Dragon Fruit Chia Seed Pudding


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Tis now the season for dragon fruit, and what better way to ward off the feeling of gloom with the cold weather by enjoying a tropical fruit! Dragon fruit is a less known superfood with great anti-inflammatory benefit, rich in antioxidants, Vitamin C, B complex, along with iron and calcium. dragon-fruit

There are two main types of dragon fruit, the white-flesh ones and the red-flesh ones. While the white-flesh are the most common, I prefer the red-flesh kind for the dramatic pink color. Dragon fruits have similar texture to a kiwi, but taste more in between a watermelon and a pear.

One way I like to enjoy them is in a chia seed pudding. See my recipe below.



Dragon fruit chia seed pudding

  • 1/2 cup almond or soy milk
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 1 dragon fruit, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)


  1. Cut the dragon fruit in half, then use a knife to slide off the skin (similar to how you would with a watermelon, except the dragon fruit skin is more delicate).
  2. In a medium bowl, gently whisk the soymilk, yogurt, and half of the dragon fruit in a mixer/blender until smooth blended.
  3. Pour the yogurt mixture into a cup, then whisk in the chia seeds until they are evenly distributed.
  4. Cover and refrigerate x3 hours or overnight.
  5. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of agave or honey into the mixture.
  6. Add the rest of the cut dragon fruit on top and serve.
  7. Optional: you can also toss few granolas or sliced almonds on top before serving.


Healthy Homemade Ranch Dressing


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Summer time = salad time. Aside from fresh ingredients, the key to making a delicious salad is in the dressing. I love mixing up different styles of salad dressings to add some variety into my daily salad routine.

While traditional ranch dressings are full of saturated fat (mayonnaise AND buttermilk?) and sodium, I like to make a yogurt-based version that is much lighter and healthier, while still retaining that creamy texture.



  • 1 cups of greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of dill
  • 1 tablespoon of parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of dry mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper


  1. Whisk all the seasoning together in a bowl.
  2. Add fresh garlic to the greek yogurt in a large mixing bowl, then add the mixed seasoning to the yogurt. Whisk everything together x 30 seconds. Keep dressing in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. Enjoy!


5 Healthy Foods That are Time-Savers and Stores Well


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I love the farmers market just as much as anyone else – here in San Diego, my favorite is the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market. Conversations about interesting vegetables you have never seen with the farmers that grew them, fruits that are in season, and the freshest greens ever! And lets not forget the weird/cool stuff – like a booth with just jewellery and decorative items made of old spoons! But lets face it, I end up throwing out about half of those fresh microgreens.

Once I started residency, the days of only cooking in cast-iron, never microwave and eating home-made salsa were a thing of the past. Instead though, I learned some new, really sustainable habits – I cook a big meal/s at the beginning of the week, and I buy ingredients that are easy to use and can last because I don’t have a long time to shop! And of course, because I LOVE food and have zero impulse control, and because I stress eat, everything at my house has to be healthy. I realized that some of you may benefit from knowing the staples I get – not just from Trader Joes (which has saved my Bee-Hind many times) but also from really anywhere.

  1. Canned beans – Beans are one of my favorite foods to write about. They are eco-friendly, filling, great for your microbiome, FULL of fiber, help with glycemic control, and versatile. When you buy them in the can, they are pre-cooked and you don’t need to do much to them. Tip: wash the canned beans first (once or twice) to reduce the sodium content.
  2. Frozen greens – There is nothing wrong with frozen food, so long as it is not full of fats, salt and sugar. Frozen vegetables might even be healthier than fresh, because they are literally frozen at the farm, ensuring that they lose as little nutrient content as possible. Frozen greens can be quickly added to soups, cooked rice dishes, casseroles,  and even fruit smoothies to increase the health-factor.
  3. Frozen or pre-packaged grains – I use frozen brown-rice a LOT. To save time, I would throw the frozen brown rice into the dish as I am cooking, rather than making a stand alone brown rice as a side. Frozen brown rice is also a good filler for a dish, like adding it into a  soup as a thickener.
  4. Arugula – Arugula lasts forever. Well maybe not forever, but pre-washed Arugula lasts me ~2 weeks. And my favorite thing about microgreens is that they are so compact and I can put a whole pack of arugula into a dish without feeling like it has taken over the dish.
  5. Frozen berries – I keep all kinds of frozen fruit, but frozen berries top the list because they are nutrient dense without having a lot of calories. For example, on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, which wholefoods uses to label its foods, berries are on the top 5, with fresh cranberries topping the list.  Just remember to buy your berries organic – strawberries top the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen.



Four Supplements To Take for Travel

Whether you are traveling for business or for pleasure, it is always an added stress. The extra UV and radiation exposure on flight, the re-circulating air, and forget about trying to stay on a diet…traveling can wreak havoc on your skin, your immune system and your digestive system. There are select supplements the Practice Vitality team agrees that are important to have and carry- they help to boost your immune system, stay healthy and ward off the next cold/flu.

  1. Probiotic– Keeping a health gut flora is not only important to prevent bloating/constipation, they are essential for maintaining a healthbest-probiotic-supplements1-300x182y and strong immune system. Most of your immune cells resides in your gut, which can be aggravated from different food irritants (such as gluten or dairy), travel, stress, and medications (e.g. antibiotics). Probiotic helps to maintain your healthy gut flora to support your immune system- which is also critical for alleviating allergies (more on natural allergy deterrent). I like to take them on
  2. Turmeric– a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric has been used in turmeric-spoon-root-720x481traditional Chinese and Indian medicine for many ailments. It is also a good
    source of Iron. Generally, 500 mg twice daily is the standard recommendation. We like to use it for joint pains, allergies, and other digestive complaints, like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Studies have also shown turmeric can help reduce the risks of various cancers, including colon and prostate cancer.
  3. Vitamin D– most of us (unless you are an athlete and is always outdoors), have Vitamin D deficiency parts of the year. Those who are 50 years or older , or have gut problems are at a even higher risk due to the body’s decreased ability to absorb Vitamin D. Its important to go to your physician to get your D level checked. Proper Vitamin D is critical to elevate your mood, fight off infections, and of course, keeping your bones strong and healthy. See our past post on which Vitamin D supplements are best.
  4. Elderberry Syrup– we love Elderberry syrup. As soon as you get a sign of cold, take it 3x per day and guaranteed it will help you recover faster or even help to ward off the cold.nw666-NZ

Making Ghee From Scratch


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Frying is generally bad for you – example: frying unsaturated oils leads to the production of trans-fats which can contribute to cardiovascular disease, frying carbohydrates leads to the production of acrylamides & glycidamides which are carcinogenic, and frying proteins causes the production of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which can contribute to cancer and are one of the reasons processed meats are considered a contributor to cancer by the WHO.

So why do I suggest frying spices might be a good idea? When spices are slowly cooked in a tempering oil, the aromatic compounds, which are better drawn out by oil as they fat soluble, are released into the oil. When cooking, these aromatic compounds suspended in oil are better able to permeate the dish so that we taste and smell cumin, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, and curry leaves leading to the sensory experience that is characteristic of Indian food.

Why ghee? Ghee has been used in Ayurveda for millenia as a food, a vehicle for herbs (it is a fat so it helps absorption of fat soluble medicinal compounds), and for home remedies. When I was growing up and no one was supposed to eat any fat, everyone stopped putting ghee in their food. I tell my family, friends and patients who are South Asian to continue to cook their spices in ghee and flavor their foods with it. Why? Because I would rather they enjoy half a teaspoon of ghee and to flavor their foods and cut the huge amounts of white rice, white flour, and sugar that South Asians tend to indulge in. Also, ghee is a stable oil with a higher smoke point, and cooking olive oil to high temperatures necessary to cook Indian spices for tempering may not be as safe as unsaturated fats can become harmful when they oxidize, and even become harmful trans fatty acids. The nutritional community has decided for sure that trans-fats are certainly worse than saturated fat. And yes, ghee has saturated fat, but if you plan to put as little as 1 tablespoon of ghee in a large portion of cooked vegetable, then you might as well do things the traditional way, especially if theoretically you are creating harmful trans fats by frying unsaturated olive oil.

Ghee is easily available in Indian grocery stores and online nowadays. I am particularly fond of a couple of different brands. Pure brand is a good one, and I recently discovered Eat Good Fat brand ghee. Both are grassfed and organic, and taste really fresh. I tend to trust organic valley and they have started making ghee as well, but I have not tried their ghee. So why make ghee? Because no matter how good the brand you buy, fresh ghee tastes the best. It is also MUCH cheaper to make the ghee than to buy all of the above brands I quoted to you and it lasts a really long time.

Below are step by step instructions on how to make ghee with pictures. Enjoy!


3 sticks of butter – I use grassfed butter, preferrably from a farm.


  1. Turn the stove to medium, put 3 sticks of butter in a pot and place on the stove. Wait for the butter to melt and then boil. The boiling goes through 2 stages. The first time it boils, you end up with a white precipitate.
  2. With the second boiling point, you start to see a film of proteins build up on the top and then the ghee boils again. As soon as the precipitate starts to turn brown, turn off the stove and take the ghee off the stove.
  3. When the ghee stops boiling, you will see brown precipitate at the bottom. This is very much edible, but NOT healthy for you – my husband’s family mixes a spoon of sugar with it. It tastes amazingly deliciously unhealthy.
  4. Sieve the ghee through a cheese cloth, and its done! I have pictures below for each step. Enjoy!

Boiling point number 1


Precipitate number 1


Boiling point number 2 with the film developing at the top


Precipitate number 2. This is the point at which you turn off the stove


When you stop the stove and the boiling stops, this is what you see!


Seive through a strainer. Hubby helped with this


Deliciously unhealthy part – look at the spoon




5 Ways to Eat Mindfully

the-stones-263661_960_720I have been to many nutrition conferences over the years, and now I am learning how to go about treating obesity with behavior change at UC San Diego’s Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research. It is striking to me how often mindfulness comes up. Considering how much time we spend preoccupied with food and eating, you would think we would spend more time experiencing our food, but many of us mindlessly scarf down our meals as we work, study, drive, or watch tv. We dont even think about whether we are hungry. A dramatic example of this is the incredible work of researcher from Cornell named Bryan Wansink whose experiments have gotten a lot of attention. He keeps refilling people’s bowls of soup through a hole on the bottom – literally, a bottomless bowl of soup. People who eat from the bottomless bowls eat FOUR times the food as those who get their food in a regular bowl. To me, this is signalling that it is possible we dont always eat in response to hunger. Heres the video:

Eating when you are hungry can be very powerful, and trying to actually consciously experience the food as you are eating it may be even more powerful. Here are a couple of simple ways to get you to do just that.

  1. Do the Hershey’s Kiss Meditation: the Hersheys Kiss Meditation is a technique in which you meditate on the experience as you eat a Hershey’s kiss. This can be done with any kind of food obviously, but there is something truly powerful about creating an emotionally positive experience around eating something as associate with guilt and indulgence as chocolate. I have seen people cry as they describe what its like to allow themselves to experience eating as a pleasurable act. A really quick version:
    • Look at the Hersheys kiss and notice what emotions come to mind. Do you feel hunger? Guilt? Excitement? Joy? Now open the wrapper. Notice the noise that it makes. Notice how the wrapper feels in your hand. Put the candy in your palm. Hold it up to your nose and smell it. All along, notice the emotions this brings up. Now, place the candy in your mouth. What does it feel like? Try not to chew it! How does it taste? Does it feel different on what part of the tongue than another? What emotions come up for you? 
    • Here is another nice version by Susan Albers on Psychology today.  
  2. Try Urge Surfing: Urge surfing is a meditative exercise that brings awareness to where urges reside in our body and how they are temporary. Here is a short description of an urge surfing exercise from drugrehab.org (Urge-surfing is commonly used to help with cravings for food, but it is also used to help with cravings for other issues as well)
      • Acknowledge how you are experience the craving. Do this by sitting in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths and focus your attention inward. Allow your attention to wander through your body. Notice where in your body you experience the craving and what the sensations are like. Notice each area where you experience the urge, and tell yourself what you are experiencing. For example, “Let me see . . . My craving is in my mouth and nose and in my stomach.”
      • Focus on one area where you are experiencing the urge. Notice the exact sensations in that area. For example, do you feel hot, cold, tingly, or numb? Are your muscles tense or relaxed? How large an area is involved? Notice the sensations and describe them to yourself. Notice the changes that occur in the sensation. “Well, my mouth feels dry and parched. There is tension in my lips and tongue. I keep swallowing. As I exhale, I can imagine the smell and tingle of alcohol.”
      • Repeat the focusing with each part of your body that experiences the craving. Pay attention to and describe to yourself the changes that occur in the sensations. Notice how the urge comes and goes.
      • Ride out your craving, releasing tension with each breath. Stay with the meditation until the craving subsides. Many people, when they urge surf, notice that after a few minutes the craving has vanished. The purpose of this exercise, however, is not to make the craving go away but to experience the craving in a new way. If you practice urge surfing, you will become familiar with your cravings and learn how to ride them out until they diminish naturally.- Exercise from drugrehab.org
    • Below it is a video that goes through an urge surfing exercise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__0dNKJV0zo
  3. Don’t eat in front of the TV: Eating in front of the TV makes us eat more because we pay less attention to our hunger signals. This makes us eat after we are no longer hungry. This regular over-eating suppresses the hunger signals our body is sending us eventually making the problem a bigger and bigger one. Here is a link to a nice explanation of how eating mindlessly causes physiological derangements in our ability to feel satiated. 
  4. Eat by yourself – I am all for eating at the family dinner table, but once in a while, it can be a nice exercise to eat by yourself, and of course, not in front of the TV or while using other electronics. Research shows we tend to eat more in the presence of others, especially in large groups. Here is a nice little article on the subject. 
  5. Only Eat When you are Hungry and Stop When you are Satisfied – Intuitive eating is a behavioral weight loss technique that began with , Evelyn Tribole RD, a dietitian who discovered that emotions were an important part of the eating experience. There is still a lot to study, but there is some promising research behind the approach. The subtitle eat when you are hungry and stop when satisfied I think captures the basics, but there is a lot more to it. If you are someone who struggles with emotional eating, intuitive eating may be something to look into. Here is a link to the 10 principals of intuitive eating.  

Emotional eating is different from an eating disorder, which needs to be treated by professionals. Please see a healthcate professional if you think you may have an eating disorder. Here is an online self-assessment for eating disorders, but it is not a substitute for a diagnosis by a health professional.

Healthy Kale Stir-Fry


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Nothing cooks faster than a stir-fry dish and nothing is healthier than kale. So when I am busy and hungry, my quickest solution is to do a quick kale stir-fry that satisfies my stomach and my body.

The recipe below is pretty easy and only takes about 15 minutes to cook from preparation until serving. I added eggs in my dish, but you can also cook without them if you want an vegan option.C99D15A4-0A12-4E73-BCF0-DEDCFE824450

Ingredients: (serves 3)

  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil (you can also sub it with olive oil)
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped
  • 1 cup of cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp of tumeric
  • 1 tsp of chili oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Wash and chop all the vegetables.
  2. Heat a large wok or a frying pan with the coconut oil in low-medium heat.
  3. Add the sliced green onions into the wok, then break the eggs into the wok.
  4. Slowly let them cook until the egg white congeals. Stir the eggs occasionally like you are making scrambled eggs
  5. Add kale, cabbage, carrots into the mix.
  6. Season the mixture with salt (~1 tbsp) and tumeric. Gently mix and stir the content of the pan to mix the seasonings.
  7. Cover the pan and let it simmer for 1 minute
  8. Add pepper and chili oil into the mix and stir-fry x 5 seconds.
  9. Serve hot!


3 Keys to Picking a Healthy Yogurt in the Grocery Aisle

From greek yogurt, probiotic yogurt, whipped yogurt, and everything in between, navigating through all the selections seems a bit overwhelming. ticker-pic-and-story-pic-fruit-and-yougurt-mix

Here are 3 key things to help you choose a healthy yogurt:

  1. Look at the ingredients list: the first two ingredients should be: milk, then lactobacillus (example: L. acidophilus, L. casei, B. bifidum and B. Longum).
  2. When in doubt, go Greek. In comparison to regular yogurt, Greek yogurt are lower in sugar and have less lactose (so good option for our less lactose-tolerant friends).
  3. Avoid added sugar in your yogurt. Opt to add your own honey/fruits to the yogurt to avoid too much sugar.



Healthy Green Smoothie


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Believe it or not, arugula and bananas are a great combination for a smoothie. I know it sounds weird, but don’t dismiss it until you try it! The addition of lime also makes this smoothie refreshing. Rich in potassium and magnesium, this smoothie is also great for your heart health.


  • 2 slices lime or lime juice
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup of arugula
  • 1 cup of milk alternative (such as soy or almond milk)
  • 3-4 cubes of ice
  • 1 cup of orange juice


  1. add all the ingredients into a blender
  2. blend until smooth. For vitamix-blend on 4 for 10 seconds, then turn it on high and blend on 7 for another 10 seconds
  3. Serve immediately!

-NZ (recipe created by my SO)

3 Ways To take care of SI-Joint Pain Without Medication or Surgery

I have struggled with SI joint pain for many years, and short of an orthopedist, I have been to all kinds of healthcare professionals – physical medicine and rehab doctors, sports medicine doctors, osteopathic doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, massage therapists – you name it. Needless to say, my pain is chronic now, but I have come to figure out how to keep the pain in check, without medication.

Sacroiliac joint (aka SI joint) is the tiny joint that connects your pelvic bone to your spine with its main job to support the upper body. SI joint pain is a common cause of low back pain, and chronic pain. Almost all adults in the US will experience low back pain at least once in their life, and estimated 1/5 to 1/3 of those cases are caused by SI joint pain. People with SI joint pain usually have worsening pain with twisting or rotating motions. They often find that their pain gets better when they engage their abdominal muscles, which helps stabilize the pelvis. Standing up from a seated position or sitting up from a lying position is hard. Asymmetry in the pelvis from posture or scoliosis is one example. Personally I have both, and a fall a few years ago put me over the edge. A few other factors can worse SI joint pain – one is lack of flexibility, and increased tension in the surrounding muscles, and decreased stability of the muscles that keep the pelvis stable.

Treatments for SI joint pain can include anything from exercises, to massage, to oral pain medication to injectables. I am not one to shy away from these treatments for those who will not be harmed by them, and for those whose quality of life is crippled by pain. However, I really think the non-pharmacologic and non-invasive treatments – the treatments for issues that do not involve medicines or surgery -don’t get enough attention. I have a whole blog post on no-medicine/no-surgery ways of dealing with chronic pain, but sometimes you need just the right medicine for the cure. Heres a few golden nuggets of advice for fellow sufferers of SI joint pain.

  1. Try the below muscle energy techniques. Do each one for about 30 seconds 3 times. They can reset things pretty immediately.  


If you don’t really feel like the pictures help, here is an awesome video

This particular one is hard to understand without a youtube video. Thankfully, this is only a 39 second video.

2. Try foam rolling! 

There is no good way to describe how to  describe how to foam roll, but it will make your life so much better. My pilates instructor Michele is so amazing, she put these videos together JUST for me. They are fabulous. Click on the images to go to the website where her videos are.

Foam-rolling hipsFoam-rolling legs

3. Try these stretches: