Category Archives: Uncategorized


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

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!

 

 

mindfulness, the word of the year

The Word Of The Year – Mindfulness

Over the years I’ve developed a habit of choosing a word to serve as my intention for the year.  This year the word is mindfulness.  As I go through each year I reflect frequently on my word and see if I am meeting my reasons for having chosen it.  

Choosing a word

In past years it has sometimes been a struggle to come up with a word.  There are so many to choose from! And finding just the right one that resonates is not as easy as you might think.  Usually I wind up taking the time from Christmas until somewhere after the New Year to identify a word.

This year, as I worked on my new book on meditation I kept coming back to the word and it really resonated with me. Each time I thought about it, wrote about it, saw it on my desk or my computer it caught my attention and made me stop for a moment. 

I realized that it flows well from my previous word of Focus.

The dictionary defines mindfulness as

noun
1. the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.

2. Psychology.

  1. a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them:
    The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
  2. the mental state maintained by the use of this technique

 

Benefits of mindfulness

One of the things that appeals to me about choosing this word is how much it resonates with our need for self care.  When I work with clients I encourage them to be more mindful about their eating which, of course, has an impact on health. I encourage some sort of self care practice, breathing, meditation, yoga, all of which require a degree of mindfulness.

Moving forward into the new year there will be more of that.  Both for them and for me.  While I am a holistic health practitioner and I support others to achieve their wellness goals, I know I benefit from these practices as well.

The truth is that mindfulness is a very supportive piece of our overall health and wellness.  Studies have shown that it can help lower stress and reduce blood pressure. This, in turn, is good for heart health. [1]  Mindfulness can also help with nutrition, satiety, and even weight loss.  There are a number of studies about this and even a book on the subject

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the year ahead I’m looking forward to deepening my own sense of mindfulness.   And I’m excited to share with others, supporting them to develop their own mindfulness practices as part of their wellness plan.

Words from past years

If you’re interested these are the words that I’ve chosen in the past.  I find it fascinating to look back at previous years, at the reasons I chose certain words and reflecting on the growth that brought to my life.

I’d like to encourage you to pick a word of your own. It’s an interesting exercise and can have some amazing results. If you want to take it one step further you can even go to OneWord365 and put it out there into the universe.

* * * * *
Resources

[1] Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for prehypertension 

 

Goals Not Resolutions

 

What’s in a resolution

With the New Year fast approaching many people sit down to make up a list of resolutions. This year I will…..

  • Lose 20 pounds
  • Exercise every day
  • Eat right
  • Give up junk food
  • Insert your favorite resolution here

The problem with the concept of a resolution is that we go about it the wrong way. We write down the results we are looking for not how we plan to get there. We craft ultimatum statements and that ultimately sets us up for failure.

In order to be successful with your anticipated changes for the new year consider setting goals instead of creating resolutions. Goals are a desired outcome. They are not as finite as resolutions. If you do not live up to your resolution frequently you are left feeling discouraged and possibly have a loss of self-appreciation or self-confidence. You’re also more likely to abandon it altogether (and perhaps any other resolutions that you formed at the same time).  With goals, however, the end result is planned for but not mandated. Along the way there may be reasons that you did not achieve your goal which you can examine and reconsider.  Or the goal may need to be modified along the way; because it’s a goal there’s room for that.

Creating goals

When creating goals there are a few things to consider. Because it’s one of the most commonly chosen resolutions, we’ll use an example of losing weight as a goal. Most people simply say that they will lose weight. They do not put qualifiers on the statement and do not think about how they will achieve their goal. Being prepared to think all the way through the goal helps to increase awareness and mindfulness and can increase your motivation and ultimate success.

  • What is your anticipated goal – to lose weight
  • Why do you want to achieve this goal – to look and feel better, so clothes fit better, to improve health
  • How much weight do you want to lose – is this goal realistic
  • How long do you think it will take you to achieve your goal – set realistic expectations for appropriate weight loss (you cannot lose 10 pounds in two weeks)
  • What are the steps required to achieve this goal – how will you have to change your nutritional plan and modify your eating patterns to achieve your goal
  • When do you plan to start the first step – choose a time that is workable, don’t start the day after a huge holiday party when you are not focused
  • What do you need to do to start that first step – do you need a support person, a program, a goal buddy, or a written plan

Be realistic

Don’t overwhelm yourself by setting too many goals at once. If you decide that in the next two weeks you are going to lose 20 pounds, start a new high-intensity exercise program, and give up your daily fast food run you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed. When we try to do too much without planning and awareness we can be setting ourselves up for failure. On the other hand, reasonable expectations and a well-thought out plan can be the cornerstone to your success.  And don’t discount the need for a deeper level of support.  A friend or family member who can serve as an accountability buddy, or working with a coach who can nurture you and design a program that works for you.

Above all remember to be kind to yourself. A goal is a hoped for achievement. If you do not master your goal it is not because you have failed. It simply means that you were not able to get to where you thought you might. This gives you an opportunity to re-evaluate your goal and see if it needs to be adjusted or modified.

Most importantly, when working toward a goal remember to stop occasionally, look back at how far you’ve come. Perhaps you’ve lost less weight than you had hoped for but you’ve made significantly healthier food choices. Maybe you haven’t been able to get to the gym every day like you had hoped, but when you do go you are feeling stronger and have more endurance. These are accomplishments to be proud of. Pat yourself on the back, review your plan and keep working towards your goal.

what's in your tea?

What’s In Your Tea?

With the weather getting colder I’m definitely drinking more hot tea.  Mention tea drinkers and most people tend to think of the United Kingdom.  The United States, however, is growing as a nation of tea drinkers.  According to the Tea Association of the U.S., from 1990-2014 the U.S. wholesale market grew from two billion dollars to more than 10 billion. Tea appears to be taking more shelf space at the grocery store and there’s an increasing number of brands and flavors.

Health Benefits

Tea has many health benefits.  Starting with the fact that it often has far less caffeine than coffee.  Different types of teas offer different benefits:

Green – high in the polyphenol EGCG, studies show that tea may be supportive against a variety of cancers as well as preventing clogged arteries and improving cholesterol levels.

Black – the highest caffeine levels are found in black tea.  In studies it appears that black tea may protect the lungs against damage from cigarette smoke and may even help to reduce the risk of stroke.

White – Appears to have the highest anticancer properties compared to other varieties of tea.

Oolong – A partially fermented black tea, this has been shown to help lower cholesterol level.

Pu-erh – Fermented and aged, this tea showed benefits for lowering cholesterol and helping with reduced weight gain in animal studies.

Flavoring

Recently one of my readers, Mary, wrote in and asked, “How do they make the flavored teas.  I like the fruity flavors but after reading your book I’m wondering how they get the flavor in there.

Great question.  The answer, unfortunately, is that often the flavors are from artificial ingredients.  Many companies list their ingredients on their website making it easy to find out what’s really in your tea.  For the fruity teas (which seems to be the most popular judging by conversations with friends) although they have fruit pieces in them they also have artificial flavors.  Some tea companies use “natural” flavors, but as we’ve discussed before, natural doesn’t always mean what we think it does.

And then of course there’s other negative ingredients such as citric acid and maltodextrin, both of which are sourced from corn and therefore highly likely to be genetically modified. Another issue with tea is the use of pesticides however that is a rather deep topic and I’ll be covering it at another time.

Here’s a slide show with the ingredients of some popular flavored teas

 

Make your own

So what’s the answer if you want to drink flavored tea but don’t want all the additives?  Tea can also be flavored with juices, extracts (such as vanilla or lemon), or fresh herbs and spices (such as ginger, vanilla, cardamom, or mint) but remember blend cautiously for balanced flavoring.

In my opinion the best option is to blend your own.  I typically buy my teas and ingredients at Mountain Rose Herbs.  Their ingredients are organic and many of them are  fair trade and ethically wild harvested. Starting with a base (black, green, white, roiboos, etc) add in your flavorants.  Mix well and place into a jar.  Good choices for flavorings can be: jasmine, rose, lavender, mint leaves, citrus peel, ginger, lemon, cinnamon, vanilla, or other spices.  Choose just a couple of flavorings that will go together, it takes a while to learn how to make complex blends without overwhelming the base tea or creating a mish mash of flavors that are not pleasant.

One of my personal favorites is a lemon tea made using a number of lemon flavor ingredients. Before I started making my own tea blends I didn’t even know that there was a green roiboos.  Now it’s my favorite, I really love it.  It’s not as sweet as the red and has a pleasant grassy note which I think pairs well with the lemon.  When I make this tea blend I purchase all of the ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Lemon Tea

equal parts:
lemon verbena
lemon grass
lemon peel
green roiboos tea

Mix together and store in an airtight jar in a place away from sunlight

To brew a cup of tea add 1 heaping teaspoon of tea to 1 cup boiling water and let steep for five minutes
A tea ball can be helpful, otherwise strain before drinking
Enjoy!

Enjoy these teas hot or cold and take advantage of them as a delicious alternative to plain water (especially the decaffeinated varieties).

 

Taste Versus Flavor

There is nothing better than the taste of biting into a fresh, homegrown tomato, juicy and full of flavor. Or is there?

For decades, commercial food manufacturers have been trying to improve upon nature’s ability to provide us with enticing flavors in our diet. The “natural flavor” additives discussed previously are just one facet of this effort to manipulate flavors.

We don’t often think about it, there is a difference between taste and flavor.  Taste is the perception of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (or savory).  Smell, temperature, texture and more all go into creating what we perceive of as flavor.  Here’s a video that explains a little about it:

Screenshot 2015-12-21 12.55.23

Flavor Manufacturing Companies

The confusion comes in when our senses are manipulated in order to convince us that something tastes good.  Processed food manufacturers employ separate companies tasked with creating flavor compounds that manipulate and attract consumers.  They spend tens of millions of dollars to find what is just the right balance to make something appealing.  For example, if it’s a snack chip how salty and fatty does it need to be, how much crunch, how much texture?  This is something that they look at for each and every product.

It goes beyond simple combinations however.  Wild Flavors, a flavor-development company based in Cincinnati, Ohio, has created an additive called “Resolver” that they claim can overcome undesirable taste components by attaching itself to a given receptor on the tongue and preventing that particular taste from being perceived.  Alternatively, companies like Givaudan and Cargill  create tastes rather than prevent them and are responsible for thousands of flavors we experience in everyday products.  They manufacture flavors for a vast number of foods and beverages, as well as pharmaceuticals, oral care products like toothpaste or mouthwash, lip balm, vitamins and even pet food.

Food Addictions

The more sinister result of this Frankenstein approach to flavor manipulation is the creation food addictions.  Global food conglomerates don’t deny that one of their goals is to develop products that consumers will purchase again and again.  It is troublesome that these companies appear to place commercial interests above public safety and health.  These addicting flavor concoctions are often made from an extensive list of chemicals.  In fact, more than 300 individual compounds may be necessary to endow a food with the flavor associated with a ripe strawberry or the fresh, homegrown tomatoes we love.

How can this type of manipulation possibly benefit consumers?

Unfortunately flavor profiles are often secret and hidden on the label under the terms “natural” or artificial flavors.  This is because they are considered valuable intellectual property.  Food manufactures try to conceal the fact that processed foods are flavored with a myriad of chemicals with unknown long-term effects on the human body and brain.

The good news is that as the public becomes more informed, and concerned, about the chemicals and artificial ingredients added to our food there has been significant backlash.  In response, some companies have begun to remove some of these harmful ingredients.  Just this summer, General Mills announced it will strip all artificial flavors and colors from its cereals by the end of 2017.  Other companies are also beginning to remove artificial ingredients from their products.  Not because they want to, but because consumers are demanding it.

This serves as a reminder of the power we have when we take personal responsibility for what we consume and take initiative to educate ourselves about what is in the foods we eat.

Gluten-free — Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Will eating a gluten free diet make you healthier? Not necessarily. While eating gluten free is necessary for those suffering from celiac disease, for the majority of people who don’t suffer from gluten intolerance it’s not necessary to go out of your way to avoid it. However doing a gluten elimination diet can help to determine if gluten sensitivity is an issue for you.

For the 1% of Americans who do suffer from celiac disease, it is critical to remove gluten from the diet completely. Otherwise it can cause damage to their small intestines as it is an autoimmune disease. A larger, growing percentage of the population are experiencing non-celiac gluten sensitivity. While they don’t have damage to their small intestines, they can experience some symptoms similar to those with celiac disease.  These symptoms may include brain fog, bloating, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, and more, all of which can be helped by removing gluten from the diet. Unfortunately however, a gluten free diet may be harmful to your health if you’re not careful as many gluten free items lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Not only that, but they often contain processed and or refined additives that can cause digestive upset.

According to a Consumers Report 2014 survey, approximately 25% of people questioned believed that gluten free foods have MORE vitamins and minerals than other foods. Many people simply think that eating gluten free is healthier. Because gluten free foods are usually highly processed, have less nutrition, and still contain unhealthy ingredients such as artificial colors , artificial flavors, additives, and preservatives, that may not be the case.

HIGHLY PROCESSED

Gluten is found in many whole grain products made from wheat, barley, rye, and spelt.  These grains are commonly found in many foods that we eat.  The gluten free alternatives for breads, pastas, cereals, pastries, and other processed foods are often made from highly processed alternatives such as starches, or flours from non-glutenous grains. They also usually contain fillers, extra fat, sugar, and/or sodium to replace the taste or texture of gluten. Whole grain products naturally contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber, highly processed food products however, do not have the same beneficial levels of these nutrients. If you’re trying to reduce the amount of gluten in your diet, aim for real, whole foods that are naturally gluten free such as quinoa, brown rice, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables.

LESS NUTRITION

Gluten free baked goods typically use flour replacements that provide less nutrition than whole grain flours. These replacements are usually low in nutrients and high in carbohydrates. Tapioca starch, cornstarch, and potato starch are three ingredients commonly used to replace wheat (or other glutenous grain) flour(s) in gluten free food items.

  • Tapioca starch – often used as a thickener, however it contains no nutritional benefits and is over 88% carbohydrates by weight.
  • Cornstarch – very low in dietary fiber and contains negligible amounts of vitamins and minerals. An added challenge with cornstarch is that the corn may be genetically modified which present additional health challenges.
  • Potato starch – frequently used as a thickener, contains little nutritional value while having a very high starch content. Another issue with potato starch is that potatoes are increasingly being genetically modified.  Currently there are five different varieties that have been modified.

DIGESTIVE UPSET

Gluten is a very important part of many food products, especially for bread. Gluten is like a “glue” that helps food products stick together so they aren’t crumbly and fall apart. The gluten in grains such as wheat allows it to rise and have a fluffy consistency rather than being dense and flat.  In order to compensate for the lack of “glue” in gluten-free products manufacturers use gums  to give the dough a sticky consistency. The most commonly used gums are xanthan gum (used as a thickener, emulsifier, and food stabilizer), guar gum (a thickening, stabilizing, suspending, and binding agent), and locust bean gum (used for thickening and gelling).  While these gums are generally safe for consumption, because they are mostly indigestible fiber they often cause side effects such as intestinal gas and bloating. Some of these additive gums, such as xanthan gum, can be sourced from corn or soy (two highly GMO crops) which would be another reason to avoid them.

LESS VITAMINS MORE SUGAR

Just because something is gluten free doesn’t mean it is a healthy choice, low in calories, or low in carbohydrates. Actually many processed gluten free foods are less healthy in that they have more calories and sugar than regular foods. Many gluten replacement foods are actually not only low in nutrients, they’re very high in carbohydrates.  Because these carbohydrates are highly processed they are foods that can have a significant impact on blood sugar levels.  This is a significant difference from gluten-free whole grain products such as quinoa or amaranth which, because they are whole grains, do not have the same effect on blood sugars.

As an example, a Consumer Reports comparison of a regular blueberry muffin with a gluten free blueberry muffin found that the gluten free muffin contained 30 more calories and 7 more grams of sugar.  

Regular muffin: 340 calories, 17 g fat, 24 g sugar
GF muffin:          370 calories, 13 g fat, 31 g sugar

Whole grains are a good source of many nutrients especially the B vitamins, iron, and fiber. It’s important to understand that even gluten free grains when consumed in their whole grain form provide a high level of nutrients.  It is the processing that damages, or reduces, the micronutrient levels while increasing carbohydrates.  Gluten-free grains include:  quinoa, teff, amaranth, rice, corn, millet, buckwheat, and oats.

Check out this slideshow of popular gluten-free food products

ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS

Just because a food item is gluten free doesn’t mean that it is free from artificial colors, artificial ingredients, or preservatives. If you’re trying to eat gluten free, make sure you read the label. Rather than relying on gluten-free versions of cakes, cookies, crackers, cereals, and other starchy crutch foods, it is best to find whole foods that are naturally gluten free. Whole foods which aren’t processed are more likely be free from artificial additives.  It’s important to remember that gluten-free isn’t the magic pill to a clean and healthy diet.  Choosing vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits, fish, and lean meats will provide the healthiest options.