Category Archives: nutrients


Migraines and Magnesium

Migraines And Magnesium

If you’ve been suffering with migraines for any length of time, you know that they can be complex to diagnose and treat. Causes vary from patient to patient and headache to headache.   

But here’s a cause you may not have considered: magnesium deficiency.  

Magnesium Deficiency and Headaches 

Studies indicate that magnesium deficiency may be one of the most commonly overlooked migraine triggers. There is also evidence to suggest that magnesium deficiency is even more common in migraine sufferers than non-migraine sufferers.  

The exact connection between migraines and magnesium is still being studied, but researchers believe that it may be related to magnesium’s role in regulating serotonin. An increase in serotonin from a lack of magnesium can cause vascular spasms and contraction which reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. It is believed that constriction of the blood vessels is a leading cause of headache pain.  

Because of this, magnesium is also being studied as an effective remedy for migraine sufferers. Several studies have indicated that taking magnesium for migraines can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines when taken as an oral supplement or intravenously.  In oral form, it can be effective on its own or as part of a supplement containing other minerals as well.  

Fortunately, both oral and topical magnesium supplements are safe, affordable, easy to find, and may reduce both the frequency and severity of migraines.  

How did we all become magnesium deficient?

Magnesium is an essential mineral in the body. It’s the second most prevalent intracellular fluid and is essential in over 300 chemical processes in the body. Magnesium helps promote a healthy heart and blood vessels, regulates energy levels, is critical for bone health, and is a natural blood thinner and vasodilator.  

However, it is estimated that nearly 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium! This is due to several factors including: 

  • Eating the standard American diet high in processed foods, meat, refined grains, and sugars 
  • Nutrient-deficient soils 
  • Overconsumption of alcohol, caffeine, and soda 
  • Drinking “soft” water that is low in magnesium 
  • Stress (which increases our demand for magnesium in the body) 
  • A genetic inability to absorb magnesium  
  • Use of calcium supplements 
  • Because of where magnesium is stored in the body, a deficiency does not generally show up on routine blood tests. 

If you think you may be at risk for a magnesium deficiency, it’s important that you pay attention to your symptoms. The effects of magnesium deficiency can vary from person to person, but, as you pay more attention to your body, you will begin to recognize your own signs and symptoms.  

Some common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include: 

  • Muscle spasms and cramps 
  • Changes in mood 
  • Food cravings (chocolate is a common one that appears to pop up in magnesium deficiency) 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Low energy levels or feeling exhausted quickly

Personally, I know that I’m running on the low side when I start craving chocolate, experiencing twitching and spasms in my muscles, and sleeping poorly. Be on the lookout for your own cues. 

Choosing a Magnesium Supplement 

There are a few things you need to know before you begin experimenting with magnesium as a treatment for your headaches.  

First of all, one of the common side effects of magnesium supplementation is diarrhea and intestinal discomfort. It is recommended that you begin supplementation very slowly to determine what levels you can comfortably tolerate.

 Believe it or not, the most commonly recommended way to find the right dosage for yourself is to very slowly increase the amount you use until these side effects occur and then back off. Every body is different and uses a different amount at different times in their life.  

Also, magnesium comes in many forms – and not all forms are created equal! Here’s what we recommend: 

  • Magnesium malate is a mix of magnesium and malic acid. Because of malic acid’s role in the body, research suggests that malic acid can improve ATP production in the cells, thereby increasing energy and reducing pain. It is a favorite amongst people who also suffer from chronic fatigue and appreciate the energy boost. Some people find it overly stimulating, however, and prefer a different form.
  • Magnesium glycinate is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium. It is also the least likely to cause intestinal problems. If you try malate and experience diarrhea or find it disrupts your sleep, you may want to try this form instead.  
  • Magnesium threonate has recently been studied to improve memory and brain function. This form optimizes magnesium levels in the brain and is a good option if you are not getting relief from the other forms. 

For neck and shoulder tension relief, we suggest avoiding magnesium oxide because it isn’t easily utilized by the body and magnesium citrate because it can stimulate the bowels before you absorb enough.  

You should also avoid magnesium glutamate and aspartate. These break down into neurotransmitters that can trigger headaches for many people.  

Making a quality magnesium supplement part of your regular routine can help prevent headaches by increasing magnesium levels in the body, which supports overall functioning of the body since magnesium is involved in SO many processes and pathways.

How much should I take?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this and you should be wary of specific recommendations for dosages. In the introductory course, The Ultimate Migraine Relief Course, you’ll learn more about why magnesium is important to include in your routine and how to find the right amount for your body, right now (it changes over time!!).

For magnesium to be effective, you need to be on the right amount for YOU and we show you how to do this with a series of trials over the course of several days. (Learn about the course here.)

You can also take an extra dose at the earliest sign of a migraine or PMS symptoms if you are prone to menstrual migraines. Taking magnesium along with cofactor B6 and B2 or a bioavailable B-complex can help speed absorption and provide faster relief.  

Topical Magnesium 

If the oral supplements listed above do not relieve your muscle tension or cramping or an adequate dose causes severe intestinal discomfort, you can also supplement through the skin. 

Add 2 cups of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to your bath two to three times a week and see if the frequency or severity of your headaches decreases.  

You can also try topical gels, sprays, or oils with magnesium chloride. Here is one of my personal favorites.  Follow the directions on the package and experiment with different doses and products to find the one that works best for you.  

Talk to Your Doctor Before Starting New Supplements

Magnesium supplementation can be an effective preventative measure as well as a pain reliever when a migraine strikes.  

While magnesium overdose is rare, it is a risk, especially for people with reduced kidney function. It is recommended that you start with the lowest dose possible and increase slowly. Talk to your doctor about the best way to add a magnesium supplement to your health regimen and before making any changes to your supplementation programs.  

For more strategies on short-circuiting the migraine process, you will absolutely love the step-by-step method you’ll learn in The Ultimate Migraine Relief Course.

About the author:

Erin Knight, founder of Engineering Radiance, believes that no one should miss out on life because of migraine headaches. Erin has her Masters in Pharmaceutical Engineering from the University of Michigan and advanced training in functional nutrition and nutrigenomics. She suffered from debilitating migraines for over a decade before uncovering the underlying biochemical causes and went on to reverse engineer what worked. This led to the development of her 4-step Migraine Freedom process that is now a blueprint for thousands of people looking for root-cause solutions to their migraine pain.

Add more tools to your toolbox by downloading Erin’s Migraine Rescue Toolbox –a free PDF guide that includes 10 more great ways to get natural migraine relief.

Referenced articles 

Chiu HY, Yeh TH, Huang YC, Chen PY. Effects of Intravenous and Oral Magnesium  on Reducing Migraine: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Pain Physician. 2016 Jan;19(1):E97-112. PubMed PMID: 26752497.  

Delavar Kasmaei H, Amiri M, Negida A, Hajimollarabi S, Mahdavi N. Ketorolac versus Magnesium Sulfate in Migraine Headache Pain Management; a Preliminary Study. Emerg (Tehran). 2017;5(1):e2. Epub 2017 Jan 8. PubMed PMID: 28286809; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5325888.  

Gaul C, Diener HC, Danesch U; Migravent® Study Group. Improvement of migraine  symptoms with a proprietary supplement containing riboflavin, magnesium and Q10:  a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial. J Headache Pain. 2015;16:516. doi: 10.1186/s10194-015-0516-6. Epub 2015 Apr 3. PubMed PMID:  25916335; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4393401. 

Mauskop A, Varughese J. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2012 May;119(5):575-9. doi: 10.1007/s00702-012-0790-2. Epub 2012 Mar 18. Review. PubMed PMID: 22426836.  

disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something using one of these links you will not pay more, but we receive a small commission which helps us keep writing great content for you.

Turnips, The Under Appreciated Root

A different kind of root vegetable

When thinking about root vegetables most people are familiar with carrots, potatoes, and onions. There are, however, a number of other root vegetables. One overlooked vegetable, in particular, is a great addition to the diet; especially when you’re looking to eat a rainbow that has more than green veggies in it. This amazingly healthy choice for root vegetables is turnips. This creamy-purple root vegetable is part of the Brassicaceae family and tends to be grown in temperate climates.  It has a similar look to beetroots; with a bulbous shape and large green leaves. Turnips are easily grown on a small scale in a backyard small garden or they can be planted in containers. All parts of the plant are edible, root, leaves, and sprouts from the seeds.

Nutrition in turnips

Turnips are a must have nutrition-packed vegetable for the diet. A delicious and filling low-calorie root vegetable, they provide dietary fiber plus numerous vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, Bs, C, K, folate, magnesium, iron, and calcium, copper and phosphorous. Sprouts made from turnip seeds have been shown to have the second highest level of glucosinolates (mustard sprouts are the highest) which is highly anti-carcinogenic, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial.

Not only are these amazing vegetables delicious, but they are also versatile and can be enjoyed in different forms. Turnips can be added to stews, grills, appetizers. They can be steamed, mashed, slightly cooked, or roasted and used in the preparation of a variety of cuisines worldwide. Baby turnips are very tender and can even be eaten raw. Braced by their long shelf life, these veggies ideally should always be included on the grocery list. But you may be wondering how turnips benefit our health?

Health benefits of turnips

In addition to their wonderful flavor and versatility, it turns out there is a wide variety of ways that adding turnips to your diet can support good health

Fight Inflammation

Due to the high levels of polyphenols and flavonoids, turnips are a highly anti-inflammatory food. Given the connection of inflammation to chronic health issues, adding anti-inflammatory foods, such as turnips and turnip greens, to the diet is a beneficial way to reduce risk factors for many different diseases.

Reduce the risk of chronic illnesses

Part of the nutritional content of turnips includes high levels of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C provides the body with superior defense against chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer by boosting the immunity of the body. It does this by protecting the cells from free radicals. In addition to Vitamin C, turnips are an excellent source of Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin which has been shown to be beneficial for reducing cancer risk, preventing osteoporosis, helpful against insulin resistance, supportive for cardiovascular health, and it and also be beneficial for supporting brain health in older adults.

Helpful for good digestion

The fiber content found in turnips does a great deal for our digestive system. Fiber promotes good bowel movements and is generally supportive of overall bowel health. Regular elimination, due to better fiber content in the diet, is frequently associated with better detoxification. Fiber also provides pre-biotic content, the food for the probiotics living in our gut, and helps to maintain a healthy system overall. A higher fiber diet means a stronger, more supportive microbiome and ultimately a healthier you.

May help support weight Loss

Turnips combine the advantage of high fiber and nutrient dense (lots of nutrients for very little calories) content. The fiber is supportive for gut health and can help contribute to satiety, the feeling of being full after eating which may in turn help with weight loss. This dietary fiber, found primarily in the roots, can help to boost the metabolism as well as controlling sugar levels in the body. This, in turn, can be part of the key to maintaining a healthy weight.

How to eat turnips

No matter how healthy turnips are the best part is how delicious they are. Here are a few ideas on some great ways to include turnips in your diet:

  • Baby turnips are very tender and tasty, these can be sliced and eaten raw or diced into salads
  • Turnip sprouts are a tangy addition to a salad or can be added to other dishes
  • Sauteed with the greens, some onions and a little garlic, turnips are mild and very delicious
  • Roasting turnips is a great way to bring out their flavor, either on their own or in combination with other root vegetables
  • Instead of potatoes consider boiling and then mashing turnips with a little butter, salt, and garlic. Or you can make a medley by combining different root vegetables and mashing them together
  • Turnips are also wonderful in soups and can be a fabulous way to get a little more veggie (and fiber) into your diet

 


References:

photo courtesy of jackmac34

superfood pumpkin

Three Delicious Pumpkin Recipes For Fall

Pumpkin season is here!

It’s that time of year when the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping, and all those scrumptious, warming, Fall foods are appearing at your grocery store. This includes pumpkin, one of my favorite, most versatile vegetables. Fabulous in soups, baked goods, as a side vegetable, and even as a snack using the seeds. Pumpkins are so tasty that I find it surprising how in the United States we spend nearly $600 million on pumpkins just to carve them up for Halloween and then discard them. They’re so nutritious and delicious that I think we should all be eating more of them.

Superfood benefits of pumpkin

Qualifying as a superfood, pumpkins are a wonderful source of potassium, vitamin A, a good source of vitamin C, and also provide quite a bit of fiber. Health-wise, due in part to their high antioxidant status, studies show pumpkin may be supportive in decreasing the risk of cancer. They’re also believed to help with improving insulin regulation, lowering blood pressure, providing lignans (which can have an antimicrobial benefit), and consuming pumpkin may even be helpful for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

It’s not just the flesh of the pumpkin that’s good for you. The seeds also have health benefits. Helpful for cholesterol metabolism and in addition to being a good source of protein, the seeds also deliver tryptophan, manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and zinc. All of this goes a long way towards making pumpkins and their seeds something you definitely want to add to your nutritional plan.

Pumpkin Recipes

While almost everyone is familiar with pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, and possibly even pumpkin soup, there’s so much more you can do with them.  Here are a few delicious ways to add more pumpkin to your Fall menu and bump up your nutrition.

Pumpkin Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15 oz can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
15 ounces pumpkin puree
juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 cup tahini paste
3 cloves garlic finely minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp sea salt 
2-4 Tbsp chickpea liquid, as needed for consistency

Blend all ingredients except salt and liquid together
If needed, add chickpea liquid 1 Tablespoon at a  time for smoothness and consistency
Once fully blended add salt to taste
Best served at room temperature

Pumpkin Alfredo

1 pound gluten-free tagliatelle (my preferred brand is Jovial)|
2 Tbsp organic butter
2 Tbsp gluten-free flour
3 garlic cloves, minced finely
4 cups organic milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp finely minced rosemary
1 pinch red pepper flakes (to taste)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
shaved parmesan for topping
minced rosemary for topping

Cook, drain, and lightly rinse pasta
Heat butter in a saucepan, add flour and whisk until combined
Add garlic, pepper, rosemary, and milk, reduce heat
Whisk all ingredient together until fully combined
Add pasta to the sauce and combine, coating noodles well
Garnish with extra minced rosemary and shaved parmesan

Superfood Pumpkin Shake
makes 2 servings

1 cup pumpkin puree, cold, not freshly cooked
2 bananas
½ cup plain organic Greek yogurt (full fat if possible)
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (avoid carrageenan)
2 tbsp protein powder
1 tsp honey
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp bee pollen granules
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 cups ice

Blend well until fully combined
If needed add extra liquid to fully blend ingredients together

For a few more Fall posts be sure to check these out:

 

iodine-rich foods include shrimp

Do You Need More Iodine?

Iodine is an essential nutrient

In order for your body to keep the thyroid functioning properly while maintaining a healthy metabolism you need iodine. This tiny little gland (located in the neck near the larynx) is part of the endocrine system. It is responsible for producing the hormones that regulate your body’s metabolic rate. It also supports digestive function, heart, muscle, and bone health as well as brain development. The catch is that the body doesn’t make iodine on its own, which means you have to get it through certain foods. Otherwise, you’ll be facing an iodine deficiency, which comes with some undesirable symptoms. So if you want to stay healthy, here’s what you should know about the role of iodine in the body–and how to make sure you get enough of this nutrient.

Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency

First, it’s important to know if you get enough iodine in your diet. Your doctor will be able to test you for iodine deficiency, but you can also pay attention to some telltale signs that you don’t have sufficient iodine in your body. In general, the symptoms all revolve around the thyroid. For example, you might notice goiter, which means your thyroid gland is enlarged.

In addition, if you have an iodine deficiency, you might also have low thyroid levels–or hypothyroidism. The symptoms of this condition include:

  • fatigue
  • dry skin
  • muscle weakness
  • weight gain
  • slower heart rate
  • feeling cold (when others feel the temperature is comfortable or even warm)
  • frequent issues with constipation
  • depression

The symptoms of hypothyroidism in children include slow growth and mental delays. 

Best Food Sources of Iodine

You can prevent the symptoms of low iodine by eating foods rich in this nutrient.The ocean has lots of iodine, which means most seafood has it, too. In particular, you can find iodine in tuna, cod, shrimp, and seaweed. Sea salt, however, is not a rich source of iodine. Because of this, you may be tempted to simply use iodized table salt. Unfortunately, this is sodium chloride which has added iodide, not a naturally occurring, most beneficial form. So while it is recommended that you use sea salt rather than iodized table salt you need to be sure to include iodine rich foods in your diet or add it supplementally. 

Iodine-rich foods include:

  • sea vegetables (kombu, wakame, nori, dulse)
  • fish/seafood (tuna, cod, shrimp)
  • turkey breast
  • navy beans
  • yogurt
  • raw milk
  • eggs
  • potato (with the peel).

It is important to choose the best quality of these items possible in order to support optimal health. Remember to choose organic, pasture-raised, or free-range if possible to avoid added hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and genetically modified animal feed.

Household Exposures That Block Iodine

Another fact to consider is the role of halogens in the body. Halogens are a group of five chemically similar elements, including chlorine, bromine, astatine, fluorine, and iodine. However, since halogens are so alike chemically, they actually compete with each other in the body, which means they can block your body’s ability to absorb the iodine you get from food. For this reason, it’s important to make sure you get enough iodine and not too high a dose of the other halogens.

If you live in an area with city water you are being exposed to chlorine and fluorine through your water. These halogens compete with iodine for receptor sites on the thyroid. In order to remove chlorine and fluorine in your cooking, drinking, and bathing water you can add filters to your home* including showerhead and bathtub tap filters.

At Home Iodine Test

Now that you know how important iodine is you may be wondering if you have enough in your system (especially if you’re not eating iodine rich foods in your diet). One way to determine what your levels are is to do Iodine Patch Test:

  1. Begin in the morning after showering
  2. Using 2% Tincture of Iodine (easily available at drugstore) paint a 2” x 2” patch on the lower belly or upper thigh
  3. Note the time you painted the patch
  4. Observe the patch over the next 24 hours and record the following
    When the patch begins to lighten: _______ AM / PM
    When the patch disappears completely: ________ AM / PM
    Any description of the patch after 24 hours

The faster the patch disappears the higher your need for iodine is likely to be.

If the patch begins to slightly lighten after 24 hours this is considered a normal result.

If the patch disappears or almost disappears in under 24 hours you would want to increase iodine-rich foods and possibly consider adding supplemental iodine. You are encouraged to talk with a healthcare provider about your iodine levels and how much you need.

Clearly, we all need sufficient levels of iodine in order to stay healthy. Now that you know how to determine if your levels are low, consider eating more iodine-rich foods to make sure you’re not missing out on this important nutrient.

 

 

 

*disclosure 

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

Boost Nutrition With Herbs

When it comes to fresh product most of us think fruits and vegetables.  Not everyone remembers to include herbs in that category, however they are a great added source of nutrients.  Herbs boost nutrition because they are a nutrient dense food with vitamins and minerals. Many of them are even a source of anti-oxidants.  Aim for 2-4 tablespoons of herbs per day for a healthy boost to your diet.

fresh vs. dry

When using herbs it’s important to remember that there is a big difference between fresh and dry.  The ratio is one to three; one part dry or three parts fresh.  So if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh herb (such as basil) you can substitute 1 teaspoon of dry.  Remember there are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon.  Be sure to read your recipe carefully and scale up or down properly.

nutrition boosts

As mentioned above, different herbs have different nutrient values.  The table below shares the health boosting properties of ten common herbs used in the kitchen.
 

Herb
Nutrition
Health Benefits
    Parsley
    high in vitamins C, K, and iron, this is also an antioxidant and a powerful detoxifier
    an immune system booster, parsley is supportive for bones, the nervous system.  also beneficial for kidney health and blood pressure
    Sage
    high in vitamin K, highly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
    memory enhancing  benefits
    Rosemary
    rich in vitamins B6, C, A, folate, calcium, iron, and potassium, is also highly anti-inflammatory and antiseptic
    beneficial to reduce swelling and aching, rosemary has also been shown to soothe an upset stomach. studies also show it’s benefits for lowering the risk of asthma, liver disease, gum disease, and heart disease
    Thyme
    contains vitamin C, iron, and manganese with anti-microbial, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic qualities
    studies show thyme is supportive for coughing, bronchitis, chest congestion, and other respiratory ailments
    Oregano
    a good source of vitamin K, iron, manganese, and calcium.  a good source of antioxidants, oregano is also antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic
    supportive for relieving colds and congestion.  also shown to be helpful against menstrual cramps, fatigue, bloating, and acne
    Tarragon
    a rich source of vitamin C
    stimulates and supports the digestive system and has been shown to be beneficial for flatulence and constipation.  also beneficial for oral health and supporting gums
    Dill
    high in vitamin C and manganese, a good antibacterial herb
    supportive for bladder health, dill is also a natural diuretic.  appeas to be effective for supporting blood sugar levels and reducing cholesterol
    Basil
    rich in vitamins A, K, and manganese as well as having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
    supportive for digestion, basil also has been shown to reduce swelling and pain in joints, to promote circulation, and is a mild diuretic
    Mint
    contains vitamins A, C and folate
    has benefits for digestive support against gas, upset stomach, and indigestion.  studies have also shown benefits for congestion
    Cilantro (aka Coriander)
    good source of vitamins K, A, and C, cilantro is highly antioxidant, antibacterial and a power detoxifier
    studies have shown benefits for blood sugar and cholesterol levels

 

growing herbs

Many herbs are easy to grow at home.  They can be grown either in a container or directly in the garden.  The infographic below provides planting instructions, flavor profiles, and suggested uses.  Add a nutrient and flavor boost to your diet by incorporating herbs.

Herb Your Enthusiasm Infographic
“Herb Your Enthusiasm” on Health Perch

(more…)

Hormel’s Vital Cuisine — Ingredient Review

Food niches

Food producers like to target niche markets where they believe they can capitalize on the desire of the consumer in that group to eat according to their needs.  Categories may include diet or weight loss products, items aimed at athletes, or those who follow a particular dietary protocol such as Atkins, South Beach, Gluten Free, etc.  

The latest target niche is cancer.  Hormel Foods, in partnership with the Cancer Nutrition Consortium, has developed a line of Ready To Eat (RTE) foods aimed at those undergoing cancer treatment.  Often people in this situation experience a wide range of issues when it comes to their food.  These can include lack of appetite or a change in tastes and eating sensations.  Coupled with a lack of energy, plus the physiological changes of treatment this often leads many people undergoing cancer treatment to be undernourished.  They frequently do better with nutrient dense, higher protein meals.

What’s in the box?

Unfortunately the choices developed by Hormel Foods do not represent the best options for nutrition as many of the ingredients are less than desirable.  Some are even known to cause cancer.  This is a rather upsetting thought when one considers that the item is aimed at those going through treatment for cancer who are presumably have a weaker immune system.  Below is a slideshow highlighting examples from the Vital Cuisine line.

 

I find it astounding and rather appalling that a company would put ingredients known to cause cancer into a food product designed for those going through this very condition.  

What to eat?

As mentioned above, the best food choices for those who are undergoing treatment for cancer are real, nourishing, nutrient dense foods. I always encourage people to read the label.  When dealing with a health-care crisis this becomes even more important.  While it may be overwhelming to learn how to understand the body’s nutritional needs when dealing with cancer, there are resources out there.  A couple of my favorite books are:

Screenshot 2016-05-09 18.35.54

The Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery by Rebecca Katz

 

 

 

Screenshot 2016-05-09 18.52.18 The Whole Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors: A Nutritional Approach for Preventing Recurrance by Edward Bauman and Helayne Waldman

 

 

 

The idea of niche marketing for specific health conditions is quite probably a new category of foods.  Who knows, we may find ourselves seeing foods designed to support those with arthritis, gout, or ulcerative colitis on the shelf next. As always it is important to look past the hype and the labeling.  Be informed, read the label, and eat well.

Good, Better, Best

Good better bestI recently had the absolute delight of being invited to cook in the fabulous kitchen at Three Goats Farm.  Designed and operated by the amazing Primitive Diva, Melissa Humphries, this is a fun place to hang out and you couldn’t ask for better company to hang out with.

Getting ready for the launch of Primitive Diva TV, PDTV, she invited me to film an episode while we chatted about the concept of good, better, best, when it comes to food and nourishing your body.  I love helping people move up the nutrition ladder so to speak.  It’s difficult to go from a highly processed food plan to one that truly nourishes your body.  I certainly know, from personal experience  and from working with clients, that it’s a step-by-step process which takes time and effort to achieve.  I don’t know anyone who has made a huge jump overnight and managed to stick with it.  You start where you are, decide what you’re going to focus on, and begin to make changes.  Just as in the fable of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.  Small measurable changes, mindfully made over time are most often the ones that are sustainable and lead to long-term, healthier change.  Extravagant changes and massive numbers of them, all at the same time, are overwhelming.

One way to manage this change is to focus on shifting food, recipes, ingredients up the ladder from good to better to best.

Here’s an example that we used in the filming.  [In case you’re interested we made the polenta and Tuscan Stew recipes from The Pantry Principle on pages 124 and 145 respectively]  In the example below I’m going to talk about upgrading your polenta.

Good is when you decide to shift from a heavy processed food and/or restaurant/take-away diet to making more foods at home.  There is often less chemicals, less sugar, salt, and fat.  The serving sizes are more reasonable.  In the case of polenta this may mean purchasing a chub of polenta and heating it up at home as part of your recipe.

Better is realizing that corn is one of the most highly genetically modified crops on the face of the planet.  You don’t want to eat conventional corn anymore because you want to avoid the GMOs and probable heavy pesticide residue.  So you choose organic corn.  Possibly still in a chub.  Or maybe you decide to make it from scratch and you use organic ground cornmeal plus other clean ingredients.

Best means you’ve decided to really focus on eating well and are buying organically grown, sprouted cornmeal.  The sprouting adds extra nutrition, better digestibility, and reduces phytic acids and enzyme inhibitors which can interfere with nutrition.

One step at a time we work our way up the ladder to better digestion, better nourishment, better food sourcing.

We had a great time chatting in the kitchen.  As you can see from the picture above the food was so enticing that the aromas got us and we didn’t get a picture until after we’d dug in and started devouring it.  Mr. Diva came in at the end and polished off a plate of his own.  I promise, this recipe is a winner.  And so is Three Goats Farm.  I’m so excited for the launch of PDTV and I’ll be sure to post a link to share once this episode goes live.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about food, nutrition, holistic health, or how to take your recipes from good to better to best, don’t forget to take advantage of my AskMira January special.  Purchase two hours of my time, which you can use any time during the year, and get a half an hour free.  That’s a $50 value.  This offer is only available for the month of January but you can use the time in 15 minute increments anytime you like during 2015.

And in the meantime, let’s eat well to be well.

What’s Vitamin B12 For?

Recently at a pharmacy I saw a sign “Do you have low energy? Trouble with weight loss? Foggy thinking? Anemia? Get your B12 shots here!”

Many people may be deficient in B12; as a water soluble vitamin we tend to go through it pretty quickly.  As we age we tend to lose our ability to process B12 optimally which may lead to deficiency.  And deficiency is often found in those who are smokers, pregnant, or breast feeding.  Then there are those who have a variety of disorders such as crohn’s, celiac disease, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), or pernicious anemia.  In some cases it can take five or more years before you see signs of deficiency.

The largest population with a tendency toward low B12 is vegetarians and vegans.  This is due to the fact that animal foods such as sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, lamb, scallops, shrimp, and beef provide the highest levels of B12.  It is possible to get it from other food sources, however those are the best ones.

B12 is vital for optimal many body functions.  The body uses it to convert carbohydrates into glucose which our body uses for fuel.  If we don’t have enough, or if we aren’t converting properly this can cause fatigue.  It also supports a healthy nervous system, helping us to balance stress and contributes to a balanced circulatory system, supporting good cholesterol levels and blood pressure.  B12 is also vital for healthy hair, skin, and nails.

But is taking shots the right things to do?  There are some claims that the shot can be taken as often as twice a week.  However there can be side effects up to and including diarrhea, stomach upset, headache, joint pain, or even flushing, rashes, or hives.

Before simply taking a B12 injection it would be prudent to obtain a comprehensive micronutrient panel to determine if you are actually low.  If you are deficient in B12 consider modifying your diet to include more B12 rich foods, supplement orally, and also evaluate if you need appropriate digestive support to ensure you are absorbing what you are putting into your body.

 

vitamin b12 deficiency from daily infographic

Soup, Pregnancy, And Asthma

The news reports a scientific study currently underway in the United Kingdom to determine if vitamin E consumption in pregnant women can help reduce rates of asthma in their babies.  Initial positive findings are apparently supported by similar studies in the United States and Japan.

What I love best about this study, no matter what the outcome proves to be, are the following two statements:

        “altering nutrition during pregnancy could positively impact on a child’s susceptibility to asthma.”

        “I wondered whether it might be the other nutrients that go with vitamin E in food that may be
          responsible for the effect.”

Whole food nutrition.   What a concept.  This is what I believe in, what I teach when I work with people.  To have science supporting the idea of nutrition as a whole rather than as individual, manipulated nutrients, is wonderful.  And long overdue.  There is a big difference between the concept of nutrition and that of nutrients.  There are many many examples of how nutrients (in whole foods) work together to support each other, making them more bio-available and supporting the body.  Taking a single nutrient by itself may not confer enough of the benefit — the body often cannot utilize it fully.

This particular study is not the first one that points to a connection between pre-natal nutrition and asthma.  Back in 2007 there were studies which showed that pre-natal maternal consumption of fish and apples reduced not only asthma but also allergies in children.

One of the scientists in the 2007 study stated, “Foods contain mixtures of nutrients that may contribute more than the sum of their parts.”  As someone who works with a wide range of clients who have a variety of health issues, I have seen the benefits of switching to a whole food diet.  I have also seen how dietary changes can positively impact bio-individual health challenges for my clients.  While I believe we often tend to take the most simplistic view of our food by deciding that a particular supplement or nutrient will be the answer, it is the synergistic combination of what we eat that has an impact.  If vitamin E has a beneficial effect on diminishing the likelihood of asthma in children I believe we should be encouraging the consumption of a balanced diet that includes vitamin E rather than supplementing a wide variety of consumables to create “pregnancy” foods.

So while I understand the creation of the ‘super soup’ mentioned in the article above, in order for the scientists to control the study as well as possible, I sincerely hope that the outcome will be to encourage better, more positive, whole food nutrition changes.

Which foods are higher in vitamin E?  Sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, and mustard greens, asparagus, almonds, and bell peppers.

photo: slightly everything