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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

Three One-Pot French Dishes Every Cook Should Know

Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon and Cassoulet the Ingredient Guru Way

Most classic French dishes are simple, rustic fare prepared well. Dishes such as cassoulet, beef Bourguignon and coq au vin have a gourmet air to them in the States, but in the French countryside, they’re about as common as fried chicken and mashed potatoes are in the American South. And best of all? They require just one pot to make.

Delicious anytime, these dishes are especially warming and nourishing in the Fall and Winter months when we enjoy seasonal foods and hearty dishes. It goes without saying that for optimal nutrition ingredients should be fresh and organic. The better quality the ingredients that you start with the more delicious and nutritious your dish will turn out.

COQ AU VIN

Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Prep time: 30 minutes | Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, duck fat or schmaltz, plus more as needed
  • 2 Spanish onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium stick celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cups button mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed (reserve stems for vegetable stock)
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Directions:

  1. Season the chicken thighs to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a tall, heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over medium heat.
  2. Add the chicken thighs and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. Set the chicken aside.
  3. Add the other 2 tablespoons tablespoon of butter to the pan. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add a little more butter to the pan if needed.
  4. Add the tomato paste, stir everything together and continue cooking until the tomato paste turns a rusty color, about 3 minutes.
  5. Next, add the garlic and mushrooms. Season the mushrooms to taste and cook until most of their water cooks off, about 7 minutes.
  6. Add the wine to the pan while scraping the bottom with a spatula. Add the broth, thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs and bay leaf to the pan. Return the chicken to pan and bring everything to a simmer.
  7. Simmer the coq au vin uncovered until the chicken pulls away freely from the bone, 45 minutes to 1 hour. During cooking, spoon the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid and discard.
  8. Taste the coq au vin and season it as needed with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley before serving. Pair the coq au vin with a bold, dry red wine and serve over mashed potatoes.

 

BEEF BOURGUIGNON

Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Prep time: 30 minutes | Servings: 4

Ingredients:

4 slices thick-cut, naturally cured bacon, roughly chopped

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-½ inch cubes

Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 Spanish onions, roughly chopped

1 medium carrot, roughly chopped

1 medium stick celery, roughly chopped

2 or 3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 cups button mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed

1 teaspoon flour (gluten free does work here)

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1/2 cup Burgundy or other dry red wine

1 ½ cups beef broth or chicken broth

2 sprigs parsley

2 sprigs thyme sprigs

2 sprigs rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 to 2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Directions:

Cook the bacon over medium-low heat until the fat renders out, about 12 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.

Season the beef to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Increase the heat to medium and brown the beef in the rendered bacon fat. Set the beef aside.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms to the pan.

Cook the garlic and mushrooms until most of their water evaporates, about 7 minutes. Add the flour and tomato paste to the vegetables and stir to coat. Cook until the tomato paste turns a rusty color, about 3 minutes.

Add the wine to the pan while scraping the bottom with a spatula. Add the broth, thyme, parsley, rosemary and bay leaf to the pan and bring everything to a simmer.

Return the beef to the pan and cover. Turn the heat on the stove to low and cook until the beef is tender, at least one 1 hour. Spoon the fat from the top of the cooking liquid as needed.

Garnish the beef bourguignon with freshly chopped parsley. Pair the dish with your favorite Burgundy and gluten free noodles (my favorite is Jovial tagliatelli).

 

Cassoulet

Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Prep time: 30 minutes | Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons bacon fat, schmaltz or duck fat
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot roughly chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 pound naturally cured kielbasa, thinly sliced
  • 2 ¼ cups plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 ½ cups Great Northern beans, cooked to al dente, or 2 cans Great Northern beans
  • 1 ½ cups skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the fat in a large pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic.
  2. Continue cooking until aromatic with garlic, about 3 minutes. Add the kielbasa and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, broth, wine, beans, chicken and thyme. Bring the cassoulet to a simmer.
  4. Simmer the cassoulet until thickened, about 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if desired.

 

vegetables for health

How To Get More Veggies Into Your Diet

Vegetables and whole foods are classic ingredients for a healthy diet. Most of us do not eat nearly enough, leaving us deficient in fiber and important nutrients. Integrating vegetables into daily recipes and menus for a family can be challenging if you’re used to the standard meat-and-potatoes diet. Here’s how to liven up your mealtimes with vegetables and whole foods that everyone will enjoy.

Make Superb Soups

Soup is cheap and very easy to make. When made with bone broth it’s even better because the broth adds vitamins and minerals to the soup. Blending in a variety of vegetables is an ideal way to get more vitamins into your diet. Soups are great for using up old vegetables, and they also freeze well. Mix in a few extra lentils to bulk out the soup, and you have a hearty meal full of goodness on a cold day.

One-Pot Wonders

A one-pot meal is perfect for a supper dish, and adding vegetables is an excellent way of getting more fiber and vitamins in the diet. Try a tasty stew or curry which are simple to put together. Or, go for a Moroccan tagine, which is bursting with flavors and has dried fruits as well as vegetables within the dish. Don’t forget to make double portions so you can freeze the surplus, saving you time in the kitchen.

Make a Colorful Plate

One of the great things about vegetables is the color. Instead of a meat and potato-colored plate of food, go for a variety of colors in the meal. You can even get kids to eat as many different colors as they can. Salads also look great with colorful vegetables, such as red radishes and tomatoes, yellow pepper and orange carrot. Add quinoa as a protein accompaniment, and you have a nutritious meal.

Get Organized with Packed Lunches

Being prepared with packed lunches saves money and avoids snacking on sugary food. Store lunches in the refrigerator overnight and take them to work or school the next day.  Pack the portions into lunch boxes and you have a cheap lunch full of vegetables to enjoy. Alternatively, chop some celery, carrot, and pepper the evening before and use them in a hummus dip for lunchtime. You can add grated carrot or chopped celery to a sandwich and take some vegetable sticks to work as a snack to enjoy on a break. If you take a salad to work, consider making a salad in a jar for a quick and easy delicious lunch that’s got a lot of veggies.

Salad In A Jar
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1-4 T. dressing (lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil plus herbs is great)
  2. Then firm veggies (carrots, celery, jicama, etc)
  3. Then proteins (tuna, cooked egg, diced leftover chicken, etc)
  4. Then soft veggies (zucchini, avocado, cucumbers, etc)
  5. Then nuts and seeds salad greens (add a lot, stuff them in there)
  6. To serve the salad turn it over back and empty it onto a plate or into a bowl
  7. Dressing will wind up on top, coating your salad.
Instructions
  1. These can be made 3-5 days worth at a time for a quick grab-and-go lunch
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Have a Meat-Free Day

Going at least one day a week without eating meat allows you to be creative with using a variety of vegetables and whole foods. A vegetable curry can be made with carrot, eggplant, and other vegetables but can be bulked out with chickpeas or lentils. Try a stir-fry with corn, mushrooms, and peppers or create a tasty salad with whole grains and a variety of vegetables.

Create Some Juices

Vegetables in juices can taste surprisingly good and are an excellent way to increase your vitamin uptake. They can be mixed with fruits or combined with other vegetables to make a variety of drinks. Try mixing kale or carrots to create a range of colorful juices to enjoy with breakfast. While there is some controversy over the juicing versus smoothies issue I believe there’s room for both. Juicing can add a lot of enzymes and nutrients to the diet, especially beneficial when you’ve been eating away from home or “off plan.” 

Grow Your Own

One of the best ways to get kids and fussy eaters to eat more vegetables is to get them to grown their own. Salads, tomatoes, beans and many other vegetables can be grown in just a few square feet of dirt. Many can even be grown in a pot for container gardening. Adding a few herbs gives you a choice of flavors for salads and cooking. Anything homegrown is sure to look good on a plate and taste even better.

By taking a few simple steps your vegetable intake will increase with very little effort and you’ll enjoy some fabulous flavors.

Spice-Turmeric

Terrific Health Benefits Of Turmeric

Officially known as Curcuma longa, turmeric is an herb that has been used for thousands of years. You can use this incredibly tasty spice with a variety of foods and it even provides several important health benefits.

What Is Turmeric?

Native to India and related to the ginger plant, turmeric is the primary spice used in the Indian dish known as curry. Often available at ethnic grocery stores, sometimes at larger traditional grocery stores, it’s best to use turmeric when it’s fresh since the essential oils are more powerful. Fresh turmeric, however, doesn’t last long and must either be consumed quickly, frozen, or made into powder form.

Health benefits of turmeric

Turmeric provides several incredible health benefits and may play a part in preventing many diseases. The bioactive compounds, called curcuminoids, are largely responsible for the health benefits of turmeric:

  • natural anti-inflammatory properties
  • highly antioxidant
  • improves brain function
  • may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • may potentially help prevent certain cancers
  • when applied in paste form may help promote the healing of wounds and bruises

Tasty ways to use turmeric

Most often we think of turmeric as it is used in curries, but there are many ways to enjoy it. Incorporating healthy ingredients into scrambled eggs or a tasty frittata is easy when you add turmeric. It works well with nearly all types of veggies, particularly cauliflower. Rice, stews, soups, desserts, and tea are all delicious when turmeric is added to the recipe. Turmeric is even used in juices and different types of smoothies.

Turmeric is an incredible herb that can be used fresh or in powder form. It offers a rich, distinct flavor to dozens of dishes and may be instrumental in preventing many serious health conditions. Keeping fresh or powdered turmeric in the kitchen is a great way to add rich flavor to foods you enjoy while providing many potential health benefits.

 

Mushroom Curry
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup coconut milk
  2. 2 roma tomatoes, diced (keep liquid)
  3. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  4. 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  5. 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  6. 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  7. 4 coves garlic, minced
  8. 1 medium onion, diced
  9. 2-4 tbsp coconut oil
  10. 2 large portobello mushrooms, diced bite size
  11. 2 zucchini, diced bite size
  12. 2 yellow squash, diced bite size
  13. 2 cups snap peas diced
  14. 1 bell pepper, diced
  15. 1 eggplant diced
  16. 1 tsp sea salt
  17. 2 tbsp cashews, divided
  18. 2 tbsp cilantro, minced
Instructions
  1. Mix together cumin, coriander, turmeric, and black pepper and set aside
  2. Place eggplant into a bowl and sprinkle with salt to sweat
  3. Set aside to sit for one hour, rinse before using
  4. Add 2 tbsp coconut oil to pan
  5. Add onion and saute until starting to soften
  6. Add garlic and ginger and cook 2 minute
  7. Add spices and stir well for 1 minute
  8. Add tomatoes and liquid
  9. Add mushrooms and stir well, cook 1-2 minutes, add more coconut oil if needed
  10. Add vegetables and cook 2-3 minutes
  11. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or so until vegetables are tender
  12. Add sea salt
  13. Serve over basmati rice
  14. Garnish with cilantro and cashews
  15. Top with quick mango pickle if desired
Adapted from Curry In A Hurry
Adapted from Curry In A Hurry
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

 

Quick Mango Pickle
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 ripe but firm mangos, peeled, seeded, and diced
  2. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  3. 1/2 tsp paprika
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 1/2 tsp sea salt
  6. 2 tbsp coconut oil
  7. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  8. 1/2 tsp urad dal
  9. pinch chili powder
  10. 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Instructions
  1. heat oil
  2. add mustard seed and urad dal and cook 1 minute
  3. add garlic and cook 1minute
  4. add turmeric, paprika, and chili powder, stir well
  5. reduce heat
  6. add mango and vinegar, cover and simmer on low 20 minutes or until soft and well combined
Notes
  1. keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 weeks
Adapted from India Today
Adapted from India Today
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

 
Sources:

Grover, A.K. and Samson, S.E. Benefits of antioxidant supplements for knee osteoarthritis: rationale and reality. Nutr J. 2016; 15: 1.nPublished online 2016 Jan 5. 

McClees, Heather. One Green Planet. How to heal cuts and wounds with turmeric. 2017 Feb 8.

Nagpal, M and Sood, S. Anti-inflammatory and Anti-oxidant Properties of Curcuma longa (Turmeric) Versus Zingiber officinale(Ginger) Rhizomes in Rat Adjuvant-Induced Arthritis. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2013 Jan-Jun; 4(1): 3–7.

Ramirez-Tortosa, M.C., et al. Oral administration of a turmeric extract inhibits LDL oxidation and has hypocholesterolemic effects in rabbits with experimental atherosclerosis. AtherosclerosisVolume 147, Issue 2, December 1999, Pages 371-378.

Shanmugam, M.K., et al. The Multifaceted Role of Curcumin in Cancer Prevention and Treatment. Molecules 201520(2), 2728-2769.

 

 

 


Leaky gut | intestinal permeability

What Is Leaky Gut?

You may never see the term “leaky gut” on a hospital chart, but that’s not because it isn’t real or acknowledged by the functional medical community. Leaky Gut Syndrome, sometimes referred to as Intestinal Permeability, is a colloquial term used to describe a set of symptoms that have an undiagnosed cause. It can be challenging to get your doctor on board when you have the symptoms, primarily due to the fact that there are no specific diagnostic criteria for leaky gut. In addition, identifying the cause is not always easy. That can leave you struggling to find answers, much less a solution. The good news is that there are ways to combat leaky gut syndrome.

Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome

Leaky gut syndrome can have a myriad of symptoms, though all of them are a result of the digestive organs. The most common symptoms include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • Aches and pains
  • Food sensitivities

In fact, the first four symptoms often point toward a food sensitivity that may be triggering the other symptoms. Many doctors fail to find the reason why. Why do you have these symptoms after eating gluten, large amounts of fat, red meat or whatever your triggering food or ingredient happens to be? Research hasn’t caught up to the symptoms, but many doctors acknowledge that there must be some underlying cause for food sensitivities. Until mainstream medical care catches up, you can still mitigate your symptoms by avoiding foods that trigger a negative response.

Identify Your Food Sensitivities

If you want to say goodbye to the worst of your leaky gut symptoms, you need to know what is causing the reaction. One common starting point is to implement an Elimination Diet. Eliminations diets usually remove the seven most common food allergens–corn, eggs, soy, wheat/gluten, nuts, fish, and dairy. You’ll also avoid added sugars and processed foods where possible and follow this dietary plan for approximately 6-8 weeks.  One issue with an elimination diet, however, is that you might not find everything. As you start adding foods back in on a weekly basis, you could be missing delayed reactions or attributing them to the wrong foods. An elimination diet also does not easily incorporation or identify additives or environmental exposures that can be contributing to the issue.

Another, often simpler, way to identify food sensitivities is through the use of an LRA by Elisa ACT. Through blood draw and analysis, the LRA test identifies all three of the different reactions to food sensitivities on as many as 505 distinct items, including foods, food additives, toxic metals, molds, and environmental chemicals. That means that even if you don’t notice a reaction, the test will. That’s really good news when you have delayed reactions that can be easily overlooked or attributed to a different cause.

Control Your Symptoms Through Diet

Once you know which foods trigger your sensitivities, you can just avoid them, right? Unfortunately, it’s not really that easy. Simply knocking food items off of your grocery list can leave you with an increased risk of developing new sensitivities. This is because you often wind up substituting something you’re sensitive to for a new food and then eating large amounts of that food.  A common example is people who choose a gluten-free diet and then start to consume large amounts of corn or rice starch.  They then find out six months down the road, when they retest, that they have now developed a sensitivity to corn or rice.

Rotation diets can help you handle this issue. Following a four day plan, you eat foods on a strictly controlled schedule. By limiting exposure to proteins so you only consume them once every four days, you reduce the likelihood of developing new sensitivities or intolerances. This is one of the biggest benefits to the rotation diet since the last thing you want is to develop an endless cycle of additional allergies.

Additionally adding in functional foods, where allowable, such as bone broth and lacto-ferments can help support good gut health. Lacto-ferments can include kombucha, kefir, and lacto-fermented vegetables such as kimchi.  Increasing collagen peptides in the diet is also supportive as this is very healing for the gut.

Get On Board With Treatment

There is no cure for leaky gut syndrome, primarily because there is no single cause. Those with celiac, Crohn’s, IBS or several other autoimmune disorders can have many of the same symptoms. Your gut is the heart of your immune system. When it isn’t working properly, you are more vulnerable to disease and other illnesses. A leaky gut can leave you feeling generally worn down, and causes can range from poor stress management to diagnosable diseases. When you can’t find the cause, you should still work toward mitigating your symptoms. Run the tests and come up with a nutrition plan and rotation diet that works for you.

Our suggestion is to run an LRA test and come up with a nutrition plan and rotation diet that works for you. It’s important to remember that the more compliant you are with your new nutrition plan, the more effective these changes are going to be when it comes to improving your gut health. Strict elimination, combined with good nutrition and gut support, can often be very helpful in reducing or removing the uncomfortable symptoms that lead you to test in the first place.

 

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