This post is sponsored by iHerb.
Question: When it comes to holiday shopping, do you love it or hate it?
Personally, I love the process of planning, curating and wrapping gifts for people in my life – especially when the latter is done with a hot beverage nearby and a solid Christmas playlist. I’ve never been a fan of gifting for gifting’s sake, but what really gets me excited is when I come up with an idea that is super specific to the recipient. The kind I know other people might not understand, but the person opening it will totally get and totally use.
If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you’ll know I’m all about food that doesn’t just taste good, but also has functional benefits. I’m willing to bet you’ve got other people in your life who feel the same – you know, the one who blends up green smoothies full of ingredients you’ve never heard of, offers you roll-on aromatherapy remedies when you complain about headaches, and pours you a cup of ginger tea when you feel nauseous. She’s the pal who drinks warm lemon water in the morning to boost digestion, who isn’t grossed out by the scoby she uses for her home-brewed kombucha, and who introduced you to your first turmeric latte. She’s a gem, if you ask me.
With this culinary nutrition-loving pal in mind, I’ve put together the Holiday Gift Guide for the Superfoodie’s Healing Kitchen. It’s a curation of my multi-purpose must-haves, plus a few new discoveries that I’m excited about. As an added bonus, if YOU happen to be one of those people who loves stocking a kitchen with superfoods, consider this a treat yo’self gift guide too.
Why? Not everyone would get excited about receiving a jar of coconut oil as a present, but personally, I’d be delighted! This is hands down one of the most versatile pantry items I can think of, and here’s just a few of its uses:
- Cooking oil, especially for higher heat dishes that you’d want to avoid using extra virgin olive oil for
- Body moisturizer
- Ingredient for homemade personal care products, such as body scrubs, hair masks, deodorant, lip balm and toothpaste
- Makeup remover
- Soothing sunburnt skin
- A smoothie mix-in – the fat helps the body better absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- A coffee creamer substitute
- Drizzling on top of popcorn
- A healthy fat substitute for baked goods that call for margarine and shortening
- Oil pulling – a practice of swishing the oil in your mouth for a few minutes to draw out toxins
- Carrier oil for essential oils (coconut oil + orange-scented essential oil makes a lovely body balm!)
Why? Like turmeric, ginger is a super anti-inflammatory whole food that has a ton of applications. From nausea, headaches and digestive discomfort to muscle and joint pain, this is one thing you’ll never not find in my kitchen. There are SO many ways to enjoy ginger, including…
- Fresh! Add slices to hot water with a squeeze of lemon for a tummy soothing tea
- Blended or juiced in smoothies and juices
- Pickled – either in sauerkraut and kimchee, or served as a side for your sushi
- Grated or minced in soups, stews, curries and stir fries
- Blended into dips
- Mixed into batter for baked goods
- Candied, like these Chimes Ginger Chews and Gin Gins Hard Candies by The Ginger People, which I don’t board flights or go on road trips without because they’re great for helping with nausea and motion sickness.
- Herbal teas, like the one above from Pukka Herbs
Maca Root Powder
Why? Like other adaptogens, maca helps to support the endocrine system and provides a natural source of energy, without the jittery kind you’d expect from too much caffeine. It helps the body respond effectively with stress, all while providing fibre, essential fats, and a subtle butterscotch-y flavour. It’s also a natural aphrodisiac, ? and some studies show that it’s effective in boosting athletic performance and stamina.
I like to use maca powder in…
- Smoothies – any kind, but especially when I want to achieve a nutty flavour
- Baked goods – a little goes a long way, so simply adding a teaspoon to batter for your favourite pancakes or muffins will help to amp up the nutrient profile
- Homemade chocolate – like honey, maca can be whisked into melted chocolate
- Elixirs – along with other adaptogens like the medicinal mushrooms above, cinnamon and nut milk, these are super soothing. (If you’re interested, try this recipe!)
Why? It’s one of the most potent anti-inflammatory herbs we know about to date, thanks to the active compound curcumin that gives the root its yellow pigment. As I talked about in detail here and here, a diet loaded with anti-inflammatory foods is ideal for so many reasons. Whether it’s a long-term condition like arthritis or a shorter-term one like muscle soreness after a tough spin class, science has shown plenty of evidence that anti-inflammatory compounds found in food can help alleviate symptoms.
I like to add a bit of black pepper whenever I cook with turmeric because the piperine (a compound in the pepper) helps our bodies to absorb more of the curcumin. That means the anti-inflammatory superpowers are maximized (and even more so if you add a source of fat to the mix). Your superfoodie bestie can use turmeric to make:
- Homemade curry powder and/or homemade Indian-inspired dishes
- Scrambled eggs + omelettes
- Smoothies – either in powdered or root form, a little turmeric and a pinch of black pepper won’t alter the taste but provides a big nutrition boost
- Juices – the root can be added to a juicer just like other fruits and vegetables. When combined with ginger juice, lemon and cayenne, this makes one killer cold-busting shot.
- Turmeric lattes… and if that’s of interest, check out the next item in the list!
Shop it: Simply Organic Turmeric
Gaia Herbs Organic Golden Milk
Why? This powdered form of turmeric, cardamom, vanilla, ashwagandha, dates and black pepper is one of my new favourite elixir mixes. With all the same anti-inflammatory actions described above for ground turmeric, the addition of ashwagandha (a powerful adaptogenic herb) helps to support the nervous and immune systems.
Golden Milk (and ashwagandha on its own) have both been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to heal a wide variety of health issues, and they’re now becoming more popular in North America. Here’s how I use mine:
- Hot beverages: I love mixing this powder with homemade almond milk on the stove, then giving it a quick whirl in the Vitamix to create a nice frothy turmeric latte. Depending on how much I feel like channeling my inner mixologist, I’ll also add things like cinnamon, ginger, vanilla or almond extract, collagen powder and other adaptogens – more about those below!
- Smoothies: Toss a serving (1 tsp) into any smoothie recipe
Shop it: Gaia Herbs Organic Golden Milk
Why? Unlike the honey you see at the grocery store in a teddy bear-shaped bottle, raw honey isn’t clear. It’s unfiltered, unpasteurized, and not heated to high temperatures. As a result, raw honey is far more nutrient-dense and retains its anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-oxidant properties. It can also contain propolis and bee pollen, two other bee products with healing benefits. All these things make raw honey good for…
- Healing wounds
- Soothing inflammation and a sore throat – super helpful during cold season!
- Boosting the immune system – thanks to its ability to boost antioxidant production
- Quick, easy-to-digest energy for fueling the body for endurance sports (think DIY gels and sports drinks – plus vitamins, minerals, bee pollen and protein, minus the crazy artificial colours in many conventional sports nutrition products)
- DIY face masks, especially for acne-prone skin
- DIY body scrubs, hair masks, exfoliants and sunburn treatments
- Adding to homemade chocolate (cacao butter, cacao powder and honey are all you need – tutorial coming up here on the blog soon!) and salad dressings to provide natural sweetness
Amazing Grass Belly Elixir with Greens + Adaptogens
Why? This is another new-to-me discovery, and one that’s a huge timesaver because it combines so many fantastic ingredients in a single product. It’s also got a very impressive lineup of ingredients:
- fermented greens (wheatgrass, barley grass and alfalfa)
- stress-relieving adaptogenic herbs (moringa, ashwagandha, reishi, cordyceps, schisandra and mucuna)
- holy basil, yacon root and probiotics – all of which support a happy tummy and healthy digestion.
As science is showing, the gut is truly like our second brain. An unhealthy gut microbiome can trigger so many other issues that you might not think are remotely linked back to that source. As I’m sure you know, a whole food, plant-based diet is one of the best ways to set yourself up for good gut health. After all, taking every supplements and elixir in the world won’t cure damage done by a poor diet. With that said, I love elixirs like this one because they’re like icing on the cake, and something that can help to take digestive health and overall wellbeing a step further.
Here’s how I’ve been using it:
- A wellness shot: Simply mixing 1 scoop with water. Adding a squeeze of lemon helps to neutralize the green taste.
- Cold drinks: Blending it into smoothies or mixing it into green juices
- Oatmeal: This is going to sound weird, but sometimes I’ll hide about half a scoop in my oatmeal, along with vanilla, ginger, maca, lots of cinnamon and nut milk.
Vital Proteins Collagen Beauty Greens
Why? Not only is collagen a source of protein (which makes it a great supplement to take as part of a post-workout recovery regimen), but it’s what our bodies use to build strong, healthy hair, nails and skin cells. I talked about the benefits in depth here, but you may have also read about collagen supplementation being helpful for improving skin elasticity and smoothness. You’ll find it in all sorts of anti-aging skincare products because our bodies’ natural collagen production decreases as we get older. The Vital Proteins Collagen Beauty Greens also contains (as the name suggests) organic raw greens and probiotics for gut health.
I use it in the same way as the Amazing Grass Belly Elixir above, but make my choice based on whether I want the collagen that this powder provides, or the adaptogen benefits of the Belly Elixir. Since starting to take collagen about a year ago I’ve noticed my nails and hair grow significantly faster, and that my nails break less often.
Why? These are far more powerful than your average white button or cremini mushroom, and if you’re a regular reader you already know about my love for Four Sigmatic’s Mushroom Elixirs. Adaptogens have been a big theme in the wellness world this year (and in this post!), and surprise surprise – medicinal mushrooms are adaptogens too! To recap, that means they support the body in stressful situations, helping to bring it back to a state of homeostasis.
Even coffee lovers can get their daily dose of shrooms, because in addition to elixirs and mushroom hot cacao, Four Sigmatic also has mushroom coffee. I’m a loyalist because of the company’s stand for quality ingredients and educating the world on how mushrooms can be such powerful healing foods. To learn more, check out the videos in their academy. It’s free!
My usual way of enjoying these is mixed with hot water. (Sometimes plain is best and the powders dissolve instantly.) Depending on how I feel, I’ll use them for different purposes:
- Cordyceps: before a workout, or when I need an energy boost (without jitters and the inevitable crash you’d get from caffeine)
- Lion’s Mane: for mental focus, especially if I have a big day at work or a long to-do list to tackle
- Chaga: for antioxidants, an immunity boost, as an alternative to tea at breakfast time
- Reishi: for calming down, before bed, and setting myself up for a good night’s sleep
Shop it: Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixirs
I’ve ordered all of the products above from iHerb, and in addition to having such a huge variety of items to choose from (35,000 in fact), I love…
- how quickly the packages land on my doorstep
- the fact that they ship to Canada (and to 160+ other countries!)
- the awesome customer service.
iHerb offers support in 10 languages so no matter where you are in the world, I’m sure you’ll find what you need. If you’re a new customers, you can get $5 off your first order of $20 or more by using this special link.
So tell me…
- What are some of the functional food essentials in your kitchen? Any I haven’t listed here?
- Are there any wellness trends you’ve seen emerge this year that you haven’t tried yet and are still curious?