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About Mira

Mira Dessy here. If you enjoyed this article why not get more information with my free newsletter, Food News You Can Use. Every Tuesday you'll get an email filled with updates about what's happening with our food. I do the research so you don't have to. Join us at http://bit.ly/Food-News - See more at: http://www.theingredientguru.com/2016/11/antibiotic-weedkiller/#sthash.TtExRlDs.dpuf

no flour GF cookie dough

No Flour Cookie Dough

Remember when you were a teenager and you’d get together with your friends to make cookies? And you wound up eating half the cookie dough before you even got the first batch out of the oven? Okay, well maybe that was just me, but it sure was tasty.

Don’t eat that

Fast forward a few years and all of a sudden we were being told not to eat cookie dough because it contained raw eggs and those could be a source of salmonella poisoning. I’ll confess that when I was a kid I ate it anyway because I loved it so much. But then when I had kids I wouldn’t let them eat it because somehow it was okay if I got sick but not if they did.  So I figured out how to make cookie dough without the eggs.

Then we were told not to eat raw cookie dough (even without the eggs) because raw flour could be a source of e. coli. That was a bummer. It was also the end of the raw cookie dough in our house.

Going gluten-free

Over time I changed my diet, going gluten-free and reducing the amount of sugar and sugary foods I ate. Giving up the cookies wasn’t too difficult. It turns out that as good as I am at baking regular bread, cakes, and cookies, when it came to gluten-free it was more of a challenge. One that for the most part I wasn’t interested in trying to figure out. It was easier to give it up or to buy what I wanted from the Gluten-Free Sourdough Company.

In spite of making healthy changes I confess, however, that every now and then I’d have a secret, sneaky craving for cookie dough. Then one day I was having a conversation with my sister-in-law who told me about a raw cookie dough recipe she had eaten that was made with chickpeas and peanut butter. She couldn’t find the recipe but just knowing it was made with chickpeas was enough to get me started. I began to experiment and eventually hit on the recipe listed below.  

The day I came up with the final version my editor for my book The Pantry Principle was visiting. She wanted to know what I was making. I told her it was a healthy version of raw cookie dough and offered her a spoonful right out of the cuisinart. She loved it! We both dove in with spoons, it was kind of like a return to my high school days.

Cookie dough is popular again

Fast forward yet again and once again raw cookie dough seems to be a big thing. There are companies, cafes, and cookie dough bars opening all over the country. The Minnesota State Fair has even added raw cookie dough to the list of foods available at the fair. I imagine it won’t be long before other state fairs follow suit, I fully expect to see it at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show next year. The problem is that what’s available commercially seems to be made with regular flour (making it a non-option for those who need to eat gluten free). Commercial options are also high in sugar and definitely need to be consumed in strict moderation. What I love about my recipe is that because it’s made with chickpeas it’s got some protein. Don’t get me wrong, it still has sugar (especially in those chocolate chips), but I’ve cut the sugar down to as little as possible making this an option that is as healthy as I think I can make it. 

If you’re seeing news blurbs about cookie dough and feeling a sense of nostalgia (and a desire to make cookies just so you can eat the dough) consider making my No-Flour Cookie Dough. Just be aware that this recipe does not bake into cookies, it’s meant to be enjoyed raw.

No Flour Cookie Dough
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 can chickpeas, drained
  2. 1/2 cup creamy almond butter
  3. 1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice
  4. 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. generous pinch sea salt
  7. 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Combine first five ingredients in food processor until mixed well
  2. Scoop into a bowl and add chocolate chips by hand
  3. Spoon into ramekins or mini-muffin cups and chill 2 hours before serving
  4. -- or enjoy with a spoon straight out of the bowl 😉
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
Coconut oil on wooden spoon

Why I’m Still Eating Coconut Oil

A recent article in USA Today on coconut oil has created a flurry of concern when it comes to what to eat. A supposedly new report from the American Heart Association (AHA) shows that coconut oil isn’t good for you, was never good for you, and you should stop eating it immediately. This has gotten picked up by several different media sources (because they love soundbytes — little news headlines that generate interest but don’t provide in depth information).  The AHA recommendation states, “Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.

Given the increased number of people who are consuming coconut oil this has caused a lot of confusion. It also generated a lot of people reaching out to me wanting to know what to do. I spent a lot of time during the first two days after this article came out answering emails and responding to social media posts.  Here is my rebuttal of the article(s).  Let’s start with the short answer: Coconut oil is healthy for you, I will continue to eat it, and I continue to suggest it as a healthy fat. Now, as they say, for the rest of the story.

Switching fats

I find it somewhat odd that this “news” comes out in the same timeframe as another article reporting on an advisory from the American Heart Association, Why you should switch from butter to margarine: Simple change could be as good as statins for your heart. Margarine is a trans-fat, it’s hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated to make it solid at room temperature. Trans-fats are harmful for cardiovascular health and were removed from the FDA’s Generally Recognized As Safe list back in 2013. With regard to consumption of trans-fats the AHA clearly states, “The American Heart Association recommends cutting back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.” So I find it very curious that they appear to be once again encouraging margarine consumption while dissing a source of healthy fat.

What is coconut oil? 

Before we pick apart the headlines let’s start by identifying what coconut oil is. It’s made from the white, fleshy part of the coconut, sometimes referred to as the meat. The best quality is made from fresh coconut (as opposed to dried) which is expeller pressed. Cold pressed (instead of heat pressed) is even better because it retains more of the nutrients. Coconut oil contains caprylic acid, capric acid, and lauric acid. These medium chain fatty acids provide a number of benefits including:

  • antibiotic, antimicrobial and antifungal
  • highly effective against candida
  • highly digestible and supportive for ulcers and ulcerative colitis
  • not easily stored as fat
  • supportive for brain health
  • beneficial for skin issues such as dandruff, dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis (taken internally and externally)
  • prevents bone loss 
  • helpful for weight loss
  • beneficial for cardiovascular health

Due to it’s saturated nature, coconut oil changes from liquid to solid depending on ambient temperature. There is a form of coconut oil on the market referred to as MCT, short for Medium Chain Triglycerides, which is liquid all the time. This does not have the same profile as ‘regular’ coconut oil. MCT oil is more concentrated and has different proportions for the different medium chain fatty acids.

The science

Here’s why these scare-tactic articles about coconut oil fall short for me. They are not based on new studies. In fact all the new data coming out shows the health benefits of coconut oil. If you read the recent negative articles carefully you can see that the advisory they quote is based on a review of previous data. They’ve decided, however, to rename it and call it an American Heart Association Presidential Advisory. It doesn’t matter what they call it, it’s still not new information. Not only is this old information, it’s information that has been debunked. Here’s the cliff notes version of what you need to know:

  1. Saturated fat – Dr. Ancel Keys is the man at the center of the whole heart disease/saturated fat issue. He essentially cherry picked the data to fit his theory that consumption of saturated fats increased cardiovascular disease. (In case you didn’t know, cherry picking your data is a bad thing for a researcher.) However his legacy lives on with scary articles about how bad saturated fat is for us. This continues despite newer studies showing that saturated fat is not as harmful as we have been led to believe.
  2. Hydrogenation – Many of the studies that were done examining the effect of saturated fats on cholesterol levels used hydrogenated coconut oil. That is, they added hydrogen to make it always solid, in effect turning coconut oil into a trans-fat. The cold-pressed, extra virgin, organic coconut oil that you should be buying and consuming has no trans-fats. These studies do not apply and yet they are repeatedly trotted out and cited as a reason to avoid consuming coconut oil
  3. Cholesterol – The articles claim that coconut oil increases cholesterol, especially LDL. However we can’t focus just on one factor, LDL, as a risk for cardiovascular disease. In fact studies have found cholesterol ratios and HDL levels improved by consuming coconut oil. What’s more important is the size of your lipoprotein particles. Lots of small dense particles are more harmful than a number of fewer, larger particles. To get to the true value of heart health you need to look deeper than just LDL. You need to consider the ratio of HDL to LDL, your triglycerides, and your LPP (lipoprotein particle) values.
  4. Inflammatory – Coconut oil is not an inflammatory food. In fact it has been found to be the opposite. While some saturated fats are inflammatory, coconut oil does not fall into this category. Side note: According to the National Cancer Institute the largest source of saturated fat in the American diet is cheese and pizza
  5. Fats – Fats are healthy, and a wonderful source of energy. That’s so important I’m going to say it again. Fats are healthy! We need fat. Your brain is made up of 70% fat, your vital organs are surrounded by a protective layer of fat, your hormones are made from fat, and without fat you cannot absorb and utilize the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It’s also important to note that fat slows down how fast your body breaks down and absorbs sugar. 
  6. Heart disease – Low fat was NEVER the answer to heart disease. In fact we now know that the opposite is true. The more we shifted to low fat the more heart disease increased. Leading to more people on statin drugs with diabetes and obesity. Replacing fat with chemicals and carbohydrates is exactly the wrong answer to being healthy. And the available studies continue to support this fact.

Yes you can

Continue to eat coconut oil as part of a healthy diet. Choose cold-pressed, expeller-pressed, organic, extra virgin for optimal benefit. Coconut oil can be used for cooking or baking, it’s great in smoothies (melt it first for proper blending), and it gives a wonderful boost when you add a little to a cup of tea or coffee.

Remember that eating well to be well includes a balanced, varied, whole food/real food nutritional plan. General guidelines suggest that 30% of your daily diet should come from healthy fats. These include avocados, butter and ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, and nuts and seeds (preferably raw and soaked). 

 

References:

Cardoso, D.A., et al. A coconut extra virgin oil-rich diet increases HDL cholesterol and decreases waist circumference and body mass in coronary artery disease patients. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32(5):2144-2152 ISSN 0212-1611 • CODEN NUHOEQ S.V.R. 318. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Glorimar_Rosa/publication/283576816_A_coconut_extra_virgin_oil_rich_diet_increases_HDL_cholesterol_and_decreases_waist_circumference_and_body_mass_in_coronary_artery_disease_patients/links/56434e3408aef646e6c69a5b.pdf

DiNicolantonio JJ. The cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates or Ω-6 polyunsaturated fats: Do the dietary guidelines have it wrong? Open Heart 2014;1:e000032. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2013-000032. http://openheart.bmj.com/content/1/1/e000032.full

Eyres, L, et al. Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans. Nutr Rev (2016) 74 (4): 267-280. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuw002. Published: 05 March 2016. https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/74/4/267/1807413/Coconut-oil-consumption-and-cardiovascular-risk

Gavin, James E. Optimizing Diagnosis and management in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s Disease. Neurodegener Dis Manag. 2012 Jun; 2(3): 291–304. doi:  10.2217/nmt.12.21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3437664/

Hayatullina Z. et al., Virgin coconut oil supplementation prevents bone loss in osteoporosis rat model. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:237236. Epub 2012 Sep 16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23024690

Lei, T., et al. Medium-Chain Fatty Acids Attenuate Agonist-Stimulated Lipolysis, Mimicking the Effects of Starvation. Obesity. Volume 12, Issue 4 April 2004. Pages 599–611. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2004.69/full

Selverajah, M., et al. Anti-ulcerogenic activity of virgin coconut oil contribute to the stomach health of humankind TANG Vol.6 No.2, 2016.5, 12-18 (7 pages) http://www.dbpia.co.kr/Journal/ArticleDetail/NODE06688140

Siri-Tarino, PW, et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. March 2010 vol. 91 no. 3 535-546. doi: 10.3945/ ajcn.2009.27725. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/3/535

 

crockpot shredded chicken

Use Your Crockpot To Beat The Summer Heat

It’s getting hot here in Texas

And the humidity isn’t far behind. Once the humidity hits stepping outside is like walking into a sauna.

With all of that heat and humidity it’s no wonder dinner time is seen as more of a chore in the summer. After all, who wants to heat up the kitchen when it’s already hot and sticky outside? And here in Texas we’re not the only ones. Although we get the heat early, summertime and hot temperatures are about to hit all around the country. The good news is in spite of the heat outside, you can still have a delicious meal without raising the temperature indoors. It’s easy when you use a crockpot.

So, how does crockpot cooking beat the heat? Simple, it uses less heat than an oven or the stove top. In addition to using less heat to cook the food, a crockpot also doesn’t heat up the environment the same way. This means you don’t need to crank up the air conditioning, run a fan, or start your swamp cooler to reduce the additional heat from ovens and stoves.

Crockpots are also a great energy saving device and the operating costs are very low. Especially when compared to electric stove and ovens, but even when compared to gas. So not just from a heat standpoint, but from a cost to operate standpoint as well, this makes crockpots a great resource.

Not just for winter anymore

If you’re like most people you think of crockpots as being more for wintertime use. Great for making soups, stews, and chili. But truthfully crockpots are good all year round. I love mine and use it for making snacks, breakfast, and even for making shredded meats for summer salads. Crockpots are actually very versatile and can be used for a wide variety of meals and foods.

Benefits of Crock Pot Cooking

As well as being less expensive to run, crockpots have a number of benefits that make them a great addition to any kitchen:

  • All the work is done ahead of time making mealtime and cleanup a lot easier. If you’re making breakfast, you’re starting it the night before so there’s less cleanup while you’re trying to get out the door. If you’re making dinner, it makes getting dinner on the table faster and easer at the end of a long day.
  • A lot of crockpot dinner recipes are a meal in a dish. Make a salad or a side dish to go with it and you’ve got a nutritious meal for your family. If it’s a stew or a chili you can bulk it up with extra veggies and up your daily count of veggie servings.
  • Cleanup is a breeze. Usually with crockpot cooking there’s the cleanup from the prep and then just one dish (the crock) to clean when you’re done. This means you’re not only spending less time cooking, you’re also spending less time cleaning up.

Have a couple of crockpots is, in my humble opinion, a good idea. I have one large one for main dishes or large items and one small one for side dishes, appetizers, desserts, and that sort of thing. They’re versatile, easy to use, and make life much simpler.

Take it to the next level

Combine crockpot cooking with the Fast Fun Freezer Meals program and you’ll really beat the heat. This program allows you to get 20-24 servings of dinner in the freezer ready-to-cook in 90 minutes or less. Sounds unbelievable but it’s true. And when you’re ready to cook simply pull your meal out of the freezer the night before. Pop it in the crockpot in the morning and at the end of the day you’ve got a hot, delicious meal, but the kitchen is still cool. Make a salad or side dish and dinner is done. Best of all cleanup is a breeze because you did most of it when you prepped the meal.

Less work, less time in the kitchen, no hot sticky mess. Crockpot dinners are definitely the way to go.

Reduce The Juice

How to Keep Your Family Hydrated and Healthy

Do your little ones drink juice often? If so, you might want to reconsider.

Especially if there’s added sugar, flavors and dyes. But even if it’s 100% real fruit juice.

While juice may come from fruit, most commercial brands are processed under extreme conditions and striped of all nutritional benefits. Including vitamin C because it is extremely sensitive to heat and light. Thus, unless it’s freshly squeezed, the vitamin C is most likely partially or even fully degraded by the time it hits your lips.

Essentially, all you’re left with is liquid sugar. And a lot of it!

The American Heart Association recommends young children consume between 12 to 16 grams of added sugar per day. Which equates to 3 to 4 teaspoons.

Do you know how much sugar one juice box contains?

It varies by brand, but generally they contain between 10 and 20 grams of sugar (2.5 to 5 teaspoons). That means just one juice box could put your child over the recommended limit of added sugar.

Now think about how much juice your child drinks a day.

Maybe 2 to 3 cups per day? If so, this adds 5 to 10 teaspoons of sugar daily from juice alone.

Sugar Cubes

Potential Risks of Too Much Juice

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, sugar sweetened beverages (i.e., fruit juice, soda, sport drinks) account for 36% of the added sugar Americans consume.

Experimental studies show sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) lead to weight gain because they contribute a significant amount of calories. And people don’t eat less to compensate because SSBs aren’t satiating or provide lasting energy.

There’s no fiber, fat or protein present to slow the progression from liquid sugar to blood sugar. Which can lead to inflammation, insulin resistance and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

High fructose consumption (a naturally occurring sugar in fruit) has also been shown to burden the liver and increase belly fat.

Thus, now is a great time to break your family’s juice habit (or never start one).

Healthier Ways to Hydrate Your Family

Fruit Infused Water

The best source of daily hydration will always be water. And filtered tap water is ideal.

But if transitioning to plain water overnight is a hard sell, you can start by mixing juice with water. And gradually start adding more water.

To keep things interesting, here are a few other delicious options:

  • Fruit infused water: They’re easy and fun to make. My family’s favorite combinations are strawberry lemon and watermelon mint. Simply add fruit and herbs to water and let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
  • Herbal tea: my son loves peppermint and ginger
  • Sparkling water
  • Coconut water

When purchasing teas, flavored sparkling water and coconut water, don’t forget to check the ingredients for added sugar or other negative ingredients.

To stay hydrated on the road and avoid the temptation to just buy a juice, bring your own containers with healthy beverage choices with you. Skip the plastic bottles in order to avoid issues with BPA (to learn more watch my interview with Lara Adler, The Environmental Toxins Nerd). Glass or stainless steel containers are your best bet. My personal favorite is Glasstic, a shatterproof plastic cylinder around a glass center cylinder. Easy to take apart and wash in the dishwasher, the company claims these are the last water bottle you’ll ever need. I bought three over a year ago and they’re still going strong. Get 10% off with this link.

To Sum It Up…

Parents ask me all the time how to create a healthier lifestyle for their family. Cutting out juice is the perfect place to start. It’s a simple change. But one that will significantly reduce the amount of sugar your little ones consume as well as foster healthier habits for years to come.

References
– “Abundance of fructose not good for the liver, heart.Harvard Health Publications (web log), September 2011. Accessed January 2017.
   http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/abundance-of-fructose-not-good-for-the-liver-heart.
– Hu, Frank B., and Vasanti S. Malik. “Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes: Epidemiologic evidence.Physiology & Behavior
   100, no. 1 (2010): 47-54. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.01.036.
– Johnston, Carol S., and D.l Bowling. “Stability of Ascorbic Acid in Commercially Available Orange Juices.Journal of the American Dietetic Association
   102, no. 4 (2002): 525-29. doi:10.1016/s0002-8223(02)90119-7.
– Malik, Vasanti S., and Frank B. Hu. “Sweeteners and Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes: The Role of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages.Current Diabetes
   Reports
12, no. 2 (2012): 195-203. doi:10.1007/s11892-012-0259-6.
– “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain in 2- to 5-Year-Old Children.Pediatrics 132, no. 3 (2013). doi:10.1542/peds.2013-0570d.

Could You Have Scurvy (even Though You’re Not An 18th-century Pirate)?

What is Scurvy?

Scurvy is a disease caused by a vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency.

Without vitamin C, the body is unable to synthesize collagen necessary for wound healing and healthy skin, bones, teeth, joints, and blood vessels.

Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that effectively fights free radicals and prevents oxidative stress throughout the body.

In addition, it plays a critical role in adrenal and thyroid function.

Scurvy Symptoms

If you’re not eating fresh fruits and vegetables regularly, then you’re likely at risk of developing scurvy. This should be your first clue.

Other early warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle spasms, cramping or pain
  • Brain fog
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Bruising
  • Wounds that won’t heal
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Tooth decay or tooth loss
  • Weight loss
  • Coiled hair
  • Skin rashes or red spots
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression

Resurgence of Scurvy

In the 18th century, scurvy caused the teeth of sailors to fall out due to a lack of vitamin C in their diet aboard ship. However, it appears scurvy isn’t just a disease of the past.

Based on data collected between 2003 and 2004, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 6 to 8% of the general population had a vitamin C deficiency severe enough to qualify as a scurvy diagnosis.

Between 2009 and 2014, almost 25% of patients admitted to a hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts with unexplained symptoms were diagnosed with a vitamin C deficiency.

In the United Kingdom, the rate of scurvy-related hospital admissions increased by 27% between 2009 and 2014.

And a researcher at a Diabetes Center in Australia documented more than a dozen cases in recent years as well.

Why is Scurvy Making a Comeback?

This resurgence is surprising to doctors and health officials because the amount of vitamin C needed to prevent scurvy is relatively low. For example, one large orange or one bowl of strawberries a day provides enough vitamin C to do the trick.

But the sad truth is that more and more people don’t regularly eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Or, if they eat these foods at all, they are either from a package or overcooked, which almost entirely diminishes the vitamin C content.

Other modern day factors may also deplete the body of vitamin C, which includes:

  • Chronic stress
  • Environmental toxins
  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Synthetic hormones and birth control pills
  • Steroid medications
  • Diuretics
  • Aspirin

It’s also worth noting that a well-functioning digestive system is necessary to properly digest and absorb vitamin C (and all other nutrients) from food. Thus, with the rise of gastrointestinal diseases and dysfunction, this could also be a contributing factor.

Best Sources of Vitamin C

Uncooked, fresh fruits and veggies are the best sources of vitamin C. Those you can enjoy raw with the highest vitamin C content include:

  • Papaya
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Grapefruit
  • Raspberries
  • Tomatoes

And in the case of a vitamin C deficiency, it may be necessary to supplement with collagen until optimal levels are reached. 

In Conclusion…

Scurvy, a condition caused by a severe vitamin C deficiency, is making a comeback around the world mostly in part to our modern way of life. This means your risk may be real even though you’re not an 18th-century pirate.

Therefore, it’s important to consume fresh vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables every day to prevent a vitamin C deficiency and the development of scurvy.

References
National Institutes of Health – Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Professionals
Pelton, R. (2001). Drug-induced nutrient depletion handbook. Hudson, OH: Lexi-Comp.
Scurvy makes surprise return in Australia. (2016, November 29).
Scurvy Is a Serious Public Health Problem. (2015, November 20).
The World’s Healthiest Foods – Vitamin C

Spirulina: A Nutrition Boosting Algae

Spirulina is often referred to as blue-green algae (although it’s really a cyanobacterium). Either way, it’s also a popular health food. And one that actually lives up to its hype.

Spirulina Nutrition

Commercial varieties are grown in fresh warm waters. However, spirulina traditionally grew under extreme conditions, such as in volcanic lakes. Thus, it has developed quite the nutrient profile.

Spirulina is approximately 60% protein. And the protein is highly digestible for optimal absorption and utilization.

However, you’d have to eat roughly 3.5 tablespoons to obtain the same amount of protein as one chicken drumstick (the minimum recommended amount of protein per meal). Therefore, it’s best to be used as a protein booster as opposed to your primary source of protein.

Spirulina is often considered nature’s multi-vitamin. It’s packed with essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, it has:

  • 180% more calcium that milk – for healthy bones, teeth, muscles, nerves and heart
  • 3100% more vitamin A (as beta-carotene) than carrots – for healthy skin and eyes
  • 5100% more iron that spinach – to produce healthy red blood cells

Other high concentration micronutrients (along with a few of their key health benefits) include:

  • Vitamin K: important for blood clotting as well as heart and bone health
  • B Vitamins: necessary to produce energy and red blood cells
  • Choline: supports liver function, metabolism, brain development and energy levels
  • Magnesium: calms nerves and anxiety and releases muscle tension
  • Phosphorus: supports healthy bones and organs and balances hormones
  • Iodine: essential for optimal thyroid function
  • Potassium: regulates fluid balance and blood pressure

Spirulina also contains anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) as well as potent antioxidants, such as zeaxanthin and various carotenoids.

Potential Health Benefits

Based on its nutrient profile, it makes sense why there are over 1,000 studies investigating spirulina’s potential benefits. A review of human and animal research suggests it may offer the following health-promoting properties:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-cancer
  • Immune-boosting
  • Promote a healthy gut flora
  • Balance lipid levels
  • Balance blood sugar
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Protect the heart
  • Relieve allergy symptoms
  • Detoxify heavy metals

Now that’s a pretty powerful list of potential advantages! Which is why I hope you’ll give it a try.

Simple Ways to Add Spirulina to Your Diet

spirulina

You can buy spirulina in either a powder or tablet form.

The easiest way to incorporate spirulina powder into your diet is by adding it to your smoothies. However, you can blend a little into many other foods as well, including:

  • Pureed soups
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole
  • Pesto
  • Salad dressing
  • No-bake treats
  • Egg dishes

And because spirulina is so nutrient dense, you only need a little to reap its rewards.

References
– Capelli, B., & Cysewski, G. R. (2010). Potential health benefits of spirulina microalgae*. Nutrafoods,9(2), 19-26. doi:10.1007/bf03223332
– Cheong, S. H., Kim, M. Y., Sok, D., Hwang, S., Kim, J. H., Kim, H. R., . . . Kim, M. R. (2010). Spirulina Prevents Atherosclerosis by Reducing  
   Hypercholesterolemia in Rabbits Fed a High-Cholesterol Diet. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology,56(1), 34-40.
   doi:10.3177/jnsv.56.34
– Ichimura, M., Kato, S., Tsuneyama, K., Matsutake, S., Kamogawa, M., Hirao, E., . . . Omagari, K. (2013).
   Phycocyanin prevents hypertension and low serum
   adiponectin level in a rat model of metabolic syndrome. Nutrition Research,33(5), 397-405. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2013.03.006
– Parikh, P., Mani, U., & Iyer, U. (2001). Role of Spirulina in the Control of Glycemia and Lipidemia in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of Medicinal   Food,4(4), 193-199. doi:10.1089/10966200152744463
– Sayin, I., Cingi, C., Oghan, F., Baykal, B., & Ulusoy, S. (2013). Complementary Therapies in Allergic Rhinitis. ISRN Allergy,2013, 1-9.
   doi:10.1155/2013/938751

The Healing Powers Of Bone Broth (plus Recipe)

Have you ever been told to eat a bowl of chicken soup when you’re sick?

I bet you have. But do you know why?

It’s truly an ancient tradition. But the truth is, not all chicken soups will do the trick. Especially those found in a can.

Traditionally chicken soup was made by simmering vegetables, meat and bones to create a nutrient rich broth (a.k.a. bone broth). However, most commercial soups today simply use broth made from water and chicken “flavor.”

Bone broth has been used throughout humankind for its rich flavor and healing powers. Many cultures use it to cure illnesses, such as colds and flu. In fact, bone broth is sometimes referred to as Jewish penicillin. It’s also been prized for its ability to treat conditions related to the digestive tract, skin, joints, lungs, muscles, and blood.

And fortunately, bone broth is making a comeback.

Bone Broth Nutrition

Bone broth contains a soup (pun intended) of health promoting nutrients in highly absorbable forms. Thus, it’s much more potent (and enjoyable) than taking a variety of synthetic supplements.

Below are several key nutrients in bone broth along with their health benefits:

Minerals

Minerals are essential to life. They play many important roles in our bodies, such as nerve signaling and the initiation of most enzymatic processes in our bodies. They also impact the health of our digestive system, heart, cells, and bones.

Bone broth is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicone, sulfur, and a variety of trace minerals.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and have numerous responsibilities when it comes to our health. Bone broth specifically contains high concentrations of glycine and proline.

Glycine acts as an antioxidant, which protects our cells from free radical damage. It also aids in detoxification as well as wound healing, digestion, sleep, memory, and performance. It keeps our muscles strong and is used to make glutathione (another powerful antioxidant).

Proline is essential for healthy skin and joints. It also helps to repair the lining of the digestive system.

Collagen and Gelatin

Collagen is a protein found in bones as well as other connective tissues. Its name comes from the word “kolla,” which means glue. Essentially, its main role is to hold the body together.

When collagen dissolves in water, it forms gelatin. Gelatin has been studied extensively and is often used to heal and soothe the digestive tract, support bone health, overcome food allergies and sensitivities, improve digestion and detoxification, and boost the body’s natural production of collagen.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine lubricates our joints and provides a cushion within them. Expensive supplements are often used to treat conditions involving bone and joint pain, but bone broth is an all natural (and effective) alternative.

Chondroitin Sulfate

Along with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate supports healthy bones and joints. But it’s also essential for heart and skin health as well as maintaining optimal cholesterol levels.

Chicken Bone Broth Recipe

Bone broth can be made using beef, poultry, lamb, pork or fish bones. There are many recipes available online. Below is an easy to make chicken bone broth recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 whole organic chicken
    or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as carcass, necks, and wings plus gizzards
  • 2-4 chicken feet
  • 4 quarts cold filtered water
  • 2 T raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 shitake mushrooms
  • 1-2 pieces kombu seaweed
  • 1” piece of turmeric root, sliced (or 1/2 tsp turmeric powder)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 bunch parsley

Directions

If using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces.

Place other ingredients into a cheesecloth or jelly bag for easy removal later. Otherwise place carcass and parts in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all ingredients except parsley.

Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 12-18 hours. The longer the stock cooks the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

If using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in the refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in the refrigerator or freezer.

Delicious Ways to Add Bone Broth to Your Diet

Cup of Bone Broth
Once you have a batch of bone broth, here are several ways to enjoy it:

  • Sip it plain (or seasoned with sea salt and minced spring onions)
  • Use it in soup, stew, sauce and gravy recipes
  • Use it instead of water or other liquids to cook grains, steam vegetables, make mashed potatoes and bake casseroles

To make a “miso-style” soup, follow this recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 C broth
  • 1 fresh mushroom, diced
  • 1 spring onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat broth on stovetop
  2. When broth is fully heated add remaining ingredients
  3. Heat on medium 2-3 minutes until all ingredients are warmed
  4. Enjoy!

I also encourage people to pour cooled bone broth into ice cube trays and freeze. Bone broth ice cubes are a great nutrition boosting addition to smoothies. They also give smoothies a thicker consistency.

To sum it up:

Consuming bone broth on a regular basis is probably one of the most beneficial things you can do to support your health.

  • It contains a variety of easily absorbable nutrients;
  • It warms your heart and your soul;
  • It’s easy to make; and
  • It’s absolutely delicious!

 

References:
Bergner, P. (1997). The healing power of minerals, special nutrients, and trace elements. Rocklin, CA: Prima Pub.
Daniel, K. (2003, June 18). Why Broth is Beautiful: Essential Roles for Proline, Glycine and Gelatin [Web log post]. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/why-broth-is-beautiful-essential-roles-for-proline-glycine-and-gelatin/
Fallon, S. (2000, January 1). Broth in Beautiful [Web log post]. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/broth-is-beautiful/
Fallon, S., Enig, M. G., Murray, K., & Dearth, M. (2001). Nourishing traditions: the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Brandywine, MD: NewTrends Pub.
Vital Proteins, Why Collagen, Retrieved March 27, 2017
black bean brownies - delicious!

Flourless Brownies

Who doesn’t love brownies?  Oooey, chocolatey morsels of deliciousness. They’re great as a snack, as an accompaniment to a cup of tea, or even for dessert. But some people avoid brownies because they’re high in simple carbohydrates. This includes the gluten free flour versions.

So what if I told you about a brownie that isn’t so high in simple carbohydrates and actually has a fair amount of protein? And no, I’m not talking about putting protein powder into the brownie mix.  I’m talking about beans.  Specifically black beans.  This adds not only protein but is also a great source of fiber, folate, copper, manganese, and thiamine.

Before you think, “Um…no” let me assure you, these are delicious.  I’ve brought these brownies to a number of different gatherings.  Each time I share them I wait until people have eaten them before telling them the ‘secret ingredient.’  Everyone is always amazed at how moist and tasty these brownies are. They’re surprised to discover that the brownies are made from black beans. 100% black beans, no flour. That makes it perfect for those who need to eat gluten free. And tasty for everyone.

When using black beans I’ve found that it’s best to use canned. When cooking black beans from scratch, even in the pressure cooker or slow cooker, the consistency doesn’t seem to come out as well. When using canned black beans consider using a brand that does not have BPA in the can lining. (You can learn more about BPA and it’s health impact in this video) Eden Brands is one company that does not use BPA in their linings.

Black Bean Brownies
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ C. black beans
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 1 heaping T. ground flax seed
  4. 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  5. 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  6. 1 pinch sea salt
  7. ½ t. baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon almond extract
  9. 3/4 cup evaporated cane juice crystals
  10. 2 t. instant espresso powder
  11. 1 C. dark Belgian chocolate w/almonds, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish
  3. Add remaining ingredients (except chocolate); blend until smooth; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish
  4. Top with chopped chocolate
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes
  6. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

The Many Health Benefits Of Collagen

The health benefits of collagen are immense, which makes sense because it’s the most abundant protein in the human body. Collagen is found in:

  • Bones
  • Muscles
  • Skin, hair, and nails
  • Tendons and ligaments
  • Cartilage
  • Digestive tract
  • Veins and arteries
  • Teeth (dentin)
  • Eyes (cornea and lens)

Thus, it’s essential to maintaining optimal health.

The term collagen stems from the Greek word “kolla,” which means glue. This makes sense because its key responsibility is to provide structural integrity for a variety of tissues throughout the body.

Collagen Synthesis and Natural Decline

Symptoms such as wrinkles, loose skin, joint pain, and poor wound healing occur as we age due to a natural decrease in collagen production. This natural decline also increases the risk of heart disease and digestive dysfunction if damage to the arterial walls or intestinal tract occurs.

Your diet and lifestyle can also affect collagen synthesis. For example, the body needs an adequate supply of vitamin C and silica (trace mineral) among others to produce collagen. In addition, vitamin C is quickly depleted when your body is under stress.

High sugar diets, smoking, and prolonged sun exposure have also been shown to negatively impact or damage collagen in the body.

However, there are specific foods and supplements we can add to our diet to boost our synthesis of collagen. These include vitamin C and silica rich foods as well as bone broth, and collagen peptides, which I’ll discuss in more detail shortly.

Health Benefits of Collagen

Supporting your body’s natural production of collagen has many health benefits. Some key advantages include:

Skin: Collagen promotes firm skin. Thus, it’s nature’s perfect anti-wrinkle compound. And collagen will also help to reduce sagging skin, cellulite, and stretch marks. In addition, it helps to keep skin moist and smooth.

Hair and Nails: Collagen is the key structural component of your hair and nails. Thus, it keeps them from breaking. And this study suggests collagen may even help to prevent hair loss.

Joints: Collagen is a smooth substance that covers your bones and holds them together. Thus, it allows your joints to move with ease and without pain. Athletes may also benefit from collagen stimulating supplements to protect their joints from degeneration and improve their performance. Further, this study provides support for using collagen to effectively treat osteoarthritis and other joint disorders.

Digestive Tract: The key amino acids in collagen (i.e., glycine and proline) both nourish and heal the lining of the digestive tract. Thus, those suffering from gut-related disorders (i.e., leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disorders, and reflux) may benefit significantly from consuming collagen. In fact, this study found that serum concentrations of collagen are reduced in those with inflammatory bowel disorders. It’s also worth noting that since a large portion of the immune system resides in the gut, maintaining a healthy digestive tract is essential for immune health.

Muscles: One of the key roles of glycine is to help create energy to build muscle cells. And strong muscles are necessary to effectively support your bones, especially as we age. In addition, muscle cells are effective at burning body fat.

Heart Health: Proline helps to repair arterial wall damage as well as keep your arteries free from plaque. Thus, collagen reduces your risk of developing heart disease.

Boosting Your Synthesis of Collagen

Increasing your intake of vitamin C and silica is recommended to increase collagen production. This can be accomplished by eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables each day. Silica is also found in oats.

Bone broth is a great source of glycine and proline needed to synthesize collagen. To learn more about bone broth as well as how to make it, please refer to this article.

When it comes to supplementation, I highly recommend Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. It’s rich in glycine and proline, and it’s made from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows. Thus, it’s free from hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides.

The Ingredient Guru recommends Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides come in a powder form with virtually no smell or flavor. They are highly digestible and soluble in both hot and cold liquids. Thus, you can simply add a scoop or two a day to the following:

  • Tea or coffee
  • Fresh juice
  • Smoothies
  • Soups and stews
  • Sauces and gravies

In Conclusion

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and is essential for vibrant health inside and out. Its synthesis naturally declines as we age, which is why I often recommend supplementing with Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides.

Adding collagen peptides to your diet promotes youthful skin and strong hair, bones, muscles, joints, and teeth. It also protects your heart, boosts immunity, and improves digestive health.

 

Additional References:

Vital Proteins Website: Why Collagen

Medical News Today: What is Collagen? What Does Collagen Do?

sugar health war

The War On Sugar

As consumers start to pay attention to sugar consumption and more organizations and communities begin to tax excess sugar, industry giants are trying to fight back. The most recent effort is Coca-Cola’s funding of a study that claims lack of exercise and excessive screen time is to blame for the obesity crisis.  The study further states ‘more work need[s] to be done’ when looking at the influence of diet on obesity. 

The sugar misdirection

While exercise is definitely important and needs to be part of a healthy life, this study is very deceptive. It seeks to shift attention away from diet and from what’s in our food (added sugars are astronomically high in our diet at this point). It redirects the issue in a way that absolutely infuriates me.

Corporate interest is in making money. They do that by spending tens of millions of dollars to figure out how to make a product that is addictive and nearly irresistible. Then they spend even more money to figure out the psychology behind how you buy and to entice you to purchase their product. The outrageous part is when they then claim they have no impact on your health; it’s completely up to you to make the choice not to consume their product. When they take it one step further by funding studies that support the sale of their products and influence reported results that distance them from any responsibility for the impact on health? That’s unconscionable.

While I agree it is a personal responsibility to watch what you eat, I maintain that it’s very overwhelming for the consumer who is surrounded by this sort of corporate deception and manipulation.  In the case of this most recent study, leaked emails reveal that, despite stated claims to the contrary, Coca-Cola contributed funding to the study and had a big hand in helping to design it. 

It’s happened before

This is not the first time corporate funding has co-opted research. Last year Coca-Cola and Pepsi were found to have funded a controversial study that claimed diet drinks were better than water for weight loss. But it doesn’t stop there. Coca-Cola clearly and openly funds many major health organizations such as The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, The American Cancer Society, and The American Academy of Pediatrics. When they fund the research these organizations do there is bound to be some sort of a bias in their favor. If, as it appears in this recent case, they have a hand in designing the study as well as funding it, that makes the results even more questionable.

There is a war on. When it comes to your health and the information you need to make informed, educated decisions you can’t rely on headlines. The news media is looking for soundbytes. They’re relying on our inattentive, 3-second-goldfish-mind, to just run news blurbs past us and then move on to the next thing. 

We have to go deeper than the headline news ticker. You need to know who funded the study, who designed it, was there any potential for influence for corporate gain, and is it solid science. This is not the first time this has happened in the war on sugar. It’s not even the first time that there’s been an all-out assault on convincing consumers that an ingredient which is bad for them is actually not so bad.  I’d like to take you on a small journey to the past; looking at a different ingredient war.

What’s wrong with HFCS

At this point we know that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is bad for us. It’s damaging to our liver, contributes to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Invented in the 1970’s it was approved for use in food by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1983. It was seen as a safe sweetener and began to find it’s way into a wide variety of foodstuffs, juices, desserts, baked goods, and more. HFCS as an ingredient sometimes appeared in on the front of the label.

Over the decades evidence began to show up revealing that HFCS was not as benign as we had been lead to believe. As more consumers began to stop consuming HFCS the Corn Refiners Association began to push back. They started an ad campaign, “What’s wrong with High Fructose Corn Syrup.” You know those commercials. Someone offers another person a popsicle and the person it’s being offered to says, “No thank you, that has high fructose corn syrup in it.” The person offering it says, “So? What’s wrong with that?” The other person then stands there looking stupid as if they have nothing to say. Unfortunately we now know that there is a lot wrong with HFCS and it should not be part of our diet. But they put it in everything. And even with consumer backlash HFCS is still being used. It’s in sweet things like jams and applesauce. It’s in savory things like condiments. It even appears in some commercial vitamins.

When the ad campaign was not as effective as they hoped the Corn Refiners Association pushed to have the name changed to Corn Sugar. Their thinking was that this would seem more benign that HFCS and be more acceptable to consumers. As I wrote in The Pantry Principle, that effort failed and they were forced to keep the name High Fructose Corn Syrup. HFCS is still the occasional subject of articles that claim it’s not any worse for you than sugar. But now the ads have all but disappeared. The front of package labels say No HFCS in bold letters. 

Fighting back

It took over 40 years to get to where we are now with HFCS. There’s no telling how long it will take with sugar.

I promise you it’s a war; one that the manufacturers will defend as vigorously and as long as they can. Sugar taxes and clear labeling cuts into their profit margins. That’s enough to make them misdirect and engage in morally questionable practices like funding misleading study results.

Don’t be fooled by the headlines. You can make a change for yourself and choose health. Read the labels. Be aware of how much sugar you’re consuming and where that sugar comes from. The more you learn about the different types of sugar and it’s effect on the body the more you will be able to look past the manufacturer manipulation and misdirection. And the more you will be able to eat well to be well.

Related Links
Channel 4 dispatches: Secrets of Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets
Coca-Cola ‘spends millions on research to prove that fizzy drinks don’t make you fat’
Consumption of high fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in obesity
The role of high fructose corn syrup in metabolic syndrome and hypertension
High-fructose corn syrup-55 consumption alters hepatic lipid metabolism and promotes triglyceride accumulation