Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Hydration; Water and Beyond

We think about hydration a lot in summer; but it is just as important to remember to stay hydrated in the winter. Signs of dehydration can include headache, cracks on the fingers and feet/heels, fatigue and irritability.

Of course, you've all heard about drinking water. It's important, especially if you are thirsty. Also especially if you eat a lot of cooked foods, salty or processed foods, or drink coffee, tea, wine or other alcohol. I saw a college friend over the holidays who I haven't seen in years, and she told me a funny story. Apparently her mother does not like water. She cranks the heat up in the house in winter to unbearable (to most) temperatures and drinks pots of coffee and glasses of wine. My friend and her sister call her home The Center for Advanced Dehydration.

Many people say it's important to drink a certain number of glasses of water a day. There are also formulas based on weight for how much water you need. While these are good generalizations, it is really more specific than that.

If you eat a diet high in raw fruits and vegetables, especially including smoothies or freshly made (not store-bought pasteurized) juices, you get hydrated. Fresh raw fruits and veggies carry lots of water, in clean (especially if you are eating organic) usable form. Plain water is still important, but eating a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables certainly helps people stay hydrated!

Another important and overlooked factor in dehydration is not getting enough essential fatty acids. The average American diet is especially low in omega 3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil or plant sources such as flax seeds.

The media buzz is that low (or even no) fat is better, but when we eat healthy fats, especially from nuts and seeds and vegetable sources like avocados and olives and olive oil, that is not necessarily the case. Our brain and cell membranes are made up predominately of fat, and we need good healthy fats to function at a high level. The picture here is of golden flax seeds, which I love, but the darker reddish ones are great, too. If you have a dehydrator, I have included a recipe for raw flax crackers below, but other ways to eat them is to grind the raw unsoaked seeds in a coffee grinder and sprinkle on salads, or make salad dressing out of flax oil. (There is a recipe for Omega-Rich Honey Mustard salad dressing below.) There is a product called Udo's oil which has a balanced blend of omega 3's and 6's that I like very much. Just remember never to heat these oils: they break down easily. Also keep them refrigerated and don't go past their expiration date, as they can also go rancid quickly.

Enjoy the recipes!

Omega-Rich Honey Mustard Salad Dressing

2 Tbsp Flax Oil or Udo's Oil
juice of 1/2 lemon (or to taste)
salt or bit of nama shoyu or tamari
1 tsp - 1 Tbsp honey or to taste
1 tsp - 1 Tbsp (or amount equal to amount of honey) of mustard
water, if you like thinner dressing

I usually make this in a mug or glass jar. I mix by hand with a fork. Mix equal parts of honey and mustard. Add oil and mix, then add other ingredients. Adjust amounts by taste. Can also add herbs like basil, thyme, etc. For creamy dressing, can add yogurt or mayonnaise or tahini.

Dehydrated Flax Crackers.

Soak a cup of raw, whole flax seed in 1 1/2 cups of water for a few hours. (the flax seeds will soak up the water and the whole thing will turn to a gel. You can use more water if you need. I sometimes soak them during the day, and put them in the dehydrator overnight.)

To the soaked flax seeds, add:
the juice of one lemon
finely chopped garlic
salt or a bit of nama shoyu or tamari
optional spice like curry powder.
more water if necessary, it shouldn't be overly wet, just mixable.

Spread thinly (one or two flax seeds thick) onto the teflex sheet of a dehydrator tray. Dehydrate at 105 for about 4 hours, flip and peel off teflex and dehydrate another 4 hours, or until crispy.

You can play with the spices (can even make them sweet with cinnamon!) and can add other nuts and seeds to them as well.

I just noticed I included a "dehydrated" recipe in an article about staying hydrated! Yikes! Make sure you drink water or eat fresh fruit and veggies as well as enjoying these crackers!

Be Well!
~ Melissa

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