Monday morning power smoothies (also Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…!)

I don’t like Monday mornings. Or Tuesday mornings. Or Wednesday mornings. Actually, I hate mornings of any shape, size or color. The snooze button is usually pressed about 186 times before I actually get up and by the time I have managed to bathe and dress myself – both tests of supreme strength before noon – everything is running an hour behind schedule. Then, of course, there is neither the time nor the energy to make breakfast. Which, as we well know, is nutritional suicide what with breakfast being the most important meal of the day yada yada yada…!

So, with Kimberly Snyder around, I figured the answer to my morning crisis might be found in a one-gulp pitcher. Several experiments and 27 nutritionists later, I have these 7 perfect, super-healthy, super-delicious power smoothies for crazy mornings. These nutrient-dense concoctions give unlimited energy, rev up the metabolism and help me make it to lunchtime without ravenous I’ll-chew-off-my-own-fingers urges. There is one for every day of the week, so mix them up according to your own schedules! I usually make a batch on Sunday and store them in Mason jars, so they are easy to grab-and-run. [Oh! And did I mention that a smoothie, unlike a juice, will keep its freshness for 4-5 days in the refrigerator!]

breakfast smoothiesCitrus wake-me-up smoothie

This smoothie is perfect for those mornings (think M.O.N.D.A.Y) when you simply don’t have the willpower to step out of bed the door. The fruit content gives a mammoth vitamin C-punch to help reduce sluggishness, thereby creating an even more powerful energy jolt than a cup of coffee.

1 cup orange juice
1 cup sliced strawberries
3/4 cup papaya
1 banana
 

Combine everything in a high-speed blender and puree till smooth.

Pomegranate-protein morning smoothie

According to research, Tuesday at 11:45 am is most stressful time of the week for most people. Counter with pomegranates, which are full of super-healthy antioxidants to support the cardiovascular system and help with high blood pressure and diabetes. Bananas, in the meantime, provide potassium. Chuck some into a blender, add protein powder and a handful of almond slivers for a powerful breakfast smoothie that will get your day going right.

1 cup pomegranate juice
3/4 cup soy or almond milk or low-fat milk
2 ice cubes
1 large banana
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
2 tablespoons protein powder
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
 

Combine, blend and drink up!

Avocado anti-midweek slump smoothie

By the time you hit the mid-week Wednesday slump, it’s time to load up on avocados that are chock-full of healthy fat, fiber and B vitamins – all essential for tackling stress, maintaining healthy nerves and keeping those brain cells ticking. And, no! Guacamole isn’t the only way to get your avocado fix – try this Brazilian-inspired smoothie recipe, courtesy of Dr. Oz.

2 cups low fat milk
1 large, ripe avocado
2 teaspoons honey or agave nectar
Ice, to taste
 

Add all ingredients to a blender; blend until smooth.

avocado breakfast smoothieThe breakfast-in-a-glass smoothie

Thursday mornings can be rushed because really, who wants to leave work pending for the weekend? This breakfast smoothie is great for those of us who are running late and prefer to drink our breakfast on the way. It is literaly ‘breakfast in a glass': cereal, milk and fruit.

1 banana
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey or sugar-free honey substitute
1/2 cup granola
1/2 cup ice
1/2 cup plain yogurt
 

Combine and blend; the granola will give it a nice texture and also keep you full for longer.

Super energy smoothie

Snuck in a couple of drinks on Thursday evening? Need a storehouse of energy for post-work Friday cocktails? This smoothie is loaded with antioxidant- and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables along with watermelon to help dilate blood vessels and promote blood flow. It also has coconut water, which is one of the most hydrating liquids out there (and helps reduce blood pressure).

1/2 cup pineapple
1/2 cut watermelon
1 cup coconut water
4-5 stalks baby spinach
8-10 frozen blueberries
2 green apples or 2 bananas
 

Blend all the ingredients together and enjoy!

pineapple watermelon breakfast smoothieSunburst smoothie

Ah! It’s finally Saturday and that means you can pull off a slightly more complicated recipe that will clear out toxins from the past week and set the stage for the weekend. Sweet and savoury at the same time, this almond butter and peach smoothie is loaded with calcium, iron, protein and vitamins A and C.

1/4 cup almond butter
2 cardamom pods or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups drinking water
1 cup frozen peaches
1 to 2 teaspoons agave syrup
1/2 cup ice
 

Blend together until smooth.

Soy for skin smoothie

Sunday = Me Time! One serving of this delicious and refreshing smoothie has 4 to 6 grams of whole soy protein, which has been linked to a wide range of women’s health benefits, including weight loss and better looking skin, hair, and nails.

6 ounce peach soy yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1 fresh fruit (like mango, apple, banana etc)
6 ice cubes
1 mint sprig (optional)
 

Blend yogurt, coconut extract, mango and ice in blender until smooth. Pour into a tall glass. Garnish with mint sprig, if desired.

Have you joined the smoothie revolution yet? What’s your fave recipe?

14 Beauty recipes from around the globe (it’s your ULTIMATE passport to looking gorgeous)

From Brazil to Scandinavia, the best beauty secrets are found in the kitchen. And they are often more effective than pricey lotions and potions, which is why they have lived on for thousands of years. So, I’ve scoped out some of the best natural beauty recipes from across the world for your benefit – each one tried, tested and timeless. But first put down that passport! You don’t have to travel any farther than your local market to start reaping the benefits.

global beauty secretsGlobal beauty recipe #1: Thailand’s detox tea

Thai women attribute their flawless, glowing complexion to the detox benefits of lemongrass. To replicate at home, chop up a handful of lemongrass and add some crushed ginger, basil and jasmine. Boil everything in a litre of water and let simmer for 10 minutes, then cool the liquid. Finally, add the juice of half a lemon and sip through the day.

Global beauty recipe #2: Philippines’ aloe vera hair treatment

Women in Philippines have a simple beauty recipe for glossy hair: break an aloe vera leaf in half (or get some organic aloe vera gel) and massage the juice into your scalp and strands. Let it sit for half an hour, then wash with your regular shampoo. The chemical composition of aloe vera gel is very similar to keratin (hair’s natural proteins), which allows it to be easily absorbed into the hair shaft. Once absorbed, the strengthening powers of protein combine with the plant’s natural amino acids to break down old sebum (natural oils) and dead scalp cells, strengthen the strands and boost lustre. Added bonus: aloe vera works a dream at controlling frizz without weighing down the hair.

japaense skincareGlobal beauty recipe #3: Japan’s sake-based skincare

To get glowing skin, Japanese women take a sake bath. The brew’s high level of kojic acid exfoliates and helps lighten age spots and other discolouration. It’s a simple beauty recipe to replicate: just add four six-ounce glasses of any kind of sake to your bath water. Then soak. And glow.

Global beauty recipe #4: Tahiti’s Monoi oil

Monoi oil – extracted from coconuts and infused with tiare, frangipani and vanilla flowers – allows Tahitian women to maintain their lovely skin despite the region’s intense heat and daily exposure to salt water. They coat their strands with this fragrant oil to prevent hair damage and massage it into the skin to retain moisture and elasticity while protecting against environmental assault.

Global beauty recipe #5: Israel brings home the Dead Sea

Swimming in the Dead Sea is an excellent way to detox the body and cure skin problems. To get these benefits at home, use this potent beauty recipe: mix together ¼ cup sea salt, 1 pinch seaweed powder, ½ cup almond or olive oil and 10-15 drops lavender oil.  Apply to skin and gently exfoliate, using circular motions.

Global beauty recipe #6: Britain’s mustard bath

Soaking in a hot mustard bath is a traditional English remedy for tight, achy muscles. Think it’s weird? Mustard has healing compounds that draw out toxins, improve circulation, relax tight muscles and speed up the healing of damaged tissues. To make a mustard bath, mix 2 cups of epsom salts, ¼ cup baking soda and ¼ cup dry mustard powder. Add this healing mix to hot running water; soak for 20 minutes, then rinse.

Global beauty recipe #7: Australia’s dandruff cure

Dandruff? Do like the Aussies and add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo. No more white flakes!

Global beauty recipe #8: France and their love of grape-seed

Grape-seed oil contains powerful antioxidants and is regularly used by French women to keep their skin beautiful and ageless. And no, grapes cannot compare in antioxidant potency to grape-seed extract – you would have to eat 1.5 pounds of table grapes to receive the benefits you would get from 50 mg of grape-seed extract.

Global beauty recipe #9: Scandinavia’s skin-boosting face wash

Scandinavian women have amazing skin. And their beauty recipe has to be the simplest ever: not only do they drink plenty of mineral water, it’s also used as a face wash. Minerals help condition and hydrate the skin, while the cool, fresh splash of moisture rinses off impurities and helps reduce redness and swelling. The key is that it needs to be icy cold and you should indulge in at least 20 splashes to wake up the skin.

Global beauty recipe #10: Turkey’s highlight booster

Daisy flowers make for an excellent highlight booster, especially for blond or light brown hair. Boil one cup of daisies in two cups of water for five minutes. Let the liquid cool, remove the daisies, pour the water over your hair and let it air dry; no need to rinse out.

turkey skincareGlobal beauty recipe #11: The Greek hair conditioner

Greek women rinse their hair with rosemary water to deep cleanse and remove buildup. To try it now, boil fresh rosemary flowers in water, let the liquid cool completely, strain out the rosemary and pour the water over your hair. Result: shiny, bouncy locks.

Global beauty recipe #12: Chile’s red grape glow

Chilean women credit the antioxidant powers of red grapes for their luminous skin. They mash up a handful of the fruit and add 2 tablespoons of white flour. This paste is applied to the face and left on for 10 minutes before washing off. It instantly rejuvenates tired or fatigued skin and imparts an amazing glow.

Global beauty recipe #13: Jamaica’s simplest skincare DIY

The signature Jamaican beauty recipe combines a pinch of baking soda with enough water to make a paste. Dab this on  a pimple; as the paste dries and hardens, it will suck dirt and oil out of your pores.

Global beauty recipe #14: Brazil’s sunburn twister

To ease the sting of sunburn, pile oatmeal flakes onto a large piece of gauze bandage, twist it up like a sack, and tie it around the tap of your bathtub. Let cool water flow through the bag and bathe in it for at least 20 minutes to soak up the cereal’s anti-inflammatory goodness.

What’s your secret natural beauty recipe? Do share.

Is this really the most relaxing song EVER? All the scientists say so!

Don’t remember the last time I managed to sleep for more than a couple of hours at night. Not because I am overtly-stressed or over-worked (well, at least no more than usual) or anything else that might be keeping the zzzzzzzzzzzs at bay. And that’s the worst thing – because my insomnia doesn’t seem to have any specific cause, I simply don’t know how to make it go away. So, even though I am no lover of instrumentals (yes, yes… I know that makes me a pleb but so don’t care!) it’s time to look into this piece of music, which is supposed to be the most relaxing in the world. Seriously.

Sound therapists have rated 10 of the most relaxing songs in the world and Marconi Union’s 8 minute trance-inducing tune, Weightless, has come out on top. That’s thanks to its continuous rhythm of 60 BPM – an ideal tempo for synchronization with the heart and brainwaves, which makes it an ideal audio accompaniment for a good night’s rest.

most relaxing songLyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy explains: “While listening, your heart rate gradually comes to match that beat. It is important that the song is 8 minutes long because it takes about 5 minutes for this process, known as entrainment, to occur. The fall in heart rate also leads to a fall in blood pressure. The harmonic intervals – or gaps between notes – have been chosen to create a feeling of euphoria and comfort. And there is no repeating melody, which allows your brain to completely switch off because you are no longer trying to predict what is coming next. Instead, there are random chimes, which helps to induce a deeper sense of relaxation. The final element is the low, whooshing sounds and hums that are like buddhist chants. High tones stimulate but these low tones put you in a trance-like state.”

Understood about 30% of all that science? Me too. Still, it really seems to be doing something to my head every time I listen to it – especially when I do it with eyes closed. Sort of like my body is becoming lighter or fuzzier or floaty or… something… . Definitely interesting and worth a try. Tonight. Because I really, really, really, really need to sleep.

And just in case you were wondering, here’s a complete list of what are considered the most relaxing tunes in the world.

1. Marconi Union – Weightless
2. Airstream – Electra
3. DJ Shah – Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix)
4. Enya – Watermark
5. Coldplay – Strawberry Swing
6. Barcelona – Please Don’t Go
7. All Saints – Pure Shores
8. Adele – Someone Like You
9. Mozart – Canzonetta Sull’aria
10. Cafe Del Mar – We Can Fly

What’s your take on relaxation-inducing music? Believe in it? Have any tunes that you turn to for winding down? Help me here!

Beauty recipe: The Italian secret to glow-y, flawless, PERFECT skin

I’ve spent most of these last weeks wandering around the inner reaches of France, Germany and Italy, with one conclusion: while French women are the epitome of understated chic and the Germans have a robust constitution, it is the Italian bellisima who wins the complexion stakes. Seriously, have you ever seen their skin? How it’s taut and tight, literally hugging the bones and glowing with an inner radiance that can’t be replicated with any amount of foundation or highlighter? How it’s flawless, despite their spending hours in the sun and eating a diet rich in carbs and sugar-laden tiramisu?

It’s enough to give mere mortals like me a complex. So… time to dig! And after interviewing a whole clutch of women from Milan to Matera (it’s the most exquisite Basilicatan village – look it up!), there are a few ingredients that crop up time and again. Humble kitchen ingredients that make for the most potent beauty treatments: olive oil, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), eggs and lemons. And quite a few Italian mammas (all with the skin of a 25-year-old on an 80-year-olds body) offered up this one recipe that combines these beauty ingredients into one seriously potent face mask that soothes, nourishes, busts blemishes and leaves you glowing flawlessly.

italian skincareThe secret?

Chickpeas are a potent source of skin nourishing and rejuvenating proteins, olive oil is packed with anti-aging antioxidants and hydrating squalene, egg yolks are full of vitamins (including vitamin A or retinol, which boosts cellular turnover and keeps pores unclogged) to maintain skin elasticity, while lemon juice takes care of any blemishes and minor skin infections.

You will need

1/4 cups cooked chickpeas
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 egg yolk
 

How-to

1. Mash the chickpeas and mix them with all the ingredients; blend till you get a smooth paste.

2. Spread this face over your; let dry for 20 minutes.

3. Rinse off with warm water followed by a blast of cold water. Pat skin dry and apply your usual moisturiser.

Which country do you think has the most beautiful women? C’mon peeps, time to put it to a vote!