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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

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 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

 

Building healthy habits with food journaling

5 Key Benefits Of Keeping A Food Journal

If you’re trying to lose weight, improve your health, or prevent disease, you must to take a closer look what you’re eating (and what you’re not). And there is no better way than keeping a food journal.

In fact, I require all of my clients to keep food journal. And here are my top 5 reasons why:

Compares Perceptions to Reality

Keeping a food journal is truly the only way to determine whether or not your perceptions match reality. Many people think they’re eating healthy, but often find it eye opening when they see their food intake on paper. Because it’s not just about what you eat. It’s also about your eating habits.

Helps to Improve Your Diet

When you keep track of what you eat, you get a more detailed picture regarding your nutritional intake. For instance, are you eating enough protein? Are you eating too much sugar? Is your diet lacking sources of healthy fats?

Thus, you can use your food journal to help create a more balanced and nutrient-rich meal plan. And this will help you look and feel your best.

Helps Break Unhealthy Eating Habits

A good food journal keeps tracks of what you eat, but also how much you eat and when you eat.

You might learn that you eat more when you’re dining with others than solo. Or, maybe you’ll notice you always reach for sugar in the mid-afternoon. Seeing these patterns will help you make the necessary changes to break any bad habits.

For example, maybe you need to be more mindful when eating out with friends. Or, maybe you need a more balanced lunch to ward off your 3:00 PM sugar craving.

Identifies Potential Food Allergies, Sensitivities, & Intolerances

Even the healthiest foods can wreak havoc on some. Thus, for weight loss and optimal health, it’s really important to learn what foods work for you and what foods don’t.

Food allergies involve the immune system and reactions typically occur within two hours. On the other hand, non-immune related food sensitivities and intolerances are much more common and their reactions are usually delayed (up to 48 hours). Thus, they’re much more difficult to detect.  

However, using a food journal allows you to look back at your food intake should you start experiencing unexplained symptoms.

In some cases a food journal might help you realize that cheese causes you to bloat, which may be a sign of a dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance.

Common symptoms of food sensitivities and intolerances include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Excess mucus
  • Nervousness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Itchy or dry skin
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Night sweats
  • Food cravings
  • Acne
  • Brain fog

Connects the Dots Between Food and Your Health

What we eat affects every aspect of our physical and mental health. We can’t expect to eat poorly and feel great. Some foods may energize you, while others drain you. And some foods may lift your spirits, while others weigh you down.

Thus, by examining your food journal, you can learn a lot about how food affects YOUR body and mind. And once you connect these dots, I guarantee reaching your health goals will be much easier.

Food Journaling Tips

Food journaling may seem time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. While you certainly can carry your journal around with you, you can also take a picture of your meals and snacks with your phone and send them to your self with notes about your energy level and mood before and you ate. Then, each night before bed you can use your photos and notes to complete the food journal.

In Conclusion…

Keeping a food journal is one of the best strategies you can implement to help improve your diet, break bad eating habits, prevent disease, and successfully achieve all your health and wellness goals.

So what are you waiting for? Download a free copy of the food journal I use with my clients and start tracking your progress today!

 

 

Jell-O Simply Good (or Still Just As Bad?)

Kraft recently released a new line of “Jell-O Simply Good” products. According to them, they are “delightfully honest” and “made with the good stuff.”

However, I found several questionable ingredients still lurking inside. Let’s take a look…

A Closer Look at the Ingredients in Jell-O Simply Good

Cane sugar is the most abundant ingredient in this product (19 grams per 1/2 cup serving to be exact). And it’s most likely made from genetically modified and pesticide laden sugar cane.

Gelatin gives Jell-O its gel like consistency. And it can be a health promoting ingredient if sourced from grass-fed and pastured raised cows. However, in this case, the source of gelatin is unknown.

Dried strawberry juice provides a “natural” flavoring. But, it doesn’t add any nutritional value. In fact, it only adds more sugar.

Adipic acid gives Jell-O a bit of tartness. While it is an organic compound, adipic acid is the precursor of nylon. And it rarely occurs in nature.

Disodium phosphate helps control acidity. Scientists synthesize it by combining phosphoric acid with a sodium compound. According to the Environmental Working Group, sodium phosphates may increase one’s risk of heart and/or kidney disease when consumed in excess.

Sodium citrate also controls acidity. And it is generally considered safe in small doses. However, it’s most likely made from genetically modified corn. Thus, those with corn allergies should avoid products with sodium citrate.

Natural flavor additives lead consumers to believe the flavor is all natural. However, this is far from the truth. While the final product is derived from something found in nature, chemical solvents are used to manufacture them. Further, food companies are not required to disclose the actual contents of natural flavors. Thus, we’ll never really know!

It’s also worth noting that Jell-O Simply Good truly gets its flavor from these “natural” flavors as opposed to strawberry juice. Juice is actually quite bland and its flavor diminishes over time. On the other hand, scientists specifically design natural flavors to be potent and shelf-stable.

Fumaric acid is another additive used for tartness. In general, small quantities are considered safe.

Turmeric oleoresin is supposedly a “natural” coloring agent made from turmeric. However, volatile chemical solvents are used to make it. And when fed to rats and mice in this study, it had carcinogenic effects.

According to the same study, consumption of turmeric oleoresin was also associated with a higher incidence of stomach ulcers and inflammation of digestive organs.

And in case you’re wondering, human safety studies don’t exist. They wouldn’t be ethical. And this is true for most food additives.

Vegetable juice is used for coloring in this product. And it’s relatively benign. However, the type of vegetable juice used is unknown. And the vegetables are most likely grown with pesticides.

Jell-O Simply Good versus Original Jell-O Mixes

The main difference between Jell-O Simply Good and the original Jell-O mixes is the removal of artificial flavors and dyes. This is a step in the right direction. But, far from “simply good” or “delightfully honest” in my opinion.

Other than the flavors and colors, the products are almost identical. Both have questionable additives, zero nutritional value, and an abundance of refined sugar.

A Healthy Alternative

real gelatin peach gummiesAs previously mentioned, gelatin can be a nutritious addition to your diet. However, quality matters. I recommend using a clean, no additive gelatin made from grass-fed and pastured raised cows.  My preferred brand is Vital Proteins.

Here is a fun recipe you can use to make homemade “jello” gummies with fresh juice and natural sweeteners.

Do you already use gelatin? If so, what are your favorite ways to incorporate it into your diet?