trail can be amended in length depending on where you decides to start/finish. The end is home to a beautiful waterfall–one of the tallest in Virginia. Apple Orchard Farm offers some camping spots if you’re looking to make an adventure out of the hike. Roanoke also has the access to the Appalachian Trail, which is definitely a place for more experienced hikers.

Of course, no list about Roanoke’s hikes would be complete without mentioning McAfee Knob. It’s one the most photographed places on the Appalachian Trail. It has a beautiful rock ledge that is a great photo opportunity.

Armistead emphasizes that the most important thing about hiking is not leaving a trace. She explains, “Go into the woods and make memories, but when you leave make sure no one knows you were there.” She also adds that while hiking alone is something she does often, hiking is a great family activity and is great way to spend time together.

For more information about what hikes Roanoke has to offer check out Roanoke Outside or Roanoke Play.

 

Written by Lilith Turman

An Anxious Mind

Anxiety is just one of the many mental illnesses in the world today, and it has a variety of forms. With multiple forms of anxiety, it can be easy for someone who doesn’t have a firm grasp on the illness to confuse the symptoms of anxiety and stress, and lead them to believe that they may have one when they really have the other. One similarity between forms is that they take control of a person’s mind and trap them. Anxiety is scary as it can be constant and mess with your thought process. It can come out with no warning and with no apparent cause, while stress is caused by specific occurrences or events that are happening at that specific moment in your life.

Since anxiety is an illness, its severity can range anywhere from high functioning to low functioning which varies by the individual. Everyone with anxiety is affected in a separate ways and severity. For instance, my friend and I both have anxiety. For me, it’s very mild and acts up when significant things catch me off guard. I always need a plan for things, or at least, an idea of what will happen. I can’t begin to calm down or steady myself until the situation is resolved. For my friend, his anxiety is much more severe. Years ago, his anxiety would make him think that something would happen while he was at work, or that he had forgotten to turn something off. This would cause him to always be late for work because he had to go back and forth around the house multiple times to check the stove, windows and sinks. This was his obsessive-compulsive disorder mixing with his anxiety. Now, the OCD mixes with his anxiety to create a string of negative thoughts spinning around his head. It causes him to overthink and eventually he ends up with the worst possible scenario of a situation that never happened or had even shown signs of happening yet. Anxiety for him shows up intertwined with his OCD, and it latched onto something else when a big cause of his anxiety wasn’t there anymore.

A common misconception is mistaking stress for anxiety. Some people may believe that they have anxiety, when it may just be stress. Stress can be resolved by taking a few deep breaths, or walking away from the situation. Anxiety lingers minutes to hours to days after you left, and makes it hard to breathe. It’s important to know exactly what the differences are so you know what’s going on with either yourself, a friend, or a loved one. Knowing the differences between stress and anxiety can also allow you to figure out what may or may not help when someone’s anxiety is acting up. Anxiety isn’t something that can easily be handled on your own, so when someone is willing to help you, it can ease the pressure of going through it alone.

As anxiety and its effects vary, so does the proper and most effective treatment. Treatments can range from natural remedies and therapy all the way to taking medications. For my friend, the best treatment for him, as of right now, is therapy. It’s best for him to sit down with someone and talk through what goes on when his anxiety and OCD act up, so it can be broken down and find how to work on those individual things at a time- tackling everything at once may make the anxiety worse.  The options for medications vary as well. There are many medications that can be prescribed. Every aspect of anxiety, from its forms to its effects to its treatments, are all different and they all vary based on the individual.

There are also alternatives to counseling that are available any time and don’t require you to talk face to face with someone. This may make you uncomfortable if what you need to talk about is more personal. “Crisis Text Line” is a 24/7 free help line across the US, and one single text message can connect you with a trained counselor within minutes. You can talk to someone immediately–no matter where or when. They will listen to what you need to say, and help you to relax and calm down. They are there to assist with anxiety, depression, feelings of hopelessness, and more. For more information on what they do and how to contact them, visit their website.

Written by Samantha Fantozzi

Dining as a Vegetarian

As a vegetarian, I find trying new restaurants to be a little stressful. It can be hard to try new places when I’m not sure if they will have any vegetarian options. Luckily, I found a few places in and around the Roanoke area that have plenty of options for vegetarians in the area. I thought I’d share some of my favorites!

Before I moved to this area and was just visiting, a place I always had to stop was Hollywood’s Bakery. This place has its very own vegetarian section with a lot of diversity between choices. One of the best things about Hollywood’s is the incredible bakery items. Their bakery menu is extensive, there’s something sweet for everyone. If you’re ever in the Hollins-Roanoke area I highly recommend stopping in for a Tinker Mountain Quesadilla and a lemon bar!

Benny Marconi’s is my favorite place to go downtown if I’m just looking for a quick place to eat. You get a giant slice of pizza for just a couple of bucks. It’s the perfect remedy for walking around town all day. They have very simple cheese pizza and a wide selection of sodas and tea. It’s a great little place if you’re looking for an affordable and vegetarian friendly place to eat in downtown Roanoke.

I only recently found out about this amazing Indian food place called Taaza. I’ve also been hesitant to try Indian food, but I finally decided to check it out. It was so delicious and they had a whole vegan section as well as a build-you-own dish kind of thing, where you could replace meat with mixed veggies. The portions are huge and they make great leftovers the next day. If you haven’t tried it yet I highly recommend.

I’ve found that Macado’s is a big hit for college students in the area, I know that we’re always down to eat here.  The menu is very diverse and you get anything from a PB&J to a black bean quesadilla. Their macaroni and cheese is a dream and I cannot go inside without ordering some. The inside is full of crazy decorations that give the place a great atmosphere.

Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar is a very cute place to stop if you’re in the Grandin area. Sometimes I get what I like to call a “fancy” grilled cheese—it’s just what hits the spot. It’s an easy vegetarian friendly place if you want the feel of an old-school dinner feel, a gooey grilled cheese, and of course- an incredible ice cream soda!

These are just some of amazing vegetarian friendly restaurants that the Roanoke area has to offer, let me know which is your favorite. Didn’t see one of your favorites on the list? Recommend it in the comments bellow!  Stay tuned for more vegetarian minded articles.

 

Written by Lilith Turman

Warm and Cozy Winter Nights

Looking for a fun way to get through these cold nights? Never fear! Our new intern, Lilith, shared a few of her favorite winter night activities with us. Check them out below!

  • Make some tea or hot cocoa and then bring out the board games! A board game night is a good way to hang out with a large or small group of friends and include everyone in something. My friends and I love this activity! Over the summer, we collected some of our favorite board and card games; now at least once a week we like to get together and get a little competitive. I know it might seem lame at first, but it can lead to fantastic memories and is an easy way to spend a night with friends that doesn’t have to include trekking out into the cold weather. Some of our favorites to play are Clue, Ultimate Werewolf, and Cards Against Humanity.  SIDE NOTE: Get a little adventurous and see if there’s a Dungeons and Dragons group in your area!
  • This one is classic! Binge watch Game of Thrones or put on Moana, either way just make sure you grab your closet friends. Start the movie, order a pizza, pop some popcorn, and curl up on the nearest couch for a lazy night. Too basic? Try out a new baking recipe to have a treat while you watch your favorite movies! You’ll need something sweet to balance out the pizza and popcorn anyway!
  • With the cold weather drying out my skin, I think this is a very beneficial and fun way to spend a winter night! Try your local drug store for some premade face masks. Or if you want to get more creative, make your own for a little DIY action. Want more? Try doing nail art! Any drug store will have plenty of nail polish and nail tools. Get adventurous! Combine all this with a sappy romance movie or put on some good music and you have yourself a winter night well spent. Perfect for hanging out with friends or a relaxing night in by yourself!!

P.S. We hear that wintry weather may be returning next week, Bella girls! So stock up now, and be prepared for a fun, safe time indoors with family and friends.

 

Written by Lilith Turman

Earth Girl Wellness: Convenience Food

Yes, I am putting it out into public knowledge that Earth Girl sometimes has to rely on the convenience of foods that come in a package. This is typically an extremely hectic and stressful time of the year. I spend more time in the car than I would like, and I often arrive home well after 8pm. I refuse to allow a crazy schedule side track my healthy eating, so I am always on the lookout for foods that I can eat straight from the package. Recent years have seen food manufacturers trying their hand at optimal health in a box. So here it goes: these are the three foods that you just might see Earth Girl munching on at the soccer field, in her car, or when she finally arrives home!

My first favorite is a frozen product, the Luvo Bowl. The Luvo Bowl has over 15 different variations. Recipes such as So Cal Kale & Bean, Orange Mango Chicken, Roasted Vegetable Lasagna, and Roasted Cauliflower Mac & Cheese entice the tastebuds! Luvo’s promise is to provide plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains and responsibly sourced proteins, while limiting sodium and added sugars. My personal favorite, the Quinoa & Veggie Enchilada Verde bowl, packs in 10 grams of protein, 37 grams of whole grains and a full cup of vegetables! At 290 calories per bowl, Earth Girl is left feeling full, and accomplished. After all, I just ate the easiest one cup of veggies of my day!

Number two on my list of foods in a box comes from Tessemae’s. Tessemae’s Salad Kits are USDA Organic! Four different varieties including Sesame Ginger Greens, Power Kale Caesar, Spinach Bacon Ranch, and Sweet Kale Crunch all pack in the nutrition with ingredients such as chickpeas, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. The kits contain around 400-450 calories and virtually no added sugars. These kits do have a little more sodium than Earth Girl would like, but compared to other packaged meals, the comparison makes Tessemae’s look like a “sodium-less” saint. The range of vitamins and minerals included in each package makes these salads a top performer in the nutrition world.

Finally, a super and quick snack or side to any meal are Good Foods Chickpea and Quinoa Salad packs. Leading the charge with a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan alternative to most convenience foods, Good Foods knows how to combine a great protein source with a variety of vegetables including carrots, green and red peppers. Earth Girl has been known to throw these packs on a bed of lettuce for added satiety. This manufacturer has perfected the art of combining a yummy combination of herbs so that the sodium and sugar content can remain low. At only 190 calories you can load up on 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 21 grams of whole carbohydrates.

Earth Girl recognizes that we all have moments, days, weeks or months of “survival” mode and we need to learn what healthy options are out in the vast jungle of heavily marketed convenience foods. Let me do a little of the dirty work for you! (Okay, it wasn’t so dirty—just really yummy!) I have compared hundreds of products and found the above top three to be in my grocery cart, my refrigerator or freezer, and in my cooler on a daily basis! Here’s to another meal “on the go” so you can be the best at what you do!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher of Earth Girl Wellness.

A Book That Takes Its Time

Mindfulness is “the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences happening in the present moment.” In a world filled with so much hustle and bustle, a world where we believe in cramming as much as possible into our schedules, it seems almost impossible to be mindful. Time is precious, and we seem to want to plan it down to the very last second. But with all our busy schedules, is there any time left to enjoy life in the present moment? Can we truly be mindful?

Irene Smit and Astrid Van der Hulst, two authors who have taken notice of this problem, have sat down and created a book to do something about it. Beginning their career as editors at Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, they are now the cofounders and creative directors of Flow magazine, a popular international publication filled with paper goodies and beautiful illustrations that celebrate creativity, imperfection, and positivity. Smit and Van der Hulst, have invented a Flow book that adds a little more stillness, downtime, and thought to your life. An unhurried adventure in creative mindfulness, A Book That Takes Its Time inspires you to do just that…take your time. Smit and Van der Hulst’s new book is all about taking time to breathe, time to learn, time to create, time to reflect, time to let go, and time to be kind. With each page encouraging you to linger and engage with each topic, this book is truly one where you will take your time. Filled with postcards, stickers, decorative papers, and hands-on activities like crafts, prompts, and journals, your work will result in cherished keepsakes.

A Book That Takes Its Time is the epitome of slowing down and living life in the now. In hopes that their book will lessen your worries and help you feel more at peace, Smit and Van der Hulst encourage you to find satisfaction through mindfulness. The only request that Smit and Van der Hulst have for their readers is that they take their time flipping through the pages and enjoying all this creative piece of mindfulness has to offer.

 

Written by Taylor Ward

The Magic of Getting Lost

As a senior in college, I find the question “what are your plans for after graduation?” completely agonizing. Although a little hectic with senior seminar, work, trying to decode my math homework, and trying to make it to the gym at least once this week, my day is going along just fine. Then, someone dares to ask about what I plan to do with my life after college. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know exactly what you want to do. If you’re like me, and most other college students, you have absolutely no idea.

So, naturally, I email my advisor immediately to make an appointment on how my life is going nowhere because I can’t seem to figure out what to do with it. As usual, he calms me down and tells me that I’m exactly where I need to be and that it’s completely natural for a college student to have absolutely no idea where they want to take their diploma. As he always says, “Look at me, I came in as a music major and now I’m an English Professor.” However, this time I came to my advisor’s office for my monthly freak out, he had something else to give me; The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman.

As someone who is very organized, a master of To Do Lists, and needs to have a plan for almost everything in her life, this book was perfect for me. The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost is a coming-of-age memoir about the amazing journey Friedman embarks on when she, a college grad, surprises herself and everyone around her by purchasing a ticket to Ireland. Never having been to Ireland, the good girl who had always done what she was supposed to now finds herself in a strange new country, making friends with a free-spirited Australian who loves nothing more than a good adventure. While abroad, Rachel travels from Ireland, to Australia, and to South America where she discovers her love for travel; all the while finding her true self.

Not only was this book warmhearted, hilarious, and honest, but it offered an amazing insight into what it’s like to travel abroad. This book is a fantastic read and highly recommended for anyone who feels like taking a trip and getting lost for a little bit. Even though my advisor had assured me many times before that it’s perfectly fine to be a little lost right now, I never truly accepted that until I read Rachel Friedman’s memoir. The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost taught me that it’s okay to be unsure of yourself sometimes. It’s okay to be lost. Rachel shows us that in momentarily escaping some of life’s hardest decisions and living for the moment, getting lost allows us to find ourselves.

 

Written by Taylor Ward