Pumpkin Spice Latte with Maca, Maple & Mushrooms

Ahh, Autumn… by far my favorite season. Cozy sweaters, acoustic guitar, brisk, peaceful afternoons, brightly colored falling leaves….

And, of course, pumpkin spice everything.

Yes, *sigh*, I’m one of “those” people.

The mere second October waves hello, I’m tripping and falling into line at the nearest (organic) coffee shop to frantically order myself a large almond milk PSL.

Now, spending the entire holiday season gorging myself on fragrant pumpkin-y treats would truly be a dream come true.

However….

I’m not quite as in love with the copious amounts of added flavors, stabilizers and/or gums involved in the creation of many a pumpkin spiced product.

And don’t even get me started on the sugar content in a traditional pumpkin spice latte.

I mean, a sixteen-ounce classic PSL from Starbucks has…

wait for it…

fifty grams of sugar.

Now that’s spooky!

(I had to throw in one teensy little halloween reference. Sorrynotsorry.)

In high school, I religiously consumed at least one pumpkin spice latte every single day from it’s blessed release date up until the utterly devastating moment in which I finally realized it was no longer appropriate to continue indulging in my seasonal addiction.

I adored my daily quests Starbucks gallantly armored in American Eagle boots, knit scarves in various shades of burnt orange and messy bun du jour for a grande pumpkin spice latte.

It’s no wonder I crashed at my desk in a sugar & caffeine-fueled coma by 2:00 PM….

Anyway.

My point is… while a piping hot pumpkin latte from your favorite café may be one of your favorite things about fall, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health in order to partake in the comforting seasonal tradition.

In fact, pumpkin spice lattes can be healthy, nourishing and loaded with adaptogenic herbs… all the while being flavorful and delicious!

And with that, I would like to introduce you to my Maca, Maple & Mushroom Pumpkin Latte!

This recipe is perfectly sweet, indulgently creamy, generously spiced and made with real organic pumpkin.

Starting with a base of rich, homemade cashew mylk (you can find my super quick & easy recipe for cashew mylk here), we add hormone-balancing & energizing maca root, pure grade-A maple syrup, canned organic pumpkin, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and instant organic coffee with two amazing medicinal mushrooms: maitake and chaga.

I used Four Sigmatic’s instant coffee latte mix with these two lovely mushroom friends already included in the packet, but you can substitute this for plain black coffee (just sub 2-3 oz hot coffee for 2-3 oz hot water included in the recipe) or one serving size of your favorite coffee substitute such as Dandy Blend – or you can omit it altogether for a lighter, steamer-style PSL.

(I’m not sponsored by or affiliated with Four Sigmatic in any way – I just love the convenience of their mushroom latte packets, especially for this recipe.)

This recipe takes roughly five minutes to make, and yields one eight-ounce mug of steamy pumpkin deliciousness.

So, let’s get right into it!

Ingredients:

5 oz hot water
3 oz cashew mylk 
1 packet Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee Latte Mix
2 tsp grade-A maple syrup
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
1 tbsp canned pumpkin (not to be mistaken for pumpkin pie mix, which contains added sugar!)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp gelatinized maca root powder
1 pinch sea salt

Directions:

  1. You can either throw all the ingredients into a small saucepan and whisk until heated, or blend everything first. Blending will create an especially smooth, frothy latte, but it’s definitely not necessary.
  2. Pour into your favorite cozy fall mug.
  3. Top with cinnamon or more pumpkin pie spice.

Enjoy ❤

My Experience on the Vegan Keto Diet

In the past two years or so, there has been one diet planting its flag on the planet of fitness and weight loss:

The Ketogenic diet.

What is the “keto” diet?

It’s basically a diet that heavily restricts carbohydrate consumption, and replaces them with fat, plus moderate amounts of protein.

No fruits, no grains, no high-carb plant foods (such as potatoes).

This “trains” the body’s metabolism to burn fat instead of carbs.

This metabolic state is called “ketosis“.

While I am by no means a huge fan of “fad diets”, this one caught my interest, especially since my partner in crime owns a sugar-free chocolate company. (I’ll link his website here for anyone who’s interested)

The idea of a low-carbohydrate, zero-sugar diet sounded like a great idea for anyone (me) struggling with a sugar addiction, Candida, brain fog, digestive issues or some other sugar-related problem. 

I was already aware of the issues that sugar can cause on the human body, but there had never been a label for a diet free of this addictive, drug-like edible substance until now.

It was the first fad diet I’d heard of that didn’t sound like it was complete hogwash invented by some “nutrition guru” who was being channeled by demons of incorrect food restriction. 

Until I started scrolling through some of the “keto” hashtags on Instagram.

I soon found out that most of the people who were following this ketogenic diet were eating primarily, if not entirely, animal products… and I don’t mean grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic meat from their local butcher.

I’m talking big name meat and dairy companies – factory farmed, antibiotic-filled, hormone-laden, GMO grain-fed animal products that, in my opinion, shouldn’t ever be on the table of any health conscious individual, even in small quantities.

Some of these people were actually eating entire sticks of butter.

Let that one sink in.

I could cite dozens of articles on why eating these types of animal products this frequently can cause all types of health issues from arthritis to heart disease, but it only takes a quick google search to see for yourself. 

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re either already well versed in the plant-based diet, or – at the very least – have heard it buzzing around the mouths of hipsters for the past few years. (No shade to hipsters. Love y’all.)

I’m not saying everyone who’s following the ketogenic diet is doing it wrong, but I became increasingly weary the further I scrolled.

While many of these folks did seem to be successfully losing extra weight, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthy way to eat – if you catch my drift. 

When I see plate after plate full of pink, brown & varied shades of beige, I become a tad alarmed.

(In case you’re wondering, it is totally possible – often encouraged – to follow a ketogenic diet without a totally carnivore-based eating style. Even popular keto diet gurus like Thomas DeLauer have talked about this.)

Now of course, I do have a small bias:

I’m an ethical “bee-gan” (I do indulge in the occasional teaspoon of raw organic honey) and have been for years.

That being said, I do believe that for some, animal products such as eggs or raw dairy can be tremendously healing – when eaten under the right circumstances, from the right sources, and in the right quantities. 

Bias disclaimer aside, let’s get to the part where I decide to try keto on a vegan diet!

To give you a bit of backstory on why I wanted to give this a shot, I’ve been struggling with a little bit (lol) of a sugar addiction, as well as Candida Albicans overgrowth for the past two years or so. 

I figured that the ketogenic diet was the perfect experiment for my situation. 

Day one was easy peasy. I felt pretty normal. I’ve always steered clear of most grains and processed sugars, so it felt like a relatively normal day of eating.

After only two days of cutting out all sugars and severely cutting my carbs, I felt pretty great. 

Around day three, my sugar cravings were in full effect. I was desperate for sugar – any kind of sugar.

I was using loads of stevia and eating a ton of sugar-free desserts to satisfy the “sweet flavor” side of my addiction. 

But alas, the stubborn bacteria in my tummy knew the difference between stevia and maple syrup, and I had a hard time feeling satisfied from my keto treats – though they were delicious

I would desperately try to make up any excuse for why I should have that vegan, gluten-free cookie at the grocery store, or why having just a teaspoon of honey in my tea was perfectly acceptable.

Speaking of tea, here’s some “tea” that might peak your interest:

According to NIH (National Institutes of Health) microorganisms actually outnumber your human cells 10:1

Yep.

“Ok Mackenna, that’s kind of creepy, but what does that have to do with the ketogenic diet?”

Well, if you’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat”, you already know!

The microorganisms and bacteria living in your body get hungry too.

And if you’ve been feeding them sugar and carbohydrates for any length of time, that’s what they want.

To get a little sci-fi on you, they actually tell you what you want. If you’re harboring bacteria that crave processed foods and sugars, that’s what they’re going to communicate to your brain.

I’ll link a study for you on this here.

So, around day five was when I stopped seriously craving sugar. 

Did it still sound good? 

Yes.

But it was surprisingly easy to avoid.

Around week two – yes, it took me that long – I didn’t even think about sugar. A nightly cup of unsweetened herbal tea with almond milk did the trick for me, and I felt comforted and satiated from it.

Week two was also when I started noticing serious changes in my skin. 

When I was eating a higher carbohydrate diet, I would break out in bi-weekly rashes all over my face and mouth, and had acne frequently.

After cutting out sugar and carbs for two weeks, my skin was much more even-toned, and my acne decreased significantly.

My digestion was better than it had been in months, I had more energy and I felt like I could eat only savory foods for the rest of my life and be totally stoked about it.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. (Not really, but I tell myself that to feel better about my lack of self-control in certain situations.)

I broke my keto vegan diet on week five when the holidays rolled around…. 

And it wasn’t even that satisfying.

But of course, the carb cravings immediately returned with a vengeance after my holiday indulgences.

I have since regained my strength and willpower and am excited to say that I’m currently back on my favorite diet of all time: The Raw Food diet. 

I’ll write about why I love raw food so much another time, and my experience eating only uncooked plants.

But I digress.

If someone were to ask if I recommend the vegan keto diet, I would say absolutely. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to new recipes, help cleanse the body, kickstart your body into healing from sugar-related illnesses, re-set your metabolism to burn fat, and kick cravings right in the butt.

It really helped me re-gain control over my body, gave me glowing skin, more energy and better sleep.

Here’s what I did to help keep me on track and make the vegan keto diet a little easier:

  • I ate loads of fat. I mean LOADS. I was pouring cold-pressed olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, coconut and MCT oil on all my meals, chowing down on raw nuts and seeds, and having as much avocado and high-fat, raw, sugar-free vegan cheesecake as I wanted. Hehe.
  • I made keto vegan desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth throughout the week. There are tons of recipes online for delicious keto vegan desserts, and I have some awesome ones as well. (Of course they’re awesome, I made them. *wink*)
  • I made sure to eat a wide array of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich vegetables – particularly hearty greens like kale. 
  • I ate larger meals, and tried not to snack throughout the day. I usually opted to fast through breakfast with an MCT oil drink of some kind (usually a matcha latte).
  • I drank several large almond milk matcha lattes per day. (I wouldn’t recommend this much caffeine, but I am a serious matcha addict. If hot drinks comfort you as well, I would recommend opting for a keto hot cocoa or hot herbal tea later in the day).

So there you have it!

My final thoughts on the keto vegan diet?

Totally doable, but if you aren’t already vegan or keto, I would say try one or the other for a month or two first, to dip a metaphorical toe in the water of diet theories.

As far as sustainability goes, I would give this diet a 7/10.

I love that it’s zero sugar, and that it’s a multi-use tool for more than just weight loss.

I do think, especially for vegans, that eating complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, buckwheat, quinoa, and certain fruits now and then can help to keep things varied, balanced and interesting.

I want to end this off by saying that I don’t necessarily think any ONE diet is going to work for everyone

But if you want to give the vegan keto diet a shot, I would encourage you to do so!*

And if it doesn’t work for you, it definitely isn’t the only road to feeling amazing in the magical home you call your body.

Peace & healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

*As always, speak to your healthcare professional before embarking on any rather restrictive diet journey.

Welcome!

Hi there, new friend!

This is where I will be posting vegan, gluten-free, paleo, keto, and raw food recipes, my personal research and experiences, tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy plant-based lifestyle, and sharing my own healing journey.

Before I give you a brief overview on my history struggling with dis-ease, I’ll begin by mentioning that my goal is to provide information that I believe will help people overcome their own dis-eases – regardless of what I’ve gone through. 

If something that I’ve gone through resonates with you, that’s awesome! (Well, not really, but you know what I mean. Feeling like you’re not alone in your struggles can really help.)

When I was a young teenager, I had acne. Nothing like what some teens experience, but not great either.

(I’ll make a separate post about my skin journey soon.)

Because my acne affected my confidence and self-image so severely, I went on antibiotics to kill the bacteria that was causing my acne.

To sum it up, it kinda worked.

But it wasn’t enough to satisfy my desire for perfectly clear, glowing skin.

So, I went on the pill.

This helped a lot, and also gave me some relief from my chronic dysmenorrhea (debilitating menstrual pain). 

(A separate post to come on this topic as well.)

It didn’t take me long to feel the toll my body was taking from these foreign chemicals and antibiotics I’d been ingesting.

My hormones went full-on crazy, my digestive system was sick and out of balance, my skin went back to breaking out and I started getting horrible rashes on my face.

I became severely depressed, borderline suicidal, exhausted and unmotivated. 

I went to doctors, dermatologists, naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists, therapists and counselors.

Nothing worked for me.

I felt so alone….

I just wanted something – anything – to work for me.
It wasn’t until after I graduated high school that I started feeling better.

I had been watching girls on YouTube eating diets high in raw foods, practicing self-love and seemingly living their best lives.

I met my partner, Jonathan, shortly after, who helped me transition to a completely raw vegan diet, and introduced me to key supplements that I’d never taken in my years of being plant-based (such as B-12).

While I still haven’t fully healed, I’ve gained a serious grip on my dis-ease, and I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge that I want to share with others struggling to find the right information like I did.

The truth shouldn’t be as difficult to find as it is.

With the vastness of the internet, controversy of social media, confusion of hearsay and biases of friends and family, it can be next to impossible to nail down what you truly need to heal your one true celestial home – your body. 

I’m excited to share my healing journey with you, and I invite you to learn and grow alongside me.

On this blog, I will be sharing my blunt and honest opinions on the topic of health and nutrition. I do not want to compromise what I’ve learned for the sake of not offending anyone! This would be doing everyone reading my posts a huge disservice.

I also want to remain open-minded, eager to learn, and continue to experiment and research on my own time; and to share anything I may be wrong or change my mind about, so as not to mislead any of you.

If this sounds like a blog you might be interested in, all you have to do is come along 

Peace, love & healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

Raw Vegan Blueberry Maca Cinnamon Rolls

Who doesn’t love cinnamon rolls?

Seriously… I want to know!

Because they clearly haven’t tried these ones.

This recipe was born during a frantic night of rummaging around the kitchen in search of something sweet.

It was one of those “it’s 10 PM and my second stomach is officially open for business” kinds of situations.

Luckily, something in the cupboard caught my eye: a package of raw coconut wraps!

Knowing I also had a ton of frozen wild blueberries in the freezer and a tub of fresh almond butter, I got right to work.

One important thing to note about this recipe is they’re best eaten immediately – unless you enjoy soggy treats!

They require zero baking time (since they’re raw) and won’t weigh you down like a regular cinnamon roll.

I’ve been known to eat an entire plate in a matter of minutes….

Feel free to omit the maca powder – it was a last minute superfood boost, but I don’t regret it!

My final recommendation is to use a thin, smooth almond butter. This helps the filling to be a bit more spreadable. It isn’t a necessity, but if the almond butter is super thick it will end up a little gooey… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

Ingredients:

4 raw coconut wraps such as these
5 tbsp raw almond butter
1 tsp vanilla extract 
11-15 drops liquid vanilla stevia
1 tsp maca powder
2 tsp ceylon cinnamon
1 pinch sea salt
1 tbsp almond meal or almond flour
1/2 cup wild blueberries

Cream Cheeze Icing

2 tbsp cashew butter
2 tbsp non-dairy milk
7 drops liquid vanilla stevia 
1 tsp MCT oil
2/3 tsp lime or lemon juice
1 pinch of nutritional yeast
1 pinch sea salt
1/4 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Mix the cinnamon roll filling together and smear evenly onto a coconut wrap.
  2. Sprinkle a small handful of berries inside and roll ’em up!
  3. Using a very sharp knife, cut the cinnamon rolls evenly – I like making them about 1.5 to 2 inches thick.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the icing ingredients.
  5. Thoroughly mix until a thick, yet drizzle-able consistency is reached. You can add 1 tsp of non-dairy milk at a time until it’s smooth and creamy.
  6. Drizzle the icing over the cinnamon rolls.

Enjoy ❤

Why Should We Actually Eat Organic?

Even though (thanks to my wonderful parents) I’ve been eating organic ever since I was a baby, I didn’t truly know what that meant until I became an adult.

I knew it was better for our bodies, but I didn’t really know why. I just assumed it was because the produce was higher quality…..

While many people argue that the term “organic” is a marketing scheme or little more than just a buzzword, the science tells us that’s just not the case.

The main case for eating organic is, of course, the pesticides & herbicides commonly used in conventional farming.

When a plant is sprayed with pesticides, that plant then becomes deadly to insects. This includes pollinators, such as bees, who play a crucial role in the health of our ecosystem.

Even more unfortunately, these pesticides don’t just stick to the plant they’re sprayed on….

Pesticide run-off contaminates clean water sources that precious (and even endangered) species of wildlife inhabit, cross barriers into neighboring organic farms, evaporate into the air and cause respiratory and digestive issues in sensitive individuals, decimates soil bacteria and quality for future farming and kills our already suffering population of honeybees.

Herbicides on the other hand, kill weeds and unwanted plant growth.

The most commonly used form of herbicide in the United States is called glyphosate.

What is glyphosate exactly?

“Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. It is a broad-spectrum herbicide, considered to be nearly nontoxic to humans (Williams et al.2000). However, a recent paper (Samsel & Seneff, 2013), argued that glyphosate may be a key contributor to the obesity epidemic and the autism epidemic in the United States, as well as to several other diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, depression, and cancer. ” – This Study on the link between glyphosate and celiacs disease.

As a resident of Sonoma County in Northern California, I will say that during summer months when glyphosate use is most prevalent (as well as yard work such as lawn-mowing that disperses the molecules into our atmosphere) I have an increasing tendency towards digestive issues, brain-fog and headaches.

The same study cited above states that: “Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease. Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria.”

I could cite hundreds of studies on the adverse effects glyphosate has on the body – and I will probably list a few more pretty soon.

So, glyphosate is designed to kill plants… but it’s still used in farming?

Yep! This is because in 1996, a company called Monsanto (also responsible for the pioneering of glyphosate as an herbicide) released its own breed of genetically engineered plants called “Roundup Ready Crops”. They started with soy beans, followed shortly by corn and cotton.

These seeds had their DNA altered so they could withstand glyphosate, while it killed the other surrounding unwanted plants.

Whether you’re pro-GMOs or not, the evidence is clear that there is a significant amount of seed contamination between Roundup Ready seeds and Non-Roundup Ready seeds.

For example, there have been multiple cases of Roundup Ready crops appearing randomly in the fields of non-GMO farms.

Regardless of opinion, I think most people would agree that the public should at least have a choice as to whether they’re consuming GMOs or not.

But this crop contamination isn’t the only way that glyphosate affects farming.

“This system is altering the whole soil biology. We are seeing differences in bacteria in plant roots and changes in nutrient availability. Glyphosate is very systemic in the plant and is being released through the roots into the soil. Many studies show that glyphosate can have toxic effects on microorganisms and can stimulate them to germinate spores and colonize root systems. Other researchers are showing that glyphosate can immobilize manganese, an essential plant micronutrient.” – Microbiologist Robert Kremer for The Organic and Non-GMO Report.

Along with permanently altering the microbiome beneath the plant, glyphosate also alters the plants themselves.

What happens when the chemicals introduced into our ecosystem start to actually genetically alter the affected plants?

I don’t want to know.

Luckily, the Organic Certification is there for those of us who wish to avoid pesticides.

While buying organic can certainly limit one’s pesticide consumption, the line between conventional and organic is growing thinner and thinner.

This is especially true for certain mass-cultivated organic crops (I’ll be using grains as an example, but this issue is also prevalent in other agricultural sectors such as the grape and wine industry) where glyphosate has been found on the harvested plants.

And I’m not talking small amounts of residue.

According to Health Impact News, “… Tropical Traditions tested the USDA certified organic grains from suppliers they had been using, sourced mainly from western states such as Montana and Idaho. Sadly, the presence of glyphosate residue was found in organic wheat and other organic grains, including organic barley, oats, spelt, and einkorn. The range was from 0.03 to 0.06 mg/kg, just slightly lower than the conventional grains that were tested.”

Could this explain the sudden increase in individuals with “Gluten Intolerance”?

What I can say is, I’ve heard (time and time again) stories of how an individual with a gluten intolerance went on vacation to Italy, ate a bowl of wheat pasta or bread, and felt fine.

This might be because Italy, along with several other countries, has put strict regulations on the use of pesticides and herbicides in farming.

And for good reason.

When I found the following two graphs in an article written by two independent scientists (Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff) I was shocked to say the least.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but everything starts in the gut.

When we take an already extremely sensitive microbiome such as our gut, then add chemicals like glyphosate into the mix, we end up with digestive tragedy.

“Glyphosate, patented as an antimicrobial (Monsanto Technology LLC, 2010), has been shown to disrupt gut bacteria in animals, preferentially killing beneficial forms and causing an overgrowth of pathogens.” – Samsel & Seneth.

Glyphosate wrecks healthy gut flora, permeates the intestinal barrier thus causing severe food allergies, and can cause liver disease at levels far under what the U.S. permits as “safe”.

A recent study where rats were exposed to low levels of glyphosate over a substantial period of time suggests that this toxic chemical has an ill effect on liver function – even in very small doses.

“… a 2-year study was conducted where rats were administered with a Roundup GBH via drinking water at a concentration of 0.1 ppb (0.05 μg/L glyphosate; daily intake 4 ng/kg bw/day), which is an admissible concentration within the European Union (0.1 μg/L) and USA (700 μg/L). The results showed that Roundup caused an increased incidence in signs of anatomical pathologies, as well as changes in urine and blood biochemical parameters suggestive of liver and kidney functional insufficiency.”

Ok, so clearly there’s some controversy around the safety of this toxic herbicide.

I want to end this article with some actionable tips for keeping pesticides and herbicides out of your body!

  • Eat Organic – This is the most obvious but also the most accessible way to avoid pesticides ending up on your plate. While organic doesn’t necessarily guarantee zero pesticides, it’s a much safer bet than buying conventional.
  • Find Pesticide-Tested Products – More and more companies are waking up to the threat that pesticide use imposes on organic farming. Many organic companies are now actually testing their products for glyphosate residue. This is especially important to look for when buying grains and alcohol, where cross-contamination is most prevalent.
  • Buy Your Pasta From Italy – This is a great option for those buying on a budget. Since wheat grown in Italy is likely to have far less glyphosate than wheat grown in the U.S.A., buying even conventional pasta that’s imported from Italy could be safer than buying pasta that’s made in America. (This applies to wine, olive oil and tomato sauce too!)
  • Keep Up With the Dirty Dozen – Every year, a list is released with the top twelve fruits and vegetables that are grown using the most pesticides. Respectively there’s also a clean fifteen list with the top fifteen fruits and vegetables that are less likely to be grown with high quantities of pesticides. This is a super helpful tool for those buying on a budget. (I would love to write a separate post about buying organic on a budget soon!)
  • Buy Locally – While produce grown in areas where pesticide use is particularly high, buying locally is still always a good idea. Here in Sonoma County, we’re actually living in a glyphosate “Red Zone”, meaning there’s an extremely high amount of glyphosate use in our area. However, small, local organic farmers are likely to care immensely about how their crops are grown. Furthermore, locally grown produce is fresher and higher in nutrients, so the benefits outweigh the negatives – in my opinion.
  • Grow Your Own – This is probably the most effective way to avoid pesticides. When you have complete control over your plants, how they’re grown and even what type of soil is used, there is little room for cross-contamination. Plus, it forces you to eat seasonally and generally tends to be a lot cheaper than shopping at the farmer’s market.
  • Take Supplements – While this is certainly an investment, I believe that your health is well worth it. Supplements such as Restore, Spirulina and Chlorella are all wonderfully supportive to our microbiome and help to keep the ill effects of pesticides at bay.

So there you have it! There are tons of great ways to keep pesticides off your plate.

Bottom line, there’s plenty of evidence out there supporting the idea that pesticides are wildly detrimental to the health of our bodies… and the planet.

Hopefully, we will get this toxic chemical out of our food system with strict regulations and widespread education!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

Raw Vegan Tummy-Loving Lemon Custard

I’ve always been a huge fan of lemon… mainly in desserts.

Lemon bars, lemon cake, lemon ice cream… the list goes on!

I think I got this from my mother, a serious lemon fanatic.

I’ve been craving lemon ever since the weather started getting warmer, but I didn’t want to make a huge, heavy dessert.

Part of me wanted to just suck it up and make lemon bars, but that would require a lot of work… and I just wasn’t feeling that. Ya know?

So, I grabbed a few lemons at the grocery store and headed for home.

And thus, this recipe was born.

This lemon custard is bright and flavorful, and has all the sunny spring vibes.

Plus, it takes literally 5 minutes to whip up (besides opening the coconuts).

It doesn’t need any thickeners, gums or food colorings, and somehow has an unbelievably creamy, pudding-like texture.

You can make it as lemon-y as you want. I added one lemon, but I could see myself adding another half if I was seriously craving that tart citrus flavor.

This recipe also contains prebiotic fiber AND probiotics, making it a wonderful breakfast or dessert for sensitive tummies (such as myself)!

These are totally optional, and can be left out. (They don’t affect the flavor at all if you choose to opt out of adding them.)

This custard would also be delicious topped with fresh berries or granola, but I love it by itself, topped with a little extra turmeric.

This recipe is also keto-friendly by default, but if you prefer to use a different sweetener, go for it. If you’re using a regular sweetener like honey or maple syrup, I would start with 2 tsp and work your way up from there.

If you’re making this keto like I did, keep in mind that every sugar-free sweetener is a bit different, so start off slow and continue to taste until your desired sweetness is reached.

This recipe makes 2-3 substantial servings.

Ingredients:

2 cups young Thai coconut meat
1 tbsp coconut water, plus more to blend if needed
Juice & zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
5-10 drops organic stevia
1 tbsp organic erythritol (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 pinch sea salt
1 scoop probiotic powder (optional)
1 tbsp acacia fiber powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a high speed blender and blend well, adding 1 teaspoon of coconut water at a time until a super thick, but smooth consistency is reached.
  2. Store covered in the fridge for up to 2 days, but best enjoyed immediately.

Enjoy! ❤

How to Successfully Follow a Raw Vegan Diet

So, this is a topic that I am very passionate about.

I hear it time and time again:

“I tried the raw vegan diet, but it just wasn’t for me.”

While the raw diet may seem wildly restrictive, to me it actually makes eating healthy a whole lot easier.

As long as it falls under the “raw vegan” category, I can probably eat it without worrying about feeling sick!

Even with cooked vegan food, there is a wide array of foods that I intentionally avoid due to sensitivities or preferences, whether it’s wheat, soy, canola oil or legumes.

With raw food, seldom do I pick up a drink, snack or even pre-made meal, read the ingredients and find somethin’ sketchy.

As someone with a very sensitive digestive system and body in general, the raw food diet makes enjoying and not worrying about food a dream.

While I’ve never believed that there is one diet for everyone, I do think that many people follow the raw food diet incorrectly, resulting in a negative experience.

The first thing I notice about those who follow raw food diets and end up switching back to eating meat and dairy is their limited, obsessive food restriction.

To be a bit more specific, I’m talking about those who hop on the “fruitarian”, “bazillion bananas a day”, “mango mono-meal” bandwagon.

The only exception to my observations on this are those who live in warm, tropical climates where fresh fruit grows in abundance.

I’ve always believed that we should try to eat according to our location, climate and time of year (for the most part).

So if you’re living in, say, Colorado or Northern California, maybe the high-fruit diet isn’t exactly the best plan of action.

But, if you’re living in Hawaii or Costa Rica, plucking fresh mangoes off a tree makes perfect sense.

Not only does this have a lot to do with the quality and freshness of the produce you’re consuming, but also with how our minds and bodies react to different climates, temperatures and weather patterns.

For example, when it’s sunny and warm out, I automatically eat less, crave fresher foods like salads and juices, and enjoy fruit more often.

But, when it’s cold and rainy, I crave warm soups, hot drinks and heavier comfort foods.

When eating a raw diet that consists primarily (or strictly) of fruit, there is an alarming nutrient deficit that occurs over time, particularly those found in healthy fats.

An article published in the National Institute of General Medical Sciences states that:

“Triglycerides, cholesterol and other essential fatty acids—the scientific term for fats the body can’t make on its own—store energy, insulate us and protect our vital organs. They act as messengers, helping proteins do their jobs. They also start chemical reactions that help control growth, immune function, reproduction and other aspects of basic metabolism. The cycle of making, breaking, storing and mobilizing fats is at the core of how humans and all animals regulate their energy.”

While fruits do contain a wide variety of nutrients and fiber, they simply do not contain everything we need to thrive on a raw vegan diet – and fat is one of those things!

This brings me to my number one recommendation to those wanting to try the raw vegan diet:

Consume plenty of healthy fats!

There are tons of amazing raw sources of healthy fats including coconut oil and coconut meat, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

The human brain is made up of nearly 60% fat. It needs fat to function properly!

Enjoy healthy fats with every meal, and make sure to keep them varied.

An article published in the Harvard School of Public Health States that:

“The human body can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials. That isn’t the case for omega-3 fatty acids (also called omega-3 fats and n-3 fats). These are essential fats—the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from food. Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.”

So add the second half of that avocado to your meal!

Add an extra dollop of cashew cheese to your raw vegan pizza!

Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on that salad!

In my opinion, healthy fats play an essential role in maintaining any diet.

While healthy fats are a great addition to the raw vegan lifestyle, there are some foods that will hinder your success.

This brings me to my next tip:

Beware of sugars!

It’s so easy to consume large quantities of sugar when following a raw diet.

When it comes to raw food, some of the easiest things to find are these amazing, beautiful raw desserts… some of which are far more tasty than their cooked, non-vegan counterparts I may add!

When I first committed to a fully raw diet, I binged on desserts.

Whether I was making them myself or found them at health food stores and restaurants, I was consuming way too much sugar.

“It’s raw, so it’s fine!” I thought to myself.

While this is partially true, and raw desserts are generally way healthier than traditional desserts, they’re best eaten in moderation.

Sugar, no matter where it’s coming from, is still sugar.

It feeds candida, perpetuates sugar addiction, and can cause all sorts of health issues from brain fog to obesity when over-consumed.

When following a raw diet, try to stick to whole fruits when sugar cravings creep up…. And even then, it’s best to ask yourself if you really need it, or if it’s possible you’re craving something else.

Start off slow.

When I made the switch to raw foods, I had already been vegan for years.

In my opinion, drastic, cold-turkey changes can often be stressful and/or traumatic to the mind and body.

If I’ve been eating hamburgers and ice cream my whole life, changing them out for salads and green juices could mean more than just a new diet.

While we often don’t like to admit it, we have deep-rooted emotional attachments to the foods we eat – and generally, they’re the same foods we loved growing up.

Food is comforting… certain foods even trigger chemicals in our brain that make us feel happy, sleepy or calm.

While raw food can be totally delicious and satisfy these cravings, it’s still a huge leap from traditional, cooked comfort food.

If you’re considering the raw vegan diet and are not yet vegan or vegetarian, I would strongly recommend making a transition to veganism first.

If you’re already plant-based and/or eating clean foods, maybe start by preparing one raw meal a day.

Then, increase it to two.

This will help to keep stress levels under control, and give you plenty of freedom to experiment with recipes and plan meals.

Switching to the raw diet overnight can be a little intimidating, especially when you haven’t found your go-to meal recipes yet, but you have to feed your body enough nutrients for an entire day.

Letting yourself not have to worry about preparing at least one meal a day can give you plenty of time to research, test and find which recipes you truly love.

Then, when you do make the switch to 100% raw foods, you’ll be well prepared with tons of recipes to get you through the week.

Making and eating raw food can be super fun, especially if you like to experiment in the kitchen. Trying to make raw vegan recipes that look and taste identical to traditional cooked favorites is a blast!

Get your nutrients down!

There is an intimidating list of nutrients that we need to function properly as human beings.

When you first start your raw vegan diet, it’s imperative to make sure you’re reaching your nutrient goals.

It’s generally pretty easy to reach macronutrient goals on a raw diet (these are the “umbrella” nutrients such as fat and protein), but micronutrients require a bit more attention.

The good news is, raw plant foods are loaded with bio-available nutrients, as well as the enzymes and fiber necessary for our body to properly absorb them.

When food is cooked, many of those enzymes and nutrients are killed or lost in the heating process.

The not-so-good news is that it can be a little bit of a pain in the butt to track your intake of these nutrients.

My favorite way to do this is with an app called Cronometer.

While I’m not affiliated with or sponsored by this app at all, it’s extremely useful – especially when first starting any new diet.

It’s easy to use (you just log the foods you eat into the app) and they have a vast database of foods already available.

You will learn very quickly whether or not you’re getting the nutrients you need, and things get pretty simple from there.

For example, by using Cronometer for just four days I learned that I rarely hit my daily recommended intake of selenium.

Luckily, this was such an easy fix!

I added brazil nuts into my diet, and… bam! the problem was solved.

Even just one missing nutrient can cause a diet to be unsuccessful… even if there’s an easy way to get it!

My top nutrient deficiencies to look out for on a raw diet are:

Vitamin B-12: Vegan B-12 spray such as this one

Iron: Leafy greens, beets, tomatoes, blackstrap molasses

Selenium: Brazil nuts

Choline: Collard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, sunflower seeds

Protein (complete amino acid profile): Spirulina, leafy greens, hemp seeds, flax seeds

Warm is good… especially during the winter!

I have a lot more difficulties with following a raw diet when it’s cold outside.

Generally, it’s easy for me to eat 100% raw during the spring and summer, but come fall I start to want to incorporate some cooked foods.

Root vegetables, veggie broths, cooked carbs like quinoa and plentiful hot almond milk matcha lattes are hard for me to stay away from.

While I do sometimes enjoy adding cooked veggies to the mix when the rain rolls around, there are periods of time when I still want to eat fully raw, whether it’s for a winter detox or just because.

This is when the dehydrator becomes my best friend.

When the rain is pouring down and all I want to do is curl up with a big bowl of pasta, warm zucchini noodles and raw “neatballs” straight out of the dehydrator works wonders!

Hot teas, miso broth and warm blended raw soups are all winter favorites of mine as well.

Another great winter addition to any raw diet is spice!

Spicy foods can help increase fire in the body, keeping you warm and helping to maintain digestive efficiency.

Adding lots of healthy fats to your diet is also a great way to stay satisfied all winter long!

Overall, it is possible to eat… and stay…. raw vegan!

By following the rules above, I have had zero problems maintaining a raw vegan diet.

I have more energy, my digestion works better and my skin clears up within weeks of transitioning to only raw foods!

I’ll write a separate post soon on the science of raw food soon, and why it can be a great tool for those who are trying to heal themselves.

Are you raw vegan?

Have you tried the raw vegan diet?

Let me know!!

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

How I Healed my Clinical Depression Naturally

Ever since I was 12 years old, I’ve struggled with my mental health.

Growing up with explosive anger around me for a significant part of my early childhood, I learned at a young age to internalize my emotions.

I would hold anger in different areas of my body, never letting out a single peep. This was, in my opinion, what lead to my depression later on.

I’ll write a separate post on the whole story soon, because there are a lot of details that I feel could be helpful to some, especially to parents of teenagers and young people going through similar situations as I did… or just for anyone who’s curious!

This post is going to be mainly about how I dealt with my depression, and what I would and wouldn’t recommend from my journey to healing.

I want to start off my saying that I’m by no means cured.

I still struggle with my mental health on a weekly basis. Healing is a process, not a final destination!

However, my clinical depression no longer weighs me down, and it’s safe for me to say that I no longer consider myself a depressed person.

It became apparent that I had some sort of emotional imbalance while I was in high school. I had just switched from mainstream high school to a smaller, partially homeschool program where the students had all known each other for years.

After I turned about 15, my desire for social interaction had been steadily declining until I was only seeing friends when I was at school.

So, when I switched to a much less structured situation where I didn’t know anyone, I completely isolated myself from other people.

I had hours upon hours of free time to myself, with no real passions or goals.

My mental health quickly spiraled downhill.

I spent most of my time binge-watching movies and TV shows. (I just wrote a post all about my Netflix addiction, which you can read here if you’d like. In it, I delve a bit more into the psychology of watching TV and how it affected me personally.)

My parents instantly became very concerned.

Unsure of what to do, and knowing I have a family history of clinical depression, they quickly sent me to my doctor.

After explaining my symptoms, she nodded:

“Yep, sounds like depression. Do you want to look at the options for medication?”

My parents and I were head-set on getting me the help I needed through natural means, so we made the decision to see a naturopathic doctor.

She asked me some questions, gave me some advice (such as to “exercise more”) and told me to take a turmeric supplement.

I left feeling… disheartened.

It felt like no one on Earth had ever experienced what I was going through, and no one had a single clue how to help me – not even doctors.

I’d been given some advice that any average Joe could provide, and thrown two different pills after less than thirty minutes of reviewing my symptoms.

My dad took me to the store, and bought me a bottle of turmeric capsules.

Long story short, I didn’t notice any significant improvements. I still felt like I was carrying a hundred pound weight on my shoulders.

When I started my first post-school job, I started interacting with others, and had less time to wallow and lay in my dark room alone.

This brings me to remedy #1 that helped me overcome my depression:

Vitamin D

Not once in my journey through meeting with health care professionals did I hear mention of nutrient, vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

When I was depressed, I hardly ever saw the sun.

If I didn’t have to set foot outside, I wouldn’t.

About a week after I started exposing my skin to the summer sun on the way to work and on my lunch breaks, I noticed an improvement in my motivation, and just getting out the door in the morning became easier for me.

I wasn’t aware of this back then, but looking back now, the times when I remember being most content were summers when I would spend my days laying in the warm sun.

For this reason, I still cope with seasonal depression – I tend to become more susceptible to emotional imbalances during the winter months when it’s cold and rainy.

Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

Over three million cases of vitamin D deficiency in the US are recorded annually, and this obviously doesn’t count the amount of people who aren’t tested.

The most amazing thing about vitamin D is that it’s free! Your body produces vitamin D on its own when exposed to sunlight, which means that all you really need to do is lay in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes.

There are also some great vitamin D supplements out there – I use this one.

This is especially helpful during the winter months or when I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is one of the most researched factors in treating depression.

One study states: “We review the findings in major depression of … low vitamin B12 status. Both low folate and low vitamin B12 status have been found in studies of depressive patients, and an association between depression and low levels of the two vitamins is found in studies of the general population.”

If I could accredit one supplement to the improvement of my overall mental health, it would definitely be B-12.

B-12 is especially important for vegetarians, vegans and those who don’t consume a large amount of animal products.

While it’s relatively easy to find a B-12 supplement, many of them aren’t high quality and your body won’t actually absorb what it needs.

I highly recommend investing in a high quality B-12 spray, such as this one or this one.

Magnesium

This one is especially helpful if you suffer from stress and anxiety.

I have an entire blog post on magnesium that you can read here, but I definitely needed to add it to this post as well.

Magnesium has helped me so much with my mental health, and my ability to calm down when I’m seriously stressed out.

An article published in the US National Library of Medicine states that “An impoverished Mg (magnesium) diet is associated with depression in humans”, and “Low serum and cerebrospinal fluid Mg levels have also been associated with depressive symptomology and suicidality”.

Yoga

While I was less than motivated to go for a walk or a run – let alone go to the gym – rolling out my yoga mat and practicing some gentle stretching was always doable.

I would pull up a short yoga video on YouTube and practice along.

There has never been a time when I didn’t feel at least a little bit better after twenty minutes of yoga.

There have been a significant amount of individuals who claim to have overcome serious mental disorders through yoga and meditation, and Harvard Health Publishing states that: “Indeed, the scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.”

Not only is moving your body and getting blood circulating immensely supportive of overall brain health and function, but the calming, meditative aspects of yoga can really help to soothe the mind.

Diet

This was the most important part of my healing.

It was when I changed my diet and eating habits that I noticed the most radical changes in my mood.

Diet is acknowledged by the medical community to play a huge role in mental health… there’s even a field of medicine called nutritional psychiatry!

Harvard Health Publishing states that: “Researchers found that a healthy diet (the Mediterranean diet as an example) was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing depressive symptoms.”

To me, the line between an unhealthy diet and depressive disorders is clear….

When I felt emotionally the worst, I was eating mainly foods lacking in living energy such as processed vegan meat alternatives, processed non-dairy milks, sugary products, noodles – loads of noodles – and soy-based products.

When I started eating primarily raw leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and I incorporated supplements like spirulina and the aforementioned B-12 into my life, I noticed huge improvements.

I consumed nutrient-dense, high life-force foods like sprouts, green juices, chia puddings, green soups and smoothies.

I cut out all forms of processed sugars and grains, and replaced them with whole plant foods.

For the most part, I was following a high-raw diet with loads of healthy fats like avocado and olive oil.

This is the same diet I’m following currently, and I always notice big changes in my mind and body when I switch onto raw foods!

Meditation

While I wasn’t exactly sitting cross-legged with my eyes closed and focusing on my breath during the depths of my depression, I spent a lot of time working on my thought processes.

When my mind wanted to show me thoughts about how alone I was or how much of a loser I was, I actively trained myself to not take them seriously or see them as truth.

I tried my best to imagine what I wanted my life to look like, how I wanted to contribute to making the world a better place and how I could get there.

Focusing on a positive future helped me immensely when I was feeling down on my reality, and it drove me forward.

While it can be extremely difficult to gain control of your mind, it can be done.

Knowing what I know now about how beneficial meditation can be, I would highly recommend it to anyone, no matter their state of mind or situation.

This can be guided meditation, mindful breath practice, yoga or just simply sitting outside and listening to the birds chirping.

Almost any quiet, relaxing activity can be used as a vehicle to practice meditation.

Knitting, painting, stretching, going for a walk, taking a hot bath or shower or even making a cup of tea can all be meditative and calming to the mind. You don’t need to force yourself to sit quietly and try not to think… it’s not about that!

Whatever gets you into a quiet, calm and reflective state is a great place to start.

As always, please speak to your health care professional if you feel like you could be depressed. Reaching out to close friends and family can also be super helpful.

These are all things that I did to help me overcome my depression, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what everyone should do.

My inbox is always open, and I would be more than happy to listen or help in any way I can.

One mantra I’ve learned to tell myself during my darkest times is that I’m supposed to be here, going through whatever I’m going through right now.

I’ll share a quote that came to me when I needed it most:

“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors or aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” – Max Ehrmann

Peace & Healing,

xoxo – Mackenna

Soothing Golden Turmeric Latte

I’ve never been the biggest fan of turmeric, but I am a fan of it’s anti-inflammatory benefits, and when combined with other spices it’s quite pleasant.

For this latte, I combined this magical spice with cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and cardamom for a wonderful caffeine-free blend.

I also added a pinch of ashwagandha for an added relaxing effect!

This latte is mildly sweet, creamy, spicy and fragrant, with a beautiful golden glow.

Spices are an amazing addition to any diet. They often help to kill parasites, promote healthy blood circulation, promote proper digestive fire and relieve the body of inflammation.

While I do appreciate turmeric, I don’t necessarily think it’s the end all be all of healing herbs and spices. Cinnamon, for example, has some equally fantastic health benefits including the promotion of healthy blood sugar levels, easing of PMS symptoms and enhancement of digestive function.

Is turmeric all hype?

Probably to some extent.

When I was referred to a naturopathic doctor for my chronic depression as a teenager, the first supplement she recommended to me was turmeric.

After a long period of time taking it, I did notice a very small difference, but ultimately I think there were multiple factors in my recovery.

Turmeric has been shown in studies to be a very effective treatment for major depressive disorder.

The benefits are undeniable, so let’s put it in a yummy hot drink and sip away!

Ingredients:

12 oz raw almond mylk
1 tsp maple syrup or raw honey OR 1/8 tsp monkfruit or stevia
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp turmeric powder OR 1 tsp fresh turmeric juice
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp ginger root powder OR 1/2 tsp fresh ginger juice
1/4 tsp ashwagandha powder
1 tsp coconut oil OR MCT oil
1/8 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until frothy and golden. To keep this recipe raw, continue blending until warm.
  2. Add to a small saucepan and heat on low, stirring frequently, until desired temperature is reached.
  3. Pour into your favorite cozy mug.

Enjoy! ❤